“Onoda-kun, is he still there?” Fuyu eventually whispered.

Because she never tried to look back and check on the guy bothering her, Fuyu relied on me for the update.

Well, what else could he do when the girl openly ran up to me? He had already walked away after he weighed his choices on whether to confront me or not.

Good choice, I must say. Even if beating him up might result in us getting kicked out of this place, it would still be worth it if it meant Fuyu’s peace of mind.

Anyway, the girl’s head was probably filled with other thoughts at that moment. She didn’t hear his footsteps nor the sound he made when he clicked his tongue.

Fuyu simply let herself be lost in the comfort of my arms. At least, that’s how I saw it. It might just be my assumption though but eh... there’s no reason to voice it out.

“Nope. He already walked away. You can relax now.” I answered as I tried to fix her hair, tucking the loose strands behind her ears.

Fuyu visibly quivered from that but it probably went unnoticed for her as the first thing she did was to check behind her. Upon confirming that no one was around anymore, she released a sigh of relief.

Judging from that reaction and the way she looked so irritated earlier, this girl was probably at her wit’s end on how to deal with that guy. Even if she’s used to getting approached by boys from their school, there’s still a limit to what she can tolerate. Or rather, there’s a certain type that she couldn’t really deal with. Whichever was it, that guy had no hope, to begin with.

“Thank you. You’re a big help, Onoda-kun,” Timidly, Fuyu extracted herself from me, loosening her grip on my clothes and pulling her head away from my chest. Her eyes that radiated her genuine gratitude never left me.

Slowly, her curled lips transformed into a bashful smile which she probably unconsciously did. She didn’t cover it up or avert her gaze, after all.

Anyway, I didn’t make it difficult for her. Taking advantage of this situation would just leave a bitter taste in my mouth. No matter how unscrupulous I usually am, I still knew when to advance, retreat, or hold my position.

“Don’t mention it. I’ve never seen you that irritated before so... I know something is wrong. It’s actually milder than when you’re glaring at me with eyes full of suspicion though.”

I added that last playful bit to ease the tension which Fuyu responded with a gentle laugh and a pout.

“Onoda-kun, you’re mean. Do you still have to mention that? Uh... But you’re right. I can’t tell him off when I say I’m not interested. Who won’t get irritated by it?”

“I see. You’re right. That’s a deserved reaction. He just couldn’t take a hint, no?”

Moving back to where she was sitting earlier, I held her jersey and let her sit first before taking the remaining space next to her.

It’s not a proper bench so the seat was only enough for two who wouldn’t mind their legs touching.

I handed her jersey back which used to cover her legs again. With her skirt that short, it would be in plain sight if she didn’t do that.

After a while, Fuyu released another sigh, lamenting the situation she was in earlier, “... It’s not the first time it happened. The difference is... that guy thought I was playing hard to get. Onoda-kun, is that how I look to you?”

“Nah. You don’t have to believe his words. There are always deluded idiots like him around who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. You’re fine as you are.”

“Thank you...” Although relief flashed in her eyes from hearing that, the girl still looked affected by that instance.

And so, as another measure, I once again attempted to alleviate the gloom by responding playfully. “I didn’t do much. One thank you is enough. I mean, he’s lucky I arrived, or else... he’ll surely be knocked down by you.”

Thankfully, it’s effective.

Fuyu’s smile cracked open as laughter rang out again. Following that, she lightly hit my shoulder in an attempt to hide her embarrassment, “Who do you think I am? If he can’t be persuaded to leave, I can only run away. I don’t have my racket with me.”

This girl... She wouldn’t mind hitting someone with her racket, huh? Anyway, she really came here without bringing anything. I guess meeting me here was her way to avoid being questioned by her clubmates. Some of them could recognize me.

Also, their match seemed to have been delayed as there was still an ongoing match on the tennis court. We could still hear the cheers and the sound of balls hitting the ground or the tennis rackets from where we were. It’s probably an intense match between equally skilled athletes.

“Heh. So, the racket can be a weapon, huh? I thought tennis players treat their rackets like babies?”

“Pfft. Where did you hear that from? It depends on the person. I personally change rackets once every three months. I can only buy the cheaper ones and they get worn out easily. Maybe if I can get my hands on one of those high-end rackets, I’ll take care of it like my own child.”

Ah. So that’s why, huh? I guess it’s the same reason why Sena also keeps on buying new gloves once in a while or Satsuki and Aika keep on browsing for new shoes.

“Uh. Sorry, Yuuki-san. That gave me an inappropriate image.” Intentionally acting like I just had an indecent imagination of her, I forced a cough and averted my gaze from her.

Upon seeing that, Fuyu also got it instantly. With her face becoming more flustered by the second, she hit my shoulder lightly, “Eh? Onoda-kun, you pervert. Did you just picture me babying my racket?”

“I do.”

“Ugh... Don’t answer that so swiftly!”

“Uh. On second thought, it’s not really inappropriate. I don’t know. It’s kind of cute?”

“Cute?! You’re unbelievable, Onoda-kun.” Exasperated at my wild imagination, Fuyu’s pout grew sharper, and eventually, her cheeks puffed up.

Alright. That’s more adorable compared to my imagination. Before I knew it, my hand already landed on top of her head and the same as earlier, I started combing the disheveled parts with my fingers, fixing them back to perfection.

“Sorry, I can’t help it.” I stared at the girl who also somehow got her eyes fixated on me. With how close we were at the moment, we’d surely be mistaken as a couple even if we were just bantering like that.

“That’s not a proper excuse, you know?”

“Yes. I know.”

I had no idea if she was conscious of it but Fuyu’s body had started leaning over to my side. Our shoulders touched and subtly, her hands eventually found their grip on my clothes.

On the other hand, my gentle pats and caresses slid down to the girl’s face. Her cheek felt hot to the touch but she looked so intent not to avert her gaze away from me.

And so, I got the chance to cup them within my palms which produced a fleeting smile on her lips.

However, it was at this point that Fuyu seemed to get her grips back to reality. She pulled her head away, let go of my clothes, straightened her back, and turned her gaze in front of us.

“... A-anyway, have you told Akane about this, Onoda-kun? That you’re coming to watch my match?”

Desperately, she tried to change the topic of our conversation. Still, to bring up Akane at this point was like placing down another boulder on the scale. She made the situation heavier than it was.

In any case, understanding how awkward this became for her, I cleared my head and answered appropriately.

“Mhm. I told her earlier that I’ll be coming to watch you. Do you want to guess her reaction?”

“Uh... It’s Akane. She’s delighted, no?”


Upon answering like that, our gazes were drawn back to each other, and almost as if on cue, we laughed at the same time. When it comes to Akane’s silliness, we’re surely on the same page.

From here, our conversation continued smoothly. The strained atmosphere from earlier gradually loosened up and before long, we reverted to how we were before. As close as possible and yet maintaining a distance that we’d probably never cross.

Eventually, the ongoing tennis match ended and the girl had to return to her club. Although she felt a little conflicted about leaving me alone, I gave her an encouraging smile to sweep those conflicting thoughts away.