My face was aching from the punch.
It wasn’t swollen or bruised, but my lips were a bit split. I laughed at how I really looked like a delinquent student after sterilizing and putting on a band-aid on the wound at the infirmary.
It was totally night time when looked up at the sky. I felt the cool wind against my cheeks.
Leaving the school this late was a rare occurrence. Maybe I could chalk this one up as a good experience.
“It’ll at least be a suspension …”
My punishment has yet been undecided. Probably the discrepancy between my usual demeanor and my behaviour today was confusing the teachers.
The good news was that it was unlikely Ka-ryeon’s or Yeon-hee’s schools were going to be contacted. In the first place, the teachers don’t even know who the girls are as well as their school affiliation. Although the homeroom teacher knows who Yeon-hee is, he won’t intentionally make an issue out of it given our complicated relationship.
There may be a bit of a problem with Yuyu who’s a student of our school, but… At best, it’ll be due to her unauthorized absence. I know it’ll somehow work out.
I alone was able to become the perpetrator thanks to my desperate provocation and the homeroom teacher’s focused criticism of me. I was able to end it with just me.
“Maybe I’ll study at home if I get suspended…”
It was at that moment when I was about to head home with such thought in my head.
I stopped at the sight of three girls who were blocking my way.
My classmate, my junior, and my little sister were looking at me with their mouths shut.
Smiling bitterly, I raised my hand in greeting playfully.
“Your face’s a little bit funny now that you look like a delinquent student…”
Said one of the girls.
“G-Guests?! Four of them, to boot…!” As soon as we entered the café, the Manageress was greatly confused. “W-What would you like? I’ll make whatever you want! I’ll give you a special 50% sale!”
I sat down after giving the Manageress, who was babbling from her excitement, a good talking to as the café’s part-time employee. Yuyu, Ka-ryeon and Yeon-hee took their seats as well, and we each chose a coffee from the menu and ordered them.
Two of her part-times were gone, so I was worried if things were going to be okay for the evening. Fortunately, it seemed her friend had come over to help her out. Although the Manageress was still exhausted, she started brewing the coffee.
We were close to silent. All four of us were just sitting still, unable to look each other properly in the eyes.
Eventually, the Manageress brought us the coffee personally.
“H-Here you are.”
“We didn’t order any cakes.”
“You can’t be giving four cakes as service!”
“B-But I’ll have to take them home and eat them all by myself if they don’t get sold anyway…”
“…I’ll pay for them later, so just leave them here.”
“Wow, you’re so manly… It makes me want to date you…”
Setting the coffee cups and cakes down on the table, the Manageress’ eyes shined brightly.
“By the way, Kyeong-hyun…”
“…What is with this group?”
“…What does it look like?”
“Is this r-really your harem? T-That’s amazing. Although I’ve had many crushes before, I’ve never had any boyfriends, but here you are with three girls at once… No, wait, my little sister’s in that harem!”
The Manageress, who was fidgeting with her face dyed red, pointed her finger and yelled.
“No! As her older sister, I won't approve of this! Rather, put me in your harem instead of Ka-ryeon!”
“Stop speaking non-sense and go get some rest!”
“Here sis, you’re tired from working too much today, right? Let’s go inside and rest.”
Smiling, Ka-ryeon dragged the Manageress into the staff room. There was a sound of a heavy thud for a second, but it became quiet shortly after.
“…This coffee is delicious.”
Yuyu muttered with a look of surprise as she sipped on the coffee that the Manageress had brought out.
“That’s a given. My sister’s coffee is on a whole different level than mine.”
Ka-ryeon, who just returned, said with a bright smile.
“I don’t like coffee very much, but this seems all right.”
Yeon-hee nodded her head in agreement.
I felt my tired body starting to relax as I drank the coffee loaded with sugar and cream.
Smelling the aroma of the coffee fill up the old-fashioned café, I slowly raised my head.
I cleared my throat and opened my mouth. At that moment, the three girls who were sitting before my eyes stopped what they were doing and shifted their focus me, which made me feel a little uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry for everything. I mean it.”
I lowered my head and apologized.
“N-No! There’s nothing to be sorry about, Glasses! Rather, it’s me that…”
With a look of surprise on her face, Yuyu shook her head from side to side.
“She’s right. There’s no reason for you to apologize, Sunbae. We’re the ones who ought to apologize.”
“…I’m sorry, Oppa, for doing weird things.”
Both Ka-ryeon and Yeon-hee bent forward and apologized. However, I really had no desire to receive apologies from them.
“So, in regards to what we’re going to do from now on.”
As I said that, the three girls straightened their backs and tensed up for some reason. Were they feeling uncomfortable…?
“It’s weird for me to be even saying this but… Let’s all get along. Of course, I still like studying the best… However, we’re all acquaintances now, so let’s get along without any awkwardness between us. The past few days that I spent with you girls weren’t so bad.”
Myself and as well as the girls, every one of us were carrying our respective solitude.
Yuyu didn’t have a single friend at school. Ka-ryeon had sociophobia and was possessed by her fixation to become independent from her older sister whom she was relying on. Yeon-hee had lost her parents at an early age, and was afraid that she would even become estranged from me— her only family.
And it was the same for me as well. Perhaps it was because we had been living in such loneliness that we were trying form an indecent relationship with a person who could supplement ourselves.
There was no need to sever the relationship itself just because it wasn’t wholesome. Even if it’s an unwholesome relationship, if we can develop as a person through positive experiences from it, it’d be far better than a wholesome one.
That’s why we have to continue this indecent relationship.
“Yuyu, let’s keep eating lunch and studying together. We probably can’t use the Audiovisual Reference Prep Room anymore, but there should be somewhere else where it’s quiet. Let’s find it together.”
“As for you, Ka-ryeon, you’d better prepare yourself because I’ll educate you thoroughly on the mindset of a part-timer for the café once more. …While we’re doing that, we’ll chat and have fun together.”
“Yeon-hee, rely on me more and tell me if anything is troubling you. I’ll accept everything.”
…But there was something I’ve been curious about since earlier.
Their eyes were sparkling brightly for some time. Why? I felt an immense burden every time I met their eyes.
“O-Okay, Glasses! I’ll do everything as you tell me to do.”
“All right, Sunbae. Please train me as you please.”
“Okay. I’ll only trust and follow you, Oppa.”
Yuyu kept nodding her head with an expression as though she was deeply touched; Ka-ryeon had her hands together in front of her chest as if praying; and Yeon-hee was fidgeting with her face flushed.
“Y-Yeah. Let’s get along and help each other out if anything happens.”
I continued talking while inexplicably feeling pressure from the strange mood.
“When you girls find a boy that you like for real, I’ll do everything in my power to help you out.”
For some reason, the girls who were all upbeat stopped moving and froze in place.
“Yuyu, you should try talking to other boys, and who knows? There might be a boy that you really like.”
The reason why Yuyu confessed to me in the end was probably because she didn’t want to lose a friend that she had made for the first time. Since it was unnatural for a boy and a girl to be together constantly in a secluded room, she probably thought she had to step up to being boyfriend and girlfriend. Although I think there can be friendship between two genders.
“Ka-ryeon, don’t compromise with simply the closest boy if you’re really considering becoming a NEET, and try to find a boy with better prospects.”
Probably I’m the only boy who’s closest to her. Her school’s an all-girls school, and after school she only works at the café. She’d mistaken me as her fated person because I was the only closest boy to her and I was a senior, to boot. However, there were people in this world that were far better than me.
“As for you, Yeon-hee… To be honest, I don’t want you getting a boyfriend, but if you find a boy that you’re interested in, bring him to me. I’ll thoroughly check if he’s suitable for you.”
She’d really gone too far this time. Although there was the possibility that we weren’t blood-related, for her to try to detain her brother by seducing him with her body… That’s something you should only do after building sufficient trust with the person you truly love. …Tch. Imagining Yeon-hee would be doing that sort of stuff in the future with some guy made my stomach feel…
“Ah, I won’t be much of a help since I know next to nothing about romance, though. Hahaha.”
I’ve been doing nothing but studying so far with zero interest in romance. So if there was a test about romantic feelings, I’d definitely get a failing mark.
“So you’re better off not expecting too much from… What’s wrong?”
Only then I realized the girls sitting in front of my eyes were trembling. All the girls were gazing at me: Yuyu with her face dyed red, Ka-ryeon with an ice-cold look, and Yeon-hee with a deep sigh.
“T-This guy really… Despite what he’d said so boldly… I know he knows nothing except studying, but to think that it’s this bad…”
“I almost believed it, but you’re insensitive after all… Well, it’s our fault for lying to you at the start, and your misunderstanding can’t be helped since it’s not like we confessed to you properly, but…”
“Oppa… Do you know the meaning of the word ‘responsibility’? If you don’t, I’ll lend you my dictionary when we get home.”
…What’s wrong with these girls?
I wanted us to get along and cherish each other as a school friend, as a co-worker, and as a family from now on… Why were they so discontent?
“…There’s no other way.” At that moment, Ka-ryeon spoke as she shook her head. “I’ll have to teach you from the beginning. You really are a slow student in this subject, Sunbae.”
“W-What are you talking about?”
“Like I said, Sunbae, I’ll be—”
Yuyu got up from her seat all of a sudden and yelled, cutting off Ka-ryeon.
“W-What is it?”
“You said you wanted to get along with me, right? That you’d help me, right?”
All worked up, Yuyu shot her questions at me, to which I nodded without thinking.
“T-Then next Saturday… G-Go out on a date with me!”
What’s are you saying all of a sudden?!
“Y-You don’t want to? You don’t want to go out on a date with a girl like me?”
“No, it’s just that I was planning on studying in peace starting from tomorrow…”
All the complicated matters had been settled, so I was thrilled that I was going to be able to focus on studying with a true peace of mind…
“N-No! People become insensitive if they only study! Studying is forbidden!”
Don’t tell me you still haven’t given up on lowering my grades and stealing the first place in school ranks from me?!
“Wait a moment, Miss Yu Yuyu.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“He’s coming with me to the shopping mall to pick my underwear tomorrow. He won’t be able to accompany you, Miss Yuyu Yuyu.”
“My name’s not Yuyu Yuyu! Also, why is Glasses picking your underwear?! H-How indecent!”
“Sunbae, please pick a pretty underwear that suits your preference. You can even pick a really erotic one if that’s what you wish.”
“You’re not listening!”
While Ka-ryeon and Yuyu were having a quarrel, Yeon-hee who had been moving her chair furtively towards me grabbed the hem of my sleeve.
“W-What is it?”
“Play with me tomorrow…”
“Ah, the little sister is seducing Glasses with a cute face!”
“That pitiful stare looking up from below… It’s going to be super effective against a siscon like Sunbae. We have to stop her.”
Yuyu and Ka-ryeon drew closer to me in a hurry and clung to me. Yeon-hee, as though not to be outdone, grabbed and clung to my arm.
“W-What in the world are you girls doing?! Why are you acting like this?!”
“G-Glasses is going to hang out with me! He’s studied too much, so he needs a change of pace with me!”
“Sunbae, how about we visit the wedding exhibition next after we pick my underwear?”
“My brother, I won’t hand him over…”
As I desperately struggled to free myself, the Manageress, who had been watching the whole situation from the slightly opened staff room door, asked in shaking voice:
“H-Hey, Kyeong-hyun, this is really not a harem, right? It doesn’t seem very wholesome to me…”
“…It’s a wholesome relationship!”
Insisting with zero persuasiveness, I let out a deep sigh.
“Ah, I’m tired…”
Massaging my shoulder, I stepped inside my home.
Yeon-hee didn’t come with me. Apparently the girls had more to discuss among themselves. It was good that they were getting along, but I wondered what they were discussing. They said something about dividing the time again so they can decide tomorrow’s schedule, but they’re sure to be joking.
I headed to my room while trying to shake off the ominous premonition, but I realized that I had something that I’d forgotten.
“…Come to think of it, that thing is still inside the desk.”
The contraceptive that I’d found in the drawer. It was one of the main culprits that had really complicated the situation, but it was yet clear as to why that was inside my drawer.
But I think I know why such a thing was inside my drawer.
“Was it in middle school…?”
I’d heard a group of boys talking about it before: an old-looking guy would go and buy a load of them at once and share them between the boys. Not had plans on using them, but purely to satisfy their adolescent curiosity.
If it’s that, you could have them even without the intention of using them for real. Probably there was a situation like that during the past three months and as a result they ended up inside my desk. I should be able to confirm with Sega later if I ask him right.
…As for the trace of being used, probably I’d opened a few to see how it looks like for my curiosity.
“That really had me confused…”
Letting out a sigh, I took off my outer clothing and tossed it aside, and then made my way to the kitchen to quench my thirst.
But on the way I stopped after noticing a flashing light in the living room. The telephone was flashing, apparently from a left message on the answering machine.
I was with Yeon-hee just a while ago, and the café wouldn’t have called me.
…Perhaps a call from the school already?
I nervously pressed the button on the answering machine. The old cassette answering machine clicked to life and started spinning.
Then I heard a scratchy sound of a voice.
It was a girl’s voice. She sounded around my age, and I didn’t recognize her voice.
But for some reason, I felt like I was suffocating.
“Sorry, I know you told me not to contact you at home and to never leave a message, but I just can’t bear it anymore since you won’t even give me a call.”
Her feeble, subsiding voice cut off for a moment.
“…Why didn’t you show up at the promised place last Saturday? I waited for you. I waited for you for an hour. I even called you at home, but no one picked up the phone…”
Saturday. I was unconscious in the hospital at that time. There was nobody at home.
“You promised. Why didn’t you show up? And you haven’t called me at all after that…”
Every day I go to school, work part-time, and return home. I repeat this routine from Monday to Friday. In this routine, I spend my time with Yuyu, Ka-ryeon, and Yeon-hee.
But what about the weekend? What have I been doing on the weekend?
Who did I meet on the weekend?
“You’re not… fooling around with another girl, are you?”
The tone of her subsided voice changed all of a sudden.
“…If that’s the case, I will never forgive you.”
Her dreary voice gave me the chills.
“Then give me a call… I’ll be waiting.”
The recorded message ended and the cassette started rewinding itself.
I stood in front of the telephone without moving an inch.
There was no way. I knew nothing but studying. I had zero interest in romance. Even if someone were to ask me to go out with them, marry them, or cross the line with them, I was the type who’d never accept.
But this voice recorded on the answering machine told me something that I couldn’t deny at all.
It was still early to focus on studying in peace.
It seems that I still have another girlfriend.