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“Alright, senpai. I gave you the opportunity to leave. Tell me why you didn’t take it?” I asked the girl in my arms while gently caressing her golden hair and small back.
Yep. Upon returning to the Disciplinary Office, this became our situation. Even after driving those idiots away so she could escape, I still found the golden ringlet girl in the office, patiently waiting for me.
She was standing right in front of the door with a rather pitiful look on her face. Whatever was in her mind, it prevented her from taking the step outside.
Maybe it was because Ichihara Jun remained the same without any hint of change. Moreover, despite the guy’s desperate attempt to find her, Marika perfectly knew that the guy only did that to catch her with the boy whose identity she keenly wanted to protect.
When I saw her like that, seemingly about to burst into tears, my body instinctively moved before I could process it.
I traversed our distance and carefully put her in the protection of my arms.
Moving from where we were standing to the nearest chair only took a few seconds but… even though this wasn’t my intention at all, the girl prevented me from putting her down to it. Instead, Marika had me sit down while she climbed up and took the liberty of my lap before curling up deeper in my embrace.
Indulging her in it for a few minutes, I only brought up that question upon sensing that she already calmed down and returned to the lovely senior that I came to know.
While I didn’t mind holding her for a bit longer, I shouldn’t delay finding out what was going on in her mind. Why she remained here despite the risk of Ichihara Jun returning as well as what she wanted to do from now on.
Several seconds of silence later, Marika weakly lifted her head. But once again, she spent time just earnestly staring at me. Her red, luscious lips seemingly baited me in.
But with my mind not really in the game of stealing her right at this moment, I simply waited until she timidly answered my question.
“… To thank you, Junior-kun. You put yourself out there for me.”
“It’s only natural, right? You also protected me. And don’t say that I don’t have to, I’ll kiss you again if you do.”
I flicked the girl’s forehead resulting in her covering it up right away. However, with a simple sweep of my hand, her gorgeous face once again came into my view.
Marika pouted at me but that only made her look lovelier.
Well, she had no reaction to the mention of ‘kiss’ anymore. Because I never really pushed through on taking her lips, she probably thought that it was nothing more than a playful threat.
“Must you be this unfair, Junior-kun? My forehead isn’t resilient. Your flick is painful…” Putting on the same pitiful look as earlier, Marika’s imploring eyes made me feel bad.
But knowing what she’s capable of, I didn’t fall for it. Poking her puffed-up cheeks before pinching them, I watched as her acting crumbled and eventually turned to reality.
Marika grabbed my hand as she attempted to pull it away from her cheeks.
Obviously, she failed again.
Upon understanding that, the girl blew the air stored from her puffed cheeks, hoping for it to be the one thing that would make me flustered.
But well, with how fragrant her breath is, I doubt I will be averse to it.
Perhaps as a last resort, Marika started wiggling her body and bouncing on top of me. Most likely, she thought I would find it hard to bear her weight.
Unfortunately, she’s too light to even cause me discomfort. And as a counter to that, I simply hooked my arm to her back and pushed her even closer.
With that, her attempt to get back at me resulted in a fruitless endeavor.
“It’s not being unfair, senpai. I’m just trying to bring out the lovely side of you. You’ve been down in the dumps ever since you arrived here. And even after I returned and saw you here about to burst into tears, I couldn’t help but hold you right away. Let’s just say, I hate it to see you looking so lonely.”
“Lonely, you say… Then why am I smiling right now?”
“Alright. I’ll be shameless to answer that. It’s because of me, senpai. Spending time with me made you smile.”“Un. That’s certainly the answer, Junior-kun.” Upon saying that, Marika sat up properly, raising her head to level it with mine. While her eyes focused on matching my gaze, the girl’s heartbeat started to race. “When I’m with you, I feel protected.”
“Even if I took advantage of you?”
Marika shook her head, “You can drop that thought, Junior-kun. I asked you to do it, remember? But say, may I ask you to answer this question for me?”
She paused for a moment to wait for my answer. Whatever the question, I would surely be able to answer it.
Furthermore, although faint, I could sense that she was already standing at a crossroads.
Either succumb to her fate of being married to Ichihara Jun or take another path where she’ll be defying her family’s wishes.
And that’s part of the reason why her heart had started to race. She’s uncertain about her future.
At the moment, this girl is seeing me as a pillar she can lean on as well as a guidepost to point her in her desired direction.
Well, my plan to steal her aside, Marika truly needed this kind of awareness otherwise, she’d remain locked in the prison created by Ichihara Jun and her family.
“I’m all ears, senpai.” I put on my genuine smile as a way to encourage her.
Thankfully, it’s effective.
Marika responded with the same smile before taking a deep breath, readying herself to fire her question away.
I waited in bated breath while supporting her in my embrace.
A few seconds later, Marika pushed her head closer, enough for the tip of our noses to touch. She held my head in between her palms before starting, “Junior-kun, do you believe I did the right thing?”
Sensing that she was not done yet, I didn’t answer right away and just gently pressed on her back to fix her sitting posture.
She didn’t visibly react to it but within this closeness, I could pick up every subtle change in her emotion and the subtle gestures of her body.
She liked it. However, I had no idea if it was because of the gentle push or the sensation of my hand on her back.
Well, there’s no need to determine which it was. Marika resumed talking, elaborating on what she meant by the ‘right thing’.
“Standing up for myself. Coming here to see you even after being warned by my family to uphold the agreement. Hiding behind your table and getting protected by you. Junior-kun, I seem to have changed a lot ever since I met you.”
Ah. I see. This girl had started reflecting on the changes in her life. And obviously, the trigger for it was my appearance. Had we not met each other at the Library or someone else had gone to the convenience store to buy snacks for us after the midterms, Marika would probably remain the same girl who’s trying her hardest to establish a good relationship with her supposed-to-be husband.
“Mhm. Since senpai wants to hear my answer, let me warn you first. This will be a very biased view taken from what I observed from being close to you.”
“Go ahead, Junior-kun. It doesn’t matter if it’s one-sided, I want to hear your thoughts.”
Faced with her imploring eyes, there’s no escaping this anymore.
Now, the choice was within me. Do I encourage her to continue her change? Or warn her to be cautious?
Either choice was obviously something born on the assumption that I wouldn’t be involved with her.
In which case, if I put myself into the equation, there’s only one choice…
“Senpai, you did the right thing. However, you’ll definitely be faced with a situation where you’ll be helpless on your own. That’s why… if I offer my assistance, are you willing to accept it?”
Yeah. Despite my current involvement with her, I still decided to ask for her permission instead of directly inserting myself to meddle in her affairs.
As much as I desire to steal her from Ichihara and her own family, I wanted to witness the girl getting the courage to stand up for herself. To change from the sheltered princess that was sent off like a package for that spoiled brat to a strong woman who can make her own decision.
It would be hard. True. However, if she’s willing to take my hand. I’d assist her, no matter how cramped up my current daily life is… It sounded irresponsible, true. However, I couldn’t act like it was not happening.
Anyway, did I just get swept along by this girl’s rhythm? Yeah. Definitely.
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