Several minutes later, despite mutually agreeing to forget and leave behind what happened between us, I remained by Fuyu's side.

I couldn’t just leave her behind, right? Especially when I saw her getting bugged by an idiot earlier. Although she could go back to join her club on going home… it would just be as awkward as when she left them.

Besides, Fuyu also favored it when I told her I’d still be escorting her home. Just that, the distance between us became more pronounced.

Someone could probably slip in between us by pushing and running into that gap. Moreover, she kept her eyes in front of us, not daring to look at me straight again.

Most likely, she’s afraid that any type of contact with me might make her resolve to waver. Or if not that, our intimate moment was still lingering in her head.

Whichever the case, I could only try to respect her boundaries. She’d just be disappointed if I went back with my words, after all.

“So, about tennis. Should we set a date for it?”

After deciding what to do next, we started making our way to the exit, traversing the less populated path towards it. And in an attempt to sweep away the constricting mood surrounding us, I brought up that question.

It was awkward, of course. But what else could I do? It’s not like I could magically make her forget her friendship with Akane. And even if I tell her everything about me, there won’t be any guarantee that she’ll accept it like most of my girls.

I mean, she’s the one most suspicious about my relationship with the other girls. It just so happened that, at some point, I got closer to her to the point that I managed to scale the wall she put up against any other guys.

If I suddenly dropped that bomb on her, it’s more than likely that she’d be more repulsed at how absurd it was. She’d probably even hate me more for toying with Akane’s feelings.

But then again, one could also argue that she was just as bad when she started catching feelings for me regardless of her suspicion or her friendship with Akane.

In short, we’re in a difficult situation that couldn’t easily be solved in a day.

I’ve pretty much confessed to her earlier. Just that, it’s not that direct. And so, the same as how I worked my way to win my girls, I wouldn’t easily give up just because of that one agreement.

And if we took into consideration how the agreement basically wrote off that moment between us… it’s fair to say that we just reverted back to when we have yet to cross the boundary. Right?

If I can act like nothing happened after I massaged her legs and arms, I will be able to close our gap again. Or so that’s my wishful thinking…

Shaking her head lightly, Fuyu shot me a glance with narrowed eyes, “Onoda-kun, you have yet to swing your racket a thousand times. How do you think you will fare against me and Akane?”

Well, she’s not being negative about that. It’s simply a frank answer that needs no embellishment.

I’m a complete newbie to tennis. Even if I can somehow pick up the rules and the basics of tennis, it will be nowhere close to an expert like Fuyu. So, it’s kind of audacious for me to bring that up to her.

In any case, I wasn’t really expecting an excited reply from her. Responding to me was more than I could ask for.

Because in this way, we’re one step away from that suffocating silence.

“I believe I can at least get a point by targeting Akane’s side.”

Fuyu rolled her eyes at me but at least, it managed to crack her stone-cold expression that she’s using as a mask. Even if it’s just a glimpse, I saw her lips twitching and stretching to the side, “Un. I can see that happening. But what about if we do a Singles game? Will you be able to score a point from me?”

“Alright. I’ll start swinging my racket a thousand times a day starting tomorrow.” I stared at her for a few seconds as though I was calculating my chances before declaring that with a slight bow.

And that earned me another reaction from her. This time, she covered her mouth before handing me her racket bag that I had asked to carry for her earlier, “Okay. You can start now with that. Be careful with it.”

Upon saying that, Fuyu turned her gaze away, either to straighten up her expression or to release a silent laughter.

Without taking out the racket inside, I held the bag around the handle and followed her words, carefully swinging it as we continued our walk.

Well, her reaction was enough motivation for me and I could already consider this as a win.

And just like this, we continued on this line of topic for the rest of our walk.

By the time we reached the exit gates and rejoined the crowd coming in and going out of the venue, we successfully managed to chip off some of the distance that returned.

I carefully slung her racket bag behind me and made sure that she wouldn’t run into anyone on our way out.

I thought we’d continue like this until we reached the bus stop but somehow, someone found us.

“Oh. Hey, Yuuki. Are you on your way out?”

Just a few steps away from the gates, a familiar voice echoed behind us.

Fuyu reflexively glanced behind to look for the source and I followed suit, stopping in my steps.

There, Michiru, who had already changed out of her tennis attire like Fuyu, was bending over her knees, catching her breath. She probably chased after us.

She then lifted her gaze and cracked a rather refreshing smile. Judging from the way she carried herself, she was probably afraid that Fuyu would take her presence negatively considering their team had just won against Fuyu’s.

But then again, her justification most likely stemmed from the fact that Fuyu won against her. Hence, she cheekily chased after her.

“Senpai…” Fuyu murmured as though she was in a daze. But that’s only for a moment. “Yes. I… No. We are bound to the bus stop.”

“We?” Intrigued, Michiru raised an eyebrow as her eyes landed on me.

From my observation, that was nothing more than an act. I mean, the reason she ran after Fuyu was probably because of my presence beside the girl. She’s curious.

I had no idea if she could still recognize me but it’s sufficient to say she’s here to find out what my relationship with Fuyu is as well as check on her junior’s state after that loss.

“Oh… I see. Looks like our Yuuki has stopped being caged in frigid ice. Someone finally managed to melt that and reach you.” With a meaningful smile, Michiru’s eyes alternated between us. And sure enough, she misunderstood our relationship.

But with Fuyu being Fuyu, she got stumped at how to answer. She looked at me with a complicated expression as though she didn’t want to outright deny that misconception.

Then, I should help her out here.

“Uhm. Katagiri-senpai, I think you’re misunderstanding something here. Yuuki-san and I aren’t like that.”

“Huh? Eh?” Slightly confused, Michiru blinked her eyes a few times as a puzzled expression dawned on her face. Rather than focusing on what I denied, she stepped forward to scrutinize my appearance.

A few seconds later, she stepped back and put a finger beneath her chin.

“Wait, do I know you? I feel like we’ve already met before.”

Fuyu reacted to that by widening her eyes and then, the same as Michiru, anticipation for my answer rose.

“I see. Senpai has forgotten me already. I’m Onoda.”

Right. Even though I said I didn’t pursue her upon finding out that she’s from the same club as Fuyu, I’ve already interacted with her a few times before.

No. Interacted was probably downplaying it. I, at least, got a little close to her by pretending to be a helpful junior – my usual strategy back then to close the distance with my target.