“Yep. Well, I mean, I got all this second-hand from Takeya, but…”
It was lunchtime in class 3-A, and the two girls spoke just loudly enough to hear each other, while still quiet enough to blend in with the rest of the clamor around them.
“In the same class, in the seat right next to his…”
“She’s really kind of a weirdo. I mean, she doesn’t even remotely fit in with the rest of the class, so Haruki’s got his work cut out for him.”
“And the only person she talks to is Kitahara-kun…?”
The name of this young lady, whose every gesture—even in this moment, as she simply pondered—exuded loveliness, leaving the other female students around her with a distinct sense of unfairness, was Setsuna Ogiso.
A perfect beauty, who in spite of various flashy titles—Miss Houjou High for two years running, the number-one idol on campus, the conquering queen—was still possessed of a sociability that kept her from suffering too much jealousy from other girls. Her perfection was almost a nuisance.
“Has Haruki not told you about that? You know he’s trying to bring her in?”
And the name of the young lady speaking with this perfect beauty, who managed somehow to evade that sense of unfairness better than anyone else in the class, was Io Mizusawa.
With her personality that showed no distinction between male and female, and her looks that let her boast enormous popularity with the lowerclassmen in particular, she was the only one in the class who would speak this candidly with Setsuna.
“No, I haven’t heard any kind of gossip like that.”
“Yeah, I guess you two have only really known each other for like a week.”
“…Th-That’s not what I mean! I mean Kitahara-kun isn’t the kind of person to just chat about people’s private lives so easily. Even if he did, he would make sure to get the person’s direct permission first.”
“Wow, you’ve got a pretty detailed picture of him, considering it’s only been a week.”
“I’m just… speaking from my own experience.”
“…Only a week, and you’ve already been baptized into that world of contracts.”
What Setsuna had heard from him was not gossip, but a boast.
A boast given with a certain dreamy look in his eyes, that made her feel just a bit queasy…
The name of the “weirdo” currently dominating their conversation was Kazusa Touma.
Certain circumstances had led Setsuna to learn her name now, in her third year of high school, and it seemed quite possible that they would become more deeply involved…
“Anyway, with a personality like hers, she’s had a hard time getting along with anyone since our first year…”
Although, Setsuna had been aware of her existence since first year.
She had spotted her a number of times through the window in the other school building, or on the way to and from school.
In fact, she had been seared powerfully into Setsuna’s memory from the first time she saw her…
Because her looks drew the eye like no other.
No one could fail to take notice of her tall stature, her long, glossy black hair.
Her outstanding figure, at a point of perfection that allowed no one to get near her.
And her keen, sharp beauty, exemplified in her long, narrow eyes.
Anyone in her class who failed to notice her existence until their third year would have to have no interest in women, or else a particularly strange idea of beauty.
“So, I don’t think she’s likely to join up. I know you guys are hoping for it, but…”
“Even if she did, there’d just be more trouble on the back end. She could cause more problems than she solved.”
“Yeah, she doesn’t get along with anyone. There’s not really anything you can do about that.”
Setsuna recalled the first few words she’d exchanged with her a few days before, hardly even enough to consider a conversation.
Kazusa Touma… hadn’t seemed like the aloof girl she was made out to be.
If one counted the harsh words she had thrown at her classmate there on the spot, she could hardly be called taciturn; and as for the cold attitude that she apparently took with everyone, if one thought of her reactions to her classmate, it seemed for all the world like joking around between friends.
Well, maybe she just wasn’t her usual self because she had that classmate right there.
“The way you’re talking, it sounds like you think you might be able to pull her into your group after all.”
“Do I… want to do that?”
“Not sure why you’re asking me…”
Maybe her attitude when she was with her classmate, Haruki Kitahara… was her real, usual self.