It is the most despicable thing to know…
I never knew such a thing could exist, even though it appears only natural if you think deep enough…
But still, just the idea of it being appealing… No! It is exactly that it is appealing… I mean innocently appealing while having perverted content doesn't sit right for me!

[What's with that? That's not cool at all! Hahaha!]

A girl in the screen cheerfully smiled as she spoke without me being able to distinct the tongue she's using.
A mixed feeling of her pulling heartstrings on me and a self-sense that she was mocking me suddenly shoved me back from prying further.
And the guy in front of that very screen was wearing a blank expression… which you can really call that he's a seasoned player of poker.

"eheeeeeeh~~"

But then, he slips a creepy, long laugh as if he had just received the happiest gift in the world.
I seriously don't understand what's so good about that game he's playing.
A lot of the students are playing video games and wasting their time instead of using it to study… Well, I also play those games but I'm not as reckless like the most! I'm doing it in moderation, obviously!

As expected of the power of the "dark side".

I'm getting off track; I was talking about this guy beside me.
He's the same case as those wreck-heads, and he's using his time pointlessly over a kind of game that contains mature content…

"Oi~ Jem… I won't try to stop you from playing, but could you at least leave some privacy? You're bothering the people around."

I called his attention in the midst of this dispersing crowd the chime for the next session of classes made its sound.
Without making a respond, he hover his finger over the track pad, and his computer prompts as the game closes.

"I'm glad she wasn't bad than I initially thought. Akane is surprisingly cute! Hr-haaghhh~ S-somehow I can't wait for later."
"What's stopping you? You still have the time, you know."
"Ahhh… No. Now's not a good time. I still have to prepare for my report that is due after the midterm exams."

He started packing his stuff without any hint of remorse or even a faint sign of regret like he usually does after playing that dark game that he's so proud of.

Now that I remembered it, he doesn't rant about his academics for some time now. I wonder why... Well, the term has just started a good number of days. Maybe he's just doing a rough draft or something…

… Things around the lobby have gone quiet for several minutes now… roughly forty minutes have passed.
The silence of cultivation is evident like how it should have been, as an institution for learning.
The sound of Jem's hands tapping over his keyboard was one of a kind piece similar to those great musicians in the past.

Wait… he's doing his school work seriously?!

Why?!
Him? A spawn of the darkness is doing a righteous work? How? And why?!

"What are you working anyway?"

I initiated a small talk.
Even though I spoke in low manner, my voice somehow spread throughout the lobby as few heads can be seen turning my way… even the guard behind us is observing me while holding a mug.
I waited, but not a single response was given…

But what the hell, it is really hard to imagine that he's taking academics this serious. All I could picture was him complaining nonstop on how much of a hassle schooling is. Even at this very moment, I'm still expecting that he'll eventually get fed up and start pulling his own hairs in irritation.

Jem moves his right-hand and taking down some notes, I recon.

"Is this the power of playing Visual Novels?" I blurted it out subconsciously.
"Seriously? Should I take that as a compliment? I don't have time for small talk, especially right now."
"No, I was just thinking that playing those rotten games of yours has finally helped you motivate with your studies."
"Hrnnnmmm… I'd be glad if that were the case."

I took the chance to take a peek on his computer while he takes a short breather.
He's massaging his temples.

"I'm having a hard time collecting my thoughts and just thrown anything, but as I thought, this feels all wrong."
"That could only mean that the whole work is no good. You're a half-ass, but you don't like half-assed work."
"Yeah, screw this shit! Screw that report!"

I was smiling at his stupidity, but I can't let him get away and escape his work.

"Ahhhh… Is that so?" But, an unfamiliar voice creeps out behind us before I could even speak.

We turned around on our seat in perfect sync.

"Geh?!" Jem had a twisted look on his face. A stylish girl stood before us with a defiant look on her face.

I knew this girl, though I'm not exactly acquainted with her.
She's a representative of the Student Council for second year students of the Chemical Engineering department.
If I'm not mistaken, she is…

"Fuck! It's Lia… a generic, filthy normie heroine!" Jem spoke in a choking manner while averting his gaze.

Oh! There's his usual insult.

Looking my way back to Lia, I already expected that things will turn sour as her expression intensifies.

"I was so stupid to feel sorry for having you handle this task. But…" She clenched her fist in annoyance.

Jem nervously avoided her gaze with a stupid look on his face.

As for my case, I kept quiet for the obvious reason that I'm not involved. But it's still a little too nerve-wrecking for me.

"Haaah. I'll ask you to take this seriously. I won't allow you to drag us down on this course. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Carpena!"

Without waiting for response, Lia left and head towards two girls from a distance who were seem to be waiting for her.

"The hell, dude? Didn't you hear what she was saying?"

By the time I faced Jem, there he was— playing the damn game like nothing happened.

"I can manage. You don't need to remind me."
"Right… But that's a surprise though. I didn't know you're acquainted with a popular girl like her."
"Couldn't be avoided, we're in the same class after all."
"You won't deny that she's popular, huh. You sounded like you're not interested. But what can I say? It is you we're talking about. And whatever your relationship with her is totally none of my business."

I began packing my stuff upon checking my watch.

"You got that right. It's none your business." I stopped midway from pulling myself out of seat as he responded, and he casually continued. "And I appreciate you're not being nosy about this insignificant matter."
"Yeah, yeah, you're very much welcome—"
"You just have to focus on your own shit, Mr. Stuck-Being-A-Friend. And I warn you. You know what that means."

I smiled weakly as I left, shrugging his usual send-off greeting…

That's odd… I wonder what's taking her too long.

The restaurant is getting crowded when lunch time approached.
I feel a bit relieved of having a slot for us to eat.

"Thanks for waiting, Leo!" with a pat on my shoulder; the girl I was waiting for had finally arrived.
"Mae Anne. Ah, have a seat… Hmmm?" I gave a curious look to the person behind her.
"I brought a friend since she happens to be free. Is that okay with you?"
"Oh, sure, I don't mind. The more the merrier, they say." While I said that, I was thinking of doing the same and bought Jem with me.
"Let me introduce you to her, Jem this is Rose. And Rose, Jem."
""Hi!"" We greeted in perfect harmony. But…

Is it just me, or is this girl just glaring at me?

"… I'm back"
"Fufu… that really happened?"
"Yeah… and guess what she said?"

By the time I returned back to the table after taking our orders, the two are leisurely talking.
I lightly took my seat, leaving both of the girls undisturbed.
I take a look outside while distracting myself, carefully not listening to the details of their talk.
Every time I do this, Jem's words of advice… or rather a warning as he wanted to put it, subconsciously taken my attention like always.

"Don't take women too lightly. Especially for the likes of Mae Anne…"

Jem was rather reserved around women.
It wouldn't be wrong to assume that he's not fond with them…
But he doesn't particularly hate them. On the contrary, he totally gets along with women just fine.

Yet, he sounded like he's extremely wary around Mae Anne. What kind of impression he got from her, I wonder.

"Leo… are you listening?"
"Uh-h, wu-what?" Before I knew it, Mae Anne was pouting in front of my eyes.
"Ah, just as I thought… The food's here. Why are you spacing out like that?"
"Ah-hah… Haaa…. I'm sorry."
"Seriously, you wander too much. Let's just eat, okay?"

On her cue, the three of us commenced the feast…

Currently, I'm tailing few steps behind the two girls.
We were making our way through the campus after we ate lunch.
This is the usual routine for most of the time when I'm alone with Mae Anne.
Sometimes, I find myself useless for times like this.

It looks like they're having a good time for them to drag their chat this long. Maybe I'll just lay myself off.

After making decision I called out to them, particularly to Mae Anne.

"I should get going. There are still things that are needed to do."
"Oh, okay. I'll just see you around later, okay?"

Without any regrets I turned around upon receiving such a warm smile as a farewell…

Ah~! I almost forgot to give to her her favourite treat.

We were separated for few minutes now, and obviously they're walls away from my field of vision.
But I knew where to find them. That alone gave me a push.

"There they are…"

I approached them while walking along the walls of the building to shade myself from the midday blaze.
They were resting at the shed near the machine building.
The place was almost deserted as always.

Having a shaded pathway is really convenient… Hmmm… such a nice breeze…

Their voices were sounded mild and serious as I reached the corner of the building; a few steps away from them.

"Let me guess… This… Leo guy also asked you out, didn't he?"

I stopped reactively due to how sensitive the matter was to me.

"Errr~ So you've noticed?"

"Just as I suspected… But I guess that's a given."

I shouldn't be doing this, but I couldn't help myself to sneak.
Rose seemed to be dissatisfied from Mae Anne's response.

"Then?"
"What do you mean by 'then'? You know what I'm talking about."
"What do you mean? Did I do something wrong?"

I got not a single clue of what they were talking about, but I feel uneasy for some reason.

"Look… Guys like him wouldn't have the courage to ask you out if he knew you're already going out with someone."
"Ah! Really? I~ had~ no~~ idea~~~ 3"
"You of all people… really…"

I'm confused. I can only feel my strength leaving me.
The idea that she's dating someone wasn't really shocked me.
My brain is currently trying to figure out the reason behind.
All I could recall was the image of kindness Mae Anne had showed me from all the time we've spent.

"I sure hope you'll tell him about it. You have a bad habit of giving people a wrong impression, you know…"
"Fufufu… my, is that so?"
"Yeah… not unless… Ughhhh… don't tell me. YOU!"

At that moment, everything became clear to me.
I only felt hopeless instead of harbouring hate.
I was stupid… idiotically stupid. I was more than a fool than I knew I was.

Jem was right…

With that single thought in mind, I walked back, treading the beaming soil.
I looked up, gazing the sun on its peak, silently taking its insults in hopes that its hot glare could fill the gap within me.

"Time to go back…" I whispered to myself as chime broke out all throughout the campus as afternoon classes are about to start…