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Chapter 58 The Promised Trip - Part 2


 As Chihiro stiffened, speechless, Aika opened her mouth, her cheeks slightly flushed.
 
「How is it, Izumi-kun?」
「You can tell us what you think, one by one」
 
 Hana followed suit.
 From the irreverent look on her face, it was easy to see that she was trying to annoy Chihiro.
 Riko and Maria didn't seem to be able to help him, so Chihiro had no choice but to endure the embarrassment and spit out his words.
 
「...Sorry, I was fascinated. Maria is beautiful, Riko is cute. Mishuku-san is elegant, Takatsuki-san is... well, I don't know, it's comforting」
 
 It's hard to put into words, but he dared to put them into one word each.
 And as he was afraid of the four girls' reactions, he had a hard time looking at them, but when he looked at them, they looked at each other and smiled.
 Some of them are smiling bitterly, though. 
 
**a
 
「Okay, I forgive you. Let's go」
 
 Riko pushed Chihiro's shoulders with both hands and urged him to move to the pool.
 
「So, what do you do in a place like this?」
 
 Maria asked, as if she didn't understand.
 She probably wasn't used to being in a place like this with friends.
 
「Well... I don't know much about it either...」
 
 In a large swimming pool facility like this, the basic idea is not to swim but to enjoy the water. There are too many people, and it is not suitable for swimming.
 Well, it is possible to swim a short distance if it's careful not to bump into people - backstroke, floating rings, etc. - but it's better to give up swimming 25 meters straight like in the indoor pool of a gym.
 
「I see. I guess we'll just relax and cool off」
「We don't have to all stick together, do we? Can't we just set a time and split up?」
「Yes, I think that's a good idea」
 
 Maria nodded, Hana made an unsubtle suggestion, and Aika calmly agreed.
 As soon as that's decided, Hana and Maria walk away. It was now past eleven in the morning, so they would meet at one in the afternoon, two hours later.
 
「Well, I'll just go for a swim」
「Uh, yeah」
 
 In no time, Riko also announced her departure.
 
(Wait, I mean, what's the point of coming together?)
 
 While Chihiro is thinking about it, Riko comes up to him and gives him a short talk.
 
「Good luck, Chihiro」
「Eh?」
 
 Riko walks away before he has time to ask her what she really meant.
 All that remained are Chihiro and... Aika.
 
「Well, let's take it easy」
 
 She took Chihiro's hand and smiled, wondering what he thought of the situation.
 Of course, he didn't refuse.
 
 They arrived at a large, moderately deep pool with no current - in other words, a normal pool. It is relatively empty, probably because it is too deep for small children and there are slides and flowing pools elsewhere.
 Aika walked around the pool while pulling Chihiro's hand, stopped at a particularly unpopular spot, and sat down on the side of the pool.
 
 *splash*
 
 The girl's healthy bare feet dipped into the water and made a small sound.
 
「Oh, it feels so nice and cold!」
 
 Aika shouted and flapped her legs.
 
「Aren't you going to swim?」
「No. I had enough fun the other day」
 
 She replied, gesturing for him to sit down.
 Chihiro nodded and gently sat down next to Aika.
 
「Yes, it's true. It feels so good」
「Doesn't it?」
 
 Chihiro followed Aika's lead and stretched out his legs while watching the beautiful scene that bothered him.
 She has the same legs, but his leg is thicker and different in color compared to Aika's. Even though he know it's wrong to compare them, he can't help but feel self-conscious at times like this.
 After all, for Chihiro, girls, especially Aika, are special.
 
「Takatsuki-san, what do you mean, "you had fun the other day"?」
「Oh, yeah. The other day, I went to the beach with Kamishiro-kun and the others. We swam as hard as we could there」
 
 By the way, after the closing ceremony, Kamishiro and Maisaka talked about that.
 
『Don't tell everyone. I know who you want me to ask out!』
 
 The person Maisaka wanted to ask out was, of course, Aika.
 So their plan has come true. 
 
**b
 
「Me, Kamishiro-kun, Maisaka-kun... and a girl named Yuse-san from Class A」
 
 Shuka apparently was also with them.
 That was unexpected, but it made sense considering that Maisaka had arranged it. It seems that Maisaka would easily set up a party just for fun.
 Chihiro smiled, imagining that Kamishiro was bewildered by Shuka's involvement.
 Aika saw this and frowned.
 She looked down at the water and continued.
 
「By the way, it was a two-day and one-night stay」
「...」
 
 When she said that much, Chihiro understood what she meant.
 However, he is afraid to say out loud the feelings that came to him. So instead, he asked something else.
 
「Did something happen between you and Kamishiro-kun?」
 
 The answer he was expecting is no.
 
「Yes, there was」
 
 But, the actual answer is yes.
 Waving her foot on the water, Aika told Chihiro what happened on the night of the swimming.
 The story was as follows: While Maisaka was lingering in the bath, Aika was invited by Kamishiro to the terrace of the men's room. There, they talked quietly in yukata.
 
『Do you still like me?』
『Yeah, I like you. I still feel the same way. No, it's stronger than before』
 
 To Aika's question, Kamishiro's face turned red and he answered clearly.
 
『What would you do, Kamishiro-kun, if you could have me all to yourself?』
『I want to stay by Takatsuki-san's side. I want Takatsuki-san to stay by my side』
 
 It was practically a confession again.
 This time, no one would hear, and the mood was perfect.
 There were no conditions attached like last time.
 
「What did you say, Takatsuki-san?」
 
 If she said OK, they would be lovers right then and there.
 Aika is now Kamishiro's girlfriend... someone else's.
 
 To Chihiro's question, Aika shook her head.
 
「...I couldn't answer. So, I just said, "Thank you, I'm happy"」
 
 Apparently, she can't think about it right now.
 So, she replied that she hoped he would confess sometime.
 
「So, it's like that」
 
 To be honest, Chihiro is relieved.
 She didn't turn him down, but she didn't agree with it too. Chihiro felt happy about that.
 
「But, why?」
 
 There are not many people as good as Kamishiro.
 His appearance, his personal physical abilities, his performance as a [Lost Item]. He's perfect in every way, and his character is straightforward, polite, and kind-hearted.
 If Aika feel happy when he confesses his feelings to her, there's no reason not to accept.
 And moreover, Aika had almost agreed to his confession once.
 
 *splash*
 
 Aika's foot slapped the surface of the water hard, and the spray flew up to Chihiro's face. He closed his eyes reflexively, and a quiet voice jumped into the water.
 
「Because I couldn't get the other girl's face out of my mind」
「Eh?」
 
 Chihiro turned his whole body to look into Aika's face. But――
 
 *thump*
 
 Chihiro's back is pushed hard, and he dived face first into the pool.
 
 *gurgling* *gurgling... *
 
 He fought the urge to suck in air and gasped for air. Once he regained his balance, he is able to find his feet. And then, he had no trouble getting up and showing his face. 
 
**c
 
「Puha!」
 
 What a nice air. He took a few more breaths. Then――
 
 *chuckle*
 
 Chihiro looked up at the sound of laughter and saw Aika's legs lightly spread and her face looking down at him.
 
「Takatsuki-san, why are you doing that suddenly?」
「Hey, Izumi-kun」
 
 A serious voice called out.
 In an instant, Aika's smile had changed to a look that seemed to test Chihiro.
 The emotion conveyed through her lightly squinted eyes is a strong will to force a choice.
 
「If you want me, you have to leave Riko-chan, Fukami-san, and Mishuku-san」
 
 Takatsuki Aika made a cruel request to Chihiro in a way that did not allow for non-answers or reservations.
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