The Girls Who Traumatized Me Volume 1 Chapter 7

Chapter Seven: “The Flickering Light
 
“I see, Yuuri-san is a bitch!”
 
I got the answer to my question. I spent the whole night wondering why my sister suddenly kissed me. But I couldn’t come up with an answer, so I continued to think about it at school today. And the answer I found is this – the Yuuri Ninefold Bitch Theory.
 
I’ve never heard of my sister dating anyone, but she’s so beautiful. She must be popular with guys. It wouldn’t be strange if she had one, two, ten or even twenty ex-boyfriends. Maybe she’s one of those innocent-looking bitches. Although I accidentally discovered my sister’s unexpected background, it won’t change the way I treat her, so don’t worry!
 
“Our class average was strangely high on this test, I’m kind of scared to face the smug front row…”
 
A confused Sayuri sensei. With Golden Week coming up, the test results have been returned.
 
It’s only natural that our average is high. The study sessions were getting more and more crowded every day. Even Kamishiro felt that she did quite well in this test. As for me, it was business as usual, but tests are child’s play for me. Sorry, that’s a lie. I was just trying to say that to sound cool.
 
To no one’s surprise, I placed 3rd in my class. To be clear, it’s not like I’m smart or anything. With no particular hobbies, all I do at home is train or study – the sad life of a lonely wolf student.
 
“Can’t you study normally?”
 
“Don’t talk to me so normal, Refreshing Pretty Boy.”
 
Why is that guy talking to me normal? So what was this competition about? It was a complete waste of bone. I don’t have osteoporosis.
 
“Don’t say things like that. I got 10th place, Yukito. That’s amazing.”
 
“That sounds pretty amazing too.”
 
“It just sounds sarcastic to me…”
 
“If you have time to deal with me, make up with Kamishiro.”
 
“I’m starting to get angry.”
 
“Could it be low serotonin? Try increasing soy or dairy intake.”
 
“That’s the conversation between the campus prince and the loner…”
 
“Those two are still weird, right? I probably failed, but…”
 
“Forget the test! Hey, do you want to go on a group trip for Golden Week?”
 
Elizabeth speaks to me cheerfully. Golden Week? That’s the consecutive national holidays. No need to explain. In short, vacation time. For me, I get kidnapped by Sekka-san every year around this time. She cries if I don’t go. Can’t help it, right? And so I’m treated like Urashima Taro, who was welcomed to the Dragon Palace at Sekka-san’s house.
 
“Look, Mihou Hinagi. You’re invited. Boy, lively social people really are something else.”
 
“For all intents and purposes, so are you.”
 
“Huh? A gloomy loner like me being invited by classmates? No way, right? Hey, say some more nonsense.”
 
“Kokonoe-kun too!”
 
“Seriously…? That’s a lie, right…?
 
Why are you so dramatically surprised? And don’t get all lovey-dovey!”
 
“Ah, I see! If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen secretly, right? As expected, Elizabeth. Ahahaha!”
 
“I don’t do that!”
 
“It’s okay, it’s okay. I’m used to it, Feel free to act like you usually do!”
 
Elizabeth is fed up with me. Strange. I thought I was being considerate of the other party, did I make a mistake somewhere? Having someone like me only makes the mood worse. This situation proves it. Whenever I say something, the air tends to turn like this. I’m PM2-5, no, PM Kokonoe Yukito of this class. You could say that I’m the house dust of this class. An air purifier is needed, a HEPA filter installation is needed in front of me.
 
“No, Kokonoe-chan, don’t you want to play with us?”
 
“It’s not like I don’t want to, but even if we say ‘have fun,’ what are we going to do?”
 
“Figuring that out is part of the fun!”
 
Mineta Miki is a gyaru. Her appearance and behavior are exactly like a gyaru. Does that mean she might be promiscuous? If so, does she have something in common with my sister? I’m a loner. I’m not promiscuous. I wouldn’t understand the principles of promiscuity. If anyone could understand why my sister acted the way she did, it might be Mineta.
 
“By the way, Mineta, are you a bitch?”
 
“Haah!? That’s mean, Kokonoe-chan. I’m not such an easy girl, ‘kay!”
 
“Oh, was that wrong? Sorry for my rudeness.”
 
“I don’t know how to react to you being so open… What happened? Why do you ask that?”
 
“There was something I wanted to ask.”
 
“Could it be… that…”
 
In a low voice, I can clearly hear Mineta murmuring, “Is it something like that?” But I have no idea what “that kind of thing” means, so I can’t make anything out of hearing it.
 
“The other day, Yuuri-san, my sister suddenly kissed me, so I was wondering what that could mean.”
 
After a short silence, a scream echoes through the classroom.
 
Huh, what happened!? Did something happen!?
 


Eyes stab at me from every direction. Do animals in cages at the zoo feel this way?
 
The pet boy of this class, that’s me – Kokonoe Yukito.
 
At lunchtime, Yuuri-san orders me to come to her classroom. I’m called half forcibly, but I have no right to refuse. Yuuri-san is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, while I am a non-permanent member, that’s how unreasonable this world is.
 
I’m made to sit next to Yuuri-san, and in front of me are two girls who I assume are my sister’s friends.
 
But the whole classroom is listening. Ah, but my class is the same!
 
“So you’re Yuuri’s little brother I’ve heard rumors about, huh? You don’t look like her at all.”
 
“I thought the same. I often doubt that we’re related.”
 
“Hey you, haven’t you learned your lesson about saying such things? It made Mom cry last time.”
 
“Yes, Senpai. Please don’t say such rude things!”
 
Ah, my sister is really angry now. I don’t believe in being assertive, so I’ll change my attitude without hesitation.
 
“You turn your coat too easily… So there’s a lot I wanted to ask you. First, about that thing. The incident with the student council president, how much of it is true?”
 
Could this be an opportunity to dispel the rumors?
 
The sophomores must have a lot more influence than the freshmen. And with Yuuri-san present, whatever is said would spread as fact. It’s a golden opportunity.
 
“Total nonsense, really. False information is annoying. Listen. The President didn’t really come to beg me to be friends with benefits or anything like that. She was moved to want to be friends with benefits after prostrating herself so…”
 
“!?”
 
Yuuri-san’s anger immediately peaked. Is that an Oni face?
 
“Um, little brother. Isn’t that… not much different?”
 
“Yes, the main difference is the order and such.”
 
“Those are practically the facts!”
 
Isn’t the classroom getting noisy? I hear murmurs here and there of “Seriously…?”
 
“That girl! I’m going to call for her impeachment. Begin preparations for a vote of no confidence immediately…”
 
“Wait, now that you mention it, the President never actually said anything like that, did she?”
 
“That’s right! It was unnecessarily nerve-wracking, but this president would never say such crazy things. Phew, what a relief, it was just a rumor!”
 
“Oh right, now I remember. The President said to embrace me.”
 
“That’s not a rumor! You’re saying it! There’s no room for misunderstanding, it’s plain as day!”
 
“A shocking truth came to light during lunch… What to do about this atmosphere…”
 
Not just eavesdropping, most of the senpais sitting here are looking this way. Hello to everyone in the audience.
 
“So, little brother, what do you think?”
 
“Honestly, I would say it’s fifty-fifty whether I can beat the president. She’s pretty.”
 
“Huh?”
 
“I’m not going to be tempted.”
 
“You have me, don’t you?”
 
“Yes.”
 
I don’t have freedom of speech. The Constitution doesn’t protect me.
 
“Hey, what’s Yuuri like at home? Do you know? She’s popular, you know.”
 
“I’m well aware.”
 
“That’s… not something I’m happy about.”
 
“There it is, the attraction of ‘I’m not interested in such things. So petty.”
 
Yuuri-san’s friends grin and make fun of him.
 
“It makes you happy that Yuuri-san is liked and popular?”
 
“–! That’s right. I’m super popular. Keep looking forward to me.”
 
“Maybe this little brother is Yuuri’s weakness?”
 
My senpai is annoyed, but my sister has no weaknesses.
 
“What’s she like at home?”
 
“Yuuri-san at home? Well, often in her underwear and drinking milk and stuff.”
 
“If you say anything more, I’ll sleep in your bed tonight. If you don’t like that…”
 
“She’s often drink milk in her underwear.”
 
“!?”
 
Yuuri-san looks stunned. A look of disbelief.
 
If Yuuri-san wants my bed, I’ll just sleep on the living room sofa. Refusal is out of the question. It might be nice to have some variety in your sleeping place.
 
“Ahahaha! So that’s why Yuuri is so well-developed! Little brother, you’re funny!”
 
I think it’s genetics, though.
 
“I didn’t think you wanted to sleep with me so much… I get it. I’ll go get ready.”
 
“Huh?”
 
I feel like something’s not quite right here, but that’s normal.
 
“Anyway, this will certainly revive social media. Even though your little brother has been a hot topic lately.”
 
“Is that so?”
 
“You don’t know? You’ve been in the news a lot.”
 
“Since I don’t use SNS, group chats, or search myself.”
 
“This kid doesn’t look at his phone much.”
 
“Oh, that’s rare these days, huh? But maybe that’s for the best. You might see some shocking content. Well, you seem pretty tough, so you’d probably be a good little brother.”
 
“He just says what he wants, for better or worse. It was fun, tell me more sometime ‘kay?”
 
“By the way, do you prefer pajamas to bed? Or it’s fine without.”
 
“I don’t understand the intention behind that question at all.”
 
People love gossip. It must have been a form of entertainment since ancient times.
 
But it grows fins and tails, and the content changes dramatically all the time.
 
What’s truth and what’s lies? With no room for excuses, it spreads unchecked.
 
Rumor is an uncontrollable monster. Maybe that’s just the way it is.
 
Out of curiosity, perhaps, or out of malice. Whatever the emotion, it’s terrifying.
 

  • To the deeply wounded target.
     

Reality is surprisingly boring. The student council doesn’t have absolute power, there’s no newspaper club that writes tabloid-like scoops, and the members of the morality committee don’t dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to enforcing school rules. There’s no shady principal, either. That’s slander. What shady principal?
 
But this ordinary, uneventful day was different.
 
I rub my sleepy eyes as I walk to school and find the classroom buzzing with activity.
 
In the stifling air, all eyes turn to me. Scary!
 
“Ah, Kokonoe-chan, good morning.”
 
“Yukito, we were waiting for you!”
 
The refreshingly handsome boy seems hesitant for some reason.
 
Faces like Mineta, Sakurai, Takahashi and others gather around my desk.
 
“Kokonoe went to the same middle school as Suzurikawa-san, right? So I thought you might know something.”
 
“Suzurikawa-san doesn’t talk much about herself. That’s why we waited for you, Kokonoe-kun.”
 
“Did something happen?”
 
“Take a look at this, will you?”
 
Mineta slides her finger across the screen of her smartphone. When I see the content, I involuntarily grimace.
 
“Did a caste riot happen or something?”
 
“It suddenly came up in conversation yesterday.”
 
Vicious personal attacks and slander against Suzurikawa Hinagi. Her middle school days are also exposed. Probably a past that Suzurikawa doesn’t want to be known. At first glance, some of it is obviously fabricated, but among the information dumped, some I don’t know about her.
 
“Suzurikawa was two-timing? He said he broke up with his senior…”
 
“Do you know anything?”
 
“I heard it from the girl herself. It didn’t seem like a lie, but…”
 
“So it’s fake after all.”
 
Immature, petty, malicious posts are also mixed in. Whether it’s intentionally fake information or there’s some truth to it, only the person would know, but at the very least, the poster certainly harbors a grudge against Suzurikawa. That much is for sure.
 
“I wonder if Suzurikawa-san is okay.”
 
“This is so uncool and outdated.”
 
“What a pain. What are you going to do, Kokonoe?”
 
“What can I do…? Isn’t that up to Suzurikawa?”
 
Are you asking the wrong person?
 
The method is malicious, but it’s also clumsy for harassment. I don’t know what Suzurikawa thinks, but if they haven’t gotten physical, it’s not something that can’t be ignored.
 
There’s no guarantee that this will be the end of it, but taking further action also carries a considerable risk for the perpetrator. They’d probably be punished if they were found out. Is there someone who wants to entrap Suzurikawa so badly? It’s unclear how serious they are.
 
But…
 
“The culprit is among us!”
 
I say loudly and the whole class reacts with a start. Oh right, my mistake.
 
“Ehh, really Yukito!?”
 
“I just wanted to tell you personally, but as expected, it’s unlikely to be in this class.”
 
“Ha? What are you…”
 
The most suspicious people are the classmates. But Suzurikawa isn’t the type to be bullied, and there aren’t any hostile groups either.
 
Especially those gathered here, led by the refreshing Pretty Boy, are the center of the class, the anti-gloomy loner Sunny Boy army. If they try a clumsy imitation, the perpetrator might be the one who gets ostracized instead.
 
“Well, the only thing we can do is ask Suzurikawa herself, right?”
 
“You’re right… Please, Kokonoe-chan.”
 
“Huh–? Why me? Hey, I’m doing it?”
 
I wring my neck, but get a slap on the back. Why me?
 
But such worries were in vain.
 
Suzurikawa was absent from school due to poor health.
 

“I’m counting on you, Kokonoe.”
 
“No way.”
 
Called into the faculty office, I’m handed printouts by my class teacher. Not mine – Suzurikawa’s.
 
“You have nothing better to do after school anyway, so work a little. You were close friends in middle school, right?”
 
Missing two days would add up to a decent amount. But that didn’t seem to be the reason why I was called.
 
“Please. I more or less understand the circumstances, but the only one she’s going to talk to is you. I can’t just leave it like this if the messages keep coming.”
 
Sayuri sensei’s opinion is reasonable, but I still didn’t nod in agreement.
 

“That’s impossible, even if you ask me.”
 
“Why are you so stubbornly refusing? Is there a reason between the two of you?”
 
“I am forbidden to go to Suzurikawa’s house.”
 
“Forbidden?”
 
That’s right. I was forbidden by Hinagi’s mother, Akane-san, to go to her house when I was in middle school. Our families used to interact, but now it’s a firm “Don’t come anymore”. You know, I was even invited over for Christmas once, but now that’s just a fond memory. So even though I want to fulfill the teacher’s wish, realistically it’s difficult. Is that true?
 
“You did something…”
 
“It’s a difference of opinion.”
 
The reason I’m banned is because I didn’t meet Akane san’s expectations.
 
And Hinagi and her little sister Hiori-chan don’t know about it. It’s just a secret between Akane san and me.
 
“Gosh… Anyway, there’s no one else but you. I don’t know what got you banned, but use this chance to apologize. And while you’re at it, listen to what Suzurikawa has to say. Come on, I’ll buy you a coffee.”
 
The teacher hands me the printouts. I’ve been bought for 100 yen. Sensei, you’re 10 yen short.
 


 
I finally come despite my reluctance. This demanding teacher…
 
“Now that I think about it, it’s been two years, huh?”
 
I stop in front of the [Suzurikawa] entrance sign. I turned back here last time.
 
I really don’t want to… What should I do? Honestly, I have no motivation at all. Maybe I should just put this in the mailbox and go home. No good? I press the bell, hoping that Hinagi or Hiori-chan will come out.
 
“Yes…who is it?”
 
“I’m so sooooo sorry!”
 
Seeing who opened the door, the first thing I do is prostrate myself. Offense is the best defense! I’ll use my momentum to get through!
 
“It’s been a while, Akane san! You look beautiful today. No, my fault. I did refuse. But I only got this far because my teacher insisted. I definitely didn’t break our promise. It’s okay. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again from now on. So please excuse me just this once. And you’re as beautiful as ever. Oh, here’s some schoolwork and a jelly assortment. My classmates are also worried. Well, the crows are cawing, so I’ll be going now.”
 
“Yukito…”
 
Huh, why am I not moving forward? I hurry to finish my greeting and retreat, but my uniform collar is grabbed tightly from behind. I look back anxiously. Akane san is smiling, but I see a burst vein.
 
“What – are – you – doing?”
 
“I, uh, thought I might be overstaying my welcome, so…”
 
She seems angry. I tried to butter her up a bit, but it had no effect.
 
Akane san is young. At first glance, she doesn’t look any different from Suzurikawa’s eldest daughter, but she’s a real mother who dotes on her daughter. Of course, I’d be banished.
 
“You see…haa. Anyway, thank you for bringing this. I appreciate it. But still – I didn’t expect you to come.”
 
“Neither did I. I think this is just for today, so I really apologize.”
 
I bow my head deeply once again. I’ve caused unpleasant feelings. Akane san’s eyes focus sharply.
 
“Did you come here of your own free will?”
 
“No. As I said, my homeroom teacher insisted that I come. I really refused. I had no intention of coming. That was our promise.”
 
“I see. I thought you didn’t want to come after all.”
 
“Yes.”
 
“But…why are you…! …Never mind, it’s nothing. I think she’ll be back tomorrow, too. Next time she’s out, you don’t need to bring anything.”
 
“Thank you for your patience.”
 
“Bye, Yukito!”
 
Akane san’s expression changes for a moment before it returns to normal. This is fine. I can’t go back.
 
The entrance closes quietly without saying goodbye to me.
 

I’m seized by the urge to vent my indignation. Annoyingly unchanged.
 
Ridiculous. The so-called promise doesn’t really exist. He should know that.
 
If he’d said just one word, that he’d come to see my daughter, that he was worried, that he’d come, I would have welcomed him with open arms. We could’ve even had a nice conversation over dinner.
 
I was really happy that he came today. I’m sure it will cheer her up too.
 
But still. It wasn’t his intention? Is that really true? We used to get along so well, doesn’t he feel anything? I don’t understand. What he’s thinking, his true feelings.
 
Of course it is my daughter’s fault. It’s unfortunate that she has to face the consequences.
 
That’s why I wanted him to say it. That next time he’ll save her, protect her, and never let go of her hand.
 
Even if it’s just a parent’s ego, I wanted to hear it from his mouth. I wanted to feel safe. I tested him with my words, and without arguing, he accepted them and gave up everything.
 
Since then he has never come to this house again. Just as I had told him.
 
Hinagi, who had been quite cheerful lately, had locked herself in her room after getting sick at school. She had finally started to smile again. I thought she was getting better. And then this happened.
 
“Ah–wait! Hiori!”
 
Noticing him, Hiori seemed to dash outside.
 
Unpleasant. If Hiori finds out that I told Yukito not to come home, she’ll be furious.
 
I think Hinagi would be the same way, but the quarrel between the sisters has temporarily died down and is smoldering. It could ignite again. Hiori was frightening back then. Even my husband, who tried to calm her down, did not know what to do. I press my slightly throbbing forehead. Honestly, what a pain.
 
Including me, the people in this house just can’t seem to leave the childhood friend alone.
 


 
“Onii-chan!”
 
“Oh, Hiori-chan?”
 
In my periphery, I see a figure that looks like Hinagi Suzurikawa for a moment.
 
But that’s impossible. There’s only one person who calls me Onii-chan.
 
Suzurikawa Hiori-chan, Hinagi’s little sister who looks a lot like Akane san, comes running and hugs me. She’s a beauty like her older sister Hinagi, but with Hiori-chan’s unique charm oozing out. Still, she retains a girlish innocence.
 
“I missed you Onii-chan!”
 
“It’s been a while. Let me give you some candy.”
 
“Yay!”
 
I take some candy out of my pocket to give to Hiori-chan. The grandma-next-door system.
 
“Were you following me?”
 
“Yes. I felt your presence, Onii-chan.”
 
“Is she a guru? “
 
She says things like a martial arts master. What presence?
 
“Visiting my sick sister? Why didn’t you go to her room?”
 
“I can’t just go into a girl’s room. And I only came to drop off the homework.”
 
I don’t mention the ban. Hiori-chan would probably get angry.
 
“You’re always welcome, Onii-chan!”
 
There’s still some foot traffic. Please don’t stick to me.
 
“Oh right, Hiori-chan. Are you fighting with Hinagi?”
 
“Eh…yeah. Ahaha. Did you hear that from Big Sis?”
 
“Seemed like she was worried.”
 
“It’s Big Sis’ fault, so it serves her right. –And I still haven’t forgiven her.”
 
Hiori-chan’s expression, which was smiling just a moment ago, clouds over.
 
“And not only that. Big sis looks like she’s suffering again.”
 
“So much?”
 
“Yes. She hasn’t left her room since yesterday. Onii-chan, do you know anything?”
 
“I can guess, probably.”
 
Hiori-chan’s clinging strength increases.
 
“You know, I think big sister is the worst. Really stupid. But Onii-chan. Could you save Big Sis? You’re the only one Big Sis believes in. I want you to take care of Big Sis one more time.”
 
“I don’t think she wants that.”
 
“Why not? No way. Big Sis is always waiting for you. Because Big Sis has always…”
 
I was pierced by a serious look. Come to think of it, she said the same thing.
 
And I denied those words and… ignored her.
 
“Of course I do, too.”
 
She’s a little devil. The straightforward Hiori-chan might be an even tougher opponent than her sister.
 

 
Well, there’s no way around it! I’m doing this because Hiori-chan asked me to. After all, I’m a nice Onii-chan.
 
After I took a bath, finished my studies and checked the time, I decided it was time to call. This is the second time I’m contacting her in such a short time.
 
I made up my mind and called. I never thought I’d contact her twice in such a short time.
 
“Yukito?”
 
I heard that she was depressed, but unexpectedly, she picked up right away.
 
But judging from her voice, she seemed terribly drained. My mental strength is stronger than adamantium, but it’s not the same for everyone. When someone is hit with that kind of naked malice, it’s normal to be shocked and exhausted.
 
“You’re looking for help now, aren’t you?”
 
“What…?”
 
“I’ll be direct. Solve this within a week. So come to school tomorrow.”
 
“Why…? Why is Yukito…?”
 
“Listen, Suzurikawa. I’ve told you before, but if you’re in trouble, if you need help, you have to tell me. Don’t try to carry everything on your own. You have family and friends, don’t you? They’re all worried about you.”
 
My voice dropped in tone, and sobs began to mix in.
 
“Why does it end like this? I had resolved. I promised myself that I wouldn’t make the same mistake again…”
 
Suzurikawa opened up about the feelings she had been carrying.
 
I listened silently and allowed her to continue.
 
“I confessed by someone the other day… But I rejected him properly… I didn’t want to betray myself again… I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be able to stand by your side without pretending, to support you. I wanted to be with you. And yet…”
 
Suzurikawa shared the emotions she had been holding back.
 
“Can I ask you something?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Listen, if… even if the rumors are true, would Yukito help me?”
 
“It doesn’t matter.”
 
Hopes are not fulfilled and expectations don’t always come true.
 
That’s the way it’s always been, and I gave up looking for something a long time ago.
 
Still, when someone asks me for something, I should be ready to respond.
 
I wanted to believe that I was worth at least that much.
 
“I don’t want that. I don’t want to be looked at with those eyes anymore. I don’t want to be tied to the past. I don’t want to be separated from you. I don’t want to be a fake version of myself anymore! I’m definitely getting stronger. I’ll show you. So please. For the last time… the weak me will come to an end after this. So please, just once more… Yu-chan.”
 
I swallowed my breath. As if to convince herself, she spoke those words.
 
“Help me!”
 
“Get ready and go to bed.”
 
I hung up. Looks like things are going to get busy tomorrow.
 
It was strange. I thought we would never cross paths again, not after the day I pushed her hand away.
 


 
“No way! Right?”
 
“That’s terrible…even Yukito…”
 
Mihou Kouki was outraged. But it wasn’t just Kouki.
 
The whole class frowned. Suzurikawa Hinagi, one of those involved, turned pale.
 
The revelation came last night.
 
I hurriedly contacted him, but I got no answer. I can’t let this go either. It’s too evil. I’m going to find the culprit and talk some sense into him, no matter what.
 
As I vow this, the person at the center of it all comes to school as nonchalantly as usual. I can’t tell from his blank face if he knows or not.
 
“Yukito! Look at this.”
 
Several students gather around Kokonoe Yukito. When he sees what’s on the screen, Yukito tenses up.
 
“This is what started to spread last night. No way we can let this go, Kokonoe-chan is doing something like this!”
 
“What are you going to do, Yukito? Should we tell a teacher?”
 
No one believed it. It’s just too absurd.
 

 
–Kokonoe Yukito spread false rumors about Suzurikawa Hinagi.
 

It was a shocking accusation. He maliciously spread groundless rumors about his middle school friend Suzurikawa Hinagi, who had rejected him. All the slander against his childhood friend was done by Kokonoe Yukito.
 
And that’s not all. –Kokonoe Yukito attacked his sister Kokonoe Yuuri and was disowned.
 
Sensational words danced across the screen. It was pure malice.
 
Nothing but vile, sacrilegious means to frame Kokonoe Yukito.
 
His credibility isn’t even worth mentioning. It’s far too sloppy a lie.
 
Vulgar gossip that does not even pretend to be presentable.
 
“Yukito…stop…why…this will make you…!”
 
Suzurikawa Hinagi, her eyes bright red as if she’d cried herself dry, staggers over to Kokonoe Yukito.
 
Obviously, she was filled with anger and grief.
 
Nobody in the class doesn’t know that Suzurikawa Hinagi has feelings for Kokonoe Yukito. That’s why it’s unforgivable to spread a rumor that could damage their relationship.
 
He should react soon. He’s not the kind of person who keeps silent after that.
 
That was the general consensus, and no one really believed the accusation.
 
“N-no way…it wasn’t me! I didn’t do it!”
 
“Wh-what’s wrong, Yukito?”
 
Seeing the unfamiliar, nervous Kokonoe Yukito, murmurs spread through the classroom like waves.
 
“Don’t break down, Yukito! I would never…!”
 
“Believe me, Suzurikawa! I didn’t do it!”
 
Kokonoe Yukito cuts her off and flees from the classroom.
 
He passes the few gawkers watching from the hall and disappears.
 
As his figure disappears from sight, Mihou has an uneasy feeling that he can’t shake.
 
“That idiot… what is he trying to do this time?”
 
“I’ve never seen Yukito like this…”
 
“Kokonoe-chan was in shock, huh?”
 
“That’s it! You’re right, Mineta!”
 
The source of the discomfort. Realizing this, Mihou looks at Suzurikawa.
 
“A mental fortress of a man who doesn’t even look at SNS would never be shocked by this crap. Pretty lame act, don’t you think Suzurikawa?”
 
Suzurikawa winced at the exclamation.
 
At the moment, only Suzurikawa Hinagi understands what Kokonoe Yukito is trying to do.
 
She clenches her fist tightly. If you think about it, she had always been protected.
 
(Yukito…you said it, right? Don’t bear it alone – rely on everyone. I’m sorry. For making you suffer so much because of me. But to put it all on Yukito… I can’t…)
 
I’m the one who begged to be saved. I hate my own weakness. Taking advantage of his kindness, using him one-sidedly. I’m ashamed of my own incompetence that drove him to such measures.
 
I didn’t fully understand Hinagi Suzurikawa. But there are some things I do understand.
 
The messages contain facts that only Suzurikawa Hinagi and Kokonoe Yukito knew.
 

 
I hesitated. Because it would ruin what Kokonoe Yukito was trying to do for me.
 
To do nothing would be to deny that determination. But still…
 
(…I will also become stronger. I’m so tired of this. Of being haunted by the past, of not being able to be with you).
 
So I’ll tell them. It’s going to be okay. Because everyone likes him.
 
“Sorry, everyone. Please listen to what I have to say.
 
“Suzurikawa-san?”
 
It was the determination of Suzurikawa Hinagi.
 
The sparkle of a clumsy girl reaching out to take back what she had lost.
 
She regretted and mourned again and again. She kept wishing that she could go back.
 
Finally she realized. There’s no going back, only forward.
 
Her words froze the whole class.
 

 
Kokonoe Yukito was a star in the school. His popularity was incomparable to that of Suzurikawa Hinagi.
 
And now, his name was already widely known. Things spread in the blink of an eye.
 


 
“Hahahahahaha!”
 
“Don’t laugh out loud, it’s scary.”
 
The refreshing pretty boy threw out a rude retort, but I’ll let it slide since I’m in such a good mood.
 
It’s been a week. Every day, I’ve been spreading terrible rumors about Kokonoe Yukito.
 
That’s right, I really was the culprit behind it all. Though in the end I ran out of things to write and the content was pretty sloppy. I guess I just reached the limit of my imagination.
 
[Force student council president to date him] [Treating a classmate like a pet bitch] [Earning money by doing mamakatsu] – those were still passable, but things like [A terrible person who puts thumbtacks in posters] [Trash who likes sweets] [Always asking for plastic bags at the grocery store] were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. But through such steady efforts, I’ve now become known as the school’s #1 piece of trash.
 
Day and night, I fanned the flames, always with a full tank of high-octane gasoline.
 
Rumors that I panicked after my crimes were discovered and went home early were also technically true. After going to the nurse’s office, I simply skipped the rest of my classes to devote myself to my homemade smear campaign-truly conduct unbecoming of a student.
 
Perhaps intimidated by my trash-talking, my classmates barely spoke to me that week. Although the refreshing pretty boy still does, so I guess I’m back to my rightful place as a loner.
 
I’m sure you can guess by now. Taking advantage of my anonymity, I stole the culprit’s crimes for myself.
 
By overwriting the rumors, the slander against Suzurikawa would be neither here nor there. That was my goal.
 
And today, it has come to an end. Last night, I spread one last rumor.
 

 
That Kokonoe Yukito Blackmailing Sato Koharu…
 

 
“Kokonoe!”
 
A male student from the next class rushed in and grabbed me by the collar. Pushed forward by his momentum, my body is caught.
 
If I hit him here, everything could be settled.
 
The evil known as Kokonoe Yukito would be wiped out and justice would prevail. Cue credits.
 
A simple, clean cut of evil getting its comeuppance. It would surely leave everyone feeling refreshed.
 
His name is Miyahara Shuichi. A childhood friend of Sato Koharu.
 

 
To tell the truth, I solved the problem on the second day.
 
The one who first spread the false rumors about Suzurikawa Hinagi on social media was a girl named Sato Koharu.
 
She came to apologize with tears in her eyes. She felt that even though she had targeted Suzurikawa Hinagi, somehow in the blink of an eye I, a completely unrelated person, had been framed as the culprit, and she could only watch in horror as I was persistently and thoroughly slandered.
 
If she committed further attacks on Suzurikawa, they would all become my crimes as long as she remained anonymous.
 
And indeed, Sato Koharu deeply regretted her actions after that first post and did not continue. Tormented by guilt, she had planned to confess and apologize to Suzurikawa. But then that commotion happened.
 
After hearing her story, I wondered if it was really okay to end it like that.
 
Sato Koharu and Miyahara Shuichi are childhood friends, but Miyahara Shuichi’s heart has moved away from Sato Koharu.
 
Back in middle school, Miyahara Shuichi was a member of the track and field team, but he eventually quit because he reached the limit of his talent, and use injury as pretense.
 
Sato Koharu was not happy about it. To her, the childhood friend she’d always admired, Miyahara Shuichi was a hero. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t become a great athlete. She had always looked up to and loved his earnest dedication to athletics. She wanted him to become the cool Miyahara Shuichi.
 
But Miyahara Shuichi, annoyed by Sato Koharu’s request to rejoin the team, began to distance himself from her. And so Miyahara Shuichi, trying to find a new love, confessed to Suzurikawa Hinagi.
 
It was Miyahara Shuichi who confessed while Goddess Senpai and I were watching that day.
 
After investigating Suzurikawa and learning about her past, Sato Koharu took action, not wanting to lose Miyahara Shuichi.
 
But the consequences was too high and she was injured as well.
 
So I came up with this brilliant solution. First, I spread bad rumors about myself. I overdid it and made a mess of myself, but that’s all water under the bridge now.
 
Then, as my reputation spread, I spread a rumor that I was threatening Sato Koharu.
 
The effect was immediate. Concerned for Sato Koharu’s safety, Miyahara Shuichi came here to rescue her.
 
They really are childhood friends. Even though they didn’t see eye to eye, deep down they still care for each other. Miyahara Shuichi had no intention of abandoning her.
 
The truth doesn’t matter in this farce. It’s not too late for Shuichi Miyahara.
 
I whisper disgusting words into Miyahara Shuichi’s ear, an unfamiliar pleasure on my face.
 
This is good. This is the right answer. After that, everything will fall into place once I, the root of all evil, receive my just desserts. It’s settled. Perfectly. Muhahahaha!
 
And with that, close the curtains. –or it should have been
 
“Shuu-chan, stop! I really can’t do this!”
 
The furious Miyahara Shuichi was desperately stopped by Sato Koharu’s mournful voice.
 


 
“Kokonoe, I’m sorry! I know an apology won’t make things right, but I’m really sorry!”
 
“Suzurikawa-san, Kokonoe-kun, I’m sorry!”
 
Huh? How did things end up like this…
 
The hasty and sloppy plan fell apart, and the plan collapsed.
 
Contrary to expectations, it didn’t end as smoothly as I had hoped, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
 
Overall, the goal was achieved. Preventing Sato Koharu from apologizing to Suzurikawa was enough for this moment. I had to make Miyahara Shuichi come out.
 
If the conversation between Suzurikawa and Sato Koharu had ended at that moment, Sato Koharu, who was about to be overwhelmed, might not have been able to face Miyahara Shuichi. If she had tried to hide what she had done from Miyahara Shuichi, she would have carried guilt and regret for the rest of her life.
 
“So, is it finally over? Explain everything from the beginning, Yukito.”
 
It was all about Yukito Kokonoe’s revenge on Hinagi Suzurikawa.
 
“Isn’t that enough?”
 
“You can’t possibly think that it’s enough. We’ve heard about Suzurikawa.”
 
“From Suzurikawa?”
 
“Don’t you trust us that much? Are you that helpless? Don’t always think that you can do everything on your own.”
 
“I have something to gain as well.”
 
He’s still arrogant, selfish, and overbearing. This method might be unforgivable for guys like Kouki. Still, I think I used it as effectively as I could.
 
If I spread rumors about Suzurikawa to get back at her for rejecting me, the credibility of the posts would be lost. No one would know what’s true. The past would become vague, and no one would want to touch it again.
 
Suzurikawa Hinagi’s past had become an inviolable secret known only to her.
 
But that’s not all. This plan has many advantages.
 
“Miyahara, I have a request.”
 
“W-What? Anything! I’ll do anything if it’s in my power!”
 
“Join the athletic club.”
 
“That’s… How far will you go…!”
 
Ugh… I’m sorry to disappoint Miyahara-kun, who is looking at me with sparkling eyes, but the truth is that this is not an act of goodwill.
 
I’ve received several invitations from sports clubs, but the athletic club was the most insistent.
 
That’s when I thought of using the talented Miyahara Shuichi as a scapegoat!
 
Huh? What will happen to those handsome guys and Kamishiro? I don’t know. You’ll have to find out for yourself.”
 
With this, not only Suzurikawa but also Koharu Sato the Miyahara Shuichi will find themselves in a better place.
 
And most importantly, those who get close to me, the guy plagued by a bad reputation, will decrease. With this, I should be able to regain the quiet and peaceful life of a solitary introvert that I desire. I bid farewell to the busy school life of late.
 
However, calming down an angry Yuuri-san was a Herculean task. Even now, I can’t bring myself to say that it was all a joke.
 
In any case, it all ended in a fiasco, but it was a groundbreaking plan that killed five birds with one stone.
 
It was possible because my mental strength is as strong as orichalcum, and without anyone losing anything, everything fell into place. It’s perfect. Nyahaha!
 
That’s the end of it. But she won’t forgive me.
 

 
“Suzucchi, why don’t you go home? “Suzucchi, why don’t you go home?
 
“Don’t call me that strange name! I’m waiting for someone.”
 
After finishing the investigation and receiving a grateful lecture from Sayuri-sensei after school, when I returned, Suzurikawa was the only one left in the classroom.
 
The setting sun was streaming into the classroom, painting it a vermilion hue, and her eyes were shining crimson.
 
It felt nostalgic. Come to think of it, there was a time when she was like this.
 
Yes, on that day, she was like this…
 
A throbbing headache shot through my head. I was exhausted. I needed something sweet.
 
“Hmm, a meeting, huh? Go home before you get late.”
 
“Why? I was waiting for Yukito.”
 
“For me?”
 
“Well… yeah.”
 
“I’ve done nothing but make you hate me.”
 
“Heh… Yeah, that’s true. I really do hate you, Yukito.”
 
Silence fell. We hadn’t shared a moment like this for a long time.
 
No, it could be a misunderstanding that such moments ever existed.
 
“I did terrible things to you. I’m sorry.”
 
“Yes.”
 
“No one will ever touch your past again.”
 
“Yes.”
 
I don’t know what Suzurikawa was afraid of in her past.
 
When I was devoted to basketball, I didn’t pay attention to Suzurikawa.
 
If she was suffering, there were ways for me to notice. But in the end, I let her down.
 
I’m different from Miyahara Shuichi. That’s why Akane san won’t forgive me. I think it’s only natural for a parent.
 
“From now on, you’ll find someone wonderful. Someone who suits Akane san’s expectation.”
 
“…”
 
Suzurikawa will be fine now. From now on, she can walk into the sunlight with her head held high.
 
There’s no way someone like me, who’s not liked, can stay close to her. She has a place that suits her.
 
“Ugh…!”
 
My field of vision darkened and my thoughts went blank for a moment.
 
Suzurikawa’s face is right in front of me, so close that our breath is touching.
 
I couldn’t even utter a word. My lips were sealed.
 
“–… You’re so far away. We used to be together all the time, but now I can’t reach you like this.”
 
Slowly our lips meet. My lungs kept contracting, searching for fresh air.
 
“What… are you…”
 


 
///
 
Scene Translation
 


 
///
 


 
“That day, the flame inside me went out, and I walked a pitch-black path. It was cold. I chased after you, the warmth you. Do you know why I chose this high school? I asked Yukito’s mother. If it was Yuuri-san, she probably wouldn’t have told me.
 
With a wry smile, Suzurikawa began to spin her words. Her scarlet eyes flickered brightly.
 
“Please come to my house from after this.”
 
–The one before me was a Suzurikawa Hinagi I didn’t know.
 


 
“Onee-chan, you have to hurry or you’ll be late! You know that right?”
 
“Y-Yes…”
 
“Onii-chan promised it would be okay. You believe him right?”
 
My little sister Hiori pushes me from behind again. For a while, our relationship had become hostile. Because I betrayed Yukito. Not only my parents, but also my little sister furious at me.
 
Yukito knew both my parents and was adored by them. Our family consists only of Hiori and me as sisters. Daddy wanted a son too, I guess. So for Daddy, Yukito was like the son he never had. That’s why Daddy would play catch with Yukito and things like that. We were so close back then, always playing together.
 
Everyone in the family knew that I had feelings for Yukito.
 
That’s why they couldn’t forgive my betrayal. And the chaos it caused plunged me into hell and made me suffer.
 
It was the first time I’d ever been scolded so harshly by my parents. But even though that was necessary for me, I wouldn’t feel resolved until someone got angry.
 
“Onee-chan, there’s talk about him at my school too. There’s a very infamous freshman.”
 
“It must be Yukito, no doubt.”
 
Hiori is two grades below me in the second year of middle school. She wants to go to the same high school as me.
 
For his name to have reached my little sister’s school, it must be Yukito. Even though Yukito and I haven’t been in high school that long, Kokonoe Yukito’s name had spread far and wide. People would even come to check which class he was in.
 
“You really didn’t do it with that “boyfriend”, did you, Onee-chan?”
 
“Of course not! Why would I!”
 
“If that’s a lie, then I’m cutting you off. Betraying Onii-chan, betraying yourself and offering yourself to an incomprehensible scumbag… that would be just so dirty and disgusting.”
 
“I understand that best of all!”
 
“It’s your fault that Onii-chan got hurt. He doesn’t come to play with us anymore. I wanted him to teach me things too, but Onii-chan has changed. It feels like he’s further away than before. At this rate, Onii-chan will become just another stranger.”
 
“What does ‘childhood friend’ mean anyway, I wonder Hiori…”
 
I really hate myself. I’m so self-centered and stupid that I want to throw up. Always causing trouble, worrying others, hurting them, betraying them. And yet he still tries to help me.
 
And – a miracle happened. I couldn’t believe it.
 
As if by magic, he saved me in an instant.
 
With the lies he spun, my past became ambiguous, dissolving into the flow of time.
 
But I couldn’t just watch. He hurt himself, spoke words he didn’t mean.
 
Day by day, Yukito’s bad reputation spread. It was like walking on eggshells.
 
Baring his heart and cutting himself.
 
No normal person could endure such a thing. But he was the one who did it.
 
Spreading slander and defaming himself. I don’t understand the meaning behind it.
 
Only he understands it.
 
At that time I was only thinking of myself. I had no idea what kind of condition Yukito was in, nor did I try to find out.
 
When I asked Sensei about his future path, she told me a little.
 
I couldn’t stop the tears. We were together for so long and I knew nothing about him.
 

 
It’s not only my fault that Yukito ended up like this. But that’s no excuse. It doesn’t make me feel any better.
 
In fact, it makes me feel even more guilty for hurting him, and seeing him so broken scares me. I thought I couldn’t have any more regrets, but now he’s suffering even more than before. I’m one of the people who contributed to this. I’m one of the people who hurt him.
 
No matter what the result is, I have to face him. Even if he hates me, even if I’m rejected, I want to tell him.
 
“I will change. Into the me I want. This time I’ll be the one who saves him.”
 
I didn’t betray him. I haven’t given my heart or my body to anyone.
 
It’s too self-punishing. If this continues, one day he’ll disappear from everyone.
 
I whisper softly. I’ll stop running. I’ll stop using the fear of him hating me as an excuse to avoid this.
 
–This is the truth of Suzurikawa Hinagi.
 
“Be honest, Suzurikawa Hinagi. You don’t need malice, which only hurts people. Childhood friends are loser heroine. But still, I…”
 
Still, I love you so much that I can’t stop this feeling…
 

 
“I’ve been waiting for you, Yukito.”
 
“After getting scolded the other day…”
 
“What’s wrong?”
 
“….It’s nothing.”
 
Here I am again. My second visit in a short time. I’ve incurred the wrath of Akane-san.
 
When she begged me to come home with her, how could I refuse?
 
It was the first time I saw Suzurikawa so desperate. I couldn’t ignore her.
 
As a member of the Go Home Club, my time after school is freedom. Normally, I don’t have anything special to do. That much should be enough.
 
Well, today was crazy. I’m hungry and my head hurts.
 
We used to play together a lot. I used to come to this house too. Before we moved to their current apartment, we lived near here, so our families were close.
 
Now it’s a nostalgic memory and time that can’t be regained.
 
She tells me to wait a bit because she’s preparing something, so I wait about thirty minutes until I get a message from Suzurikawa. By then it was after 7 pm.
 
“Sorry for keeping you waiting when I called you here.”
 
“Look, I brought this.”
 
I give her the Big Ugly Plushie (named: Kokonoe Yukito) I found in the arcade while killing time. I made sure to get some for Hiori and Akane san, too. Maximum brownie points.
 
“Oh, thank you! You were always good at things like that.”
 
“I’ll call a staff member over right away to adjust the settings.”
 
“R-Really? Hiori will be happy too.”
 
Led by Suzurikawa, I slip past the entrance.
 
Suzurikawa’s expression was stiff. She didn’t seem to be in a good mood.
 
“If you don’t feel well, we can do this another time, right?”
 
“Sorry, I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
 
Passing the living room, I’m invited directly into her room. It has changed drastically from the room in my memories. I sit down on the cushion she has prepared.
 
“When was the last time I were in this room?”
 
“Maybe three years ago?”
 
“It’s nostalgic. There are some remnants.”
 
“You think so? I feel like it’s changed a lot, but if Yukito says so, then it must be true. Hehe.”
 
Whether it was because she was relaxing at home or because the problem was solved, a smile I hadn’t seen in a long time, so natural.
 
Taking a deep breath, Suzurikawa straightens her posture.
 
“If it’s been three years, then it hasn’t been that long. Are your parents not home?”
 
Especially Akane-san. She’s not here, right?
 
“They are home. But for now, I’ve been given permission to handle this myself.”
 
“They’re home!”
 
Oh no! If you got permission, then go ahead…? Do what?
 
I wanted to ask, but this must be the reason why Suzurikawa called me here.
 
I should wait for her to speak. That lightens the mood a bit.
 
“….It really is like that.
 
Rarely did my thoughts and speech coincide.
 
It’s very unusual for me. Maybe the nostalgia has gotten to me a little, and I’m also feeling a little more open.
 
“Thank you for coming today.”
 
“Well, after being asked like that, I had no choice, right?”
 
“There’s something I want you to hear. And see. My true self…”
 
Suzurikawa starts to undress as if by magic.
 
Before I can stop her, she takes off her uniform, then without hesitation starts to remove her underwear until she’s completely naked. A sweet smell filled the room, stimulating my brain.
 
All I could do was watch. Irrational behavior, you might say.
 
But even I noticed that Suzurikawa’s body was shaking.
 
“Pull yourself together, Suzurikawa.”
 
Some nonsense words just came out of my mouth. If it’s me who’s strange. If it’s me who’s broken. This reaction was probably wrong. I don’t know how it’s wrong, but something in me realized that it must be wrong.
 
With a girl undressing in front of me, this kind of blunt rejection isn’t what’s needed. But what should I say?
 
“No. The one who was wrong then was me! Now it is normal!”
 
“What are you talking about?”
 
“I regretted it all the time. Since that day, every day has been spent crying, crying until I was tired and fell sleep. I was hatet by my little sister, scolded by my family, and then… I hurt you.”
 
“I don’t really understand, but did you do something wrong? but it has nothing to do with me. Since then, there has been very little interaction between me and Suzurikawa.”
 
“No, it’s all my fault. I couldn’t be honest with my feelings, and instead of trying to understand your feelings, I selfishly sought you out without telling you anything. It’s an unforgivable mistake.”
 
It was incoherent. I understood the literal words, but I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. Suzurikawa and I had hardly any contact in the past two years.
 
Don’t be fooled by appearances. I’m actually bilingual and can speak English. My scores in both English and Japanese were over 95. If even I can’t comprehend this, it’s certainly beyond what a normal student can comprehend.
 
But Suzurikawa’s eyes had not lost their reason. That was the crucial difference between Suzurikawa and me. Her onyx-colored eyes stared directly at me.
 
“Yukito, I did not have sex with my senpai.”
 

 
“Yukito, I did not have sex with my senpai.”
 
I exposed my heart and body. I have nothing left to protect. This stubborn me is finished.
 
I took such a detour to get here. I have become so distant.
 
Now I just want to close that distance and share everything about me.
 
Without being embarrassed.
 
“Don’t look away. I’m right here. In front of you. So look.”
 
“Why are you doing this?”
 
“Because I don’t want to be misunderstood anymore.”
 
“Misunderstood?”
 
“I’ve always liked Yukito.”
 
Why couldn’t I say something that simple?
 
Just this one thing made me so angry.
 
At that time, I was impatient and irritated. I thought I was getting closer to him.
 
But his reactions were always lukewarm, so I wondered if he didn’t like me after all. I never saw him smile around me.
 
Does he find me boring? I was afraid of that.
 
Cowardly, I only thought about knowing his feelings without sharing my own.
 
Around that time, my senpai confessed to me. I had the idea to take advantage of it. When I told him that my senpai had confessed, he just said “I see” as usual.
 
I wanted to scream. Is it okay for me to go out with my senpai? Don’t you care at all? If I get stolen away, won’t Yukito be shocked or sad? Overwhelmed with shock and grief, I clung to one last hope. If I went out with my senpai, maybe he’d get jealous.
 
If so, there was still a chance that I had foolishly gone down the wrong path.
 
If I could have been as honest as I am now, this would never have happened. If we could have faced each other and I could have confessed my feelings to Yukito.
 
What I did was the worst. Without telling him anything myself, I just tried to use my senpai. I had no feelings at all for my senpai. I didn’t even know what kind of person he was. It was just convenient to find out Yukito’s feelings.
 
This mistake quickly turned into regret. When I told him that I was dating my senpai, Yukito said that he was about to confess to me. I froze.
 
Why, why couldn’t he have told me a little earlier?
 
I wanted to throw everything away and accept him. The words I’d always wanted to hear. My wish.
 
But as things were, I couldn’t react until I had settled things with my senpai.
 
I felt Yukito’s eyes darken even more, clouding over.
 
Two weeks after I started dating my senpai. We hadn’t done anything couple-like at all.
 
Of course. I had absolutely no such feelings for him. I had zero interest in my senpai.
 
A meaningless existence. Now that I knew Yukito’s feelings, he was nothing but a nuisance. If I had looked into this guy a little more before going out with him, I would never have thought of going out with him at all. It was all my fault.
 
Maybe to get back at me, my senpai tried to kiss me forcibly.
 
It was disgusting. Unthinkable! Why him! I only have Yukito! Overwhelmed by an icy disgust, an instinct to refuse to be defiled, I pushed my senpai away completely before running out of there.
 
When I got home, I told my senpai that we should split up.
 
After that, the rumor spread that I had sex with my senpai.
 
As revenge, my senpai claimed that we had a physical relationship.
 
That kind of rumor spreads fast. It’s great entertainment for hormone-driven middle schoolers. No matter how vehemently I denied it, my denial only reached those immediately around me.
 
There was no way I could go around telling complete strangers that I hadn’t had sex, how stupid. And most people couldn’t care less about the truth of a rumor.
 
The rumors became even more outlandish, claiming that my non-existent relationship with my senpai had gone quite far.
 
I was showered with lecherous looks from boys who crawled all over my body as if they wanted to lick me.
 
Dating is a contract. It’s made with the mutual consent of both parties. It should be terminated in the same way.
 
I received a confession from my senior, but I didn’t do anything like a couple, didn’t even acknowledge us as lovers, and unilaterally initiated a breakup. I was the one who screwed things up. I took the consequences.
 
Maybe he had his pride too. He didn’t immediately claim that we had just broken up.
 
They say that rumors last seventy-five days. After seventy-five days, it would not be a rumor but a fact. I cursed my senpai. Why did he have to spread such a terrible lie?
 
But the worst part was that I was the same. Accepting a confession from someone I didn’t even like and trying to use him conveniently. The worst kind of trash girl.
 
The worst senpai and the worst me. I guess you could say it was a fitting result.
 
Even my little sister had heard the rumors and my parents were informed as well. My sister adored Yukito. Is that why her look was different from anything I’d seen before? Like she was looking at dirt, like she was looking at something dirty with contempt.
 
My parents called me out as well. I denied it. I had not had any physical relations.
 
My sister and my parents were angry about my actions, my thoughts and the whole situation.
 
–And listen.
 
“Does Yukito know…?”
 
The person I love the most. I don’t want him to know. I want him to think it’s a lie.
 
Such comfortable wishful thinking. But the rumors had already spread too far. It was impossible that he hadn’t heard. Surely, it had reached Yukito’s ears as well.
 
And even if only nominally, I had met with my senpai and conveniently used him. If things seemed that way, it was only natural that we would do such things. This fact made the rumors even more believable.
 
I must hurry and clear up this misunderstanding! But my feet freeze, unable to move for fear that Yukito will look at me the same way my sister did.
 
I couldn’t stand it if he looked at me like that.
 
With eyes that look at filthy garbage, at something defiled… if he looked at me like that, I would…
 
I would run after him. But he was engrossed in the activities of the club and did not seem to care about anything. This reality tormented me even more.
 
It’s like he doesn’t care about me anymore – please help me!
 
My anguished cries couldn’t be heard, and by then my emotions were all over the place.
 
Furious, Yuuri separated me from Yukito and drove a wedge between us, telling me never to come near him again.
 
I realized too late that I had betrayed so many people.
 
And before I knew it, the rumors became common knowledge, our relationship naturally faded, and he once again felt a bit more distant, a cut-off existence.
 
“It was my fault…for trying to use someone for my own convenience. I was selfish and spiteful. You must be laughing, right? I really am hopeless trash…it’s all my fault…”
 
But now I understand. Even without the thing with my senpai, the arrogant me back then would surely have hurt him one day. Like I always was, incapable of being honest.
 
Yukito listened silently to my regrets. If only I had talked to him like that back then, things would never have turned out this way. Even though he always listened to me. It was my fault for not facing him.
 
I followed him all the way to high school. A vague but clear premonition.
 
This is surely the last chance. If I miss this, our relationship will be completely over.
 
Determined to change, I was once again dragged down by the ghosts of my past.
 
I did not know what to do, but Yukito was there. With the same expression as always, as if it was nothing, he reached out his hand to me.
 
On the day of the Summer Festival, I was the one who threw away his hand.
 
That’s enough, Suzurikawa Hinagi. Let’s put an end to these regrets.
 
Then…
 
“Let me prove it to you. I’ll give you my everything.”
 

 
Suzurikawa clings to me and we fall onto the bed together.
 
Looming over her, Suzurikawa and I face each other.
 
Caught in Suzurikawa’s eyes, I couldn’t move a finger as if bound by golden chains.
 
“Suzurikawa…?”
 
“I’ve waited so long for a day like this. I was dreaming of something more romantic, but what the heck? I felt like time was running out, so…”
 
Ah, when did you learn to smile like that?
 
Not the innocent smile of our childhood days, nor the sullen expression of those days.
 
“…There’s no need to rush. Calm down….You don’t have to prove anything, I already…”
 
“Since you’ve always been on my side, I want you to be the one to do this. No one but Yukito. To touch and be touched. It’s not a lie. I don’t want to tell lies anymore. So confirm it – feel all of me.
 
It must be precious for Suzurikawa.
 
I can’t do that just to prove that nothing happened.
 
“No, that is wrong. Look, feel me. I’m so, so happy right now.”
 

 
I bring her hands to my chest. Her body is hot, her heart rate is elevated.
 
“Oh, now I remember. Why did I forget – when we were little, we were always connected like this…”
 
Tears are streaming from Suzurikawa’s eyes.
 
I remembered too. When we were much younger, we had a psychic connection, we didn’t need words. Like a severed thread tied back together, we’re still weakly connected.
 
What Suzurikawa told me was shocking, but it also made sense when I heard it.
 
I thought it was just the way things were back then, but I had countless opportunities to notice her strange behavior. If I hadn’t been able to get close to Suzurikawa myself, I would have probably been able to solve the problem by reaching out to her.
 
But at that time, I didn’t look at Suzurikawa anymore.
 
But thinking about it now, after hearing her story…
 
Why, why–
 
“Wha… what now…?”
 
“Because I was a coward, because I couldn’t be honest…”
 
“Why are you saying that now?”
 
“I guess because it seemed like it was too late.”
 
Why? Why now?
 
“The me back then probably could have accepted your feelings. But now I…”
 
The scenes I remember are always colored crimson.
 
I resigned myself that day. To being unrewarded.
 
To wanting something, knowing I can’t get it, and then giving up – I’ve lost.
 
Even though I want it so much, I can’t accept her feelings.
 
Misery doesn’t suit a beauty like Suzurikawa.
 
A throbbing headache hit me like never before.
 
No, don’t break. Don’t try to break. Repeat the conflict. If I break like I always do, I won’t think about anything. This pain will go away.
 
So, let’s take a break, shall we? If the Demon King asks me to give away half the world without hesitation, that’s me, Yukito Kokonoe… If I break like this, I don’t care. I am, I am…
 
Is this how Yukito Kokonoe was? When did I become like this?
 
I want to break. I want to break quickly. I can feel the emptiness widening.
 
I’ve always broken. But if the feelings I’ve been misunderstanding all this time aren’t really misunderstandings, then I’ve done something terrible… That can’t be.
 
This must be an illusion. A lie. Don’t think about it. Let it go. Just break.
 
Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. I can’t understand the feelings others have for me. I don’t want to. I’ve misunderstood. But is that really the case?
 
Suzurikawa’s feelings, her heart, her emotions, flowed in like a huge wave.
 
It was warm. It made me not want to let go of it to the point where it felt like it was about to overflow.
 
“Yukito, are you okay? You’re completely pale!”
 
Without hiding her body, she openly exposed herself and worried about me.
 
For what reason, why does she do that?
 
Is it so easy for her to expose herself like that?
 
Why does she want to tell me this now?
 
Does she want to torture me? If so, why is she so worried about me and looking so pained?
 
When I try to break, something stops me.
 
Something tells me not to let go of this conflict.
 
I don’t want to break, I don’t want to misunderstand anymore. It would be too late to go any further.
 
No, it’s probably already too late. Nevertheless, I don’t want to hurt anyone, I don’t want to be hurt. Opposing impulses swirl. Why am I in so much pain because of something as absurd as a curse called trouble with women?
 
I don’t understand. I don’t want to? I don’t try? I don’t understand. I refuse to understand. Everything is empty, trying to erase me. It would be nice to disappear and be at peace, but I’m on the verge of being controlled by this seductive desire. It’s very sweet and very attractive.
 
Yes, if I just erase it…
 
Gently, my lips were sealed. It was the second time I felt this sensation.
 
A slightly different taste. A sweet, melting sensation that dissolved my thoughts.
 
“It’s okay! I won’t hurt you anymore, I promise!”
 
Suzurikawa was crying. Why was she crying? What made her sad?
 
Was there some physical pain somewhere? Or maybe Suzurikawa’s tear ducts were wide open…
 
Oh, I see. So your stomach is cold because you’re naked, huh?
 
With that, I brush away the haze that is trying to swallow my thoughts.
 
No, it’s not that… It must be something else.
 
Why am I trying to misunderstand? Don’t misunderstand on purpose. She’s doing it for my sake now…
 
When did I become like this? When did I start letting my thoughts lead me like this? By whom? And why? I am Kokonoe Yukito, and Kokonoe Yukito is me…
 
“S-Suzurikawa… No, Hinagi…?”
 
“You called me by my name. Hehe. My first and second kiss. I’m glad I was able to give it properly.”
 
Is it okay to delete this? Really, that smile, that crying girl. To erase it from my mind and then act like Kokonoe Yukito as always, and then…
 
The headache intensifies. I want to erase it, to wipe it away.
 
I’m embraced. Human warmth touches me directly.
 
There may have been a cause, but if I were to be blunt, everything was the cause.
 
Malice trying to break me. The situation tried to break me. I lost. That was okay. It was still okay. I didn’t care about anything.
 
But there must have been something I wasn’t supposed to lose. There must have been something I needed to realize. Even if I don’t know what it is, even if it’s already too late, there must be something I can’t afford to lose…
 
“…Hinagi, has your personality always been like this?”
 
“I am your childhood friend. I couldn’t be honest, so it’s over. I didn’t want to lose just like that. I didn’t want it to end with me hurting you.”
 
Childhood friends are the losing heroes, or so they say.
 
“Because… I love you so much!”
 
I didn’t want to believe that her smile and words were a lie.
 

 

 

“—! -!”
 
I hear someone’s voice. Ignoring the voice, I was captivated by the scenery in front of me. A breathtaking view that stretches as far as the eye can see. The vast sky and land that seem to suck you in. With just one more step I could become a part of it. Unconsciously my body is pulled closer.
 
I wanted to disappear anyway. I had no place to belong. Even if it’s like this now, it’s not a problem. I’m worthless and unnecessary. So why not just give in to this impulse? No one would be inconvenienced. No one would be sad. This temptation pulls me in endlessly.
 
So, I…
 

 
The rain that had begun to fall cooled my head. I looked absentmindedly at the puddles forming on the black asphalt. By the time I returned from Suzurikawa’s house, the sun had completely set, and only the street lamps lit up the darkness.
 
Alone, I walked on as if wandering through the night.
 
Suzurikawa’s body was warm. But it wasn’t as if we were closely entwined.
 
Suzurikawa and I were just together. I couldn’t fully comprehend her feelings in my current state.
 
I can’t return the same strength of feeling. So I didn’t do anything.
 
But we held hands and talked. Filling in the time we had missed.
 
We’re childhood friends, and we grew apart in search of change.
 
Hinagi made a mistake, I lost something. That’s where our relationship ended.
 
But at that moment, we were undoubtedly connected.
 
This is the distance between my present self and Hinagi. I keep asking myself.
 
Is this okay? When did I become like this?
 
The doubts I felt at Suzurikawa’s house are still swirling inside me.
 
With a runner on first and one out, making a headfirst slide into home plate without hesitation, that’s me, Kokonoe Yukito – when did I become like this? I question my own thoughts.
 
A distortion, a warping, some kind of distortion, as if something has been twisted… Such an unpleasant feeling.
 
Why didn’t I notice it? Why didn’t I find it strange? That too was strange.
 
The strange localized thinking. My mental strength is on par with ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fibers, but when did I become like this? When did this happen? I can’t remember, no matter how hard I try.
 
–I am… No, who is Kokonoe Yukito?
 

 
“Haa…”
 
I took a deep breath in front of my sister’s room.
 
If I don’t find the answer to this question, I won’t be able to move on. I’ll keep breaking down and stagnating.
 
And I thought that was okay. I don’t think about it or care about it at all.
 
But in the end I thought that if I stayed like this I would surely make someone sad. No matter how much I hurt now, I don’t want to hurt anyone.
 
And I probably have been hurting people in that way.
 
I knock. It’s about 10 p.m., but she must still be awake.
 
I mock myself. Isn’t that enough? I’m hated anyway, so I can’t be hated further. I’ve become the number one trash in the school. Yeah, don’t worry about it. I have to find the real me. The Kokonoe Yukito that I’ve lost sight of.
 
I guess I’ll have to take a different approach than I’ve been taking.
 
The exact opposite of what I’ve been doing, the answer may lie in the things I’ve been avoiding.
 
So I’m going to move forward. No matter how much it hurts. I’m used to being hurt anyway.
 
But I don’t want to make anyone cry.
 
“What is it at this time of night?”
 
My sister comes out in her pajamas. She doesn’t look very sleepy. Has she been studying? Unlike me, my sister is an excellent student.
 
It’s really shocking how big the gap is between us as siblings.
 
But my sister takes after our mother. She’s got a fearsome bust. Heh.
 
“I have something I want to talk to you about, if that’s okay, Nee-san?”
 
“You want to talk to me? That’s rare. Come in.”
 
My sister lets me into her room. When’s the last time I was in my sister’s room?
 
It’s definitely been more than ten years. Since that day we’ve had this kind of relationship. Avoiding each other, not looking at each other, I’ve been avoiding my sister.
 
But was that how my sister felt? When I think back, why did she do that? Doesn’t she hate me? I try to elicit what are probably wrong answers, but I force myself to stop this train of thought. My sister suddenly freezes.
 
“—-Huh? Wait a minute. What did you just say?”
 
“Nee-san Oh, I just want to talk about something.”
 
“Yukito….? Yukito! Yukito–!”
 

My sister gives me a big hug. What a day! I’ve been getting so many surprise hugs. Is it free hug day or something? If my sanity wasn’t an unsinkable battleship, the battleship Yamato, things could have gotten weird, right? No, it’s definitely sunk. My foolish thoughts continue to accelerate. But I have to keep going. I can’t end it here!


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