Chapter 2: Routine.

It’s winter.
Christmas is just around the corner, and the mornings are getting chilly by the day.

On one of those cold mornings, I started my day by picking Suzuka up before walking to school, as I’ve always done.

I rang her house’s intercom and greeted, “Good morning,” to which I was answered with an “Okay!” back.
Immediately, the door opened, and out stepped her mother.

“Good morning, Hinata-kun.
I’ll go get her now,” she says while walking back inside before I could even finish my words, “Don’t worry about it.”

By the way, my name’s Hinata.
Hinata Amamiya.

From the inside of the house, I heard her mom scream “Suzuka! hurry up!” A few moments later, the front door was opened with a bang.

“S, sorry for the wait! You’re on time again, as always!”

“Mhm, and you and your mom are the same as always.”

After exchanging a light greeting, we headed for school together.
This was our usual morning together.

Our houses aren’t far from school, so we didn’t take a train or anything there.
By foot, it only took about 20 minutes there, so it’s a good distance.
And I’ve always loved this time I had with her.

Once we arrived, people gathered around her in the blink of an eye.
We often get tangled up like this, but the times when we can be together are quite precious if I might say.
Well, they always end as soon as we step inside the classroom.

Suzuka is approached by many acquaintances and friends along the way.
Classmates, juniors, seniors, everyone talked to her, and she always answered with a brimming smile.

I guess everyone wants to see that smile.

“You’re as popular as ever,” I quipped.

“Yup, yup! Respect me more, Hinata!”

In response to my slight sarcasm, she shot me an ear-to-ear grin, which only saddened me more as our time together reached its end.
She doesn’t have the slightest clue about my unhappiness.

“Ah, right! Did you see the TV last night?” She suddenly started talking about the TV, oblivious to my inner uneasiness.
Still, I asked her what kind of program it was, to which she answered, “The recently built aquarium! They did an overview of the place, and I really wanna go there!” She overflowed with excitement.

There’s been a lot of talks recently about that place, which is relatively closeby.
Two stops by train, to be precise.
I’m sure this is what she’s talking about.

She’s always been fond of aquariums and the like.
I guess her desire to go there only grew after seeing it featured on television.
But this could be an opportunity for me.
That’s why I’d invite her on a date there on Christmas day, and then I’d tell her how I feel.
I thought it was a good strategy, so I decided to act right away.

“Um, about that aquarium.
Do you wanna go there with me? Erm, on Christmas?”

“That’s great! I’m pumped! I’ve also heard there’d be a Christmas event there!”

She took up my offer quite readily, and I was secretly punching the air with happiness.
This is looking good—

“Let’s invite our friends and go all together!” It was a gut punch.
I almost stumbled over her unintentional stomach-wrenching statement.

“Hey, erm, Suzuka? It’s Christmas, so don’t they have, um, plans or something?” I tried to nudge it all in the direction of a possible date, somehow.

“Oh, you’re right.
People who’re dating will be busy, so let’s go with all the bachelors!”

“No, that was supposed to be a date…” My voice died.

“Hmm? What did you say, Hinata?”


…Haah, this is totally hopeless.
In contrast to me cringing inside my head, Suzuka started to happily jot down some plans.
“I’ll figure it out, then I’ll invite the ones who can…” She did it all with a smile.

My thoughts weren’t going through her thick protagonist skull at all.

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