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«Gamers! (Light Novel) - Volume 11, Chapter 1 – Karen Tendou and Chiaki Hoshinomori and Rival Encounter (RPG Enemy Event)

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Volume 11, Chapter 1 - Karen Tendou and Chiaki Hoshinomori and Rival Encounter (RPG Enemy Event)

This chapter is updated by Novels.pl

Karen Tendou

The heater at the corner of the club room is blowing out warm breezes.

This is a day at the end of February.

It’s after school. I’m in the club room. The heater’s not working properly, and I can feel the slight chills on my skin.

As the Game Club president, I, Karen Tendou, is standing in front of the sunset outside the window-

-I judged my members with a cold attitude.

“Everyone- aren't you guys getting lazy recently?”

“…………”

After hearing the president’s solemn words, the three members stopped playing and looked at us.

Gakuto Kase, Nina Oiso, Eiichi Mizumi.

At this point, Kase-senpai and Nina-senpai should’ve already graduated from the club. They don’t even need to come to school anymore. However, they still show up in the club accordingly to practice with us. As the president, I’m deeply thankful for that.

However, -it’s impossible to use this as an excuse for laziness.

As the Game Club president, -I started complaining about them calmly.

“First of all, Mizumi-kun.”

“Y-Yes, what’s wrong, Tendou-san? …No, president.”

Mizumi-kun put his phone onto the table and looked at me nervously.

I shook my head exaggeratedly and looked at him dumbfoundedly.

“Your talents are indeed perfect. If you’re in your world, I bet you can use your cheat-like powers to enjoy a harem protagonist life. …Hoho.”

“W-Why!? This is strange! I don’t feel like I’m praised at all!”

“No, I’m praising you. There’s no need to doubt your skills. Please be more confident.”

“T-Thank you…? Well, …so, what’s wrong…?”

Mizumi-kun asked me confusedly. Sheesh, what’s your usual awareness?

I shrugged helplessly. …Then, I squinted my eyes and glared at him.

“Well, I’ll be straight. Mizumi-kun, recently, you-“

“…Y-Yes, …w-what’s wrong?”

Mizumi-kun watched my unprecedentedly serious face in the Game Club and gulped.

So, the two third years held their breaths and waited for my conclusion as well.

After I mentally prepared myself, -my heart turned ice-cold and pointed out the fact.

“Aren’t you- enjoying games a bit too much?”

“E…Ehh!?”

For a moment, Mizumi-kun showed a thoroughly shocked face.

“N-No, no, no! I can be yelled at because of that in the Game Club!?”

He rebelled violently after that. However, I retorted to him calmly.

“You can. It’s because this isn’t the Game Hobby Club. This is just the Game Club, right? In other words, -it’s a hellish battleground instead of a blessed paradise.”

“N-No, what’s with that saying!? Are the moods between these two groups that different!?”

“Yes. It’s because one of them is a cheerful and relaxed group with Amano-kun. On the other hand, we have a gloomy and dark club without Amano-kun here.”

“The reputation of the Game Club! Isn’t it weird to hear that from the president!? N-No, but I do like Amano-kun…”

After hearing Mizumi-kun’s mumble, I glared at him fiercely again.

“Ah, this is another fault of yours, Mizumi-kun.”

“Eh, you mean…?”

“I mean, aren’t you- too close with Amano-kun these days?”

“HAAAAAAAA!?”

Mizumi-kun showed an even more shocked face and glared at me. He struggled violently.

“You’re the one to talk!?”

“Yes, Mizumi-kun. You’re…influenced too much by Amano-kun!”

“What’s happening? It’s like hearing Shinnosuke Nohara complaining about erotic jokes!”

Mizumi-kun isn’t convinced at the slightest.

I shrugged again and started guiding him as the president.

“Listen, Mizumi-kun. The goal of our club is to improve ourselves. In other words, we aren’t here to enjoy games alone. However, recently, …you’re influenced by Amano-kun too much and focused more on enjoyment, right?”

Facing my rebuttal, Mizumi-kun showed pain for a moment. …But, he’s a sensitive protagonist young man, after all. He immediately retorted.

“That makes sense, Tendou-san. However, you get good at it because you love it. In a sense, enjoying the game and improving your gaming skills are the same thing, right?”

“Ara, ara…”

Mizumi-kun rebelled against his president angrily.

I sniffed at him. “Hmph.”

“You get good at it because you love it. …Such empty words. Here, look at me, Mizumi-kun.”

“Eh, Tendou-san? I mean, actually, didn’t you improve your skills because you love games-“

Mizumi-kun’s forced into a corner, yet he’s still trying to struggle.

I put my hand on my chest-

-and struck him with my final and most potent retort.

“-Did I improve by even the slightest when facing my favorite Amano-kun?”

“UWAHHHHHHHH!?”

Mizumi-kun wrapped his hands around his head and started screaming.

“Such painfully convincing words! I can’t fight back at all!”

I smiled gently at him, who’s utterly depressed.

“It looks like you understood. Well, you have to pay attention to improving your skills from now on, Mizumi-kun.”

“U-Ugh, …I understand, president.”

I turned to the two third years after convincing him.

“…The same goes for senpais too.”

“W…What?”

The usually lawless senpais can feel my pressure right now. Their shoulders are shivering.

I squinted my eyes slightly and started giving them a lesson.

“I feel like you two are ‘warmer’ than before.”

“W…Warmer?”

“Yes. For example, if you two were battling newbies or weaklings in the past, it’s guaranteed that senpais would crush them relentlessly. People say that a lion will use its full strength to pounce on a rabbit. In other words, it’s just like a disgusting old bloke that likes to win all the kids’ pocket money with mahjong on New Year.”

“What’s with that example!?”

“But, …look at what happened to you two now. Both of you now start to avoid being hated by your opponent and go easy on them. This is like a tiger with its teeth taken away. In other words, you two are like the disgusting old bloke that’s unexpectedly weak at being yelled at by relatives.”

“That’s why we asked what’s with that example!?”

I shrugged exaggeratedly and sighed. “You can’t be helped…” After that, the two senpais retorted a bit dissatisfiedly.

“Hey, hey, Tendou. After I heard what you said, I think your unreasonable complaint about us does make a little sense. But, what’s wrong with this care?”

“Yeah, Tendou. Isn’t it better if we’re slightly smoother and warmer?”

“Hmph.”

I laughed at what they said before continuing.

“Sheesh, isn’t the fact right in front of senpais?”

“Huh? Eh, what…?”

The two didn’t understand what I’m saying. They asked confusedly.

Facing these two idiots, I said-

“Hohoho, you’re still asking that? …Didn’t I say it’s already here?”

-Just like how I defeated Mizumi-kun, I put my hand onto my chest once again and attacked.

“Here’s the blonde clown that gave too much warmth to her enemy and tasted this idiotic defeat!”

“UWWAAAAHHHHH!?”

The two members hugged their heads and started screaming again, just like Mizumi-kun!

I raised my skirt elegantly and introduced myself like a noble.

“Hello, I’m the self-destructing loser, the ideal negative example, Karen Tendou.”

“Ahhhh! Such convincing words! I can’t…retort!”

I smiled gently at the two deflated senpais.

“If you got it, please pay attention to destroying the enemy seriously and improve yourselves in the club.”

“Ugh, …ugh, …I understand, president.”

So, I convinced the senpais and smiled cheerfully. Then, I clapped my hands and returned to the topic.

“Well, everyone, please remember my suggestions and start today’s activity!”

I continued to instruct my members based on what I’ve taught them as the president.

“First of all, Mizumi-kun, you can’t stop improving no matter how tiring it is! As for senpais, no matter how unwilling you are, please abandon your innocent side and put out your serious faces again! This is a promise with Karen Tendou-nee-san!”

“…Alright.”

The members unwillingly accepted my precious teachings.

I’m satisfied with their reactions.

Finally, I declared the club activity today as the club president-

“Well, as the president, I’ll do the same…”

-I declared the thing I’ll be doing loudly to avoid wasting my members’ efforts.

“No matter how depressing it’ll get -I have to ruminate over the scene where Chiaki-san kissed Amano-kun in front of me.”

“…Ha?”

The sudden declaration made everyone in the Game Club turn stiff.

However, I ignored the club room’s mood and calmly- said what I’ll be doing today.

“After that, no matter how much I don’t want to do this -I have to declare a bloody war on Chiaki-san and duel with her. I’ll be leaving.”

I said that and walked outside the club room.

The members saw that there are two reflective black pistols in my hands-

“Uh, hey, hey, hey, WAIT WAIT WAIT!”

-So, today’s Game Club activity started by me, the president, Karen Tendou, …being arrested by my members.

*

“S-Sheesh, this isn’t a real pistol. It’s just a gun-shaped controller…”

Mizumi-kun looked at the two pistols- controllers he robbed from me after a violent fight. He sighed of relief.

“Of course.”

I sighed dumbfoundedly and returned to the president’s seat.

The two senpais returned to their seats too. Uncharacteristically, they started defending Mizumi-kun.

“I mean, even though we said that, Tendou. No one won’t stop a person that’s holding two guns while radiating a menacing aura.”

“Yeah, it’s more like it’s already wrong the moment you released your instinct to kill. Tendou, we would stop you even if you’re just holding a konjac.”

“In a sense, trying to kill someone with a konjac is true insanity…”

You mean I’ll cook Chiaki-san alive.

Sigh, no matter what…

“Anyway, sorry for making you three worry about me.”

Then, Mizumi-kun stood up slowly. He handed the controller back to me and patted my shoulder lightly.

“Well, Tendou-san.”

I guess he’s about to ask me what happened.

“It seems that Amano-kun and Hoshinomori-san kissed each other a while ago. …I think you said something like that before. Is that true?”

I answered irritatedly.

“I don’t want to answer at all.”

“I see. In other words, you won’t face the truth until you’re thoroughly hurt.”

“What are you talking about, Mizumi-kun? I, Karen Tendou, still haven’t given up on the possibility that this is all just a dream.”

“Ah, that’s enough, Tendou-san. We’ll really cry if you go on…”

Kase-senpai already took off his glasses and turned around. Nina-senpai’s rubbing her eyes. …For some reason, even I want to cry as well.

Mizumi-kun cleared his throat and continued.

“Also, from Tendou-san’s reaction, it should not be the one before, …the ‘attempted kissing’ at the amusement park last autumn, right?”

“Yes, indeed. It’s different from Aguri-san. I saw it clearly this time.

“You saw the two people’s lips touching each other?”

“…*click* (the sound of pulling the safety of the gun)”

“I’m sorry. I’ll apologize for my rough way of directly saying it. Please don’t point the gun-shaped controller at me without saying anything. That’s really scary.”

Mizumi-kun raised his hands as if he’s pointed at by actual guns. After I put down the pistol, Mizumi-kun pressed his chest and mumbled.

“But, how did that happen…?”

To his question, Kase-senpai casually predicted, “It must be that, right.”

“It’s just the same as the last time, anyway. The ‘pranks of fate’ that you guys are most familiar with.”

However, I quickly denied this.

“Nope, this time, Chiaki-san took away Amano-kun’s lips on her own.”

“…I-I…see…”

The members immediately looked away awkwardly.

So, a suffocating silence wrapped around us for 10 seconds. This time, Nina-senpai tried to comfort me with her uncharacteristically joking attitude.

“B-But, think about it, even if that’s the case, we’re talking about Keita Amano here? He’s reckless and can’t read the mood. I bet he just suddenly confessed he loves Tendou-“

However, I interrupted her comfort once again.

“-Nope, his face was blushing as he just stood there.”

“…R-Really.”

The silence fell onto the Game Club once again. I slowly turned to Mizumi-kun and gave him a provocative smile.

“Ara, Mizumi-kun, you aren’t standing up…as Amano-kun’s defendant this time?”

“Ugh…!? W-Well…!”

Mizumi-kun fell speechless. I looked down on him.

“Ho, …well, this can’t be helped. If this is a criminal case, the defendant would be holding a knife soaked with blood at the scene. At the same time, he said, ‘yes, I killed the person.’ It’s already irreversible.”

“Ugh…! I-Indeed, there’s no way for me to defend him!”

Mizumi-kun’s barely holding himself onto the table as if he was brutally beaten up. However, after a few seconds, …perhaps his usual protagonist persistent attitude awoke. A slight spark of hope appeared in his eyes. He stood up and retorted to me with his last strength.

“B-But! Tendou-san! Even if he didn’t struggle violently, it’s a fact that Amano-kun’s the one that has something taken away from him! In other words, he’s also a victim! S-So, it’s unreasonable to get really mad at him or punish-“

However, I cut off Mizumi-kun at this point.

“Ara? But I didn’t say anything about me getting mad at Amano-kun at all, right?”

“Eh?”

Mizumi-kun froze when he heard what I said. He scratched his head a bit confusedly and carefully asked, “I-Is that the case?”

I smiled and nodded.

“Yes, indeed, last time, …when he almost kissed Aguri-san, it looks like each of them wanted it. So, I did suspect and got angry at Amano-kun. This time, no matter how you put it, Chiaki-san ‘took’ it away from him. So, even though I’m a bit jealous and shocked, I didn’t get mad or suspect Amano-kun.”

“Ah, r-really? I-I see. That’s our Tendou-san. What a reasonable answer. Yeah, if that’s the case, it seems that I don’t need to defend him anymore.”

Mizumi-kun smiled in relief and sat down. I replied him with a warm smile and said, “Yes, so-“

“-Who should die this time? Me or Chiaki-san?”

I squinted my eyes and raised the guns. At this moment, everyone in the Game Club stopped me and yelled, “WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT!”

First of all, Kase-senpai tried his best to calm me down.

“Why are you suddenly releasing that dangerous aura!? You’re just talking about a gaming match, right!?”

“Yeah. The console’s in my room. I want to fight her.”

“R-Really? Well, it’s still okay if you’re just talking about games…”

“So, didn’t I say this before? If you wanted to, I could put it as, ‘Girls dueling each other in a gaming-loving high school student’s room.” It’s more relaxing, right?”

“Hmm, that’s good. I was worried about you girls fighting in an arcade filled with cigarettes and smoke. If it’s in your room, it’s quite relieving for two girls to play together.”

“Right. Well, if there’s one rule in my room-“

I paused for a moment and continued with a smile.

“That would be- two girls in, one girl out.”

“It’s suddenly Mad Max! No, I mean, is there a high school girl’s room bound by post-apocalypse arena rules!? Where did the ‘relaxed’ mood go!?”

“Hoho, sheesh, Kase-senpai, aren’t you having too much fantasy of a high school girl’s room?”

“No, no, no, it’s far from the nightmarish arena room you’re talking about! By the way, both of you need to survive! Don’t just bet your lives on games!”

“I wasn’t planning on just betting it onto games. …Instead, I’ll wager my soul seriously.”

“That’s even worse!”

“It’s because…this is our Game Club, which is full of serious gamers, right!?”

“That’s not what the ‘serious’ means in serious gamers! That’s more like a dark battle than a serious gaming battle!”

“A dark battle, …hoho, what a fitting word for the conflict between Chiaki-san and me.”

“How is it fitting!? By the way, it’s just a competition for love. Is it necessary to sacrifice lives!?”

“It’s just love…?”

What he said pissed me a little. I can’t help but give him a despising look.

“Ara, ara, …such opinions coming from a pair of glasses without any love experience. Go back to your twisted logic.”

For a moment, Kase-senpai’s glasses cracked. I don’t know why. However, it’s true that he’s seriously angered now.

Kase-senpai pushed his glasses and said.

“-Very well, let’s fight, Tendou. From now on, the rule in this club room is also-“

I nodded.

“…Yes. …4 people in, 1 person out.”

“No, no, don’t count us in!”

Mizumi-kun and Nina-senpai immediately yelled. The dangerous atmosphere disappeared. At the same time, Kase-senpai apologized to the two.

“S-Sorry, she’s pulling me in…”

“It’s okay, Kase. I understand. That’s just your usual unpopularity.”

“Damn you, Oiso…!”

“Forget that, Tendou.”

After she destroyed Kase-senpai, Nina-senpai was the one to convince me this time.

She continued with her usual gloomy and lethargic tone.

“Well, let’s forget that the ‘it’s just love’ statement is overwhelmingly inconsiderate. But, in reality, there’s no need to wager your life onto a victory, right?”

“Indeed, but either Chiaki-san or I must disappear.”

“Why?”

“Ha, you’re still asking why? Can’t all of you see this already?”

“?”

Nina-senpai didn’t understand. …So, I slammed the table and announced loudly.

“There’s not a single girl in this world who can give up on such an attractive Amano-kun!”

“Yep, she’s terminally ill…”

Nina-senpai’s looking at me like I’m a seriously injured person that’s about to die. I continued while looking at her.

“It’s because Nina-senpai’s the same, right? You don’t hate him, right?”

“Hate? Well, I guess I don’t hate Keita Amano…”

“I see. In other words, you want to make babies with him.”

“You’re jumping too far. You’re like repaying your debt by changing your character pool after changing characters in a fighting game.”

“I mean, I don’t understand what you just said.”

“Nevermind, this kouhai is replying to her senpai’s complaint too coldly.”

“Anyway, the fact is that even though Nina-senpai doesn’t really know Amano-kun, you want to make babies with him.”

“Don’t just move forward with a wrong conclusion…”

“If that’s already the case for Nina-senpai, for Chiaki-san and I, who legitimately declared that we love him, …we can’t be satisfied with just making babies with him. We literally want to give birth to him.”

“I don’t understand a single thing you just said in the past minute.”

“However, regrettably, there’s only one position for a woman that can give birth and raise him.”

“Yes, it’s his mother, right. Also, someone should’ve already taken place at first, right. That’s his mother.”

“Anyway, no matter how we loved him, Chiaki-san, Nina-senpai, and I just want to become his most beloved girl, right?”

“Hey, I wish you don’t just add me to your competition this calmly.”

“Eh, senpai doesn’t want to become Amano-kun’s girlfriend? …Are you serious?”

“It’s more like I want to ask you, are you serious. …Well, …hmm.”

Nina-senpai put her finger on her chin and thought for a moment.

“…N-Nina-senpai? Did you just…imagine dating Amano-kun and got an ‘oh, I think it wouldn’t be too bad’ conclusion?”

“Yeah, I guess so. After all, Keita Amano helped me a lot in the past as well.”

Nina-senpai admitted quickly. For some reason, Kase-senpai’s glasses cracked again.

However, Nina-senpai continued with her carefree attitude.

“Well, even though I said that, I’m not interested enough to take part in your boring match.”

“R-Really…?”

This girl has a strange character setting. In reality, there could be a timeline where Nina Oiso is seriously trying to win Keita Amano over. …I feel like it’s not impossible for her to deny other followers and deepens their relationship in a short time.

However, it seems that Nina-senpai’s just treating this as a casual conversation.

“Anyway, let’s get back to the topic.”

She pressed on without a single trace of passion.

“To put it simply, it’s the final battle where Tendou and Chiaki Hoshinomori are trying to win Keita Amano as the prize, right?”

“W-What’s with that straightforward conclusion? W-Well, let’s forget whether it’s the final battle, but I think it’s similar…”

“Right. I can more or less understand when it’s put that way. Tendou, you’re at your last straw, right. After all, I have things that I must absolutely win over too.”

“…Yeah, it feels like we’re in a competition, right.”

I nodded. Uncharacteristically, Nina-senpai smiled warmly and said, “Right?” After that, …she continued to calm me down.

“But, that’s why I’m also thinking this. Even though you lost in a crucial battle, …that’s not the end of your life or your own story, right?”

“…………”

“At least, even if I lost in a fight, I’ll step forward to the next one. That’s the same for Tendou and Chiaki Hoshinomori, right?”

“Same…”

“Yes, even if you can’t be next to Keita Amano, there will still be-“

“No.”

I interrupted Nina-senpai right away.

…I clenched my fist in front of my chest.

“This is…different from a typical competition, Nina-senpai.

I- declared to everyone with an endlessly sad, upsetting, and bitter smile.

“It’s because whether it’s the next time or a replacement, we can’t imagine that at all, …and we don’t want to. Our minds are filled with that boy. I think this is what we call love.”

“Tendou…”

Nina-senpai and everyone else gave me a sympathetic look.

I smiled helplessly at them and continued while lowering my head.

“It must be the same for Chiaki-san too. So, …that’s why we-“

After this final battle, …I can’t mince my words with any jokes.

“…………”

The club room returned to silence—the heater’s noise echoing emptily in the room.

Chiaki Hoshinomori

The snow is blown up by the dry breezes of the north. It brushed through my skirt.

It’s dusk.

I’m walking silently on the street filled with snow alone.

…Carefully. I’m even prepared to walk 3 steps ahead before taking another 5 back sometimes.

“…Phew.”

I stopped and wiped the sweat on my forehead with the back of my hand.

This way, I’m finally halfway there to the place I need to go. I already spent 3 times longer than what should’ve taken me to go there. All of this is because the others must think that I’m walking too carefully. Seriously, there’s a limit of inefficiency.

Well, speaking of why I’m walking like this, -that must be because I’m a clumsy girl that often trips over.

There are two reasons for this. First, my reflexes are disastrously horrible.

The other reason is-

“Oh? Hoshinomori?”

-Someone suddenly called me from behind when I’m adjusting my breaths. I hastily tried to turn around- and immediately realized what’s under my legs.

After that, I carefully, slowly, and masterfully…turned my head around like a robot. I managed to figure out who that person is. Then, I moaned from my throat exhaustedly.

“…Ah, …ugh, …Souen-san…!”

“AHHHHHH!? What’s with this exorcist attitude!? You’re freaking me out!”

One of the Game Hobby Club members, Tasuku Uehara, took a step back with a pale face.

I wanted to calm him down. …But, my heart still didn’t agree with my legs’ movement. So, I just turned my head over and squeaked.

“W…What a coin! DEATH! Hey!”

“AHHHHHHHH!? Crap!”

Uehara-kun took a couple more steps back. However, he immediately calmed down and came here.

“Well, I mean, I know that you’re probably trying to say what a coincidence, Hoshinomori! That’s fine. Even if it’s fine…”

“Death! Death!” [Again, this is a joke of Desu.]

“Even though I knew that, I’m still really terrified of your act and pose! What are you trying to do!?”

While Uehara-kun’s still scared, he gave me a caring look.

I turned my face forward and finally released myself from the stoned look. I answered with my normal voice.

“Sorry to make you worry.”

“Really. I mean, I wasn’t just worrying about you. For a moment, I thought this world is about to collapse.”

Uehara-kun said that as he walked next to me. I smiled and explained.

“Well, according to the oath, I can’t lift my feet off the ground.”

“You still ended up ruining the world for me. Hey, seriously, what’s wrong with you?”

Uehara-kun asked for further explanation. It can’t be helped. …I decided to confess this to him!

“To put it simply, …I don’t want to get embarrassed from tripping onto the ground!”

“That thing you just did was already more embarrassing than falling onto the ground. By the way, you would rather do something weird than tripping? I don’t understand your reason.”

“Ho, Uehara-kun. Instead of getting teased at, I want to make people laugh more.”

“That’s like a line from a high-class comedian. …I mean.”

Uehara-kun scratched his head awkwardly.

“Hey, can we walk as we talk? You didn’t even move a single inch.”

As if he’s teasing my caution, Uehara-kun stepped onto the uneven snow path loudly.

I can’t help but sigh…and shrugged before mumbling.

“Sigh, …that’s why Uehara-kun is always Uehara-kun.”

“This is the first time that I’ve heard such an irritating sarcasm!”

“Ha, …Uehara-kun must be the hare in , right?”

“Oho, here we go. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a fable story. You friendless loners have to say those things when arguing with me?”

“Ha, …that’s enough. Please go first, Uehara-kun. Go first and take a nap under the tree.”

“No! Why would I sleep under the tree on a winter night!? I’ll die!”

“Then, I’ll slowly surpass you with a turtle’s step…!”

“No, save me, girl! Don’t just ignore me freezing to death! Are you a demon!?”

Uehara-kun kept on complaining. He didn’t want to leave first at all.

“…Phew.”

It can’t be helped. I gave up and planned to convince him again.

“Well, I’m pretty bad at walking on the snow. Please go first-“

However, at the moment that I said that-

“Hey.”

“Ah…”

Uehara-kun suddenly took my bag away. He walked forward in the snow as if he’s guiding me.

“Yo, Hoshinomori, isn’t this better?”

“Eh? Ah, yes. …Ah, no, no, no, not that, please, Uehara-kun-“

“Hmm?”

He stood still and turned back with a pissed expression.

“You’re saying that I should leave a girl I know walking on the snow slowly? …Are you sure you want to tell me that? Hmm?”

He looks furious.

I…can’t help but smile.

“Sheesh, …Uehara-kun has always been like this. You’re still Uehara-kun.”

“Ha? What’s wrong? You’re beating around the bush like Amano.”

Uehara-kun said that as he looked forward and stomped the snow flat for me.

I had just a bit more courage when I looked at his back.

So, I started walking on the snow path again.

*

“Hmm? Born under the ‘zenpai’ star? You, Hoshinomori?” [Note: It means total defeat or failing at every attempt.]

“Yes.”

It’s been only 5 minutes since meeting up with Uehara-kun.

The ground below me finally turned flat after crossing the most challenging part. We walked together and chatted.

Uehara-kun put his hands into the pocket. He sniffed his slightly red nose and asked.

“Uh, what does ‘zenpai’ mean?”

“Well, it simply means losing all of your EXP and money after a defeat in a game.”

“Hey, I mean, I know it as a game term. It’s just that you wasted all of your adventure earlier. Once you think about the time, experience, and items you spent, you just feel like it’s easier to quit the game, right?”

“Yes, it’s like the feeling of throwing the controller onto the pillow.”

“You’re unexpectedly violent. Well, let’s forget about that. That ‘zenpai’ of yours, …I do understand it as a game term. But, what do you mean by born under that star? I still can’t think of an actual scenario of you failing that…”

Facing Uehara-kun’s question, I said, “well…” before pondering about it. Then, I immediately thought of a great example. I spoke up with a bright smile.

“Like the mood after I took Keita’s lips a few days ago?”

“Okay, I got it.”

Uehara-kun jumped. …I bet it’s because of the cold today.

It seems that he’s trying to avoid looking at me. He’s looking at the destination.

“Yeah, that was like he- no, it’s pretty awkward.”

“Uehara-kun, Uehara-kun, you were trying to say hell, right?”

“N-No. Think about it, I’m not an inconsiderate man that describes another person’s love story as hell.”

“Oh, you’re amazing, Uehara-kun. Keita’s way less considerate than you.”

“See?”

“Yes. …It’s just that- I would call that ‘hell’ too.”

For a moment, Uehara-kun lost his balance like he just tripped over the snow.

After regaining his senses, Uehara-kun immediately protested!

“You’re saying that!? You started it, and you’re saying that!?”

To that, I hugged my shivering body and answered with a pale face.

“No, no, I’m already trembling from just thinking about it. After that, whether it’s the ensuring silence or the awkward dinner time, and the train home where none of us made eye contact, …everything is hell.”

“I can’t believe that’s how you’re describing your first kiss!”

“My first kiss already doesn’t taste like tangerine. It’s literally a bitter gourd.”

“At this point, Hoshinomori’s love story is just so tragic.”

“No, no, my tragic love story started a long time ago.”

“Ouch, that’s the most pathetic and depressing retort in our high school life! It’s too upsetting!”

“Ho, …but please relax, Uehara-kun.”

“Hmm? Relax what?”

Uehara-kun’s a bit confused.

-I declared to him proudly!

“It’s not just me- Keita and Karen-san’s love stories are just as tragic now!”

“You’re literally a terrorist in this love story! Thanks to you, the sea of flowers just turned into a barren and burnt wasteland!”

‘This is all because of my ‘zenpai’ attribute…”

“Hey, wait. You just let fate take all the blame, right? Right?”

“…I really hate this side of me…!”

“Hey!”

Uehara-kun complained dumbfoundedly. I cleared my throat and ignored him.

“Ahem, so, this is not the only time where my ‘zenpai-ness’ comes to shine.”

“You’re saying?”

“Well, it’s just like…tripping over the floor like that or biting your tongue when talking, …things like that.”

“Hmm? That’s just being clumsy, right?”

After hearing what Uehara-kun said, …I laughed at him like he’s an idiot.

“…Yes, yes, if I’m in Keita and Uehara-kun’s favorite dating sim, you can summarize it with such a cute conclusion. Sheesh, …that’s why I hate guys that fantasize over girls…”

“It’s been a long time since I’m pissed at your attitude.”

Even though Uehara-kun’s smiling, an angry symbol showed up on his forehead.

I added.

“Well, but my ‘zenpai’ attribute isn’t that fatal yet.”

“…What do you mean by that?”

Uehara-kun still doesn’t understand. “For example…” I started giving concrete examples.

“No one saw my panties when I tripped over, but there’s blood. People will start complaining or be confused when I accidentally bit my tongue. My cooking tastes terrible when I screwed it up, but it’s still edible. I’m just a piece of trap that can’t even bring a smile to others’ faces. That is…me, a ‘zenpai’ girl, Chiaki Hoshinomori.”

“…………”

“In other words, once I get greedy, I’ll fail so hard that I end up in an even worse situation. So, I have nothing. I’m constantly losing as I move forward with life. …This is how lonely I am. Ah, also-“

Uehara-kun hit my head lightly just as I’m about to continue. He’s giving me a very sympathetic look.

“…Okay, I already understood it so much that it’s upsetting. So, there’s no need for more examples.”

“Eh? But I can still list out a bunch of examples. I answered my classmate energetically when I thought he’s talking to me. In the end, he’s speaking to someone behind-“

“No, no, that’s really enough! Your spinoff story is too upsetting! I get it! You’re boring under the ‘zenpai’ star! Ahh!”

“Really? That’s good to hear…”

After I backed down, Uehara-kun sighed in relief.

“In other words, that’s why you’re carefully walking, right?”

“Yes.”

“Even though you dared to kiss a few days ago?”

“Ugh…”

I can’t help but plop my head with a blush. Uehara-kun apologized with a slightly flippant attitude.

“However, in reality, if you can do amazing things like that, why are you still afraid of walking on uneven roads?”

“That’s different. By the way, doesn’t ‘zenpai’ also means messing up when you’re confident?”

“Ah, I guess so. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine Amano and you are walking confidently before tripping.”

“Right. This is us. We only mess it up when we decide to do something!”

“Just like that day’s kiss?”

“Ah…”

I blushed deflatedly. Uehara-kun started repeatedly apologizing again. Well, I’m not kind enough to forgive him for saying stuff like that. I pouted and glared at him to show my anger.

“Sigh, but that was a pretty shocking event, even for outsiders like us. So, you can at least forgive me for messing with you a little bit, Hoshinomori.”

“Shocked, …ha! Uehara-kun is indeed-“

The long-awaited love detective is here! Then, my seaweed head took a smack. I moaned with tears in my eyes. Uehara-kun sighed and complained.

“What do you mean by indeed? I don’t remember raising any flags to you.”

“N-No, you’re always saying things that make me overthink! For example, what’s with your ‘I only choose you’ declaration a while ago!?”

“Eh? What’s that?”

“You forgot it already!? …Whatever, I know it, anyway. Uehara-kun is pretty good at picking up girls.”

“Hey, wait. How did you reach that conclusion? I-I have never-“

“But didn’t you support Karen-san a little bit recently?”

“Ugh.”

“You’re also having a close relationship with Keita, not to mention Aguri-chan! …If this isn’t called being smooth and slick, I don’t know what is!”

“I can’t argue! However, if you say that, isn’t Amano…”

“Keita’s fine. It’s okay for Keita to have a bunch of relationships with girls.”

“Eh? Why?”

“Well, since- he’s still not happy now.”

“That’s really mean! …Well, that guy’s relationships are all somewhat negative for some reason.”

“Yes. He’s tangled with girls that he shouldn’t date with, and I’m the first one on the list. This is Keita.”

“Don’t put yourself onto the first one. …Sigh, it’s hard to envy his popularity when you think of Main-san and Kousei…”

“Yes.”

I nodded. …Seriously, a lot of girls have a thing for Keita. …But, why can I still sense ‘sorrow’ on his back? It must be because he still doesn’t have any friends in class aside from Uehara-kun. …Well, but I don’t think I can befriend anyone aside from Karen-san…

We talked about Keita for a while. Then, Uehara-kun fixed his scarf’s position and said, “Let’s get back to the topic.”

“The reason that I’m shocked with you two kissing is not that I love Hoshinomori. I never loved you. A. Single. Bit.”

“You don’t have to reject this vehemently…”

Even though I don’t want Uehara-kun’s feelings, this hurts.

Uehara-kun just frowned like he’s finding this troublesome. However, he didn’t change his mind and continued calmly.

“How should I put it? …I feel like you guys are ahead of us again.”

“Ahead of…us?”

For a moment, I didn’t understand what he said. But, I immediately got it and answered. “Oh!”

“Yes, our humor is way ahead of you, right! Indeed, compared to the exceptional normie Uehara-kun, Keita and I are just underground peasants!”

“You’re just as good as hating yourself as you used to. I don’t mean by that. It’s more like it’s the opposite.”

“O-Opposite?”

Uehara-kun scratched the back of his head a bit embarrassingly.

“You two are way too charming for me. Even though your timing can’t be worse, even though someone’s looking at you, even though you leap before you think, …all of you are still walking forward.”

“Uehara-kun…”

“…To me, that’s something utterly impossible to do.”

He seems a bit depressed. I can’t help but comfort him.

“N-No! You’re not supposed to praise what I did!”

After hearing my gentle words, he’s deeply throbbed- no, instead, he gave me a dumbfounded look.

“Of course, honestly, it’s really disgusting to let your ex-girlfriend see you kissing.”

“Ouch, I feel like I just reached my hand out to a seriously injured person only to find out that he’s actually a zombie and bite me! This is the first time that I’m getting sick of comforting people!”

“Well, I mean, that’s actually impossible. Seriously, there should be a limit of brutality on people.”

“U-Ugh, I know it. …Ah, the guilt’s flushing me again…!”

I stopped and dropped my shoulders deflatedly. Uehara-kun put his hand on my shoulder and continued with a pretty gentle voice.

“However, I love such a messed up ‘Chiaki Hoshinomori’s first love’ so much.”

“Ugh, Uehara-kun…”

I raised my head and looked at him with teary eyes. He looked at me with his usual charming smile- and pushed me away.

“Well, even though you’re really evil. Letting Tendou see you kissing at the place of her first date memories…”

“Right, right! I’m very sorry! Ah, sheesh, I have to send Karen-san my pinky!”

“That’s not how apologies work in rom-coms!”

“Well, I’ll give her all of my recommended games…”

“N-No, that’s just you being an otaku! It’s not compensation at all!”

“W-Well, I’ll just send Keita’s pinky-“

“Jesus Christ! That’s not even being yandere. You’re just unreasonable!”

“Well, what should I do then!? Anyway, I should start by searching keywords like ‘friend, in front of you, kissing, apology, blonde’ on Google, right!?”

“There won’t be an answer to such a specific question, no matter how great the internet is! Also, that last ‘blonde’ is unnecessary, right!?”

“Ugh, …I can’t face Karen-san again.”

“You really didn’t think of the consequences at all.”

Uehara-kun scratched his head.

I continued stepping on the moist snow and curled up.

“…No, it’s not like…I just went in there…”

“Eh? So, you were planning to kiss Amano on that day?”

My face immediately flared up after hearing that question.

“W-Well, …uh, …hmm, …b-b-b-but, I didn’t expect to pull it off under that situation, no matter what…!”

“I see. How should I put it? …You’re still Hoshinomori, after all. Ah, this must be that ‘zenpai’ thing you talked about, right? Reaching your hand out only to lose it violently.”

“Ugh, …yes, …the same goes for my friendship with Karen-san, …and Keita…”

I reached the bottom of my depression as I walked silently. It seems that Uehara-kun couldn’t think of a good way to comfort me either. Silence ensued between the both of us for a while.

Around 30 seconds later, Uehara-kun cleared his throat and gave me a new topic.

“By the way, where are you going, Hoshinomori? No games are released today, right?”

“What do you mean? You’re saying that like I’m a rare monster that only appears on a game release day. Well, even though you’re right.”

“See? But, if that’s not the case, seriously, what are you doing today?”

Uehara-kun asked confusedly.

I answered him with a flirty smile.

“Ara ara, isn’t it obvious? Right now, …I’m a girl in love, right? Then, girls in love will turn beautiful, right? In other words-“

“Ohh? The representative of boring girls, Hoshinomori, is finally going to dress herself up for her beloved boy…!?”

When Uehara-kun’s rubbing the corner of his eyes, …I announced loudly!

“-Of course, I’ll train myself by going to the second-hand game store once a month!”

“Give me back my tears!”

For some reason, Uehara-kun’s enraged. I’m confused.

“Eh? Hey, I’m giving my best to train myself even though I’m an otaku. Shouldn’t you praise my will to make myself more beautiful…?”

“You’re just walking home once per month! How shameless can you be!? Stop giving me that training crap! You’re just a miser that doesn’t want to spend money on the bus to the game store!”

“Ugh…! Then, if Uehara-kun’s saying that, where are you going? I don’t see Aguri-chan or your other friends…”

“Ah, well. I just…want to take a stroll alone.”

Uehara-kun scratched his cheeks a bit awkwardly. To that, I…

“Ah, I see.”

“Oi, you should continue asking me, Hoshinomori! Aren’t you curious about my reaction!?”

“I am. But, I feel like I would just get a ‘thanks, I’m stuffed’ in the end, anyway.”

“Ugh, this irritating observance really feels like Amano too, you sly girl!”

“R-Really?”

I started blushing after hearing that. …I’m really innocent. Even though I hate being called a replica of Keita a while ago, right now…

Uehara-kun saw my reaction and answered sarcastically. “Thanks, I’m stuffed.” After that, he saw the street and finally passed me my bag.

“Anyway, here’s your bag. I’ll be going a different way.”

“Ah, yes. Thanks, you were a great help!”

“It’s fine. …It’s more like, well, …sorry.”

“Hmm? What? Why?”

He said sorry even though he took my bag for me. I’m confused.

He scratched his head awkwardly and said.

“Well, …I always say that I’m supporting the Hoshinomori x Amano ship, …but I just ended up helping you taking the bag.”

I can’t help but smile bitterly…after seeing his sincerely apologetic look. I answered a bit mischievously.

“Yeah, yeah, come to think of it, I rarely received any relationship support from Uehara-kun.”

“Ugh, …this is embarrassing.”

Uehara-kun dropped his shoulders. …I continued. “But…”

“My first love only gets so interesting because of Uehara-kun.”

“Hoshinomori…”

Uehara-kun sighed in relief and raised his face. I continued appreciating him.

“So, thank you, Uehara-kun.”

“W-What? You’re making this like we won’t ever see each other again. Your first love is far from over yet-“

“Of course. I, …no, Karen-san and I won’t back down and escape now. We’ll see it all the way to the end, …even if it means losing everything again.”

“What’s with that saying? Don’t tell me you already admitted defeat-“

Uehara-kun questioned a bit angrily.

However, -I answered determinedly.

“But, I don’t need anyone’s help anymore. What comes next…is the love that only belongs to ourselves.”

“…I see.”

Uehara-kun squinted his eyes as if he saw something really bright. He smiled warmly.

That’s the warmest smile I saw from him. …He would only show that loving and gentle smile to Aguri-chan usually.

I reached my hand out. He shook mine steadily and encouraged me.

“Don’t give up, Chiaki Hoshinomori. I’ll- support you from the bottom of my heart.”

“Thanks.”

So, we let go of each other’s hands and continued walking. It’s almost time for us to part ways.

I can’t help but chuckle a moment later.

“Ah, but, Uehara-kun. Your encouragement just then…is faked, right?”

“Fake? What do you mean?”

“You said you’re supporting me. Like I’ve said before, Uehara-kun, you don’t want to upset Karen-san right now, am I correct?”

“Ah, you saw it?”

Uehara-kun replied to me with a flippant and bitter smile.

“Well, I can’t do things like this.”

“Ah, no, that’s not because you can’t-“

I wanted to comfort him, but I realized I’m not responsible for what happens next. So, I kept the words in my chest. So, I continued as if I’m covering it up.

“Well, forget about that. There’s also another fake thing in Uehara-kun’s supporting speech.”

“Hmm? Another? Well, …I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

Uehara-kun is baffled.

I…stood at the road and turned around. Then, I pointed this out while giving him a slightly mischievous smile like Konoha.

“In the end, Uehara-kun only sincerely supports- Keita.”

With that.

Uehara-kun…laughed again.

“You got me.”

“I got you. It’s more like perhaps Uehara-kun loves him more than Karen-san or me. Or, I should say, suit him, right?”

“Stop, it’s disgusting. …Normally, I would say that. But, perhaps that’s the case. I do love him, and I suit him, as a friend.”

Uehara-kun laughed cheerfully. Then, he continued. “However, that’s why-“

“The same goes for Tendou and you. Don’t mind the stress of Amano’s choice. Just love him without any holdback.”

“…In other words, Uehara-kun will comfort Keita mentally?”

“Well, I guess so.”

“Ugh, …I feel like you’re the main waifu that doesn’t have to worry about anything. It makes me a bit angry.”

“Ah, really? But, this is the only thing I won’t back down, even if you begged me.”

Uehara-kun said that and turned around. “See you tomorrow, Hoshinomori.” He carried on with his usual flippant tone and left.

I answered. “Okay, see you tomorrow.” His back is right in front of me.”

After that, …I mumbled dazedly. Unlike Keita’s sensitiveness, I don’t think he can hear it.

“I really, really appreciated you - the person who gave me courage.”

*

I arrived at the game store shortly after separating from Uehara-kun.

Once I entered the store, the warmth from the heater immediately wrapped my body. I quickly untied the scarf and put it under my arms with the bag. First, I looked at the new release area.

However, there are no new releases today. Naturally, nothing caught my eye. So, I walked towards the real goal of today, the second-hand area.

After that, I searched within the RPG shelves as usual. …Suddenly, I noticed something.

“Huh, …come to think of it, it’s been a long time since I came to this section.”

I said I visit here once per month to Uehara-kun. However, I didn’t really check the second-hand area out in these few months.

The reason is that…well, there’s only one.

(My mind is already full with Keita…)

In a sense, picking second-hand games sounds like something that you can only do in your spare time. Spare time, spare money, and…spare energy.

However, if you’re asking whether I have that, the answer should be no.

…Hmm?

Huh? Well, why did I come to find second-hand games in the climax part of this love story?

“…Hmm?”

I don’t really understand the reason either. …I was just lying to Uehara-kun when I said I’m training to become more beautiful. …Ugh.

I moaned as I ventured deeper into the second-hand shelves.

RPG, FPS, adventure, puzzles, shooting, fighting-

“-Ah.”

During this time, I finally saw the game that reminded me why I came here. So, I slowly reached my hand out. However, at this moment…

“Ah.”

My hand touched someone else’s.

My pale hand is covering someone’s (warm and smooth) skin.

-It’s just like what happened on a particular day.

Indeed, at that time, I’m- and “his” body is pretty stiff too. The boy’s hand won’t move, and he turned his head around to check…

When I thought about that, a wave of warmth ignited in my chest.

“Ah, sorry.”

“…Eh?”

Unlike that bittersweet otaku meeting, this time, the person withdrew his hand naturally.

He doesn’t hate the fact that my hand covered his. …Moreover, he just withdrew his hand quickly—such a clever response.

“Eh?”

I can feel a clever response that neither he nor I can have. That’s why I’m even more confused than who the person actually is. So, when I turned around hastily-

“K…Karen…-san?”

“C…Chiaki…-san?”

-Unlike that time.

But, this bittersweet feeling is the same.

“…W-Well…”

-We made a “fateful encounter” that no one can benefit from.

*

“E-Excuse me…”

“Welcome.”

Karen-san led me to her room. Her room is way different than a gamer girl’s room like mine. It’s tidy and organized, just like her.

I can’t but observe the room rudely before carefully stepping inside. So, I’m immediately impressed by what I’m looking at.

“A-Ahhh, …i-is this a high school girl’s room!?”

“Hey, isn’t yours a high school girl’s room too?”

Karen-san bitterly smiled as she put her school bag next to the table. I glanced around and expressed my excitement.

“Am I imagining things? I can feel a strong scent…! The scent from a young girl…!”

“Please stop sniffing around, Chiaki-san. Konoha-san and your room should also be filled with a young girl’s scent, too, right…?”

“Ah, no, no, no, Konoha and my room just have a slight scent.”

“Eh, what’s wrong with that room? But that’s attractive in its own way as well.”

“Wow, …ah, …I can feel my body is filled with girl’s power…”

“It’s not filled, right!? Girl’s power isn’t like mana to a mage, right!?”

“Ah, …really, it’s too charming, Karen-san’s room. Ah…”

“…Huh, it’s indeed too early to bring you here.”

When I’m looking around impolitely, Karen-san shrugged.

I sat on the cushion she pushed over. My eyes are sparkling. Karen-san said this as if she’s sincerely dumbfounded.

“Chiaki-san, do you know why I called you here today?”

“Eh, ah, yes! You want to play the game we picked together, right!? I get it!”

I puffed up my chest and answered confidently. However, Karen-san sighed again.

“Well, that’s the reason I gave, …but you should know it, right?”

“Uh…”

I can’t help but look away from Karen-san’s sincere eyes.

…I get it. We were talking about recent game gossips on the road from the game store to here. But, actually, …even a girl like me can guess what Karen-san wants to talk about.

Also, I don’t think I can fool her.

My forehead began to sweat as I gulped.

Karen-san made a declaration with unprecedented seriousness.

“Two people in, one person out…”

“This is even worse than my imagination! Eh, will I die here!? Don’t tell me I’ll get killed here!?”

I started recoiling on the floor with teary eyes. Karen-san continued with a dark smile.

“Chiaki-san, …do I look like that sort of person?”

“YES!”’

“Chiaki-san?”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’ll apologize. Please spare my life…!”

In the end, I finally started begging for my life for the first time.

Then, Karen-san looked at me, who’s about to burst into tears for real. …Her dark aura suddenly disappeared as she started chuckling.

“Hoho, I’m just kidding. I’m sorry, Chiaki-san.”

“Eh…?”

“It’s because you’re too pleasing. …It makes me really want to do bad things.”

“B-Bad things? S-So, you’re not going to kill me…?”

“Of course not. How could that be possible?”

“I-I see. Yeah, it’s impossible when you think about it-“

“Yes, it’s because someone already complained about it in the Game Club.”

“That means it’s dangerous!?”

I started backing up to the bed as I freaked out. Karen-san started laughing again. …It looks like I was tricked again.

I’m a bit unhappy. “You’re so mean…” However, I immediately remembered my sins of…kissing Keita in front of her. I plopped my head down.

“No, …I’m the one being mean…”

When Karen-san saw me mumbling to myself masochistically, she-

“…I guess so.”

-She didn’t comfort me at all.

After that, Karen-san took out the game she bought before. She walked to the TV and plugged the cables into the console from the last generation. Finally, she inserted the game and turned on the console.

Just as I’m watching her dazedly, she grabbed two controllers and sat next to me. Then, she handed one of them to me.

“Eh, uh…?”

“…………”

Karen-san ignored me and started pressing the controller calmly. She started that software, …which is a 1v1 fighting game.

So, I still didn't understand what’s happening until I entered the character selection screen. …But, I decided on my character and started combating Karen-san.

I’m not sure what she wants, but all I can do is answer her right now. That way, all I can do is…try my best in the game.

“…………”

So, we started the game silently.

This is a calm yet serious competition.

Honestly, as a casual gamer, this is hardly any fun to me at all.

Even so, no matter what we’re thinking now, treating a fight seriously until it ends gave us some refreshment.

So, after we fought each other 3 times, …I subconsciously showed a faint- smile.

Then, seeing that, Karen-san spoke up with a calm tone.

“Chiaki-san.”

“…Yes.”

We stopped during the character selection screen of the 4th match.

Karen-san watched the screen and continued.

“Did you…regret doing that at that time?”

I bit my lips after hearing this question. …However, I mustered up an answer.

“…No, …I don’t regret it at all.”

“I see.”

“Yes…”

…I know I just said the worst possible thing to Karen-san. However, …that’s what I sincerely think too.

But, Karen-san isn’t that angry.

It’s not just that, she continued with a slightly relieved tone.

“Ah, that’s good to hear. …I’ll be outraged if you answered that you regretted it.”

“Karen-san…”

“Indeed, as a girl who loves Amano-kun, I’m really pissed. That’s guaranteed. No one in the world will be happy when someone took their loved one’s lips away.”

“Ugh, I’m sorry…!”

“However, at the same time, as your opponent…and your friend, this is what I think too.”

Karen-san paused for a moment and looked at me determinedly.

“Ah, that Chiaki Hoshinomori girl is really handsome…”

“…!”

I can’t help but burst into tears after hearing that.

…I didn’t expect to hear that from the dear friend who I’ve hurt the most.

Just as I’m about to hug Karen-san with tears due to relief and happiness-

“But, I also really want to stab you to death right now.”

“I’m really sorry.”

-I immediately turned my hug into a kneel-down.

Karen-san looked at me and took a deep sigh.

“Ha, …isn’t this an obvious joke? I’m not going to do anything to you.”

“But, there’s no reason for me to be forgiven!”

“You do. It’s because you- didn’t regret it. It must be because your bond with Amano-kun is much tighter than I expected.”

She’s right. I felt sorry for the two for a time.

I looked at Karen-san with watery eyes.

“…Ugh, …K-Karen-san, h-how should I atone for my sins…?”

“…Sheesh.”

Karen-san sighed even more dumbfoundedly.

“…You won’t accept it no matter how many times I said, please don’t mind it, right?”

“Yes!”

“I knew it. …Well, I did take a massive hit in sanity.”

“Ah…”

I can’t help but lower my head. Karen-san pressed on.

“If that’s the case, for the sake of our mental health, …it’s the best for both worlds if I accept your atonement, right?”

“Y-Yes, yes! I’ll do anything!”

I raised my head and spoke loudly.

Karen-san- suddenly removed her loving and caring mode.

Her eyes were sparkling with an evil glow and confirmed what I said.

“You just said…you’ll do anything, right, Chiaki-san?”

“Eh? Ah, uh, well, …yes.”

“…………”

My whole body began to sweat as I got the expectation that I made a fatal mistake.

I quickly added.

“E-Even when I said I’ll do anything, it means that, okay? If you’re going to make hentai out of me or ask me to leave Keita, I’m afraid that…”

She heard my annotation.

For some reason, …Karen-san’s eyes are sparkling coquettishly as if I fell into her trap.

“Oho, …in other words, I can say whatever I want aside from that. Is that correct, Chiaki-san?”

“Eh? Eh, …well, I-I guess so…?”

Karen-san’s eyes brightened up at the moment I answered.

“Excellent! You’re incredible, Chiaki-san! That’s my respectable opponent!”

“…………”

Ah, eh, what’s happening? The “respectable” sounds really good until just then. …Now, the word smells nothing but gunpowder.

My face went pale once I snapped out of it. My body is sweating profusely.

I don’t know what this girl will do- even though I forgot just then, she’s actually a talented genius.

I can’t stop trembling once I thought of that.

Taking one of my kidneys away? …She said she’s doing that, but she’ll take two in the end. Or, she can connect two electrodes on my brain and turn me into . No, no, no, the worst-case scenario would probably be locking me into an endless game of death-

“Chiaki-san.”

“AH!”

Just as I’m letting my imagination run wild, she called me, and I can’t help but straighten my back.

My sweat won’t stop, and my uniform is thoroughly wetted as if it rained.

With that, Karen-san…beamed me an angelic smile. Her voice is pretty gentle, …yet with overwhelming pressure.

“There’s something I would like you to help with, is that okay?”

“Y…Yes…”

“Great! Well, the thing that I want you to help with has to do with the game-“

I gulped. …Ah, mom, dad, Konoha, I’m sorry.

I…I’m about to graduate from my “Chiaki Hoshinomori” human form today-

“In the game -team up with me to fight against Main-san and take Amano-kun’s ownership back.”

“Alright, I’ll enjoy my life in the virtual world- eh?”

I digested what Karen-san said once again.

For a moment, I was relieved that I don’t need to die. However-

I immediately felt the sheer responsibility from her “take Amano-kun’s ownership back.”

That Chiaki Hoshinomori who dared to kiss a few days ago disappeared utterly.

I returned…to my usual cowardness.

I trembled and burst into tears.

“N…NOOOOOOOO!”

“THANK YOU! Let’s give it our best together, Chiaki-san!”

“Ah, you’re already pushing the plot without caring about me!? Y-You already decided the conclusion beforehand. …T-This is a trap!”

“Well, let’s start the training, Chiaki-san! Ah, of course, you’ll stay here for a couple days, okay?”

“NO! MOM, DAD, KONOHAAAAAA!?”

-I learned something today.

No matter how much you want to atone for your sins, you never say, “I’ll do anything.” Absolutely not.

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