* 33 *

When it comes to this stuff, you might be thinking I'm some jerk who's way too self-conscious about his assumptions.
And I say this with full recognition of that: I believe Hiiragi and I lived by leaning on each other's shoulders.

By our third year, while we didn't make much of a show of it, we started picking the same committees and duties.
Even when our seats changed, we tried to sit as close as possible. There was an implicit agreement that when times were tough, we would "use" each other.
"You don't really have to be friends with me, but please be there when I need someone," that sort of thing. Ah, but I'm romanticizing it far too much...
It's probably closer to "Hey, you're a loner too, right? As fellow miserables, I guess we should keep company."
"Welp, at least this person won't ditch me and run" - our relationship had that warped sort of trust.

We eventually developed - not affection, certainly, but a deep kind of sympathy for each other, I think.
If we hadn't, then surely we wouldn't have stayed together to keep ourselves from being all alone.

And isolation wasn't the only common point between Hiiragi and I. Even the quality of our isolation bore a resemblance.
...What I think is, the reason we couldn't get accustomed to the classroom was because we had both thoughts of "somewhere that wasn't here."
It came to mind that there was "a place much better than here" somewhere, and it became a huge hindrance since we were stuck "here."

I was constantly thinking about the happy days of my first life. As such, my view of the world was duller than usual, and I had little attachment to the "here and now."
And I wondered if Hiiragi might be thinking something similar - why else would she be so isolated?

I'm sure people who got to see her smile were pretty rare, but I was one of the few. After three and a half years, we were able to be just a little frank with each other.
And so just once, by chance, I was able to bear witness to her smile.

What a shame, I thought. If she wore that smile all the time, I bet it wouldn't be hard for her to become the center of attention in class.
That's the kind of charm her smile had. When I first saw it, no joke, I was shocked. All like "Wait, you're THAT cute?!", you know.

Chapter 34

Novel List