The Girls Who Traumatized Me Volume 1 Chapter 3

Chapter Three: “The Price of Lies”
“Don’t talk to me at school.”
“Ugh, what a pain. Why are we even childhood friends?”
“Let’s stop this nonsense. I’m busy – this is so stupid.”
The disgust in her eyes. I thought we understood each other. I believed in invisible bonds like friendship, affection, connection.
By the time I realized it, it was too late. I just accepted the fact, realized it was hopeless, and awkwardly shuffled my feet before pathetically giving up.
I was used to being disliked. Now it was her turn. That was all it was. For some reason, I had imagined that she was special, clinging to a fantasy that didn’t exist. Of course, that wasn’t the case. If that was her wish, I couldn’t bother her anymore.
May she find happiness from now on. With this thought, I turned my eyes away from her.

“I’m disappointed in you.”
“Why do you say that about that person?”
“I don’t want you near me. You’ll only make me unhappy.”
“Don’t come back.”
The irritation, the frustration, the accusatory tone in her words. At some point, expectations I didn’t even know she had were betrayed. Without knowing why. But I wasn’t surprised that I had disappointed her.
Perhaps subconsciously I had sensed it would happen eventually. Our first words in a long time were goodbyes, and I could only obey. We had hardly any connection left anyway.
Our relationship was redefined by her as nothing more than total strangers.
From childhood friends to not even friends, that’s what it had become.

While mankind marches forward in civilization, some things remain unchanged.
Umbrellas date back 4000 years, yet their silhouette remains constant. Although collapsible umbrellas were invented a good 120 years ago, they have evolved a bit.
Why do we say “cheese” when we take pictures and “yahoo” when we ski? Isn’t it time to evolve beyond these origins? With this thought, I tried to appeal to the mountains in front of me to evolve humanity.
No echo came back. Disappointing. My excitement plunged straight into the abyss.
Giving up on challenging human history, I asked the question that had been bothering me.
“Don’t mess with me, refreshing pretty boy.”
“Is there anything more ridiculous than your recent antics?”
“I was just testing the potential of humanity. Anyway, what’s with this group?”
The thick clouds overhead created a gloomy, unwelcoming sky.
Breathing deeply, I felt the breath of fresh green. In front of me was a majestic natural scenery rarely seen in cities. The forecast said it would be cloudy tonight.
As I looked down, a beautiful 150% power-up flash assaulted me. Does this guy have a built-in strobe? He acted like nothing was wrong, but I’d give him a chance to explain how this happened.
“What’s going on? What’s going on with this group?”
“Stop with the mechanical whining. Are you a broken robot?”
Somehow, Me, Mihou, Suzurikawa, and Kamishiro – four classmates with personalities destined to clash – ended up in the same group. This must be the Pretty Boy’s plan.
We waited at the entrance to the mountain trail to leave, but I was full of questions about this situation.
We’re on a school camping trip. It’s a hike that’s done every year right after enrollment to deepen the bonds between the students. We’ll hike up the mountain trail for two hours, have lunch, and then apparently hike back down. It’s like digging a hole only to fill it up again.
“This is strange! Why am I with the Refreshing Pretty Boy Army? Wasn’t I supposed to be reluctantly added to a leftover group as a dark loner when we were told to make our own groups?”
“You were added to a leftover spot.”
He’s not wrong, but my biggest concern right now isn’t this guy.
“Why don’t you consider my feelings and reject me?”
“How should I know? We just happened to run into these two.”
I mumbled back and forth with Mihou, but in the meantime, Suzurikawa and Kamishiro’s glances kept stinging me. Awkward. As embarrassing as a new employee who annoys his boss by talking too long and ruining the mood. Well, I don’t really have any work experience, but still.
I don’t want to interfere with their school life. They can enjoy themselves without a care, like ignoring a stray glove dropped on the highway.
You should have sincerely formed pairs with close friends for this camping trip. There’s no reason to feel uncomfortable.
The teacher leading us blew his whistle and we began the two-hour mountain hike. The trail had a slight incline without any real difficulties or dangers, which made it a pleasant hike.
However, the atmosphere along the way was the worst. Pretty Boy was an impeccable conversationalist. He skillfully shifted between topics to avoid lulls. I know he was trying to get us all talking in a pleasant way, but for some reason he kept bringing me into the conversation. Each time I turned into a dialog bot, repeating “Oh, yes” and “Not really” and “On the contrary. People who say “on the contrary” are pretty common, but is it really necessary to say it?
Soon we reached our goal. Many people’s expressions were naturally bright with the pleasant fatigue and sense of accomplishment, as well as the beautiful view from the mountaintop.
However, there were quite a number of less fit groups, about half of them, sitting on the grass at the top and grumbling “Zehahahaha!
Haa… I don’t feel like it. But I couldn’t ignore them, so I reluctantly called out.
“Are you okay, Suzurikawa?”
“Yukito? Um… Thanks. But why?”
I handed the sports drink I had just bought to Suzurikawa who was sitting a bit away. She seemed surprised that I was talking to her and was confused, but she didn’t look well.
It makes sense that she’s confused. I hadn’t talked to her since the enrollment.
I kept my distance, but for some reason I couldn’t understand why she would want to take care of me now because we were childhood friends. After all, she herself chose to reject our past. That’s why I tried to reach out to her, but ended up being rejected anyway.
I remember when I was in middle school, she told me not to talk to her at school.
In the midst of a new environment and new relationships, she must have found our lingering connection from the past incriminating. We grew apart, as was to be expected. Human relationships can be so shallow.
I had become an obstacle to her. Our meaningless relationship had at some point become strangers, long gone.
“It’s convenient how vending machines are everywhere, huh?”
Suzurikawa was out of breath. But that wasn’t all. The way she shielded her ankle – she tried to hide it immediately, but it was obvious. Even though we barely had a real conversation the whole way up, there was no point in hiding it now in this place. I have enough tact to know that, and it wasn’t a situation where I was going to say anything about it anyway.
“Sorry. I wasn’t thinking about the speed.”
“No, I’m sorry I slowed us down.”
“Don’t worry about it, Suzurikawa!”
“We’d better think about the way down a bit more.”
Kamishiro and Mihou looked worried as well. I pushed Suzurikawa too hard. By some coincidence, we had become an ultra-indoorsy group with everyone in the Go-Home Club. I still run and train regularly, while former basketball ace Kamishiro and Pretty Boy are athletic aces. That was probably the reason why our pace was so fast when we got here.
Because of that, I put a lot of strain on Suzurikawa. Not only physically. If this had been me in the past, I would have noticed that she was struggling sooner. Even considering the distance between us now, it was hard to see her in pain.
“Take them off, Suzurikawa.”
“Huh…? No way, not here! Such things should be done elsewhere-“
“What are you talking about? Come on, spread your legs.”
What did she mean by elsewhere? I took some athletic tape out of my bag and sat down in front of Suzurikawa. When she realized her misunderstanding, her face turned bright red, but she reluctantly nodded and took off her shoes.
“I-Is this okay?”
“I can’t wrap it with your socks on.”
“? Oh, don’t worry about the smell.”
“You don’t have to say it like that!”
I have no ulterior motives, but it’s embarrassing when it comes to the opposite sex. I have to think about it.
“Yes, yes. I lacked delicacy. It’s floral, so it’s okay.”
“You really don’t get it!”
“But if I say it smells, won’t you be hurt?”
“It’s hard to eat cream without spilling it from a cream puff, isn’t it?”
“Don’t try to change the subject! How is it, huh?”
“All right, all right. I’ll hold my breath so I don’t smell it.”
“That’s basically the same as saying it stinks!”
“If you’re that worried, I’ll sniff it! I have to find out!”
“Yes, sniff it! No, no, no, you can’t sniff it!”
Oh, right. This isn’t the time to enjoy the scent of Suzurikawa’s feet.
“Stop squirming. Calm down. I’m going to touch them a little, okay?”
Maybe it was her maidenly sensibilities, but she suddenly became obedient. Any bystander would see me as the perverted scumbag who groped a high school girl’s bare feet. I’ll turn myself in if I’m reported.
But Suzurikawa doesn’t seem to report me. Sure enough. I carefully apply tape from the soles of his feet to his ankles, calves, and Achilles tendon.
“You’re quite adept at this, Yukito. Do you always carry it with you?”
“I do things like running, so yes.”
“Let’s join a sports club together.”
“For me, the club that goes home is the sports club.”
That’s not entirely inaccurate. For a loner introvert like me, the only things I do when I get home are study or maybe exercise. Friends? Haha.

Scene Transition


“Does it feel tight? Try moving it.”
“Y-Yeah… I think it’s fine.”
“This should help loosen it up a bit. We’ll make our way down slowly.”
“Thank you…”
“If it hurts, just let me know. Goodbye.”
As I’m about to leave, I’m called back and someone taps me on the shoulder from the side. When I turn around, it’s the apologetic-looking homeroom teacher, Sayuri-chan. She’s completely out of breath.
Is she a zombie or something? How does she have so little stamina?
“Kokonoe… sorry, but can you do mine too?”
“Teacher, how will you manage your children’s sports day with this condition?”
“I’m not married!”
“You might have problems one day. Let’s at least make sure you get some exercise.”
“But you see, I always get home around 9 pm. I eat out all the time, and lately my unhealthy lifestyle is starting to affect my foundation. I don’t have time to exercise. My life is already over. I’m just withering away like this.
The teacher looks depressed. It’s too real to make fun of.
But it’s a little awkward to touch an adult teacher. Oh, that’s right!
“Kamishiro, I will teach you, so please do the taping for the teacher.”
I call to Kamishiro, who is watching from a distance, and hand her the equipment.
“Ill give you the tools. It’s basic knowledge.”
“Oh, right, I guess it is. All right, I’ll give it a try!”
Kamishiro, with a serious expression on his face, carefully tapes it with a bit of fear.
“Tight, tight, tight!”
“Oops, sorry!”
“Oh, teacher, I found cellulite here. Oh, there’s some here too.”
“You idiot! Don’t say that to a woman!”
“Well, well. I’m going to teach you an effective massage method for reducing cellulite.”
“Expect good results for your recommendation.”
“Thank you. Shi-shi-shi-shi.”
“It’s too scary to see you smile so seriously. That’s not a laughing voice, is it?”

Free time. I return to my seat next to Suzurikawa after returning from the bathroom.
Suzurikawa is rubbing his ankle, apparently worried about the tape.
“These things really work, huh? It’s my first time, so it’s weird.”
“Is it good for blisters or shoe friction? I have Band-Aids too, so don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Why are you so well prepared?”
“For some reason, I get hurt a lot. So I keep these things handy.”
“By the way, Yukito, you also had a serious injury in junior high.”
“You knew?”
“Of course. I’ve been watching you the whole time.”
You’ve been watching me? Suzurikawa? For what purpose?
“I wasn’t watching you. Even today, I didn’t notice that you were in pain.”
“Hey, why did you help me?”
She looks pensive. Come to think of it, the Suzurikawa I know should have been more stubborn and harsh with me. That kind of atmosphere has dissipated now. A different impression.
It’s as if she’s returned to the Suzurikawa of long ago, but it’s different from then.
“We are classmates in the same group. It’s natural to be worried.”
“Classmates… right. That’s right.”
Suzurikawa repeats these words as if chewing on them. She rummages in her bag.
“Let’s have some chocolate. It’ll cheer you up.”
“Huh?… Thank you. Didn’t you always give me some before?”
Sugar is perfect for recovering from fatigue. It’s like a psychological consolation.
“Just rest and you’ll feel better soon.”
When I try to leave, a gentle hand grabs me.
“W-Wait, don’t go!”
“You still…have that?”
“Huh? Oh…you remembered.”
“I’m pretty sure of my memory.”
I happened to notice the ugly bear strap on Suzurikawa’s smartphone case.
It was something I got from a festival booth in the past. The coloring was completely faded and it looked terrible. Surprisingly, she still had it on.
“Those days were fun…”
“Did you have a fight with your boyfriend or something?”
“Well… Hiori said she wanted to see you. That you’d come, Yukito.”
“Come to think of it, I haven’t seen her lately. Is she doing well?”
“She’s energetic, but we’re fighting.”
“Hmm, rare when you were so close.”
“Yeah, it’s my fault too. What do you think I should do?”
“You can only apologize.”
It wasn’t her boyfriend she was arguing with, it was her sister. But I think sisters can make up pretty easily. After all, I’ve never fought with Yuuri-san.
Hiori is the little sister of Hinagi. A girlwith the Little Sister attribute who calls me Big Brother. You could say that Hiori is another childhood friend. The Hiori I remember was a kind gir,l overflowing with preciousness. If you apologize, she’ll forgive you!
“There’s no way she’ll forgive me. Because I also hurt Hiori.
As if looking back and recalling a distant memory, Suzurikawa simply gazed at nature. As an outsider, I can’t do anything. I can’t interfere in a sisterly quarrel. But somehow I get the feeling that Suzurikawa is waiting for me to say something.
“If you can’t go back to the way things were, then the only choice is to build a new relationship, right?”
“Even if you can’t be as close as you used to be, you and Hiori can still create a new sisterly bond if you want to. Though I doubt my opinion carries much weight since Yuuri-san doesn’t like me.”
“Hehe. That’s definitely not true. But you’re right. Thank you, Yukito.”
Her expression softened a bit. But it only lasted a moment before she steeled her resolve and turned to face me directly.
Suzurikawa slowly stood up, straightened her back and bowed deeply.
“I’m sorry for all the terrible things I said. I should have apologized before. I thought maybe we could go back to the way things were, that we could just be together as if nothing had happened. But that’s impossible.”
“Suzurikawa? What are you talking about?”
“I know it’s too late for selfish talk. I’ve been arrogant, selfish, ugly, and only thought of myself. So…I’m sorry!”
Her shoulders trembled as she repeated her apology. She expressed her deep regret. Unaware of the eyes on her, she conveyed her feelings. But,
“Um… I’m sorry, but I don’t remember you saying anything terrible to me.”
I was just confused. I didn’t understand what she was apologizing for.
“If anything, I should be the one to apologize. I’m sorry, Suzurikawa. I didn’t mean to spread rumors about you.”
Earlier, when Suzurikawa tried to talk to me, I’d carelessly let it slip that she had a boyfriend. I don’t know how she feels about that, but she probably wouldn’t like someone else revealing her personal information.
“I am grateful to you. I need to be told directly…”
“Wha- Why are you apologizing, Yukito? I’m the one in the wrong!”
It’s true that she had said some harsh things to me. But they were simple facts. I didn’t find them cruel. I didn’t think they were unfair.
Because she told me clearly that I was bothering her, I was able to be more self-aware. I’m very grateful for that. It’s much healthier than reluctantly maintaining a superficial relationship.
“We didn’t have a fight. I’m not angry or anything. There’s no need for you to apologize.”
We didn’t end up like this because of a fight between us. We just took different paths in life and I wasn’t able to be by her side. I have no regrets or resentment about that.
“But…you’re so kind. That’s why I didn’t want to see you again.”
A reunion would be tragic. If we’d never met, I wouldn’t make her wear that face now. She remains someone important to me. And that’s why.
I’ll stop interfering in her life and just wish her happiness.
Because now that I’ve disqualified myself from being her childhood friend, we’re just classmates.

I wet a towel at the water fountain and wrapped it around the tape on my arm to ice the injury. I told Suzurikawa to stay put and left the scene.
Kamishiro called out to me as if on cue. How depressing.
“S-so, what did you and Suzurikawa talk about?”
“Smelly feet, sisterly squabbles and school plans. Those things.”
“Um… I’m totally lost.”
Strange. I told it clearly, but Kamishiro didn’t get any of it.
“We’ll all hang out together this time. Yuki couldn’t come last time, but how about we all come together this time? I think it would be fun. Do you have any places you want to go?”
“It might be awkward, so I’ll pass.”
“Oh, I see. It would make me happy if you could think about it!”
She slumps her shoulders and looks dejected.
Kamishiro Shiori has a naturally outgoing personality that makes her popular with everyone. But now, this usually lively side of her has gone silent. I’m the one to blame.
Her eyes were pleading. Her usual liveliness is nowhere to be seen.
“Listen, I have a question for you. Why did you decide to go to Shoyo?”
“Because… I knew Yuki would go here.”
The worst possible answer. Still, I did what I could. I made it clear that Kamishiro shouldn’t keep coming to apologize. If I hadn’t, she would probably have come to the hospital every day, which could have led to unnecessary complications. I wanted to avoid that. The decision and everything connected with it was my own responsibility. Kamishiro did not have to worry about it.
And if she happened to run into each other with Yuuri-san in my hospital room, that would be even worse.
I never wanted to see her again. But Kamishiro followed me.
“Hey, Kamishiro. Am I that pitiful to you? So pathetic?”
“That’s not what I think! I know you don’t like me. I couldn’t tell anyone at school, and I couldn’t help you with your rehab. I just want to do something for you. That’s all I can do…”
“Even if it’s so painful for you?”
“I know Yuki doesn’t want to see me. I’m just using Yuki for my own satisfaction. But I didn’t want to say goodbye like this…”
Tears welled up in her big eyes and threatened to overflow.
“Haah… Kamishiro, there’s nothing you can do. Join a club or something. Everyone is looking for you. You don’t belong to the going home club.”
“That’s… I’m sorry. But I want to be with Yuki!”
“It doesn’t make sense if you’re suffering so much.”
As long as I’m around, Kamishiro will continue to suffer. I didn’t want to see her tormented like that. It would be best for us to part ways and for her to find happiness somehow, smiling somewhere I don’t know about.
“You… you really don’t want to play basketball anymore?”
“At this point, I have no regrets.”
I only started playing to get over my heartbreak. Nothing to brag about.
However, the habits I developed during that time are still with me.
“But I still play streetball sometimes.”
I carelessly let out more than I should have, and Kamishiro’s reaction changed before my eyes.
“My body gets dull if I don’t. It’s like a habit now.”
“When? Where do you go?”
“Just the free courts in the park, but…”
Hey, what’s wrong with you, Kamishiro? She wiped away her tears and, as if her batteries had been recharged, the light returned to her eyes and her usual energetic mood returned. In stark contrast to a moment ago, we had a somewhat animated exchange. The mood whiplash was intense enough to trigger a circuit breaker.
“I-I’ll go too! Let’s play together?”
“Isn’t it okay for you to do what you want?”
I obviously couldn’t refuse her. She’s so close! Her eyes shone expectantly, like a dog begging for a walk. If she had a tail, it would definitely be wagging.
Seeing Kamishiro depressed doesn’t suit her. That part of her hasn’t changed since then. She’s a real sports club girl at heart.
She probably just wants to move her body. When you search for “going home club”, the autofill suggestions are all negative words like “trash” and “regret”. Still, I don’t need to impose on Kamishiro like this. It belongs elsewhere.
However, I couldn’t control my impulses and ended up messing with her anyway.
“Kamishiro, shake.”
“Go on, Kamishiro, get it!”
I took out a wrapped candy from my ever-present emergency food supply and threw it. Kamishiro immediately ran to fetch it. Wait, you’re actually leaving? Oh, she came back.
Kamishiro returned with the candy, a slight blush on her cheeks, and looked at me longingly, as if expecting something. What does she want from me?
“Aren’t you going to stroke me?”
“Kamishiro, listen carefully. You’re not a dog. You’re a human being. Have some self-esteem.”
“But you’re the one who made me do it! At least pet me after I got it!”
What is she saying? Caressing a high school girl would be the act of a perverted bastard – wait, didn’t I say something like that before? That was way too late of me.
Oh well, I can’t help it! I watched Kamishiro for about ten seconds.
She had matured into more of a woman, but still retained some of her innocence. But I digress.
“I’ll do it! I’ll really do it!”
“Fine. If you want to feel like a dog, then I’ll act like a breeder.”
“Th-that’s not what I… but if you’re willing to pet me, then I guess…”
“My mind is made up, Kamishiro. Good girl, good girl, good girl, good girl.”
“Y-Yuki!? Just the head! Don’t stroke my stomach… that’s off limits!”
“Good girl, good girl, good girl, good girl. You did soooo good fetching that!”
“Eek! Not there, ah…I can’t…no more…stop…”
Kamishiro squirmed. How many prison years will I get? I hope there are mitigating circumstances…
“Have you remembered that you are a human now?”
“I am human.”
“Phew. At least my sacrifice wasn’t in vain.”
“Yuki! If you did that to other people, it would be sexual harassment!”
“It would be harassment even with you, you know.”
“You did it knowing full well!”
“Wouldn’t it be worse if I didn’t know?”
“It’s bad either way!”
We were both wrong. Kamishiro suddenly burst out laughing.
“Ahaha…s-sorry. I’m kind of crying…”
“Hay fever?”
“No. Your arm is better now, right Yuki?”
“Yeah. So stop worrying about it.”
“I can’t just let it go…”
Kamishiro gently touched my arm as if she was inspecting if there’s a tumor. For some reason, it is common for me to get hurt. You could even call it normal. By now, I’ve gotten used to the pain.
Our stupid back and forth. For a moment, the relationship between Kamishiro and me returns to that of a year ago.
However, it’s very different from a year ago. Kamishiro and I aren’t equals anymore. No matter how much I harass her, Kamishiro probably won’t report me.
And as long as that’s the case, the relationship between Kamishiro and me will remain stagnant and frozen.



“It’s not there! Why not? I dropped it… No way… that can’t be…!”
“What’s wrong, Suzurikawa-san?”
“It’s gone, it’s really gone! The belt…”
As we descend to the foot of the mountain and prepare to board the bus, Suzurikawa begins to frantically search through her belongings. In Suzurikawa’s hand is only the string part of the strap, and the clumsy bear mascot that was supposed to be attached to it is missing.
“Was it up there? On the way down?”
“Yes, I dropped it on the way down! What am I going to do… I can’t… without it…!”
“Do you have to give it up?”
“No! I refuse… I’ll look for it!”
“Don’t be unreasonable. The bus is about to leave.”
“If the belt is broken, it has reached the end of its life, hasn’t it? It lasted quite a while.”
“But… but that was the last present Yuki gave me…”
“Your boyfriend can buy you as many as you want.”
“Stop it! I don’t want to hear that anymore!”
Suzurikawa was in a panic. She liked that ugly bear so much? A girl’s tastes are hard to understand. But that doesn’t mean we can go looking for them. As long as we’re part of a group, we can’t delay everyone’s return just because of Suzurikawa.
It didn’t seem like such a big deal. I try to comfort her as we get on the bus, but Suzurikawa continues to hang her head like a puppet whose strings have been cut.

Is this divine punishment? Because I was so happy to talk to Yukito after such a long time?
If that’s the case, it was too cruel. As the bus rattles on, a feeling of helplessness begins to build up. This keychain is a bond for me. It’s an important thing that proves the existence of irreplaceable moments.
And it’s the last present Yukito gave me. Maybe he would give me something else if I asked. But this isn’t it.
What I want, what I really want, is something I can no longer get.
What should I do? What should I do? When I get back, should I go and look for it right away? It’s not too far away. Maybe I can find it before it gets dark.
But I immediately dismiss this thought. I’m exhausted. Today I felt too tired to move my body. The weather is getting worse, too. It’s dangerous to walk alone in this condition. But bringing someone else along is not an option either.
So should I go tomorrow? The longer I wait, the less chance I have of finding it.
With no answer in sight, I somehow manage to return to the school like a ghost and go to homeroom. The homeroom teacher, Sayuri-sensei, seems to be saying something, but I can’t make it out. But I couldn’t miss what she said.
“Hey, what happened to Kokonoe?”
“By the way, he said he felt unwell and went home early.”
“I didn’t hear anything like that! Mihou, did you?”
“No, I didn’t know either.”
“Just go home as you please… That problem child. Why didn’t he tell me?”
His seat was empty. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen him since we got to school. He must have been on the same bus. What was going on? There was no sign that he was feeling ill. Maybe his stomach suddenly hurt… I should try to contact him later. He probably won’t answer, but I’m worried.
The unfounded fear is growing. For some reason, a bad feeling is growing.

“I’m home!”
I call loudly into the empty air, but get no response. How sad, a one-man show.
Just an hour ago, this place was filled with the din of students, but now I’m the only one here.
I fantasize about one day living a slow, rural life in the great outdoors, but that’s impossible for a modern person like me. The grocery store a minute’s walk away is my life or death. That’s me, Kokonoe Yukito. I’m such a regular that the staff probably have funny nicknames for me. Ignorance is bliss.
“I can’t just leave it like this, I guess.”
We’ve been together for a long time. I can’t ignore her when she makes that face.
Even if we’re just classmates, it should be okay to help her when she’s in trouble. I make excuses to no one in particular, and I start psyching myself up.
I picture the path in my mind. When I talked to Suzurikawa at the summit, the keychain charm was definitely still there. That means it must have fallen somewhere along the trail. The wind wasn’t very strong. It probably wasn’t blown away, but if a squirrel or something picked it up and moved it, that would be too bad. I had to hurry. I got back in record time, but it was already 5 p.m. Thick clouds covered the sky and the temperature was dropping fast. Less than an hour before sunset.
“If I can’t find it after one round trip, I’ll give up, Suzurikawa…”



I carelessly dropped my bag in my room and flopped down on the bed. With practiced movements, I operated my smartphone and opened the photos. This was my usual routine.
There were many happy memories. But they stopped abruptly in my sophomore year of middle school. After that, the photos were significantly fewer than before, and the happy days faded into colorless ones that went on and on. Even my face in those photos looked haggard and lonely.
“Can’t I go back? I hate it.”
I always smiled then. Even though my expression seemed sullen and unfriendly, you could see that I was happy inside. Next to me was someone I loved, used to love. When I would try to get close to him to take a picture, he would always respond with this troubled, embarrassed, yet expressionless look. They were all such precious, really precious memories.
–And I had lost one of those precious memories.
It was a picture of me in a yukata. Going to the Summer Festival together had become an annual event for us.
At first, our families went together, but eventually it had become just the two of us.
So many faint, fleeting, beautiful, gentle memories had surfaced. But it was all shattered. I was the one who destroyed them.
I wonder if we could still have gone out like this, just the two of us? Growing closer, going to the festival together, holding hands, kissing, then coming home and… Tears welled up. At my foolish self and the important thing I had lost.
Why? It was a sin to even think of such questions. It was all my fault. I was the one who threw it away. With my ugly cowardice and pettiness, I couldn’t bear this happiness and ruined it. Would we really not be able to talk like we used to?
I hate it… I want to talk more… Touch me like before…
At the festival, when he tried to hold my hand, I impulsively pulled away in embarrassment. I didn’t want him to feel my heart beating.
I desperately wondered if my hand was sweaty and secretly wiped it with a handkerchief.
But he never tried to take my hand after that. No, that’s wrong. I should have taken his hand.
Unrequited feelings. Uncommunicated words. I wanted him to know the truth, but unable to speak, we drifted apart like this. If only I had confessed my feelings sooner. Such regrets piled up day after day.
When I stand in front of him, my feet freeze. When I look into his eyes, I am too afraid to say anything. His eyes seem to say that he no longer cares about me.
Not a childhood friend, not a friend, not even a classmate. Maybe I’ve become just a disinterested stranger to him. The thought was unbearably cruel and frightening.
But I could tell from his words that he still cared about me. I wanted to believe that he still cared about me. That lonely belief was all that held my heart together. Without realizing it, it would only hurt me more.
But I had reached my limit. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was happy when we ended up in the same class, thinking it might be a chance to reconcile. But it was so difficult that the distance between us, who should have been close, felt infinitely far.
In our third year of middle school, he had suffered a serious injury. The him in my memories is always getting hurt. He was always involved in something and wounded. But he never told me why, not even once. He would just say it was his own fault. He wouldn’t tell anyone.
Why, why go that far?
Just talking to him today after such a long time overwhelmed me. I couldn’t suppress the feelings I had bottled up, swirling and threatening to burst out like a storm.
I hugged my knees tightly and stroked the tape wrapped around them.
Walking had become much easier. He really noticed. Whenever I needed help, he always came to my rescue. Except that one time.
I have to be honest about these feelings. I remembered Yukito’s words.
Even if we can’t go back, maybe we can build a new relationship. If I don’t take a step here, now, this past year will have been wasted.
I may never get another chance like this. I may never be able to see him again. I might even be forbidden to go near him. If I remain a coward, if this is really the end, is that okay? Can I let it be? Of course, it wasn’t okay.
“Please…give me another chance.”
As if begging someone for forgiveness, I clenched my trembling hands. To make up for the days we had missed.
I mustered the courage to apologize. But there was an uneasiness. A dissonance that didn’t want to be filled.
All I could think about was apologizing, so his words left me empty.
“What do I want with Yukito…?”
Come to think of it, we never argued. He never got mad at me. It was always just me saying things one-sidedly.
I’ll tell him everything. What happened up to now, why I did those things. Bare my heart, hide nothing, speak without hesitation, convey all of me.
And give him every part of me. So please, just one more time–

“There’s no way such a thing could be found…”
Or rather, I have found it! My energy drained, I plopped down in the shade of a tree. I’d walked back and forth a full three times. Despite my confidence in my endurance, I was, as expected, exhausted. The pouring rain sapped my strength and body heat. My knees were creaking and I couldn’t put any strength into them. Besides, it’s daarrrrk! My night vision had adjusted, but owls were calling from who knows where. How picturesque~. I’m glad it wasn’t wild dogs. Nothing I could do about it.
It had been around the 6th station. It must have rolled down the slope off the trail when she dropped it and got caught in the brush below. Looking at it now, the ugly bear’s expression irritated me. How long will you treasure something like that?
I threw away everything Suzurikawa gave me, those memories, everything. But she still…
I shook off those thoughts. It was time to return. If I didn’t hurry, I really wouldn’t make it home. I dragged my heavy body down the hill.
Phew… I’m glad I found it after all. Considering how panicked Suzurikawa was, she might have gone off on her own. That was just self-satisfaction on my part. After enjoying nature so much, I should be satisfied for a while. We city kids aren’t cut out for it. I’m going to take a bath in a hot spring later… Huh? Slipping on the muddy ground, my footing gave out.
“It’s over.”
My knees buckled and I lost my balance. Ah, this is bad. I’m going to fall.
Time slowed to a crawl. The staff roll of my life was woefully short.
“Don’t I know far too few people?”
Marveling at the thinness of my personal relationships, I tumbled down the slope.

Lanterns flickered, festival music played a tune. The lively bustle was filled with fun, coloring the air. On the street lined with food stalls, I walked with her, cotton candy in one hand.
“Hey, have some red bean paste!”
As if to set the mood, she showed me an unreserved smile like in the past. Such expressions were rare now. She stuck out her tongue, stained red from the candy, and narrowed her eyes mischievously.
The special day that was the Summer Festival seemed to have cast a spell, taking us back to childhood.
“Come on, you’re good at shooting gallery games, right? Win this!”
Her graceful figure in the white and wisteria-colored yukata suited her well.
At her urging, I took aim. Carried away by the excitement, we placed the small stuffed bear I had shot at the booth in her drawstring bag and walked lightly on.
This was an annual tradition for us. I never doubted it would continue for years to come. As the sun began to set, as if to announce the start, a single firecracker shot up into the sky.
“Hey, next year – no, we’re going to go …… as ……, not …….”
She said in a low voice, but it was drowned out by the growing crowd.
A loud boom sounded, and I looked up at the sky. Colorful fireworks blossomed in the night sky. Cheers of “oooh” rose from the people around us as we watched in rapture.
Separated by the crowds, the distance between us grew.
Not wanting to lose her, I impulsively grabbed her hand and squeezed it.
Her eyes widened in shock and her hand jerked away. My outstretched hand lost its purpose and wandered into empty space.
A small gasp escaped her, and she turned away as if to hide her expression.
Maybe I’d been deceived all along. Ever since she’d started middle school, she’d been lashing out more and more. I should have noticed it before.
She was trying to tell me something.
That our relationship had changed, that it was over.
That pulling her hand away was a rejection.

“…Huh…what the…?”
My body felt terribly heavy for some reason. Had the Earth’s gravity changed? My thoughts were hazy.
My soaked shirt clung uncomfortably to my back. I tried to get up to change, but it was painful, so I gave up. I had no choice but to wipe myself with a towel, but it was annoying.
My dim memory began to clear. Oh yes, I had caught a cold.
I somehow managed to get home in terrible shape, but the moment I arrived, I collapsed. When I took my temperature, it was over 38 C, which surprised me. I just took a bath and went straight to bed, which is as far as I remember.
When I checked the time, it was after midnight. Looks like I had been asleep for over half a day.
I still felt a little sluggish, but I was feeling better than yesterday. My fever was down to normal.
I took some cold medicine. After another nap, I should be fine for school tomorrow.
It had been a while since I had caught a cold. Maybe the first time since I started training my body.
Getting soaked in the rain wasn’t good. Maybe with how hectic things had been lately, I was under mental stress without realizing it. I was bothering my family again.
The only sound in the silence was the ticking of the seconds hand. Like a metronome, the steady sound lured me back to sleep. It felt like a very nostalgic dream. Pleasant yet sad, an indescribable feeling. All that remained was a sense of loss.
The strap on my desk caught my eye. I had completely forgotten about it.
But what was it that attracted Suzurikawa so much? Maybe it was rare. That would explain why she was in such a panic. If that was the case, I should return it to Suzurikawa soon.
Ah, but it might be difficult right away. With that thought, my consciousness sank back into the darkness.

“I would like to ask you something. Kouki, do you have a moment?”
“Huh, me? Just a second.”
During the break, an unexpected person came into the classroom.
It was Yukito’s older sister, Yuuri-san. The previously quiet classroom came to life. whispers of a confession were heard, but that would never happen with Yuuri-san and Kouki. The only one who could move them was Yukito.
For a moment, a hostile look was directed at me. Probably at Kamishiro as well.
“Why is Yuuri-san…”
Yukito was sick with a cold. He must have felt really unwell to leave early yesterday. I’d decided to really face him today, so the timing was terrible.
But more than that, I was worried about Yukito. The vague fear smoldering inside me hadn’t gone away.
[What is this about?]
[I want to ask. Yesterday was not the time].
The confused voice coming from the hallway proved that this was no confession. After Kouki had finished speaking, he came back with a solemn expression on his face.
“What happened, Kouki?”
“Well, I don’t really… Oh, I see! Could he be… Suzurikawa!”
Noticing something, Kouki’s expression changed and he hurriedly spoke to me.
“I heard that Yukito didn’t get home until almost ten last night.”
“Why would Yukito be out so late? Yesterday, he-“
“Right. He left school early. But he didn’t get home until late last night. It rained last night, didn’t it? And today he’s absent from school.”
At times like this, I hate how poor my intuition is. I feel something like jealousy towards Kouki, who understands Yukito better than I do.
“That’s just speculation. You said you dropped your charm, right Suzurikawa? Maybe Yukito…”
I rushed out of the classroom before he could finish.
“Wait, please wait!”
Unable to sit still, I ran after him with all my strength. I’d forgotten about the pain in my feet. I called out to Yuuri-san as she was about to return to the second year classrooms. My frustration boiled over.
Yuuri-san’s footsteps stopped and she looked back. Her stern look was harsher than usual.
“………… What?”
“Is Yukito okay?”
It had been so long since I last spoke to Yukito’s sister, Yuuri-san. She used to be so nice. But now…
“It’s just a cold. His fever was already down this morning, so he’ll recover quickly.”
“I’m glad… Can I visit…”
“Suzurikawa, don’t make me angrier.”
Her icy tone cut me off.
“Why was he out so late yesterday? Do you know what he was doing?”
What Kouki said was still speculation. Nothing was certain. Seeing that I was struggling for an answer, Yuuri-san didn’t hide her irritation as anger crept into her voice.
“Have you tricked him again? Look what you’ve reduced him to!”
“I’m so sorry! This is my fault! I said unnecessary things-“
Whether it was a misunderstanding or vanity, I couldn’t help but apologize.
“That’s enough! How long are you going to jerk him around until you’re satisfied?”
Eyes gathered around her indignant figure. Yuuri-san took a deep breath.
“Hah… Get out of my way. I don’t have time to chat with you.”
“Please wait! I-“
“Don’t come over. At all.”
Spitting out those curt words, I was frozen in place.

“Oh no, I don’t have time for this.”
Shakiing!!!, fully revived! I feel much better, but I’m starving.
Mom had to go to work today of all days, so I was pretty bummed. She said scary things about wanting to nurse me all the time. That would be too unsettling.
I had excess energy. I was bored and had nothing to do. I was thinking of making an extravagant dinner to keep my arms working when I heard the click of the front door opening.
Isn’t it early to be coming home? It’s not my mother. Maybe my sister? I should pretend to sleep.
When I focused my ears, I could hear someone talking in the foyer.
“Go home.”
“I’ll take care of him. You being here would only be in the way.”
“Please! Just a little is enough!”
“If you’re so worried about him, then why did you…!”
“What business does someone who abandoned my brother have with him?”
“Tha-that’s not…”
The front door slammed shut. I was horrified at the mess.
My sister came straight to my room. I couldn’t expect her to have the common courtesy of knocking. She seemed a little out of breath after rushing back.
“Are you all right?
“The fever’s gone down a lot and I feel better, but…did anyone come by just now?”
I asked tentatively. She seemed familiar, but I couldn’t remember more than that.
“A newspaper slaesman.”
“Your lie is too obvious.”
“Never mind.”
Lies! What was it, what was it? I couldn’t hear the conversation, but the mood clearly wasn’t just some newspaper pitch. This wasn’t going to end in a fight.
But it didn’t look like she had any intention of telling me, even if I asked. When my sister says, “Huh?” it’s a sign that there’s no point in arguing. That was an ironclad rule in our family. Little brothers have it rough.
“I bought some stuff that looked nutritious for you.”
Sports drinks, supplements, jelly, and more were set down. I wondered why it was all peach-flavored. She had a strange faith in peaches, but at least they were easy to eat, and I appreciated that.
“Your complexion looks much better than it did this morning. Anything you want me to do?”
I replied immediately. I wouldn’t bother my sister with anything.
“Shall I wipe your sweat?”
“I already wiped myself earlier, so I’m fine.”
“Then how about I make some porridge?”
“Haha, don’t overdo it.”
“I got ahead of myself.”
Unfortunately, my confidence in my sister’s cooking skills was buried deep underground. Faced with the cruel reality, I went to the kitchen myself and started making porridge. She says, “Make some for me, too,” but aren’t you perfectly healthy?
“How’s your appetite?”
“I’m quite hungry.”
“And your desire to sleep?”
“I slept all day, so I’m wide awake.”
“And your sexual desire?”
Was it necessary to ask that? I couldn’t hide my excitement. Wait. This was just my sister checking up on me. The esteemed Yuuri-san would never ask meaningless questions!
“Well, how’s your sex drive? Huh? Huh?”
“Answer me. Your sex drive?”
“I-I guess it’s pent up.”
Unable to withstand the pressure, I accidentally answered honestly.
“I see. Wait until you recover.”
I was too scared to ask what she meant, so I just answered obediently.
“Sorry for the trouble, Yuuri-san.”
“Trouble… why do you always… sigh Call me if anything comes up.”
After dinner I went back to my room. I wondered why my sister had looked so lonely?



I opened my neglected smartphone and there was an inflation of notifications. I regretted looking. I should’ve just left it. Suzurikawa’s name stretched across the screen. Of course, I looked at the band.
She’s probably in trouble right now. I could give it to her tomorrow at school, but there was no way to help her, I should hurry.
“I’m going to the grocery store.”
I returned promptly. The cold was completely cured.
Looks like Suzurikawa can go too. I couldn’t sleep like this anyway.
I put on a jacket and quickly went to meet her.

Whoa, don’t come near me now that I’m all sweaty! Suzurikawa jumped into my chest before I could get rid of her. I tried desperately to pull her off, but she was surprisingly strong. Ugh…
“Sorry to bother you after school. Tomorrow would have been fine.”
“No! It’s great like this! Are you feeling better from your cold?”
“Yes, I am fine. I was bored with nothing to do.”
“If something had happened to Yukito, I would have…”
Suzurikawa sobbed into me. How unlike her. I suddenly realized.
“Did you…come to my house?”
“Why are you apologizing? Did you have a fight with Yuuri-san or something?”
“Th-that’s not it! It wasn’t like that…That was my fault-“
So the one Yuuri-san turned away from was Suzurikawa.
“My fault. Yuuri-san is the belligerent type, so she was probably just hungry and irritable.”
“Hehe. Don’t say things like that or you’ll get scolded.”
Seeing her unfamiliar tearful face gave me a piercing headache. The Suzurikawa in my memories always looked displeased and angry.
“Here, Suzurikawa. Take back your ugly bear.”
“-! Th-Thank you. Did Yukito look for it?”
“The Go-home Club left me nothing to do.”
“Oh, thank you… But don’t do anything dangerous on your own again!”
I handed the ugly teddy bear, nicknamed Ugly Bear, to Suzurikawa. I was expecting thunderous applause for the excellent naming sense, but she completely ignored it. That’s harsh.
“I had no idea it was such a valuable item.”
“It’s…. This is… a bond.”
I didn’t understand the meaning of her words. I had no intention of asking for details. I was just glad to have retrieved her precious possession. I want nothing more.
For a while after that, Suzurikawa continued to soak my T-shirt with her tears.

“I’m hungry.”
“Th-then come over! I have food and stuff!”
“It’s already night. I’ll just get some ramen on the way home.”
It was about that time. Surely she’d at least let me walk her home.
I might have been sick at school, but I was fine now. Suzurikawa was probably exhausted. I couldn’t let her go alone. Her leg was already injured.
Come to think of it, when was the last time we were alone together like this? For some reason, I felt strangely restless. More than anything else, the recent Suzurikawa was different from the one I knew, and that made me worry. She didn’t show the same irritation as before, instead she seemed calm.
“Thanks for bringing me back.”
“Is your foot okay?”
“Yeah, it’s nothing… Hey, this kind of thing is nostalgic, you know? We used to play late and get scolded a lot back then, right? I kind of… don’t want to go home yet.”
Suzurikawa lingered at the entrance, seemingly hesitant.
“What, do you have something on your mind? It’ll be fine. No one cares about stinky feet.”
I tried to comfort her, but her face grew redder and redder.
“Huh? How long are you going to mess with me?”
“I thought you were worried about the smell?”
“It’s not that at all! Oh, that’s it. Now I’m pissed. In that case, take a whiff!”
Hmph! Suzurikawa, breathing heavily in irritation, thrust her leg, still wrapped in tape, at me. She seemed a bit more like the Suzurikawa I knew.
“Wanting others to sniff you is an incomprehensible fetish.”
“Don’t get the wrong idea!”
I couldn’t help it. I brought my nose close and took a deep breath. Yes, sir, I am a pervert. I will humbly accept that. Such is Gaia… Hmm? I suddenly came to my senses. Um, well…
“What are we doing…?”
“Uhnn… It’s your fault! D-doesn’t it smell bad?”
“Never mind that. The fortune teller I passed the other day was crying when she served me coffee, I wonder what that was about.”
“Don’t change the subject! I really want to know about that, too, but first protect my honor!”
“Yes, yes. That’s more like Suzurikawa.”
“I thought maybe your personality had completely changed.”
Suzurikawa looked blank, seemingly taken by surprise. But gradually, she seemed to understand what I meant and lowered her eyes again. I was expecting a barrage of scathing words, but there was nothing of the sort.
“Hey, Yukito. Do you think I’ve changed at all?”
“Didn’t you hate it?”
“I hate it… I hate myself so much. It’s terrible, isn’t it? That I can’t be honest. It’s really arrogance to rely on others. I’m only hurting them.”
As if confessing her regrets, Suzurikawa’s self-deprecating words poured out.
“I wanted to change. Since that day, I’ve always regretted it. It’s cowardly to want you to understand without saying anything. If I don’t convey it myself, put it into words, it has no meaning.
Not knowing how to respond to Suzurikawa’s anguish, I fell silent.
“When you found it for me – thank you. I was happy.”
“You already said that.”
“Why did Yukito go looking for it when you avoided me so much?”
“Like I said yesterday, it’s not like we’re fighting. If someone is in trouble, I’ll help them. At least that’s what I’ll do.”
No matter how much she hated me, the fact is that I was saved by her once. It was just the repayment of a huge debt, nothing more.
“Is it… because we’re childhood friends?”
“That is irrelevant. But if you’re ever in trouble, if you need help, you must tell me. I can no longer stay by your side forever.”
“Stay. Stay with me forever!”
“That’s not my role…”
Suzurikawa’s hand touched my cheek. Slowly wringing out the words, she confessed.
“I’m not going out with my senpai anymore. We broke up right away.”
“Huh? Wait, wait. Immediately when?”
“About two weeks after we started dating.”
“W-wait. What’s that about? Then I spread fake news… violated guidelines… violated privacy laws…”
No waaaay! I am hearing this for the first time! I had no idea. In fact, I hadn’t been watching Suzurikawa at all. I want to crawl into a hole.
“It was my fault for not saying anything! But I hated not being able to talk to Yukito. Let’s go back! To the way we used to be, childhood friends!”
“We can’t. There’s no going back.”
“W-why? Is it too late? Too far gone? Do you like Kamishiro?”
“No. I just cannot remember the feelings I had when I liked you.”
A sweet temptation. Still, I never thought about going back. The past held only painful memories. There’s nowhere I want to go back to.
“I really liked Yukito for a long time! Ever since we were little! I was happy when you confessed to me. I wanted to answer right away! But…”
Suzurikawa liked me? Huh, an auditory hallucination? Her sudden confession sounded completely unrelated to me. What’s that supposed to mean? Her ruthless words stirred my heart. Didn’t she just say that she wanted to be more honest? Then why is she lying?
Why does she insist on deceiving me so much? My headache intensified.
I heard a snapping sound.
Something so comfortable and perfect is impossible. My thoughts immediately snapped back to baseline.
Our relationship continued along the path of decisions made in the past.
“I didn’t think you were such a habitual liar.”
“What…did you…”
They say that illness makes you emotionally weaker, and Suzurikawa’s mental state seemed to be just that. She must have reached her limit of exhaustion. When you’re feeling down, it tends to show your weaker side that doesn’t normally show. When I have a cold, I also talk less. My sister tells me, “You seem saner when you’re sick.
I thought about Suzurikawa’s words. I couldn’t understand why she would say such a thing now. Childhood friends have a rare relationship. From the outside, it seems like an unshakable, special bond. And that’s why it was so difficult. Let alone with the same sex, having a childhood friend of the opposite sex inevitably hindered romantic relationships and maintaining the right distance. That’s why she must have tried to break it off.
“Going back would just be repeating the same things. If you like someone one day, I’m sure I’ll just get in the way.
“That can never happen!”
It’s not just Suzurikawa. It’s the same for everyone. I was used to it by now.
“And you always liked me? What good is lying about it? If you really liked me, didn’t you go out with your senpai because you liked him? Or did you date him without liking him at all?”
“That’s right! But I’m not lying! It’s not a lie!”
There is no doubt that Suzurikawa is lying. If she really had always liked me since the past, as she claims, then why did she go out with her senpai? Why didn’t she tell me back then? That was the only thing I wanted in life, the future I tried to grasp.
But as always, it slipped through my fingers like sand, leaving me with nothing. Suzurikawa must have really liked her senpai if she went out with him and did things like that. But I can’t take her suddenly saying that she always liked me as anything but a lie. If it was just talk after they broke up, I could understand it a little bit, but to say that she always liked me doesn’t have an ounce of credibility.
We were in love with each other from the beginning? That’s impossible.
Because I was definitely rejected and heartbroken at the time.
I remember the last words Suzurikawa said to me before we met again. [Liar.]
With hateful eyes, she spat at me and disappeared from my sight.
“I don’t care what reason you have to hate me. But I have never lied to you. At least I want you to believe that. Then I’m going home. Make up with Hiori chan.”

I could only watch in a daze as he walked away. I want to run after him, but my feet won’t move. Only my upper body lurches forward as if I might fall.
I feel like I finally caught a glimpse of his true feelings. What Yukito says is true. Grief over my own sins attacks me. It’s hopeless.
When Kouki told me about it, my heart felt like it was in a grip.
Yukito was absent from school with a cold. He might be terribly injured. I was filled with fear. That he would disappear. Disappear. I was the one who caused it. I can’t deny the worst imaginings. A feeling of my heart freezing.
I lower my gaze. A precious bond. It didn’t reach my heart. I couldn’t touch it.
That day at the Summer Festival. I shook off his hand.
In my excitement, I hadn’t seen the look on his face. Maybe Yukito felt rejected by me. I didn’t tell him that was not the case.
I realize it now, so late. It took me so long to understand something so basic.
That’s true. It was always him taking the lead, trying to hold my hand, trying to confess to me. So what did I do? Like a baby bird waiting to be fed, I just received from him. Did I ever do or say anything to him first, even once?
I’m the liar. That’s right. My lies have tormented him and me. It was easy to correct the lie.
But I was afraid to reveal the real reason why I told that lie.
My ugly heart, tainted by self-preservation, testing others, and keeping myself safe while hurting others. If I had been honest with myself, if I had waited just a little longer, it wouldn’t have come to this.
I was impatient at the time. Yuki was popular. He might not realize it, but he was more mature and wise than everyone around him.
And most of all, he was kind. There’s no way he wouldn’t be popular. Sometimes he does bizarre things, and his eccentric behavior makes him impossible to ignore. I know the girls who liked him. The reason they didn’t confess to Yuki was because of me. So I intimidated them.
I’m the worst. I’m ugly. My heart is stained with jealousy.
When the rumor spread that I was dating a senpai, other girls quickly started getting closer to him. One of them was Shiori Kamishiro.
But Yuki started to throw himself into his club activities. He didn’t care about anything else; he just chased the ball with all his heart.
By then, I had become entangled in the web of my own lie, and it had grown out of control due to malice, becoming something irreversible. I was bound, unable to move, unable to scream, trapped in the thorns of reality.
My mouth didn’t speak the truth; instead, I called him a liar.
“Hey, you know, I’ve always been on Yuki-chan’s side!”
“Then if Hi-chan is in trouble, I’ll help!”
The childhood vows are not a fancy way of saying we’re getting married. Nevertheless, I cherish them as precious memories. He probably doesn’t remember. Still, it bothered me. He said he would help. But when he was next to me, it wasn’t me who suffered, it was someone else. This fact made me unbearably sad.
I gently squeezed the belt. I knew the truth. He doesn’t tell lies. Today, once again, he helped me just like that.
I lied and didn’t ask for help. I betrayed myself.
I should have told him honestly then that I wanted his help. He would have immediately helped.
I wanted to change. I was the one who needed to change. If I had been more honest, things wouldn’t have turned out so disgusting. My family despised me, they were confused, they scolded me, and my little sister, who adored Yukito, still hasn’t forgiven me.
Even though I loved him so much, I couldn’t express my feelings or words. When I finally did, it was too late, and he had lost his affection for me.
I’m the one who has to chase after him. I want to make him love me again.
I don’t need the me that just waits. I used to dream like everyone else, yearning to be a princess.
But the glass slipper broke, and there’s no fairy godmother to help me, or a pumpkin carriage to take me to the castle. But his kindness, which hasn’t left me yet, remains on the painful foot.
I will never give up! I can’t give up. I don’t want to give up.
If I reveal this ugly truth, I will surely be disliked. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to say it all this time. I lacked the courage and determination, and now I’ve been condemned as a liar. Still, I had to say it. I just had to take one more step.
I finally understand it clearly. It’s too late, but still…
To start all over again, I must not be disliked by Yukito. I have to face this ugliness and admit it. No, not go back. I have to go forward this time!
“I’m sorry…”
This will be the last time I apologize. With that, I’ll face being disliked, and I’ll start all over again.
This time, I’ll find the true love of Suzurikawa Hinagi.

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