It was right when school ended for the day.
In the entranceway where the scent of grass drifted strongly in the summer heat, a girl threw her indoor shoes into the shoe rack and hurriedly chased after someone.
“Want to go home together?”
“Come on. Don’t. Say. That~”
The girl called out while jumping down the front steps, but the other person didn’t stop.
Kujou was brusque and unsociable as usual.
“You’re going to do another live performance, right? I heard from Koma-senpai.”
“…It’s not a live performance, it’s just a classic music concert. You would find it boring, Hinooka-san.”
“Can I go watch? If it’s a formal concert, then even a high schooler like me can go.”
“Do as you like.”
Homura shrugged her shoulders at the completely unapproachable Kujou.
Muscular boys from the Wrestling Club were returning from their run.
With the district tournament approaching, the club members were earnest in their training.
As the boys sneaked glances at the two girls, Homura waved her hand and smiled pleasantly. She slapped her nonexistent biceps and went as far as to show them a fight pose in support.
The club members cheered loudly.
When Homura turned back around, Kujou was looking at her in disbelief.
Acting nonchalant while actually feeling a little nervous, Homura spoke up to her.
“Hey, Kujou-san, can’t we become friends?”
“We are friends. We’re classmates.”
Kujou-san replied at once, and then she walked off without another word.
Homura, while enduring the deep cut she’d been dealt, still chased after Kujou.
“B-But, the two of us being in the same class isn’t something that either of us decided on. That’s just coincidence.”
“…Is there some problem with that?”
“How about doing things with me like eating boxed lunches together, eating cake at a café after school or conquering the Anmitsu1 shop where you have to stand in a long line to order on weekends?”
“Those are all food-related.”
“Oh, you’re right. Then what else would be good to do? Anything’s fine, except for each of us going home separately.”
Underneath a neatly pruned pine tree, Kujou came to a stop and turned to face Homura again.
“I’ll say this now.”
“All right, I’ll listen well.”
“Being with someone like me is boring, and I have absolutely no intention to try and entertain you either.”
“Yeah, I figured.”
Homura had managed to land a counter slash.
“Close pals you always get along with are really boring. They’re like family and make you feel relieved. But that’s all. Being with them makes you feel completely safe and secure, but there’s absolutely zero adventure there. If a close pal can understand what I’m thinking and feeling like their own mind and vice versa, then I don’t need any. I want friends.”
“Kujou-san, you’re strict towards both yourself and others. That’s surely why you set the bar so awfully high for someone to become a friend you can acknowledge: you want to avoid any failures or mistakes for the duration of your relationship. But isn’t that just an extreme case of playing at being friends?”
“You want to say it’s just calculation and self-interest? But I have no intention of changing my personality.”
“That goes for me too. But we’ll change. If we’re together, we’ll both change little by little.”
Saying that, Homura walked ahead of Kujou this time and headed towards the school gates.
Perhaps the way she roughly shouldered her bag on her back was to hide her embarrassment.
When she fearfully looked back while continuing to walk, she saw Kujou following after her, and that made Homura smile a little shyly.
Homura turned forward again and looked up at the blue sky.
The fact that Kujou’s cheeks were slightly red while no one looked might not have just been because of Homura’s impolite entreaty right before she could retort.
“The truth is, Kujou-san, I only think about myself. I love myself. I’m the president of my own fan club, you know?”
“Yeah, I figured. But if I have you as a friend, Kujou-san, I feel like I’ll be able to like myself even more. No, I surely will.”
Homura smiled again with a mysterious certainty.
“In that case, it’s not just coincidence anymore, right? These feelings are something I searched for and found myself.”
Kujou remained silent.
Even so, she was keeping pace with Homura as they walked.
“We were in the same class for all three years of middle school, right? After such a long series of coincidences, I think it’s very probable that we’ll be in the same class for all three years of high school as well.”
“That’s a conclusion that completely overturns probability theory from its very premise, you know?”
“That’s why I think it would be best if we became friends.”
“Kuh… What’s with that logic?”
Kujou voiced her objection without thinking.
Homura also burst out laughing at the queerness of what she herself was saying.
After letting out a small sigh, Kujou murmured.
“You dislike sweets?”
“…They make me gain weight.”
“So you actually like them, then? Fufu.”
Homura smiled proudly for some odd reason as she peered at Kujou.
The Brass Band Club’s playing resounded through the schoolyard, out of tune as always.
Along the summer road were the endless blue sky above, and two dazzling napes—
End of Volume 1
(1) Anmitsu: a popular Japanese desert made of small cubes of agar jelly, sweet azuki bean paste, a variety of fruits, and boiled peas.