“You’re late, light-weight warrior!”
When Touya raised his head, he met the gaze of Homura, who was looking down towards him from above.
On the stairs’ landing above him, Homura was peering down at him while leaning both her arms against the handrail.
“Are you giving up after only that?”
“…Huh? You mean the invitation to join the club?”
It was the first time in four days, including the weekend, that Homura was meeting Touya.
“That’s right. Are you going to give up that easily? Don’t you want me? My aptitude score was [80-B]. Don’t you want this super-promising investigator candidate?”
“I can see your panties, you know.”
“W-What color are they, then?”
“Are you an idiot?”
Touya calmly climbed the stairs at his own pace, one step at a time.
Blushing, Homura quickly ran down the stairs to meet him at eye level.
Touya spoke to Homura with a serious expression.
“I haven’t given up.”
He scratched his head.
“But anybody would be shocked after being told all that. I just thought… you needed some time to sort out your feelings.”
Being shown such consideration by this bumpkin boy was a huge shock for Homura.
The anger that had been seething in Homura’s chest without any outlet as she agonized by herself the past few days had calmed down a little now.
“T-Thanks for that. But I’ve decided.”
Grinning, Homura poked Touya’s chest with a clenched fist.
“But aren’t you getting ahead of yourself, Hinooka? Don’t you remember what one of Mori-chan’s [conditions] was?”
“Yeah. Come with me for a bit.”
Homura pulled Touya’s sleeve as she ran off once again.
The two of them headed to the corridor with the long bulletin board, on which the student council president and her accountant had hung up posters.
The Shinryoku Festival included ten big events that were listed side by side on the board, with new students standing in front of it.
Quite a crowd had gathered in front of the board.
First year students were encamped in front of the posters that interested them and were carefully scrutinizing the contents of the events.
When Homura suddenly appeared among them, she drew people’s attention unintentionally.
“Everyone seems to be looking forward to the festival.”
Touya once again stared at Homura with a gaze filled with nothing but questions.
“Now then, which event do you think I’m going to participate in, Touya-kun?”
“Aren’t you acting completely differently from before? Ah, let me think.”
While looking over the posters, Touya reflected on his conversation with her a few days ago.
One of the conditions that Miss Fujimori had given.
It can be in any category. Win and prove that you’re the best at something in this school.
Strictly speaking, second and third-year students wouldn’t be participating, so, it basically meant getting first place among the first years. Perhaps Fujimori meant it as a sort of helping hand for Homura.
However, he understood that telling Homura this wouldn’t give her any peace of mind.
Touya pointed at the poster in front of him.
“…How about this one? The [Gardening Club and Handicrafts Club Joint Event: Flower Arrangement That Seems Edible Yet Isn’t But You Can Still Eat A Little].”
“Close, but no cigar. Incorrect. Wrong Answer.”
Homura shook her head with a prim expression.
“Why did you think it was that one?”
“Because it had a flower pattern.”
“Come on, give me a hint or something.”
Homura blushed again and backed away while pressing down on her skirt.
Touya quickly threw up his hands with an amazed expression.
“I give up, okay? Just tell me.”
Homura slid sideways through the backs of the other students, passing by the poster of the questionably legal beauty contest, the [Yamato Nadeshiko Contest]… and stopped in front of a certain event poster.
“This psychedelic poster?”
Homura had slapped her palm against the poster for the [Home Economics Club Event: Boxed Lunch Contest].
The wrinkled poster had a huge lunch box drawn across its entire surface and had various decorations made out of origami posted on it.
Touya crossed his arms as he gazed at the poster.
One of the girls in Homura’s class who happened to be there spoke up.
“Hinooka-san, you’re not going to participate in the [Yamato Nadeshiko Contest]?”
“Y-Yeah. I want to participate in the [Boxed Lunch Contest].”
Her classmate made a disappointed face upon hearing that.
“Eeh, what a waste. I heard this from one of the upperclassmen, but apparently, this is an annual customary event meant to choose successors for the student council.”
Touya cut into the conversation.
“Ah, you’re Touya-kun, from Class C, right?”
It seemed Touya was quite well-known among the female students as well.
“Our school has tended to have an overwhelming number of female student council presidents for generations, so this event became famous and ended up effectively deciding who’s going to be the next president.”
“Hmm? But didn’t the student council elections already end?”
“No one’s going to suddenly become student council president in their first year,” Homura pointed out. “Students formally announce their candidacy in their second year, right?”
“A female-dominant community, huh?”
Touya nodded in understanding.
“Well, whatever. More importantly, the issue right now is you.”
“Since you decided it yourself, Hinooka-san, it’s not my place to meddle.”
“Thank you for your consideration.”
“But I really don’t understand. The [Yamato Nadeshiko Contest] is basically a beauty contest, right? Why not that one?”
“You’re completely meddling right now, aren’t you?”
Her female classmate also pressed Homura on the matter.
“That’s right. Hinooka-san would definitely be able to win. Rather, I’d like to see Hinooka-san in a kimono~”
“She definitely would get full scores in a swimsuit at least.”
“Hey, you two.”
As Homura faltered, a crowd of even more male and female students joined in from behind her.
They questioned Homura with immense curiosity.
“Hinooka-san is participating in the [Yamato Nadeshiko Contest]?” “I’ll also be cheering for you, okay?”
“I’m from the Swimming Club. I’d love it if you participated, Hinooka-san.”
“I’m from the Tea Ceremony Club. If you want, I can give you a crash course in it.” “Hey, that’s rigging the game.”
“N-No, umm? I’m thinking of participating in the [Boxed Lunch Contest]—”
Pressured by the festival-loving spirit of the other students, Homura turned around to search for Touya, but he was conversing with the girl from earlier while wearing an expression of admiration.
“Hinooka is really popular, isn’t she?”
“You’re only noticing this now, Touya-kun?” the female student asked.
Gugugu, damn him, is he just another perverted boy in the end? Hinooka cursed in her heart.
Unintentionally going with the flow of the excited atmosphere around her was one of Homura’s weaknesses.
But this time, she couldn’t afford to give in.
Timely help came from an unexpected place.
“Hmm. The Boxed Lunch Contest, huh?”
The person who peeked at the poster from behind Homura over her shoulder was the teacher Fujimori.
Fujimori spoke to Homura unconcernedly.
“Isn’t that fine? Go ahead and give it a try.”
“You’ll cheer for me?”
“I can’t, so isn’t that fine?”
Taken aback, Homura nodded firmly.
“What a terrible teacher.”
“Don’t get caught up in sex appeal, young first year boys. Appetite is more important than sex appeal in life.”
Fujimori lightly warded off Touya’s words of reproach and then left to go to the staff room.
In the end, Homura stated that she wouldn’t be participating in the [Yamato Nadeshiko Contest], and as a result the crowd dispersed and the corridor became sparsely crowded once again.
As Homura sighed in relief, Touya spoke up.
“Well anyway, even though I said that stuff earlier, if you really have your heart set on this, then I wish you luck, Hinooka. I’ll do what I can to support you in my own way.”
“Yeah, thank you… By the way, what exactly will you do, concretely?”
“Let’s talk about the details later.”
True, recess was about to end.
She had to take her class materials for the afternoon elective class back to the classroom.
Parting with Touya, Homura was about to leave the corridor with the bulletin in the company of the female classmate from earlier who was still loitering there when she suddenly noticed a certain female student.
She was standing alone, holding her class materials against her chest while looking slightly forlornly at the posters.
Homura spoke up to her with a smile.
It was Kujou Orie from her class.
This was the first time Homura had spoken to her since Kujou had given her the cold shoulder when Homura had tried to walk home together with her.
“Are you going to participate in one of the events, Kujou-san?”
Kujou shook her head slightly.
“It’s voluntary participation, after all.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but it’s basically a festival. There are events that have nothing to do with winning or losing.”
“You’re going to be participating, aren’t you?”
“I was thinking of joining this [Boxed Lunch Contest].”
Kujou looked at Homura expressionlessly.
After murmuring that, Kujou suddenly turned on her heels and walked off to the special classroom.
The bell for afternoon lessons began to ring.
While walking together at a hurried pace, Homura’s female classmate whispered beside her.
“Kujou-san… gives off a scary vibe.”
“Eh? That’s not true, you know? I was in the same middle school as her.”
“I know that, but she always goes home right after school ends and is hard to talk to.”
Homura didn’t say anything about Kujou being in the Going-Home Club.
Homura once again thought to herself that she didn’t know anything about Kujou.
Chapter 3 END