“And this is what happened! What do you think, Nao-chan?!”
“Ah, can I have another baby star, Lady?”
We were inside a small room that was filled with the scent of grilled food and sauce. In the center of that was an iron plate, with Nao-chan munching on monjayaki as she gave the lady from the stall another order.
“Nao-chan, are you listening to me?”
“Of course I am. But chief, the one with lots of baby stars is even better!”
I heard about a sweets shop on the way to school about eleven years ago, but it’s actually my first time coming here. The person who took me here was, of course, Nao-chan. At that point, I’m already more than thankful. However, I really want her to listen to what I’m trying to say.
“I am listening! You were on a date with Nanaya at that sweets shop when OguOgu stole him from you, right?”
The cultural festival was a week away from the view of this average afternoon. I reported what had happened during the visit to the amusement park the other day.
“Yes! Exactly! OguOgu! That small and adorable Ushiki Oguri!”
“Yep, yep, OguOgu’s so cute. I can guess why Nanaya would be interested and infatuated with her.”
“That’s right…she’s so adorable. But Nanaya-kun is into older women, right?”
The lady from the sweets shop carried another bag of food over to us, which was accepted by Nao-chan and opened to show the monjayaki. It looks delicious, at least.
“That’s right~ He’s always got the hots for older women. He fell in love with his teacher in kindergarten, and he was after the university girl living in the area when we were in grade school.”
“A university student?! Isn’t the age gap a bit too wide?!”
“Exactly. He’s always been chasing after the type of love that’ll never come true. Oh yeah, he was bawling his eyes out when he found out she had a boyfriend. He even wore a suit, so there was no chance for him. But thanks to that, he’s been living with this weird complex that before falling in love with someone, he had to become a man able to support the girl, something like that. Here, have some, Chief.” Nao-chan said, splitting the monjayaki in half to give me some.
“So seeing his childhood love being taken by a man much more mature than him inflicted severe childhood trauma, huh? What a sad love that must have been.”
“I mean, having feelings for someone almost ten years older than you at that point in time doesn’t exactly fall under the idea of love. I guess boys always find themselves attracted to mature women at some point. Though I’m sure it shaped Nanaya quite a bit, as well as his feelings for mature women.”
“But if that’s the case, it wouldn’t make much sense why he’s so infatuated by Ushiki-san, who’s younger than him.”
I mean, I expect him to be. I know that Ushiki-san is trying to appeal to him, but since they rode on the Ferris Wheel together, there’s no way nothing had happened.
“OguOgu’s so cute, right?”
“That’s all you’ve been saying this entire time! And you’re absolutely right, but still!”
She’s genuine, pure, cute, small, young, and overall adorable.
“But I still don’t think she’s his type, you know.”
If Nao-chan, his childhood friend, says so, then it must be true. The person Nanaya-kun had always admired should be older than him. I heard that from him, so that’s a reliable source. So even if Ushiki-san likes Nanaya-kun, there’s no guarantee that he feels the same way. And yet…why do I feel so restless?
“But Chief, if you relax now and take your time, he’ll be stolen from you. After all…”
With how cute Ushiki-san is, there’s no way Nanaya-kun would be able to restrain himself for much longer, even if he’s into older women. It wouldn’t be weird if his feelings already started to change. The future is never written in stone, after all.
“In fact, when somebody says they’re clearly interested in you, you’d normally look at them a lot closer, right? OguOgu said that Nanaya’s her type, right?”
“She’s going full speed ahead with no breaks on the love train! At the same time, how are you handling this situation, Ms. Tsundere?”
“Very badly…If anything, I don’t have these kinds of skills to be overly assertive.”
“What are you talking about, Chief? We girls are equipped with these skills from the very moment we’re born! If I say ‘Wanna fondle my boobs?’, all boys fall victim immediately.”
“You’re right. And I’ll do my best to fix your mentality until I graduate, so you can take my word for it.”
“Eeek, the chief’s so scary! Don’t be like that and just fondle my boobs, okay?”
However, I could agree that every boy in this world would easily fall for Nao-chan if she did that. Even with the uniform, she’s wearing right now, their size is quite admirable, to say the least.
“Since I’m on good terms with OguOgu myself, I’d love to support you both, but there’s only one Nanaya out there. Also, it’s pissing me off that Nanaya’s so popular now. Stealing the hearts of two cuties like that. Just slice him in two so you can both have him.”
She’s a lot more violent than I thought.
“But Chief, OguOgu’s got the advantage right now. If you don’t pick up the pace, you’ll be left behind.”
“Yep! Nanaya’s a dense guy, so if you don’t use your words, you’ll never get through to him. Or rather, if you’re not the one saying it, he won’t ever believe it.”
If I’m not the one saying it…Yeah, I feel like I’ve been rather assertive after traveling back in time, but they were all detours, so to speak. I did change a lot compared to back at the company, but my work seems pointless in comparison to what Ushiki-san has been doing. I really should be making up my mind now.
“I guess…I have to try harder myself.” I muttered to myself, munching on the monjayaki.
After doing so, Nao started grinning at me.
“W-What’s wrong, Nao-chan?”
“You’re just as cute as OguOgu.”
“Geez…don’t tease me now.”
I may be perfect at my work, but I still can’t win against my adorable junior.
The night before the festival, class 2-2 was doing the final preparations for the haunted house we’d open tomorrow. I tried on the costume the girls prepared for me, currently doing the final check.
“Hmmm, you look more charming than scary, to be honest.”
“Huh?! It’s my problem, to begin with?!”
“Maybe the whole magic student thing was too much? Like with that popular series.”
“Yeah, that popular movie series is gonna end soon.”
“But no time to fix it now, so let’s just go with it.”
Excuse me, but what about me testing these clothes? Did we forget the meaning behind that? I took off the clothes with a bit of help when a boy handed me the schedule for the following day.
“Kamijou-san, any complaints regarding your shift tomorrow?”
“Let me see…Actually, I think we might need another person at noon. Knowing the scope of the festival, it’ll be the busiest time at noon, and since no other classes are doing a haunted house, all the popularity falls on us.”
“As expected, Kamijou-san. I’ll get to fixing it.” The boy said when the girl from sound design came over.
“Kamijou-san, could you do a final check of the BGM mix?”
“Sure…Hmm, yep, sounds good. It’s perfect.”
“Thanks! I really appreciate it!”
Next came the boy from the tools and props department.
“Kamijou, how about this blood-drenched wall over there? I think it should be fine.”
“Yep, the placement isn’t bad, but I’m worried it could fall over if left alone. Better secure it.”
“Also, where are the extra props from Hayashi-sensei?”
“I thought he’d bring them in today, but he sure is late.”
“He may have forgotten, so maybe send someone if it takes too long.”
“I will once he’s running late, thanks.”
The boy returned to his own work.
“Kamijou, could you take a look at this?”
“Touka, what do you think about this?”
More and more requests came in, asking me for my opinion. Only after everything was done was I allowed getting out of my witch costume.
“I’ll go take a break.”
Since the girl taking care of the costumes finally came back, I decided to slip away before somebody else needed my help. I changed into my outdoor slippers at the front entrance and bought a can of coffee from the vending machine.
Out of practically nowhere, I basically turned into the leader of our project. Then again, I’m just keeping the people together, but I don’t particularly dislike it. If I can be of help in any way, I’d like to do whatever I can. That being said, with everyone relying on me, and praising me, it pains me a bit since I’m really clumsy deep down. I don’t really know how to deal with praise. And to think there would come a day when I would worry about such a thing.
I glanced at the maidenhair tree a bit away from the front entrance and opened up my can of coffee. Thinking about it, there’s this rumor about that maidenhair tree, right? That if you confess to the person you like under the maidenhair tree on the day of the culture festival, you’ll always stay together…Honestly, I knew about that rumor even before we traveled back to the past. I’m sure it existed forever, but as the student council president, I was simply too busy with the culture festival preparations to bother with that.
Actually, that’s probably an excuse. I was simply indifferent towards that entire ordeal. I may have had feelings for Nanaya-kun, but the best I could do back then was watching him from the shadows. I may have known about that rumor, but I certainly didn’t have the confidence to ask him out. That hasn’t changed now. Nao-chan kept on lecturing me, making me feel like I’d like to try and confess to him under that tree, but whenever I look at it from a distance…I just freeze up. Deciding on something, but being strong enough to go through with it is something else entirely.
“Phew…I never change, huh.”
“Hey, hey, whatcha sighing about, Touka!”
A playful boy with brightly colored hair and an energetic voice appeared in front of me.
“Oh, Onikichi-kun. What’s up?”
“We brought some tools to your classroom when I heard you’d be staying here!”
“Oh, so the tools finally came? Thanks for helping us, Onikichi-kun.”
“You’re welcome, here we!”
As always, Onikichi language is far too complicated for some old lady like me.
“So Touka, spill the tea. What got you so down on this beautiful day?”
“Onikichi-kun…would you mind hearing me out?”
“Nah, can’t be bothered.”
“Despite coming up to talk to me like this?!”
“The only person I’ll lend an ear to in a time of trouble is my Nanacchi!”
I knew these two were special, after all. Thinking about it, Nanaya-kun told me that Onikichi-kun wasn’t this much of a playboy in their first year of high school. Even though this fact changed, his relationship with Nanaya-kun stayed the same throughout. They get along even in different timelines, not to mention to such a degree. I wonder how they do it.
“You two have been friends since you enrolled here, right?”
“Hm? Yep, dazz right! We went to different middle schools!”
“How did you two end up on such good terms?”
“Our seats were next to each other right after enrollin’, here we!”
“Yep, yep, here we go!”
“Wasn’t there…I don’t know, some special event that led to it?”
“Not at all, here we here we go!”
“Then how come you’re so close?”
“Touka, do ya need a reason to be friends with someone?”
“That…I guess not…”
“Nanacchi and I just get along. Nothing more, nothing less.” Onikichi-kun said with no hesitation whatsoever.
I could understand where he was coming from. You don’t need a special reason. Just being with each other is fun. It’s their companionship that you enjoy and treasure. Truly, I can only see it as something wonderful.
“I’m so jealous…”
“Heh, so you were thinkin’ about Nanacchi, huh?”
“I may not be willing to hear out your troubles, but there’s the perfect guy who’d cheer you up any day of the week.”
“And who is that supposed to be?”
“Nanachi. Said to send you up to the rooftop.”
“But! He’s gotta prepare some shizzles, so it’d probably be best if you headed up there in an hour tops.”
I wonder what this is about? What if he says something like ‘Oguri-chan and I started dating’…?! No, there’s no way he’d report that to me, even if.
“Anyway, that’s all I came here to say.”
“Okay, thanks Onikichi-kun.”
“No probs! Here we go!” Onikichi-kun waved his hand at me and returned to the building.
Oh yeah, I didn’t even take a sip from the can of coffee? Guess I can only gulp it down in one go. Deciding on that, I took a sip.
“So sweet…the heck is this?”
Doing anything with negative thoughts never ends well, huh? For me, this chocolate is just too sweet.
After checking that around an hour had passed, I left my classroom once more and headed up to the rooftop. Since the time of day had progressed quite a bit, not too many students were left wandering the hallways, and most people stayed in their classrooms to work on their individual projects. Since our school doesn’t have any festival before the big one, it’s common for students to instead hold smaller parties with their classes.
Once I got up to the fourth floor, I stopped hearing voices altogether, with barely any lights turned on. Making my way further up, the only thing I could hear was my slippers squeaking on the newly-waxed floor. It felt like I could hear my own heart beating, which only made me feel more nervous. Once I reached the fifth floor, the light from the outside shone inside the building. Reaching the door that leads to the rooftop, I temporarily stopped and took a deep breath.
Once I was done preparing, I slowly opened the door. I immediately spotted Nanaya-kun, who gazed up at the starry sky. He must’ve heard me open the door, as he turned around to look at me.
“Good work today, Chief.”
“We’re not at the company, so don’t say that.”
Really, he makes me feel like I’m some middle-aged woman.
“I’m sorry.” He apologized awkwardly.
Maybe he’s also worried about something? Thinking about it, since he called me all the way up here with nobody else around, it must be something serious. As I said before, I don’t dislike being relied on. And to my subordinate Nanaya-kun, I’ve been his chief for years now. If he asks something of me, I should reply accordingly. This wishy-washy Kamijou Touka from before can take a rest for now. In front of Nanaya-kun, I want to stay as the admirable Touka he knows.
I know this is just me being stubborn. But at the very least, I want the person I like to see me as reliable and dependable. So, I called out to him. We talked for a moment, but it seemed like this wasn’t what I was expecting. Apparently, this wasn’t anything urgent at all. Then don’t act like that, Jesus. You’ll make me worry about you. And yet he doesn’t even know how I feel, simply acting a bit flustered as he continued.
“Actually, there’s something I wanted to show you.” He said, taking me behind the machine room.
At first, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. It seemed like a gondola made of wooden planks. And Nanaya-kun confirmed that.
“You said you would’ve loved to ride on the Ferris Wheel, right?” He blurted out with no hesitation.
Ah, I see how it is. I finally realized. This is why I love him so much.
I’ve grown so used to being relied on. And yet, deep down, I’m not good enough at all, just stubborn and thickheaded. It’s a personality only I should know about. And yet, only he was always looking at me. He tried to learn about the real Kamijou Touka. Just like eleven years ago, he’d help me immediately. During the summer festival, he came running in an instant. And even at this very moment, he’s trying to cheer me up. He really is the only person who truly knows me.
That’s why I like him. That’s why I am in love with Shimono Nanaya.
I’ve decided. I’ll call him to the maidenhair tree tomorrow. And then I’ll tell him all about my feelings…That’s right, Kamijou Touka will confess to Shimono Nanaya!
“Wohoooo, is this heaven?!”
The day of the cultural festival was upon us. After coming to the maid café of class 1-7, I now had two middle-school maids standing on both my sides, hugging their shoulders. I was using my chance to take as many pictures with them as possible. Since I just came from my own class, I was still wearing my witch’s robe, making this feel like a cosplay session, but it should be fine. I accomplished my goal of showing off to Nanaya-kun, so the rest is for my own entertainment.
“Kamijou-san, how do I take a picture with this?”
The class rep of class 1-7 held my smartphone in her hands, seemingly struggling with the camera.
“Ah, I’m sorry. Right here.” I booted up the camera app for her.
“Oh, cool! Smartphones are nice.”
“It won’t take long before it’ll go mainstream. For now, you just have to tap on the screen here.”
I got back into position, wrapping my shoulders around the two cuties waiting for me.
“Hey, you old hag. You’re too close!”
“Kofuyu-chan, this is just another type of job. You need to work harder if you want to become the number one.”
“Kofuyu is not interested in becoming the number one maid!”
During that exchange, the class rep finished setting up my phone and was ready.
“I’m taking the picture!”
“Come on, you two, smile~”
SNAP! went the phone, so I checked the picture.
“Did this work?”
“Yup, perfectly! It’s so cute! And the two of them are smiling while being flustered, it’s the best!”
“Dear customer, would you like to take another picture with our number one favorite Nao-chan?”
“Nao-chan, you got a reservation!”
What kind of heaven is this? I’ve entered my own Shangri-La. Climbing a mountain to clear my mind? Pah. The entrance to another world was here on earth all this time!
“The hell are you doing, Touka…?”
A sharp gaze coming from the hallway directly pierced my chest. I immediately turned my face to the right, spotting the all-too charismatic gal as she looked at me in contempt.
She looks so disgusted!
“You’re wrong! This is…it’s just my Shangri-La!”
Ah, what am I even saying? I’m only digging my grave with this, but my brain can’t keep up. Biwako raised one eyebrow and closely inspected me while stomping inside the classroom.
“Who’s responsible for this?”
“That would be me, Sakonji-senpai.”
The class rep didn’t hesitate to step up in front of Biwako. I guess it makes sense that Biwako’s name would be known throughout the school.
“B-Biwa doesn’t think this kind of place is appropriate for a cultural festival!”
What a pure exclamation! So Biwako thinks of a maid café as inappropriate? If anything, you wouldn’t be able to hold such a photo session in any normal maid café.
“Oh, Sakonji-senpai…Don’t you know the rules of a maid cafe?”
The class rep started grinning. Ah…I have a vague idea of what’s going on.
“H-Huh? Rules don’t matter!”
“Letting customers take pictures with their maids is standard business for maid cafes. Mistaking that for something inappropriate…isn’t that just because you see them that way?”
“Biwa was never thinking about anything lewd like that!”
“Oh, apologies. So you were nothing but a sheltered child, Sakonji-senpai?”
“H-Huuuuh?! W-What do maid café rules have to do with sexual knowledge and maturity?!” Biwako screamed with a beet-red face, but the class rep kept on grinning.
Her teasing skill is no joke.
“That’s right, we are talking about the rules of the maid café! And since a photoshoot is perfectly normal for maid cafés, there’s absolutely no problem whatsoever!”
“T-That…might be true. And Biwa just didn’t know, that’s all there is to it!”
“Even if you apologize, you still need to be punished, otherwise we wouldn’t need the police! This is a genuine business obstruction, Ms. Sakonji!”
“B-Business obstruction?! B-Biwa didn’t mean to…”
Hey now, why is Biwako, who’s supposed to be a top student, being pushed back by this argument? She’s completely lost her pace.
“And another rule of a maid café is for the people who obstructed business to repay the café by temporarily working as maids.”
“Like hell that’s the case!”
Oh, she finally caught on that she’s being played.
“Sakonji-senpai, are you once again deciding the rules of the maid café for yourself?!”
“All you do is call me wrong, never believing me!”
Biwako-san, are you okay?
“Ahhh, it hurts! You don’t even know how maid cafés work? That’s just sad.”
And she apologized! She actually apologized?! Also, what do maid café rules even mean?!
“You’ll…work as a maid for us, right?”
“You will, right?”
Now I’m worried that she’ll fall for some kind of scam in the future…
“Thank you very much, Sakonji-senpai.” The class rep said and embraced Biwako.
What Biwako couldn’t see however was the class rep’s devious grin. Also, she just flashed a coin sign with her fingers! She’s terrifying! This takes me back to when we were working in the company. Specifically those of management, they were all about money. And with the addition of the charismatic gal as a maid, the maid café of class 1-7 blew up even more.
Amidst this chaos, Ushiki-san had changed back from her maid clothes and passed by me. I see, she’s planning on running away. I haven’t taken a picture with Ushiki-san, yet! Well, I can imagine she was forced into this as much as Biwako, so I guess I can let this slide—Or so I thought when Ushiki-san suddenly stopped and turned towards me. With a strong determination burning in her eyes, she spoke up.
“I won’t lose.”
I was baffled as I watched her walk off. Her back looked like a different person’s.
There were five minutes left until 5 pm. I rested my back against the maidenhair tree near the front entrance, waiting for that person to arrive. In the end, the maid café blew up thanks to Biwako’s participation. It got so crazy it was hard to see who was an employee and who was a visitor. I enjoyed the sight for another twenty minutes and then snuck out. Realizing that it was almost 5 pm, I changed out of my witch’s clothes, only reaching the tree a few minutes ago.
Maybe I played around a bit too much, after all. Well, I rarely get to see Biwako all flustered, so as long as I made it in time, I don’t mind. Still, there are barely any people left near the entrance, huh? I only see a few people heading over to the garden. To me, it’s a lot better if fewer people are around, but now I’m feeling anxious that the rumor actually existed.
Every year, I see at least two to three people confessing here. Let alone that it drew attention, creating a huge crowd of onlookers. And yet, I was only surrounded by painful silence. I was feeling anxious, like the location of the live concert changed and I didn’t know about it. I mean, my goal is to confess so it doesn’t matter too much, but I’d at least like the rumors to be true as it’d boost my confidence. Not good, I shouldn’t get this emotional. I already used up all of my luck with this time travel, so I shouldn’t push anything.
Calm down. Just wait for him. And like that, one minute passed. Another passed. Each time, my heart rate spiked. So far, I don’t see him anywhere. Nanaya-kun would always get here five minutes early. Maybe something happened. It’s not 5 pm yet, so I shouldn’t panic. Just wait for him to get here. Finally, the chime to signal the arrival of 5 pm resounded—But he didn’t come. I mean, he might just be late. I’ll just wait a bit longer…
“Shimono-senpai won’t be coming.”
A familiar voice pierced the silence. I slowly turned toward the source of that voice.
“What is that supposed to mean…Ushiki-san.”
Standing there wasn’t Shimono Nanaya-kun, but Ushiki Oguri-san.
“I told you, right? That I would not lose against you.”
That she did. I know that she likes Nanaya-kun. And she most likely realized that I’m interested in Nanaya-kun. However, I can’t think of the reason why Nanaya-kun hasn’t come here yet.
“Could you explain yourself?” I tried to hide my surprise and asked Ushiki-san.
“You’re surprisingly dense, Kamijou-senpai. Isn’t there anything that has changed over the past few months? Around you…or rather, around Shimono-senpai.”
Over the past few months is such a broad statement. This is probably after we traveled back in time. Even after thinking about it, I don’t understand what Ushiki-san is trying to say.
“I see…so you never really thought about it. It’s important to think about these things, Kamijou-senpai. Maybe this naivety led to your downfall this time around. If you’d caught on to the consistencies in their behaviors, you may have been able to act in time.”
“Again, what are you even talking about, Ushiki-san? I can’t follow.”
What is happening right now? Why isn’t Nanaya-kun coming? And why is Ushiki-san telling me? My head isn’t keeping up.
“Not like it matters right now. There’s only one more thing to tell you.” Ushiki-san approached me.
She flashed a confident and determined smile I never would’ve imagined coming from her.
She put her right hand into the pocket of her cardigan.
“This is my win, Kamijou-senpai. No—Section Chief Kamijou.”
She took out a small wrapper of candy, unwrapped it, and put the pink candy into her mouth.