The girl who approached me was a fashionable-looking girl with blonde hair in loose waves who seemed to be the same age as me. She was wearing a T-shirt and hoodie on top and slightly longer half pants underneath. Her clothes looked easy to move around in, but the color in one spot added to her cuteness.

The casual stylishness of her outfit, which looks like it would be easy to walk the dog, makes me feel a little self-conscious, as if I were the one who has been cutting corners in the worn-out jerseys I’ve worn since junior high school.

“T-thank god, here you go.”

I handed her Kontarou’s lead, which I lowered to the ground without saying a word, and she squatted down and patted Kontarou’s back again and again, saying that she was really glad.

“Thank you so much for helping me. ……! I was really, really startled by the sudden barking of a big dog, and I had never seen anything like that before, so I took my hand off the leash.”

“No, no, no, It’s fine. But be careful next time. There are many cars on this narrow road.”

“Yes, thank you very much! So, what can I do to thank you?”

“I don’t have anything to thank you for! it’s okay it’s okay”

I’m not the kind of person who needs to be thanked. I was just a person who desperately tried to stop something that made me feel bad that was right in front of me. If the Shiba Inu had run out into the street, I probably wouldn’t have gone to catch it.

“But, that doesn’t make me feel any better. Eh, um, Orikawa-kun, by any chance?”

“Eh? Have we met somewhere?”

“Why, we’re in the same class! Orikawa-kun, you stood out and I understood, but I’m, you know, plain.”

“Eh, I was stood out?”

I look at her seriously as she describes herself as plain. I don’t remember any blonde girls in my class at the school I went to yesterday. Even if you look at the school as a whole, the ratio is probably not that high.

I know she says she’s plain, but a blonde classmate with a well-developed face and a gal-like appearance is a rarity in a school that is so advanced.

As I twisted my neck, she opened her mouth wide saying ‘ah’!

“Come to think of it, you probably didn’t recognize me because I had black hair at yesterday’s entrance ceremony!”

“No, you dyed your hair blonde right after the entrance ceremony, isn’t that a bit too much of a leap?”

“Well, I dyed my hair in junior high school, but for the entrance ceremony, I thought it would be better to keep a low profile~. The school has a very loose hair policy too. You have to read the school rules! I’m Namazue Yuisa! Nice to meet you”

Hmmm? No, even so, isn’t dyeing your hair in one day a bit too much fun? she introduced herself so I answered with a smile

“Namazue san, I’m Orikawa. Pleased to meet you.”

With a hand not holding the lead, she took a step closer to me and asked me to shake her hand, so I complied. Personally, I am not the type of person to venture into personal space, so I was surprised at how close she was, but when I smiled, she smiled happily, her well-shaped face accentuated by the proximity.

“It’s fate,”

“No, what’s going on all of a sudden?”

“Orikawa-kun is the one who saved Kontarou! Fate to save my treasure, this means you are my destiny. Wait, to close! Don’t listen!”

There were parts during the conversation that I couldn’t hear because her voice was too quiet, and I thought I was close enough to hear her, but the loud voice made me jerk. It was that her who came one step closer though.

She apologized repeatedly as if she was in a hurry, fidgeting cutely.

“No, what’s really going on all of a sudden?”

“No, no, no. I’m sorry, I really want to thank you.”

“I really don’t need any thanks, I’m just glad that Kontarou is safe. You should not run away from your kind master or cause trouble for her. If you are startled, don’t use your master as a shield and wait for her to run away.”

I gently patted Kontarou’s head, and he responded as if he understood, At this exchange between one person and one animal, Namazue shouted

“Eeeh, Orikawa-kun, you’re being a bit rude!”

“Hahahaha, sorry, sorry. Then, I should probably finish up my run and go home to get ready for school.”

Her cute reaction made me laugh.

I can’t help but laugh at her cute reaction. She also embarrassedly pretended to be more cute and angry, so I apologized and said that, and she nodded as if she understood.

“I see you live near here too, Orikawa kun! I live near here too!”

“My house is about there. A house in the district along the river, a little further on, across the bridge. After heavy rains, it’s very noisy because of the rising river.”

“Oh, you’re running across the bridge! You must be running a lot. My house is on this side of the river. It’s really noisy after it rains. Even when I close the windows, I’m surprised to hear the sound of the river. I used to be scared that my house would be washed away.”

“That means my house is right across that river, It’s just a stone throw away. But I didn’t have any classmates with blond hair when I was in junior high school.”

“Ah, I think the river is the boundary of the school district. I went to junior high school over here. When you introduced yourself, you said you were from East Junior High School, right? I went to North Junior High. We probably didn’t have any contact until now.”

“Sounds like it. I’ve never had any contact with you until now. I see.”

If you are a junior high school student in a different school district and of a different gender, there is no way to make contact unless you have something to do with each other. Although there were some of my club mates who had girlfriends in other junior high schools, it was just a matter of talking about girlfriends in other school districts, and I didn’t make any more friends in other junior high schools.

When I was in …… junior high school, I spent most of my time with my childhood friend Rinen, except for club activities and the small friendship with my classmates. With only a few exceptions, I didn’t remember making any deep friendships with girls. … In the end, I’m disappointed in the summer.

Just as I shake off the memories of middle school, when my heart throbbed a little, I called out to Namazue

“It’s going to be a bit of a rush, but do you want a ride home?”

“Um, then, just to the halfway point. Kontarou would be happy to run with you.”

We walked a little faster side by side, and as she said, Kontarou started to lead us happily. She laughed in a cute little voice as she watched Kontarou’s happy appearance.

“Namazue san”

“Ah, that’s right! Yuisa is fine. You see, Namazue is not a character, right? That’s why I told everyone to call me by my first name.”

“Ah, Yusa san, then.”

She grabbed a tuft of blonde hair and laughed like that. I nodded inwardly and said, “Well, sure”. It is somehow wrong to call such a cute gal-like girl Namazue san.

I call my childhood friends by their first names, so I don’t mistake calling a girl by her name itself as a sign of great friendship. However, I have never called a girl by her first name before, so I feel a little self-conscious about it.

After all, I have reached an old age. In fact, yesterday I only called Suminodo-san when I talked to her. But maybe that’s not right either. In order to diminish Rinen’s presence in my life, maybe I should take a firm step closer to her, just like I did back then.

“Yes! Nice to meet you, Hisa-kun.”

But I didn’t expect Yuisa san to call me by my first name as well. I was a little surprised. Maybe she thought I didn’t like it because of my surprise, but she panicked and said

“Umm, that reaction, could it be that you don’t like it? You’re angry, you have a girlfriend or something?”

“No, of course there is no such a person, but ……, I was just surprised because you suddenly called me by my name.”

“Oh, really? I’m glad to hear that!”

 I feel a little embarrassed to be called “Hisa-kun” because of the distance between us. But I’m sure this is what normal distance feels like to her. I accept it as something I should get used to. As I was chatting with Yuisa san in a casual manner, she stopped.

“My house is right here!”

“Oh, we really live in the same neighborhood.”

There was a nameplate hanging on the wall, and indeed there was a house with the name “Namazue” written on it. It was smaller than my house, but it was the size of a standard house in the neighborhood.

“My house is right across the river. Next to that big mansion.”

“Wow, it’s right next to that mansion-like house! It really is right across the street! There’s a river between us!”

“I’m surprised too. If it weren’t for the river, we’d be neighbors.”

“Yeaah, just having the river in between makes all the difference. I didn’t have any friends to play with across the bridge, either. I’ll see you at school! Don’t be late.”

“Haha, I still have plenty of time, thanks. I’ll see you at school. Yuisa san too, don’t be late.”

With her lighthearted smile, I hurried home, jogging lightly again. Checking my watch, I found that I finished later than usual.

I had such a feeling that I would be able to take a new step forward in high school, having met new people while I was trying to make a fresh start and make more friends.

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