「Why are you in this sort of a place?」
「When I’m doing the flutter kick, I always splash water like a fountain and end up bothering people. I was told to do it somewhere else, so I found a deserted spot.」
He had a slightly accusatory tone, so I explain the situation.
「And? What did you mean you were searching for us? Did something happen, perhaps?」
Is there an issue with the practice match the day after tomorrow?
Or maybe there’s an issue with the members themselves, and unable to bear seeing that, Katagiri-san came to get us.
「Arioka’s coming tomorrow, right?」
「That’s the plan if all goes well.」
「Is the new manager Arioka’s girlfriend?」
「Huh? …Not really…」
He’s asking me a difficult question because Michel is here. She’s not Arioka-senpai’s girlfriend, but Michel’s.
I give a quick glance towards Michel, who looks slightly sullen.
He notices me looking at him and softens up, then gives me the float tube.
As I’m putting it on, Michel grabs it firmly so it doesn’t drift away.
I begin to relax and float.
「I see, she’s not, huh…」
He looks a little depressed.
「Why do you ask?」
It’s an obvious and natural question for me to ask.
If he’s interested in Kinoshita-san, he should’ve been happy upon hearing that, instead of getting depressed.
「I wanted Arioka to share some love stories.」
I’ve heard that Arioka-senpai and Katagiri-san don’t really get along with each other.
Why would he discuss love stories with him?
「This may take a while, okay? I’ll start with the story about our falling out.」
「Please do. That would help a lot.」
Katagiri-san begins telling his story dispassionately.
Arioka-senpai and Katagiri-san were just like best friends when they were kids.
The talkative Arioka-senpai and the taciturn Katagiri-san were polar opposites, but they made a good combination that way.
Because Katagiri-san talked to Arioka-senpai about the girl he liked, their friendship fell apart.
「The girl I liked was someone I met at a karate competition. She was called Yumi-min. She wasn’t particularly cute, but she was charming and really friendly.」
He consulted Arioka-senpai?
I think he made a huge mistake.
「I told Arioka-senpai and the others that I liked Yumi-min. He established a 『Katagiri’s Crush – Support Team』 and made himself leader.」
That was in middle school.
I’m impressed that Arioka-senpai hasn’t changed much.
「Arioka helped gather information about the type of guy Yumi-min liked. He said that Yumi-min liked mysterious guys. At first, he got his friends to help make me appear more mysterious. I really appreciated it.」
I wonder what they did.
I always feel uneasy when Arioka-senpai offers his assistance.
「What kind of a mysterious guy comes to your mind, Noda?」
「Huh? Uh… He has a shadow… and he’s quiet, and puts up a wall in front of people?」
It’s difficult to put into words, but in short he would be an enigma.
「We were middle school kids back then. We interpreted a mysterious guy as someone with really cool abilities. Arioka brought up the suggestion about the ability to see ghosts. I was also convinced that a boy with spiritual sensitivity would be mysterious.」
「Ah, I guess that would also be kind of mysterious.」
I get that myself.
I wonder if Michel thinks so too.
「With the help from my friends, I got to know Yumi-min. Arioka told me to choose the right timing to confess to her, and it would be perfect. When she was around, I would always pretend to be able to see ghosts, and talked to myself while looking up at the sky. I also wore dark clothes all the time. …Looking back, I know how stupid that was.」
Katagiri-san lets out a deep sigh.
Even in his conversations with ghosts, Katagiri-san only said hello and goodbye.
I guess making short conversations instead of long ones made it look more realistic.
「I tried to confess to her, but she ran away saying that I creeped her out. I was really hurt.」
I definitely think his approach was wrong.
「Well, I never blamed Arioka and the others for her rejection. I was the one who asked them in the first place, and they really were trying to help. Arioka apologized saying that he made it worse, but I was the one who acted on his suggestion.」
Arioka-senpai’s plan brought out the worst outcome.
Even though he was just trying to help Katagiri-san.
Why did they think it was a good idea?
It’s difficult for me to understand the mentality of middle school boys.
「Arioka can be a good friend and a good enemy. After that incident, I began to harbor ill feelings towards him. Whenever I saw him, I would be reminded of the traumatic rejection.」
「I can see how it became traumatic.」
Katagiri-san is so calm now, he could have been spared the rejection if he confessed to Yumi-min like this.
Arioka-senpai invited him to hang out so they could put the past behind them.
Katagiri-san responded in kind because he wanted things to go back to the way they were.
「Then, I heard from one of his karate friends that Yumi-min confessed to Arioka. Apparently he thought that I already knew about it, but I didn’t.」
Arioka-senpai had become friends with Yumi-min for Katagiri-san in order to introduce them to each other. That ended up in a situation where Yumi-min fell in love with Arioka-senpai instead.
「That made things even more awkward, and we didn’t patch things up. I never thought that the awkwardness between us would be taken as hostility. It seems that Arioka still thinks I’m mad at him.」
Katagiri-san isn’t upset about Yumi-min anymore.
He wants to be friends with Arioka-senpai again, but he’s still reticent and shy, so he finds it difficult.
The one thing they have in common is karate, so the only opportunity he has is when there’s a big competition coming up.
「I heard he was coming to the training camp, so I thought this was it. If the manager was his girlfriend, then it could make a good conversation topic. Love stories get everyone excited, after all.」
Katagiri-san wants to use love stories to show that he’s put the whole thing behind him. Besides, mentioning how cute Kinoshita-san is would be a good conversation starter.
「Hmm… How should I put it… Isn’t it sort of a roundabout way to go about it?」
He’s putting up a buffer to express himself, just like he did with Yumi-min. I think it would be better if he took a more straightforward approach.
「Wouldn’t it go faster if you just said that you’re not upset about Yumi-min anymore?」
「I was going to do that by discussing love stories instead of bringing up Yumi-min.」
「Well, I’m saying that it’s better to be direct here. Especially since it’s possible he may still be bothered about it.」
「You think so?」
「Yes, I do.」
I nod a few times, and he becomes lost in thought.
「Arioka’s getting employed, so we won’t have as many chances to meet each other. When I get a job myself, we’ll probably become even more distant. I want to be his friend and rival for life. I won’t let this chance slip by.」
Katagiri-san thanks me for my time, and leaves.
I heard the club members saying how Katagiri-san kept staring at Arioka-senpai, so he must have seen that as a bad timing and talked to me instead.
The club members must have misinterpreted the distance between them as unfriendliness.
It must be difficult for them to end up in that way despite wanting to be friends again.
I sincerely with for them to patch things up at the party the day after tomorrow.
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