pointed out that she had whipped cream on her mouth.

Such a gesture was so cute that I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.


“From 12:50 to 1:10, that’s 20 minutes.
I have lunch there every day.”




“I’ll see you later, if you don’t mind me going to that moldy place with you.”


Saki Takane, who had proposed the idea herself, didn’t think I would actually agree to it.

She was stunned for a while, but as she looked at me, her expression brightened…




She replied with a smile like a beautiful sunflower.

… Apparently I need to change my mind.

The hated chairman of the Discipline Committee and the flower of the school.

There was no way we could have matched, but we lived in the same world.

After all, what does it mean?


“I’ll see you next time.”


Apparently, even though I’m a jerk and she rejected me, I’m allowed to call myself a friend of Takane Saki’s until her problems are resolved.


“…How could this happen?”


Fifteen minutes before the end of lunch break.

When I returned to my classroom, I had a deep crease between my eyebrows.

As soon as I took my seat, I was quickly surrounded by all the boys in my class, well, if you look closely, there were a few boys from other classes as well, including Tatsuki Iwasawa and Kawariku Arakawa.

It was a perfect encirclement, as if to say that not even a single mouse would escape.

And then…


“…Hey, Mashima! What’s your relationship with Takane-san?”


As you can see, I am being interrogated in a tormenting manner.


“How can you people be so stupid …!”


I let out a loud sigh.

I should have known this was going to happen when… Saki Takamine asked Tatsuki Iwasawa and Kawariku Arakawa about my whereabouts…

I underestimated the influence of Saki Takane…!


“Takane-san’s came to Class C! She was looking for you!”

“I heard she had a really worried look on her face!?”

“Seriously, did you call Takane-san to a place where no one would be looking?”

“Some of us saw Mashima dragging Takane-san around the school!”

“Have you kissed her yet!?”

“Is this a breach of the rules!?”

“Is she under your supervision!?”


I held my head in my hands and groaned.
I was so dumbfounded that I couldn’t even say anything.

How can they come up with one made-up story after another without getting tired of it…?


If I couldn’t talk back to Saki Takane, who went out of her way to consult with me in public, in consideration of her reputation, I would have just said whatever I wanted to say…!


And then, after thinking this much, I had a flash of inspiration.

Oh, yes, Saki Takane…?


I managed to peek through the noisy opposition surrounding me to see the window seat where she was sitting.

There, I found a … surprising sight.

She was also surrounded by girls in her class, though not as much as I was.


“The boys are so bad.”

“Saki, are you okay?”

“If that monster does something weird to you, just talk to us right away!”

“What? Ah, that, I…separately…”

“What? Come to think of it, I think this is the first time I’ve talked to Saki.”

“Oh, actually, me too.”

“Oh, yeah! Let’s exchange MINE! There’s a group of girls in our class, and I wanted to invite you, too!”

“Oh, uh, um, …”


Although her Noh mask remained unchanged, the image of Saki Takane communicating with the girls was there, albeit in a timid manner.


…<”Maybe Kengo’s work has helped to overwrite the rumors.”>


“… I see what you mean.”


Now I think I finally understand what Arakawa was talking about.

I am a stiff and hated chairman of the Discipline Committee anyway.
It doesn’t make much difference if everyone hates me a little bit more now.

If I can make the person I love happy, that’s great.


She won’t have any more trouble finding someone to talk to.

But what the heck, it’s a little disappointing to think that Saki Takane no longer needs to have lunch with me after what just happened…


“And you know what? Saki Takamine came into C class with a bloodthirsty look on her face and asked me and Arakawa! She asked us where Kengo Mashima was! The look on her face! I knew it! That’s right! The beginning of Mashima-kun’s special guidance…”

“You again, guidance… !”


“Whoa! Mashima’s out of control!”

“Hold him down, hold him down!”

“Tatsuki’s face is like a traffic light.”


I was tightening the screws on Iwasawa, my classmates were trying to restrain me, Arakawa was laughing at me, and the girls were giving me cold stares from afar.

There was no such thing as public morals at all, and the lunch break of Class B was very noisy.


“… Gross.”


…And in the midst of all this commotion.

My gaze caught the figure of a guy walking out of the classroom, looking very displeased.


“…What are they getting excited about, they’re really …stupid?”


Second floor, men’s restroom.

Voices are leaking from the locked stall on the far side of the restroom.

The occasional dull sound and vibration heard is probably the sound of him kicking the wall.

I also hear some other strange clicks and noises, but I don’t know what … this is.


“I feel bad…It’s cold…”


With a clunk, the door to the stall opens and he steps out.

Then he looks at me.


“What …?”


He let his voice trail off.

…Oh, I get it.
I know what that mysterious clickety-clack sound is.

It was the sound of nail biting.

Behind me, Iwasawa gasped, “Oh!”


“From what I’ve heard …, nail biting is often triggered by psychological stress and pressure.
I’m genuinely curious because I use instruments to trim my nails… What do people with a biting nail habit do with their bitten nails? Do they spit them out there? Or do they just swallow them?”

“What the …!?”

“In any case, as chairman of the Discipline Committee, I can’t recommend it from a hygienic standpoint.”


Takumi Tsubone, 2nd year class B…


He backed up and slammed his back against the wall.


“The Discipline Committee…? What do you want…!?”

“No, it’s nothing important… I’ll tell you straight out…”


With a refreshing smile, Arakawa answered his question.


“To be honest, you were the one spreading rumors about Saki, weren’t you? Takumi Tsubone…”

“Huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know!”


Takumi Tsubone raised his voice in a biting tone.

The childish intention to overpower with a loud … voice is obvious.


“What’s the point!? What is the basis for such comments…?”

“Let’s see, Class 2A: Ryohei Kumikei, Shinaraya Shirou, Class 2B: Kawahaba Tougo, Kokode Ide, Akebono Michika, Shima Mizuho, Class 2C: Kinkana Yarika, Momokawa Kawayasuno, Sasahira Masaya.”


Iwasawa listed the names in an unobtrusive manner, the blood drained from Takumi Tsubone’s face at once.


“There were a few others my memory is a little fuzzy on, but I think this is the only one I can confirm with certainty.
They all said they heard rumors about Takane Saki from you.
I think you spread it around a little too loudly.”

“… Oh, I heard it from a friend, too.”

“That’s not true.
The malicious rumors about Saki Takane are definitely coming from you.”

“How do you know that!?”

“Our Iwasawa’s love of gossip has led him to have an unusually wide network of contacts, so much so that he has acquaintances in every class, not only in our upper high school, but also in the middle and lower secondary schools.”

“After all, rumors can only be passed on by word of mouth, right? Then, once you have some idea of the source of the rumors, you can trace them one by one, just like unraveling tangled earphones, and you’ll find out who the source is, right?”



Takumi Tsubone exclaimed.

…That’s easy to say, but as far as I know, the only person who could pull off such a tedious and daunting task in just a few weeks is Tatsuki Iwasawa.

Perhaps because of his amiable personality and appearance, he is very good at getting inside people’s heads, and he enjoys doing so.

His drawback is that he tends to be a troublemaker, getting involved in unnecessary matters and spreading rumors…


“When you were a freshman, you went around spreading strange rumors about Takane because you were upset that Saki had rejected you.
You were so flamboyant that your name came up right away.
The only reason I kept you in the dark until today was simply to solidify the evidence.”


He is the biggest contributor to this case…




Takumi Tsubone grunted in frustration and glanced toward the exit.

I don’t know what he was going to do, but he gave up as soon as he saw Arakawa, the ace of the basketball team, waiting behind us.


“Takumi Tsubone, I want to say at the outset that we are not here to sanction you, much less to criticize you.
That would be an overstepping of our authority.
We’re just here to inform you.”

“Come on, man! Just say it!”

“I’ll tell you in a nutshell, I’m going to report this matter to the class B homeroom teacher, Onnukuide-sensei.”



His face turned white as he went beyond pale.


“Subsequent disciplinary action will be under the jurisdiction of the homeroom teacher… I will be going to report to them after homeroom today… It may be inappropriate for me to mention this, but I encourage you to accompany me.”


Malicious slander and defamation of classmates with clear malicious intent.

This is clearly beyond the scope of the Discipline Committee members’ supervision.


Iwasawa’s work had provided more than enough evidence, and there was no way for him to get away with it now.
The reason why I told him in advance is because I was trying to show him some warmth, but he didn’t want to do that…


“…No, that’s not right.”


Apparently he was not convinced …

Takumi Tsubone turned his bare hostility into a crooked, sneering smile.


“Well, I’m only human, so I’m bound to gossip a little or two…! You guys do it too! … No! I don’t remember.
I don’t remember, but you’re right, I may have spread a few bad rumors about Takane Saki… but not all of them!”


Did he find some kind of chance to win in that “not all” part?

Takumi Tsubone’s eyes immediately lit up with a sparkle.


“Not all … of them! Not every single one of the rumors about Saki Takane came from me!”

“I heard from Iwasawa … that all the rumors, especially the malicious ones, seem to have originated with you.”

“But that doesn’t make it an offense! Everyone does it! It’s just that it escalated a bit… Why just me? Why me? Why should I be the only one to be blamed? And you know what they say, where there’s no fire, there’s no smoke! Maybe it’s true!”

“… I see your point.”

“Right? Then …”

“Whatever it is, it’s not up to us.”



Since it appears that he still doesn’t understand, I’ll make it clear.

As I said before, this is just a notice.

Everything I have just told him is a final decision, nothing more, nothing less.


“If you wish to accompany us to Onnukuide-sensei to report, please speak to one of the members of the Discipline Committee before going home , okay?”


Thus, our work is now done.

…The end of lunch break is near, so let’s leave early.




He grabbed me by the … shoulders.

Takumi Tsubone changed his expression to one of anger and a devilish look on his face.


“In the first place…, it’s that girl’s fault!”


Iwasawa let out a sigh for the first time in several occasions.
The usually breezy and bashful Arakawa had a look on his face that I’ve never seen before.

“That girl … is so stuck up! She doesn’t even have any friends! She’s always alone and probably doesn’t even have a boyfriend! She was so pathetic that I told her that I wanted to go out with her, but she just rejected me so easily!”

“… Hey.”


I said in a low voice.
But Takumi Tsubone showed no sign of closing his mouth.


“She said she’s apologizing because she has someone she likes! You don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re a bum! You can’t do it anyway, so why don’t you just go with me…!”

“Stop with the …”

“But why are you coming here of all people…! You know him? You know about the guy Takane Saki likes and you came here to make fun of me, right? You really have a bad personality!”

“Stop it.”

“What about …? You really don’t know? Ha ha! Then I’ll tell you! She’s got really bad taste! You know something? Saki Takane likes…”


Takumi Tsubone was not able to say what he wanted to say.

I had grabbed him by the chest before he could say the name.


“I’m suggesting that you stop while I’m still speaking rationally.”


I’ve said it before, but it seems that when I’m in a bad mood, I have a very frightening look on my face.


Takumi Tsubone opened his eyes and let out a brief shriek, “Hee”.

“You are free to think what you want about Saki Takane, but…”


Saki Takane fell in love.

She learned about love from how-to books, is embarrassed when her love for someone is revealed, is hurt by unscrupulous rumors, cries, and even smiles like a child when she smacks her cheek with the latest sweets.


…And sometimes I feel lonely eating lunch alone.



“You’re the only one who feels that way, don’t force it on anyone else.”



Takumi Tsubone falls to the tile floor, falling without effort.

The series of commotion surrounding the malicious rumors about Saki Takane has thus come to an end.


…Ten days have passed since then.

The mid-term exams were over, and after the holidays, the atmosphere in the class had calmed down.

Even in a snow bound country like Japan, the cherry blossoms have almost completely fallen and become foliage.

Flowers are for leaves.


“… I didn’t make any sakura-mochi after all.”


The dimly lit staircase in front of the rooftop.

In other words, I was spending my lunch break at my usual place and muttered to myself.

In my hand was the Maritozzo I had bought yesterday.

This was a seasonal product, with brightly colored green tea cream and azuki beans sandwiched in between instead of fresh cream.


It was the first time for me to buy this kind of sweet bun, but when I tried it, I was surprised to find that the rich cream was not too sticky and tasty.
The matcha flavor that came through my mouth was refreshing.
It was a new discovery.


“I guess anything can be tried.”


Maritozzo, eaten while overlooking the leafy cherry trees in the schoolyard, was also surprisingly pleasant.


“… Maritozzo, summer is here, and milk for tea….”

“Did you say something?”



I almost lost my Maritozzo when a voice suddenly called out to me from a blind spot.

This voice is …


“Takane Saki …?”

“Yes…? It’s Saki Takane…?”


There was Saki Takane, coming up the stairs somewhat shyly.




I tracked down the person who was spreading malicious rumors about Saki Takane, and now Saki Takane could speak in class.

Shouldn’t she no longer have to have lunch with me…?


“You said we’d have lunch together again… Could it be that you were joking?”


Seeing her eyes moisten slightly, I hurriedly deny it.


“No! I thought you had forgotten about it because it had been so long since then…”

“How could I forget? I was studying during my lunch break because it was before the exams.”

“Oh, well, that’s very impressive…”


I am puzzled, but Saki Takane sat down next to me and started to spread her lunch box on her lap.

Today is not Maritozzo day, it seems.


“… Homemade?”

“I don’t usually cook, but when I saw that you were making it, I thought I’d give it a try.”

“I love cooking.
I love the fact that if you follow the recipe exactly, you won’t fail.
The feeling of accomplishment you get when you follow the recipe exactly, and it tastes exactly the same as the last time… Hey, wait! What is that warning-colored thing?”

“It’s an omelet! I tried to sweeten them and failed!”

“Oh, I see, the sugar must have burnt, or you put too much in it.”

“I like my omelets sweetened about as much as dessert! …? Is that Maritozzo?”

“I saw you eating it and thought I’d give it a try.
I don’t usually eat this kind of sweet buns…, but it’s better than I thought it would be.
It goes well with strong tea.”


“What’s wrong?”

“No, I just thought we were thinking along the same lines.”





Silence fell between us.

I pondered in silence as I chewed on my Maritozzo.

One possible reason for Saki Takane to have lunch with me … is that some problem she has is still unresolved.


I was devastated, unbeknownst to others.

What kind of trouble is … she in?


“…That, what?”


“…Speaking of which, how did you do on your exams?”

“… I’m terrible at world history.”

“I’m not good at modern writing, I can’t possibly understand the author’s feelings, and it doesn’t make sense that there is more than one answer.”

“…Mashima-kun, you’re in first place in your class, aren’t you?”

“Well, that’s true…”



“Do you enjoy eating with me …?”

“… It’s fun.”




“What is it…?”

“Actually, there’s someone I like.”



I choked.

I try to get a glimpse of Saki Takane with my eyes going black and white, but she is poking at a black egg omelet with her familiar Noh mask.
I can’t read her emotions.


“… It’s a one-sided love of mine, though.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s tough…”


… Not good.

I’m sure I made a big show of it in the infirmary and said that there is no right or wrong in asking for advice, whether it’s about love or anything else,…

I was just making an analogy, I didn’t expect to be asked for advice in this area!




I am in a headache.

I don’t mean to boast, but I’ve never been involved in any kind of love conversation in my life, so I have no idea what to do!

I mean, isn’t Takane Saki asking the wrong person for advice?

I’m that uptight Discipline Committee chairman! Saki, you’re 100 times more popular than me!

But …


“It’s hard to get noticed …”


I’m glad she went to the trouble of relying on a person as disliked as I am.

And to get that kind of look on her face…

I was not going to stop myself from answering.


“Have you ever heard of the … Stinzer effect?”


As soon as I said those words, Saki Takane for some reason got very defensive.


“Shhhh, shhhh, I don’t know.”

“Well, you were reading a psychology book the other day, so I was wondering if you knew about the Stinzer effect, which is a psychological effect that changes the impression you make depending on your position relative to the person you’re talking to.”

“Ha, huh …”

“For example, if there is a table for four people, the person sitting directly in front of you is ‘hostile,’ the person sitting diagonally across from you is ‘neutral,’ and the person sitting next to you is ‘friendly’.
Well, to put it simply, if you sit side by side, you are more likely to have a close relationship with the person you are sitting next to.”


Yes, just like we are now.


“Some say it’s simply because of the physical closeness, but in my opinion it has more to do with eye contact.”

“Eye contact…?”

“If two people sit side by side, they can see the same thing.”


Our eyes naturally turn to the fresh greenery in the schoolyard through the window.

There are some things that can only be understood from the same point of view…






“You might want to start by sitting next to the person you like.”

“…………………… Yeah?”

“Well, you’re an attractive girl, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”


I don’t know what kind of guy Takane Saki is interested in, but I’m sure she’ll be fine.

I think it’s okay… why do you look at me like that?


“I feel … kind of heartbroken.”

“I know you’re the hardest worker of all.
I’m rooting for you.”



After all, anyone who is thought of this way is a lucky guy.

As I chewed on a green Maritozzo, I was deeply jealous of him.

Anyway, for the time being, I was allowed to call myself Saki Takane’s friend.

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