“Don’t you want to go outside instead? The weather’s so nice.”
We turned right in the hallway and went out into the schoolyard. The weather was indeed nice, but there was a chill in the air. Ryou wrapped his arms around himself for warmth. No doubt he was thinking that I was some crazy woman who didn’t know what winter was.
“I’m going to nominate you as my duty partner,” he said, cutting right to the chase.
I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I used the safest reply.
“That’s it?” Ryou sounded disappointed.
“What do you mean?”
“What are you going to do? Are you going to nominate me?” he pressed.
This winter, everyone in Sage Academy would be broken up into pairs to serve on duty. In theory everyone would be in male-female pairs, but we didn’t have the same number of each gender, so there would also be teams of three as well as pairs of the same gender.
On the surface, our duties encompassed only day-to-day and event preparations, but for some reason, a pair could only be formed if boy and girl chose each other. So in our minds, this was a nothing other than blatant declaration of love.
During that time, it was an undeniable reality that the school controlled all our romantic relationships. That was what 「番」 represented. The usual definition was just to perform various tasks, but dictionary says that it also means ‘couple’. Given that the Ethics Committee and Board of Education seemed to be obsessed with word meanings, this idea probably wasn’t too farfetched. 1
“Sorry. I haven’t decided yet.”
Since Ryou had been so straightforward with me, I did the same.
“Do you have someone else in mind?” he asked worriedly.