“H-Hey, Mizusawa. I understand you’re Iizuka’s best friend.”
When Io appeared at Goodies, a beaming Takeya introduced Haruki to her by saying, “This guy’s my new best pal.”
Upon looking at Haruki’s uncomfortable face, after a moment’s surprise, all Io did was return a strained smile.
“O-Oh, yeah. That’s great! I bet you’re really glad to have a good guy friend now. Huh, Takeya?”
“Hey, Kitahara. This is… our first time talking, right?”
“Y-You might be right…”
“D-Do you come here often?”
“If you’re Takeya’s best friend now, Kitahara, would you be best friends with me, too?”
“Y-Yeah. Sure thing…”
“Can I call you Haruki?”
“Sure. Can I call you Io, too?”
“Fantastic. Let’s get something to drink. Io, you want a ginger ale, right? I’ll be right back.”
“Hey, what the hell is going on here? You didn’t tell Takeya about us, did you?”
“I did not.”
To be more accurate, I only told him about what happened afterward…
The day they became friends, Io had explained something to Haruki.
“Why do you want this to be a secret from Iizuka?”
“Did you know Takeya and I are close?”
“I remember you hanging out a lot over the break. I’m sure he’d be happy to help you study. In spite of how he acts, I imagine he has a decent head on his shoulders.”
“He and I are best friends. But around exam time, some stuff went screwy. I don’t want to ask him for help studying, so I don’t want him to know about this.”
The fact that her own friend and Takeya were dating must still be lurking around in Io’s mind, Haruki thought. And they both had to come to me with stuff that they didn’t want to say to each other. I hate lying, and yet here I am…
“What’s with this situation, then?”
“Well, it started when Iizuka suddenly shoved me against the wall.”
“Whoa, he wall-slammed you…? Sounds a little gay…”
“Oh, did you tell her already?”
Takeya returned, smirking broadly. His face prickled Io and Haruki both.
“Really, though, Takeya getting buddy-buddy with the top of the class? This is wild.”
“Well, uh, I was actually going to him for some girl advice.”
“You were what?” Girl advice? From this robot?
“Like, Mika-chan asked me to be her boyfriend for real the other day, but we don’t really have that much in common, you know, like, our principles are just different…”
“And we all know Haruki’s got a way with words, right? So I asked him how I should word things to turn her down without stuff getting too heated.”
“What? You don’t believe me?”
“Who cares if I believe you? It’s your life.”
Io looked away in a huff.
He’s not going to date her, then. Hmm…
The visible corner of Io’s mouth slackened just slightly.
This change in her expression did not go unnoticed by Haruki.
So easy to read…
“All right, everyone, glasses ready!”
“What are we, old men at a bar?”
“To the three of us and our friendship. Cheers!”