’s voices and I was no longer even embarrassed.

In addition, I even twisted my ankle when I fell, and the misery almost brought tears to my eyes again.

 

“Ugh…”

 

What am I really, really doing…?

I just want to vanish into thin air…

 

My mind was filled with such thoughts, and that’s when it happened.

 

“…Are you okay, Takane Saki?”

“Whaa!?”

 

I heard Mashima-kun’s voice from above,

I was honestly glad for his kindness, but at the same time I couldn’t  let him see my face right now…!

 

“Sorry for yelling all of a sudden.
You twisted your ankle, didn’t you? Can you stand?”

“…”

 

I couldn’t even answer him because I was afraid if I opened my mouth I would start crying.

Then he, the kind man, probably assumed that I was “unable to speak because of the pain” or something like that.

 

“All right, hold on.”

“Whaa…?”

 

Before I could even comprehend what he meant, my body was lifted into the air.

 

“Eh…”

I could see everyone’s surprised faces.

I could see the two arms supporting my body.

Mashima-kun’s face was right there.

 

…I was being carried like a princess.

 

“~~~~~~~~Wha!?”

“I’ll carry you to the infirmary! Everyone, scatter! Get out of the way!”

 

While everyone’s eyes were fixed on us, and strange cheers were pouring down on us.

I did not see Mashima-kun’s face even once until I was brought to the infirmary.

 

Mashima-kun’s treatment was surprisingly fast and precise.

 

“…Yeah, this is about right.”

 

In no time at all, my ankle was patched and bandaged.

 

“When I was in junior high school, I used to do this a lot in club activities, and my hands remember it.”

 

I was made to look rather obnoxious.

In front of everyone, I was princess-carried.

And had my bare feet treated by the person I liked.

 

I was indeed over the embarrassment threshold with a series of events that allowed me to experience a lifetime’s worth of embarrassment as a girl.

 

“…Thank you.”

 

Sitting on the bed in the infirmary, I thanked Mashima-kun for going out of his way to kneel on the floor to tend to my leg.

 

“Don’t worry about it.
By the way…?”

“What is it?”

“You wanted to tell me something, right?”

“…”

 

I kept my poker face on and smacked my forehead internally, “Ouch.”

The main purpose of talking to Mashima-kun this time was to practice the mirroring effect, and I had no idea what I wanted to “talk” about.

 

Mirroring each other’s hearts and minds, but with some kind of a lived, witty talk…

I could only resent my own shallowness in thinking such a thing.

 

“…Uh, you know,…”

“If you’re going out of your way to talk to me, it’s probably about the last rumor, isn’t it?”

“That…”

“Hard to say? But we’re in the infirmary and Shinjuku Sensei is out and won’t be back for a while.
No one will hear you now.”

 

…It definitely was hard to say.

It was getting to the point where I could no longer say, “I just wanted to have a chat with Mashima-kun!” in confidence!

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Or rather, I was! I didn’t realize it, but I was alone with Mashima-kun in the infirmary right now!

Oh no! I’m getting nervous all of a sudden!

 

“Mashima-kun, um, I…”

“If there’s anything I can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to tell me.”

“…”

 

Aaahhh, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!

There is absolutely no way I can honestly communicate with Mashima-kun with such a serious expression on my face!

Above all, I don’t want to worry him any more!

 

“… I’m used to it.”

“What?”

“I’m used to having strange rumors spread about me, so don’t worry about it, Mashima-kun.
The Discipline Committee President is very busy and has other things to do…”

“…This is not true.”

 

Mashima-kun looked me straight in the eyes and stated clearly.

…Oh, I forgot.

He was unashamedly, and to no end, straight to the point.

That he is someone who can say such cool things.

 

“…But since I’m not a psychic either, I can’t respond to something I wasn’t asked to consult about.”

 

Mashima-kun stood up and turned his back to me.

 

“I will go for now, just let me know when you’re ready and I’ll be happy to talk to you.
Take care.”

 

And with that, he left the infirmary.

 

“…”

 

Left alone in the infirmary, I dropped my shoulders and sighed in relief.

I was so nervous all the time, and as expected, I was tired too…

 

“It was really embarrassing…”

 

Operation Mirroring was a complete failure.

The only redeeming thing was that apparently Mashima-kun still barely disliked me.

 

…What in the world went wrong?

 

“I need to go over it again…”

 

I picked up the Imamote that had fallen under the bed…

 

“Huh?”

 

…Strange.

Huh? Come to think of it, did I bring my Imamote to the infirmary?

 

In fact, this Imamote had no sticky notes on it, and it looked older than mine…?

 

“Oh, um… that’s my book…”

“Eh?”

 

I turned towards the voice…

My eyes met those of a girl with long hair peering at me from behind the cream-colored curtain that separated my bed from the one next to it.

 

“Hyaaaaaah!?”

 

I screamed.

 

“Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!”

 

She had long hair and she lowered her head in a panic.

My heart nearly stopped, but she…

 

“… H-…Hi-…Hirabayashi-san?”

“Haha, yes…”

 

The one who answered in a trembling voice was Keiko Hirabayashi, a student from Class 2A.

I had never spoken to her directly, but I had the impression that she was a mature girl… who was usually sitting in the corner of the classroom, always reading quietly by herself.

 

“I got a stomach ache during gym class, and I’ve been staying in here sleeping since then, but it seemed like Mashima-kun and Takane-san were going to start talking about something serious, I couldn’t leave the room…”

“Ah, I see…”

 

I didn’t notice at all… and Mashima-kun didn’t seem to notice her either…

No, more importantly…

 

“…Is this yours, Hirabayashi-san?”

 

I pointed to the Imamote I had just picked up from the floor.

She nodded her head and I immediately smiled!

 

“Hirabayashi-san, do you read this book too? Imamote?”

 

I asked, leaning forward.

Hirabayashi-san seemed surprised by my change at first.

 

“Well, yeah… for the time being.”

 

I smiled even more when she answered.

Normally, Yuka has been constantly berating me about my book, saying things like, “stinky book” and “What is a romance creator?” but… I finally have a friend that reads Imamote!

 

I even felt like we’ve been friends for a decade, even though I’ve almost never actually spoken to her before!

 

“I’m kind of glad to hear it, you’re like me…!”

“Hey, are you crying…? I heard rumors about you, Takane-san, but you are different from the person I had heard about…”

“I cry too! But more than that! It’s a great book, isn’t it!?”

“Is it? I guess so…”

“I knew it! Finally, someone who understands everything finally appeared…!”

“…”

 

I was moved and trembled with emotion.

Seeing me, Hirabayashi-san became silent and pondered for a moment, then suddenly…

 

“…Takane-san, do you like Mashima-kun?”

“What!? How did you know that…!?”

 

I started to think.

But then I thought back to the fact that it would be obvious if she saw me holding Imamote in my hand right after my earlier exchange with Mashima-kun.

 

“…Yes, that’s right, I’m ashamed to admit it.”

 

It’s Imamote’s goodwill.

I confided my secret to her, whom I had never spoken to before.

Then she said…

 

“…Mashima-kun, I don’t think you should…”

“Heh?”

 

I felt like I was being poured cold water on my head by the shocking words uttered by Hirabayashi-san.

She looked somewhat downcast.

Could it be that…

 

“Don’t tell me that you’re also trying to get Mashima-kun to fall for you using the techniques you learned from Imamote?”

“Oh, that’s not true, I can’t stand guys taller than me.”

“Oh, I see…”

 

That’s unusual.

 

“It’s not that, I warned you because Mashima-kun himself is the problem…”

 

As I was blushing from the failure of my theory, Hirabayashi-san spoke up again with a shocking line.

 

“What’s the problem?”

“People don’t seem to know about it, but I’ve heard rumors about Mashima-kun…”

“Rumors about Mashima-kun…?”

“Takane-san is from… I believe it’s Kamikami Village, Murahigashi Junior High School, right? If so, don’t you know about it? That rumor…”

 

She said with a hint of dread in her voice, as if she was telling a ghost story, but unfortunately, this was really the first time I had heard of it.

 

“By the way, may I ask what kind of rumors you are referring to?”

“I heard that Kengo Mashima was such a delinquent in junior high school that even the teachers couldn’t handle him!”

 

The quiet and reserved Hirabayashi-san raised her voice, turning pale.

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“He would break the windows of the school building and destroy other people’s belongings because he didn’t like them! I even heard a rumor that he was suspended from school for almost killing a classmate right in front of the teacher! I know they call him the “public morals freak” now, but that’s just a cover! His eyes are like a mad dog’s!”

 

She said in a single breath, and her shoulders rose and fell.

I, on the other hand, was stunned.

 

“Mad dog…”

 

I repeated Hirabayashi-san’s words.

Mad dog, mad dog… Mashima-kun, mad dog?

 

“… Pfa, ahahahaha!”

 

I’m sorry Hirabayashi-san, but I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

Because it was just too funny! I couldn’t believe that story came across that way!

 

“What, what…!?”

“Sorry! I’m just trying…! I know where that rumor is from! I’ve never heard of “Mad Dog Mashima” before, but…!”

“Well, then…”

“…Of course it’s a hoax! Mashima-kun is not that kind of person! In fact, I wouldn’t fall in love with someone that horrible! Not me!”

“A hoax…?”

“That’s right!”

 

When I affirmed this, Hirabayashi-san’s shoulders relaxed.

I had an idea of the source of the rumor fire, but then I witnessed an amazing conversation…! My stomach is almost twisted…!

As I was laughing like this, Hirabayashi-san looked like she had been tricked by a fox.

 

“I think I may have misunderstood you, Takane-san.”

 

“Yeah?” I ask back, trying to hold back my laughter.

 

“I had an image of Takane-san as being calmer and not at all interested in romance…”

“Eh? Is that so?”

 

I unintentionally let my mouth hang open lazily.

Heh, I guess I seem cool to people, ehehehehehe, aren’t you a little taken back, Hirabayashi-san?

 

“… Oh, and I was also wrong about Mashima-kun.
It’s a hoax…, isn’t it? I’m ashamed that I believed that hoax…”

“Oh, don’t remind me…!”

 

Kengo Mashima of Murahigashi Junior High School.

It’s really too funny.
I’ll have to tell Yuka about it later…!

 

“But I’m glad we cleared up the misunderstanding, because… it’s pretty scary if the current Discipline Committee President would have been suspended from school after almost killing a classmate…”

“…Oh, that much is true.”

“Wha…”

 

Hirabayashi-san’s face suddenly turned pale.

I was so amused by her reaction that I burst out once again.

 

■Chapter: Kengo Mashima■

 

After I finished treating Saki Takane, I came out of the infirmary.

 

“Ah!” “Ah!”

 

I met with Kawariku Arakawa, who was leaning against the wall looking bored, and Tatsuki Iwasawa, who seemed to have just put his ear to the sliding door of the infirmary.

 

After a few moments of tension.

 

“It-…it’s different!?”

 

I haven’t said anything yet, but Iwasawa started making excuses on his own.

 

“I was genuinely worried about Mashima-kun and Takane-san!… I wasn’t eavesdropping or anything! I wasn’t trying to be funny!”

“Eh? You told everyone that Kengo kissed Saki earlier, didn’t you?”

“You idiot, Arakawa, you’re squishing me!?”

 

No questions asked, I shut down my short, gossipy, chatty best friends.

 

“…Don’t you ever mention such a ridiculous rumor again.”

“P-painful.”

“Uh-oh… Tatsuki’s face is turning white like tofu…”

“Takane Saki just took a kesaran pasaran from my cheek.”

“I…It is not Gezalan Bazalan…”

“Student Handbook, Section 1, “Daily Principles”.
Always maintain dignity in speech, action and behavior, and do not be crude.”

“It’s selfish… It’s already funny and weird rumors are exciting.”

“Okay.”

 

I finally let go of Iwasawa.

Aside from Iwasawa crumpling to the floor like kelp washed up on the beach…

 

“Arakawa!”

“What’s wrong Kengo?”

“There’s a strange rumor going around again!?”

“Eh? I was watching it too, but I thought you were going to kiss her rather seriously… Oh, no! I wonder why! That’s so weird!”

“Damn, what am I supposed to do…!”

 

I’ve been trying to stop all the rumors about her since the incident at the school gate…

 

“Somehow! Every time I take action, there’s a new rumor!”

“Pure standouts, both Saki and Kengo.”

“… I had a… blind spot!”

 

Arakawa’s statement was absolutely spot on.
It was not only Saki Takane who was the center of attention.

I was no different in the sense that I am a bad publicity seeker.

 

“I wonder if it would be better for Saki Takane if I didn’t get involved with her at all in the future…”

 

There is a saying that goes, ‘A rumor lasts 75 days.’

After all, what else can we do but sit back and watch?

As I racked my brains like that, I heard…

 

“No, I don’t think so…”

 

Arakawa said matter-of-factly.

 

“Why, why?”

“I’ve heard some of the rumors about Saki before, but many of them were terrible, you know? Something like that.”

“… Well, I can’t deny that.”

“But the rumors about Saki that are going around now are pretty cute compared to that, aren’t they? Kengo confessed his feelings for her, kissed her, etc.”

“…Mmm.”

 

That being said, is that so?

Certainly the rumors and accusations being circulated did nothing to discredit Takane Saki herself…

 

… Or perhaps the subject of the rumors has somehow been switched from “Takane Saki” to “me”!

 

Also, I never tried to kiss her!

 

“I think your actions may have helped to overwrite the rumors.”

“Even if that’s true, it’s dishonest to overwrite one false rumor with another! And nobody wants to be the subject of a rumor about a person they don’t like!”

“Hmm~~~ well, in general, that’s true…”

 

Arakawa seemed somewhat baffled.

 

“I wonder what Saki came to talk to Kengo about after all…”

“Again with the obvious.”

 

There is only one reason why Saki Takane would approach me, the Discipline Committee President.

 

“Of course she came to me for advice about the last rumor.
I’m sure she must have summoned up a lot of courage.
And when the onlookers were swarming around her, she was so emotional that she started cr-…”

“Oh, what?”

“…No, it’s nothing.”

 

I decided to keep the crying part to myself.

I was unworthy.
When I thought of how Saki Takane was feeling, I felt ashamed of my inability to even consult with her.
What was I supposed to do “to improve public morals and maintain public order on campus” after making a student cry?

I must fulfill my duties as the Discipline Committee President.

 

“In any case, the Discipline Committee members must continue their investigation into the defamation of Saki Takane! That’s all! Now, go away!”

“Hey.”

“…”

 

I told Arakawa (and Iwasawa, who was stretching), and… slowly touched my own cheek.

 

“Eh? Kengo, what are you doing?”

“…I was wondering if there was any more Kesaran Pasaran left…”

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