Just when I was going to take my train pass case out of my pocket to leave the ticket gate at the station, someone called me out from behind.
「Senpai[1. 先輩, means senior.], you dropped this.」
Dropped something? Me?
I was currently holding my train pass case, I already put my pocket edition book back into my bag, and my smartphone was in my pocket. I didn’t think I dropped anything.
But, that person indeed called me out. I turned my head.
There was a small hand presented towards me with something black on it.
It was the earpiece of my favorite wireless earphones. Maybe I dropped it when I took them off and stuffed it carelessly into my pocket.
「Ah, that’s mine. Thank you very much.」
If I lost this, it would be very troubling. It would be hopeless to find such a small earpiece in a big train station even if I looked for it, and I would have to endure some inconvenience if I didn’t have it with me. The spares that came together with the earphone was for adjusting the size, so using them as a substitute would change my comfort.
I took the silicone earpiece in my hands carefully, making sure that I wouldn’t drop it again.
「You’re welcome, senpai.」
Speaking of which, this person was referring to me as「senpai」since earlier.
When I looked up, I met the gaze of the girl who picked up my dropped item.
「Since I am senpai’s kouhai, you don’t have to use honorific language with me, you know?」
She tilted her head to the side, and her words proved my suspicion. She was someone I knew.
How could I know, you say? After all, she was wearing the same school uniform as me.
＃ ＃ ＃
To reach my high school, I could choose two nearby routes. Each of them used different train stations.
One of the routes was by the front gate. Since the distance was shorter, most of the students would use this route.
The other one was by the back gate, which would be a faster way to reach the exit of the school, but it was unpopular. The students would have to walk a lot and the road was uneven, so no one was using it.
For me, I was using the latter route. There was no transfer from the nearest station to my house, so I would just have to make do with taking this route.
When I entered the school last April and learned that none of my classmates were using the same route as me, I became quite sad. However, I got used to it soon.
I found a solution to my loneliness with a practical device, my smartphone. I could concentrate on reading my books on the train, and if I didn’t feel like it, I could play with my phone. Since I was using the noise-canceling earphones, the train rattling noise didn’t bother me as much.
Nevertheless, on the day of the opening ceremony in April this year, I was delighted when I saw someone with the same high school uniform in the station near my house. At last, I wouldn’t be alone anymore.
But then, I was also surprised when I saw that figure was wearing a brand new blazer and a clean school bag while waiting at the train door next to my usual position quietly.
Once my daily life began, the emotional experience also transformed into a mere background. She was one grade lower than me, so we would never be in the same class. Since I never saw her at my club activities and committees, she became just a stranger who went to the same school as me.
Soon the feeling of exhilaration faded away, and I returned to my usual reading while listening to music on my earphones on the train.
Well, there was also something that changed as well. Every time I raised my head to check which station I was on now or when I look up at the end of a chapter, it had become my habit to check on whether she was taking the train that day or not.
I didn’t know her name. She could be a student that came from abroad or one grade under me.
That was all I knew about her.
＊ ＊ ＊
I finally got the chance to talk with him naturally. If I missed this opportunity, I felt that I wouldn’t have any opportunity to speak with this person for the rest of my life. That’s why I wouldn’t let him slide off just like that.
There were no other students who used this route at my school other than this one senpai.
Now, we were currently standing next to the vending machine right outside the ticket gate.
Senpai bought me a juice that might be his token of gratitude, so I accepted it gratefully. He opened his can lid, making a ‘pushuu’ sound.
「Err, I’m right with calling you as ‘senpai,’ right?」
「My name is not『senpai』. But if you mean as a senior who attends the same high school with you, I think you are right.」
I figured out that he was my senior since we wore the same uniforms. We also took the same train at the same station in the morning and got off at the same station.
「That’s a relief~」
When I smiled at him, senpai made an unpleasant face for some reason. Ehhh, did my smile look weird?
「Then, what is it, Kouhai-chan[2. 後輩ちゃん, or literally ‘junior-chan.’ Our MC will call her with this nickname a lot throughout the story.]?」
「Ah, that nickname sounds nice! But my name is also not 『kouhai』.」
Senpai drank his fruit cider in a gulp and put it into the trash bin. Then he took his bag that he placed beside his feet before.
I hadn’t even opened my can yet…
「I already said my thanks for the earpiece. If you don’t have other business with me, I will go home now.」
「Wah, wah, wah! Please wait a minute!」
Senpai frowned and slowly turned back to me again.
If I missed my chance here, it would be over. That was what my gut was telling me right now.
「There is no one in our school who is taking this train, the Hamakyu Line[3. 浜急線, http://hamakyu.xii.jp/], right?」
「Yeah, and then?」
「When we took off at this station, there is only me and senpai who are from the same high school, right?」
「Let’s get in touch with each other more! Since we have a common ground, won’t it be a shame for us to not talk with each other at all!」
Senpai’s eyebrow rose a little, and he made a surprised expression.
Maybe, just a bit more push?
「There are a hundred million people in Japan and seven billion people in the world. I would like to talk to everyone, but it will be impossible. That’s why―」
I cleared my throat with a cough and continued even further.
「I want to talk to everyone who seems approachable, as many as possible.」
＃ ＃ ＃
Kouhai-chan was the one who picked up my earpiece.
I was genuinely grateful for her help, but it should have ended with that.
We were senpai and kouhai from the same school, with only one grade apart.
Since we at least had some thin relationships, I should at least thank her, buy her a juice, and end it like that.
It should have ended, and yet―
It seemed like she wanted to get involved with me. She was like someone in SNS who would talk about a lot of things after saying「Excuse me for replying even if I’m not your mutuals.」, then proceed to say 「Can you follow me if possible?」, or something like that.[4. If you stalk Japanese people’s Twitter, you might have seen ‘FF外から失礼します’ before. It’s their custom before replying to someone who is not their mutuals (following/your follower).]
「That’s why! Let’s talk more, okay? There are around thirty minutes until we reach school every day. Isn’t it a waste if we just sit down and do nothing!」
「What should we talk about anyway.」
「Can’t we just talk about anything?」
「Well, I don’t know anything about Kouhai-chan, though?」
The moment I said that, both of her eyes sparkled.
I had the feeling that I shouldn’t have said this line, as if she had been waiting for me to say it.
「Well, senpai, you always read books, right?」
She returned my question with another question. Was that it?
「Yeah, just sitting on the train is boring.」
「Why are you reading books then? Can’t you just read from your smartphone?」
Smartphone? No way.
「With smartphone, I will only get the information from the range I’m familiar with. I like the feeling of learning something『I don’t know,』, and reading books is the best choice to experience it.」
I was only older than her by a year. But with the title of 「senpai」, I felt like my words sounded kind of incredible.
At least, the girl in front of me seemed like she was admiring my quotes.
「I am always bored on the train.」
「Then you can just read a book.」
She heaved a sigh and continued.
「I feel sick though.」
「How can you feel sick because of books?」
「That’s not it! It’s not the books, but motion sickness! Isn’t it obvious already?」[5. In Japanese, ‘motion sickness’ can mean ‘drunk.’ The original translation is like this: ‘I feel drunk though.’, ‘Isn’t being drunk in books is happiness?’, ‘That’s not it! Of course I’m drunk in vehicles!’, but I try to make it easier to understand.]
I rarely got motion sickness. I could read on a train or ship without any worries. Truly thankful for my parent’s genes.
「If you are grateful to me, then be my talking partner while we are going to school!」
「No way, I said it already, but I don’t kno―」
Kouhai-chan’s eyes were shining again.
「Since you don’t know, then let’s talk. Senpai, you said that since you like knowing something you don’t know, that’s why you read books, right?」
She deceived me.
She completely deceived me.
「I also want to know about senpai too. Would you tell me about yourself?」
Uwahhh, how vexing.
「Good, you said it well. Senpai sure is excellent, admitting your defeat immediately.」
「It’s not because I lost to Kouhai-chan. I just lost to my own words.」
「Isn’t it the same either way?」
「Just forget it……」
Farewell, my peaceful school commuting times…
＊ ＊ ＊
Yosh. A checkmate.
With this, you couldn’t escape anymore, okay? I will make you spend the tedious commuting times together with me starting tomorrow.
「Now then, senpai. Please take care of me every day from now on♪」
As a bonus, I’ll give you a wink.
Even if I was like this, I had some confidence in my appearance.
He seemed very frustrated that his kouhai corners him in an argument. He was replying to me without any focus on the conversation from some time ago.
This was nothing else but another chance!
「Senpai. I want to know more about senpai. I’m sure that senpai also wants to know about the unfamiliar me. So let’s make a promise.」
「Yes, a promise. Let’s ask each other only one question a day. Also, we have to answer that question honestly, no matter what.」
As I thought, he was exhausted from the stress. He was answering me with half-hearted replies.
I had to make my way just like this now. This kind of chance wouldn’t ever come again anyway.
「Great. Let’s make a pinky promise!」
「Eh, wait, I didn’t focus on what you are saying, but somehow I have a terrible premonition!? 」
Pinky swear, pinky swear. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.[6. Original JP: ‘ゆーびきーりげんまん。うーそついたらはーりせんぼんのーます。ゆびきった。,’ meaning: ‘Punch you hard ten thousand times, and make you swallow a thousand needles.’ It’s the retribution one will get if they don’t fulfill the promise. Japan is scary…]
With this, we completed the contract. I didn’t accept any objections or other opinions.
＊ ＊ ＊
「Well then, senpai, what is your name?」
Even though I didn’t think that I would call him with something other than「senpai」, but as a matter of courtesy, the first question should be this.
「You… You don’t even know that, yet you still involve yourself with me……」
「But senpai also doesn’t know my name, right?」
「Even though we are on the same train since April, isn’t that too heartless?」
「I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, okay?」
I urged him to tell his name.
「Ahh. My name is Iguchi Keita. The 『Keita』 is from ‘happiness(慶)’ and ‘thick(太)’.」
「Hee. That sounds like a pretty auspicious name.」
「Even though you are praising me, your way of talking is agitating me! It’s irritating!」
「My name is Yoneyama Maharu. Please take care of me from now on, senpai!」
Now then. Maybe we could make do with this for today.
I bowed to senpai politely and started to walk towards my house.
「Senpai, thank you for the juice. See you tomorrow!」
I looked forward to tomorrow morning.
The things I knew about my senpai ①
It seems like his name is「Iguchi Keita」.