Flashback After Asu parted off with the group, Kazuki found her. They spent quality time together, narrowing their distance once again- not until their companions found them.
'Our distance is just an inch away; two and a half centimetres of distance that we never breakthrough. We are so close; yet, so far.'
Misty clouds floated on the pond of heated natural spring bath. Dampness lingered in the cold air before landing onto the bare skins of its visitors.
After rinsing her body, Asu unwrapped the pure white towel and soaked into the boiling water, joining her companions.
The sky wore the waxing crescent as its pendant while the moon accompanied with twinkling stars.
Thanks to the knowledge from the stargazer, Asu recognised the Mars and the Ram constellation at a glimpse.
Memories of the night he first taught her about the constellation replayed scene by scene as if a movie on the playback.
As if she found the missing puzzle, she finally sees the complete picture of Kazuki and herself- the hidden message in the dream as well as her feelings that she oversaw.
"The view is breathtaking." she commented as she locked her eyes onto the constellation that she recognised.
"Deshou? Glad that you don't have to work today, Asu. Otherwise, you'll miss the fun!" Mai said.
"Ne, Mai-chan, have you done anything to your chest?" Midori questioned, snatching their attention while diverting the topic.
"Eh? Not that I remember though." Mai answered before flashing a mischievous grin, "Are you thinking of growing your chest bigger?"
The simple-minded girl's question flustered the timid girl.
"I-I just thought that... You know... Guys might prefer a bigger chest." Midori confessed with hints of embarrassment.
"Why don't you ask Asu? She's a part-time model, deshou? She might have some tips." Mai suggested, widening Asu's eyes in surprise.
"Eh? Me? How would I know?" Asu replied as she knitted her brows lightly.
On the other side of the ladies' hot spring, the private conversation in between the girls entered into the men's ears.
As if eavesdropping the outrageous information, a faint hue of blush shaded their cheeks- except for Oushirou, who was sneaking to the bamboo partition that separated the hot spring into two.
Noticing the scheme of the rebellious man, Kazuki stood behind Oushirou before hitting the top of the redhead forcefully with the side of his palm.
"ii kagen ni shirou, hentai!" Kazuki warned with dissatisfaction written all over his face.
"Itte! Nan da yo? Don't you want to see it too?" Oushirou winced as he held his head.
"Not at all." Kazuki responded after a moment of silence before pulling the redhead by the blazing ruby hair, walking to the opposite side of the partition.
"Liar!" Oushirou shouted. "Peeping tom is a crime, Oushirou." Homare said firmly.
Time flew in a blink of an eye. They returned to the room one after another before proceeding to the dining area where plates of mouth-watery dishes served.
Taking a seat in front of the arrogant man in a navy yukata and its coat, Asu in aquamarine yukata stared at the served dinner.
Appetising seaweed with sesame sauce, steaming enoki mushroom miso soup, grilled chub mackerel served with plain white rice, and the fresh slices of mikan; yet, a sense of nauseous attacked the gluttony.
Her expression darkened gradually- not until a broad hand entered into her sight and shifted the plates away from her.
"Told you so not to eat so many snacks just now." a familiar husky voice nagged. Asu looked up only to find Kazuki greeted casually before stuffing the food into his mouth.
"Says the one who keeps stealing my precious desserts." she responded as she picked up the chopsticks and glimpsed at the dishes that were left untaken- the soup, grilled fish, and fresh fruit.
"It's not stealing when I paid for the food." the arrogant president spoke the matter of fact.
"I told you I'll pay-" she strangulated as the haughty man shot a glare to her.
"I know what you want to say. Now, eat. I'll take whatever you left." Kazuki spoke sternly.
"Egoistic." Asu mumbled the final rant before picking a small bite of the grilled fish and munched silently.
For a second time, the others stared at the arguing pair silently. As if they were expelled from the arguing pair's world, the companions were rather surprised.
'They're not close with each other, right?', 'Since when they got so close?', 'I didn't have an illusion, right? Asu is obeying him?', 'Asu-chan...' Those were what beneath the others' skull.
"Say, let's have a horror storytime in our room later after dinner!" Oushirou suggested excitingly, attempting to chase away the unpleasant ambience created unknowingly by the arguing pair.
"Eh? Horror...?" Midori responded with hints of hesitation.
"You'll be fine, Midori. We share a room. Don't worry!" Mai comforted as she ensured the timid girl with a broad smile.
Lights off, leaving only the dimmed desk light shone in the tatami room. The group sat down in a circle.
Warm rays brightened their face, creating a high contrast between the light and shadow while making every profile prominent.
"Saa, who would like to be the first?" Homare raised the question; yet, no answer getting in return.
"Jaa, I'll go first." Kazuki spoke after a moment of silence.
"Etto... Have you heard of a rule regarding staircase in the academy that you must never break?" Kazuki began with a question with a low voice.
"A student in our academy broke the rules." he added.
"After the sun has set, he heard creepy cries in the hallway, and a familiar voice called his name out. So, he turned around slowly.
No one was there but a pond of blood spreading on the hallway.
He followed the direction of the blood-spreading curiously. It led him to the staircase." he added with seriousness written all over his face.
"One step, two steps, three steps... Those blood dripping down the staircase.
And when he stepped to the fourth step, he was torn into pieces, just like..." he strangulated as he stared at the empty space behind Asu who sat next to him.
Silenced; his brows knitted deeper as his emerald eyes widened and jaw slacked gradually.
Staring sternly at Kazuki's frightened expression, the intense ambience raced Asu's heart.
She tried to sneak a peek of her back through the reflection of the emerald eyes; yet, nothing found.
Unconsciously, her hand clenched into a fist and pressed it against her thumping chest.
Summoning all her courage, she turned to the side while eyeballing onto the space that Kazuki has been staring at. Her breath went hastened.
She doesn't even know if she was breathing through her nose or mouth.
Out of sudden, a firm grip landed on her shoulder, causing her turning back in reflex. A fingertip pressed against on her cheek.
Noises of sudden exclamation, loud laughter, and heavy sigh entered into her ears following by a brief spoken word.
"Ba...ka." Kazuki uttered with a straight face as he poked her cheek casually.
A mixed feeling of relief and anger swept away the nervousness and insecurities in her.
"... Childish." she uttered her dissatisfaction as she glared at the playful man.
"Says the one who believes in such childish nonsense." Kazuki teased as he pulled her cheek repeatedly with index finger and thumb.
A story after another, the ambience of the dark room was not as horrific as it appeared to be. Screams and laughter filled the silence from time to time.
After Homare told the last story of the night, the girls returned to their room.