The Girls Who Traumatized Me Volume 1 Chapter 6

Chapter Six: “The Ball of Rejection”
In today’s IT society, government ministries are encouraging a move away from personal seals in the digital age, but I’ve been inconvenienced by analog means since this morning. Perhaps I should just ignore it. It’s probably going to be annoying anyway.
A man who looked carefree approached me while I was alone worrying about the signs of new trouble brewing. Doesn’t he have any worries?
“What are you doing, Yukito?”
“There was a letter in my shoe locker, but…”
“Oh, a love letter?!”
Attention! The eyes of the whole class gather.
Damn you, refreshing pretty boy, just die!
“Kokonoe, did you get a love letter?”
“As if that would happen. I don’t want to brag, but I’ve never been popular.”
“Isn’t there something wrong with that guy?”
“I think there is.” “I think so too.” “Agreed.” “But I was convinced of that from the beginning.” “Hehe…that’s what makes him interesting…” “It’s okay, I’m on your side!” “Me too, me too!” “One vote for weird.” “Yeah, he really is weird.” “You finally said it.” “#weird” “Die trash.” “Psycho freak nya.”
“Who the hell are you?”
Shut up! An overwhelming storm of agreement. Don’t tweet with hashtags! Haven’t some of you been living in a fantasy world? What, is this how I’m seen? I was supposed to live as a simple, quiet, dark loner, so why…
“So what is it really?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m worried. Does this look like a love letter to you?”
What was randomly stuffed into my locker wasn’t the kind of fancy thing you could call a love letter. Just a plain quarter sheet of loose-leaf paper. The simple message read, “Please come to the study room after school.” Not a hint of dreams or hope.
“But this is a girl’s handwriting, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it kind of gives that impression. Doesn’t seem like a love letter though…”
Sakurai and the others agreed that it didn’t look like a love letter either. So what is it? What is it?! Creepy!
“Yuki, you don’t have to go to something so weird!”
“Not that I want to, but what can I do? Kouki, how about you go instead?”
“Why me? Well, I’m free, so if you really want, I can go check it out.”
“You’re a really good guy. What do you think of me now?”
“….You’re not the only complicated one.”
What’s with this evasive, refreshing pretty boy? Investigating sounds appealing, but either way, it’s not going to get solved by leaving it to someone else. So after school, here I go!

“Wait, who are you really?”
The one who called me out stood in front of me. One thing I can say is that the atmosphere doesn’t feel like a confession of love or anything like that. It’s just the two of us. And it doesn’t seem like a club recruitment either.
“I’m Hasumura from Class C. Thanks for coming.”
“Do I have to introduce myself?”
“I know you well. Do you remember me? We went to the same junior high school.”
“I’m pretty sure this is our first meeting?”
“No. I didn’t speak to you directly then either, but…”
Unfortunately, I have absolutely no memory of her. I was even more perplexed as to what she could have to do with me.
“I called you today because I have a request.”
Suddenly her narrow almond eyes became sharp. A look of hostility.
“I’ll come straight to the point. Release Shiori.”
I think about her words. Shiori – she means Kamishiro. The word “release” feels wrong.
Has she been sealed away or captured or something? I didn’t violate any international treaties.
“Could you be more specific? Release?”
“Shiori is my best friend. It’s your fault. Ever since she got involved with you, Shiori has shut herself away. Even now, she’s… It’s too painful to watch!”
An anguished voice. Best friend, huh. I see, so that’s what this is all about. Just hearing that much, I understand of course.
This girl is just worried about Kamishiro. Her words don’t seem to contain any lies. Her unwavering eyes hide a strong will. Hasumura-san tells me not to get involved with Kamishiro anymore.
“What should I do?”
“Even if you say let her go, it’s not like I’m forcing her to do anything. I’m sure you understand that. And I’ve told Kamishiro that many times. But she won’t leave me alone. So what should I do?”
Hasumura-san looks perplexed at her own suggestion. She looks at me doubtfully.
“What should you… Are you okay with that?”
“I felt the same way from the beginning. It’s not like I want Kamishiro’s sympathy forever.”
“That’s not it! We were just teasing Shiori a bit, Shiori really–“
“It doesn’t really matter what happened in the past, right? We’re talking about Kamishiro now.”
“But… can you really give up on Shiori so easily?”
This question stunned me. Give up? To me? To whom? What does she think is on the other side of not giving up? There’s nothing. I’ve made it this far all the time with nothing. When I’ve looked for something, all I’ve found are dead ends that can’t be changed. I shake off a slight headache.
“There is no giving up or compromising. We’re not equal.”
“The reason Shiori chose this high school was to chase after you! With Shiori showing you so much goodwill, how can you think it’s a lie? You should understand that much!”
” No, it’s not, Hasumura-san.”
She doesn’t know what happened between me and Kamishiro. She’s Kamishiro’s best friend. Then this is a good opportunity to tell her the truth. When she sees me nonchalantly explaining the circumstances, she visibly panics.
“Th-that kind of thing…”
“You want me to stay away from Kamishiro, right? I get it. I’ll try again.”
“Wait! There must be more to it for Shiori! Why, it wasn’t supposed to…”
Leaving the stunned Hasumura behind, I leave the study room.
I should have made it clear to Kamishiro earlier. That we have to keep our distance for both of our sakes.
If I couldn’t go through with it completely at some point, maybe it was because some part of me felt that this time wasn’t so bad. But it was an irretrievable past that could never be reclaimed.

Hello, I’m Hametarou the third!
T\N: Hame is slang for seggs
I, Yukito Kokonoe, inherited that nickname this time.
Isn’t Hametarou going too far? Are you a Posi-Hame boy? There’s a first year like that!? I’m not a Yokohama fan, too bad. Heh…
As the man who made the third-year student council president and vice president prostrate themselves to become his sex friend, I, Yukito Kokonoe, had become the absolute number one celebrity on campus. The rumors got out of hand.
My newly acquired nickname was “Hametarou the third”.
To be clear, I did not hame anyone. Nor did I use protection. Going raw is out of the question.
It’s safe in my bag. Just in case something happens, right? Really!
My dark loner plan was nowhere in sight. People whisper as I walk down the hall. In this case, even staying as a Hametarou te third would only get the point across vaguely, which is terrible.
To be exposed to the public and given such a nickname, if my mental toughness didn’t surpass steel at the level of carborundum, it would be extremely damaging. In that sense, I’m grateful it was me, but the outlook was pitch black. My ideal school life was receding further and further into the distance.
This won’t do. I want to spend my time quietly and humbly like an exiled adventurer living on the frontier, but things are going against that plan.
It wasn’t meant to be. I have to do something, but what?

I can only hold my head. I don’t know what she was thinking, but the bizarre behavior of the student council president in contacting my brother was already a rumor in the school. She’s supposed to have apologized with Dogeza, but the problem is what comes after that.
I have a bad feeling that if I leave it alone, things are sure to get complicated.
No matter how much I grilled him about it after he returned home, my brother wouldn’t say a word. A fixed expression, a wandering gaze. He was stubbornly repressing something. Trying to suppress it. I wonder what those feelings could be. I can’t even imagine.
There’s too much to think about. His childhood friend and classmate. And now the student council president, there are too many people around this kid who have hurt him.
“Maybe I should just bring him to my class.”
“Yuuri, what’s wrong?”
“For some reason, his classmates are bowing to me, I wonder what that’s about…”
“That’s right, Yukito is Yuuri’s little brother, isn’t he? What did he do to make the student council president bow to him? Some incredible hope showed up, huh.”
“Is that true? Hard to believe…”
“There are people who took pictures of it. No mistake.”
“Haa…. Guys, this is no laughing matter. It’s more serious.”
I have to protect this child’s school life. I’m planning to run for student council this year. If I can make the school a little better, it’ll be easier for him to attend. That’s all I can do, but I had to do at least that much.
I wonder if he’ll call me Big Sis again one day…
It’s just this little wish that keeps me going. I’m no different from Suzurikawa Hinagi or Kamishiro Shiori.
No, I’m aware that I’m the one who hurt him the most. My brother won’t say a word to anyone about that day. I was also afraid of being found out, so I’ve kept it bottled up all this time.
An irreparable sin.
Looking back, it’s only natural that my brother relied on me. He had shifted from looking to our mother to me, I guess. But to realize this now is too late.
I have committed an unforgivable sin. It was I who damaged my brother beyond repair.
With these hands, I… I still feel the sensation in my hands when I look down at them. There have been times when I’ve dreamed of his face from that day. What was I thinking? “Ah, that person too.” Those eyes probably held that kind of judgment.
Since that day, the brother who had embraced me so warmly had disappeared. The affection was gone.
The sibling bond was also lost. I must be considered a stranger. There’s nothing left for us.
He probably doesn’t know that I’m so worried.

That day I tried to kill my brother.

“I hate you so much! Go away!”
The hands I was holding let go. His body fell. His eyes seemed to ask, “Why?” I looked straight at him, not looking away. The initial confusion quickly turned to resignation, acceptance of reality, and finally…

“Is Kokonoe Yukito here?”
How often did this pattern repeat itself? This development has become quite familiar.
My popularity was on the rise. I was already tired of the constant recruitment attempts from sports clubs, but now, as the guy who conquered the impenetrable student council president, I’ve even received requests for relationship advice. It’s ridiculous for someone like me who’s never been popular. I guess it was just a case of constipation.
I shouldn’t be able to understand other people’s feelings. I can’t even understand my own feelings, so there’s no way I can understand others.
As usual, senior students come to the classroom to see me… Wait, who is this person?
Unbeknownst to me, I’ve made new acquaintances, and that’s Kokonoe Yukito for you.
“That would be me, but YOU, why did you come to this class?”
“So it’s you. I’m Toshirou Himura, third year, captain of the basketball club.”
“I have a bad feeling about this. Come to think of it, Kokonoe went to the cafeteria a little while ago.”
“Don’t suddenly pretend to be someone else. You’re the one who told me your name.”
“It just seemed like a pain.”
As expected from the basketball club, Himura-senpai was quite tall. But our school’s basketball club isn’t really strong or anything, so make of that what you will. Since there are schools that collect top players from other prefectures, there’s bound to be an imbalance either way.
“I heard from Hyakuma-senpai. He wondered why you weren’t in the basketball club.”
“You knew each other?”
“Hyakuma-senpai is an alumnus of this school, right? Didn’t you know that?”
“I make it a policy not to pry into other people’s business, so I didn’t know.”
“Well, I heard about you too, so I came to invite you.”
“If I were the kind of person who would easily accept an invitation, I would have joined a club from the beginning.”
I see, so Senpai Hyakuma was a graduate. When I think about it, a coincidence like that could happen at any time. Maybe Senpai was thinking of me in his own way, or maybe he just had a question. To be honest, it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, but I guess I should be grateful for it.
“The basketball club has people from my middle school, right? You can guess that if they don’t say anything.”
“I thought so and asked, but there wasn’t anyone from your middle school.”
“Is that so?”
“Our basketball club doesn’t really practice that enthusiastically, you know.”
“Then you didn’t need to invite me.”
Everything is too late. Even dedicating myself to club activities was just an escape. It’s not like I had any firm convictions about it. So my feelings just crumbled away. Without even achieving that one goal, in that half-hearted state. That’s why I don’t feel anything when I quit, and I don’t intend to start again. It’s not like I like basketball or anything.
“Kokonoe, this is our last year. It’s true that we’re not strong. We don’t have the fighting spirit to win tournaments. But we’ve stuck it out for three years. I want to give it everything we’ve got in the tournaments. Lend us your strength!”
“Isn’t that strange? Normally, a first year wouldn’t be allowed to play in matches like this…”
“Let me tell you, there are only nine people in our basketball club, including me.”
“What!? The basketball boom of the 90s is over?”
“This is Reiwa now. It got popular again a few years ago, but both times it’s thanks to Jump, I guess.”
“You’re weak.”
“That’s why! Don’t you want to shake things up a bit with some first year activities?”
“Who exactly?”
“Kokonoe, there’s a girl in my class that I like. I’m thinking of confessing to her after the tournaments are over. So I want to look cool in front of her!”
“For your sake! Why do the upperclassmen in this school end up talking to the underclassmen about things that are none of their business? Is it some kind of local disease?”
Himura-senpai was an easy-to-understand, hot-blooded guy. And an idiot. Anyway, straightforward, and once he decides something, he just goes for it. It’s just annoying to me. Do what you want.
See, once again the eyes of my classmates are focused on me. Don’t smile! What’s wrong with you? And considering Himura-senpai’s personality, I feel like I can somehow predict what will happen next.
“Then Kokonoe, let’s play basketball after school!”
Himura-senpai was an inhabitant of the manga world. What “then”? There’s no connection! I don’t see the point of having a game at all. For some reason, my classmates were excited. Some of them were busy with their smartphones. What could they be doing?
“I got it. Let’s do it, Yukito!”
“Huh? Hey, wait a second! Why are you interfering all of a sudden?”
“Come on Yuki, let’s play!”
Kouki-kun also looks good today. His refreshing smile has increased by about 300% or so. And who was the one who just agreed without my consent?
What about my opinion? Everyone around me is getting excited on their own while ignoring me… Isn’t this a violation of human rights? Bullying?
“How about 3 on 3? We’ve also got Ito from the basketball club in our class.”
“What? Oh yeah Hayato, so you were in this class too!”
“My presence is just…”
Reluctantly, Ito(?) from the basketball club comes over. I don’t know him very well. In fact, I don’t even remember his name. I see, so his name is Hayato Ito!
“Please go on without me…”
I mumble helplessly.

The group chat for my class is lively. For some reason, my brother’s information keeps getting posted in real time on this mysterious group that I’m also using. It’s convenient, but it’s also giving me a headache. The person in question seems to be completely unaware of it. It’s totally unofficial.
“That kid is at it again…!”
He’s been a hot topic since a certain incident. His name is known even in the sophomore class, so much so that he might be the most famous person in the school. Otherwise, he wouldn’t attract so much attention. The number of classmates in the group has also increased. It seems that this time he’s finally agreed to play after school with the captain of the basketball team.
Why can’t this kid just stay where he is?
He had completely given up basketball, which he had been devoted to in middle school. It doesn’t seem like he has much of an attachment to it now either. He bragged about being in the Go-Home Club, so it’s a mystery why this happened. Will he be okay? He hasn’t gotten into any more trouble, has he? My worries are endless.
Fufu. It’s funny, isn’t it? What am I worrying about this late in the game? I lost the privilege to do that a long time ago, didn’t I? Self-denial inevitably comes out.
That’s right. Since that day I have completely lost any such qualification.

“I hate you! Just go away!”

I shoved my brother off the park playground equipment. Without even understanding what that meant, my emotions moved me to act in the heat of the moment. The vivid sensation. My hand lets go, and my brother’s body tumbles limply through the air.
His gaze looking at me asked “Why?” It was shaking as if to say “Why would you do this?” The impulse to push him.
“Because I hate you!”
I shouted without being able to hold it in. A few seconds later, a dull thud. Blood flowed from his cut forehead. Human blood is so red and pretty…. I had an unreal, empty impression like that. But looking at my brother collapsed motionless there, I come to my senses.
What did I just do? I can’t believe my own actions. I didn’t want to admit what had happened as a result. A feeling of exhaustion takes over.
Just now, with these hands, I had–
A fear assaults me. My hands were shaking. I slowly climb down the equipment, my knees giving out.
“Yukito….hey, you’re okay right? Right?”
No response. An injury far worse than I’d ever seen before. The scene was far too shocking for a child like me. As blood spurts out and the ground darkens, I regain my senses.
“No…this can’t….why…”
Wanting to deny reality, I ran from the scene.
–And my brother never came back.
I loved my brother dearly. Since Mom was busy with work, I often had to look after my brother. He was very serious and easy to take care of. He was very attached to me too. Maybe that’s why Mom felt at ease too. But I was still just a kid after all. There was only a one year difference between us. I was merely still an immature child.
As I spent more time with my brother and we played together more, it was also a period when I myself was starting to build interpersonal relationships. The awakening of the ego. My world was rapidly expanding.
Amidst that, always being with my brother started to feel like a burden.
Mom was always worried about my brother too. Maybe that somehow cast a shadow on my heart. Looking back now, there’s no way that could be true, but in the end I was probably starved for affection too. I felt lonely too, just the same.
One day I was playing with my best friend Maki-chan. My brother was there too.
Since Maki-chan was an only child, she probably longed for siblings. She doted on my brother a lot. The coming and going feeling of alienation. Possessiveness that he’s my brother, and the ugly jealousy of my friend being taken from me. Maki-chan is my best friend! Those complex tangled feelings. Unable to digest them, on our way home one day it happened.
Lashing out with raw emotion. Physically and mentally harming him, an extremely horrible treatment. No, horrible doesn’t cover it. Could I deny that there was no murderous intent? It wasn’t an act that could be forgiven just because we were children. My brother didn’t come back. The fear swelled. Even though it’s my fault, even though I did it, his eyes burning into me wouldn’t leave my mind.
My brother returned six days later. No, he didn’t come back. The police called me. I had told my mother everything. I couldn’t hide it. When we rushed to the park, my brother was no longer there. Maybe he had gone home. I waited, but he didn’t come back.
The next day we filed a missing person’s report with the police. The days before we got a confirmation call were hell. But the real hell came after that.
My brother was terribly emaciated when he was found. Somehow he had made it to the neighboring town where he was discovered. He had a severe head injury and cracks in his bones. I had done this to my own brother! Tormented by immense remorse. My brother looks at me with dark eyes and makes a hoarse sound.
“Sorry I couldn’t dissapear.”
–Huh? That’s not right, that’s not right at all! Because I’m the one who should apologize, and you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong! A flood of emotions becomes a muddy torrent that sweeps away my words, leaving me unable to say anything.
It wasn’t just the injury. The reason Yukito didn’t come back was also because of me? Because I told him to go away? So he tried to disappear?
Of course, I was scolded. But my mother held me in her arms while she cried and scolded me. That was even harder than being scolded.
But at that time I still didn’t understand the meaning of my brother’s words.
My brother had tried to disappear in front of me. I took that literally. I thought he had just disappeared. I felt that pushing him was bad. No matter how sad I was or how sorry I was, it wasn’t something that could be forgiven.
But my awareness was still only at that level. That was the limit for me as a child.
Whenever that time was, it doesn’t matter. But when I grew up and understood human “death,” everything changed.
My brother was trying to die. He didn’t just try disappear from before me. He was leaving this world. That’s why my brother didn’t come back. My brother probably didn’t understand “death” himself.
But maybe he felt it instinctively. If he had been found a day later, he might have died. Or when he fell from the playground, if the landing was just a little worse, he might have died. He might have died instantly.
When I understood this, my mind went blank with fear. I had tried to kill my brother, whom I loved very much. I had tried to take his life in a moment of emotion.
My brother who came back was completely different. Our hands never held each other after that. He was no longer attached to me. My brother who used to follow me happily with a smile and call me “big sister” was gone. Since then I have never been called big sister.
Of course. I tried to kill my brother. He could be killed again without warning. He couldn’t let his guard down and casually approach me. He couldn’t be friends with someone who tried to commit murder. But there was no fear or anything in my brother’s eyes. That confused me even more. It would be easier if he was afraid. But my brother’s reaction was somehow abnormal, as if he had lost something. As if he was broken.
I apologized many times. I repeated my apologies. Every time I dreamed of that day, every time I saw my brother’s broken figure, I couldn’t help but apologize.
But it was too late. No matter how much I apologized, it didn’t reach my brother. Apologizing is to ask for forgiveness. To tell the other party that you were wrong, to be scolded by them, and only then can the conflict be resolved. Otherwise you can’t move forward.
But my brother was not angry at all. He had forgiven me from the beginning. There is no point in apologizing countless times to someone who has already forgiven you. No matter how many times I say that I was bad and it was my fault, if the other person is tolerant, it won’t get through.
As if he had lost the emotion of “anger” itself…
Being forgiven and not being blamed while apologizing leads nowhere. My brother continued to forgive me every time I apologized. So it always ended there. Nothing changed. Nothing could be changed. What’s broken can’t be fixed. No matter how much I wanted to go back to the way we were before, my brother who had forgiven me never went back to the way he was.
I wanted to be judged. I wanted to be blamed for why I did what I did.
I wanted to be lashed out with true feelings, cry and apologize and tell him that I really loved him and start over as siblings. A hopeless wish that would never come true.
After that, my brother only got worse. Every time something happened, he seemed to lose something. As if he was dropping his emotions one by one…
Then I realized. –What if he lost all his emotions?
I remembered our phone conversation. He had told me to wait until he graduated from high school. Wait for what? That much is obvious. He must be planning to disappear from me. He may not plan to ever see me again. Even if he has lost the feeling of “fear,” he might choose death easily and without hesitation.
Even now, the words I said that day must be like a stake in my brother’s heart. I can’t pull it out. Since I can’t touch my brother’s heart, I can’t save my brother.
So I was expecting someone else. I thought if it was her. But that was a failure. No, it ended up hurting him more. I shouldn’t have relied on her!
But somehow I’m going to save him. No one else. Me this time, for sure.
“A basketball game and stuff…doesn’t seem like something he would do…”
What changes in feelings happened? I can’t miss any signs. Any omen, any subtle change, I won’t miss a single thing about my brother. I won’t take my eyes off him at all. I let go of his hand once. After that time, our hands never held each other again.
If I look away this time, I’ll probably never see him again.
Maybe I should prepare a towel and a sports drink? I feel like he’d probably have them himself, but I still have to do something. In middle school, when he was dedicated to basketball, my easygoing brother was cool. Maybe I could see that side of him again.
With feelings hidden in my chest, I decided to wait anxiously for after school.


The gym was overflowing with bored people who had caught wind of the commotion. A gallery of spectators had formed. I decided to ignore the murmurs of “That’s the rumored…” and the like. Were they looking forward to this event that had risen from the mundane? I also want to pretend to be such a detached observer. The problem is that I’m at the center of this disturbance. Excuse me, may I please go home? The one who cries out to go home amidst the commotion is none other than me, Yukito Kokonoe.
Why I, as a member of the Go Home Club, am involved in this and suffering under these circumstances is something that the present me cannot understand. My opponents are the regulars of the basketball club, three people led by Himura-senpai. From a certain perspective, it looked like an insolent underclassman defying his seniors. I just want to live peacefully, so why…
By the way, 3 vs 3 uses an alternating offense-defense system with 5 minute periods x 2 for a total of 10 minutes. Once it starts, it’s over in a flash, and there’s nothing resembling strategy in 3 vs 3.
“If we win, you’ll join the basketball club. Is that okay with you?”
“Hey! Don’t just arbitrarily decide things! Aren’t you upperclassmen being childish?”
“It’s not like I’m confident that we’ll definitely win! If I was so confident in our basketball club, I wouldn’t invite you.”
“Then if I win, the basketball club will disband. How about that?”
“Anything but that!”
The upperclassmen were confused for some reason. It made no sense. There’s no way that third-year students could imagine losing to first-year students from the beginning, right? Ito might be in the basketball club, but who knew how well the refreshingly pretty boy could move.
“Besides, I have no motivation, so to be honest, I don’t really care if I win or lose…”
“Yukito, we’re definitely going to win!”
“You guys are upperclassmen and regulars, you know? You’re bound to lose.”
For some reason, the refreshing pretty boy laughed mischievously.
“We will win. We can’t lose. Right?”
“Where does that confidence come from?”
I didn’t think I’d be playing basketball in school again. I thought I’d never get another chance like this, but you never know where life will take you, I guess.
I look to the side and see my sister’s figure in the gallery. I wonder if she came just to watch? She’s probably here to make sure I don’t cause any problems.
When I played basketball in middle school, it was for no one but myself. I just used basketball to get over the shock of heartbreak. I didn’t care about team wins or team camaraderie. That’s why I always practiced alone. It wasn’t that I wanted to get better, I just wanted to move my body.
After the summer of my second year, a strange girl started talking to me.
It was Shiori Kamishiro, the one who made a false confession to me.

“Huh? He wasn’t here last week either, was he?”
Saturday. I saw that person practicing on the free court in the park. I’m pretty sure he’s on the boys basketball team. This was the second time I saw him in the same place at the same time on a weekend. I also remember seeing him practicing here alone at the same time last week. I didn’t pay much attention to him then, but maybe because I play on the girls’ basketball team, I found myself strangely interested in him the second time I saw him. An appealing presence.
But somehow the atmosphere around him was strange, and he seemed desperate about something.
The third time came soon. For the first time, I decided to really watch him at school. Although the basketball teams have some interaction, we didn’t really have much contact and had never talked. I wonder what kind of person he is. He practices on his own even on holidays. He must practice hard.
That was my first impression. Unlike me, I don’t have that much enthusiasm for club activities.

The boys’ basketball team isn’t that good either. Why is he able to work so hard? I became interested in him and started to watch him.
Maybe that was a mistake. Once I started to pay attention and watch him, his abnormality stood out. He practiced morning, noon, and night. Not with anyone, always alone. For basketball, a team sport, this was far too unnatural. What is the point of him practicing alone? It’s meaningless if the team doesn’t get stronger.
What a foolish person…even if I thought that somewhere deep inside I was dazzled by his figure.
He was making a name for himself. Of course he did. He practices so much. The members of the boys’ team were confused by him. They didn’t know how to deal with him. The obvious difference in enthusiasm for club activities. The discomfort of having a person who’s seriously gung-ho mixed in with what they’re doing for fun.
But he didn’t seem to mind the atmosphere at all. And he didn’t demand the same effort from others. Even today he continued practicing by himself.
I couldn’t help but be worried and finally went to talk to him.
“Hey. How are you able to work so hard?”
When I talked to him, he seemed like an ordinary student. No, that’s what I thought at the time. He was very easy to talk to and a really nice person.
In this way, it looks like I’m actually popular. I’ve been confessed to several times. I’m tall and my chest has grown quite a bit. I knew I had a good figure. I can feel the male gaze piercing my body.
Maybe it’s self-consciousness, but in any case, he was different. He didn’t look at me like that. In fact, he didn’t even seem to acknowledge my existence. The first words he said when I first spoke to him were, “Who are you? That annoyed me a bit and I sulked about it.
I wondered what I had to do to get him interested in me. To the extent that I felt that way, he had an extremely weak awareness of other people in general.
What is the point of continuing to practice alone without being rewarded?
What could be reflected in his eyes? They were so dark and deeply clouded. His gaze was somehow very cold and focused on something. And yet his attitude and words were always kind. A strange, unbalanced existence that you couldn’t just leave alone. That was Yukito Kokonoe.
Without realizing it, someone like him had become a reassuring presence for me. A valuable friend of the opposite sex. It didn’t take long for him to become more than that.
I started calling him Yuki and he called me Shiori, we became so close. I asked him to call me that.
The catalyst for him to become a major presence in the club came. In the fall tournament of our sophomore year, the boys’ team managed to defeat a powerhouse school and advance to the top 16 in the prefectural tournament. It was an amazing feat. The boys’ team, which usually lost in the first or second round of the district tournament, had made it to the prefectural tournament and achieved results. The school also praised us. It was pretty much all thanks to him.
But basketball is a team sport. No matter how great he is alone, there’s a limit. However, this result has changed the way the boys think.
If we improve, maybe we can reach even higher. Such expectations were born in the boys’ basketball team. Before we knew it, the boys had begun to seriously devote themselves to basketball with a completely different attitude than before. He had changed the whole basketball team by himself.
He didn’t say anything or force anything. He just changed the people around him by his own actions.
A close friend in the same class. At the same time, I had a strong admiration for this presence, this back.
And this enthusiasm gradually spread to the girls’ team. Everyone started practicing more seriously than before.
At that time, the voices of concern for him also increased around me. There were also members who looked at him passionately. Of course. He was just cool. It’s only natural to be interested in someone like him with such a dazzling charisma and hopeless darkness.
I began to feel a slight sense of superiority along with uneasiness. I was still too much of a child to understand what that feeling was. Since I had been doing sports all the time, I lacked the experience to know that it was love.
My relationship with him continued after that. By that time I had already fallen in love with him. I was excited enough to clearly realize that it was love. Talking with him is fun. I want to be with Yuki. Such feelings swelled.
And finally, unable to hold back, I told him.
But that it turned into something like that…
From that day on, I began to regret it. I shouldn’t have told him. If only I had been more honest, more true to myself…
“Yuki, um! There’s something I want to tell you today and…”
“What is it Shiori?”
It was getting dark around us. Since Yuki practiced until the last minute after school, it was already sunset when we went back. I decided to wait for Yuki so we could walk back together.
Seeing that I was nervous, he encouraged me as usual without saying anything in particular.
“I like you Yuki!”
His eyes shifted slightly. An expression of surprise. Maybe the first time I’ve seen it. It’s rare that his emotions show. I’ve never seen him express something like that on his face.
All I knew was that he was his usual friendly self, and that he was single-mindedly dedicated to the club’s activities to an extreme degree. So when I saw him like that, my chest filled up. I realized that I could tell him something as well. I stared straight into Yuki’s eyes while waiting for his words.
“Sorry Shiori, could you wait for my answer until after the tournament?”
” That’s right… It’s the last tournament.”
This answer was the opposite of what I expected. The last tournament of our third year was just around the corner. I guess he wants to focus on that now.
Thinking about it, for Yuki, who had dedicated himself so much to club activities, the final tournament of our third year could be considered the culmination. It must be meaningful to him. The other members were also looking forward to the tournaments. They wanted to show how strong they had become. I understand that you want to focus on that right now.
“Will you give me an answer when it’s over?”
“I promise I will.”
“Got it. Then I’ll wait. But I don’t want you to be sad!”
Unable to stand the awkwardness and embarrassment, I told him that much and dashed off. Somehow I felt I might get a good answer. I had this slight feeling of expectation. Because if Yuki didn’t like me, if he didn’t feel anything for me, he should have rejected me right away. There’s no reason to put it off.
But he had asked me to wait until the tournament. That must be the time Yuki needed to face me.
If that was the case, then Yuki would surely give me the answer I’m hoping for. With a slight spring in my step, I ran back home.
Some time later, I was interrogated by my friends in front of the girls’ bathroom. We’ve been close friends since elementary school, even though we’re in different grades now. Apparently, I’ve been acting weird lately. Grinning at me, they asked if something had happened.
“Shiori, don’t tell me you confessed to Kokonoe?”
“W-why would you think that!? Nothing happened!”
“Then why are you in such a panic?”
“Your behavior is too obvious. Meanwhile, Kokonoe is a poker face.”
“Ahhh, so spring has finally come for Shiori-chan, has it?”
It was the first time I was teased like that. My mind went blank. My first love. These feelings are very precious and sweet to me. I want to cherish them in my heart. I don’t want them to be hurt, I don’t want to be hurt. I don’t want them to be made fun of and end up saying things I don’t even mean.
“It’s just that Shiori, you guys have been together a lot lately. With so much loving aura, it’s obvious, right?”
“Wrong! It’s not like that between me and Yuki… I don’t like him or… I’m just keeping him company because he’s always alone and pathetic! I don’t have that aura or…”
“So you don’t like him?”
“It’s not that! I’m not…”
I don’t understand what I’m saying. I argue with my red face against my grinning friends. And my friends’ expressions are uniformly tense. They look behind me. I have a very bad feeling.
What’s going on? I turn around and see Yuki coming out of the boys’ bathroom.
Huh? Why is Yuki here?
I’m confused, but that’s not the point. Anyone can use the bathroom. My head was so confused that I didn’t even notice something so obvious. Did he hear what I just said? Who? Yuki? What did I say? I confessed my feelings to Yuki, and yet I’m denying it now – my thoughts wandering endlessly down the hallway with no exit.
“U-um, Kokonoe…”
My pale friend tries to call out, but Yuki doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything. Without even looking this way, he walks away as if he hadn’t even noticed us.
“W-what are we doing Shiori? He might have heard us just now!”
“It’s our fault. Because we teased Shiori…”
“You really didn’t confess? If that was a lie, you should deny it now before he gets the wrong idea.”
“Shiori-chan, if you don’t become honest, something terrible might happen…”
“Huh? Wait a minute, guys. Something like…”
Immense impatience. I have to do something, but my feet won’t move out of fear.
What should I do? What can I do? Should I tell him it was all a lie?
Maybe he didn’t hear. If that’s the case, it’s better not to do anything unnecessary. But what if he did hear? I don’t know how to react. Only my panic increases.
Several days went by without me asking Yuki anything. On the surface, there was no change in Yuki’s behavior. Same as always, nice and cool.
But somehow it felt like a subtle distance had grown between us. But it wasn’t clear enough for me to feel it clearly, maybe I was just imagining it out of fear. Maybe I’m misunderstanding out of discomfort.
But the lie I was telling was progressing without me realizing it…
“The tournament is coming soon, huh?”
Today, too, I was walking home with Yuki. We came to an overpass. Since then, nothing special happened. So I let my guard down somewhere.
That was a mistake. If I had been honest from the beginning, the misunderstanding would never have happened…
“I’m still waiting for that answer from back then, you know!”
Caught in the mood, I end up saying something like that to Yuki.

“Hmph. You’re not going to pretend that you forgot, are you? The answer to my confession.”
Yuki’s expression is suddenly clouded with uneasiness. Yuki isn’t the type to deliberately avoid when he knows something. He wouldn’t answer the way he just did if he really didn’t think anything of it.
“Oh, that. Shiori, it’s okay if you don’t keep me company anymore.”
He says it so lightly as if it’s no big deal.
So he heard! If I had just talked about it properly instead of leaving it, this wouldn’t have happened!
This kind of regret hits me now, far too late. I hurried to express my true feelings, but my voice didn’t come out properly.
Yuki was the same as always, even at a time like this. Neither his look nor his tone changed at all. But those words definitely contained rejection.
“I didn’t expect you to do something as boring as a false confession.”
He spoke indifferently, as if it didn’t matter.
He did hear! If I had brought it up instead of letting it go, and talked about it properly, this would never have happened!
“If you want an answer, I’ll tell you now. The answer is no, Shiori.”
“No! You’re wrong Yuki! I didn’t mean it, it wasn’t my true feelings…”
“Going back together like this is a nuisance for Shiori…I mean for Kamishiro. Let’s end this today.”
Kamishiro? It was as if he had returned to the way it was when we first started talking. Back then.
I don’t want that. You’re wrong! I really like Yuki, it wasn’t a false confession…!
While Yuki calmly walks ahead, I panic and try to reach out to him, but I lose my footing at the top of the overpass stairs. The ground that should be there isn’t. My tangled legs are thrown into the air, my sense of balance disappearing. My body follows gravity, falling to the ground as is–
He called my name. I’m happy about that, even in this situation. But my body doesn’t stop. Before I knew it, I was held in Yuki’s arms. I fell down the stairs.
I check my body. It looks like I’m not hurt. Someone protected me. When there was nobody but Yuki. Yuki, that’s right, Yuki is…?
Yuki had cushioned me, lying underneath me. I could faintly hear groans of pain.
“Are you okay Shiori? Urgh–!”
I’m relieved that he’s conscious. Yuki is unhurt too! But this relief only lasts a moment before I see it. Yuki’s right hand was bent in an unnatural way. I also do sports.
I understood what it meant at a glance.
Yuki’s right hand is broken. The tournament was just around the corner.
–Yuki can no longer participate in the tournament.

What would you call my hairstyle, I wonder, well, it’s pretty much just a buzz cut, huh? No matter how much I knock on it, it doesn’t make the sound of enlightenment, but in the end, the reason I played basketball was out of shame. I was foolishly wrong, and I wanted to forget my own foolishness.
I wanted to confess to my childhood friend who I thought we had mutual feelings for, but she got a boyfriend first? Well, it was a shock, you know.
After that, the relationship between Suzurikawa and the upperclassman “deepened” right away. When was the last time I held Suzurikawa’s hand? I can’t remember. Maybe there was never anything like that. Of course, we never kissed, let alone anything more between us.
Maybe that’s the reason. I felt a sense of nihilism towards my childhood friend who had so easily crossed a line with someone else.
I see, so that is it… I had that kind of resignation towards myself.
I felt an emptiness growing in my heart day by day. No matter how I try to fill it up, it doesn’t fill up. Like pouring water into a bottomless bucket, it never fills up. My feelings were leaking out little by little, wearing away.
There was no fear at that time. But my mind was screaming that this can’t go on.
That’s why I dedicated myself to the club. I dedicated myself to basketball. I desperately tried to fill the emptiness with something. And then I set myself a single goal.

I would use this final tournament as an opportunity to move forward. At that time, the feeling of “liking” Suzurikawa still remained. But it would no longer reach her. There was no point in holding on to her. I made it my goal to get rid of those feelings.
Soon, even the feeling of “liking” her, any “good will” toward someone, would disappear. I realized that it was becoming incomprehensible to me. There were days when I felt myself breaking down. To deny it, I threw myself even more into basketball.
Then someone approached me. It was Kamishiro Shiori.
Somehow, we had become good friends. One day, after spending such days, Kamishiro Shiori confessed to me. To be honest, it was a false confession. Even though I knew that, I didn’t really care. In fact, I was relieved. I was not shocked at all.
In any case, nothing would begin until the end of this final tournament. That was the goal that I, Yukito, had set for myself. By going through this tournament, I wanted to clear up my feelings towards Suzurikawa.
Therefore, I postponed giving her an answer. Nothing would happen until the tournament was over.
But I broke my hand just before the tournament and didn’t participate in the games. Everything was left half done, left without any resolution. That broke me even more.
If I had really participated in the tournament, could something have changed? Could I have won something back? I’ll never know the answer now, but at least my relationship with Kamishiro would have been settled for good.

“The air pressure in this ball is low. We should add more air.”
I tried to dribble the ball, but the bounce wasn’t great. I wondered about the true extent of the abilities of the good-looking guy who had confidently put me in that situation. When I passed the ball to Kouki, he easily caught it, then with a grin, he effortlessly bypassed the defense of the seniors and made a slam dunk. His physical skills were incredible. The girls in the audience erupted in cheers.
Isn’t it unfair how good-looking he is? He’s gaining popularity with the girls with this opportunity.
The roles changed and now the seniors were on the offensive. It quickly became clear. The seniors weren’t that good. There’s a significant difference in physical growth between freshmen and seniors, but even so, this was an opponent that, to put it bluntly, was nothing special. With their larger bodies, their movements were crude and lacked finesse. You could tell immediately where they were going to pass or dribble next. If this was the level of the school’s basketball team, it made sense why they were considered weak.
I shifted the senior’s center of gravity as he tried to break the fast break and shoot. Just by doing that, the ball bounced easily off the rim. We switched offense and defense again. This time I tried to pass to Ito-kun. He missed and I chased after the ball. It made me think.
“Shouldn’t we stop playing now?”
“No, no, no, no!”
“Because if we continue like this, we’ll win…”
“What? Kokonoe, don’t you get it yet?”
“I do. In fact, Mihou, your moves, were you experienced?”
“You’re just realizing it now… I can’t believe how clueless you are about my feelings.”
There’s no way I can understand that handsome guy’s feelings.
I pride myself on being good at studying, but what I struggled with the most were the unreasonable Japanese language questions that asked you to answer the author’s feelings. I once wrote on an answer sheet, “Were you irritated because you had to hold it in to go to the bathroom?” and was scolded for messing around. Unbelievable… I’m not a psychologist. There’s no way I can understand the author’s feelings!
There was no need to go through the second period. They were an easy opponent, lacking both practice and skill. Their size alone wasn’t enough to win. I let out a sigh… I didn’t have any motivation from the beginning, and it was becoming more and more of a drag.
I took a half-hearted shot. The ball went through the rim as if it had been sucked in. The cheers that had been so vibrant just a few minutes ago were now gone. The atmosphere was gone.
After school, the gym was silent. It had been completely one-sided. There was nothing left to discuss.
“This is really boring…”
I didn’t notice that everyone in the room had a grimace on their faces.
“Well, then, for the next period, fight me, Yukito.”
The sharp look of the handsome guy pierced me as he said that.

A tingling sensation, as if my skin was being burned. I feel the long unfelt tension pleasantly.
I can’t miss this unexpected chance. As foolish as it is, a part of me is still holding on, even though I should have let go long ago.
“But I have been waiting for this moment.”
The man before me, Yukito Kokonoe, is special to me, Kouki Mihou. An existence that could be compared to a lover that I had longed for and finally met.
I had received recruitment invitations from various sports clubs. I like sports. The reason I chose basketball in middle school was simply because I didn’t want to practice outside in the summer heat, but I was made a starter from my first year, active as a core member of the team.
This basketball club was said to be a powerhouse. A prestigious school with the strength to make it to the top of the prefectural tournament.
I wasn’t arrogant at all. My excellence in athletics is an undeniable fact. That’s probably why. My encounter with that guy came as a big shock to me.
It was sudden. The district tournament. Our opponent was an unknown weak school. There was no need to collect data about them. Our goal was the national tournament, the district tournament was just a stepping stone that we didn’t even have to worry about. Everyone was confident of an overwhelming victory. That’s how it was supposed to go. But within minutes of starting, we were crawling on the court as if we had seen an apparition.
This guy surveyed the court with a deeply impassive gaze, as if he could see through emotions. He controlled everything while playing point guard. Nothing got through. Passes were cut off, he didn’t bite on any feints. I was watching the ball, but when I realized it, the ball had disappeared from his hands and he was passing. There were no preparatory movements, no hint of an intention to pass. Inhuman endurance like a monster. He crushed our shots without breaking a sweat, no matter how much he scored, without showing a shred of joy. He was just piling up points like a machine. It was clearly abnormal.
But that wasn’t the only strange thing. It was that he was the only one on the team who stood out. The others were nothing special. There was an opening, but we had already lost heart. The strangely unbalanced composition of the team. But we still couldn’t win. It was the first time I experienced such an overwhelming, humiliating defeat.
Some powerhouse. Some national level. I was ashamed. There was no way we were going to make nationals if we didn’t beat this guy. The chagrin of the crestfallen upperclassmen unable to do anything. I clenched my fists, shaking as tears welled up. I was humiliated. It was the first time I had ever wanted to beat someone so badly.
It was the first time I was serious about basketball. I had made captain by then. Beating that guy became my goal, no, the goal of our basketball club.
But that guy didn’t show up at the final tournament we entered with high hopes in our third year. We were supposed to go to the national tournament and made it to the third round before losing. The school and the people around us celebrated our great leap, our great attack, our great achievement.
But there was a smoldering dissatisfaction within the basketball team. We hadn’t beaten that guy. Even if we won the national championship, what did it mean? We had lost, lost the chance to ever beat him again.
And I met him. An improbable coincidence. It made you want to believe in fate. On a whim, we ended up in the same class in high school. A guy more ridiculous and interesting than I could have imagined.
Reckless or something, but I couldn’t leave him alone anywhere. There were times when I doubted if this was really the Kokonoe Yukito.
The lingering feeling in my hand. That last pass. No mistake, this is the guy who crushed me back then!
Goose bumps rise. My whole body trembles with joy. I wanted to face him again. I thought it would be fun to play together as friends. Me and Kokonoe Yukito. The mood is the same as back then. His game erases everything. The fighting spirit of the opponent, the cheers, the support. Before you know it, there is only silence.
I don’t take my eyes off the ball. But suddenly it’s like the ball is right in front of me. I fumbled it. It wasn’t my fault that Ito dropped it. Just like back then, I can’t read any emotions or thoughts. No good. With the skill of the upperclassmen, there’s absolutely no stopping him. Yukito mumbles.
“This is really boring…”
Ah yes. It must be boring for you as well. I didn’t want to miss this chance. I wanted to play with this guy a little longer. That’s why I…
“Then next time. Fight me, Yukito.”

Kouki-kun had declared war on Yuki. Why did it come to this? Wasn’t Kouki-kun on Yuki’s side? Questions arose and faded away. But more than that, my chest was full with Yuki on the court.
Even Streetball was fun. But still, this is where he belongs.
The regrets I’ve accumulated so far. I’m the one who ruined Yuki’s future.
I thought Yuki would play basketball in high school. But he chose the go-home club.
“Hey. Why are you able to try so hard?”
I had only asked this question once before. His answer was unexpected. Although it was a difficult subject to talk about, Yuki told me without seeming to mind at all.
It was because he was rejected by his childhood friend. He wanted to get rid of those feelings. That’s why he devoted himself to me, he said.
When I confessed, he asked me to wait until the final tournament. That must have been the goal that Yuki decided on. By going through the tournament, Yuki wanted to sort out his feelings.
I ruined that chance. Because of my stupidity. It was my fault.
So what happened to Yuki’s feelings, those feelings that made him pour himself into basketball so much? Where did they go?
I robbed him of his chance to move forward. It’s possible that those unresolved feelings are still inside him. Frozen ever since.

“Have you lost your mind, Mihou? Don’t think you can get away with anything just because you’re pretty.”
“It’ll just stay boring like this.”
“What’s wrong with that? I’m going home today to play with my friend.”
“Yeah, right, you don’t have any friends!”
“Hey, don’t mess around, playboy. I have the beautiful witch Himiyama-san, you see.”
“Is she… your girlfriend…?”
“Well, she’s dangerous territory for me, so I don’t plan to go.”
“Then you don’t have any plans! Don’t start liking older women at your age…”
“Because I’m not popular. I can’t help it.”
“Hmm, I want to deny that, but fine. Anyway, Senpai, I’m going to join your side now. Someone will substitute for me. You can’t win like this.”
“H-hang on, don’t just decide things by yourself. That’s not acceptable.”
“You won’t win, senpai, not like this. Please!”
“To think we’d be beaten by a first year like that. Fine. I’ll trade with you.”
“Thank you very much!”
“Okay, I’ll come over here.”
“Why does everybody ignore what I want?”
“You’re fine, but what about me? Aren’t I ignored?”
“You…? Not interseted.”
Ito-kun was quite an interesting guy. It looks like they finished talking, because Mihou turns to me. It’s not his usual refreshing handsome guy smile. A grim grin. Something like fighting spirit was overflowing. Really. If this is your personality, why the Go Home Club?
“Yukito, this time I’m going to beat you for sure!”
“Were you always so hot-blooded?”
“I want to play basketball with you.”
“I don’t want to.”
“But with you…!”
“Sorry, I probably can’t meet your expectations.”
Kouki’s expression clouded over sadly as he sighed.
“Then Yukito. If I win this match, I get Kamishiro!”
A moment of silence. But in the next moment, pandemonium broke out. The person in question, Kamishiro, was the most confused.
“Wh-wh-what do you mean, Kouki-kun!?”
Ohh. So Mihou liked Kamishiro, huh. The two beautiful sports club members might be good for each other. Certainly much healthier than clinging to me. No one would complain with this refreshingly handsome guy.
Even Kamishiro’s close friend Hasumura would be relieved.
“Good for you, Kamishiro. Mihou is a good guy.”
“O-oi, Yukito! Is this really okay?”
“Of course.”
For some reason, the refreshingly handsome guy who suggested it himself was the most anxious. Now that it’s come to this, I’m no relation, right? What’s he trying to do? Just leave the young couple alone.
“Does this game have any meaning?”
“Why, Yukito, don’t you notice?! Do you really feel nothing? When you see the attitude of Kamishiro and Suzurikawa, don’t you think anything?”
“I don’t really understand, but I get along well with Kamishiro.”
“Yukito, why do you reject them so?”
Reject? Reject what? Who? I still don’t really understand what that refreshingly handsome guy is saying.
Come to think of it, both Suzurikawa and Kamishiro were just telling lies. As if I could understand their true feelings. Not to mention now that it’s become impossible for me to understand such things.
Who am I rejecting? It’s the opposite. I’m the one who has always been rejected. By my mother, by my sister, by my childhood friend, by my classmates, by upperclassmen. Everyone rejected me. No one needed me. I didn’t belong anywhere. The only thing they wanted from me was for me to disappear.
What was always directed at me was “rejection,” not “goodwill. I’m not the one who rejects them. It should have been me who was rejected. I must have been rejected, and I-
-Really? Something whispers in my chest.
What if it wasn’t pity. The confession wasn’t a lie. That day, Kamishiro certainly said she liked me.
A dull pain runs through my head and becomes a headache. As if I had lost something important, a certain hollowness spread, such a familiar feeling.
There was a clicking sound, as if something else inside me had broken.
Oh well, who cares!
I had given up everything. No point in thinking when I don’t understand anything anyway.
Having lost faith in the WHO, I, Yukito Kokonoe, am a man who does not believe in international organizations. In a world where even the UN can’t be trusted, what is there for an individual to believe in? A world where you can’t even say what you want is nothing but poison. What good is lying to me? There are no answers to these questions. I can’t think of any reason. It’s foolish to think about lying or truth.
Still, I suppose the right thing to do is to cheer on my classmates’ budding romances. There’s no doubt that Kouki Mihou is a good guy. In that case, there’s one thing I should do.
“All right, if I win this match, stay away from me from now on.”
“Yuki… what are you…”
“From now on, it’s up to those two. It has nothing to do with me. If I don’t get involved with them, then I won’t get involved in this mess. I won’t join the basketball club. That settles everything!”
“Wait, why are you so…”
“Let’s get started.”
That way, Kamishiro and the refreshing pretty boy can approach me without hesitation. Heh, who would have thought that I, with no experience or age in love, would become the bridge to romance.
“Kokonoe, I can’t accept such a competition.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but with that attitude, we can’t work with you.”
Ito and Senpai looked at me disapprovingly. Scornful eyes. Yes, those eyes. Those are the eyes I should get. There’s something comforting about having those eyes on me. It’s reassuring. It’s like my existence is being confirmed, no, denied. And then I don’t want to get involved anymore. For a dark loner like me, that’s the right attitude I should get from others.
“Then it’s okay. I’ll do it myself.”
“Hey, Kokonoe. Just because you can do a little doesn’t mean–“
“Rest over there.”
I slowly began to dribble. The gallery looked puzzled as well. This is normal for me. For some reason, when I’m playing basketball, the place gets quiet before I even notice. Prying eyes stare at me as if I’m a spectacle, but that’s also my normal, so I don’t have to pay attention to them.
“Wait! I’ll join Yukito’s team!”
Kamishiro’s strong, dignified voice echoed through the courtyard.

Unable to sit still, I jumped into the courtyard. I didn’t want to leave Yukito alone. Compelled by this impulse. I’m surprised by my own courage.
“What do you mean, Kamishiro?”
“I’m sorry, Kouki-kun. And thank you.”
“I feel bad that I dragged you into this. But that guy…”
Kouki chimes in perplexed. His plans seemed to have gone wrong. I was shocked when he suddenly said that, but Kouki must’ve been considerate in his own way.
“It’s okay, I understand.”
I turn to Yukito.
“Let’s do it like last time, Yukito.”
A sinful word. I trample on the kindness of his attempt to push me away.
When was the last time I enjoyed something so wholeheartedly? It was a sparkling moment. We were moving our bodies in the park with the senpais and Yuki, laughing, and I was able to express my feelings once again.
“Did you hear what I said?”
“I have no right to get involved with Yuki. I know that. But I was happy.”
Yuki’s eyebrows furrowed slightly. He does have expressions.
“Any reason is fine. If I can be Yuki’s motivation… then that’s enough.”
Even if he rejects me, I just want to see Yuki on the court again. If I can be the reason for that, there’s nothing that could make me happier. Disappointment, contempt. Those were the things I deserved since back then. I never want anyone to look at Yuki with those eyes again.
“So… I… want Yuki to win…”
No matter how much people hate me, I won’t hate Yuki. If he goes far away, I’ll follow him. I couldn’t give up. Even if these feelings don’t reach him, I wanted to be by his side. This is my selfishness.
Suddenly, Yuki’s hand touched my cheek.
“Don’t cry if you’re happy.”
“Huh…? Oh, it’s true. It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? Haha.”
Surprised, I touched my cheek and realized that tears were falling.
“Sorry. I don’t know why… They won’t stop.”
“If he’s a handsome guy, he definitely won’t make you cry or sad.”
“You’re so kind, Kouki.”
“He’s a prime property that even real estate agents would be surprised about. The competition is high. I’m sure he’ll make you happy.”
“But I like Yuki. Not someone else. Yuki.”
I explained clearly. The gallery that had been watching nervously seemed to be in an uproar. But that didn’t matter. The wave of uncontrollable emotions. I won’t deny my feelings anymore. I’ll express them as often as it takes.
Yuki seemed to be in great pain. I hurried to support his body, but it was only for a moment and he held me back gently. Yuki’s expression made me gasp.
“Haah… Why did it come to this… Kamishiro, No-Shiori. Let’s do this together.”
“Yeah, yeah!”
“We’ll blow away that guy over there who brags about not watching TV.”
“I’ve never done that…”
Kouki chimes in, confused. But that’s normal for him. I’m relieved to see Yukito’s usual nonchalant attitude. He could never become completely heartless. Yukito is always kind and gentle to everyone but himself.
“Mihou. There are no strange conditions for now. I’ll face you properly.”
“Yukito, you…!”
“Um… Will we just ignore the basketball club thing?”
“Ask the manager?”

Scene Transition


“Hah…hah… Not…enough… Damn!”
Laughter comes naturally. There are no excuses.
The scoreboard shows the result. In 3-on-3, the first player to 21 points wins. I can only shudder at the unexpectedly quick end.
We had trained. We wanted to beat them on the national stage. But it’s still out of reach. That figure is gone, having walked away disinterested.
The wall that remains as high as ever. For some reason, this made me so happy. I catch my breath and stroke my trembling arms. A brief defeat. As if we hadn’t even fought. Still, I’m excited and restless in a good way. I try to calm down and control myself, but it’s no use.
But Kouki is more worried about something else. Why his friend remains so distant, out of reach.
“Kamishiro, I asked before, but why didn’t Yukito participate in the tournament in our 3rd year?”
With his skill, there’s no way he wouldn’t become a regular. The only reasons would be some kind of accident or that he decided not to participate. Kamishiro answered the question she had avoided earlier.
“Yukito had a fracture.”
“He was injured…”
“It was my fault… I lied and because of that, Yukito…”
Only the two of us remained in the gym. The gallery had already dispersed.
“Why did he broke down so much…”

“Here, drink this.”
“That’ll be 150 yen.”
Instead of the offered sports drink, I gave Yuuri-san 1000 yen. I don’t need any change. The rest is payment for Yuuri-san’s kindness. It might also cover my way home. If Yuuri-san walks me home, it’s worth at least that much. Yuuri-san has the same puzzled look on her face as always.
It’s very rare that I walk home with Yuuri-san. Or rather, in this case, I’m escorted. But it feels good to walk with a beauty. It might be the only thing I can brag about.
“Did you do any club activities? Did you have any fun?”
“No, it was boring. Besides, I’m a dark loner, so I won’t do any club activities.”
“I see.”
The indifferent confirmation comes as expected. Even though she was the one who asked, she doesn’t seem to care about my answer. Of course, this is to be expected. It’s not like she has any real interest in me or anything. Just keeping the conversation going so it doesn’t die. She’s too nice. Yuuri-san really is an angel.
“So what happened with Michael all of a sudden?”
“Never mind, it’s nothing.”
Michael must not have been a high-level angel. I was completely at fault. From now on, I’ll worship her as an archangel. As siblings, we don’t really have anything in common for small talk. The conversation quickly dies down. How’s the weather today? That’s not relevant this late in the day.
“Is school fun?”
“Fun…is it fun…hmm.”
“Having trouble deciding?”
“Probably not so much fun.”
Silence falls again. An awkward relationship. But that’s okay. I can’t get too close to my sister. Otherwise it’ll end up like before.
“What are you going to do after high school?”
“What…to do?”
An ambiguous question. I’m confused by this sudden talk about my future, but now that I think about it, I’m extremely weak at this kind of question. I’ve never really answered what my dreams or aspirations are or what I want to be. I’ve never really thought about it. When asked what I plan to do after high school, I draw a blank. Go to college? Or get a job? Is that what she wants to know?
“Who knows?”
“What does that mean?”
That’s the only way I can answer. Suddenly I feel warmth in my hand. Body heat. A little colder than mine. At some point in the conversation our hands were clasped. That’s it, isn’t it? An iron will not to let go. It’s like handcuffs.
“Don’t go.”
“Anywhere. Stay by my side.”
What is my sister saying? I don’t understand. It’s not like I have any travel plans or anything this weekend. I have free time. I don’t have any plans to play with anyone either. I’m a dark loner! There’s no way I’m going to pretend to be one of those lively, social people who plays with friends on their days off!
Somehow, I was hugged. Huh? What is this? What’s happening? No matter how you look at it, this is too much restraint just to keep me from running away or something. Where does she think I would run to? Does she think I am an escaped convict?
“No matter how many times I say it, it’s not enough. I’m sorry. After seeing you today, I’m even more afraid. Was it already too late? Even so…”
Don’t disappear in front of me. Don’t hurt yourself. Don’t distance yourself from others. I want to be close to you. Everyone loves you.”
“That’s a lie.”
“It’s not a lie.”
My sister says strange things. Could it be that I look depressed to her? Of course I don’t. Despite appearances, my poker face legend is endless. I’ve never lost a staring contest, and my childhood friend Urushibara said he’d never seen me laugh. My skin was thick as iron. There was nothing to be depressed about, and I don’t have that kind of emotional fluctuation anyway. So it’s confusing.
What is she saying? And that’s a lie.
Because, because my sister…
“You said you hate me, didn’t you?”
“I love you.”
A soft feeling on my lips. Why am I being kissed?

scene change


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