The Girls Who Traumatized Me Volume 3 Chapter 2

Chapter Two: “Observing Infection
 

 
“We did it, Takamiya senpai!”
 
“No way… I can’t believe we actually won…”
 
Ryoune Takamiya just stared blankly at the field from the cheering section. Shihori Kamishiro was jumping around excitedly next to her, but Ryoune couldn’t get into that mood at all. She should be happy, but the reality in front of her eyes was unbelievable. Just a few months ago, she couldn’t have imagined this.
 
When she saw Toshiro Himura thrusting a guttural pose in her direction, Ryoune’s cheeks flushed red against her will.
 
She couldn’t help but think that he looked cool. Against her will. Completely against her will.
 
Ryoune wasn’t the only one who was confused. Looking over, her advisor Ando’s eyes were wide open in astonishment. As the advisor of the weak basketball club, whether you call it laid back or laissez faire, he seems to be unable to keep up with the basketball club that has become strong.
 
The school’s perception and expectations will probably change as well. The budget will certainly be increased for next season.
 
In the Interhigh preliminary tournament, the Shoyo High School Boys Basketball Club led by Toshiro Himura had advanced past the third round. Advancing to the fourth round of Block B, the Boys’ Basketball Club’s record was nothing to complain about.
 
Considering that before they had struggled to even get past the first round, this was a major surprise, an undeniable achievement. Including next week’s fourth round, if they win their next two games, they’ll be in the finals. What lies beyond that is the Interhigh.
 
It was a casual club activity that brought together people who liked basketball and wanted to have fun. The tournaments were just for fun.
 
However, there was no trace of that now. Their passion for this tournament was certainly no less than that of other schools.
 
It was evident from their composure. There wasn’t a single member with a face that didn’t look ready to fight, as if they would be forcibly sent home otherwise. The sense of accomplishment oozed from their expressions. This was no accident. The result of hard work.
 
They had changed. They had been changed. The members of the boys’ basketball club themselves probably felt it most strongly. Toshiro Himura’s decision brought incredible change to the basketball club. Dye the thread red and it becomes red. Their burning passion, their pouring sweat, it spreads.
 
Their dream didn’t end today. The last summer continues.
 
“Senpai, let’s go to everyone! Captain Himura is waiting as well!”
 
“Wait, Kamishiro, don’t pull me away! “
 
I ran after the excited junior. Amidst the jubilation, uneasiness simmered in the depths of Ryoune’s heart.
 

 
After the match ended, they prepared to leave. Ryoune was also in the circle of celebration.
 
“Thank you for coming to cheer me on, Ryoune. Having you there gave me strength.”
 
“Congratulations, Toshiro.”
 
“Just a little more, a little more! I swear I will become a man worthy of you!”
 
While she thinks favorably of Toshiro’s passionate words, Ryoune’s expression clouds over.
 
She puts on a smile to hide her vague feelings.
 
“…Um, Sengen Akademy is where Kuga-senpai is. And Daigo-senpai’s Teiho seems to have won as well. But he’s in D Block. It’s a shame that we won’t face them until the finals.”
 
“It’s better not to face them because we definitely won’t win.”
 
“That’s true, but don’t be so pessimistic.”
 
The voices of Mihou Kouki and Kokonoe Yukito talking in the background reached my ears.
 
Ryoune had a hard time with Kokonoe Yukito. It wasn’t that she hated him. On the contrary, she found him quite likeable. Since he had enrolled a few months ago, Yukito had become a topic of conversation again and again and had led an eventful school life. There wasn’t a student who didn’t know about the freshman who had become the center of attention in the school.
 
While some people disliked him, there were many who admired him, and he had countless fans even among the third-year students. In Ryoune’s class, there was a classmate who came to him for relationship advice.
 
The legendary stories that were whispered might not all be true, but there was no doubt that the incident with the school broadcast that had stirred up the whole school was a fact.
 
Most of all, She felt nothing but gratitude when she thought about how Himura Toshiro had invited Kokonoe Yukito to join the basketball team. And yet,
 
(Why, Toshiro… Did you forget the promise with me…?)
 
Her chest felt tight. In the end, it was ugly jealousy. Selfish, self-centered, spoiled.
 
She didn’t expect a confession like Toshiro had imagined. For the two, who had harbored feelings for each other since middle school, there was no need for special words to know each other’s feelings.
 
For Ryoune, if she could just spend this last year of high school together with Toshiro, that would be enough.
 
She didn’t want to change. There was no need to change. Those were her true, unadulterated feelings.
 
The two who decided to go to the same university, this summer was the time limit.
 
The university Ryoune wanted to go to was a high hurdle for Toshiro Himura. After this summer tournament, they would retire from club activities and start studying seriously together for the college entrance exams. They had promised each other that.
 
But now, even on days off, Toshiro and the others were absorbed in basketball. It was as if the precious time they could spend together was being cut off, and Ryoune found it unbearable.
 
(It’s okay you’re still weak. What sense is there for Toshiro and the others to try hard now!)
 
She could leave that feeling to her juniors. Fortunately, there was one outstanding first year. It wasn’t the juniors who would carry the basketball club through this transitional period. A thought she could never express.
 
It would have been fine if they had lost in the first round. No matter what the record was, her answer wouldn’t change if he confessed to her. Because they had spent so much time together.
 
Caught between wanting to cheer them on and ugly jealousy, Ryoune continued to suffer.
 
“There is so much more to come. Ryoune, we can become stronger and stronger!”
 
Somehow, Toshiro’s passionate words sounded empty. It was too late for the third year.
 
She had met Toshiro Himura in the second year of middle school. At first, she thought he was just an annoying guy.
 
But she was wrong. Overflowing with a sense of justice, honest to a fault, straight as an arrow.
 
Once, Toshiro had scolded a girl for teasing others in an unpleasant way that could be called bullying.
 
Come to think of it, that might have been the first time she was aware of him as the opposite sex.
 
It didn’t take long for Ryoune to feel attracted to his way of life.
 
Strangely enough, they continued to be in the same class after that. It would be unreasonable not to feel a strange connection. As they gradually deepened their friendship, she remembered that people often said that they didn’t get along well.
 
Maybe Toshiro had been worried about that all along.
 
If that was the reason why Toshiro cared about the results, then Kokonoe Yukito had done something terribly cruel. Because he had given them hope. The hope of dreams. But that was poison.
 
Looking back, Kokonoe Yukito had a stern expression on his face as he looked at the tournament list. He thought for a while before he slowly opened his notebook and mumbled something. Kouki Mihou looked into the notebook next to him.
 
“Ah–“
 
With a clap, he closed the notebook, then Yukito Kokonoe suddenly walked over here.
 
“Takamiya-senpai, there’s something I want to discuss with you later.”
 
Pressed by his serious look, Ryoune nodded unconsciously.
 


 
While detectives may be innocent, there’s no shortage XX school when it comes to art.
 
There are various genres such as classical, impressionist, realist, but faced with the artistic young lady, I switched to Yuuri-ism. Pursuing the beauty of Yuuri-san is the mission given to me as the pinnacle of contemporary art.
 
I don’t feel guilty at all, but I guess I can’t help feeling guilty.
 
No matter how adaptable my mind is like a bear bug, there is a limit.
 
Especially those golden ratio thighs, calves, ankles are nothing less than the three principles of beautiful legs.
 
Anyway, after school, I go to the art club with the slightly nervous Hinagi.
 
Since it was the middle of the semester, it was understandable for Hinagi to be nervous. After checking with my classmates, it turned out that no one from class B was in the art club, so we had no idea what kind of club atmosphere it had. I was just tagging along, but Hinagi seemed to want to take a look before formally applying to join.
 
“Thank you. For coming with me.”
 
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m worried about you, Hinagi. Listen, if they try to make you pose naked, refuse or run away immediately. And don’t forget to call an adult for help. The number of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Children’s SOS helpline is…”
 
“What are you worried about?!”
 
School is always full of danger. Never let your guard down. Being able to anticipate the unexpected is the skill you need to survive the survival space called school.
 
“I have something to give you. Here.”
 
“This is…?”
 
“A drawing knife for use in art class. Listen, if anything happens, stick this into your opponent and run away. Don’t hesitate when you feel danger. Put your safety first.”
 
“What do you think the Art Club is?”
 
“You don’t know what can happen!”
 
“That’s just Yukito!”
 
Hinagi-chan’s verbal knife stabbed sharply. Her sharpness to immediately put the teachings into practice was sharp. The jackknife Hinagi that hurts those it touches. Kind of cool. I’m excited.
 
“Hinagi, try saying, ‘You’ll get hurt if you come near me.'”
 
“? You’ll get hurt if you come near me. Was that good?”
 
“Lame…”
 
“Hey, you made me say it!”
 
Hinagi-chan is irritated, but not constipated.
 
Seemingly in a better mood because of my stupid joke, she sighed heavily.
 
“Geez. It’ll be fine without worrying so much. Sanjozi-sensei is the advisor.”
 
“Why didn’t you say that before?”
 
Sanjouji-sensei, who could be called the conscience of this school, is the advisor, which is reassuring.
 
Upon entering the art room, preparations for the club activities had begun.
 
Among them was a familiar face. The most annoying monster in this school.
 
“Oh my, what brings you here? Do you have something to do with the Art Club?”
 
“A monster bird?”
 
“I’m the club president. Why are you treating me like a monster? Um… actually, I came here today to experience the club, or see it before I join. Please take care of me from now on!”
 
“It’s Suzurikawa-san, right? Welcome.”
 
Having heard about it from Hinagi, Sanjouji-sensei greeted us with a smile.
 
“So a first year wants to join. More members are welcome since we’re so shorthanded.”
 
“Why is the student council president here?”
 
“I’m the president of the Art Club. Is there something wrong with the Art Club?”
 
There is something wrong with the Art Club.
 
“Yukito, your true feelings are showing.”
 
Even Hinagi-chan is hard on the student council president, it really kills me.
 
“Hello, Yukito-kun.”
 
“Mikumo senpai, is it really okay for this person to be president?”
 
“She’s usually decent, you know?”
 
The vice president, Mikumo senpai, who could be described as President Keido’s right-hand man, was naturally with her.
 
I feel sorry for Mikumo senpai, but honestly, I have to say that he lacks conviction.
 
“Vienna?”
 
“This is the capital of Austria, but… It’s famous for its museums and art galleries, right? I’d like to go there sometime since I’ve never been overseas. Makes me long for it.”
 
“Actually, I’ve been into art lately, too, called Yuuri-ism.”
 
“Yuuri-ism?”
 
My sister seems to want to see Schönbrunn Palace. I wonder why?
 
“Kokonoe Yukito was in the basketball club, right? So you’re just tagging along?”
 
“That’s right.”
 
“I deeply regret it. No matter how much I regret it, it’s not enough. I’m so incompetent. Even though I didn’t return the favor from the last time, because of Erika’s recklessness, even if unintentionally, I bothered you again. And this time it was a clear injustice. It’s understandable that Yuuri is angry. Just apologizing doesn’t make up for it at all.”
 
Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes as President Keido agonized. her clenched fist on her knee trembled.
 
The school has properly apologized to me, and thanks to Hinagi and the others who fought for me, my place at this school remains.
 
That’s enough. I don’t think I’m worth that much, but I’m eternally grateful.
 
However, whether you can forgive yourself is up to you. Just because I forgave you doesn’t mean it’s enough.
 
In fact, when Toujou senpai tried to show sincerity by saying, “I’ll shave my head,” I was surprised and quickly stopped her. Getting that as an apology just makes me feel bad instead. By the way, Toujou papa was told by Himiyama san, “When you apologize, shaving your head is not enough”. Scary. Apparently, she was quite upset. By the way, I stopped that too. For the Toujou household, I’m like the protective deity of hair, practically Hair-sama.
 
The student council president suddenly stood up and grabbed my shoulders. her eyes spun around.
 
“Even if this is not enough to make up for it, Kokonoe Yukito, I will pose naked! As the student council president!”
 
“Mutsuki-chan?!”
 
“This is crude, but it’s all I can do! Nggeh, let go, let go Yu–!”
 
President Keido tried to take off her uniform, but Vice President Mikumo put her in a full nelson from behind.
 
“What stupid things are you saying! Get a grip on yourself, Keido-san!”
 
Foolish? Foolish? I inadvertently bristled when Sanjouji-sensei scolded President Keido.
 
“Then will you take his place, Sanjouji-sensei?”
 
“What are you saying?!”
 
“Oh my. Well, Sensei? We’ll leave it up to the student council president. In that case, we take no responsibility for what happens to President Keido, but…”
 
“Kh! Are you threatening me? However, sacrificing a student is…”
 
“Ahhh, maybe I should ask President Keido after all…”
 
“Look, Yumi. Kokonoe Yukito says the same thing, so there’s no problem! Let me go!”
 
“There’s no way I can do that!”
 
“President Keido understands what’s going on. Is that a sense of responsibility? Compared to that…”
 
“I understand. I understand! It’s to protect the students. I’m taking the place of the model, so please don’t touch Keido-san!”
 
“It depends on the teacher’s attitude, doesn’t it? …Nicha.”
 
“Why are you forcing her?”
 
Poka. Hinagi-chan slapped my head. Huh?! What the…?! I had come to my senses. It seems that I was hypnotized by President Keido’s eyes. So it was an evil eye after all.
 
Still, Sanjouji-sensei, who makes such silly jokes, is truly an exemplary teacher. I can’t believe that he’s bothered when he’s in charge of the students.
 
“Does Yukito have to make trouble no matter what?”
 
I avert my face from the squinting Hinagi-chan and pretend to whistle innocently.
 
After going through the usual series of noises, like hitting a quota, the art room finally settled down.
 
You could say that this was also a light warm-up before the club activities.
 
“Ahem. Let’s start the activities now. We’ll continue this later.”
 
No, later is not good either.
 
“By the way, Kokonoe Yukito, are you going to join us today?”
 
“I plan to. I even brought colored pencils and everything.”
 
I take out the set of 100 colored pencils that my mom bought me a long time ago.
 
///
 


 
Scene Transition
 


 
///
 
With no real use for it, it’s been sleeping in the closet for a long time, but I’ve been using it a lot more lately. A must-have since awakening to Yuuri-ism.
 
“It’s a nice sunny day today, so why don’t we go sketching outside?”
 
Sanjoji sensei instructed us to grab our things and go outside, following his decided plan.
 
“Aren’t you excited, Yukito! What are you going to draw?”
 
“Hmm, why don’t you try to draw something too?”
 
“Oh, me?”
 
Hinagi-chan blushed and lowered her head. While landscape painting would be fine, as a Yuuri fan, I was leaning towards figure drawing.
 
As if hse remembered something, Sanjoji sensei came over to talk to us.
 
“Oh, that’s right, participation is voluntary, but would you like to enter your work in the art contest as well? A summer of art can be quite nice.”
 
“An art competition?”
 
“What do you think, Yukito? I want to enter!”
 
Every year, the Art Club participates as part of the club’s activities, but students outside the Art Club are also free to submit their work.
 
“It’s summer break, so it’s a good opportunity to try new experiences. Let’s give it a try.”
 
“Yes!”
 
“Please do your best. Hehe, I’m glad you’re interested.”
 
Apart from the president, the Art Club was a nice, casual club. The club advisor, Sanjoji sensei, was friendly, and I hoped that Mr. Ando, who had completely left the boys’ basketball club to me, could learn from her. I think Hinagi will be able to do well here, too. There’s nothing to worry about.
 
Thinking about what motifs to use, we went outside. Bathed in the blinding sunlight, we began to draw.
 


 
A student sat on the riverbank and struggled while eating Shinshu Mochi, a local sweet. That is me, Kokonoe Yukito.
 
I can’t bear to go home. Thoughts of being a delinquent with a broken home overwhelmed me.
 
I thought my mother didn’t care about me at all. I thought my sister hated me. That’s the way it should have been. It was better that way. Everything was fine. There were no problems. If I, who only caused trouble, disappeared, they could have peaceful days. I thought that was being childlike. That was my common sense.
 
But my ordinary, everyday life, which I took for granted, changed completely.
 
Why did they suddenly become so kind?
 
I wiped the black honey from my lips with a handkerchief.
 
No, superior beings like my mother and sister don’t make mistakes. Unlike inferior beings like me.
 
My mother and sister were always kind. What changed was me.
 
I just didn’t understand it. I didn’t know the meaning of kindness until now. I made it this far without knowing.
 
The blue sky was inversely proportional to my melancholy mood, and I lingered, putting off going home until dusk.
 
When I came home one day, my mother and sister were wearing reverse bunny outfits.
 
Because of Sekka san’s outrageous behavior, an unprecedented reverse-bunny-girl craze swept through the Kokonoe household.
 
I felt as if I had died.
 
Unable to hide my panic, I steeled my resolve and asked my sister about her intentions.
 
“Huh? It’s the Year of the Rabbit, duh.”
 
She was right, of course, but my brain lacked the capacity to comprehend the correctness of her answer.
 
I fled to Himiyama’s house for help, but Himiyama was also wearing a reverse bunny outfit.
 
Like Alice in Wonderland, my common sense crumbled.
 
Maybe the world I’d stumbled into wasn’t another world, but a chastity reversal world.
 
In that case, I was a foreigner, wandering and looking for a way out.
 
My mother is currently practicing to be a mother, but she seems to mistake me for an infant or a baby.
 
I mean, she talks to me in baby talk sometimes. Babbling back at her is the best I can do “ba-ba-ba-ba”.
 
When did common sense get rewritten like this? Will the days of peace of mind return?
 
When I come home, it’s like [wind, forest, fire, mountain].
 
I’m quickly spoiled like a wind, spoiled quietly like a forest, spoiled intensely like a fire, and spoiled immovably like a mountain. Of course, I’m also pampered ominously like shadow and thunder.
 
Through my mother’s and sister’s strategies of using the Tōyōgunkan, I have been conquered more and more.
 
I received a message on my smart phone. It was from Himiyama-san, who had a reputation for leading me astray.
 
Spraying white powder from my mouth at the contents, I rushed out.
 

 
“A wedding?”
 
“That’s right. My brother really wants Yukito-kun to be there.”
 
Surprised by the unexpected request, my eyes widened.
 
I unconsciously stopped my hand from eating a cherry on a large plate. They’re in season, so delicious.
 
I rushed over after receiving a shocking message from Himiyama-san saying [The baby is born! ♪], but thinking about it now, there was no reason for me to panic.
 
Danger, danger, what was I in such a hurry for? Safe.
 
“Um… The cherries are…”
 
“What’s wrong, Yukito-kun? Don’t you like cherries?”
 
Sweat poured out. My brain was in full cherry blossom bloom. I couldn’t process the conversation at all.
 
A vital check showed abnormalities in breathing, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, level of consciousness – everything.
 
Even though I have the nastiest mental strength to watch horror movies with no expression, I’m useless against real supernatural phenomena. My gaze wandered vacantly and I suffered a miserable defeat.
 
Until now, I didn’t have a sixth sense. But now, even the cruelest Pierrot would be surprised by what I’m seeing. I’m in a situation where I would be finished if I actually saw it. With a trembling hand I picked a cherry.
 
I can see it. I can see Himiyama-san’s things I shouldn’t see through her loose neckline.
 
“This stimulation is too much for a cherry boy…”
 
“You want these cherries so badly? You can have them anytime.”
 
“Hehehe… Hahahaha!”
 
My laughter sounded like a dog being kicked around.
 
The performance of semiconductors doubles every one and a half to two years. This is called “Moore’s Law,” but unlike Moore, there’s no end to the increase in Himiyama-san favorability.
 
I can’t help but feel a sense of crisis about this. From the moment we met until now, the pace of the increase in favorability has been more than doubling. It’s skyrocketing. Please, stop!
 
At this rate, I, who is eating cherries, and Himiyama-san is going to eat my cherries.
 
So, this strategist Yukito Kokonoe, while being blown by the southeast wind, came up with a plan.
 
It’s called the “Operation Lower Himiyama-san’s Favorability.”
 
When I looked it up, the most significant feature that women find unpleasant in men is sexual harassment. Things like body contact and comments that convey sexual intent fall into that category.
 
I don’t want to do something like this to the kind Himiyama-san, either!
 
But, I’m determined to put my heart into it here. I’m sorry, Himiyama-san!
 
“Hehehe. It seems you have quite an impressive thing there. Don’t underestimate me too much. Should I play with that delicious-looking cherry of yours and turn it into an American cherry?”
 
I lifte Himiyama-san chin my right hand, and my left hand hovered just at the brink of touching her ample breast. I gazed down at her eyes from above, as if showing a hypnosis app.
 
A moment of silence. Only the sound of Himiyama-san swallowing her saliva echoed.
 
Her eyes glistened. Her glossy lips slowly parted.
 
“…Are you serious? …I’m a defective human stamped with the brand of disqualification as a woman. You desire someone like me? Why are you so–“
 
“Huh?”
 
Huh? That’s strange. I’ve been sexually harassing her, but her favorability is increasing. It feels like the level-up sound is playing continuously, just like when defeating an experience-rich metal monster.
 
Wait, could it be that I fell for fake information!?
 
Unbeknownst to me, Himiyama-san had firmly held my left hand. Let go of mr!
 
What are you going to do with my hand? Hey, the feel of cherries!?
 
“Aaaahhh!”
 
I met my end. From now on, I entrust this to the next generation of Kokonoe Yukito. You got this, partner!
 

 
“You gave me a coin before, right? The other party was very touched, my brother said. And Yukito-kun, you were having a hard time at school, too, right? So in his own way, he was worried about you.”
 
“I’m the one who should thank you.”
 
///
 


 
Scene Transition
 

 


 
///
 
I don’t know the details, but it seems he went to a lot of trouble to get my suspension lifted.
 
I’m very grateful to Himiyama-san, but I just can’t get over my discomfort with her.
 
Oh, pink ……. was talking about cherries, right? I don’t have any.
 
“My older brother was dating for a long time, but they couldn’t decide to get married because they couldn’t have children. But when her partner got pregnant, my brother was overjoyed, even though they’re going to have a late birth. You were the one who gave him courage at that time.”
 
I had heard about the marriage plans before, but I didn’t know the background.
 
Come to think of it, Himiyama also mentioned that she had broken off her engagement due to infertility.
 
As a fellow woman, maybe she feels something about that.
 
“But I’m a complete outsider, and I don’t know them.”
 
Himiyama’s brother holds a high-ranking position, and the wedding is quite large.
 
The number of guests they’ve invited is far from typical.
 
In such a situation, it’s clear that I’m just a stray cat hired for the wedding.
 
“Yukito, you’ll be sitting in the family seats with me, so don’t worry.”
 
“Family seats?”
 
Wait, am I Himiyama’s relative? This is too scary, and I can’t bring it up any further.
 
“Did you know that being able to tie a cherry stem with your mouth means you’re good at kissing?”
 
The stem was neatly tied into a hexagram shape on the mischievous tongue that was presented.
 
“That’s too much skill!”
 
How much technique could one have for a kiss, this inscrutable individual?
 
“Would you like to try?”
 
“I think I’ll pass, as it might make me spineless.”
 
“Well, that’s too bad.”
 
In the current state, where my mother is already starting to make me spineless, I can’t afford to become a soft-bodied creature. That’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
 
My attempts to lower my affinity with her have all been in vain.
 
I tried several things. When I asked her what kind of fashion she liked, I teased, “Is it a nude panty girdle? Well, that’s probably impossible for Himiyama-san, haha.” But when she actually changed her clothes and came back, I realized that it was impossible to lower her affinity.
 
Why did I make such a thoughtless remark? I can’t stop regretting it.
 
In other words, Himiyama-san’s current appearance is (self-explanatory).
 
I’m going to ask some questions that I’ve been afraid to ask. This might be a good opportunity.
 
“By the way, why are you so nice to me, Himiyama-san?”
 
“Huh?”
 
It was as if the air had frozen. Her expression was distorted with fear, no longer the sensuality of before.
 
Somehow this expression seems familiar… She squeezed out her words.
 
“…No, I’m not nice at all. I’m a liar.”
 
She laughed weakly. Her body trembled. Her lowered figure seemed so fragile that it might break if you tried to put any strength into it.
 
I was at a loss for words. Even though she’s so kind, I had hurt Himiyama-san so insensitively.
 
“Yukito-kun?”
 
“My mom said it would make me feel better.”
 
As if gently touching an injury, I gently hugged her slender body, taking care not to break it.
 
This is the limit for someone who’s nothing more than a stranger. I wouldn’t complain if she sued me for sexual harassment.
 
Still, I felt it was necessary. My mother’s teachings are absolute.
 
“I don’t tell lies.”
 
“–! That’s right. You’ve always told the truth. But I didn’t believe… I always regretted it, but I doubted again… I want to believe, I want to believe you!”
 
Himiyama-san sobbed into my chest. She was just crying.
 
I don’t know her well enough to understand the meaning behind those tears. An ambiguous relationship based on not knowing. So unstable and fragile, as if it could fall apart at any moment.
 
Maybe stress had built up. Working life must be hard.
 
My chest is always available if it’s for her. It’s the least I can do.
 

 
After she calmed down some time later, Himiyama-san tidied up her makeup a bit, and then we ate cherries together again. I feel that her affection for me has grown even more.
 
“Don’t worry about gifts or what to wear. This is a sudden request. We’ll prepare everything.”
 
They went above and beyond. Then I suddenly remembered.
 
“Ah?”
 
“What is it, Yukito-kun?”
 
“I think my mom said she was going to a wedding that day, too… The place is the same too.”
 
“Really?”
 
“Hang on, let me check.”
 
I called my mom and she answered frighteningly fast.
 
[Oh, Mom. There’s something I want to ask you. No, not measurements. Huh, fyou’re not dating anyone, so you’re free? What are you talking about? What’s my type? So why…]
 
My kind mom teaches me all sorts of things I don’t ask about. She really is a saint.
 
Somehow I get to the point. What a coincidence!?
 
“It turns out that the person Himiyama-san’s brother is marrying is my mom’s friend!”
 


 
“I see, what a coincidence.”
 
“What are you going to do, Onee-chan?”
 
“There’s no way I’m going. I wasn’t invited and it would just be embarrassing.”
 
“I guess you’re right.”
 
Coincidences are scary things. In fact, I had told my sister about being invited to the wedding while I was in my room.
 
After all, my mom would be attending as a guest on the bride’s side, while I would be attending as a guest on the groom’s side. My mother was also surprised, but seemed happy. Having my mom there with me was reassuring.
 
This left my sister as the odd one out. As a formality, I asked her if she wanted to come, but she flatly refused. With no prior acquaintance with the marrying strangers, it would only be complicated for her, so it couldn’t be helped.
 
“By the way, why are your eyes closed? You can’t measure like that.”
 
“I use my mind’s eye.”
 
“Hmm.”
 
I didn’t really think she would ask me to measure weekly. The polished physique housing the mind of a god. The sublime Yuuri-san was worthy of being called the human ideal.
 
Unable to look directly without blinders at what could be called the complete form of contemporary art.
 
I am Yukito the Blind!
 
“Pfft… Hahaha!”
 
“Ha… Hahahahahaha!”
 
A rare occurrence. My sister laughed, so I was infected and laughed as well.
 
“What’s so funny!”
 
“Kain.”
 
The voice that came out sounded like a dog being kicked around.
 
“If that’s your intention, I won’t hold back either.”
 
A shiver ran down my spine when I heard that ominous line. The soft sound of clothes rustling.
 
Oh no! Because my sight is sealed, my hearing has become more acute!
 
Still in the measuring posture, my sister leaned languidly against me. Her body temperature, which I’m touching so much, feels strangely warm.
 
My other senses have also become acute. My senses of touch and smell are sounding a red alert.
 
This can’t be, this can’t be!
 
As for Yuuri-san, she’s extremely popular at school, and she’s extremely popular with me, too.
 
No matter what, if we did this, it wouldn’t be the Davos conference, it would be a family conference!
 
I opened my eyes slightly to check – and opened them wide.
 
“Why are you naked from the waist down as well?”
 
Yukito the blind was defeated!
 
“I took the chance to measure my three sizes as well. The others have probably changed as well.”
 
“Chance?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Who is measuring?”
 
“There’s no one else here but you, right?”
 
Impossible Impossible Impossible Impossible! Am I a stand user?
 
“Don’t you get tired of averting your eyes so much?”
 
“Unreasonable pursuit by the perpetrator!?”
 
Yuuri-san stood on tiptoes. Even this action was divine, but she put her heels down firmly. I was puzzled by her mysterious behavior, but her intention soon became clear.
 
Somrthing wiggled, but I won’t say what.
 
My eyes instinctively followed the movement.
 
“Hmph. This is a technique to attract attention. Remember it.”
 
“You’re learning a lot about psychology! “
 
I had fallen right into her trap. Yuuri-san was gloating over her victory. Damn it!
 
Please let me explain. If you keep reptiles or amphibians as pets, you will notice that some of them will only eat live prey. When you feed them, they only recognize live insects as food.
 
In other words, focusing on moving objects is an animal instinct. It’s not that I’m attracted by any indecent feelings. Hey, are you listening?
 
“What’s wrong? It’s not like it’s decreasing, so feel free to look.”
 
“Don’t think I’ll settle for that excuse!”
 
I avoided looking at her VIO like crazy. I couldn’t just stare at it either.
 
“Well then, shall we measure once a week?”
 
“Isn’t that too often?”
 
“It’s puberty.”
 
“Puberty is really amazing, huh?”
 
The persuasiveness of puberty is indeed extraordinary.
 
Somehow, I survive this hellish time, but Yuuri-san shows no signs of leaving as is.
 
“I’m going to the tournament to cheer, so…”
 
“Thanks. The upperclassmen will be happy too, I bet. Besides, could you put on some clothes?”
 
“What about you?”
 
“I’m so happy I could jump for joy. Anyway, could you put some clothes on soon?”
 
“Dance for me.”
 
“Ehh!?”
 
While wishing she’d hurry up and get dressed, I danced.
 
“The basketball club has never had any significant results before. Making it to the fourth round is already amazing. You have achieved so much, so you should be more proud.”
 
I wonder if I’m being praised right now. It was a strange feeling. Yuuri-san must have felt the same way.
 
She was clumsily stringing words together in a way she wasn’t used to. Awkward. But she’s taking steps forward. My sister and I are both trying to find the right distance. It will probably take more time for us to become natural. Both my sister and I have endured being in this situation. Sharing this moment.
 
That’s more important than anything. For now, it is all we can do.
 
“Are the club activities any fun?”
 
“I don’t know. But I don’t think I dislike it.”
 
“I see.”
 
If we could keep having times like this, could we one day go back to being a normal brother and sister?
 
“Is school fun?”
 
“Yes. I think it could be fun.”
 
Since entering high school, everyone around me has been an ally. Teachers, upperclassmen, and classmates.
 
It was always vibrant, and they protected my place of belonging. They reached out to me.
 
I’m sure that feeling is what it means to [have fun].
 
Somehow I had come to understand the meaning of [having fun].
 
“I see.”
 
My head was patted and I was kissed lightly. Then my sister went back to her room.
 
I almost mistook it for the European culture that only the Kokonoe family followed, as they greeted each other with kisses, but when my sister left, she had a somewhat lonely expression on her face, and I remembered the past.
 
My sister used to smile all the time. After I was seriously injured, her smile disappeared.
 
My cheerful big sister then and my sullen, stern sister now.
 
It’s like she became a different person. I haven’t seen her smile for a long time.
 
While I’m expressionless as always, I liked my sister’s charming smile.
 
She was always playing with me. She encouraged me so that I wouldn’t feel lonely. She was my proud big sister and I loved her so much. I held on to those precious memories.
 
She stopped smiling like me. But my sister is a person who can smile. A wonderful person who can charm others with her smile. I can’t take away her smile. I can’t let her lose it.
 
“I see… Yuuri-san is still…”
 
Is in prison. A deep, deep prison of sin.
 
After I was badly hurt, my sister kept apologizing to me for everything. Having forgotten my anger, I forgave my sister again and again. An exchange we repeated many times. What did it mean to my sister?
 
It was my fault that I pushed her without considering my sister’s feelings and got seriously hurt.
 
My sister has no sin to atone for. The key to her cell was always open.
 
Yet my sister chooses to remain imprisoned of her own free will.
 
I thought she kept her distance because she hated me. But if that’s not the case, then…
 
“Yuuri-san, Onee-chan… Onee-chan.”
 
The hint my mother gave me. To start over with mom. Then I should start with Onee-chan, not Yuuri-san or Sister.
 
No matter how close I get, the distance in our hearts remains.
 
I really want the future I want to come true.
 

 
–For my big sister to smile again.
 

 
“This child will be fine now.”
 
Returning to my comfortable room from my brother’s room, I lazily spread out on the bed.
 
My heart feels warm. This child, Yukito, will be fine now.
 
I wondered once before. Although he had said that club activities and school were boring and no fun, his answer changed. I wonder if he notices.
 
He has. Yukito realizes the kindness that surrounds him.
 
This child is not alone. Joyful days and youth await him.
 
Of course, I understand. Ah, I see… I–
 
“My role has ended. I’m no longer needed by this child.”
 
That day, I had made a vow. I swore that I would protect Yukito. But that’s over now.
 
First of all, this child has excellent problem-solving skills. Every time something happened, every time someone tried to hurt him, he grew stronger. He became someone who cant to lose. He gained unbreakable mental strength.
 
I had no role to play from the beginning. He solves things on his own in the end.
 
I pretended not to notice, no, I deliberately ignored this fact a long time ago.
 
Because that was the only way I, a murderer, could stay at Yukito’s side.
 
Mom works to support our family financially as its backbone. Yukito supports our family spiritually. Only I have no role. Only I do nothing. Not only worthless, but a hostile existence. A murderer who only tortures my brother.
 
A cruel truth. I feel a hollow emptiness as if my chest has been pierced.
 
“This is so stupid…!”
 
What exactly am I doing? Interfering with my brother when I know I’m a nuisance.
 
Interfering excessively when I know I’m in the way. Coming up to him in that outfit and making trouble for no reason.
 
I couldn’t accept that I was no longer useful. An ugly heart.
 
Saying I don’t expect anything in return, but really wanting to feel needed. Wanting to be counted on.
 
Even if that could never happen. Who would need or depend on a murderer?
 
There is only resentment and hatred, fear and hostility. There’s no way anyone would want to get close or exchange words. It’s impossible for anyone to like me.
 
I had turned a blind eye to this obvious reality.
 
This child is recovering steadily. This is a good opportunity. I’m going to fulfill this child’s wish one last time.
 
On the desk, there is a single printout [Career Aspiration Survey].
 
It’s time to start thinking about options after high school.
 
“I’m sorry, Yukito.”
 
I had decided to go to university, but now I am making a new resolution.
 
It’s not this child who will disappear. That child is needed by others. It’s okay if I’m the one who disappears.
 
A university outside the prefecture. The further away the better. It would be good to study abroad if possible. It’ll be lonely not to see Yukito, but I have to draw a line under what I’ve done.
 
I’m sure the child will forgive me if we can at least see each other at New Year’s. Because he’s so kind. I must stop being a nuisance to this child. Most of all, I can’t stand it.
 
I think this is becoming independent of my brother. I want to throw up from the stupidity.
 
The reason I didn’t try to distance myself was not only out of guilt, but because I was helpless to do anything.
 
“I loved you. –So let’s end this.”
 
So there’s no lingering attachment, from now on we’ll just be normal brother and sister.
 


 
The ball drew a parabola. Its trajectory was burned into my eyes as if in slow motion.
 
A silent world. Even the noise around me didn’t reach my ears. At some point, tears had spilled out.
 
In the silence, Takamiya Ryoune leaned over the railing and shouted as loudly as she could without restraint.
 
“Please – go in!”
 
The outcome was already decided. All that remained was stubbornness. I shouted with all my might as I fired the last shot, squeezing out every last bit of energy.
 
Sound returned to the world. The ball shot by Toshirou Himura bounced off the backboard without going through the hoop. The timer hit zero and the buzzer sounded.
 
Fellow juniors helped the collapsing Toshirou Himura to his feet.
 
The summer of the Shouyo High Boys Basketball Club came to an inglorious end in the fourth round.
 

 
What words should I say, what are the right words?
 

  • Neither Shiori Kamishiro, the manager, nor Takamiya Ryoune, who had been cheering them on since the first round knew. Phrases like “Well done” and “It’s amazing to have made it this far” didn’t seem appropriate when they saw the expressions on the faces of the basketball club members. No one was looking for consolation. Their faces oozed frustration. They didn’t want it to end here. They wanted to go on.
     
    It was a feeling the boys basketball club had never had before. Once you catch a glimpse of hope, people can’t help but want it. They can’t help but believe in the possibility. So they scratched and clawed.
     
    But it still wasn’t enough. We had to know. The other schools work just as hard, polishing themselves every day.
     
    Unlike Toshirou and the others, who only recently changed their policy, this was the fruit of desperate efforts since their first year.
     
    Still, they never imagined that the wall blocking their way would be so insurmountable. Our fingers had barely grazed it. If we had just a little more time, we might have been able to reach it. The third year’s frustration at having to end up like this hung heavily over the basketball team.
     
    Without saying a word, they started to leave the gym.
     
    My gaze was fixed on Yukito Kokonoe, the only one who behaved as usual amidst the oppressive silence.
     
    Takamiya Ryoune knew the reason. He had been clearly informed about the outcome of the game.
     
    We can’t win this game. That’s what Yukito Kokonoe had told Ryoune. It wasn’t an abstract statement, but one based on solid reasoning after calmly assessing the strength of our opponents and ourselves.
     
    Why did Yukito Kokonoe say this?
     
    Among the members of the Boys’ Basketball Club, only Yukito Kokonoe moved according to a different purpose and principle.
     
    After hearing this story, Ryoune deeply regretted her reluctance. More than anything else, she was shaken by the fact that her own feelings were pointed out to him, and she couldn’t suppress her emotions. As if she wanted to pour everything out, she unloaded her thoughts.
     
    Next to him, Yukito Kokonoe just listened silently.
     
    Then he told Ryoune. After losing the match, there are two possibilities.
     
    “Not yet! It’s not over yet. The Winter Cup is still to come. Ryoune, please wait a little longer. I’ll get better. Next time, I’ll definitely get results. So that I can be worthy of you, this time, this time I will…!”
     
    As Yukito Kokonoe expected, we lost the match.
     
    And now, the option Toshirou Himura chose was not desirable for Takamiya Ryoune.
     
    Yukito Kokonoe said to Ryoune. “If you’re going to keep postponing the confession…”
     
    Ryoune knows what will happen next. A scenario that has been presented.
     
    A silly slapstick comedy. And a rerun at that. Nevertheless, everyone’s eyes were glued to this farce. It grabbed the hearts of the audience and didn’t let go. I was impressed by the nobility.
     
    Not only Toshirou, but also Ryoune had been there. She could only watch.
     
    Shiori Kamishiro’s determination to stand together on the court was conveyed to the many people present. Ryoune had also been one of the people who had been moved to tears by her determination.
     
    Maybe Toshirou was looking for Yukito Kokonoe because both he and Ryoune were cowards.
     
    At the very least, all those who gathered around Yukito Kokonoe have strength.
     
    They’re not afraid of pain or being hurt. They don’t shy away from clashing with their exposed emotions.
     
    One day, Ryoune casually asked Shiori Kamishiro. Shiori laughed and answered that she was also a coward. That she was still a coward and couldn’t help it, but she didn’t want to regret it anymore. When Ryoune heard Shiori say that, she respected her. She is her junior, but that doesn’t matter. She is undoubtedly stronger than her.
     
    Yukito Kokonoe looked in that direction. He nodded slightly. Looks like it’s about to start. A grandiose farce.
     
    Then I will play the role of the chosen prima donna.
     
    It’s time to free him from both of us.
     

 
“I’m kicking Toshirou Himura out of the basketball club!”
 

 
I announce loudly to the gathered faces near the gym exit.
 
The sudden coup caused a stir among the people around us. Of course it did.
 
I didn’t want to do this either. But it can’t be helped.
 
“Expulsion? What do you mean, Yukito Kokonoe?”
 
“What’s gotten into you all of a sudden, Yukito?”
 
“What is there to explain? I say he’s a dead weight.”
 
I say coldly. Confused expressions. The passionate upperclassmen still have room to grow.
 
No matter how much they practice, they’ll always get better. But it doesn’t matter.
 
Whether they accept the expulsion or not, the upperclassmen have to make a choice. About the future.
 
“Wait! It might be like this now. But there are still months until the Winter Cup. We can aim higher if we have that much time. I can’t end like this. Please, Yukito Kokonoe, just one more chance…”
 
“-How long are you going to make Takamiya-senpai wait!”
 
“–!”
 
I grab the passionate senior by the collar. My sudden angry shout draws the attention of students from other schools as well.
 
The basic starting point is wrong. Everyone has different motivations for playing basketball.
 
The level of passion also varies from person to person. There are those who play for fun and those who play seriously.
 
If you want to play seriously, that’s fine. I’ll cooperate for that purpose.
 
But out of all of them, only the passionate upperclassman was impure. Though he was more serious and serious than anyone else, why did he want to improve, why did he need results – he just kept spinning his wheels. A disconnect between means and ends.
 
Most of all, he doesn’t see Takamiya-senpai at all. –She is so very sad.
 
“You’re a nuisance. Monopolizing the club for your own purposes. How long are you going to drag the rest of us down with you? We’re not doing this just for you!”
 
“Yuki, please stop! Even a captain can’t do that…”
 
Sorry Shiori, but I can’t stop here.
 
“That’s because you don’t get it. This guy doesn’t care about Takamiya-senpai at all. He only thinks about himself. It’s annoying to have a guy like that around.”
 
I pour power into my grip like a vice.
 
“N-no. I wanted the qualifications to stand next to Ryoune… I have nothing but her…”
 
“Stand beside her? Don’t talk nonsense. Takamiya-senpai wrote you off long ago!”
 
“What…? Ryou…on…?”
 
He looked over at Takamiya-senpai, breathing heavily.
 
“I’m sorry, Toshirou. I can’t indulge you anymore.”
 
Takamiya-senpai stood next to me. When I let go of the collar I had grabbed, the passionate senior crumpled limply to the ground.
 
“Lies! Why…? Ryoune…”
 
“Because you don’t understand! That’s why I say you’re incompetent!”
 
“It’s my fault, isn’t it? I never wanted this to go on forever!”
 
“No, you’re wrong! Ryoune, I really–“
 
“Enough! I don’t care about Toshirou anymore!”
 
The passionate senior and Takamiya-senpai’s heated lover’s quarrel. I heard that dog fights are scary when you get bitten, but it would be even scarier if there was an animal that actually ate them. Probably low in nutrients and bad for your health.
 
I know it’s terrible of me to be ignored while they fight, but aren’t I super inconspicuous?
 
Among the students from other schools, some are swallowing nervously, ready to step in if the situation becomes dangerous. They’re too good.
 
Oh, that refreshing Ikemen is my friend Kouki Daigo-senpai. Hey, long time no see!
 
“Still, it was unexpected to be so noticeable. What should I do…”
 
Soon, I might really be punished by Sayuri-sensei. With the season, let’s also send some summer gifts.
 
That’s right, I have this thing! I take the Bunny Man mask out of my pocket. Kapop
 
“Mihou kun, is this…”
 
“I see! this time, Yukito, you…?”
 
Sharp and handsome Mihou Kouki and Shiori seem to have noticed. After all, they were the ones involved in the previous incident.
 
Yes, I borrowed an idea from the handsome guy.
 
But just borrowing is boring. Let’s go all out!
 
“Usa-sa-sa-sa-sa-sa. Ryoune will be the bride of this Bunny Man, Usa.”
 
“Wait! Ryoune, are we done already? Is it too late…!”
 
“Kokonoe kun is more wonderful than Toshiro, even if it’s Bunny Man. He has potential.”
 
“I’ll take care of you, Usa.”
 
“Kokonoe kun is an idiot. For the first time, he’s become Bunny Man…”
 
With a much deeper despair in his expression than when he lost the game, the fiery senpai sits down.
 
It’s possible that Himura senpai’s last hope has been destroyed.
 
“For the first time? That’s too much! You’re breaking the hot-blooded senpai’s heart.”
 
This plan is a two-part tradition passed down from ancient times: “Expulsion” -> “Awakening”.
 
I wanted to encourage the hot-blooded senpai, but the plan was about to collapse.
 
It won’t start without the will to compete with me from now on. Now, the spineless hot-blooded senpai is a passive senpai.
 
When I’m forced to revise the plan, the sharp and handsome guy senses it and throws me a lifeline.
 
“In that case, Bunny Man. If he can steal the ball from you, you’ll cancel the expulsion!”
 
This guy is nice! In a way, he’s suspicious, but this guy is nice!
 
“Don’t get conceited, Usa. Do you think you can steal the ball from this Bunny Man?”
 
“I will, this time for sure. Captain, let’s get Takamiya senpai back!”
 
“Kouki, are you…?”
 
“Do you want to be pushed around forever? Do you want to end up in an incomplete burn?”
 
“But Ryoune is already…!”
 
“A really pathetic and unattractive man. I wonder why I ever liked someone like him.”
 
Takamiya senpai provokes him. She hasn’t thought about how she went too far and broke the hot-blooded senpai’s spirit.
 
However, strangely enough, her words reached the hot-blooded senpai’s heart.
 
“I liked you… I see, you really liked me and yet… I was…!”
 
The hot-blooded senpai pounds the asphalt with his fist. The fighting spirit is rekindled in his eyes.
 
“I lacked confidence… I was afraid. But it was self-centered, and I hurt you. Without realizing it, I wasn’t looking at what’s most important, you… I’m an idiot.”
 
“Toshiro, it’s too late.”
 
“Even so!”
 
I apologize for getting caught up in the excitement. Will it be okay to move on soon?
 
“A trash like you is going to get Ryoune back? Don’t make me laugh, Usa. In that case, the people over there who have been watching from afar will take on all of you. There are only losers here.
 
I’ve been taking pictures and asking for handshakes since earlier.
 
Now that I think about it, maybe Hyakuma-senpai was right and I really have been buzzing without knowing it?
 
Before I knew it, the serious atmosphere had dissipated and a heartwarming air had enveloped us, but I braced myself. This slapstick comedy is totally inappropriate for the tournament finals, but I can’t stop it now.
 
“Kouki, you do something interesting.”
 
“Daigo-senpai? Congratulations on winning the block tournament.”
 
“It’s a shame that we won’t be able to face each other in the final league. Don’t you think so, Kai?”
 
“Daigo, it has been a while. And Mihou too. You stuck to basketball, huh?”
 
“Yes. I found him.”
 
“Him, huh. Tch, despicable. I didn’t want to see him again. When I saw the Bunny Man’s moves in the video, I wondered if it could be him. I was surprised to see you there too, but I was planning to ask you about it when we met. But after watching today’s match, I’m sure. This man is our…”
 
“What do you think, Kuga-senpai? Do you want revenge?”
 
“I thought dojo-busting in this Reiwa era was foolish, but I see, interesting.”
 
The refreshing Ikemen was getting excited as well.
 
Toshirou stood up shakily.
 
“Shall we, Yukito Kokonoe? No, Bunny Man!”
 
The atmosphere around us suddenly exploded. The atmosphere in this place is terrifying. Even if these people are brazen enough to say things like Bunny Man, they’ll definitely regret it later. I’m at the forefront of that.
 
“Shiori, isn’t this getting out of hand?”
 
“You reap what you sow.”
 
And so began the epochal battle, [Bride Scramble Deathmatch – Bunny Man VS Student Alliance].
 

 
“Shit! Mihou, how’s his stamina?”
 
Panting with her hands on her knees, Kouki watched the Bunny Man’s movements closely. There must be an opening somewhere. His endurance can’t be endless. He sharpened his senses to find a breakthrough.
 
As the number of participants grew, even players from powerful schools that had advanced to the final league joined the challenge one by one, but the Bunny Man still kept possession of the ball.
 
“We’ve only played one game today, so he have plenty of stamina.”
 
“That’s not the point.”
 
Like Kouki, Kai retreated once to reassess the situation.
 
“What’s wrong, Mihou. Are you crying?”
 
Mihou didn’t answer but only touched his cheek. This is certainly not sweat.
 
After the match ended, Mihou was filled with frustration. He clenched his fists in anger.
 
He lost in the fourth round. He had no complaints about the result. They lost after giving it their all. It was a fulfilling time. If they continued to train, maybe one day they would reach an even bigger stage. That’s what he thought. Just vaguely, just thinking.
 
“Brings back memories, doesn’t it, Kuga-senpai?”
 
“It’s an unpleasant memory for us, though. Wipe your tears. Why do you look so happy?”
 
Daigo, Kai Kuga, and Mihou, who was a second year at the time. These three belonged to the same middle school and the same basketball club. Mihou was their junior, but a companion with whom they polished each other up.
 
And on that day, after tasting the humiliation of defeat, Mihou inherited the feelings of his upperclassmen.
 
In front of Mihou’s eyes was the man who had blocked the way for his seniors and himself.
 
“he is still a wall for us to overcome.”
 
“Don’t pretend to look cool when you pathetically lose in the fourth round.”
 
“You can say that while it lasts!”
 
The Bunny Man easily dodged Toshirou Himura as he rushed at him.
 
Mihou also rushed in to switch, but he couldn’t keep his balance and his stance collapsed.
 
“We’re out of range, there’s no way we can reach you! Because we left you alone!”
 
“What’s with this high tension refreshing Ikemen. Scary~”
 
Mihou thought. It’s only natural that I – at least the current me – can’t keep up.
 
Mihou knew that. Because he had seen Yukito Kokonoe’s notebook.
 
It was filled with detailed data on their opponents. Details about the regulars, dominant hands, what kind of players they were, what tactics they specialized in – it wasn’t information that could be gathered easily.
 
Yukito Kokonoe must have collected it over time. Probably even in between our warrior training. Researching, strategizing, increasing our strength.
 
But he never shared it. A trump card that remained unused.
 
If you want to win, you should use it. If you have something like that, you should use it. So why not?
 
But it was a shameful thought. If they wanted to win, why didn’t anybody else do it?
 
A freshman just joining the club had no place to consider such things. The difference in effort was overwhelming.
 
In the end, it came down to relying on others. Anyone could have done the same thing. But no one did. Not even suggest it.
 
On the contrary, why did only Yukito Kokonoe have to do it? Unreasonable, imposed responsibility.
 
If someone had mentioned it even once, Yukito Kokonoe would probably have shared his notebook.
 
As he kept questioning and answering himself, Mihou wondered if he was serious about defeating the opponent.
 
Teammates who don’t really want to win are just bombastic talkers about the future – useless dreamers. At this very moment, it was Mihou and the others who had abandoned the man who was always serious.
 
Mihou and the others had been constantly working to improve themselves. The dojo-busting they called training served this purpose. It was effective. Starting with Toshirou, the strength of the basketball club had increased rapidly. But that wasn’t enough.
 
Effort for the sake of victory. To overpower the opponent. Just for that, what was necessary, what should they do.
 
They remained vague, never driving this point home. Only one person did.
 
There was data about the opponent. With that, they might have been able to break through the fourth round.
 
But in the end, the only one who made the effort was Yukito Kokonoe. Inevitable defeat.
 
This was definitely the [Forgiving Spirit] that Yukito Kokonoe had mentioned earlier.
 
They couldn’t seriously say things like making the Inter High, even if their mouths were torn open.
 
It’s clear that their mental state, not their skill, hasn’t reached the same level.
 
Their passion, the quality of their effort, the tireless pursuit and the thirst for victory were all lacking.
 
Mihou recalled that he had made such efforts in the past. After losing in the summer of their second year, he and his upperclassmen had trained relentlessly to win the next time, preparing for imaginary opponents.
 
He was aware that he had grown significantly during that dense period.
 
That must be why, in this moment, when it was shoved in his face, and with upperclassmen who had spent time with the same passion beside him, he felt happy, glad, reassured, and scolded his pathetic self.
 
Annoying. To remain defeated, to remain in such a place.
 
As the participants gradually dwindled down, having tried once and been satisfied, the gallery watched in suspense to see how the outcome would turn out.
 
Among them, only the indefatigable Toshirou Himura challenged again and again, unwilling to give up.
 
“Guh…!”
 
“Toshirou!”
 
“Himura-senpai!”
 
The strength left his knees and he fell violently, his momentum carrying him.
 
Having probably twisted his ankle, Toshirou crouched and grabbed it as Shiori Kamishiro and Takamiya Ryoune rushed over.
 
Kamishiro took a bandage from her bag and quickly began to bandage the affected area.
 
“Just give up! There’s no way Toshirou can win!”
 
“I’ll win, Ryoune. Definitely. At least today, just today, I will win!”
 
“How with that foot!?”
 
When Mihou saw Toshirou shakily getting to his feet, his resolve hardened.
 
“Senpai, please help me. I want the him to win.”
 
“The ship has sailed. Today, we’ll rip off the mask for sure.”
 
“Don’t overwork him after the match.”
 
Kouki grinned while Kai grumbled.
 
(One day, when I stand next to you, I will…!)
 
A medal. It would surely become an irreplaceable youth.
 
As if all lingering regrets and remorse about the past were cut off at once, Mihou and the others rushed forward.
 
They believed that glory awaited them.
 
Prolonged back and forth would inevitably lead to attrition.
 
Even the formidable Yukito Kokonoe, aka Bunny Man, seemed to have lost much of his stamina as he looked pained.
 
However, he still wouldn’t let go of the ball. His technique and spirit were terrifying.
 
Mihou and the others were relentlessly on his heels. It was an intense war of attrition.
 

 
The promising freshmen were reassuring. The future of the basketball club was bright.
 
We upperclassmen were dragging our feet.
 
“I knew it. I was wrong from the beginning.
 
I recruited Yukito Kokonoe for the Basketball Club to show Ryoune my cool active side, but in retrospect, that was a mistake.
 
Somewhere along the way, the goal was changed without my realizing it, and I continued to torment Ryoune without realizing it.
 
Despite my foolishness, he prepared this great stage just for me.
 
Blocking my path one last time. As the greatest enemy. All for the sake of my pride.
 
Scenes flashed through my mind like a zoetrope. They were stimulating months. I felt myself growing every day.
 
Our last summer challenge with high hopes ended in a fourth round defeat.
 
I’d be lying if I said I had no regrets. I think we should have made a serious effort sooner, but it was a respectable result. We upperclassmen were embarrassed. It was the freshmen who changed the basketball club.
 
Relying on him for everything, getting expelled, and even orchestrating it all perfectly – I can’t ruin that.
 
I was the one who forced Yukito Kokonoe into this farce and made Ryoune go along with it.
 
I stumbled along, challenging him over and over again, only to be trampled on each time.
 
In the end, I didn’t even win. My captain’s title is in tears.
 
I check the sensation of the tape. About fifteen minutes after my fall, it had settled without any discomfort.
 
I had long exceeded my physical limits. I probably won’t be able to stand up many more times.
 
It’s the same for Yukito Kokonoe and Kouki and the others. I’m sorry for putting you through this.
 
The end was near. A single chance. Failure wasn’t allowed.
 
I’m the only one qualified to end this game.
 
That’s why Ryoune, Yukito Kokonoe, and Kouki and the others are desperately busy.
 
I was crawling on the floor. Beaten black and blue. But he was the same.
 
I remembered the months since Yukito Kokonoe had joined the club. We were shown a distant peak, hopes.
 
We set a goal, charged forward with vigor, we grew. And now, damned for our indulgence, having tasted despair, we’ve collapsed like tattered rags.
 
It was like riding a roller coaster, with wild ups and downs every day. It was tremendous fun.
 
“I have to thank Yukito Kokonoe. For bringing us this far.”
 
I have to answer. To these days. And to Ryoune.
 
If I listen carefully, I can hear voices. Voices that believe in me and cheer me on, even as ugly as I am now.
 
I stand up, my body heavy, my breathing steady. As if to excite myself, I spin words.
 
“This isn’t a match. It’s a showdown. By any means necessary. So…”
 
A strange feeling, as if I’ve become the protagonist of a story, the center of the world.
 
Oh, I’m the hero of my own life. I’m just now realizing this obvious fact.
 
Other people didn’t matter. But I hurt Ryoune by worrying about the noise around me.
 
Enduring the pain, I shielded my foot and challenged him to a showdown with awkward movements.
 
As I rushed out, the Bunny Man immediately tried to intercept me, but I stumbled and nearly fell as my feet got tangled.
 
Strength left my knees with a thud. For a moment, the Bunny Man stopped moving. A moment of hesitation. He must have considered the possibility of serious injury and reached out to try to break my fall.
 
My dear junior, come what may. Eccentric and stoic, unrestrained yet stern.
 
Stepping firmly with my taped foot, I poured my strength into it.
 
As if throwing my body out explosively, with this image in my mind.
 
“Show me your cool side one last time, idiot!”
 
Spurred on by Ryoune’s voice, I desperately reached out for the ball.
 
“Reaaaaaaach!”
 
The Bunny Man made a surprised face. Come to think of it, Yukito Kokonoe was always expressionless.
 
But look! Take that! I can get you too, not just you always getting me!
 
I hugged the ball as tightly as I could. I won’t let go of it. Neither the ball nor Ryoune.
 
With my momentum, I charged into the gallery.
 
“Was your foot injury fake?”
 
“I have to go this far or I can’t beat you. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime showdown.”
 
“Well done.”
 
Like a medal, I held the ball high in the sky.
 
Deafening cheers and applause rained down on me from all around. We also had our party crackers with conical hats ready.
 

 
“Ryoune, I love you! Will you marry me?”
 
“Marry me? We’re not even dating, you’re jumping the gun!”
 
“I love you, Ryoune! I don’t want to give you to anyone, I don’t want to be separated. I want you to be by my side. I made you sad. I was stubborn to keep up appearances and protect meaningless pride. But never again! I will definitely make you happy! I want you, Ryoune!”
 
“Idiot. I love you too, Toshirou! I was waiting, you know!”
 
The two embraced. A touching scene. We were spared a sad end to the summer.
 
“You still have to study hard.”
 
The passionate senior turned that way. He had already taken off his rabbit mask. It was hot.
 
“I’m quitting the basketball club. I have no more regrets. So, Yukito Kokonoe, I leave the rest to you.”
 
“But I have to refuse.”
 
“Don’t refuse when we had such a good atmosphere!”
 
“Because I’m a first year.”
 
“Well, you have a point, but…”
 
It was an unsatisfactory ending, but congratulations and applause rang out from here and there before the public confession with such a large gallery. We also had our crackers ready.
 
“Congratulations anyway.”
 
“I’m so happy for you, Takamiya-senpai!”
 
“Kamishiro-san, when did you prepare all this?”
 
“Yuki told me before…”
 
Prepare and you have no worries.
 
“Kouki, I won!”
 
“Congratulations! Your persistence paid off, Senior!”
 
“You’re next. Take him down fair and square!”
 
“Yes!”
 

 
Somehow, I felt like I was the only one left out, even though we were in the same club.
 
I can finally catch my breath. This stupid farce is over now. Anyway, I’m totally exhausted.
 
Especially the relentless attacks by the refreshing Ikemen group, who kept trying to crush me, were too obsessive.
 
You guys definitely hate me, right? I’m sure I’ll get my revenge one day. Absolutely.
 
“Yukito Kokonoe. I’m in your debt. –Thank you for expelling me.”
 
“The one who does the banishing is the villain.”
 
“Haha, you’re right. You’re absolutely right! You are a villain!”
 
The passionate upperclassman laughed heartily. Next to him, Takamiya-senpai also seemed to enjoy laughing.
 
As if celebrating their departure, the applause continued for a long time.
 

 
Later, no one knows that this excitement would spread across the nation as [The Bunny Man’s Miracle].
 
The rabbit would be loved for a long time as an icon for praying for love.
 
The urban legend of the love-preaching fiend, the mysterious Bunny Man, would only become more chaotic.
 


 
“I’m glad it went well!”
 
“It was pretty forced, though.”
 
On the way back from the tournament, I’m walking with Yuki while eating the ice cream we bought at the convenience store.
 
The melting chocolate was about to drip out of my mouth and I quickly stopped it. I somehow manage to finish the ice cream during this peaceful, happy time. My heart feels light as a feather, still in a dreamy mood.
 
“I wonder what will happen to them?”
 
“I can’t take that much responsibility.”
 
“You’re right. …What comes next is their story, after all.”
 
We can only intervene, we can only help them so far. These two needed help.
 
It was like being an extra in a movie, an emotionally moving experience. I witnessed a miracle.
 
The two overcame difficulties and were united in a happy ending. It’s romantic and makes me want to do it.
 
Most of the people who were there must have felt the same way I did.
 
Even though we had lost and were feeling down, Yuki was looking somewhere else.
 
This makes me a little angry. I feel lame because I am not looking in the same direction as Yuki.
 
I became the manager of the boys’ basketball club. Yuki accepted me, but I’m not satisfied.
 
I didn’t notice that Senior Hiromura was in a hurry or that Senior Takamiya was in pain.
 
I wanted to help, to be useful, but I couldn’t accomplish anything.
 
“I hope they can be happy.
 
“They’ll be fine, hot-blooded senpai. He’s awakened after all.”
 
“Yes.”
 
Yuki makes the people around him happy. That’s completely different from me, who only hurts others.
 
I can only take from Yuki, even though I want to be a source of strength.
 
“I’m powerless…”
 
I haven’t grown. The only thing that’s grown is my size. I still can’t understand people’s feelings.
 
“I think you’re doing well.”
 
“It’s not that. I haven’t done anything…”
 
Kindness tightens my chest. It’s no good; I haven’t been able to give anything back yet!
 
I stroke my watch. From the day we met until today, I’ve only received.
 
Yuki helped me. Protected me. Saved me. He made things for me, forgave me. Most of all, I received a lot of happiness. So much that I can’t repay him.
 
I’ve continued to receive this kindness one-sidedly.
 
Even though Yuki made me happy, I can’t make Yuki happy.
 
Who will make Yuki happy? Where is Yuki’s happiness?
 
“Shiori, what do you want to do from now on?”
 
“What do you mean…”
 
What I want to do has always been decided. I want to be Yuki’s strength. That’s all.
 
“The basketball club is doing voluntary training until the Winter Cup. I’ll continue my training, but I’ll also join the art club for a while. I have prepared the training menu, and thinking about what we lack is also part of the training. Besides, now that Himura-senpai’s problem has been solved, the next goal is not set.”
 
“I see.”
 
Yuki is busy. Going to the art club must be necessary for someone.
 
“You also realize that a boys’ basketball club doesn’t need a manager. There’s not much to do.”
 
“… Right. I couldn’t contribute anything.”
 
“Nobody says that. In terms of motivation, your presence is just a plus.”
 
Am I really contributing? Am I really useful?
 
In the boys’ basketball club, there are few club members and almost no work to do. That’s normal for a club without a leader. In that sense, the Boys’ Basketball Club was unique. Thanks to what Yuki prepared, I have a place.
 
“Shiori, come and join the girls’ basketball club. I talked to the captain about it.”
 
“Huh? But I’m with Yuki…”
 
“Well, you can leave your name as manager. If you show up and cheer during the games, that’s enough. Shiori, why did you come to this school?”
 
“That’s right! Following Yuki…..I didn’t want it to end like before.”
 
These are my true feelings. I’ve been running without looking to the side with that in mind.
 
“Is that okay?”
 
“Huh?”
 
“I don’t deny it. I told Hinagi the same thing… but, how can I put it, you guys are too blind. Have a wider perspective and be greedier for happiness. Show the determination to get everything you want. There’s plenty of time; you should aim for a CG completion rate of 100%.”
 
Blind. You can’t help it even if you say that. I was desperately trying to catch up with Yuki and looked at nothing else. I didn’t have the space to think about other things. Impatience and fear drove me on.
 
“Shiori, I’m not going anywhere. I’m here.”
 
“Ah!”
 
I see, there’s no need to run after Yuki’s back anymore. I understand that easily.
 
Yuki’s words slowly sink into my heart. A love has ended.
 
A painful love that was only about chasing after him. From now on…
 
“Go wherever you want and enjoy yourself. You can have as much as you want. Time is limited, don’t waste it.”
 
Because I was only looking at Yuki, I didn’t notice Himura-senpai’s impatience or Kōmiya-senpai’s fear. I still have a lot of training to do. In that case, I should get more experience.
 
Yuki always does that!
 
I’ll become an even more wonderful, charming person and make Yuki fall in love with me.
 
That’s my next goal.
 
“Yuki, I’m going to make the girls’ basketball club win the championship!
 
“This energetic side seems more like you. You’re a high school student. Enjoy your youth.”
 
“Yeah!”
 
Yuki was really watching me too. That makes me happier than anything else.
 
“I’ll stop somewhere now. We’ll part here.”
 
“I see. Well, see you at school!”
 
The crossing. The alarms clanged loudly and the gate lowered.
 
Unable to stay still as I watched his back go, I called out.
 
“–Am I no good!”
 
As if my voice reached him, Yuki stopped moving.
 
“–Can’t I make Yuki happy! I love you”
 
I love you. I love you so much. But most of all, I want to give you this feeling first, in form.
 
A hesitant gesture, as if he wanted to turn around.
 
A train passed and blocked our view.
 
Time, which was a moment and yet an eternity, passed and the scenery opened up.
 
Yuki was not on the other side of the tracks.


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