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Yanagi Kaede is that popular girl who is rumored to have rejected five boys who confessed to her during the first month of this school year. She’s supposed to be a star member of the Track and Field Club, which held the record for the shortest time for a 100-meter sprint, even compared to her seniors. In a way, she is as athletic as my Aika, or even better since that girl is already in her second year.
Now that I think about it, I never heard about Yanagi Kaede again after that Capture that Flag activity. It was like she went underground leading to no other rumors surfacing about her. Or maybe because I became the hottest topic nowadays, most of the other rumors got buried under it.
There’s also the fact that I didn’t care too much about the other rumors except those really problematic or something that might affect us.
Anyway, after that introduction, I took a chair and put it down next to Watanabe. Acting in my role as the Disciplinary Officer, I tried to emanate as much intimidating aura as possible regardless of the girl’s reason for being here.
However, that was proven ineffective. Despite the lethargic expression occupying her face, her eyes never left me ever since I arrived. And yep, there’s a hint of admiration in it. Just that it’s barely noticeable.
To keep me up to speed, Watanabe simply signaled me with her gesture, confirming my guess. With her vague explanation last week, I thought her friend that needed a motivational push and someone who started admiring me after the transformation would be a girl almost similar to Komoe.
As it turns out, it's this popular girl.
Now, the mystery is, what happened to her that she suddenly lost her motivation? I mean, she’s pretty competitive during that activity so it probably happened after that.
“Yanagi-san, I apologize for my tardiness but is there a reason for this visit?” Starting with that question, I noticed Watanabe discreetly elbowing my side.
When I turned to her, her soft voice came in as a whisper, “Right. This is not my doing, Onoda-kun. She asked me to accompany her here when she heard Miura-san talking about you as well as the new rumor that started making its rounds earlier.”
Ah. Since I told Komoe that Watanabe was my helper and someone that would assist her, she probably approached this girl earlier; which was better.
I should ask what happened on that end later.
As for the new rumor, it’s most likely about Hana.
From that alone, I could surmise that her reason for approaching me was probably the same as Sachi's before. She must’ve felt that she would lose her chance to approach me if she didn’t make a move now.
Well, I still had to confirm that.
Without picking up on Watanabe’s whispers, Yanagi Kaede answered, “I don’t think I can state a valid reason for this visit, Onoda-kun. Is getting acquainted with you acceptable?”
Although it’s faint, Yanagi Kaede’s voice faltered a bit as if her resolve fell short of saying all that. She cautiously looked up at me to check on my reaction.
Well, at least she’s honest. There’s no point shooting her down if it’s just that. But with that answer, she’s already partly confirming that guess.
“I see. Then it’s a pleasure to be your acquaintance. I never thought I'd be able to get to know our star athlete.”I put on an amiable smile but in the middle of it, I acted oblivious and intentionally mentioned the one thing I know about her.
And sure enough, not only the girl reacted to it, but even Watanabe stealthily pinched my sides as she whispered again, “You… why do you open with that?”
Naturally, there was no way for me to answer that, so I removed her hand from my side and held it in place. And while I was at that, I checked on Yanagi Kaede’s reaction.
Her expression immediately darkened as if that particular title was the one responsible for her lack of motivation.
While showing a bitter smile, she replied, “I’m no star athlete, Onoda-kun. In fact, I’m losing my drive to be competitive. Now, I’m just a regular member of the club without any record to brag about. I’m sorry for sounding like a downer.”
Ending her words with that kind of apology, there’s no doubt that her current negativity was pushing her further down. Moreover, whatever she experienced resulted in that becoming a scar for her. A scar that still hadn’t healed.
If she continued on this path, she might just quit the club and become a normal student.
There’s one thing I noticed though. Her hair was still tied into a bun. From what I could recall about some of her traits, she’s only doing that whenever she’s going to run. So, that means… her heart was still on that sport.
“It’s fine for you to send me out after this… I just came to say that I admired your transformation. I wish I had the same determination as you.”
Before I could reply to her, Yanagi Kaede continued. She then backed those words with an excited gesture by extending her hand out to the front as though she was trying to reach me.
Although she was not asking for a handshake, I grabbed it and gave her one. Her thoughts screeched to a halt but a second later, a genuine smile of happiness replaced her lethargic expression for the first time.
“Thank you.” I started, matching that with a gentle smile. Her palm was rather rough as if it was filled with callouses. She’s probably the type who practiced nonstop.
Nonetheless, I noticed it getting sweaty by the second. Most likely, she’s feeling both excitement and nervousness from my response.
On my side, Watanabe became speechless as expected. Although I could only check her from the peripheral of my vision, the dumbfounded Secretary of the Student Council stared at me in amazement.
“I think you already have it, Yanagi-san. I can’t just assume things so… I hope you can get over what put you down in the slump and siphoned away your motivation.”
“Thank you for your kind words. I hope so too. I’m glad I decided to come here. My hunch that you’re not like what the rumors say is true.” The girl shyly retracted her hand from my hold before pushing it close to her modest chest.
So, she’s still going to bring up the rumor, huh? But what did she mean by that? How am I described in those rumors? I just know that I’m being linked with different girls.
“Well, it can also be that I’m just acting to give you a favorable impression.”
“I don’t think so. Your countenance is the same as when I got to observe you. Anyhow, I’m sorry for taking up your time. Tomiko, I’ll be going.”
After saying that, the girl gracefully bowed in gratitude and went straight to the door. She didn’t even give me the chance to reply to that flattery.
Furthermore, as though she made use of her athletic abilities, she was like a swift breeze reaching the door and disappearing behind it before Watanabe and I could blink.
Left alone with the still-dumbfounded girl, I turned to her and grabbed her arm, “Alright. I’ll have you explain what’s the deal with her, Watanabe. Stay here for a while.”
Yanagi Kaede only introduced herself and then honestly blurted out her admiration to me before swiftly exiting the room. If that’s not a little bizarre, I probably won’t put that much attention to it.
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