* 40 *

I followed behind Hiiragi the same way I usually did Tokiwa.
Not that I intended to talk to her, because what would I say? "Hey there, see we're both still lonely. How's that working out for you?"
What I wanted to learn from tailing her was how she, who was similarly lonely, would be spending the day.
I felt like there could be a hint toward improving my own life in there, somehow. I wanted to know how loners like us were to pass the cold winter.

I guess by making the Tokiwa thing a daily routine, I had no opposition to stalking people anymore.
It seemed normal for me to see a girl I knew and calmly decide that I'd stealthily follow her.
My thought processes were exactly like those of a criminal. Man, that makes me shiver, and not from cold.

By the way, I ought to reveal something that I kept quiet about before. You remember when I talked about Hiiragi, right?
Well, for the sake of suspense or what have you, I talked as if Hiiragi and I never met again after that.
But actually, we went to the same university. And maybe it's because we both knew that that we didn't talk on that last day of high school.
Had that really been the very last time we'd see each other, I might've wanted a handshake at least.

As one would expect, Hiiragi's isolation worsened too when she got to college.
Yep, that was Hiiragi. It relieves me to see how people don't change. I'm one to talk, of course.

There were very few who immediately knew who you were talking about when you said "Hiiragi," even in her department. She was just that forgettable.
Usually lonely people stand out in a bad way. But she was really good at just blending in, from the timing with which she entered classrooms, to how she picked her seat, to how she slipped into the crowd during group activities.
I tried to do the same things, but I knew how much better she was at those techniques.

I didn't know the details, but it appeared Hiiragi lived somewhere not far from my apartment.
A couple times I'd seen her shopping when I went to buy beer from the local convenience store. In fact, it seemed she was buying beer too.

Though she recognized me, she wouldn't come talk to me. But she didn't ignore me, giving me a glance that said "Oh, you too."
I might have been giving Hiiragi a lot of the same glances unconsciously. Those judging yet sympathizing glances.

In high school, I thought gloomy people like me were bound by fate to beer, but I don't think that's quite true.
Rather, people like us are the most likely to indulge in alcohol. When there's a lot you want to forget and a lot of monotony to go through, alcohol makes a good partner.

Chapter 41

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