「Good morning, Chihiro-kun」
As soon as Chihiro entered the classroom, he exchanged greetings with Aika, who was already on her way to school.
At first, some of his classmates looked at their conversation curiously, but now it has become a part of his daily life, and he no longer attracts much attention.
As Aika requested, he kept their relationship a secret during the summer vacation.
It seems that Aika told Kamishiro about it the day before the first day of school.
He didn't ask about the details of the story, but Kamishiro is upset but agreed and congratulated them on their relationship.
...Really, he is a good-hearted man.
And so, on the day after the opening ceremony, their relationship was widely known in the class.
The trigger was a comment made to Riko by a girl in the class.
『Is it true that Nishizaki-san is going out with Izumi-kun?』
Around the first day of school, such a rumor was spread to Class C and the first-year students.
Well, during the summer vacation, Riko talked with her classmates who were close to her, and as a result, one of them misunderstood that Riko and Chihiro were dating.
Therefore, the student who spread the rumor was definitely one of them.
Naturally, Chihiro and his friends were aware of the possibility that she might do something to them.
They planned countermeasures in advance, and used the "truth be known" method to calm down the commotion.
『What Riko-chan is saying is true. I am the one who is dating Chihiro. I've been asking Riko-chan for advice, so I wonder if the rumors are because of that』
At the very least, she's not lying.
Originally, the plan was to spread the news of Riko and Aika's relationship to everyone, so just took advantage of it.
『Hey Kamishiro, did you know about this?』
『Yeah. I heard from Takatsuki-san the day before yesterday』
Kamishiro cooperated with Aika's testimony, and the situation was settled.
Instead, Chihiro and Aika had a hard time explaining to the girls - including "one boy" - who were asking about the beginning of their relationship, but that could not be helped.
This incident caused Riko to distance herself from her two former friends.
Aika was the one who was most concerned about this, while Riko herself was quite calm about it.
『I'm sorry, Riko-chan』
『It's okay. It's my fault that people misunderstood it... originally, I knew this would happen sooner or later』
The people Riko was friends with were somewhat oblique, almost like bad friends.
Even if it was the Riko of the time when she was attacking Chihiro without hiding her stinginess, they were not a good match for her now.
So, Riko cut off all communication with them.
When her classmates pointed out that her relationship with Chihiro was too close for her convenience, she admitted it and apologized.
『Yeah. I feel bad about what I did to Izumi. ...I don't hate Izumi now, and I've apologized and he has forgiven me. I'm really sorry for making him feel bad too』
The old Izumi would never have done that.
The people around her softened their attitudes toward Riko, and Chihiro also felt a deep sense of joy.
Aika began to talk to Riko more frequently, and she gradually began to get to know the other girls.
『Nishizaki-san's mood has changed a bit, hasn't it?』
『She's calmed down, or is she more mature?』
In order to lead a peaceful life, and to keep her relationship with Chihiro under wraps, it's probably for the best that this incident happened.
Chihiro turn his attention back to the voice calling out to him.
「Can I have lunch with you today?」
「Great. See you later」
They smiled at each other and went back to their seats.
On the other side of the table, a female student throws some words of jealousy at Aika.
「Takatsuki-san... You should do that kind of promise in secret. It makes me feel uncomfortable」
「I-I'm sorry. But it's not like that... So why don't you eat together with us?」
「Are you sure? Then I'll come over. I have some questions for Izumi-kun too」
Somewhat, Chihiro felt threatened.
As he sat down, someone grabbed Chihiro's shoulder.
「Fufufu... You're very popular, Izumi」
Class rep Maisaka Shuu is still the same.
Because of his easygoing pace, he can't help but give him the benefit of the doubt. Chihiro knows that he is a dangerous type of person to give too much information to, but he is more than happy to talk to him.
Whether he knows Chihiro's inner thoughts or not, the boy with a subtly handsome appearance smiles wryly and asks.
「I'm interested in your progress with Takatsuki-san, but is everything alright over there?」
Maisaka looked at Kamishiro's seat while saying this.
The owner of the seat sat in the chair and glanced back at Chihiro for a moment.
「I can't do anything much in the way of preparation, but I have prepared myself」
「I see. Well, I guess I'll just hope you succeed on the day. Leave it to me to get the crowd together」
「Haha, we don't need to invite too many people...」
Chihiro laughed and tried to stop him, but before he could, Maisaka left Chihiro's seat.
（...I really don't know to what extent he's serious and to what extent he's calculating）
In any case, it made him a little happy that Maisaka was worried about him.
――On Saturday, just before the second assessment, Chihiro is scheduled to have a rematch with Kamishiro.
This time, it was Kamishiro who suggested the idea.
『I wonder if we can have a match again, just like before.
A few days after the opening ceremony.
The expression on his face as he said this in the classroom seemed to indicate that he did not want to play just for the sake of training.
Chihiro didn't dare to make eye contact with him, but he must have had something on his mind about Aika.
Even if it wasn't out of spite or anything like that.
『Yes. Of course』
Well, even though Kamishiro hadn't suggested it, Chihiro would have approached him.
The promise of a match was easily made, and the appointed date is coming up this week.
（...To be honest, it's hard to predict whether I'll win or not）
Chihiro has been training as hard as he can during the summer vacation, and Kamishiro is no different. Whether the gap between them is narrowing or widening, it is impossible to tell until thet try.
But, of course, if Chihiro is going to fight, he will think about winning.
☆ ☆ ☆
「Hey, have you two gone on a date yet?」
As expected, the topic of conversation during the lunch break turned to Chihiro and Aika.
This is because two girls in the class are asking them one after another with great interest. Chihiro, Aika, and Riko, who had been invited to join them, could only laugh at the rapid succession of questions.
「Haha... yeah, well...」
「We went shopping together once, right?」
Yes, during the summer vacation.
Chihiro went shopping with Aika, because Aika wanted to keep some clothes and daily necessities in her apartment.
They also ate lunch and had tea together.
『It's not fair that only Riko-chan does this』
Aika also gave Chihiro some pointers when she found out that Riko had designed some of his clothes.
And although they were tired from the long train ride, they had a good time.
「Shopping, huh? Isn't that too normal for a first date?」
「Besides, you guys have been dating for quite a while now, right?」
When they asked about the content and number of dates, they tilted their heads.
Chihiro and Aika looked at each other and are puzzled.
「Well... since the second semester started, I've been helping out in the infirmary. Chihiro-kun also has a lot of training to do」
It's hard to find time for them to go out together.
Perhaps that's the downside of being so full of life.
「Wow, it's surprising that Izumi-kun is training so much」
「Haha... as you can see, he's a bit unreliable without training」
Chihiro replied with a shrug.
Hearing this, Aika giggled.
The girls were not mocking him. They knows that Chihiro is making an effort.
But then, as if remembering, Aika opened her mouth.
「Speaking of dates, on Sundays, we eat lunch in the private training room, right?」
「Yeah. We do that」
「Eh? Is that a date?」
Some of the classmates questioned.
It must be a date because they went out and had lunch together.
Aika also has some work to do, so she can't be with him all the time, but when she has free time, she accompanies him for training.
As is the case today, Chihiro and Aika are eating basically the same lunch these days.
Needless to say, the reason is that Aika has made lunches for both of them.
Aika's bento is orthodox and comforting in flavor. That's why it's hard to get tired of it even if he eats it every day.
『Although, if I say so myself, it's still a bit sweet』
Especially for Japanese food, Riko, who was Chihiro's predecessor, has been giving Aika a hard time.
But he can tell from the atmosphere without looking her in the eye that she doesn't really mean to annoy Aika.
「Hmm, isn't it boring? Why don't you flirt with her more?」
「Izumi-kun. Takatsuki-san will get tired of you if you do that」
Chihiro was just thinking that, and then the girl pointed it out.
Aika puffed out her cheeks adorably in protest.
「Geez, don't say anything weird. I'm happy enough with my current life」
And there, Riko also nodding her head.
「Yeah, both of them are too lovey-dovey. It's okay」
...Chihiro wonder if it was his imagination that Riko's eyes seemed to be slightly distant.
Thinking about it, Chihiro suddenly asked Aika.
「Aika, what do you do after school today?」
「Well, I think I'll drop by the infirmary. As usual, I'll pick you up when I'm done」
「Go ahead and get some training in. If you get hurt, I'll heal you」
They smiled and nodded at each other.
They are both busy people, so they try to at least match their return time.
Sometimes, when one of them has an appointment, the other one will take the trouble to go home at the same time. Therefore, they end up going home together almost every day.
After that, about half of the time, Aika also comes to the apartment, but she doesn't tell anyone about it.
On the days when Aika does not come to the apartment, they talk on the phone or send e-mails at night. And Chihiro have to admit that there have been a few times when she has called him while he was doing "that".
「I guess I can understand what Nishizaki-san is saying」
For some reason, even their classmates are muttering to themselves with half-lidded eyes.