The Girls Who Traumatized Me Volume 2 Chapter 3

Chapter Three: “A Man Who Causes a Disturbance at the University”
 
“Die, you Parisians womanizer scum!”
 
I made a clenched fist, but actually I’m at the university now.
 
So this is the dungeon. I’d better be alert. [Womanizer’s Den] *Recommended Level 18
 
I went to the designated place at the university after going home to change clothes.
 
Since it’s my first time here, I wish someone would at least guide me. This campus is too huge!
 
“Ah, Yukito. Over here.”
 
“Ninomiya-san? It’s been awhile.”
 
I found who I was looking for rather easily. Ninomiya Mio.
 
The messiah who saved me from the injustice of a false molestation accusation. If it hadn’t been for Ninomiya-san, Stuco President Keido and I would’ve been in real trouble.
 
We’d kept in touch occasionally since then and I got a call from Ninomiya-san asking me to come after school finished today.
 
We’ve interacted some before but she specifically requested me this time, saying she had a favor to ask. I have little to offer a university student as a high schooler but…
 
“Call me Mio. We’re close right, Yukito?”
 
“Well, what kind of relationship do we have?”
 
“Master and slave?”
 
“I see, so slavery has revived in modern Japan…”
 
“Kidding. We’re lovers right?”
 
“Huh?”
 
Me, with no history of girlfriends, in a relationship? And with a university girl at that.
 
Unlike girls my age, her fashion and makeup is quite mature. Seeing her like this, I really feel the difference between high school and university students. Needless to say, she seems far out of my league. The burden is too great.
 
“Thank you for coming today. Actually, I have a favor to ask you.”
 

 
“So…will you be my boyfriend?”
 
“Huh!?”
 

To summarize, Mio was apparently invited to a group blind date today.
 
Group dates exist in reality!? I thought it was just a fantasy concept.
 
According to Mio, she’s not interested so doesn’t want to participate but her friend desperately begged her, saying they needed to match numbers, so she ended up agreeing to attend.
 
The group is from a basketball circle but it seems they’re just your typical womanizer types.
 
As evident up to this point, I have absolutely no reason to get involved. It’s completely unrelated.
 
For me, this flow of events could be called an ominous sign of trouble ahead.
 
Anyway, why in the world was I, a high schooler, called for this? It makes no sense.
 
“But they’re womanizers right? What if after getting me drunk, I get carried away and you receive a video letter of me with a blank expression giving a peace sign as I’m violated!?”
 
“What are you saying?”
 
“Maybe I’ll also say that I can’t live anymore without their thingie”
 
“Ninomiya-san, you’re watching too many weird videos.”
 
“Come to think of it, video is kinda weird nowadays huh? Isn’t it all about streaming?”
 
“Yeahhhh, boyfriend, you watching~?”
 
“Yes, more of that. And so I’d mysteriously bear some unknown man’s child.”
 
“Damn. A completely incomprehensible story. Was she always like this?”
 
“So Yukito, you will save me, right?”
 
“Well, um…”
 
“Do you want to see me with nipple piercings and stuff?”
 
“College students are something else. Mentally speaking.”
 
“You don’t want to?”
 
“Is this a one-way communication?”
 
“Don’t want to?”
 
“Yes.”
 
I had no choice but to nod. In short, she wants to avoid men. She’s asking me to pretend to be her boyfriend for the group date, but I have my doubts.
 
“Why me? A high school student would seem unnatural, right?”
 
“You’re the only one I can ask. I hardly know any men, and since the story is fake, who else could I trust?”
 
“But bringing your boyfriend to a group blind date, is that still a blind date?”
 
“I said I wouldn’t go if I couldn’t bring my boyfriend. That’s fine. We can be all lovey-dovey.”
 
“But we’re not in that kind of relationship…”
 
“We’re lovers, so it’s okay!”
 
Somehow her trust in me seems to have grown. A strange thing.
 
I don’t know because I’ve never been on one, but isn’t the point of blind dates to make couples? I feel weird participating when I already have a girlfriend, but if Mio and the others are okay with it, then I guess it’s okay?
 
I don’t want to see Mio regret and worry later. She helped me too, so I should cooperate!
 
“Okay, let’s do it!”
 
“That’s what I wanted to hear.”
 
After exchanging a somewhat shady dialog, we headed for our destination.
 


 
“This is not the time for this…!”
 
I, Shiran-Haitora-Tristy, felt gloomy. I twirled my golden pink hair around my finger. It’s a habit of mine when I’m deep in thought.
 
I think I have a cheerful personality. I’ve never been so depressed before.
 
The reason is me. I had an accident recently.
 
A bicycle accident. It was a small act of arrogance. Naivete about reality. Serious negligence caused by such things. I was riding my bike with headphones on.
 
That in itself was a problem, but at the time my phone was ringing. I should have stopped the bike to see who it was and answer it if necessary. But I picked up my phone while still on the moving bike. A moment of inattention. And it led to an accident.
 
The moment I looked away to check my phone, I collided with someone.
 
A high school boy. It felt like I’d hit something incredibly hard. But the force of the impact sent the boy flying.
 
I panicked. Bystanders immediately rushed to the boy’s side and called 119. I quickly dismounted and went to the boy as well.
 
Fortunately, there were no major external injuries, but I couldn’t feel relieved. There have been cases where people have been hit by a bicycle, had no obvious problems, but then died days later from head trauma.
 
If the impact caused severe head trauma, superficial injuries wouldn’t matter.
 
What have I done? I’ve never experienced such fear.
 
I may have ruined the future of this completely innocent boy.
 
I would probably be arrested as a criminal. I betrayed my parents and made them sad. Even though this boy was suffering the most, I was angry with myself for thinking only of self-preservation.
 
Tears streamed down my face. While I could only hope and pray with all my being that he would be unharmed, I stood there petrified.
 
In the end, we came to an agreement. He had no major external wounds and test results showed no abnormalities. Dad, Mom and I apologized desperately.
 
I was prepared for a lawsuit. No matter how minor the injuries, what I had done couldn’t be allowed by social norms. I caused an accident while riding my bike with headphones on and talking on my cell phone. Absolutely unforgivable.
 
But the boy forgave me. I avoided court, and the settlement amount was determined by discussion. I was prepared for a large payment, but he didn’t want one.
 
On the contrary, he told us, “Don’t worry, I’m used to it,” and so on, and even showed consideration for us who came to apologize. His kindness only hurt my chest more and made me unable to forgive myself for hurting that boy.
 
Since then, I’ve gone on with my normal life. But I never felt any relief. I keep seeing his face. Anyone who harms another must be haunted by such guilt for the rest of her life.
 
If it had been any worse, I wouldn’t be here now.
 
My depressed state made my friends take me out to drink to cheer me up. I don’t really like that kind of thing and had refused to participate until now. Being half Japanese, I developed early. Maybe because of that, I often get hit on by men who are only interested in my body, and I can feel those stares stinging me even on campus.
 
I considered refusing again, but I couldn’t just brush them off when they were just trying to cheer me up. But how could I, who had made my parents sad and hurt that boy so much, possibly have fun?
 
Still in a bad mood, I trudged to the meeting place.
 
“Sorry I’m late!”
 
The other members had gathered. They were already animated and chatting. The boys’ excitement grew at my arrival. I could feel their uncomfortable eyes licking over my chest and legs.
 
“I’m so glad Tristy came!”
 
“What are you drinking, Tristy?”
 
They immediately push alcohol down my throat. I’m weak on it.
 
If I got drunk and passed out in a place like this, I understood very well what it meant.
 
(How disgusting…!)
 
I wanted to leave immediately. Why am I doing this? Why am I in such a place? I never liked these kinds of meetings to begin with.
 
As I scanned the seats in my gloomy mood, I noticed that a couple had already formed a little distance away. They seemed to be having a pleasant conversation.
 
Huh, isn’t that… A familiar boy was sitting there.
 
Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that boy. A really nice boy.
 
Just apologizing didn’t mean it was all over in my mind. I wanted to talk to him more. To apologize better.
 
Why is he in such a place?
 
Before I knew it, I had run up to him.
 
“Yukito, I’m sorry, so sorry!”
 
“Gwah! Sudden loss of vision and mysterious pressure!”
 

 
“Yukito, does it still hurt anywhere? No lingering effects?”
 
“No, I’m fine.”
 
“Really? Let me know if anything comes up, okay? I’ll do everything I can for you.”
 
“Shiran-san, I am completely fine, so please don’t worry so much.”
 
“Uuu… I am really sorry!”
 
“The apology is already over. And um, could you back up a bit…”
 
“I would be so happy if you would call me Tristy!”
 
“Understood, so for now please give me some space–“
 
“What are you drinking, Yukito? No alcohol, right? How about some cola?”
 
“Strange, my words don’t seem to reach you from this distance…?”
 
Tristy tries to pay attention to me, but why do the people around me completely ignore what I’m saying? It seems like a conversation is taking place, but it isn’t. Our exchanges miss each other by a wide margin, demonstrating a surreal disconnect.
 
Suddenly, my vision is engulfed by Tristy. I’m not allowed to realize what this soft sensation is, so I banish the thought. Despite appearances, I’m a wholesome high school boy. Oh, huge! How big are they? I failed to banish the thought.
 
Anyway, I never expected to meet the perpetrator of my accident in a place like this. I don’t hold a grudge against Tristy and I’m not two-faced about it. Since I didn’t suffer any serious injuries, it makes me feel like I’m the one who’s in the wrong.
 
“Yukito, you knew Tristy? There’s no way you found another girlfriend when you have me, right?”
 
“Why the intense mood?”
 
“Because Yukito, you understand that you are my boyfriend now, right?”
 
“I didn’t know.” It was Mio-san, who had been watching us with a curious look, but now she was whispering discreetly. Well, I suppose it’s better to explain the situation considering the circumstances. There’s really nothing to hide, and it’s just my own cluelessness.
 
“And that’s the story…”
 
“I didn’t know that happened. I somehow remember hearing about it on the news. So that was you, Yukito. You really are unlucky, or something like that. But you’re okay injury-wise, right?”
 
“Yes. The examinations showed nothing abnormal either, so I’m fine.”
 
“Must have been hard for Tristy too.”
 
“I’m the one at fault, so I can’t say it was hard. I was worried about Papa and Mama too. But Yukito had the worst of it.”
 
“Normally, wouldn’t you dislike it? Wanting to avoid any involvement…”
 
“Not at all! I’ve been worried the whole time.”
 
As we talked, I could feel the piercing gaze from earlier stinging me.
 
The group meeting is in full swing, but Mio, Tristy, and I, who joined late, are sitting a little far away. We’re completely distracted.
 
Maybe it’s because we’re only talking to each other, but the other guys are looking at me with quite a bit of resentment.
 
“Excuse me, I’m just going to the bathroom.”
 
“Want me to come help?”
 
“Please have some common sense.”
 
If Tristy helps in the bathroom, it’d turn into no ordinary bathroom visit.
 
I’m also a healthy high school boy, so (rest omitted)
 
“Phew…”
 
I let out a satisfied sigh after relieving myself. The smaller one, not the bigger one, you see. I can’t help but sigh contentedly.
 
Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned? But what am I doing? I haven’t been drinking, but it’s definitely inappropriate for me, a high school student, to be on a group date with college students when I think about it. It’s inappropriate without thinking.
 
I’m inappropriate in a lot of ways, so this is late, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I got suspended for this. But getting suspended at this point is a moot point!
 
As I leave the bathroom, someone approaches me. One of the guys from the basketball “club”.
 
With Mio calling them womanizers, he looked exactly like the sketchy type, but of course we’re total strangers and haven’t exchanged a word.
 
“Hey you, do you mind reading the atmosphere?”
 
One of the sketchy types, Mob A, approached me.
 
“78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, about 1% combined argon and carbon dioxide.”
 
“I’m not telling you to read the air components!”
 
“It was just a little chemistry pun, you know. He He He”
 
“I said stop that weird laughter!”
 
“So what did you want from me?”
 
“Huh? Oh right. You understand this is a group date, right?”
 
“I heard that.”
 
“Ninomiya brought you along, but frankly, you’re just a nuisance.”
 
I thought that was his business. After all, he was blatantly staring in our direction. But hearing that from him did nothing for me.
 
“Well, I only came because Mio asked me to…”
 
“Tristy is clinging to you too.”
 
“Because they don’t want to participate in your womanizing group date, right?”
 
“Yo, are you making fun of us?”
 
“Now, now, let’s have fun.”
 
“We can’t have fun with you here.”
 
“Maybe you’re just not Fun. No.?”
 
“Tch. You’re pissing me off.”
 
“I’m just being honest.”
 
“You better watch that smart mouth, kid. You’re younger than me, right?”
 
“Aren’t you ashamed to threaten someone younger than you?”
 
“Go home.”
 
“Then I’ll go with Ninomiya-san.”
 
“Huh? Leave Ninomiya.”
 
“Are you stupid? Ah, slip of the tongue.”
 
“Don’t mess with me, punk.”
 
For some reason, Mob A was angry. But when I looked at him, I felt nothing special. When I think about it, the first emotion I lost was probably “fear. When I wished for my own death, the feeling of fear was gone.
 
Since then, I haven’t been able to feel afraid of anything. Well, Nee san is technically scary, but still.
 
The next emotion I lost was anger. When I gave up on life, everything became resignation, and I no longer had that kind of passion.
 
I gave up on myself and expected nothing from anyone or anything. As a result, I’d somehow even lost the ability to remember such negative emotions.
 
At first glance, this might seem like a good thing. At the very least, it’s a fact that such things have shaped who I am. But it’s not what I need now.
 
Surely I have had “fear” and “anger. If so, I should be able to get them back.
 
Understanding the feelings others have for me should lead to understanding whatever “good will” is directed my way.
 
As I am now, I can’t respond to anyone’s feelings.
 
Those lost emotions from before. Regaining them is necessary to go from negative to zero, to understand what comes next.
 
So I seek. What I once lost. So that no one will be sad again. I won’t see any more crying faces. I shake off the piercing headaches.
 
I want to “like” someone. To believe in someone.
 
And to “love” again.
 
If I can regain my lost affection, one day I will…
 
“You do understand that it’s not up to me who Mio decides to go with, right?”
 
“Then just go yourself right now.”
 
“Well, I’m only here because Mio called me…”
 
“We don’t care about that crap.”
 
“So this is what happens when lust controls your head.”
 
“Don’t get cocky.”
 
He grabs my collar. It’s like we’re speaking different languages. I easily pull his hand away from my collar and quickly make my way back to Mio. Honestly, is there no way to help this…?
 
“Oh, Yukito, welcome back!”
 
“Some nuisance disturbed me.”
 
“Huh, Yukito? Bothered by who?”
 
“That guy.”
 
I point at Mob A, who is returning from the bathroom. After staring in that direction earlier, our eyes meet perfectly.
 
“Hey, what did you do to Yukito?”
 
“No, Tristy-san, I didn’t…”
 
Tristy rushes over to Mob A. Mob A is nervous, but the situation is getting chaotic. Sensing trouble, I immediately make a phone call.
 
“Yukito, let’s go. It’s uncomfortable here.”
 
“Just a moment please.”
 
After a few rings, the connection is made.
 
[Oh, what’s up Yukito? Rarely get a call from you?]
 
“Hyakuma senpai, it’s been a while. Sorry, I’m at a group blind date with the members of the Basketball Circle, but we’re having trouble getting along. Could you help us out?”
 
[Ours? Who are you talking about? I didn’t hear anything about a group date. And what are you doing there, Yukito?]
 
“I’ll explain later, but it’s some guys called Mob A and stuff.”
 
“Mob?”
 
“Ah, sorry. I think he said his name was Ishii…”
 
[Ishii? We don’t have anyone like that in our gym. There are other basketball circles besides ours, right?]
 
“Is that so? I heard they were womanizers.”
 
[Oh, those punks, huh. Then it’s definitely not us. And Yukito, our team is totally legitimate, so don’t lump us in with those guys, okay?]
 
“Now that you mention it, yes, that’s right. Sorry.”
 
[It’s okay. So what, they’re bothering you?]
 
“Well, they’re not related to the senpai.”
 
[What are you planning to do?]
 
“Please look forward to it.”
 
After hanging up, I call out to an indignant looking Tristy.
 
“It’s okay, Tristy-san. Nothing really happened to me.”
 
“But Yukito, he…”
 
“It’s the inevitable result, I was just trying to have fun in my own way.”
 
“I’m sorry Yukito. Even though you came all this way…”
 
Tristy looks dejected. Sad Tristy is really cute. And an idea strikes me. The tournament is coming up soon. Could this be a good opportunity?
 
The enthusiastic senpai are unsatisfied with everything, but the refreshing Ikemen is skilled, but not strong. He still has many shortcomings. He seems to want to improve more, but we might as well take advantage of this opportunity. I stop at this thought.
 
Of course, it can’t be for official club activities. No matter how much running practice I have left, organizing unofficial matches without permission would be problematic.
 
But wait, would it be okay privately? The school can’t interfere with private practices. No one would mind. I can ask the senpai to help us if we can’t recruit members. Perfect!
 
I approach the resentful-looking Mob A guys and make a suggestion.
 
“Senpai, you’re in the basketball club, right?”
 
“What about it?”
 
“How about a game against me?”
 
“Huh?”
 
“You’re not going to run away, are you?”
 
“You little…!”
 
Very well then. Please become fodder for our woefully inexperienced basketball team’s lack of practical experience! Mwahahahaha! Wheeze Cough
 


 
“So explain yourself, what does that mean?”
 
“If Kokonoe Yukito likes older girls, I’m here, you know.”
 
“So, Kokonoe makes trouble at other schools as well…”
 
“Kokonoe, don’t you think you should control yourself?”
 
After school, I was taken to the student council room and forced to sit seiza-style.
 
Isn’t that a bit unreasonable? It’s a clear abuse of power.
 
I looked up. Nee san was obviously in a terrible mood. I’m not sure what to call this abuse of power by my Nee san, so for now I’ll call it sister harassment, or sis-hara for short, but Nee san and I haven’t interfered with each other much until now.
 
Lately, however, Nee san seems to be sticking to me. Just the other day, I woke up to find Nee san sleeping in my bed. I woke up in a cold sweat, it was terrible. I basically can’t resist Nee san, so I just go along with her, but the problem isn’t just Nee san.
 
Besides her, Mr. Sanjouji, my homeroom teacher Ms. SaYuuri, student council president Keido, third year senior Mikumo, Hinagi, and Shiori have gathered here. Too many women.
 
Sensing danger, I brought the refreshing Ikemen, but for some reason only I was made to sit Seiza. Against nepotism!
 
“We just had a friendly streetball game.”
 
“The truth?”
 
“Because they pissed me off!”
 
“I smell women.”
 
“Isn’t that a bit strong?”
 
Just the other day, we settled the score with Mob A in a street basketball game.
 
Although they were university students with better physical abilities, they were not part of a serious club, but just a bunch of casual players. In the first period, the opponent had the upper hand, but due to our efforts to improve our basic physical fitness, our activity level did not decrease at all. From the second period on, we maintained a dominant position.
 
However, Mob A, frustrated by the situation, started to play rough. I’m used to rough play from my street basketball experience in middle school, but our hot-blooded senior and the handsome one couldn’t handle it so well.
 
As they gradually wore us down, our guys, who were angry at the rough play against high school students, replaced us to respond in kind, and we won handily.
 
The dejected Mob A was taken away by our Hyakuma senpai, where they will probably receive a hard education. Poor kids, they’re in for a rough time.
 
But what happened to them after that? Not that I’m not curious, but they were just mobs. They’ll forget about it by tomorrow.
 
More importantly, that situation was the real crisis. Seriously, can’t they cut me some slack?
 
“Do you know why you were called here?”
 
“Isn’t it because of the street basketball incident?”
 
“As far as I know, there have been no complaints from the other side, so there shouldn’t be any problems. I’m a little skeptical about the motivation, though.”
 
Sanjo-ji-sensei sighed heavily and looked annoyed.
 
“So why am I here?”
 
“It’s about the mixer.”
 
“I suddenly felt sick. E. coli is acting up, so I’m done for the day.”
 
“Wait. Don’t try to run away.”
 
As I got up to leave, I was held tightly from both sides. It seemed they didn’t want to let me go. No, no, no! I’m going home! I struggled like a brat, but it was no use. The handsome guy avoided eye contact. I’ll double his practice menu!
 
“Why did you go on a group date? When I’m right here.”
 
“I feel like I keep hearing really strange statements, but it must be my imagination, right?”
 
“If you have pent up desires, I’ll take care of them. It’s safe today.”
 
“What? You’re blushing, but what’s safe?”
 
“That is of course…”
 
“I’d rather not know, it’s scary.”
 
“You’re still students! I’ll teach you…”
 
“Sorry, Mr. Sanjouji, but he’s my student.”
 
“Yukito, how about coming home today? Mama’s waiting, she said.”
 
This place was a battlefield. If I agreed with anyone, it felt like my life would end.
 
“About the group date, I had no choice and it wasn’t my intention…”
 
“Whose intention was it? Confess honestly!”
 
“Well, that’s…”
 
“That’s right, Kokonoe Yukito. I’m right here. No need to distracted by other girls.”
 
“Was Mutsuki always like this…?”
 
“Why didn’t you invite me, Yuki?”
 
They’re lively, but did I really do something that bad?
 
I only joined the group date after Mio asked me to, I didn’t do anything inappropriate at all! That’s right. What did I even do, huh? Don’t mess with me!
 
“What’s wrong with a group date? Going yourself is fine, right!”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Sorry, I was wrong.”
 
Scary! What’s with those eyes? They’re totally saying I’m screwed!
 

 
“So all in all, it was awful.”
 
“Sorry, Yukito. I just keep causing you trouble.”
 
“No, I don’t mind. You did nothing wrong, Ninomiya-san.”
 
“Yukito, you haven’t been harassed or anything since then, right?”
 
“Yes. I got a message from Hyakuma senpai that they’ve trained them, so I guess it went well.”
 
“Oh good! I’m glad!”
 
The student council room was a hellish damage floor for me with no countermeasures. An abnormal room that constantly shaved my HP even though I did nothing. And too many women make me dizzy from the sweet smell. Still tired, I go to the cafe where I’d been summoned and where Mio and Tristy were waiting.
 
“Let me apologize again for getting you involved in something weird last time.”
 
“Like I said, please don’t worry. It would leave a bad taste if something happened to Ninomiya-san.”
 
“What about me? What about me, Yukito!?”
 
“I’m also glad that nothing happened to you, Tristy-san.”
 
“Hehe.”
 
Tristy flushes and grins. Mio is a savior to me, but from my point of view, Tristy is the culprit. Even though I didn’t suffer any major injuries, I can sense her deep regret for the accident she caused. Despite my lack of concern, Tristy seems to be tormented by guilt. It’s painful to see.
 
“But Yukito, why did you suddenly suggest that match?”
 
“Well, it’s just a matter of principle and convenience.”
 
“You said they bothered you, right?”
 
“I was considering a practice match with another school anyway. They happened to be good opponents, but yes. To put it bluntly, they talked about Mio-san and Tristy-san as if they were objects, so it annoyed me, or…”
 
“For us?”
 
“Just me being pissed off.”
 
“You’re surprisingly cute sometimes.”
 
“Yukito…hehe…”
 
Tristy starts clinging to me for some incomprehensible reason. In this day and age of alcohol sterilization, what reckless person initiates close contact with others! I think, but I can’t resist being treated like a pet. Am I a pet?
 
Putting it into words let me clearly see my feelings. Yes, I was angry. Mio provoked me a lot too, but the truth was that I couldn’t ignore being stared at like that.
 
And the streetball game brought one emotion back to me.
 
When Mob A switched to rough play, the first victim was Himura-senpai. Just before the shot, senpai’s clothes were pulled, causing him to fall. It was clearly a foul, but there’s no official referee here. If we let them get away with it, white would be called black. Their intention to keep fouling through rough play was abundantly clear.
 
I felt anger. It was the first such feeling for me in a long time. An emotion I thought I’d lost. Maybe the middle school me wouldn’t have thought anything of it.
 
Back then, I played basketball for my own sake. There was no one else. Teammates, scores, nothing mattered.
 
But what about now? It’s not like I have any lingering attachment or interest in basketball. But I took it up again because I wanted to change. To get back what I’d lost, one thing at a time. Unlike then, I’m not playing basketball alone now.
 
When I saw Himura-senpai collapse, I thought.
 
You bastard, what are you trying to pull?
 
Himura senpai is working hard to confess to Takamiya-senpai. If he got injured and couldn’t participate in tournaments, it would be the end. That’s how I missed my last tournament in middle school. I didn’t want him to have to face that.
 
“Anyway, I did it on my own, so please don’t worry about it.”
 
“We can’t just let it go.”
 
“Yukito, won’t you let us make it up to you somehow?”
 
“Oh, this is going in an unpleasant direction for me.”
 
I suddenly get a bad feeling. Suddenly my phone buzzes. It’s from Nee san. Is she monitoring me? Where have my human rights gone?
 
“Come play with us.”
 


 
“I was so useless, just bringing everyone down… I can’t forgive myself. If this continues, I won’t be able to protect Ryone. I’m too weak to confess my feelings like this. More than anything, I want to work harder with everyone!”
 
After school, during the club activities, the passionate senior collapsed in exhaustion. While Mihou barely made it through the rough game, the upperclassman was more of a hindrance during the stove bus competition. The other members were the same.
 
A painful cry escaped from the upperclassman’s chest, expressing his inner turmoil.
 
“Kokonoe, I want to get better! I’ve never wanted anything more. I thought it was enough if we just had fun. But that’s not enough anymore! I want to do so much more with everyone!”
 
“Toshiro…”
 
Takamiya-senpai looked at the passionate senior with concern. Although his confession was loud and clear, it might not matter to the two of them..
 
After a dramatic pause, I opened my mouth heavily.
 
“-You want power?”
 
“I do! The power to lead everyone, results I can boast of to Ryone!”
 
I blurted out a line I had always wanted to say in real life – it was definitely in my top 3. But the fiery upperclassman readily agreed. Damn, you’re easy to anger.
 
Well, I was thinking about what to do next when I suddenly remembered something.
 
Come to think of it, the refreshing pretty boy had met a senior from our middle school who had recently been accepted to a top high school. As expected from the charismatic sunny boy, he was well-connected. This could be useful!
 
“What’s up, Yukito? You look like you’re up to something shady again.”
 
“Let me try this.”
 
“Try what?”
 
“Warrior training.”
 


 
“Ah, the idea that mastering yoga will allow you to breathe fire or teleport is a myth, please do not take it seriously.”
 
“Yes, Sensei.”
 
Strange. My foolproof gag completely failed to land. There was no reaction at all. I’m at a loss. I want to teleport out of here right now.
 
But it doesn’t look like he’s going to let me off that easily. Mom and Himiyama-san looked at me expectantly. Stop it! Don’t look at me like that!
 
We were at a 24-hour gym next to our apartment complex. Mom had been trying to go to the gym to get some exercise and keep her figure, but work kept getting in the way, so she rarely had time.
 
Apparently, her situation changed recently so that she could work from home, giving her some free time to start going again. I see, so that’s what happened.
 
That’s why she’s so fit! Heh, I’m proud to be her son.
 
So why am I here, you ask?
 
Well, listen. There’s a simple reason.
 
I played basketball in middle school, so I learned different ways to take care of my body. Going back even further, because for some reason I tended to get injured a lot, I had a lot of free time while I was in the hospital, so I studied things like stretching, yoga, pilates to fill the time.
 
In order to take care of your body properly, you have to understand its basic structure.
 
I am Kokonoe Yukito, the Leonardo da Vinci of the modern age when it comes to anatomy.
 
Anyway, Mom asked me to go to the gym with her as an instructor, and I couldn’t refuse the request of the head of our household. I’m honored to be able to contribute even a little to the family’s support.
 
But there was a catch. I ran into Himiyama-san on the way, and somehow we ended up going together. A feeling of foreboding suddenly came over me.
 
I don’t believe in intuition, but for some reason, I wanted to run away from this place right away.
 
We checked in at the front desk and entered the empty gym – no one else was there.
 
The problem was the outfits of the two ladies coming out of the locker room.
 
They were wearing workout clothes, so it was only natural, but the clothes were quite thin.
 
Is this okay for a PG rating or does it warrant an R? A CERO Z wouldn’t be out of the question.
 
I shook off any impure thoughts and considered individual menus for them. It’s a gym, so they have good equipment like exercise bikes and lat pulldowns, but since neither of them were looking for muscle work, yoga would be a safe choice.
 
“Mom, your job requires you to sit a lot, so shoulder stiffness bothers you, right? Himiyama-san, is there anything in particular you want to work on?”
 
“This is my first time with something like this, so I’ll leave it up to you. I don’t know right from left.”
 
“Any physical problems or concerns with your body?”
 
“Hmm… Because I’m susceptible to cold, I want to do something about it.”
 
“I see. Then we’ll start by sitting comfortably and working on breathing techniques. Once you get used to it, we’ll gradually move into the poses. Follow my lead, okay? It has parasympathetic benefits, so it should also help you sleep.
 
I am Kokonoe Yukito, yoga teacher. While activating the third chakra, the Manipura Chakra, I’ll focus on Mom’s upper body and Himiyama-san’s lower body. After explaining the breathing methods and their effects for a bit, I’ll have them assume poses while describing the benefits.
 
“The cat pose is good for shoulder stiffness, meow.”
 
I get down on all fours and balance myself. Stretching and twisting like this, I totally feel like a cat nya.
 
“Is it my chest or what, but my shoulders are getting so stiff. It’s nice to have some relief.”
 
“Oh my, me too.”
 
“Um, Misaki-san, what does this have to do with my son?”
 
“Fufufufufufufufu.”
 
“Fufufufufufufufu.”
 
Hey, could you start soon? I’m the only one feeling stupid, nya.
 
“Next is the camel pose. It’s okay if you don’t get it perfect at first. It has benefits for recovery from fatigue and works areas like the groin, abdomen and thighs. Watch your knees.”
 
“Hmm, this might be hard…”
 
“Let’s take it slow, one side at a time. Just keep breathing.”
 
“Does this change your figure at all?”
 
“Yes, if you do it consistently for about three months, you’ll see results. Your body will become more flexible, it’s good for back pain and your skin too, so let’s give it our best shot!”
 
“Stick with it, I’m sure you’ll see results! “
 
“Huh?”
 
I’m doing this for myself, but what exactly does she expect me to do?
 
She’s kind of scary, so I look at Mom instead.
 
“Mom, are you slouching a little? Do you want to do a posture correction pose? I’ll sit back to back with you.”
 
“Okay. Should I put my hand on Yukito’s knee?”
 
“Yes. I’ll put my hand on your knee and then turn it gently towards my hand.”
 
“It feels kind of nice. The feeling that our backs are pressed together gives a feeling of security that I like.”
 
“Do you think so?”
 
At first, it looks like they’re just sitting back to back, but it can be surprisingly exhausting. Gradually, Mama’s breathing gets heavier.
 
“Yukito-kun, let’s do it together.”
 
“This is a pose you can do alone…”
 
“Change it so we can do it together.”
 
Her smile is overwhelming. I understand that Mom is family, but Himiyama-san is a complete stranger.
 
Cold sweat trickles down.
 
“Considering how we’re dressed and touching each other directly…”
 
“Discrimination is unacceptable! And there’s nothing naughty about it. It’s fitness, after all.”
 
“No way, that was your goal all along…!”
 
“I was just really interested, you know?”
 
We started out serious, but as time went on, I’m not sure what they were competing about as they gradually heated up.
 
They’re lively, even though it’s night. Meanwhile, I am getting more and more tired.
 
This isn’t the yoga I know! I want to breathe fire.
 
“So, as I’ve said countless times – the forward bend-backward bend pose is done back-to-back with the partner on top, not face-to-face! I can’t see it, but aren’t you facing the other way? I feel something soft on my back! “
 
It should be Himiyama-san doing a backbend on top of me in a forward bend, but all I can see is the floor below me. But from the way it feels on my back, she’s clearly straddling me incorrectly. Of course, there is no effect. I’m the only one enjoying it.
 
“How is it, does it feel good?”
 
“Oh, it’s great – no, it’s not!”
 
“Look, this is disturbing my son! Please get off, it’s my turn to get on!”
 
“Hang on now. Strange, I’m sure I’ve explained this properly, but it’s not coming through!”
 
“Then I’ll get on. Here I go! Thud!”
 
“Woooah! Oh, Mom got a little heavy, huh. But that’s good. Losing too much weight isn’t healthy, there’s a number called BMI, and the optimal body weight–“
 
“Hmm, did you say…heavy…?”
 
While gaining weight isn’t necessarily bad, for someone who’s underweight, it could mean becoming healthier.
 
Moreover, the obesity rate of Japanese is one of the lowest in the world, with Asia generally on the low side. Compared with the obesity leader, the United States, the rate is almost ten times lower.
 
“Oh yeah! You’ve been eating properly at home lately, so Mom is getting healthier!”
 
“Why, why is my son suddenly rebellious?”
 
“Well, you shouldn’t say things like that, Yukito-kun, even if it’s true. Those are taboos for women.”
 
“Huh? Didn’t I just hear something unforgivable?”
 
“My vision is blocked, so I can’t see, but I feel a sinister aura coming from behind… Also, could you leave me alone soon?”
 
“No good! It’s my turn!”
 
“Since when is that the rule?”
 
“I refuse! It’s mine!”
 
“Are you listening to me?”
 
The feeling through our clothes was sublime, but I’d never say it out loud.
 
I’ll enjoy it secretly on my own.
 
After that, the two of them kept trying to compete with me in between. By the time we left the gym, my stamina bar was down to red.
 
I don’t have enough MP for my super special move. Mom apologizes, looking guilty.
 
“Sorry about that? I got too carried away having fun.”
 
At least she seems to regret it a bit. Mom and Himiyama-san were a bad combination. Really, 1+1=200. It’s ten times more! Thanks to them, I’m completely exhausted.
 
We part with Himiyama-san and go home with Mom, but I feel hungry after training, so we stop at a family restaurant. It’s okay if it’s family.
 
We already ate dinner, so we order light food like French fries.
 
“It won’t be effective if you don’t do it right.”
 
“So will you come with me again and be serious next time?”
 
“Well…”
 
“How about some parfait? You like sweet things, right?”
 
“Huh, you knew?”
 
I do like sweet things, but I don’t remember ever telling anyone about it.
 
I asked back out of simple curiosity, but she seemed very shocked by the question as she gasped.
 
“I… I know that much about you at least. But that’s all I know. I’m a terrible mother.”
 
She smiles sadly, dejected.
 
“I didn’t say that, don’t worry about it.”
 
“-That’s why, tell me. Everything is fine. School, your interests, little things, everything. I want to know more about you.”
 
She was frighteningly serious. I hesitate for a moment, not sure what to say.
 
I racked my brain for topics, but nothing came to mind. Come to think of it, when I was little, there seemed to be so many things I wanted to talk about. I was bursting with things to share.
 
But what were they? What was the content? I don’t remember.
 
It was probably trivial, meaningless things.
 
What exactly did I want to tell Mom?
 
What did I want her to hear? What kind of conversation was I looking for?
 
Even though there must have been so much I wanted to talk about then, nothing, really nothing, comes to mind now. School stuff, my interests, little things?
 
None of the suggested topics had anything for me to share.
 
There was nothing of value to tell others.
 
All I have is the desire not to bother them with unnecessary things.
 
“Why now…? Oh, never mind. You don’t have to force yourself. Oh, it’s here. Let’s eat.”
 
I swallowed the words that almost came out of my mouth and acted as if everything was normal, believing that it was the right thing to do.
 
I shouldn’t bother my mother who works so hard for me.
 
Since all I can do is be grateful, I shouldn’t strive for more happiness. To want more would be greedy.
 
Mom’s expression turned sad. A short while ago she was beaming with joy.
 
Have I chosen the right answer? Is this the result?
 
It’s hopeless. I’m filled with regret.
 
A dull pain. It almost feels like a fleeting dream, without any sense of reality.
 
It is as if I am being told that this fleeting fantasy will soon come to an end.
 


 
I do not like the rainy season. Using umbrellas is annoying. So is getting my heels wet when I walk.
 
Looking outside, the pouring rain showed no signs of letting up, continuing its relentless downpour.
 
Days like this always remind me of that time, so long ago.
 
This year, there was a lot of buzz about an event to celebrate the zoo’s 50th anniversary.
 
“Looks fun. Want to check it out?”
 
“Yeah.”
 
He nodded slightly. He must have been happy about that, but work kept me too busy and I forgot. It lingered in the corner of my mind, taking for granted that we could go anytime.
 
“Hey, when are we going? It’ll be over soon. He was looking forward to it too…”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Unbelievable. Don’t tell me you forgot?”
 
At Yuuri’s question, I quickly double-checked. I didn’t know that the event was only for a limited time. It was unforgivable to make a promise and then not know about it.
 
More than a month had passed. I heard he had been preparing, researching the animals in encyclopedias. She should have asked sooner – but it’s not right to make excuses and pass the buck to a child. He was already considerate enough not to bother me while I was busy.
 
I looked at the calendar and saw that the last day of the event coincided with a day off. I breathed a sigh of relief that we could just make it. At least I avoided being a liar. Or so I thought–
 
“This is…”
 
That day, it started pouring in the morning. The downpour only intensified, making even a trip to the grocery store a chore. I was worried when I saw the weather forecast, and it came true.
 
The zoo closed for the day and the event was over.
 
That morning, he just stared out the window in silence.
 
What kind of emotions were stirring in that little chest?
 
I was too afraid to ask. To call it unavoidable would be a terrible excuse for my mistake.
 
If I had properly checked the schedule and planned things out, this could have been prevented.
 
Since then, no matter where I suggest we go, he never nods in agreement.
 
He just sulks. I can say this If we’ve built a strong bond as a family. A few unfortunate incidents here and there don’t break a family when there are far more happy memories to share. But Yuuri and I have nothing.
 
After that, Yuuri and I went out a lot more, just the two of us. Whenever I invited him, he’d just stay home as if it was natural. Even when I forced him to go out, he’d just apologize for being busy and never enjoy himself.
 
This makes sense. It is painful for him to go out with me.
 
Children are sensitive and watch adults closely. If they don’t think the other person is listening, they won’t say anything. And they don’t trust people who break promises.
 
I hate the term “family service.” If you act obliging and sanctimonious, kids see right through it. Every excuse is shut down and sealed off.
 
With no way to make amends, time just passed, and the more time passes, the harder it becomes to rebuild. The perceived time as a child until adulthood is apparently the same as the time as an adult after that.
 
I couldn’t create any happy memories for him. If anything, I’ve saddled him with some painful memories.
 
Carefully, persistently, relentlessly, I’ve torn his heart to shreds.
 
“An unfit mother. I can’t refute Yuuri when he says that…”
 
I mutter dejectedly. A vague fear arises that this might not be the right place.
 
In contrast to the gloomy weather, the reunion was quite lively.
 
The light alcohol made my body feel flushed. Chatting with close old friends brought back memories of our school days – it was fun. I was surprised, happy and sad to hear about everyone’s current circumstances. We all took different paths in life after graduation.
 
As we reminisced, we naturally split into married and single groups.
 
The married group mostly talked about their husband’s or wife’s ailments or their children.
 
Some of the singles declared their intention to remain unmarried, while others talked about their dating activities – some might even start relationships from this meeting. Feeling a bit out of place as a divorcée, I quietly slip away from the circle.
 
“What’s wrong, Megumi? Not drinking?”
 
I call happily to Megumi, who is standing quietly in the corner.
 
“Ouka? No, tea is enough for me. I don’t want to worry Haruhiko.”
 
“Eh, is Megumi’s husband so strict?”
 
“Not at all. He said goodbye to me and told me to have fun. I decided on my own not to drink unless I’m with Haruhiko.”
 
“Haruhiko is that guy from back then, right?”
 
“Yes. He’s my dearest person.”
 
Her shy smile clearly showed that Megumi was at the peak of her happiness.
 
Back at university, Megumi had been badly betrayed by her first boyfriend, and for a while she shut herself away and distrusted men. She even attempted suicide. We encouraged her desperately, but the one who stayed by her side and supported her was her current boyfriend, I heard. They eventually decided to get married.
 
“Even small things, I decided not to worry him at all. That’s how I repay Haruhiko’s devotion.
 
Now that I think about it, Megumi hasn’t talked to any men since the reunion. She’s always stuck to female acquaintances. She’s thorough to a fault.
 
It hits me. At the reunion, I was bothered by unwanted advances, though I didn’t make much of it. Still, it showed that I had openings that gave the wrong impression.
 
“Any complaints?”
 
Feeling a little guilty, I ask the malicious question.
 
“Of course not. And even if I did, it would be a small thing to discuss between the two of us. Whether I’m with Haruhiko or not, I don’t want to speak ill of him. I don’t think, “It’s okay if he doesn’t hear. Because if I said that, I could never smile in front of Haruhiko again.
 
How strange. She used to be so fragile, but now Megumi looks stronger than anyone.
 
I compare her to Yuuri. What they have in common is what I lack.
 
As if doused with cold water, the buzz vanishes in an instant. Suddenly I am ashamed of my high spirits, I think of myself as pitiful.
 
My lamentations and struggles almost spill out uncontrollably, and I force them back down.
 
Why do I only realize this now? I haven’t changed a bit since that day. I keep repeating the same mistakes. Of course, Yuuri avoids me.
 
Yuuri has always seen through my weakness. My half-heartedness, my lack of determination.
 
“Do you have someone dear to you, Ouka?”
 
“My child.”
 
I won’t compromise. I understand what Megumi said. If I had hesitated for a moment in answering Megumi’s question, I wouldn’t have been able to recover.
 
“Then tell them that they are precious, that they are your treasure. It’s not enough to think it. You have to tell them directly with your words and actions, otherwise you can’t build trust”.
 
I cherished my child more than anything. But I only thought it. My words, my attitude, my actions – everything denied those feelings and hurt my son, Yukito.
 
For sixteen long years. If I try to face it now, the negative credit I’ve built up over time will get in the way. I finally realize that the starting line for Yuuri and me is decidedly different. I can’t catch up the way Yuuri can. I’m way behind.
 
I look around and a few close friends, with whom Megumi was especially close, look at me kindly.
 
“Megumi, you became a good woman.”
 
“Thanks to everyone who encouraged me back then.”
 
“Ahh, when I come home I should try to invite my husband like in the old days.”
 
“I also got a mail from my husband earlier. He was acting distant, like he didn’t care that I was going out, but he’s cute, too.”
 
Lively chatter around Megumi. There are no more complaints like before. Somehow the grumbling has turned into loving gossip.
 
“I see. You’re right. I’ll do my best, too, Megumi”.
 
After saying goodbye to everyone, I leave the meeting early. I wanted to see him as soon as possible.
 
Not caring about the rain, I quickly call a taxi.
 
To take back those sixteen years, branded as an unfit mother.
 


 
Terrible memories of the past. Records of mistakes I don’t even want to remember.
 
“Let’s go. If you stay here, Yukito will be killed.”
 
“Yes.”
 
Instead of me, my son takes Sekka’s hand. Shocked, I collapse where I stand. Yuuri says nothing. Just as Sekka said.
 
“Why…?”
 
My voice is hoarse. Stop, don’t take him away! I desperately reach out my hand, but my son doesn’t look back, only his little back rejects me.
 
I see, I’ve been judged unworthy. This reality weighs heavily on me and I sob.
 
“Why is big sis…!”
 
When Sekka starts to shout at me, my son gently shakes his head and stops her. Staring sadly at such a son, Sekka swallows her words.
 
Hostility from my sister. I may never see my son again. But I couldn’t take a single step from this place.
 
“Goodbye.”
 
–After that, we didn’t see each other again for over a month.
 

 
“What’s wrong, Mom? Did something happen?”
 
“Just a little, let me stay like this.”
 
It reminded me of when my children were born. Their tiny hands clinging to my fingers.
 
I was happy. The happiest in the world. I could believe it without a doubt. I vowed to be a good mother, one who would never let go of that happiness.
 
Every day was an uninterrupted series of firsts. But each day was fun and happy. I studied parenting, absorbed and put into practice the various anecdotes and experiences I heard and saw.
 
So why did I forget? Regrets just come flooding in. I really remembered with Yuuri. I should’ve done more for this child, too.
 
Gave him a feeling of security by hugging him. I knew it caused the release of oxytocin, the love hormone.
 
What have I done for this child who brought me happiness? If anything, I switched to formula and hugged minimally compared to Yuuri. I already did it with Yuuri, so it was okay not to do it for this child. Such logic doesn’t hold up, but that’s what I thought.
 
I embrace my son, his body is warm. That he’s here in front of me now feels like a miracle. Yuuri seeks the skin to confirm that he’s alive. More than anything, she fears losing this child again.
 
Yukito looks at me in confusion. It’s understandable that this child surprised.
 
I come home drenched like a wet rat, my stockings laddered, my heels broken, after rushing recklessly from the reunion. Using the youth I no longer have as collateral.
 
Suddenly being embraced by a mother like that, of course he’d be worried.
 
Since that day, I had only feared my son. I was afraid of his rejection expressed in clear words. I don’t need you. I don’t want a mother like you. I hate you.
 
I still remember it like a nightmare. That day, my decisively wrong decision.
 
No matter how unseemly, I should have gone after him, shown that I needed this child, proven it somehow.
 
When I thought he found me unworthy, Yukito must have seen me let go and felt abandoned. A cruel mismatch.
 
I think Sekka really despised me then.
 
Even after that, I repeated the same mistakes countless times.
 
One time of school observation. I couldn’t go because of an important business meeting, so I asked Sekka to go instead. I didn’t want him to feel lonely.
 
Unexpectedly, the meeting went smoothly, and I ended up going out for dinner when a male client invited me. I didn’t know that Sekka saw me that time.
 
I have nothing to feel guilty about. It was just a business meeting.
 
Even so, having asked Sekka to observe in my place for work and then having a leisurely meal with a man probably looked terrible to her.
 
Since then, I’ve never attended Yukito’s school observations. Sekka wouldn’t allow it.
 
When you do things like that, it was only natural to lose trust.
 
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be a real mother to you.”
 
“Mom is doing just fine.”
 
“Please…just one more chance.”
 
“I don’t have that kind of authority, but…”
 
I feel disgusted at myself for saying things that sound like a cheating wife’s pattern.
 
“I’m such a terrible mother. Immature, incapable of growing as a mother.”
 
“What are you talking about? More importantly, you should take a bath and change your clothes before you catch a cold.”
 
“I want to start over as your mother.”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Why don’t we take a bath together?”
 
“Huhhh!?”
 
“I cherish you more than anyone or anything, dear. That’s why-“
 
Gently, I placed both hands on my son’s cheeks. His face, seen up close, had become not only sweet, but also very dignified and handsome. His eyelashes were long, and his captivating eyes made my heart race involuntarily, slowly drawing me closer.
 
“What’s the matter, Mom? Your face is getting closer-uh-uh-uh!”
 


 
We really are mother and son, right? (white eyes)
 
An experience so unspeakable that I dare not give it voice. This may be the so-called secret you take to the grave. Hmm? Use your imagination.
 
Last night, Mom returned from a class reunion and for some reason suddenly declared that she wanted to start over as Mom. Mom? Can you really do that?
 
Being a mother is a kind of a second job, a subclass, that you get after you become a mother. To me and my sister, Mom is Mom as an existence. But for Mom’s classmates, she’s just Ouka Kokonoe. A place where she could relax without worrying about her mother role, I hoped she could refresh herself completely there, but for some reason a surprise transformation into mom awaited me. There was no way to avoid this maze.
 
“Oh my, this is…?”
 
Sunday. On my way home from warrior training, I come across an unexpected sight.
 

It is said that eating peach will drive away evil spirits and grant longevity. I can understand why it is used as a nectar recovery item in games. Peaches have been considered sacred fruits since ancient times, but with one in my hand, I’m at a loss.
 
I thought it was a mistake to take some home as a souvenir.
 
“Did I overbuy?”
 
Originally, peaches are in season during the summer, but the “early” variety, which ripens faster, starts to appear around this time. The opposite is the “late” variety. I ended up buying some peaches sold directly by a farmer, but after listening to his life story a bit, I was treated to some extra. It’s clearly too much for my family of three.
 
“Oh, hello.”
 
“I’ve already got a catcher, so I’m good.”
 
I turned to the voice that came from the road. To my surprise, it wasn’t the catcher, but a woman in a full-face helmet and a motorcycle suit straddling a bike.
 
“Oh, the female thief has a catcher already, so I’m good.”
 
“No, it’s me, Yuki-kun.”
 
Eyes behind the visor glow suspiciously as the woman in the rider suit removes her helmet, revealing a shocking figure.
 
“Himiyama-san!?”
 
“Well really, how rude Yukito-kun. A thief…”
 
My brain refused to recognize the situation. Totally inconsistent with my image of the carefree big sister Himiyama-san. She looks like nothing more than a slippery master thief.
 
“You can ride a motorcycle?”
 
I distract her with harmless small talk so she doesn’t notice my excitement.
 
“It’s not really a hobby, but I’ve always liked them. Cars are cumbersome, with poor maneuverability and such.”
 
I’ve discovered the most unexpected side of Himiyama-san. My relationship with Himiyama-san is, to put it simply, online friends. For some reason, we chat more than with the refreshing pretty boy.
 
“Oh yeah! How about riding with me next time, Yukito-kun? I’ll prepare a helmet. I’ve always dreamed of riding two-up.”
 
“Why do I feel so anxious…?”
 
Must be the effects of the sunlight. Sweat pours down my back.
 
“It’s okay to dive.”
 
“I knew you were lady thief!”
 
If she were a thief, she’d dodge at the last second, but this is a straight shot to the finish line. I can almost hear the wedding bells.
 
“Anyway, Yukito-kun, what happened there? It looks heavy, but…”
 
“Ah, that’s right. Would you like some, Himiyama-san? I ended up with a bit too much, so…”
“Really? Then how about you come over now? Let’s cut it up and eat it together.”
 
Himiyama-san has already gotten off her bike and seems intent on pushing it.
 
Oh no! Before I knew it, a natural flow of events took me back to Himiyama-san’s house. Her house is a demon’s den full of danger for me. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. This time, I’m going to lie against my principles to try to get out of this predicament!
 
“Sorry Himiyama-san, I actually don’t have plans after this.”
 
“Great then! Yay, today’s my lucky day!”
 
Damn me and my honest self!
 

“I saw my brother earlier.”
 
“I’m glad you and your brother get along so well.”
 
While Himiyama-san was cutting the peaches, she told me about her day. I didn’t know she had a brother, although it’s a miracle to me that siblings don’t hate each other.
 
“Our relationship is normal, I guess. This is the first time I have seen him in years. Looks like he’s getting married soon. I met him to hear about it after such a long time.”
 
“Congratulations to him.”
 
Since he’s a stranger, I don’t really feel much, but I offer my sincere congratulations.
 
“With how busy he is, we rarely get to relax and chat like this unless we take advantage of opportunities like this.”
 
“What does he do?”
 
“Hmm, I guess you could say he is a government official. In our family, everyone except me is outstanding – grandfather, parents, and now my brother.”
 
“That’s not true.”
 
“No, it’s because I’m the only one who hasn’t progressed, stagnated for years and years…”
 
There was deep resignation in these self-deprecating words.
 
“Then it’s the same with me. My mother and sister are excellent, while I alone am useless.”
 
“Th-that’s not it! You always try your best!”
 
Himiyama-san comes over in a hurry.
 
I try my best. But that doesn’t guarantee a reward.
 
No matter how hard I practice basketball, if I can’t play in games, it’s meaningless. If I disappoint people’s expectations, I’ll be treated like a villain.
 
Studying hard doesn’t change the fact that I’m just filling the big hole in my grades. With the same grades, I’d never be chosen over others for non-academic merits.
 
There’s nothing positive about it. I’ve only filled in the negatives, and it’s questionable whether I can even do that. But I had to, in order to survive.
 
Maybe it’s the same with romance. First I have to fill the negatives, or I don’t even have the qualifications.
 
At some point, I got tired of interacting with people. That’s why I wanted to be a shut-in. Maybe Himiyama-san feels the same way.
 
Why does she always seem so worried about me?
 
I searched for the reason for her unnatural kindness.
 
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have talked about boring things. There, all cut up.”
 
Could it be that Himiyama-san and I have met before?
 
This question crossed my mind for the first time. I’ve been deliberately pretending not to know until now.
 
Since the first time we met, her affection level has gone through the roof without any event items. Even I find that strange.
 
But even if we met in the past, I don’t know why Himiyama-san acts as if we just met. Without ever bringing it up.

So I never brought it up. I don’t remember, and if Himiyama-san wants to treat this as our first meeting, that’s probably the most appropriate distance between us.
 
I don’t remember. I don’t want to remember? Perhaps Himiyama-san was in some forgotten fragment of the past.
 
Painful pasts, if not forgotten, if not erased, I couldn’t bear them. I couldn’t remember them forever.
 
I’m doing my best. As these words imply, I’m doing my best to live in the present.
 
There’s no room to look back, no room to think about the future.
 
So, surely, we will continue to pretend not to know each other.
 
–Pretending that it’s the only right thing to do.
 

“It is delicious, isn’t it? Is it okay that I have so much?”
 
“Yes, I got an extra bonus this time.”
 
I eat the peaches single-mindedly. No matter how tempting it is, I can’t eat the peach next to me.
 
Hang in there, Kokonoe Yukito! Be like a dog left in your care!
 
“Um… is that… the Peach of Immortality?”
 
“The Peach of Immortality? These are the peaches eaten by sages, right? I think these are normal peaches… What’s wrong Yukito-kun, you’re soaked in sweat!”
 
In this season’s light clothes, I can feel not only the peaches, but also the peaches of immortality – I mean the sensations – pressing into my arm where she’s leaning against me. I’m too nervous to taste.
 
“They must be bad peaches.”
 
For some reason, Himiyama-san’s affection for me has crossed the line without the use of objects. Soon, she’ll invite me to join some strange religion. I’m nervous.
 
“By the way, Yukito-kun, do you like late ripening peaches?”
 
“I like all kinds of peaches.”
 
“That’s good. Ripe peaches are good, right? Everyone prefers them young.”
 
“Wow, that was a sly leading question!?”
 
I felt the pressure of the peach on my arm increase slightly.
 
“You can eat it anytime.”
 
“Um, I’m actually full now.”
 
Strange. It’s before dinner, but I’m full?
 
“Too bad. But there will be other opportunities, right? Just like we met again now.”
 
Behind her smile, her voice seemed somehow lonely.
 

 
“Um… is that… the peach of immortality…?”
 
After dinner, I eat peaches in the living room at home.
 
“Peach of immortality? What are you talking about? They’re just regular peaches.”
 
“It’s a little early in the season, but they’re very sweet and delicious. Thank you.”
 
I sit on the sofa with the freshly bathed mother and sister on either side of me.

In these light clothes of this season, I feel not only the peaches, but the peaches of immortality – I mean the sensations – pressing into my arm where they lean against me. I’m too nervous to taste.
 
After all, are these peaches delicious or not? I haven’t really tasted them yet!
 
Just a few hours ago, I was in exactly the same situation.
 
I see, so you girls in this together?
 
I’m sure I didn’t know it, but they communicated how best to bully me. And I foolishly went along with their plans.
 
“Um… can’t you do something about these evil peaches?”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“What are you talking about?”
 
Those evil women playing dumb. I finally snap. I stand up sharply.
 
“If that’s what you want, go ahead and ‘eat them deliciously’ like Himiyama-san! I have an empty stomach here!”
 
“Why does that woman’s name come up?”
 
“Did this also happenned with Misaki-san?”
 
“Oh.”
 
My mouth is causing disasters. I ignited her competitive spirit.
 
“If you want to eat so badly, do it with me. I’m in season, unlike old ladies.”
 
“Young, unripe ones aren’t sweet enough.”
 
“Purely figurative language, and um…”
 
Huh? Isn’t her reaction different than I expected?
 
“Let me check your stomach.”
 
“Well, did you really eat something?”
 
I am dragged off to my room without ever really tasting the peaches.
 
What happened after that? Loose lips sink ships. I’ll spare you the details.
 


 
“Excuse me, but this is my room, right?”
 
“I know.”
 
“A very open and honest admirable.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
“Wasn’t complimenting you…”
 
For some reason, my freshly bathed sister is in my room again today.
 
Her lively appearance is somehow enticing. She didn’t enter the wrong room by mistake.
 
She is acting so boldly that I wondered for a moment if I was the one who made the mistake, but it turns out that I’m normal.
 
My sister is very overprotective. She sometimes seems to mistake me for a three-year-old.
 
Maybe it’s because of various things in the past, but that doesn’t justify this tyranny. I look away when her bottom on that lying my bed enters my vision.
 
Sister or not, she’s a woman. Damn, trying to seduce me in such light clothing! This succubus! And why booty shorts?
 
“Oh yes, my breasts have grown again.”
 
“I’m not taking the male bait.”
 
“I need new bras, so measure me later, okay?”
 
“Why?” (in english)
 
I react reflexively like a confused foreigner, but she wants me to measure her bust? My sister’s tyranny knows no bounds. Sounds like the title of a light novel. Something seems to have destroyed her brakes, I wonder if she’s under recall? I can only pray for the early introduction of self-driving cars.
 
“Just for reference, what cup size are you?”
 
“F. But they felt tight, so maybe G now. Nice, right?”
 
“Where’s the part where I’d be happy?”
 
“Look forward to it.”
 
“Uwaaaah!”
 
My eyes were dead. I must have the eyes of a dead fish. No fish finder could probably see them.
 
“Don’t you have any ecchi books or something? There’s nothing in this room.”
 
“Your words are succubus-like too.”
 
“Huh? I’m gonna suck you.”
 
“Suck what?”
 
I shudder like a hamster being watched by its predator when the phone rings.
 
It was the landline, not a smartphone. These days, it’s more unusual to get a call on a landline. Is it a government assistance survey?
 
“I’ll get it.”
 
I slip out of the succubus’s demonic grip and head for the living room. When I check the caller, it’s an unknown number.
 
“Hello, this is Kokonoe.”
 
[Ah, I’m Ouka-san’s co-worker, no, her subordinate]
 
“Did something happen? I heard she had a drinking party today.”
 
[Um, you’re Yukito-kun, right? Well, the boss says she wants you to pick her up at the station, okay?”]
 
“Mom is asking that? Is a taxi no good?”
 
[Hmm, that’s what I thought, but the boss insists that you come. Seems like she’s totally wasted. We barely got her home together, but it would be dangerous to let her go alone like this, so come get her].
 
“I see. I understand. I’ll go over now.”
 
[Yes, we’ll wait!]
 
It’s rare for Mom to drink herself until drunk. In fact, I’ve almost never heard of it happening.
 
While she doesn’t often participate in drinking parties, it seems that interactions at work have decreased recently, with many employees moving to telecommuting. So a drinking party was organized, she told me.
 
Still, asking me to pick her up is unexpected. I’d have thought Mom would call a taxi and come straight home…
 
Well, no use worrying. After telling my sister, I got dressed and went to the station.
 

 
“Sorry for the wait.”
 
“You’re Yukito-kun? Nice to meet you, I’m Ouka-san’s colleague, Haruka Hiiragi.”
 
Immediately after arriving at the station, the two of them sat on a bench not far from where I was told. At first glance, Mom is completely exhausted. It’s rare to see her like this, as she’s usually well-groomed at work.
 
I can faintly smell alcohol, but Haruka-san doesn’t seem too drunk.
 
From the looks of her, she seems much younger than Mom. She could probably pass for a college student.
 
“Thanks for bringing her.”
 
“Don’t worry about it! It was the boss’s request. And there’s something I wanted to discuss with Yukito-kun.”
 
“For me? “
 
We move a little away from the mother sitting on the bench. Must be something embarrassing she wants to ask? Mom doesn’t look like she has the capacity for that…
 
“The boss doesn’t usually drink much, but for some reason she was in a really good mood today. So she ended up drinking too much, I guess.”
 
“Is that so?”
 
“She said that she had become friends with Yukito-kun and was happy about it.”
 
“We didn’t fight or anything.”
 
“I don’t know the details, but it seemed like she was worried about something.”
 
When Haruka-san speaks, her gaze sharpens for a moment.

 
“So, Yukito-kun, I want to ask you something.”
 
“Yes?”
 
“The boss, Ouka-san, she’s beautiful, right?”
 
“Yes, even her son thinks so.”
 
As her son, I know best that Mom is beautiful. Her figure hasn’t deteriorated at all, and she still looks young. Besides, like my sister, her skin has become more intense lately, and as a hormonal teenager, I am always struggling to dispel indecent thoughts.
 
“So the boss is very popular in the office.”
 
“I see.”
 
“Today it was quite rare for the boss to get drunk, so it was a bit hectic with all the guys coming over.”
 
“Sorry for the inconvenience.”
 
“That’s okay, but let me put it another way. It might not be a story you want to hear, Yukito-kun, but there are a lot of people who have the boss in their sights.”
 
“Uh, are you talking about getting married again? I don’t mind if my mother wants to get married again. Maybe my sister feels the same way.”
 
“It’s fine if it’s a serious relationship, but basically it’s just about the physical aspect.”
 
“That’s…”
 
“Trying to sexually harass the boss when she’s drunk, trying to take her home. Well, it’s not just because the boss is beautiful.”
 
“Not a pleasant subject for me, I suppose…”
 
“Right? That’s why you have to protect her!”
 
“Me?”
 
“Usually she’s cautious, so it’s fine, but at times like today… Things can happen. For the boss, you’re probably the only one she can rely on.”
 
“Like I said, I’m not against Mom getting married again if that’s what she wants. Of course, only partners who physically want her are out.”
 
“Hmm. I don’t think that’s her intention.”
 
“Yeah?”
 
Mom is beautiful. Of course she’s popular at work. I had thought Mom might remarry someday, and I wasn’t against the idea. But to hear that instead of remarrying, she’s being targeted sexually…
 
“The boss always seems to be worried about you, and her face is more… Well, it is not for me to say more. Please take good care of the boss!”
 
Dropping a bombshell, Haruka-san goes home. What did she want to say at the end? The weighted line makes me curious, but I probably won’t find out.
 
I turned my eyes back to Mom, who looked at me tenderly, slightly drunk.
 
“Shall we go home then?”
 

 
“Sorry about this. For causing you trouble.”
 
“It’s okay. This much.”
 
The two of us walk home together. It’s not far from the house. When I tried to call a taxi, Mom stopped me. She wants to walk back, it seems.
 
Is it for her health? Keeping in shape is hard work, huh?
 
“What did you and Haruka talk about earlier? Don’t tell me she confessed? I won’t allow you to do that with my subordinate!”
 
“Nobody confesses at the first meeting.”
 
“How would you know? You have bewitching eyes.”
 
“That’s the first I’ve heard! I don’t have anything like that. And that would definitely make everyone unhappy!”
 
“Then why are you so popular?”
 
“Because I’m Mom’s child?”
 
“Huh? Th-that’s right. It’s my fault…”
 
“Well, Mom, you are pretty popular, aren’t you?”
 
“I’m old, there’s nothing like that.”
 
“Hiiragi-san said it was hard with so many guys hitting on you.”
 
“Haha… That’s true. I’m sorry for making you feel uncomfortable. I drank a little too much today. It’s not usually like this. Everyone seems to try their luck in situations like this.”
 
“I won’t object if you want to get married again, Mom. But I hope it’s not that kind of relationship.”
 
“I don’t like that kind of casual thing either. Besides, I’m not getting married again.”
 
“Why?”
 
“Because Yukito is here.”
 
“That doesn’t really explain it.”
 
“It’s okay. I’m happy with this for now.”
 
“Wait, don’t move too much. Something soft is touching me!”
 
“I am.”
 
With a mischievous smile, Mom leaned closer to me.
 
I had never interacted like this before, so I felt incredibly tense. Even though it was night, the temperature was still high. I wasn’t sure if it was sweat from the heat or just cold sweat, but I wanted to go home and take a bath soon.
 
“Oh, right, let’s take a bath together when we get home.”
 
“Why?” (in english)
 
The eccentric foreigner appeared again. I won’t make any more appearances.
 
Mom is incredibly overprotective in her own way. I’m not old enough to take a bath with my mother. I’m not a three-year-old.
 
I have to change the subject.
 
“Oh, by the way, I heard Nee-san chest has grown again.”
 
“Oh, really?”
 
“G”
 
“Haha, I won. I’m an H.”
 
///
 


 
Scene Transition
 


 


 
///
 
“Quite a shocking confession, but do you girls have to compete?”
 
“I’ll show you later when we take a bath. You can touch it if you want.”
 
“Oh no! We haven’t changed the subject!?”
 
Suddenly Mom’s voice dropped. She struggled to find the right words.
 
“Please. I want you to touch me.”
 
“Mom?”
 
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But you’re too kind, too kind!”
 
I stroked her back to calm her down.
 
“The other day I got a result from a breast cancer screening. It might be malignant. I need to have more tests done.”
 
Mom’s story was shocking. Come to think of it, she seemed to be in a lot of pain a while ago. She had suffered when she saw the test results.
 
Her body shook slightly.
 
“I didn’t want to tell you until it was clear. I didn’t want to worry you needlessly. But I couldn’t help it. I’m weak. Please come with me to the hospital. With you by my side, I won’t be afraid of anything. Give me courage.”
 
With tears in her eyes, Mom bowed her head. There was only one answer.
 
“Of course, I’ll go with you.”
 
“I’m scared! I’m so scared, Yukito!”
 
In my chest, Mommy was crying. Her emotional instability wasn’t due to alcohol.
 
She had carried it alone for so long, unable to tell anyone about her fear, unable to show her weakness.
 
I cursed the gods. I should be the one to suffer. I should be the one to bear it.
 
I was tormented by my own helplessness, unable to do anything but offer my chest to cry on.
 
Mom was depending on me now. Had I finally been accepted as a member of the family?
 
It didn’t matter. If it can lighten Mom’s heart even a little, if I can do anything to help, I’ll do whatever I can.
 
-Because she’s my precious family.
 
For about ten minutes after that, Mom continued to cry.
 

 
“I’m getting old, you know. They say it’s better to check yourself regularly. Check your breasts for lumps, too.”
 
“Well, shouldn’t nee san also do that?”
 
“I’ll ask Yuuri, too. So you should, too. Right?”
 
There was no room for argument.
 
I am a man who doesn’t go against his family, Kokonoe Yukito. Always, always.
 
Looking up at the sky, the moon was still shining in the night as usual.
 
The moon doesn’t change, but have I changed? Emotions I had never known before swirled in my chest. The conflicts that come from interacting with others.
 
I wanted to believe that one day this feeling would reveal its purpose.
 


 
“What is this…? Mutsuki, are you suffering now…?”
 
Normally, I would have just laughed it off. It wasn’t worth worrying about. Rather, it should be suspected.
 
But there was the answer to my doubts.
 
A fact that couldn’t be ignored. The list of horrible words. I read them so intently that I clenched them and crushed them.
 
“Wait and see. I will definitely expel you from this school…”
 
The despicable man was called Kokonoe Yukito. Seeing his degraded humanity once again, my hatred deepened and my anger burned fiercely.
 
The student council president, Keido Mutsuki, was like the sun to me. More noble and proud than anyone else.
 
She was an admirable presence, firm in her principles. Cheerful and kind, she treated everyone equally and lived with integrity and straightforwardness. I found her presence dazzling.
 
I wanted to be like her. A faint longing.
 
No rivalry, no jealousy. Daydreams. It was first love.
 
Before I knew it, these hidden feelings had quietly flared up, warming my chest.
 
Fleeting, beautiful, a sanctuary that no one could defile – my feelings for her.
 
My family was wealthy, that was a fact. I had been raised as a so-called Ojou-sama. Maybe that’s why I was always attracted to her carefree nature.
 
To me, Mutsuki was the ideal prince who had crawled out of a story.
 
I didn’t want to force my feelings on her. My ego didn’t matter.
 
One day, I hoped that she would meet a wonderful man, bond with him and find happiness. It would be enough for me to celebrate that ordinary happiness by her side. But…
 
She had changed considerably. At first, I couldn’t believe my ears.
 
The idea of her getting down on her knees and begging him to become her friend with benefits.
 
But it wasn’t a rumor. I was driven to the brink of despair.
 
When I saw the picture of Mutsuki kneeling, I almost fell.
 
After that, she was always worried about someone as if she had a fever.
 
At first glance, it didn’t seem any different than usual. But to me, who had been watching her all along, the change was crystal clear.
 
Mutsuki isn’t that kind of person! That’s why I searched for the truth.
 
The reason why she had changed. And I found it. A part that had been revealed.
 
To exploit weaknesses and make women obey.
 
False accusations to frame Mutsuki.
 
I can’t forgive him! I can’t forgive that man who defiled my ideal!
 
The fact that such a guy is in the same school! Not only Mutsuki.
 
His fangs could reach not only her, but also others sooner or later.
 
I have to expel him. I have to get rid of that man from her presence quickly!
 
So I –
 

 
“Father, I need to talk to you about something.


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