Volume 1, Chapter 10: Gotou Airi
Editors: Yuuki, xyi
“Eh, you’re going out for dinner with Gotou-san?”
As I nodded to her, the piece of grilled salmon that Mishima held between her chopsticks fell back on to her plate.
With a slightly delayed eep, Mishima finally came back to her senses. She picked up the piece of salmon once again.
Mishima was eating a salmon set meal. She had ordered it from the staff dining area as she vocally declared to me that ‘this is what I like’. The set meal consisted of grilled salmon, stir-fry vegetables, a bowl of soup, and slices of pickled vegetables served along with white rice. Although simple, it was a staple of the menu.
On the other hand, I ordered a bowl of Chinese noodles. By the time I moved it to my seat and took a mouthful, it had already gone a bit soggy. It wasn’t particularly delectable.
“Eh? Eh? So were you the one who invited her, Yoshida-senpai?” Mishima asked while waving her chopsticks around.
“No, Gotou-san was the one who invited me.”
“Ehhhhh…. I don’t get it!” She said before she started gnawing down on another piece of salmon.
“I don’t get it at all!!” She cried out again.
I grunted and waved my head in response.
“Trust me, I don’t get it either.”
“If you don’t get it then why are you going!?”
“Is there anyone who would refuse an invitation from their superior though?”
“I mean, I usually refuse.”
I took another mouthful of my bowl of noodles.
“Well, no one would mind if you did that, ‘cause you’re you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mishima said with a pout.
Opting to remain silent, I took yet another mouthful of my bowl of Chinese noodles.
There was no need for me to go out of my way to tell her that ‘It’s because you’re both good looking and a female employee whom the superiors are fond of, so they wouldn’t mind’.
Mishima frowned as she placed the last piece of salmon in her mouth.
“Fats shuninwitre a grap.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, seriously.”
Young girls shouldn’t be doing such things.
It had been weighing on my mind since the time we went out drinking a few days ago. Whatever the case, it seems that, despite her age, no one has ever warned her before of her poor habit of speaking while eating. Isn’t this something that her parents should have warned her about? Even if her parents didn’t, her close friends, or at least someone along those lines should have.
Perhaps young people these days didn’t care about such things? I don’t get it at all.
After swallowing with a loud gulp, Mishima spoke up again.
“That’s definitely a trap.”
“What the heck do you mean by a ‘trap’?”
“What I mean is that she’s trying to swindle you, Yoshida-senpai. It would better for you if you don’t go.”
“And why would she be trying to swindle me?”
At my response, Mishima made an ‘umm’ sound and her eyes drifted around, as if searching for a good reason.
So she said all that without giving it any thought?
“A-, Anyway” Mishima said as she pointed at me with her chopsticks. “It would definitely be better for you to not go.”
“Don’t point chopsticks at others.”
Just where are her table manners?
“Yoshida-kun, you can go ahead and start grilling the meat.”
“Remember the time when department Head Onozaka said that ‘Yoshida-kun will be the meat-magistrate~’?”
That damn old man running his mouth at his own convenience.
On occasions such as these, he would spend his time chatting up with the new female hires, so he had never helped grill the meat. Thus, I always ended up being the one stuck with this job. With a forced smile, I carefully placed the plate of salt-and-onion marinated ribs onto the grill mesh.
Gotou-san sat in the seat across me.
“Ah, what a wonderful aroma!”
That aside, it was hard for me to hold a proper conversation with her.
‘Why did she invite me out for dinner today?’ My mind was stuck on this particular question.
“That piece is ready, feel free to grab it.”
“Oh really? Thanks, I’ll do just that then.”
With a bright smile, Gotou-san picked up the piece of meat and moved it to her plate.
Then, she slowly sunk her teeth into the juicy barbecue rib. Opting to not eat the entire long and slender piece of meat in one go, she decided to slowly chew off about half of it. The sight of her lips squeezing down on the piece of meat as she tried to separate it with her front teeth was strangely erotic.
…I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s rude for me to be so fixedly staring at someone else eating.
I quickly averted my gaze from Gotou-san and moved a piece of nicely-cooked rib from the grill to my plate. After dipping it in sauce, I shoved it into my mouth in one go. As I crunched on the meat with my molars, the meat’s juices filled my mouth.
Although the atmosphere was slightly awkward, the meat was as delicious as ever.
Now that I think about it, Sayu doesn’t cook meat-heavy dishes very often. I ate enough chicken to get tired of it when I went to the pub with Mishima the other day, but it has been a while since I last had pork. I slowly chewed on the oddly delicious pork, savoring its flavor.
Allowing my gaze to wander to the front, my gaze met Gotou-san’s. I was startled.
“You ate it all in one go?”
“Eh, is there something wrong with that?”
“Not at all. I was just thinking that you really are a man.”
Saying that, Gotou-san let out a chuckle.
…Ahh, why does everything you do seem so erotic? Give me a break.
“I mean, I am a guy.” I quickly replied, though it didn’t amount to much.
I tried to hide my embarrassment by quickly stuffing my mouth with another piece of meat.
What the heck is ‘I’m a guy ’ supposed to even mean. Anyone with eyes can tell that I’m a guy.
Perhaps it was due to the heat from the charcoal flames, but I could feel my face getting hotter by the moment.
“Are you nervous?”
As if trying to peer at my face, Gotou-san slightly lowered her head and gazed at me with upturned eyes.
“Well, of course.”
“Uhh… If someone who had just rejected you suddenly asked you out for dinner, wouldn’t you feel kind of awkward?”
“Ahaha, so that’s what it was?”
Gotou-san laughed heartily before taking another bite from her barbecue rib.
I hastily turned away from Gotou-san. I couldn’t allow myself to gaze upon that sight again.
If I end up doing something weird again, I’ll just make an idiot of myself.
“Alright then, how about we play a game to relax?” Gotou-san suggested after swallowing her piece of barbecue rib.
“Yup. We’ll be asking each other three questions that the other must answer. Sound okay?”
“…Can I ask anything?”
Hearing me say that, Gotou-san made a playful grunt. ‘fufu’.
“What do you plan on asking?”
How sly of her. She already foresaw what I wanted to ask, but she wouldn’t admit to that. In the end, I would be the one forced to do the ‘asking’.
I had trouble dealing with this aspect of hers, however, at the same time I also found it to be very charming.
As I solemnly searched for an appropriate answer, Gotou-san giggled and waved her chopsticks about.
“Feel free to ask me anything… Even if it’s something perverted.”
“No, it’s not like I am planning on asking such things.”
I shook my head in denial.
It was a lie. There was something that I really, really wanted to ask her – her cup size.
“Well let’s get started then! Go ahead!”
Gotou-san happily declared as she stared at me.
I was a little worried.
In all honesty, I wanted to first ask her ‘why did you invite me to dinner?’ I wanted to ask her that right this moment, but I was equally afraid of what her answer might be.
I didn’t have the courage to strike at the core on my first go.
“Eh, what the heck is with that question? You can only ask three questions you know?”
“It’s fine, just answer me.”
Gotou-san was the one to suggest barbecue.
To be honest, I was surprised. Never once in my wildest dreams would I have thought that she was the type that would take the person for barbecue when they invited a man out for dinner.
My instincts were telling me that there was perhaps a reason for choosing barbecue in particular.
“Well, it’s because I’m eating with you, Yoshida-kun.” Gotou-san answered indifferently.
Although I was taken aback, I quickly replied.
“Because of me?”
“That’s right. Because of you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Excuse me waiter, could I get an additional plate of ox heart?”
Gotou-san evaded my question by placing an order of meat with the waiter who passed by.
“What about you?”
“Ah, I’ll have a plate of salted ox tongue.”
“A plate of ox heart and a plate of salted ox tongue. Ah, we’d like another two glasses of beer as well.” Gotou-san gleefully told the waiter.
“Understood.” Replied the waiter as he placed the order into his handheld console.
As he did, I caught him taking a glance at her chest. I see you man. I see it all.
“So, what were we talking about?”
“Uhm… You said that it was ‘because of me’.”
“That’s right! It’s all because of you, Yoshida-kun.”
Gotou-san nodded. She then grabbed her glass of beer, which was still half-full, and started chugging it down.
I stared on blankly. Her drinking form was quite good.
After several seconds, Gotou-san, who had drained the glass, let out a long “Puha~” as she lowered the glass. That simple gesture felt strangely immoral and I couldn’t help but look away.
“I drained half the glass in one go.”
“Your form was quite good, I guess.” I stated whilst tilting my head in confusion.
Gotou-san let out a shrill laugh in response.
“That. That’s what I like about you.”
I showed a forced smile, unable to understand what she meant by that. Gotou-san waved her hand in a flutter.
“Back when we were still associates, before I became your boss, I couldn’t take the initiative to go out for barbecue or drinking, you know? I mean, everyone expects me to act ‘ladylike’. ”
There was no denying that she had a rather mature appearance. Even when she became a superior, she was, evidently, extremely popular. To be frank though, I only saw her in a perverted light.
Despite that though, I could sort of understand why she never suggested to go out for ‘barbecue’ or ‘drinking’. As someone in her position, there weren’t really any situations where she could suggest to go out for activities that were commonly suggested by middle-aged men.
“So, why is it okay to invite me for a barbecue?”
“I mean, it’s because you wouldn’t judge me for it or anything like that, Yoshida-kun.”
“Well, barbecue and beer are pretty tasty after all.”
“Fufu, and you didn’t care when I ate that pork cutlet with curry set either.”
Saying that, Gotou-san squinted her eyes slightly and shook her shoulders.
Then, she rested her chin on one hand and looked directly at me.
“That’s why you’re the only one, Yoshida-kun. The only one I can ask out for barbecue and beer.”
“Haha, should I be happy about that?”
“Hmm-, I wonder? It might feel a little funny though, fufu.”
Gotou-san’s nose trembled a little as she laughed, as if she were exhaling gently from the nose.
That laugh of hers tickled my heart a little. That laugh of hers was one that I hadn’t ever been able to overcome, starting all the way from 5 years ago.
“Well, what will you be asking next?”
Gotou-san pressed on, her chin still resting upon her hand. She look at me with upturned eyes, as if testing me. Are you still not going to ask about that? Her gaze seemed to be saying that.
I let out a small sigh.
“Why did you invite me out for dinner today?” I asked without any pretenses, staring back at her.
“Well, there was something that I wanted to ask you, you see?”
Gotou-san’s lips slowly curled upwards.
‘I was waiting for you to ask that’, her attitude clearly showed that that was what she wanted to say.
So it really was about this. I clenched my teeth.
I found it extremely difficult to deal with her. Yet, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by her at the same time. Even now, my heart is beating as fast and loud as an alarm bell.
Hurry up and answer.
“Well you see…” Gotou-san said slowly.
Then, she pointed her index finger at me.
With a hearty smile—
“You’ve got yourself a girlfriend, haven’t you, Yoshida-kun?”
The affirmative implications she placed behind her question made my mind go blank for a brief moment.
After I recovered, I quickly shook my head in firm denial.
“No, I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Liar. How am I supposed to believe that?”
“Why don’t you believe it!?”
When I asked, Gotou-san eyes drifted about in a rare display of speechlessness.
Then, she said in a soft voice.
“I-, I mean, it’s weird.”
Gotou-san put down her chopsticks and scrunched her back a little before answering.
“I’ve known you for five whole years. In all of these 5 years, you were passionate about your work and never thought twice before doing overtime, but now suddenly, and I mean suddenly, you started going home on time.”
“Like I said…”
“You wanted to get more sleep? Am I supposed to believe that? If you were someone who would go home on time for a reason like that, you would’ve done so a long time ago.”
I was at a loss for words.
My answer when Gotou-san had last asked this, ‘I wanted to get more sleep’, had been a makeshift answer in order to hide the matter regarding Sayu. Since I did in fact say that, I couldn’t make any more excuses.
“Also… haven’t you been rather friendly with Mishima-san lately?”
“Mishima-san is a girl who almost always goes home on time and I can tell that she’s quite attached to you, Yoshida-kun. Didn’t the two of you leave work together a while back? That’s what got me thinking.”
“Hey, hey wait a second.”
Once it was clear to me that the conversation was taking a weird turn, I forcefully interrupted her.
“Could it be… that you think Mishima and I are dating?”
“Am I wrong!?”
“Of course you are!”
Rather, I had no idea why she would be thinking that. Well, she did state the reasons, but I don’t think that any of them were concrete enough for her to come to such a conclusion.
Also, Mishima is attached to me? No, that’s not true.
Not to mention, the only time we left together was that time when we went drinking. For her to have such suspicions after having seen us leave together just once; did Mishima and I really seem that close?
“You don’t have to lie to me. I won’t tell anyone.”
“Really though, there’s nothing between us.”
“…R-, Really?” Gotou-san nervously asked.
“Of course… Did you forget that I had just confessed to you not that long ago?”
Hearing that, Gotou-san grew a little red as she cleared her throat.
“How could I forget… But, back then… I clearly rejected you. So I don’t think it would be strange for you to get together with someone else soon after…”
Gotou-san is acting really odd today. She’s acting strangely suspicious and her attitude right now was completely different from her carefree attitude moments earlier. It felt as if I was dealing with someone younger than me.
After taking a gulp from my beer, I assertively called out.
Gotou-san seemed startled as she turned to look at me.
I would rather not let the misunderstanding continue, so I thought that I should take this opportunity tell it to her straight.
“In… In the 5 years that I’ve known you, I’ve always had a crush on you.”
“From the time I had joined the company all the way until now, I’ve always been in love with you. I was serious about confessing to you, so it’s a little upsetting to be thought of as someone who would quickly move on to the next one right after being rejected.” I said while looking at her straight in the eye.
Gotou-san’s face flushed red in the blink of an eye. She hurriedly shook her head.
“No, of course not! I have never ever thought of you as an insincere person, Yoshida-kun, it’s just that…”
Gotou-san abruptly stopped. Her slouched back seemed to be growing smaller. She then continued in a soft voice.
“I think that rather than someone like me, someone younger would suit you better…”
I reflexively let out a long sigh.
“…I’m still in love with you, even now, Gotou-san.”
As the conversation wasn’t getting anywhere, I resorted to telling it to her straight. Since I’d already been rejected by her once already, I didn’t feel too shy about saying it again.
“To be honest, I’ve never even considered anyone else… That’s just how special you are to me, Gotou-san.”
It was still embarrassing though, so I was looking slightly downward as I said all that.
After several seconds had passed, Gotou-san still hadn’t said anything, so I shifted my gaze back up towards her. Even with just a quick glance, it was clear that Gotou-san’s face was flushed as red as a tomato.
“Ah, no, it’s nothing….”
Gotou-san quickly shook her head and took a gulp from her beer to hide her embarrassment.
“T-, Then… it’s true that there’s nothing between you and Mishima-san?”
More importantly, however—
I had been taken aback by her outrageous questions earlier, so I hadn’t had the presence of mind to ask about the key factor behind her questions. Now that I was calm though, my suspicions quickly rose to the surface of my mind.
“Why do you care so much anyway?”
Gotou-san came to a complete halt.
“I mean, I’m someone you just rejected, aren’t I? This might sound a little rude, but personally, I think that whoever a guy whom you don’t like gets together with afterwards should be none of your business, really.”
Her expression revealed her bewilderment for a brief moment, but she seemed to have quickly recollected herself as she stuffed her mouth with the piece of meat that had been on her plate.
I reflexively turned my gaze away.
Once it was clear that she had finished chewing, I shifted my gaze back to her. She let out an audible sigh from her nose before saying.
“I guess it would be a little irritating for a man who just confessed to me to be stolen away by a younger girl.”
“I-, Is that so…?”
“Yup, that’s right.” She affirmed before taking another gulp of the beer.
Honestly, today’s her is a bit of an enigma. While I still have doubts to clear up, she’s definitely not the type to be convinced into talking about something she doesn’t want to talk about. Given that it’s a matter of 5 years, I can understand why she wouldn’t want to talk too much about it.
“Well, anyway, there’s nothing between Mishima and I, and I don’t have a girlfriend either.”
It would be pointless to delve any further into the topic, so I simply repeated what I said in a clear manner.
It felt strangely humiliating to say ‘I don’t have a girlfriend’ in front of the girl I liked. I felt a little angry, but it wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.
“Alright… If that’s all there is to it, then that’s good.”
After clearing her throat with a cough, Gotou-san seemed to have regained her usual composure and nodded.
“Is that all?”
“What do you mean?”
Gotou-san seemed to be a little confused by my question, but I was the one who should’ve been confused.
“You went out of your way to invite me to dinner and that’s all you wanted to ask?” I inquired again.
Gotou-san nodded her head in an indifferent manner and replied.
I let out a long sigh as I slackened and leaned my whole body against the chair.
“I was sure that this was about something more… important.”
“But this is important!”
Her heavy-handed tone startled me.
“And why would this be important?”
Gotou-san seemed to go blank for a brief moment. She quickly coughed to clear her throat once again and continued in a defiant manner.
“That’s a secret.”
“A secret… huh.”
This doesn’t make any damn sense, but it’s probably pointless to inquire any further on this given her firm answer.
Gotou-san, who had finally regained her bearings, inclined her head and spoke in her usual manner-of-speaking.
“You’re still allowed to ask one more question. Is there something you want to ask? Or are you done?” She asked as she set her glass on the table.
She didn’t mince her words to hide the connotation behind her words; ‘You’ve already asked everything you’ve wanted to ask, haven’t you?’ Still, it was clear that this question was also a scheme to dismiss the earlier conversation, which was strangely vexing to me.
I can feel the alcohol running through my system. Perhaps there was also a desire to get rid of this murky and confused feelings in my mind.
So I boldly asked.
“What’s your cup size?”
Gotou-san let out a loud laugh.
Then, she covered a side of her mouth with her palm, a pose that implied that this would be a secret between us, and said in a small voice.
“…It’s an I-cup.”
I-cup? What cup is that?
I began to count on my fingers.
Seeing that, Gotou-san broke into another giggle.
I absentmindedly stared out the window of the rocking train compartment.
It had been a rather turbulent meal of grilled meat.
After my last question, it was Gotou-san’s turn, all her questions were about Mishima. ‘Even if I wasn’t dating her, was I interested in her?’, ‘Have I taken a special liking to her?’ and other questions like that.
In any case, when I persistently asked her about it, she explained that she had been startled by the rapidly shortening distance between Mishima and I, after which, in a flustered bout, she decided to invite me out for dinner.
After hearing how it came down to this, I couldn’t help but think that she had a strangely cute side to her as well.
I had to repeatedly explain to her that Mishima was merely my junior. I had explained it so many times that it was hard to keep count.
Perhaps due to the influence of alcohol, Gotou-san had been incredibly insistent about hounding me with questions regarding Mishima. ‘A younger girl would probably be better for you, wouldn’t she?’, ‘Mishima-chan has a great figure doesn’t she? Don’t you like that sort of figure?’, and all sort of questions of similar nature. To sum it all up, it had been a nuisance.
My only thoughts regarding Mishima was that I want her to ‘work seriously’.
I didn’t think that my thoughts and actions could be misinterpreted.
I let out a long sigh. This situation really is over my head.
Gotou-san had rejected me. My heartfelt confession had been rejected.
Yet, why was Gotou-san so bothered by what was happening between Mishima and I?
Well, she explained that it was because it irritated her that a man who had just confessed to her would immediately turn to a younger woman, but the sense of desperation I felt from her today seemed to be suggesting otherwise.
What Hashimoto had said the other day came to mind.
‘As surprising as this may seem, I feel like you still have a chance.’
‘Getting rejected is the true beginning.’
Could it be? Could it really be as he said?
Based on Gotou-san’s behavior during the dinner, I could tell that she had an interest in my affairs.
However, in the end, this was about Gotou-san. I couldn’t imagine her being simple enough of a person to suddenly be fancying me at the drop of a hat.
My elated heart quickly fell into low spirits.
The turbulent pondering I did on the train was now also taking its toll on my tired mind.
As I was walking home, my thoughts were revolving endlessly around deciphering what Gotou-san’s intentions were, but on the other hand I also didn’t want to think about it.
Unlocking the door and entering my home, I was met with Sayu, who bounced off her seat and jumped up to greet me.
“Welcome back… Why the long face?”
“Was it not fun?” Sayu asked while gazing at my face.
“No, it was a lot of fun, really”
“Eh, doesn’t seem that way to me. Did she say something mean to you or something like that?”
I took off my jacket and quickly paced past Sayu towards the living room.
Why was she so sensitive to other people’s expressions?
As I turned around to face her, I found her raising both her arms towards me.
“Want a hug?”
As I scowled, Sayu approached me without any hesitation, her arms still extended forward.
“I don’t really know what’s going on here, but won’t you feel better if you got a hug from a JK?”
Ignoring my protests, Sayu gave me a firm hug.
She vigorously pressed her head against me.
What’s she up to now, geez. I thought to myself with a forced smile.
One way or another, it was clear that she was trying to encourage me.
“That’s enough already.” I said whilst patting her shoulders.
Sayu raised her head to face me.
“Really!? You’re so simple, Yoshida-san.”
I peeled the gleefully laughing Sayu off of me and grabbed my sleep-wear.
Sayu called out to me as I was unbuttoning my shirt.
“You don’t want your clothes to stink of cigarettes too! Just get in the bath first!”
“Huh, did you fill the bath already?”
“I had a feeling that you’d be home around now, so I filled it up!”
“The heck, that’s amazing.”
Sayu showed a proud expression with a peace sign, then she pointed towards the bathroom.
“Wash yourself off before getting in the bath, okay? I know you’re tired and all but don’t forget that.”
I felt a little warm in my chest hearing that.
It was an understanding and unassertive kindness.
“Yeah, sure thing.” I nodded.
Sayu returned to the living room with a satisfied expression and plopped herself down on the floor.
Then, she jerked her chin towards the living room exit as if to signal me to hurry up and go.
“I got it already.”
I brought a change of underwear and my sleep-wear and headed towards the changing room1.
I let out a small sigh as I took off my clothes.
At this moment, I felt really grateful that Sayu was here. If I was all alone, I would’ve probably tormented myself to sleep thinking about today’s events with Gotou-san. It would’ve been a tough night.
“Hah… I’m pathetic.” I murmured to myself with a strained smile.
I was once again made to realize that Sayu was supporting me mentally.
“One heck of a grown-up I am…”
I washed the sweat off from my body with the shower before entering the bath.
Now that I think about it, did she enter the bath before me?
I gazed down at the hot water as such a question crossed my mind.
“Well, it doesn’t really matter I guess.” I grumbled as I submerged myself up to my shoulders.
Having regained some presence of mind, I noticed that the thoughts regarding Gotou-san, that had seized my mind until a moment ago, had stopped.
Also, a somewhat uncertain feeling seemed to have started to well up in my chest.
Although there were a lot of things that I didn’t understand, It remains true that I was able to eat with Gotou-san, whom I greatly yearned for. It had definitely been a joyous meal.
However, Sayu had probably been worried about me all along. She prepared the bath and consoled me through her words and gestures. It’s possible that she had readied all of it before-the-fact.
I’m supposed to be her guardian, yet today, she seems to be the one taking care of me instead.
It’s as if…
“…No, what am I thinking.”
This must be how it felt like to be a man who went out to play with other girls despite having a wife, I thought like that for a moment. I quickly shook my head to dismiss the thought.
The alcohol must be taking its toll on my mind. Regardless of the situation, she’s still a high-schooler, not my wife or anything like that. I don’t need to feel guilty about it.
However, I had to admit that I need to get a grip of myself.
“If I make a high-schooler like her worry for me… then how am I supposed to play the role of her guardian?”
I scooped some bathwater and splashed my face.
 In modern Japanese-style houses, the changing room acts as the space between the main area and the bathroom. The toilet is in a separate room.
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