The always popular café was thriving today as well.
Even I, who somewhat lacked the common sense of an ordinary high school student, understood the reason behind it.
It was a café opened by a super-major company that was especially talked about among the girls.
The prices were high for high-schoolers so it wasn’t a place where one could always go to have a drink.
Visiting several times a month was the best that an ordinary high-schooler who didn’t have a part-time job could do.
However, most of the students of this high school could afford to enjoy their favorite drink since they were granted an amount of money that corresponded to their class points, as long as there were no difficulties.
If that happened, the café would inevitably become constantly crowded.
But since it wasn’t as if there were no seats left, the two of us sat facing each other.
Without trying to meet my eyes even once, Mii-chan stared at one spot on the cup she was holding in her hands. She was kind of similar to Airi. She might become even quieter if I gave her pressure, so I decided to wait for Mii-chan’s reaction without breaking the ice.
Telling her that I was going to bring the sugar, I then went to the counter. From there, I picked one sugar stick. Without being too overt about it, I checked whether Hashimoto had come to the café. I didn’t think he would suddenly crave coffee, but without any mistake, Hashimoto was right behind me.
A guardian sent in by Sakayanagi? Nah, that didn’t sound right.
Sakayanagi would hate it if the information about my current whereabouts were to spread elsewhere.
Besides, if she had wanted to keep a close eye on me, she would have used Kamuro for that role.
If Sakayanagi had a grasp on what kind of person Hashimoto was, then she would understand why he would not be suitable in this case。
She was providing poor quality information about me to Hashimoto and would hate for the information to be leaked to a third party.
However, for him to arbitrarily follow me? I didn’t remember doing anything extra in Hashimoto’s presence during the training camp.
He was supposed to simply be one of the group’s members. Ryuuen, Ishizaki, Albert and Ibuki. I had erased from my head the possibility of any of them talking to him.
Well… I couldn’t make a conclusion based on my thoughts right then, but it looked like it was going to become a problem that would need to be managed soon.
For the moment, I decided to ignore it and advance the conversation with Mii-chan. I waited for one minute and right after I returned to my seat, Mii-chan broke the silence.
“Look… This, it’s related to Hirata-kun.”
Related to Hirata?
“I want you to tell me more…”
“It’s not that we’re especially close, Hirata and I.”
I soon replied cautiously, but Mii-chan made an unexpected face.
“But Hirata-kun advised me that you’re the one whom I can count on the most.”
“… Is that so?”
“Yeah. He said you’re the most reliable in the class. He praised you a lot.”
I was honestly happy that I was praised by Hirata, but it was going to become troublesome if the conversation kept going in this way.
However, I simply did not understand why Hirata pointed her towards me.
There were many students one could rely on, but in the case of Class C, it was particularly complicated.
Though apart from Hirata, I could see myself chosen if it were limited to one boy.
Still, this wasn’t about Hirata.
When I compared it to my earlier conversation with Haruka, it was conceivable somehow.
“You know about that story…of Hirata-kun and Karuizawa-san splitting up recently.”
“That was to be expected.”
Why was that expected? I feigned ignorance as to the direction she was taking.
“A-ah, about that, well…”
After hesitating several times, she ultimately voiced the main question.
“…D…Does Hirata have someone he likes now?” she asked.
It seemed right to give an answer on this occasion. Although I thought about it for a moment, I soon concluded that it was best to answer honestly.
“Of course I’m not saying that for sure, but as far as I know, he doesn’t. To begin with, he was just dumped by Karuizawa, so it could be too early for him to like someone else.”
That was the truth. While saying this to Mii-chan, I could feel her heartbeat calming down.
“May I ask you just one thing, out of curiosity?”
“How long has it been since you have come to like Hirata?”
Did I just ask something strange, I wondered, because Mii-chan’s face went red as she got flustered.
“H..h..how are you asking me something like this so plainly?”
“Oh! If you do not want to answer, then please do not force yourself to….”
“Right after the entrance ceremony, I guess?”
It seemed that she was going to talk about it after all.
“I am a little clumsy in these kinds of situations…”
Just a single encounter with Hirata and that prompted her to fall in love with him.
Moreover, Mii-chan was talking about it openly.
“…. Kinda like that. You know?”
There were various things to consider but one thing was certain. She was attracted to Hirata’s kindness.
Mii-chan’s cheeks were flushed as she talked about her encounter with Hirata, but her expression soon clouded over as if she had been brought back to reality.
“I…I don’t think that I am good enough to become Hirata-kun’s girlfriend.”
“Why is that?”
How was I even able to ask her that? It felt so strange to hear my own voice asking that question.
“Because there are so many rivals… Also, I have never been in love before…”
Even though she was overflowing with love, she did not seem to have the courage to take action.
Also, even if I didn’t want to believe that not having any previous experience with romance could lead to a handicap, I could say with certainty that it would have some influence.
“Well, Mii-chan…Can I call you Mii-chan or do you find it inappropriate for me to call you that?”
“No, it’s totally fine. Everyone calls me that. Even my parents, both of whom are Chinese, like my Japanese nickname, so they call me Mii-chan, too.”
In other words, she was not half-Japanese or anything like that.
“So, you came here to study abroad?”
“Yes. When I was in my first year of middle school, my father came to Japan for work.”
So she moved to Japan with her family?
“Didn’t you experience any inconveniences? The language barrier, for example.”
“It was really tough at first. I was more worried about making friends than the language difficulties… But there were a lot of people who were good at English in the middle school that I enrolled in, so I was able to open up and make friends.”
Come of think of it, I seemed to remember that Mii-chan was very good at English.
While communicating in English, she mastered Japanese in her three years of middle school.
I heard that the Chinese competed within a much more rigorous school system than the Japanese.
Perhaps it was because Mii-chan had received such a high level of education that she was able to blend smoothly into Japan.
The only other thing that she needed to improve on was her communication skills, just like Airi.
“I wonder if I have a chance…?”
“I do not want to sound irresponsible, but don’t you have an adequate amount of chance?”
“I’m not lying to you, but…”
It seemed that I was going to make her feel uneasy. However, I thought that I had to make her understand the difficult problem.
“Hirata is a good guy, right?”
“So, that’s why the next time he is dating someone, don’t you think that he is going to be extra careful? That’s just who he is. He could not make Karuizawa happy and maybe he feels responsible about that.”
Mii-chan nodded…as it had finally dawned on her.
“You are right. That is the very reason why I cannot bring myself to confess my feelings… It’s too soon for him.”
“You may worry mainly about your many potential rivals, but if you confess too soon, it is highly likely that he will reject you.”
I would advise her that it would be better to establish a slow and steady relationship with him.
Of course we did not know what the truth was. That was something she had to ask Hirata in order to actually know.
However, I couldn’t imagine Hirata casually going out with a girl at the moment.
I would think that he was probably the type of guy who wouldn’t choose to date most of the girls who confessed to him.
In that sense, the one who attacked at ease would have a chance at being victorious.
“…I may have misunderstood you a little, Ayanokouji-kun.”
“Well, you know… You usually don’t talk much, and because you remain mostly silent…you give off a really scary impression. But since we’ve spoken face to face, I see that you are very easy to talk to. Oh yes, indeed! I can feel that you are listening to what I have to say seriously.”
Apparently, I was being praised.
I simply analyzed conversations subconsciously rather than listen to them.
I would thoroughly investigate whether or not every piece of information I gain could prove to be profitable to me in the future, whether it was useful or useless.
But, if that was the way the other party felt, then that would be much more convenient for me.
Did she want me to step in a little further? I might have the chance to hear a lot from her.
“Ah! It’s Mii-chan and….Ayanokouji-kun?”
Just when I thought that I had found a loose tongue ready to tell me a lot of things, Shiina Hiyori, a first year from Class D, appeared. I swallowed the words that I was ready to speak.
Hiyori-chan, Mii-chan, from the way they called each other, it appeared that the relationship between these two was a close one.
“Are the two of you, by any chance, on a date together?”
“N.. N.. Not at all, you’re wrong, Hiyori-chan.”
Mii-chan stood up, flustered, and denied it with her whole heart while gesturing with her hands.
I somehow felt hurt looking at her denying with such vigor.
“Then, if it’s okay with you, can I join you?”
“Of course you can… isn’t that right?”
“Thank you very much.”
She smiled happily and sat down in the chair beside Mii-chan.
“I feel like you are an unusual combination. What were you talking about?”
It was really hard for Mii-chan to answer that we had been talking about the person she liked.
“I am interested in China, so she was telling me a little about it.”
“Yes. It’s one of the countries that I want to visit someday. So, I was hearing stories about it from Mii-chan, who happens to be Chinese.”
Wasn’t that so? I gave Mii-chan a good look and, flustered, she nodded two or three times.
“It’s really nice, China, I mean. I am very interested in the Great Wall of China, too.”
Hiyori put her hands together and showed us her smile.
Somehow it was quite unexpected that she would join in on this topic.
“Well, when we speak of China, the Great Wall is a spot that cannot be missed, but personally I want to visit the ancient city of Pingyao.”
“The ancient city of Pingyao…?”
Was she unfamiliar with this place? Hiyori seemed to be hearing about it for the first time.
On the other hand, Mii-chan was staring at me in wonder because I knew of this place.
“Even though it’s a world heritage site, the fact that you know about it…”
“It’s just a small amount of knowledge that I’ve gained from listening to others.”
“By the way, are the two of you…friends?”
Mii-chan asked as she watched me talking casually to Hiyori.
“Yes. We are reading buddies.”
“Well, you are not wrong about that.”
Mii-chan did not quite understand what that meant, so she had a puzzled look on her face.
But soon after, she turned it into a positive thought.
“It is really nice to make friends across classes,” she said.
Perhaps before the training camp, she had no other friends aside from her classmates.
“I think so, too. There’s more to school life other than fighting each other like enemies.”
A ruthless competition between students was the very basis of the Advanced Nurturing School.
The majority of students tended to compete against other students outside their own class rather than with their classmates.
However, the time had come when more and more students were starting to open up to students outside their class.
From the school’s point of view, their true aim was somewhat obscured by this situation.
Otherwise, we would not have had those rules at the training camp.
However, I was not so sure that this wouldn’t have a negative impact later on.
When forced into a very competitive relationship, the friendships made would only be half-hearted.
So, this situation might actually produce the opposite effect.