Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Konnichiwa, and more.

It's time for us to delve into chapter six, a chapter focused on Iroha as expected.

It's longer than usual so I won't be talking much here and let you guys read what's to come.

"Hello, this is Isshiki Iroha. May I ask who is on the phone?"

I tighten my grip on the book and printouts in my arms, after I put my earphones and my phone in my coat's pocket. I assimilate her question for a few seconds before I begin to talk myself.

"Yo, Isshiki. I asked Yukinoshita-san for your number because I was asked to deliver some homework to you. Mind if I come over?"

I try to sound natural, speaking as I always do.


She sure sounds surprised. I hear her cough out of shock.

"Haruno-san did? Did you offer your soul to her?"

"What do you take your phone number for? It's not THAT precious. Yukinoshita-san isn't Satan either… just very close to it. Maybe Satan's daughter or something…"

She's so cunning it wouldn't surprise me to see her topple the throne, taking Satan's place as Hell's one and only ruler.

"Anyways, we don't need to talk about Yukinoshita-san. How about you answer my question now before I get sick from standing in the cold?"

You know all too well where I'm going with this, don't you Isshiki? And I know that you're aware of my plan, so stop beating around the bush and get straight to it. You're more of an assertive and straight-to-the-point girl; the way you usually are is the reason I got closer to you over the course of the last months.

I'm indecisive and I'm surrounded by other people who are just the same. Your straightforwardness helps me feeling more at ease, it's like a breath of fresh air into the stagnating atmosphere I'm perpetually in.

Please Isshiki, do not change now. This is the one situation where we both need to stay true to ourselves.

"I would need to prepare myself…! My hair is a mess and I need a change of clothes…"

"Calm down. I take it you're willing to tell me where you live. I'll take my time coming over so just give me your address and you can get ready."

"Mou… Senpai… Get a clue alrea-"

"You're the one who needs to get it right, Isshiki. That's enough of sweeping it under the rug. We don't have time for this."


An awkward silence takes place after I interrupt her to say my piece. If I have to get a little harsh to get the point across, I will. This time, I won't let her be the one to initiate.

"I live at the 1-5-1 apartment complex next to Kitakaizuka school, in Wakaba district. I'll be ready in a hour… I guess. Don't get lost because I won't be answering when I'm showering! Haha…Ha… Later then."

She hangs up after giving me her place's location and that forced laugh. I briefly sigh as I stuff my phone back to where it was.

It's about forty minutes away. I'll just take it slow and wait in Mitsuwadai park if I find her place too early.

This is it, huh?

There's no going back from this. I'm about to be the one who disturbs the quiet, peaceful and stagnating water we seemingly enjoyed being in.

I don't think I can deny it at this point in time; in hindsight, I truly did exist there with a complacent attitude, happy that nothing changed. Happy that I wasn't troubled by any kind of change, I did nothing to stop this… farce. I've grown used to society and the way it is, used to being isolated, alone and hated. What was the point of me trying to change it? It'd only bring me troubles and keep me busy running after a pipe dream.

But lately, things changed ever so slightly. We had moments together which made us closer: some with happy feelings, others which were more painful… but all of them were significant enough for something to change. This isn't just strictly about the Service Club.

With Isshiki too.

Driven by what I felt like was my responsibility, I watched over her. I made sure I was available whenever she needed it, because I… changed her school life at least. Pushing a student to become President is bound to change a lot of things in their lives, so I had a duty to be there. This forced me to interact more often with the girl known as Isshiki Iroha.

I think I can safely assume something was created out of this feeling of responsibility towards her, as time passed. Something else than obligation, something she slowly implanted in me because Isshiki was way more proactive about this than I ever was. After that, the two of us meeting was not an event born out of necessity but rather because we desired it. I enjoyed her presence, and she apparently did like being around me too.

And it was about fucking time we took notice of it…


I was probably slower than Isshiki to do so since she reached earlier than I did the conclusion which followed.

Using my transport card to get through the subway portals, I take the Sobu line in the opposite direction. The first train is just about to leave the station so I walk faster to get aboard in time. Lucky me! I even get my favorite seat, in the upper part of the carriage. It's next to the window and the farthest away from the stairs: I can avoid people the most thus being the best position there is.

Watching the platform outside through the glass, I see our train departing and I am a bit shaken by a feeling of anxiety. Up until now, it was my policy to never change who you are because it would just be like admitting you run away from the situation. This was the first argument I ever had with Yukinoshita too. She made it a point changing is the way to solve problems and to save someone.

We had divergent opinions on the subject, and I still think you also need to accept someone as they are instead of forcing them to change. But now that I encountered one which needs a change of some sort, it made me partly reconsider my one-sided opinion.

What we all need to advance is to change our perspective on how things are; we all have our reasons as to why we don't feel like doing it. Some of us may be stubborn, others scared of the unknown factor we will be witnesses of, and more.

I sense my phone vibrate in my coat.

I've never been texted this much in the recent years. Nowadays it's a non-stop flood of messages. How hilarious. It also means you have that much more trouble to deal with.

"My mother will be here by the way. I forgot to mention (lol) (*ω≦)"

You expect me to back off, Isshiki? I thought you knew me well.

This is the oldest trick in the book.

It won't have the effect you want on me, as shrewd as you are.

"I won't be staying for long anyway, don't worry. I'm in the train approaching the Wakaba ward. Just make sure you're ready soon."

I send her a message in return, reinforcing the fact that I'm coming to her place: it is happening and nothing will delay it. I won't go back until we've settled our matters.

The trip from the Wakaba ward station to Kitakaizuka elementary school's location roughly takes me eight minutes, thanks to the map application I have on my phone. It's a traditional elementary school resembling the one I attended to in my younger days; I hear the kids happily chatting and playing in the schoolyard.

Ah yes, these kids are the ones being kept a bit longer on school grounds as their relatives can't pick them up early. I know that because I was in the same situation at their age, and so was Komachi.

Did I mention how Mom forgot me once, only bringing back my little sister at home?

Komachi being the good sister she is, functioned like an alarm after that. Every time Mom would forget about me, she would cry asking for my whereabouts before they were farther than ten meters away from school. I know Mom wasn't doing it on purpose too she's just like this even to this day. I inherited her laziness after all. It's not like she hates me or anything. Right…?

Anyway, I find the correct address at the 1-5-1 and gaze over the tall building towering over me. A bunch of apartments are located in there, and one of them is occupied by the Isshiki family.

I head over to the entrance and find their name on the interphone device next to the door. Taking a deep breath, I press the button destined to call the household.

The few following seconds feel like whole minutes. My stress is slowly rising but I'm not backing down, it's out of the question. Not after everything I've done, not this close.

"This is the Isshiki residence, how can I help you?"


Wow, wait.

I glance at the little LCD screen and blink two times. Maybe my dead fish eyes are trying to pull a fast one on me…

No, I'm seeing alright.

When did Isshiki acquire the power to time travel? Is she that eager to know what the future is made of?

What an intrepid soul.


Who am I kidding huh…?

This really is Isshiki's mother, and she can't hide that fact even if she wants to. This is exactly the same thing which happened at Yuigahama's place; in both cases, the mother is just a mirrored future version of the child.

For some reason, it's a very scary observation.

"Um… hello… I'm Hikigaya Hachiman, a student at Sobu high school and… um… I came to deliver homework and books to Isshiki-san."

Even though the screen is physically separating us by quite the distance, I have the impression that her stare is one of the most intense I've ever received. Her smile exactly reminds me of her daughter's trademark foxy smile.

"Iroha told me a senpai would be coming indeed. So it's you, mh…? Please come upstairs, Hikigaya-kun."

I lightly bow in front of the camera and proceed to the hall where an elevator is available for me to take.

Scary, scary, scary!

Isshiki's mother is too calculating and intimidating! What the hell was up with that gaze? Are you trying to burn my very soul, oi?!

Arriving at the third floor, the elevator stops going up and the door opens. I step out of it and notice Isshiki's parent out a bit further.

"Hikigaya-kun, over here!"

I'm sure her smile would make the heart of an outsider who knows nothing about Isshiki, flutter. Her natural beauty, enhanced by a light and measured touch of makeup, coupled with that smile is enough to sway even the coldest of hearts.

So this is how Isshiki will look like, when she'll become an adult…

No, no, no.

I better stop this train of thoughts right there before it becomes dangerous. I may get strongly influenced.

I bow in front of Isshiki's mother, pass the front door and step inside the apartment. I take my shoes off at the entrance, hearing her closing the door as I do.

"Nice to meet you, Hikigaya-kun. I'm sure you're already aware but I am Iroha's mother. My name is Isshiki Sumire."

She throws that Isshiki special smile at me, resulting in effectively flustering the young man I currently am. Damn you, woman. Your beauty is wasted on me, can't you pretend you have something to do and leave me waiting here?

"Nice to meet you."

She sees me hesitating to speak again and slightly tilts her head.

"I can take care of this, I'm a strong woman so do not worry Hikigaya-kun. Give the books and printouts to me, I'll take them to Iroha's room."

She shows me with a gesture of her arms that she wants to hold everything I hold within my own.

Isshiki-san, that's just the same as saying "Now that you delivered what you came to give, you can go back home delivery boy" you know?

"Um… I was supposed to show a few things to Isshiki-san… about what she has to cover in the assignment and which lessons are important for the test."

To hell with it, I go all-in. It's time to improvise and hope for the best outcome.

"You want to show a few things to Iroha? A few things, I see."

Let's not go there, Mother. Really, this is a misunderstanding or rather a misconception of yours!

"Aren't you a third year, Hikigaya-kun? What could you possibly know about Iroha's assignment and test?"

Ugh, touché. Don't back down, Hachiman! Use everything you could possibly use, any underhanded method is allowed!

A coward like me can rely on the dirtiest methods, just you wait…

Found it.

I'd usually never forgive myself to use something like that but in this crisis I have no time for self-respect. I'll use the opportunity which was given to me by that: be grateful I do!

"That... I mean Souji… Kimura Souji-kun is a friend we have in common, he's in her class and provided me the instructions I need to give to Isshiki-san."

Close, dangerously so! I'm glad I had that thing pop in my head at the right time. It's what granted me this opportunity to be here after all.

I see Isshiki's mom doesn't seem convinced from the expression she makes. A woman's intuition can be scary, but add the Isshiki factor and you're left with a gender bender version of Satori Tendō(*), the Guess Monster.

"If he's also Iroha's friend and classmate on top of it, wouldn't he be the prime candidate to be here today?"

Stop it, it's downright scary now! Go back to playing volleyball, Tendō(*)!

"He had important club duties to attend to and unfortunately couldn't come himself. That's why he asked me to do it instead."

"I understand, how kind of him. And of you, of course."

She puts on a smile that I can only describe as somewhat sinister. What do you have in mind now?!

"For the record, which club is Kimura-kun a part of?"

You…! She's testing me!

If I answer randomly she'll just make sure to get the answer from her daughter and I'll easily be exposed as a liar who tried everything to get close to the young girl.

It's over, I'm done here.

I did my best but couldn't overcome the greatest foe, the tallest wall and the hardest hurdle I had to face here. The best resolve in the world can only crumble in front of such power.

I start to lower my gaze, admitting defeat and submitting to the overwhelming being facing me…

"He's in the photography club right, Senpai? He always tries to get you involved in his activities too!"

An angel! My holy savior has come down and blessed me! Beautiful, shining being with a singing voice, I thank you with all that I am!

Wait, it's just Isshiki.

I'm so sorry Totsuka-tan. I nearly confused you with Isshiki.

So, Isshiki just entered the scene in the nick of time after she walked down the stairs leading to the other rooms of the apartment.

"Yeah, and honestly it's a bit of a pain. He's lucky I'm a good friend. Hahaha!"

I'm disgusting myself, but this is what's needed right now. Play the part, play the part.

If anything, this made her mother even more suspicious from what I'm seeing in her light brown eyes.

"Oh Iroha, you're done. Very well. I'll leave the both of you to your own devices then. I'm sure you have a lot of things to do afterwards so you won't take long right, Hikigaya-kun?"

It's decided and set in stone.

I never want to come here ever again.

"Of course, ma'am. I'll be as brief as possible."

With a last smile of hers, she takes the direction where Isshiki came out from, effectively leaving us alone downstairs.

Isshiki also looks relieved her mother is gone for now, which comforts me in my previous thoughts about her being scary.

"Sorry about that, Senpai. Let's move over to the living room."

I simply nod and follow her lead.

The apartment from what I can see (now that I finally relax and focus on other things than survival) is nothing too special. It's a classic home, the kind you'd see in your mind when the word "apartment" is mentioned. Though, I can say the decoration is well thought-out and most things are neatly arranged. Nothing is out of place, and for someone like me who prefers when everything is organized, that's a plus in my book.

On this floor there seem to be the entrance, living room, kitchen, bathroom and toilet; we head to the left of the entrance to the door connecting the rooms to the living.

It's a spacious one; there's a big screen television which probably supports 4k resolution, and to my surprise, I also notice a PlayStation. Isshiki is an only child right? Maybe her father likes to play some games when he's chilling at home. I don't see Isshiki, who's so worried about social appearances and always wants to go out and socialize, playing video games unless it's some mobile app.

A big table is in the center of the room, a table way too big for only three persons. I assume they receive their family members a lot.

Maybe some colleagues from work too.

Isshiki motions over to the couch in front of the TV, inviting me to come and sit.

"You can put school stuff on the table. I'll pick it up later."

I listen diligently to her directions, sitting beside her after I've unloaded my arms from the luggage they carried.

"I can more or less picture what happened at school for you to come here, Senpai. You didn't have to, you know?"

She looks at me with a pained look, a bittersweet smile adorning her lips.

Please don't. You're making it harder on you and on me.

"I didn't have to, that's true. But Isshiki, I wanted to. I don't think it's wrong to follow what you genuinely want to, that's what you taught me through your behavior."

I can feel it again. It's coming. That state where I can barely think about what is going on, what I want to say, or anything else at all.

Everything just blanks out in my mind, leaving space for it.

Isshiki stares at me in disbelief, her eyes widening under the mild surprise surging within her.


"Um… I know I'm kind of acting out of character right now, but I want everything between us to be crystal clear. I'm tired of feeling sorry for things beyond the scope of my knowledge, tired of running after something I can't quite determine. Is it so bad that I want to put all of this into actual, intelligible words?"

She wants to stop me. It's obvious. After all I'm about to break a taboo everyone has been holding onto, and I'm the one who's been relying on it the most. I have no right to blame her for trying to halt me there… but I won't let her. Not this time.

"I apologize for making you feel that way yesterday. I don't know why I couldn't-"

No, this is false. I've made sure to ascertain what is going on with her and with me, last night. I know exactly why but…

"Forget that, I know why. At least, I think I do. I'm still sorry all the same, Isshiki. I feel bad for what I did."

"No… I'm largely the one at fault, Senpai. I just forcefully expected something out of you and-"

Not this again! Don't sound so much like Yukinoshita: don't make it seem like I'm nothing else than a puppet you all thought you could pull the strings of!

I'm sick of it.

I'm my own person.

I don't reproach you for saying and thinking all of this because I've made nothing until now to make your opinion change about it.

That's what I'm trying to do here, please bear with me.

Wait until I'm done.

"You forced nothing on me. You simply let out your desire for something you longed for, and I responded to it of my own volition."

She's in utter shock after hearing these words coming out of my mouth. She blinks multiple times, as her breath starts to become uneven. Her hands reach for the fabric of her skirt, clenching it tightly.

"I didn't go through with it entirely because… it wouldn't have been fair, or real. Not when everything was left unspoken and undetermined. I don't want to hurt what…"

I pause myself for a second, not because I'm trying to think about what to say next but precisely because of what I know I'm going to say; my instinct, which has always been about what's best for me to stay in my quiet and peaceful cage, made me stop.

"I don't want to hurt the feelings of the kouhai I've grown close to."


I can see her eyes slowly watering as one of her hands leave her skirt to position itself in front of her mouth: her state of disbelief can't be expressed any better.

"I'm someone who's still too much of a coward to confess to somebody, and it's been too fresh and new to me to recognize what is happening. I don't want to give you false hopes either. But I want to acknowledge the fact that your feelings have been perceived… and somewhat accepted. I have yet to make sure what's going on with mine. I'm close to finding the answer to a number of questions on this subject… so Isshiki… will you wait for a proper response, should I reach it? I can understand if you'd rather have a clear-cut, conclusive decision immediately but... that's all I really say as of now."

My breathing has become erratic too, over the course of my speech. I catch myself gasping for air, but also feeling relieved I spilled everything I had on my mind… and most importantly, in my heart.

She smiles as a single tear rolls on her right cheek, making my heart skip a beat and also hurt a little. The expression she makes is so authentic, sincere and true to what she feels that I can't be unfazed by the sight of it.

I hear the girl in front of me laughs nervously before responding.

"Haha… I think I will take my chance and wait for your genuine answer... but who could have thought… Senpai would be the one to change his ways…"

"I don't know. Certainly not me, you can trust me on that."

I smile a little myself, my answer getting another laugh out of Isshiki before she speaks again.

"It's… weird. I feel like you are the one who forced a confession out of me…"

I silently shake my head at first, a way of negating her statement before adding my point of view on the matter.

"You've properly confessed, Isshiki. I mean… for Hikigaya Hachiman to notice that… it must have taken a good lot of unaltered, sincere feelings to reach his barricaded heart. A heart he thought to be insensitive to this kind of thing."

I'm also confessing, in a way. It's just not the same type of confession. That type would still have to be delayed a little bit.

"I'm supposed to wait for you to decide yourself about what you want to make of me but I'm not that patient of a girl, y'know?"

If what I said so far could be assimilated to a confession… of course this would happen right.

It's such a wonder how much of an idiot I can be when it comes to this.

And when you know what kind of girl Isshiki Iroha is, mostly an assertive and recently more self-confident one, the outcome is evident.

After all, anything inhibiting her has completely disappeared from the board. It's like the King piece is in plain view and your Queen is obviously in the most advantageous position to take it away.

A pair of delicate lips found their way to mine, deposing a sweet, loving kiss as they landed on the desired destination.

It didn't last long as I could only think of it in retrospect, brief as a passing breeze over me but powerful enough to leave a lasting impression, a feeling of slight dizziness sprouting out of it.

"I'll have the honor of taking your first kiss, Senpai-"

She interrupts herself, instantly correcting herself.

"No… Hachi."

Her sly self is coming forth once more, at full strength. She dries her tears, and flashes a cunning smile embellishing her pretty features.

I mentioned it sometime ago but she truly is the second most rotten person in the world.

A powerful crowned piece ruling the board.

The most rotten one is of course myself.

That one crowned piece which only thinks of protecting itself, moving one step at a time.

(*): Satori Tendō is a fictional character coming from "Haikyuu!", a popular volleyball manga. He's a middle blocker, and his guesses are nearly always correct so he earned the nickname "Guess Monster" from other teams. I thought it could be a funny reference.

I'm also using a lot of Chess references.

I'll be seeing you guys for chapter seven, as a flame was just ignited in this one.

I'm ready to receive complaints about how things turned out this time, I understand how it can be disliked but trust me, that's truly the way I want the things to be for now. And it won't stop me from writing my story how I see fit.