「……Well, that sure is a long way off from what the three of us were talking ‘bout!」
Nobody moved for a while, as if someone had pressed a stop button. Nonomiya spoke as if tearing through the silence, 「Alright, alright, move aside y’all!」 and lightly separated us as we were stuck in that awkward silence.
「Ye’re too hot-tempered, Prince!」 Nonomiya waved a few times at Michel with her notebook, saying, 「Cool down, cool down!」
「You too, Mizuhara-cchi. What’re ye doing, joining him like that? And Noda-san… Unfreeze and come back!」
She clapped at my shoulders. I replied, 「Uh huh,」 but my brain wasn’t functioning normally.
I looked at Michel, not expecting him to be looking at me so intensely, and my movements felt like a trembling tin toy who hadn’t been oiled in a while.
「Anyway, this escalated pretty unexpectedly, I’m surprised too! The Prince likes Noda? Like, romantically?」
‘Like’ can mean a lot of things. As Nonomiya asked him to confirm, Michel nodded vigorously. 「Yes. I never thought… I didn’t plan to confess in the corner of a classroom like this, and especially not in that forceful manner.」
At Michel’s unhesitating words, I didn’t feel anything like surprised or happy or troubled – I just gaped, flabbergasted. I had never seen Michel act like he just did, and his ideal girl was the exact opposite of me in the first place.
At the Miss Chocolat search, he’d told us about her so I remembered it in excruciating detail.
In one word, she was: Kinoshita. His ideal girl had pale skin, fluttery hair, was delicate and short, looked cute in frills and lace, somehow just as sweet as pastries, a girl he wanted to protect.
The only point that applied to me was that I could make the same cookies his mother did. Although I thought it was impossible, was it just because of that one point?
「You’re not very positive when it comes to love, so I wasn’t worried. There were no rivals for me for a long way, so I thought I’d just keep improving myself but…」 Michel looked at Mizuhara, continuing, 「It’s not that easy.」
「But I can’t believe it! Ye could get any girl ye wanted, couldn’t ye? Besides, your type of girl is that Kinoshita Yui, ain’t she? I got a feeling Noda’s different from that type.」 Nonomiya spoke on my behalf, saying all my feelings. At the time of the search, the school newspaper printed the story countless times with Michel describing his ideal girl, so there wasn’t a single soul at school who didn’t know.
Hearing Nonomiya’s words, Michel was at a loss. 「That’s…」
「Because I made your mom’s cookies….?」 So that was truly it?! That’s a bit…. My face twitched as I looked at Michel, who quickly denied it.
「Th–….. That’s wrong! How I started liking you has nothing to do with the cookies! …… But…. That’s….」 Michel went quieter, his words getting unclear as he continued. He hesitated, as if it was difficult to explain, his mouth opening and closing. 「Um…. I told you a lot about Miss Chocolat, didn’t I…? And now I’m telling you that I like you, so you’re nervous about whether to believe me…」
「Ah…. Well, yeah..」 I nodded meekly, still dubious. Even now, Michel’s words kept getting more and more unrealistic. He sighed at my quiet response.
Michel really does look good when he’s listless, I realized at a rather strange time.
「Sagiri.」 Michel took a few steps, getting closer from the distance Nonomiya had separated us to, facing me. I looked up to meet his gaze and faltered. He was looking at me with a gaze so unbelievably intense for the usually calm, gentle Michel.
「I love you.」
「Whether you made the cookies or not, I still love you. That’s why… I really hate this. I really hate Mizuhara being so close to you!」
Michel emphasized the word ‘really’. He never used words like ‘hate’, instead saying ‘I don’t like it much’. So him saying the word ‘hate’ felt really strong.
Mizuhara, having been spat at that he was really hated, frowned in displeasure.
「I didn’t know if you’d believe me, and I was confused over what Yui and Arioka would say, so I hesitated to tell you. But that doesn’t matter now, so… I hate Mizuhara being close to you…」
「…Uh… Um…… Michel?」 He was speaking too fast for me to understand. I unconsciously raised my right hand to stop him, and he gently grabbed it. Michel’s hands were usually pleasantly cool, maybe because his body temperature was rather low.
But they were hot and sweaty now. I realized his seriousness then, and felt my heartbeat finally quicken after so long.
Michel breathed in and out, as if calming himself down. I tried to bring my hand to my chest as well, but his grip tightened and he wouldn’t let go.
「I truly love you.」
Michel brought my hand to his mouth, casting his eyes down. My movements stiffened, realizing that I was the one he was doing this princely gesture to.
He opened his eyes, his long eyelashes quivering. He didn’t look at me as I barely moved, but looked at Mizuhara. Mizuhara adjusted his glasses, staring back at Michel with his unchanging expression on his face. On the opposite side, Nonomiya fanned her face, saying, 「I’m the one embarrassed here!」