This happened when I, Hiratsuka Shizuka, was walking down the hallway of the special building. Just ahead, several meters away, I spotted a high school girl humming cheerfully as she walked along. Her name was Yuigahama Yui. She was normally a peppy girl, but today her manner seemed even more exuberant than usual.
“Mhmmm mhmmm mhmmm.”
“Oh, Yuigahama!” I called out to her. “You seem to be in high spirits. To be humming in the hallway… did something good happen?”
She stopped. “Ah, Hiratsuka-sensei,” she answered with a warm smile on her face. “Y’see, it’s my birthday today. You know my birthday party? Yukinon’s holding it for me!”
A birthday… right, that was still something to look forward to around her age, but not so much when you’re my age. At any rate, she was having a good time. I ought to congratulate her properly.
Still, there’s no way of knowing for sure whether she could expect that kind of sincere congratulations when she got around to my age.
“Oh, so it’s your birthday, is it? Congrats. I’m glad to see you’re getting along with those others. You can see some definite growth in Yukinoshita, but on the other hand…” I sighed.
A single male high school student came to mind. Yuigahama pursed her lips and smiled uncertainly, as if she thought of the same thing.
“W-Well, Hikki might be a bad egg, but he can be nice from time to time. I mean, he got me a present and stuff.”
I was slack-jawed at her reaction. “Oh? I don’t recall saying anything about Hikigaya.”
“Huh?! Don’t tell me that was a trick question just now!” Yuigahama was flustered and taken aback. It wasn’t a trick question, though.
“You could say it was a leading question. But whatever. Speaking of those two, they rely on you. They’re hard to get along with, but I hope you treat them well.”
Heh. I sounded a bit like a teacher right then, didn’t I? I thought as I looked at Yuigahama.
“Oh, okay…” She looked confused for a moment, and then she let slip a careless thought. “Sensei, you’re kinda like a mum.”
I winced. “I-I’m not that old, you know…”
For a moment there, a shock came over me like my heart was being assaulted with a blunt weapon. As I fought valiantly to keep myself from staggering, I clenched my teeth and smiled.
Yuigahama backpedalled hastily. “Er, no, that’s not what I meant! You’re, uh, like a mum? That kinda thing. Right, ‘motherly’! You’ll make a good mum, Sensei! As long as you get married!”
“It’s worse when they mean well…”
When drawing a blade for a quick strike, the moment you unsheathe the sword is when the opponent is most vulnerable. If I had not devised a backup plan through reading Rurouni Kenshin, I would have fallen from that blow just now, unable to withstand it…
It’s okay. She was trying to praise me. Not yet – it was still not yet time to give up!
Be brave, Shizuka!
As I was bracing myself, Yuigahama opened her mouth as if she had just thought of something. “Oh, right! Will you come to the party too, Sensei?”
I coughed. “I appreciate the invitation, but I’ll have to pass. I’m going to a different party today.”
“You’re going to a birthday party too, Sensei?”
“N-not exactly… I can’t bring myself to tell her that it’s a marriage hunting party,” I muttered that second part to myself.
And before she could ask me what kind of party it was, I changed the subject.
“Anyway, what is the guest of honour doing out here? Aren’t they all waiting for you?”
“Oh, right! See you later, Sensei!”
“Yeah, go and have fun.”
Once I finished watching Yuigahama dash off, I looked out the window at the darkening sky.
I sighed. “Won’t someone marry me?”