The snow left a month ago, taking the cold with it. Replacing it was groups of indescribable clouds that ignorant children would try and make meaning out of. Giving meaning to meaningless things… what a youthful thing to do.
While everyone would be looking at the clouds, I'd be looking at the sun behind it, ascertaining its position and by using a lost art, can confirm that it was noon.
Every sense in my body was on high alert. I would not allow myself to be the prey, not anymore. In just one year I witnessed change in the people around me. Everyone, except her.
"Hihi! Hikigaya-kun!" She was waving from the distance, her voice barely reaching my ears. She managed to gather the attention of everyone around her and you'd have better believed she called me out so loudly and boisterously on purpose.
She didn't speed up, slow down, no she was walking at her regular pace, basking in the attention. It was annoying, as I couldn't help but stare alongside the plebeians. She was glowing, taking full advantage of her natural beauty.
"I hope I didn't make you wait too long." Bubbly, cutesy, and fake.
I turned to the sky. The sun had barely moved. "Not that long."
"Ah, good. Good." She tilted her head, her hair already growing back. "So how has your small break been? Actually, let's talk over some coffee, hm?"
Damn, she knew I couldn't resist coffee. Have I spoken with her so much that she knew every habit of mine? "I don't have cash on me…"
"Ah, I'll pay. Consider this a treat from Yukino-chan!"
How unrealistic. Yukinoshita would never pay for coffee. "That's hard to imagine."
"Then maybe you need to improve your imagination, you logic hunter."
Logic hunter? It was clear by my expression I didn't understand, to which Haruno-san giggled. It seemed like all I do was make this woman laugh.
"How was your first year of high school, Hikigaya-kun?"
A simple, ordinary question with an answer that was unacceptable. My answer could never satisfy anyone. Not even Yukinoshita. But… maybe. There might be a chance that, of all people, she would understand. "It's annoying. Filled with people who deny reality and continue to enjoy their youth by their own double standards."
"Har har, is that so?" She was grinning like a hyena from ear to ear. It would have been unnerving, but her eyes danced with a playful mirth that for the first time ever, made me feel calm in her presence. "And you? What about your double standards?"
"How can someone who doesn't have standards have double standards?" I posed. She didn't respond. "People make up their own conditions for youth on the fly. There's no set rules to youth. But I have rules, I have methods. As long as I stay true to them…" …what? What am I accomplishing? I couldn't finish the sentence.
"You stay true to yourself, hm? How thoughtful of you. But I wonder…" In a second she stopped and spun on her heel and let her index finger hover above my chin. "Does anyone appreciate that kind of thoughtfulness?"
"I don't care." I batted away her hand, noting how soft it is.
"Even if it means getting rejected by those who hold you dear?"
"Even then." Those words weren't forced. I already gave up any falsities back in middle school, where undesirable memories rested. Where I tried to be more than who I am. So this answer was an easy one. I didn't hesitate. I answered clearly. It was an easy answer.
"Good!" She hopped back and extended a hand. "Let's get some coffee to celebrate!"
"Celebrate?" I stared at her hand warily. On the fourth finger of her right hand was a silver ring, shining in the sunlight.
"The day you found out that rules were meant to be broken!"
"What did you mean by that? Were not stealing anything, right?" I had yet to touch my coffee. I refused to be an accomplice to this woman.
"No, nothing you need to fret about. I jut want to remember this day. After all, this is the day I received my first chocolate from Hikigaya-kun!" Her voice had risen with each word. I could feel the heated stares of jealous men around me. If you want her, be my guest! Take her! Don't blame me if you die. "Actually, what day is it today?"
"Shouldn't you know? You're a college student aren't you? Though I can't say your attitude befits one…"
"How mean Hikigaya-kun! I am totally a responsible adult, you know!" She took a large gulp of her coffee, practically contradicting herself. "April 1st. What a day."
"What do you mean…?"
She waved her hand. "You'll understand some day. I bet… two years!"
I didn't understand but the fact that I'll be interacting with this woman for two more years was an exhausting thought. "Suddenly I don't want to give you your chocolate anymore…"
"Neesan's shutting up now!"
Was this woman serious…? I had better just get this over with… I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a plastic bag of chocolates and nearly dropped them on the table. "Here…"
"Oh my, these don't look anything like the ones you gave Yukino-chan!"
Did Yukinoshita show Haruno-san the chocolates I made…? How embarrassing… "Yours were store-bought so I returned the favour."
"Oh?" Haruno-san leaned forward, her elbows on the table pressing her chest together. I pushed my seat back and hoped my gulp wasn't audible. "How do you know they were store-bought? Have you ever considered…I might be just that good at baking?"
I wasn't impressed. "Yeah, and I take it you bake for that company too?"
"Okay, okay! I just really wanted some of Hikigaya-kun's homemade chocolates! I'll bake you some next time!"
"Please don't…" Baking wasn't something I desired to do for a long time. I was fine just cooking the average lunch and dinner for Komachi. Besides, those chocolates had to be special. I owed her, after all.
"Are you looking forward to your second year?"
What's with the small talk? I wasn't used to it so I took longer than normal to answer. But she was patient, watching me intently. For every second I watched her, she was analyzing me as well. "No. First year gave me a routine to follow. Who to never talk to in class, who to never greet, who to never sit next to, who to never listen to, who to never take seriously, who to never make eye contact with, but now that homerooms and classes change I'll have to re-evaluate everyone and learn a new routine. It's a nuisance."
Sweet and familiar. The fact she ordered me coffee I liked was scary. Looking back at her, it was startling for me. She was staring at me completely dumbfounded. "I never imagined you greet people."
"I don't. There are just was some people where no matter what I'd never greet." Like you, I almost said, but I didn't want to die.
"Hm, I better not be on that list." Crap. "Hey, Hikigaya-kun, if you ever see me make sure you say hi! Even when I'm in a crowd, no scratch that, especially when I'm in a crowd!"
Whatever expression of disgust I made amused her enough to almost make her fall out of her chair. I never considered myself a comedian, but with how many times I make this woman laugh I wonder if I should become one. But even I knew out of everyone, I could only make her laugh. Her and her sister.
"Oh, I know! I know someone at Sobu! I'll tell them to look out for you."
"You don't need to do that…" Please don't make my life difficult. At this moment it's simple with not much stress, aside from her. Just the way I like it.
"I'm doing you a favour! You'll thank me later!" I almost believed her. Her happy tone for the first time didn't feel sinister. But I couldn't trust her. "Ara? You don't trust your neesan?"
She rolled her eyes, planting her chin into her hand. "Ah anyway, it's quite impressive how similar we are. It's almost like we're soul mates."
I choked on my coffee. "I find that hard to believe."
"Really? Hm, maybe you're right." She took a solemn sip of her coffee, although I wasn't sure if there was any in her cup. "I hope your second year is more eventful."
She looked straight at me and her eyes reflected an indescribable emotion. "No, no it wasn't."
It was sudden, but there was no doubt my body shivered. Petals from a neighbour's sakura tree danced in the wind before one landed on my nose. It was barely noticeable with no distinct feeling.
It danced off my nose, again carried away by the wind. Some probably landed on my head. I didn't bother checking after doing one quick brush with my hand before getting on my bicycle.
I put my bag in the basket attached to the front wheel, where another smaller bag already was. Knowing Komachi, she probably forgot she already put it in there and is searching frantically all over.
"Oi, Komachi, look at the time."
"I know! But I can't find my bag oniichan!" Heh, I hit the nail on the head. After all, there's no one in the world who knows Komachi better than I, the oniichan.
"I got it right here. Come on." Faster than I expected, she got on the passenger seat and wrapped her arms around me.
"Let's go!" I could make out her extended arm to my side before I began pedalling. "Oh, but make sure you don't get hit by a car. I'm with you this time, okay?"
One year later.
I didn't think much of it honestly. Or maybe I was supressing the thoughts. What was the point of thinking about such a bothersome event? It's not like it was anyone's fault. Dog, owner, driver, me, no one. And it's not like anything happened as a result. Everyone's still alive. Dog and me.
That's right, no reason to think about it.
I stopped briefly at Komachi's middle school, looking at my phone. As expected, there was a single text.
Yukinoshita: Don't get hit by a car.
…Yeah, no problem.
From any other person it would seem like a joke of poor taste, but not her. I wasn't one to believe in conspiracies (not anymore), and neither was she, but if there was a chance, no matter how small, then even if it's a ridiculous notion, do everything we can to prevent it.
To say "what are the odds I'd get hit by a car again on the same day?" is true. The odds were miraculously low. But the chance is there. And a chance like that, Yukinoshita would do everything in her power to prevent it.
With someone like that on the other side of this connection, I smiled. Pocketing my phone, I made way for the new school year.
"…Service…Club?" The words didn't roll off my tongue and tasted bitter. "What the hell is a 'Service Club'?"
Yukinoshita rolled her eyes, no doubt not happy with my wording but didn't press. "A club where we assist the student body with tasks, helping them become more self-sufficient in the process."
"…I've never heard of a club like that. Getting involved with other people's problems… how annoying." I rubbed my eyes. It seemed even the topic of this 'club' bored me to tears.
"You should be quite experienced, no? Having been a student representative in a past life and all."
"Don't remind me…" Too late, memories were flooding back and I had to hold back a growl. "Ugh. Why are you joining this 'club' again?"
"I'm the only one in my class who has not joined a club. My guidance counselor said that my grades can only get me so far, and I should put my smarts and wits to use in an extracurricular activity."
As if that wasn't something Yukinoshita didn't already know. But her low stamina prevents her from being able to properly perform in clubs and she spends her time improving herself. A club as troublesome as this would only get in her way. "I don't know if it's a good idea. You've already got a lot on your plate as is."
"I do. But… maybe this is the opportunity I've needed." I stared at her, confused, to which she rolled her eyes and leaned forward across the table. "A club to improve student's capabilities. A club to improve society. Isn't that what I've been studying for? All these talents that I never got to use, and may never use. If I could use them to improve a school like this, then I think I'll take it."
"Improve society…" Was something like that even possible? The notion had lingered in my mind more than once, especially when I looked at her. And I believed it, because it wasn't happening. Nothing had changed even after her declarations in the past. The future is where changes would happen, was what I thought.
More than half a decade later, and this is that future. She was beginning to take the steps necessary. And my doubts have resurfaced.
"You don't think I can do it." I snapped out of my thoughts and met her stare. She didn't ask, she stated. She didn't look angry, she looked… well, not angry.
"I… don't know."
"Are you sure?"
I stared long and hard at her. Her unwavering determination glowing in her eyes, her hair frozen, except the strand that fell loose in front of her eye, and her chest barely moving alongside her breathing.
I shook my head and looked away. I couldn't look at her. "I don't know."
"That's fine." My head whipped towards her, and she huffed, her lips curling upwards. "I don't know either. I'm not going to make claims. I'm not going to assume. But I'll still try. I've watched you work so hard the last year, and even before that. You didn't get what you wanted most of the time, but when you did I felt some satisfaction that wouldn't have been there if you did get what you wanted constantly."
"Passing math was the greatest achievement of my life," I nodded, agreeing with her.
"…Your mark left a lot to be desired." She shook her head but her smile never wavered. "As I was saying, I have to at least try."
"… I feel like this guidance counselor said a lot more to you than you're telling me."
"What would give you that idea?" Her head tilted slightly, a mischievous smirk on her face. It was obvious she wouldn't tell me, which was fine.
"Just a hunch."
"Hm. And your hunches are usually wrong."
"Actually, they're accurate one-hundred percent of the time." I pulled my own, cocky smirk which only deepened her frown. I quickly wiped the smirk off my face. She sighed.
"I'm afraid that we won't be able to meet up after school anymore." Yukinoshita reached over her arm and gripped her sleeve, grimacing. "I… hope you understand."
"O-of course." Damn it, why'd I stutter? I wasn't nervous and it was completely understandable for her to take this path after what she just said. I'd just be in the way. "You helped me through the tough part of school. I can manage on my own now."
"…I see." Her expression didn't change, and if anything lowered even further. "Yes, you'll be fine."
A silence ensued. Was I supposed to leave things like this? Was this the end?
As quickly as that thought formed, it disappeared. If a friendship like ours were to fall apart because of a club, then what kind of friends were we? …That was how friendships worked, right? Was that even what you could call… whatever was between us? "Right, well, it's not like we'll never talk. There's lunch, weekends, breaks, y'know."
This time, her expression changed, lightening up considerably. "R-right! Of course! And, if you ever need help, feel free to stop by the club."
Her smile filled with joy was infectious, I couldn't stop grinning. And it was one of the rare times where I wasn't called out for looking gross.
Though, it's not like I'll ever need to stop by some club, especially one she was a part of.
"Wait, this is…" The door slid open abruptly, my teacher in front of me having violently opened it, and we stepped into the room. "Sensei, this is…"
I stopped. Sitting alone on a single chair in the middle of the room, with the rays of sunlight shining on her emphasizing her beauty, the open window letting in the breeze that allowed her hair to flow freely, was Yukinoshita.
Immediately, she broke her gaze from the book in her hand to glare at sensei. "Hiratsuka-sensei, I'm pretty sure I asked you to knock before coming in."
Stepping forward, not at all intimidated by the glare, Hiratsuka-sensei waved off Yukinoshita. "You never answer when I do."
"You never wait for an answer…"
This really was it, huh? Not much of a classroom, and considering the blank doorplate it was unused. Thought that was obvious from the number of tables and chairs stacked in the back.
Yukinoshita's heavy sigh managed to echo across the room. "What do you need, sensei? And why is he here?"
"Right, well, this here is-"
"Hikigaya Hachiman. We've met," Yukinoshita interrupted.
"Oh? Well that makes things easier. See, we've got a new club member."
"…Huh?" I looked around, wondering where exactly this new member was hiding. Good luck to them, having to put up with Yukinoshita's blunt wall.
"What's with those shifty eyes? I'm talking about you, Hikigaya-kun."
I met Hiratsuka-sensei's irritated glare and gulped. I misheard her, for sure. "Uh, can you repeat that? I wasn't listening."
She turned around fully. "As penance for that joke of an essay, you will join this club."
…Wait, what? Was she serious? Was that even allowed? "I said I'll redo it, didn't I?"
"I don't care. Questions, objections, concerns, dissenting opinions, all of it will be overruled and your sentence is joining this club." She didn't wait for me to respond, turning back to Yukinoshita without pause. "So, as you can see, he's pretty rotten. Oh wait, you said you met? So you should have a good idea of his rotten personality."
"…Rotten personality? Hikigaya-kun, just what did you write?" Yukinoshita looked at me accusingly. I wish I was able to defend myself, but if I showed Yukinoshita the essay I submitted…
"This." Out from her lab coat, Hiratsuka-sensei pulled out a piece of paper. She handed it to Yukinoshita who immediately began scanning it top to bottom.
"Wait, didn't you tear it to shreds…?"
It seemed like neither heard me, but I could see Yukinoshita's eyes narrowing more and more before silently returning the paper to Hiratsuka-sensei. "It does seem like he will need to undergo rehabilitation."
"Wait, what!?" Of all the people I expected to betray me, Yukinoshita wasn't even on the list! My essay wasn't that bad! It was accurate and completely understandable.
"Good. Although, I'm kind of curious how someone in the class 2-J knows someone like him."
"It's a long story." It came out of our mouths instantaneously. We blinked at each other before looking away. I wasn't sure why, but I felt embarrassed.
"Well, I look forward to hearing it one day. Good luck, Yukinoshita." And with that, sensei turned and slid the door shut behind her, leaving the two of us alone in the classroom.
What the hell.
"Let's start off with the obvious." Yukinoshita stood up, her book closed and placed on her chair. "What on earth was that essay? I know your Japanese skills didn't degrade since we last spoke. I honestly cannot think of an explanation for that atrocity. And concluding with 'Fools that enjoy their youth should go kill themselves' is an extremely strong statement, ignoring the fact that people have the ability to change."
Every word I could feel myself shrink under her gaze. It wasn't rare for me to be scolded by her, it was actually quite common, but she seemed even more upset than usual.
She let out another sigh of exasperation, her finger pushing against her forehead. "I thought you said you'd be fine on your own…"
"I, uh, was in a rush."
"I doubt that."
"Just a hunch." I glared but she didn't care, as per usual. It was interesting in a way, getting the blend of public Yukinoshita and the Yukinoshita I knew. Her aggression was increased, but there's no way she'd speak so casually to some nobody. "Come on, help me get a table and we can fix that essay."
I had a bad feeling about this. "Uh, Hiratsuka-sensei still has it…"
Her smile was sweet, sweeter than usual, filling me with dread. "By fix, I mean start over."
"This is completely unexpected." But of course it was. Anyone who wasn't aware of our relationship would be shocked so badly they'd die. A loner with no presence and the other most popular girl in the school. A combo that makes absolutely no sense and would probably hurt the brains of every person who wants to enjoy their youth.
"Hiratsuka-sensei, did you need something?"
She shook her head, her extremely long hair swinging from side to side. "I have some time to kill, so I thought I'd listen to a story."
"Story?" I asked before Yukinoshita glared t me.
My head jerked down and my pencil began moving again. "Yes ma'am."
I felt Yukinoshita's gaze leave my body, allowing me to breathe. "What do you mean, sensei?" She asked.
Hiratsuka-sensei gestured towards us. "The story of how the class 2-J representative met the most rotten student in all of Sobu."
I looked up. "Is that what they call me?" I wanted to smirk in pride, but for some reason I wasn't feeling prideful.
"It's what I call you."
Yukinoshita's index finger met her forehead. "What have you done…?"
"Did you know," Hiratsuka-sensei spoke before I could defend myself. "That you can tell a lot about a person by the way they sit? Slouched, straight, hunched, it's quite easy."
I didn't like where this was going.
"Only one person in my homeroom class hunches. Only one person in my homeroom class refuses to participate. Only one person in my homeroom class wishes death on his classmates."
"When you put it like that I really do sound rotten…"
Yukinoshita's exasperated sigh caught our attention. She looked tired. "Hiratsuka-sensei, please don't worry about Hikigaya-kun."
And that was all.
Hiratsuka-sensei was left speechless, before softening her stern expression. "Right, well, I'm leaving him to you anyway."
She left. It was sudden, and I stared at Yukinoshita.
"You're still keeping up with this farce?"
"Hikigaya-kun, you don't need to separate yourself from your true self for me anymore."
"I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm not like you where I have a fake persona and a real one. What I show to people, to everyone else, is still a part of me. Even everything rotten. I'm not going to deny myself for the sake of others."
"I didn't say that." Huh? "You're standing out. For me."
I didn't understand her words. I did understand she was angry.
I wasn't standing out, no one knows who I am. It was confusing but she wouldn't explain further. I felt disappointed.
"Why am I here…?" It was the next day and once again I was in the empty clubroom. "I though this was a joke..."
Letting go of the scruff of my neck. I immediately began rubbing it. Damn did she have a grip…
"When I said you were joining this club, what did you think I meant?"
It was difficult maintaining eye contact with violent people. Normally it's because it's hard to look at them without laughing, but right now I feel genuinely terrified. "...Join the club, temporarily…?"
She cracked her knuckles. "You are an official member of the Service Club. Do you understand?"
For every syllable a knuckle was cracked. My fear was known by my gulp. Just who was this woman!?
"Sensei, I am going to have to forbid any violence against him." Yukinoshita to the rescue! My gratitude to you! "I still need him in one piece for now."
"I'd prefer if that 'for now' was 'forever'…"
"Ah but that's impossible, isn't it?"
"if I stay in this club, yeah."
She sighed. "what do you think this club is?"
"A club for people who actually give a damn." Which I don't.
"…" Oh great, now I got two scary women glaring at me. I felt myself shrink when Yukinoshita stood up. "Then allow me to pose a request to you."
"You know my ultimate goal, you know why I created this club. So help me achieve my goal."
Is it natural for your heart to beat faster after hearing such a request? Manga would have you believe that the heart only beats when you're in love. But no, the heart can beat for anything sincere. And Yukinoshtia is sincere incarnate.
"Does this mean you're not going to try and skip club ever again?"
I Frowned at the smug tone sensei used. "I will make sure he shows up from now on, don't worry sensei. "
"Mhm, I'm not worried, not anymore. I'll leave this club to you, Yukinoshita." Sensei saluted and made her way to the door. She slid it open but before leaving she looked at me. "Do your best Hikigaya-kun!"
…My best? When was the last time I did my best for complete strangers? And what did it get me?
But now, helping strangers helps Yukinoshita… What a conflict of interest.
"You are okay with this, right?"
"You're asking that now?" I sat down in my chair which sat a good distance away from Yukinoshita. The table from yesterday was gone and just as before there was an empty space filled with only two chairs.
"I admit I saw it advantageous to have you forced to join this club, but that was disregarding your feelings and for that, I apologize."
"Ah well… wait, what do you mean 'advantgeous'?" Seeing she wasn't going to answer, I scratched my head to answer her original question. "Well, if it helps you in any way, I suppose I don't mind."
"Is that so?" Across the room I could barely make out her smile. Or, was that me putting it there myself, having seen it so much?
"I'll probably quit my job."
"Hm, you might have to."
It was a bittersweet feeling. I didn't particularly care for my part time job, but it wasn't awful being surrounded by coffee. And having some extra pocket change was nice. It felt strange, ending something else that became a part of my routine. It made me wonder what was the point?
But I also knew that not everything had meaning. Jobs were a requirement by society. Nothing more, nothing less. That was just how life was.
"Hey so…" It's been a week since I joined this club, but I'm starting to have extreme doubts that this isn't the reading club. "Have you even had a request yet?" Yukinoshita, without looking up from her book, nodded. I frowned in response. "How many?"
"Just two…? What were they?"
She flipped a page. "Assisting a student with writing an essay and reforming the most rotten person in the school."
"…Weren't those both Hiratsuka-sensei's requests…?" I sighed deeply. "Does anyone even know this club exists?"
She suddenly looked thoughtful. "Perhaps advertisement should be a future consideration."
"Future? How about now…" I finished by yawning, covering it with my hand. "Hey can we get a tab-"
I was interrupted by the sound of knocking. It was foreign, unnatural, that I had shut up instinctually. "Come in." Yukinoshita's stern yet formal voice echoed. Any normal student would have been intimidated and ran off.
Which is exactly what happened when the door didn't open.
"Huh, guess you-"
The door slid open, proving my unfinished words wrong. Entering the room was someone I didn't recognize in the slightest.
A loud hair colour, unbuttoned shirt emphasizing her assets, a medium-sized ribbon that was loosely worn, a shorter than average skirt… the type of girl I avoid at all cost: a slu-
"What is Hikki doing here!?"
She was pointing directly at me, her eyes practically bugging out. I leaned back in my chair. "I'm a member of this club…"
Hikki!? What kind of nickname is that? Why is she giving me that nickname? I glance at Yukinoshita who looked equally disturbed. She had grabbed a chair from the back and placed it near her.
When our eyes met, she immediately regained her composure, clearing her throat to guise her disgust. "Yuigahama Yui, correct? Clsss 2-F?"
"Oh, you, like, know who I am?" Annoyingly twirling her hair, she took a seat next to Yukinoshita.
I was also admittedly surprised Yukinoshita knew who she was. Yukinoshita, as perceptive as always, noticed my perplexed expression. "You don't recognize her?"
"Huh?" I thought back to the introduction Yukinoshita gave her. Yuigahama Yui… Class 2-F… wait. "She's in my class?"
A finger met Yukinoshita's forehead while she sighed in exasperation. "You don't even know your classmates?"
"I didn't know them last year either," I pointed out, to which she huffed cutely.
"I was hoping with the advent of these Service Club you'd at least try and learn more about potential clients."
"Why bother when everyone's got problems they want other people to solve?" Besides, I knew one person in my class. One I made sure to sit far away from.
"Do you want to help me or not?"
"Getting to know my classmates was not part of the deal. It's easier to just wait until they have a request. Then I can learn their names." To forget later.
"Or if you learn their names sooner we can skip the tedious introductions."
"Whoa… this club seems like loads funs!" Interrupting our conversation was this bimbo. How could someone deduce that this club was fun from that!? "And Hikki, you're, like, totes running your mouth off!"
"Ah! I mean, you, like, don't ever talk to anyone and just stare blankly into space and leave as soon as class is over…"
What the hell…? I looked over at Yukinoshita for backup.
"As I was saying before," Yukinoshita redirected the conversation back to her with ease. As expected of her. "You don't recognize her, Hikigaya-kun?"
"Didn't we just go over that?"
"Not from school, but somewhere else?"
If Yukinoshita's asking me that, then there was a reason. This girl was from my past, and that was a very depressing thought. When would I have ever interacted with this chick? Was my past self that pathetic?
I stared at her a bit harder while she fidgeted uncomfortably. Sighing, I looked at Yukinoshita. "…Nope, no clue."
"I see. You did say she never visited." Visited? What? "This is Yuigahama Yui, the owner of-"
"W-w-w-wait a second! He doesn't have to know! How do you even know, Yukinoshita-san!?"
Confused, Yukinoshita tilted her head. "Why shouldn't he know? Don't you think he deserves to know?"
What do I deserve to know? Do I deserve to know? Maybe anything related to this girl should stay in the recesses of my mind.
"I don't want to bring back any bad memories…"
Ah, so she was someone who was from my unfortunate past. In that case I agree wholeheartedly that I didn't need to remember her.
"Hikigaya-kun bears no ill will to anyone involved." Hah? "She is the owner of the dog you rescued."
Yuigahama was avoiding looking at me entirely now, which confirmed Yukinoshita's statement. Not that she would lie, of course. "Oh…" I wasn't entirely sure what to do with that information. But it definitely wasn't as bad as I thought. "Whatever."
"'Whatever'!?" The chair beneath Yuigahama was violently thrown over when she jumped out of it. "You saved my dog's life and I couldn't even thank you! I-I-"
Why was this woman about to burst into tears!? I was the one hit, no? Was she just an emotional airhead!? Even Yukinoshita seemed exhausted by her.
"Calm down. As I said, Hikigaya-kun holds no grudges with anyone involved. Not to mention the event happened a year ago."
A year. It had indeed been a year.
Yet I still remember it clearly. The smell of the breeze, the barking, the screeching… But I wasn't afraid. It was just probably one of the clearest memories I have. I should really get around to forgetting it.
Yuigahama seemed to actually calm down by Yukinoshita's words. It was impressive, considering Yukinoshita only spoke with cold, hard facts. She wouldn't stop rubbing her eyes but did turn to Yukinoshita. "How do you know about it, Yukinoshita-san?"
To my surprise, Yukinoshita bit her lip and looked down at her lap where her book rested. "I was there."
That was unusual. As far as I'm concerned, Yukinoshita always spat the truth, hard and solid as it was. To only go halfway was… unlike her. There were instances where she'd try and provide as little information as possible, but this was different.
Should I speak for her?
I wasn't sure if I had that right.
And besides, it was still the truth, right?
My thoughts, and Yuigahama's too I'm sure, dissipated when Yukinoshita cleared her throat and looked directly back at Yuigahama. "You came here with a purpose, correct?"
"Umm…" The continued hesitance and shifty glances were annoying. Seriously, was it that hard to say what you were thinking?
"Maybe you should step out for a moment, Hikigaya-kun."
Huh? …Oh, I see. Now it made sense. "I'm going to buy a drink. Want something?"
"No thank you."
"Ooh! I'll take bubble tea!"
…I wasn't asking you.
Yukinoshita excelled at everything she did, with the only thing holding her back being her stamina.
Maybe because I've known her for so long I was able to understand her, but watching her now…
Watching Yuigahama flounder about with terms she was unfamiliar with, Yukinoshita smoothly moving about without taking the proper time to explain every detail, it was clear Yukinoshita wasn't used to teaching airheads.
I popped one of Yukinoshita's baked cookies into my mouth. "You really suck at teaching." Surprisingly, it wasn't difficult for me to say that, even though it was the first time I've ever stated she was bad at something. It was a miracle, honestly; the day I'd find a flaw in perfection.
My blood vessels went cold at the sharp glare she sent my way. She pointed the spatula in my direction. "Then maybe you should guide her, since you're a self-proclaimed expert."
"I never said that…" If she was referring to my chocolates from way back when, she should have realized their taste wasn't all that spectacular and unique. I did follow an internet guide after all. And Komachi assisted. Hell if I knew much about baking.
Although, if I had to voice my solution to this request, I'd say to just don't. They are overcomplicating the feelings of the average male. Just knowing a girl did their best would be enough. That, I can confirm as a source.
But resolving this for a reason like that wouldn't sit well with Yukinoshita who hates giving up for external reasons.
"Then perhaps the inadequate ought to stay silent."
"Or I can leave?" Her glare deepened, no words required to express her answer. I responded with my own stare, even as possible trying not to falter under the scary Yukinoshita glare. It wasn't my fault your instructions were way too rushed for the average person to understand, let alone an airhead. Not to mention you're doing most of the baking yourself… Maybe I should have voiced my solution.
She sighed and I turned away to hide my smirk. I won! I don't know exactly what I won, but I won! "Yuigahama-san, we're going to try and take a new approach. I am going to hold your hand through the process."
"Eh? I'm not allowed to use my hands on my own!?"
"You've lost that privilege."
"But isn't it the same as you doing it yourself?"
"Yes, if you aren't paying attention. And please, speak up if you don't understand something. Communication is key in regards to learning."
"Good luck…" I mumbled, biting another one of Yukinoshita's cookies…
…Before proceeding to have a coughing fit. I think I just ate one of Yuigahama's batches…
Don't mind me, just dying over here. So glad you care…
A nice quiet for a week since the first, proper request of the Service Club. If this was what this club entailed, maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all.
"Have you heard from Yuigahama-san?"
"No…?" Lowering my book, I looked at her, confused. "Why?"
"It's been a while, is all."
"Uh, you fulfilled her request, didn't you?"
"Yes, but she has still yet to give the recipient the chocolate."
"And we should care?"
"I would like to see the fruits of my lessons."
"Uh-huh…" She should have been aware I didn't believe her, not entirely. It's not like before, where she told Yuigahama a half-truth, but more like she didn't want to tell me. Was there more to the request than I was told?
I returned to reading my book. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. They had a private meeting and everything, probably discussing who the boy was or something. Knowledge that Yukinoshita probably swore to keep secret.
But in that case, she could just tell me she couldn't tell me. I didn't understand, and the more time goes on the more I feel my understanding beginning to slip.
"By the way, I'm impressed with how you handled the request."
Huh? I closed my book this time, before immediately regretting it. I didn't have a bookmark… "What do you mean? All I did was taste…"
"Yes, but you gave me a new perspective. People are different, people have different experiences. Not everyone can be guided the same way. I need to take that into consideration from now on. I was trying to teach Yuigahama in the same way I'd try and teach you academics."
"Do you normally go that fast with me…?"
She nodded and the way her expression lit up made her look almost proud. "Your trivial knowledge helps considerably when it comes to teaching you. Concepts are never too difficult for you to grasp." Maybe stop with the praise because I always end up flustered… But I could get used to that smile. She had that same smile when Yuigahama managed to bake her first batch of edible cookies. Soft and proud. "…Unless it's math or science. You are incredibly hopeless in that regard."
That… "I passed, didn't I?"
"I believe I can take all the credit for your correct answers." Uh, well, she could. It was a problem of failing to understand and as a result memorization and regurgitation were my keys to success, or barely passing. "I have an idea, how about you stop by later? We can finish early here and I can assess your progress into the new school year."
"Yeah, sure." I could use her help with some math homework I've been putting off.
Though it made me wonder just how did an airhead like Yuigahama manage to get into this school?
"Yahallo!" So the devil has arrived… what the hell was that greeting. While I only stared in mild disgust, Yuigahama practically skipped over to Yukinoshita. "Yukinon! Here, for you! I made it myself!" A plastic bag that looked nice with a large cookie inside was handed to Yukinoshita, who used her legs to begin pushing her chair away.
"Ah, um, I thought this was meant for, well, not me?"
The revelation came to me that she made those without Yukinoshita's help. So that was why Yukinoshita looked terrified.
"I made some extras to, like, show my gratitude!" I couldn't see what expression Yuigahama made, but it made Yukinoshita turn away. Was she embarrassed? Where did her cold mask go?
"You really didn't have to…"
Were they that bad? Was she warning me to get out before I died? Thank you, Yukinoshita. You are truly a lifesaver.
Stealth, one of my 108 skills that has been furthered enhanced due to interacting with rich people, I managed to leave the clubroom without a hitch.
As soon as I turned around at the abhorrent nickname a bag crashed into my chest and it was with my incredible reflexes I managed to catch it. "Huh?"
"You helped too and, um, thank you for… you know!" Delivering a brief smile, she dashed back into the clubroom.
At eye level, the cookie inside the plastic looked actually edible, a far cry from the early batches of last week. Though the shape wasn't perfectly formed, it was clear that it was supposed to be a clover of some sort… I think. Clovers are good luck, and this is a form of gratitude so I took a bite.
But maybe I've been spoiled too much by Yukinoshita, because there was an unsettling feeling in my stomach as I digested the admittedly not bad cookie.
"Ah!" I was struck from behind! Reeling forward, I caught myself against the wall and turned around to face my assailant. I know Yukinoshita and am not afraid to call her!
"Oh no! I'm sorry! Are you all right?"
In front of me was a girl who looked just barely shorter than me. Her brown hair nowhere near as long as Yukinoshita's and were worn in twin braids. Her ribbon also looked bigger than Yukinoshita's. "Uh, I'm fine." I looked down at the floor to see two boxes, now opened, with several pieces of paper scattered. "My bad…"
Immediately I began collecting the paper alongside her. "No, I should have been looking where I was going. I'm sorry!"
What was I supposed to say to an actual apology? Especially since it was her fault. When you're carrying something, you focus on in front of you. All I did was stand still, minding my own business. Although, why were there so much paper? It hasn't been that long since the school year started. And why was one girl carrying two boxes filled with paper? "…Isn't this a lot for one person to carry?"
"It's fine! Everyone went home so I'm just wrapping things up!" She says that as if I was to understand. "Oh, but you're here so late. Are you in a club?"
"That's good. Clubs are very important in order to make the most of your high school days! At the very least, you can use it for reference in the future."
I thought back to her ribbon, and if she was a third year it would make sense why'd she say something like that. "Yeah."
Closing the box, I hefted it, waiting for her to also stand up with the other box. When she did, she graced me with the most pleasant smile I think I have ever been graced with. It almost felt like any amount of stress I was bottling left in the spring breeze.
"Thank you very much!" Before I could respond, she suddenly stepped forward. My trained senses forced me backwards, only for her to step forward again. "What year would you happen to be in? You don't have your tie."
"Oh, uh, second."
"Second? …Oh! Would you happen to be Hikigaya-kun!?"
I think I'm dreaming. And if I wasn't, this was a bad sign. A cute girl I've never met knew my name. "Uh, yeah."
Her expression brightened even more than before, which was supposed to be impossible. "I knew it! You're exactly like Haru-san described!"
"Mhm! She said to look out for a second-year boy who stands out by not standing out, and his name was Hikigaya-kun!"
"That's incredibly vague." How was anyone supposed to use that as a hint? It almost seemed like Haruno-san wanted to toy with this girl.
"I admit I didn't know what she meant, but it had been a while since she messaged me so I trusted her." Trust and Haruno-san don't mix. It was almost like this girl admired her or something. "I did find you in the end!"
And that was the strangest part of all this. "I guess you did."
"Ah, forgive me! I'm Shiromeguri Meguri! The third-year student council president! Nice to meet you, Hikigaya-kun!" Stop being so sincere, you're giving me heart pains… I made sure to nod in response, as smiling would have surely scared her away. "Um, do you mind helping me take these to the Student Council Room?"
"Yeah, sure." Would this count as a request for the Service Club? I wasn't sure, so I'm going to count it anyway. That way Yukinoshita can't inevitably say I didn't do nothing. "Shouldn't the Student Council be around to help you with this stuff?"
"Oh, don't worry! This is only something I decided to do myself! I wanted these ready so we can get a head start with the Culture Festival!"
"Head start? That's not in several months."
"It will be good to have them ready now. There's also some stuff here for the treasury to look at regarding last year's expenses."
I think the beginning of the school year is a bit too early to think about the culture festival…
"Hup!" Enthusiastically, she placed the box down on the desk in the corner and I followed suit, with less cuteness. "You're quite helpful. I think I'm starting to understand why Haru-san told me to look out for you!"
Really? Could you tell me? Because I don't understand what goes on in that woman's head… Actually, never mind, I don't want to know what's in her head. It was probably a really scary place. "I don't think she was serious…"
"Even if she wasn't, I was still interested. You know Haru-san and that's enough to pique my curiosity!" Her hands clasped behind her back as she leaned forward. Encore, reflexes kicked in and I stepped back. "I hope you enjoy your second year at Sobu, Hikigaya-kun! If there's anything you need, I'll be here!"
"Uh, yeah, thanks." Maintaining eye contact after such… such purity was impossible. Humming to herself, she began moving to the cabinets in the back. Leaving, I could only think about the song she was humming. A song I heard a while ago. A song that was written by one person, and only I should have ever heard.
"…Eh? I can't come over?" This was a first. I had just bought some groceries to drop at home before leaving, but I suppose I'll be staying home.
"My apologies." Her voice was hushed, as if she was preventing anyone around her from hearing. "Yuigahama-san insisted we watched a movie after club hours."
"…So? If you don't want to see it, you can just say no."
"Well, she was very insistent…"
Excuses. You can't make excuses against the master of making excuses. "It's cat related, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, but that wasn't the only reason I-"
"It was the main factor."
"…Yes." She sighed and I could easily imagine her ears burning red in embarrassment. There was a time when Yukinoshita's obsession with cats embarrassed her, but she had quickly accepted that I accepted her. In this case, she was embarrassed because someone, Yuigahama of all people, managed to manipulate her. Unknowingly, no less.
"It's fine. I probably have some homework I've been putting off for a while anyway."
"Do you require assistance? I don't mind cancelling if you do."
"No, it's nothing that bad."
"I see… Well, I suppose I'll see you tomorrow."
"Um…" She didn't hang up and so I waited. "Would you like to come?"
I… don't think I want to interrupt this very obvious bonding session Yuigahama has put forth. Sorry, Yukinoshita. "No, I should finish my homework."
"Yes, yes you're right. If you need help feel free to call."
"See you tomorrow."
A beep signified the end of the call. I stuffed my phone into my pocket and hefted the bag of groceries over my shoulder. Things were unusually eventful for the last couple of weeks.
I wasn't sure I liked it.
But… seeing her so proud, seeing her smile like that, it wasn't so bad.
Back to 8k words! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed!
11 Months ago was when I last updated. The chapter reached the near-end of the first year of high school. What that meant was from then on, we were in canon territory.
Was I to retread canon grounds, mentioning the minor changes that would take place through all the requests?
Was I to skip it entirely? Maybe even end the fic there?
Or was I to create entirely new scenarios?
It was hard to decide, and the story has been on my mind for the entirety of the last year. More and more people fav and followed, and thank you to all who did!
I'm sorry if it didn't seem like much happened and if it didn't live up to expectations considering the extreme delay. There were so many deleted scenes/alternate scenes I ended up scrapping. I'm not going to tell you what they were, as I might use some later. But some of them were alternate versions of giving Haruno her chocolate or having Hikigaya meet Hiratsuka or how Hikigaya joins the Service Club. It's kind of crazy how difficult this chapter was to write considering how little actually seems to happen. It was hard to write a version I was satisfied with.
I don't want to go through every single event from canon. We've all seen it, we've all read it, I included the cooking one because it introduces one of the most important characters in the series: Yuigahama. And with it you could imagine how the requests from now on would be handled with this new duo.
So here Hikigaya understands Yukinoshita a lot more than in canon and he understands Yukinoshita's purpose for the Service Club. With that in mind, he would try and help her solve the requests more. No competition, nothing to gain for himself. As far as he's aware, at least.
He wasn't going to try and dissuade Yuigahama from learning to bake and it is mentioned, sort of, that Yukinoshita wasn't the best teacher. So he tried to give her a push and through mutual understanding, Yukinoshita also improved a skill in this request.
Anyway, thank you for reading and I sincerely apologize for the year-long wait! Hopefully this brightened someone's day!