The Girls Who Traumatized Me Volume 3 Chapter 3

Chapter Three: “SNS Syndrome”
 

 
I’m a bum. My name is Kokonoe Yukito.
 
“It’s hot…”
 
I mumble meaningless words like that unconsciously. I can’t help it. What’s done is done.
 
Today’s temperature rose above 30 degrees Celsius again. The fierce summer sun beats down relentlessly as we enter early summer. Cicada cries provide the background music as I come to a sober realization.
 
I’m not shocked by the scene before me. It’s not like I’m freaked out by semifinals or anything. If anything, it just makes sense. A reality I easily understand.
 
I was on my way to the mall. Since I’m a growing boy, I’ve gotten taller. My middle school swimsuit has become too small. I rarely get a chance to wear it since we only use it for gym class, but if mature big sisters invites me, I can’t refuse.
 
Mio-san and Tristy-san asked me to help them choose swimsuits, but of course I refused.
 
No matter how you look at it, such an event is an impossible, complicated task for someone like me who has never had a girlfriend. Both girls have fantastic bodies. I won’t be specifics, but she has a lot of it, and it’s amazing in many ways. She’s an airbag!
 
As I left the station, I saw a familiar sight in the distance. The airbags were waving.
 
In the center of attention, Tristy-san’s dazzling hair color made her stand out from the sidelines.
 
I debated whether to call out to her, but decided against it. My relationship with Tristy-san is very strange.
 
I’m the victim, she’s the perpetrator. We met by accident.
 
Still, it feels strange to be invited to hang out by someone like her.
 
Tristy-san and Mio-san asked me to go to the pool with them.
 
They say it’s to apologize, but looking back now, I regret accepting.
 
Maybe I feel guilty, Tristy-san has been very attentive, but it is not good for her or for me to take advantage of it.
 
“A hot girl like that must have a boyfriend or something.”
 
The guy next to her is probably her boyfriend. A beautiful couple. They seem to have arranged to meet, as she runs up to the boyfriend with a beaming smile and hugs him tightly.
 
The two embracing each other look perfect together. They embody the ideal couple.
 
Did I really make the right choice in accepting her invitation? From her boyfriend’s point of view, I’m just a nuisance. The apology and compensation for the accident are done. That ends our relationship.
 
There’s no reason for Tristy-san to hang out with me anymore.
 
Hanging out with a guy at the pool, even with others around, can’t be good for a friend. What to do, this is disturbing…
 
Exhausted from the heat, I duck into a nearby cafe to take a break. I wipe the sweat with a handkerchief and order an iced coffee. My mind drifts back to yesterday.
 
Yesterday, Shiori was confessed by the prospective next ace of the baseball team, 2nd year Suzuki-senpai.
 
She came specifically to tell me, “I really turned him down, Yukito!” Same energetic smile as always.
 
That’s just like her, but I felt something wrong at that time, too. Shiori told me that she likes me.
 
The same with Hinagi. But I didn’t answer them.
 

 
I’m just scum, right?
 

 
Keepers, huh? I’m the one keeping out, actually!
 
Now that I think about it, I didn’t respond to the “affection” they showed me. I’m terrible scum. Deserving of death.
 
I admit it… I’ve never looked at others before. I thought I was rejected. My world was complete with only me.
 
But now I know that’s not true. I’ve taken their outstretched hands.
 
I don’t know what kind of guy Suzuki-senpai is. But if he really likes Shiori and is serious about confessing, he looks at Shiori much more straightforwardly than I do.
 
In the confession Shiori rejected, there might have been someone who could make her happy, someone who could accept her feelings as an equal.
 
Unlike me, who is endlessly searching the meaning of “affection”.
 
Did Shiori make the right decision by rejecting him? To think so is arrogance itself.
 
She rejected him of her own free will, I have no right to say anything.
 
But if I had given an answer earlier, if I had told Shiori clearly that I couldn’t accept her feelings, she might have had new options.
 
A serious confession might have been rewarded.
 

 
–I am being cruel.
 

 
Can I learn to like someone again? Will that day ever come? More to the point, should I keep stringing her along like this?
 
Putting off an answer, evading “affection” while pretending not to understand, stagnating in the same place may be robbing them of their future, their potential.
 

 
Am I allowed to be at their side?
 

“Leon, long time no see! Are you staying in Japan now?”
 
“Yes. I can finally come over as well.”
 
It had been three years since Tristy had last seen her brother Leon. Of her family who came to Japan, only her brother Leon had stayed overseas for work.
 
But now he’s finally finished his job, and it’s been decided that he’ll be living in Japan starting this summer.
 
Still not used to the Japanese summer, he furiously wipes away the sweat from the oppressive heat.
 
“Let’s go inside quickly. I miss AC!”
 
“Japanese summers are really hot. You’ll get used to it soon.”
 
Saying that, we hurry to the mall to escape the harsh sunlight.
 
“Is Leon’s place far?”
 
“It’s 20 minutes from the station, so I can visit anytime.”
 
“I see. Mom and Dad will be thrilled!”
 
“It was hard, huh. You had an accident, right? Are you okay?”
 
“Yes. The other boy was a really good person.”
 
“I was surprised when my mom told me. I’m glad Tristy is okay.”
 
We chat like siblings as we walk through the mall.
 
The reason Tristy met up with Leon here was to get some necessities for her brother to live on his own. Leon had decided to move out on his own.
 
“I think I have everything I need now. What about you, Tristy?”
 
“Then it’s my turn! This way, this way!”
 
After finishing Leon’s shopping, Tristy heads for her destination.
 
“Huh, you’re buying a swimsuit?”
 
“You pick one too, Leon. You don’t have one, do you?”
 
“You pick out some pretty flashy swimsuits. Do you have a boyfriend now or something?”
 
“Wha, no way! He’s not like that…”
 
“Oops, my bad. Introduce me sometime.”
 
“No, really! Yukito is the guy from the accident-“
 
“Accident? What’s that? Destined partner? Japanese culture, huh?”
 
“It’s not like that!”
 
She denies it in a panic, but Tristy feels her face flush.
 
Leon watches his sister seriously picking out swimsuits with a gentle smile.
 


 
“So this is enemy territory…”
 
Summer has arrived and the sunset is getting later and later.
 
Dusk is turning into night. Looking up, the sky is a vivid indigo, like a starry sky.
 
I’m in a very incongruous place. Just being here triggers an identity crisis in me as an introvert. Who am I? Kokonoe Yukito. Is that really true?
 
With the cheerful hustle and bustle around me in the corner of my eye, my heart is clouded.
 
“Yukito, sorry for the wait!”
 
“Hey, no need to rush. I’m not running away.”
 
“I want to run away to the ends of the earth.”
 
But I’m surrounded! Two people came out of the dressing room. Things suddenly became more noisy.
 
I was at the night pool, invited by Mio-san and Tristy-san.
 
It’s basically an instant death curse for an introvert. I’m already blue in the face.
 
For a summer shut-in like me who only watches B-movie sharks, a place like this is worlds away. Low priority.
 
To end up in a place like this, I’m a guy who can’t even get a foothold in the introvert world, Kokonoe Yukito.
 
Seeing Mio-san and Tristy-san, I unconsciously blurt out my impression.
 
“Heeeeeeeeck!”
 
“Whoa, isn’t that too direct?”
 
“I’m embarrassed to be stared at so much…”
 
“Is there not enough fabric?”
 
“Was it too flashy? I tried tto be fancy!”
 
“Gosh! Having a good figure is such an advantage. So envious.”
 
“I’d say you both have your charms.”
 
“Which swimsuit do you prefer?”
 
“Yes, which one do you like?”
 
“Could you please refrain from making me choose between options that will only create dissonance?”
 
This kind of choice is dangerous. It helps no one.
 
“If you choose me, I’ll give you a special service~~”
 
“I’m against overtime service.”
 
“Then I’ll give you service even if you don’t choose me! “
 
“I’ll pay for the overtime.”
 
Tristy-san gave me “service”. Much appreciated.
 
While they invited me to play as an apology, I never imagined it would be a night pool. It may be more comfortable than during the day, but dimly lit, humid caves or caverns suit me better. Although none of my acquaintances would invite me to such places.
 
Well, I have so few acquaintances to begin with!
 
As I indulge in such self-deprecation, I’m promptly flanked on both sides and my escape route is cut off.
 
“Let’s play hard today!”
 
“Yukito, how’s it looking?”
 
“Lovely. Reminiscent of the rococo style.”
 
“Can I take that as praise?”
 
“By all means.”
 
Asked for my opinion of their swimsuits, I answer frankly.
 
At this point, I can’t give any negative feedback.
 
Mio-san wears a halter bikini, while Tristy-san also wears a bikini, but with her killer body, Tristy-san in a bikini looks like a model.
 
She’s already attracting attention from those around us. Still, they’re sticking close to me, even though we’re all in swimsuits now. Contact in this state means that our skin touches each other directly.
 
“Put us on each arm, Yukito!”
 
“You’re heavy.”
 
“Let’s take a selfie, a selfie!”
 
“Is that okay? Won’t we get flamed on social media or something later?”
 
“It’s fine! Only friends will see it.”
 
“I don’t want to be identified or anything…”
 
///
 


 
Scene Transition
 


 


 
///
 
“I think that ship has already sailed.”
 
“When did my human rights become a free pass?”
 
Is this the dark side of a SNS society?
 
“Hey, hey, Yukito. What do you usually do?”
 
“Usually? I guess get involved in incidents and stuff.”
 
“Even though I’m the one who got you involved last time, try not to say too scary things.”
 
“Sorry… Did it hurt a lot?”
 
“No, no, don’t worry about it. It’s just the usual for me.”
 
Mio-san and Tristy-san shrank away.
 
Oops, they invited me to play like this. It would be a waste if I didn’t enjoy it.
 
And as much as I call it my disposition, it’s not like there’s trouble around the clock.
 
“Big Onee-chan, do you want to play with us? This kid’s like somebody’s little brother or something-“
 
I grab his arm and throw him into the empty pool. The water splashes up splendidly.
 
“Koji-iiiiiiiiiiii!”
 
“Hey, what are you…”
 
I grab his arm and throw him into the empty pool. Water splashes up.
 
“Shinji-iiiiiiiii! Wait, wait, wait! My mistake! We didn’t force her or anything…”
 
I grab his arm and throw him into the empty pool. The water splashes up splendidly.
 
“I’m Yuji-aaaaaaaah!”
 
Ignoring his fading self-introduction, I feel relieved.
 
“Peaceful day today.”
 
There are peaceful days like this. With Japan’s public order, if there were riots every day, I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I want such peaceful days to continue.
 
“You’re really something, huh?”
 
Like what?
 
“I feel safest with Yukito! Let’s play, play!”
 
Gosh. Before I knew it, I was acting like one of those reluctantly heroic protagonists, but honestly, I was playing hard. Turns out the reluctant hero type doesn’t work for me.
 
I mean, pools and stuff, it’s been so long!
 
“Did something happen?”
 
“You have zero self-esteem, huh?”
 
For some reason, cheerful big sisters and big brothers have been calling out to me since earlier.
 
While eating a sausage treat that a laughing big brother bought me, I wondered.
 
“I got so much…”
 
Mio-san and Tristy-san are also dumbfounded by the food and drink they were given.
 
Come to think of it, that 3-man group I threw earlier, 3G, didn’t seem to mind being called out by the nearby big sisters either. It was quite a heartwarming scene.
 
As an introvert who claims to be a loner, I had unreasonably seen happy people and party lovers as enemies, but they’re all good people! My eyes were just clouded.
 
“Mio-san, does this night pool have a rule that only good people can enter or something?”
 
“How can you see reality with such clouded eyes…”
 
“Yukito attracts attention because he’s interesting!”
 
“I have a feeling you’d make it anywhere.”
 
Do I have any characteristics that attract attention?
 
“That’s right, talking about the future reminds me, but Yukito, have you decided on your career path and stuff yet?”
 
Mio-san’s question makes me think. The plan to grow tangerines on a remote island was rejected. I could help my independent mother, but Hinagi rejected that idea and I haven’t given up yet.
 
“I thought wasting my life at some random field somewhere”
 
“Too scary! That’s not just a matter of the Black Company!”
 
“Yukito, let’s make these horror-like remarks just a summer thing, ‘kay? Anyway, I understand that you haven’t thought about it at all. But if you say that, maybe it’s the same for us.”
 
Mio-san smiles worriedly.
 
“Did something happen with your career?”
 
“We are, you know, at the age where we really have to start thinking about finding a job. We can only play around like this for now. From now on it’s going to get busier and busier. Ah, feels dark.”
 
“If you’re ever in trouble, just ask Papa. Even though I’m like this, Papa is an impressive guy!”
 
Apparently, Tristy-san’s father is an executive at the Japanese branch of a foreign capital corporation.
 
I’ve acquired powerful connections! I feel bad, though, because it’s nepotism. That’s reality.
 
Anyway, when they become university students, they’re one step away from entering society. It seems like they’ve reached the stage where they’re seriously thinking about their lives.
 
I can only wish that Mio-san and Tristy-san can go the way they want to go.
 
“Yukito, do you want something to drink?”
 
“I’ll have a sports drink.”
 
After playing to our hearts’ content, we changed and took a break. A pleasant tiredness envelops me.
 
Swimming is a total body workout. It takes more energy than you’d think. I’ll probably be exhausted by the time I get home. It was after 8 pm. It’s probably best if we head back soon.
 
“This was fun today. What are you up to afterwards, Yukito?”
 
“Going home. Since I’m a minor, I can’t really stay out late and play around.”
 
“Oh right, of course. Can I invite you again sometime?”
 
“Yes, please do. I had fun too.”
 
When I told Mom and Onee-chan that I was going out with Mio-san and the others, they were strangely grumpy for some reason.
 
If I came home super late after that, who knows what would happen.
 
“Um, Yukito, would you like to come over and play at my house sometime? We’re having a family BBQ.”
 
“At Tristy-san’s house? I’d be a little hesitant…”
 
“Not good?”
 
She makes a sad face and looks away dejectedly, but actually there was something I was wondering about today while we were playing like this.
 
“I’d feel bad for your boyfriend.”
 
“Boyfriend? Who?”
 
“Oh, doesn’t Tristy-san have a boyfriend?”
 
“No, nothing like that!”
 
“Huh, but the other day at the mall, I happened to see you two hugging.”
 
“What do you mean, Tristy?”
 
“I really don’t have one! The mall…could it have been my big brother?”
 
“It was your big brother?”
 
“Yeah. The last time we went swimsuit shopping, my brother Leon was finally able to come over, so we met. It wasn’t a boyfriend or anything!”
 
“I was afraid it would be bad if I hung out with you if you had a boyfriend.”
 
“No way! Absolutely not! Leon said he wants to meet you too. Mom and Dad want to see you too, so please come over next time!”
 
“Well, in that case.”
 
Somehow the number of people who want to meet me keeps growing, but I see, so it’s Leon-san.
 
I thought Tristy-san and him would make a beautiful couple, but a handsome big brother makes sense too. Looks like my worries were misplaced.
 
Looks like I dodged a bullet. Thank goodness.
 


 
My bad, I lied, no, I didn’t dodge that bullet at all!
 
“What does that mean?”
 
I asked as soon as I got home. My sister is as beautiful as ever today, but right now that merciless look is piercing me. I’m slowly getting aroused.
 
The selfie Tristy-san sent me is displayed on my smartphone.
 
“As you can see…”
 
“You all seem to be having fun. All lovey-dovey.”
 
“Come on, I have a reputation for being scary with my poker face. Like I’m lovey-dovey.”
 
“You’re bragging, but that poker face is not popular at all.”
 
“Lies…”
 
“Your self-esteem is out of whack. What’s your relationship?”
 
“More like victim and perpetrator…”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Hiiiin.”
 
Tristy-san came to apologize to my family earlier. So Mom knows her, but Onee-chan, who wasn’t there, doesn’t.
 
As I explain the circumstances in bits and pieces, Onee-chan looks at me like I’m an idiot. I agree.
 
The victim and perpetrator happily playing together doesn’t make sense at first glance.
 
“Do you have an aura that makes older girls like you or something?”
 
“That’s scary.”
 
Onee-chan mumbles dejectedly, but for me, who has a reputation for bad luck with women, it’s no laughing matter. My impression of women is that they’re annoying, but still, I’ve stopped denying everything and taken a step forward.
 
The old me probably wouldn’t have accepted an invitation like today’s.
 
That’s because I wanted to build relationships with people. I don’t want to just leave the one-sided feelings as they are.
 
I’ve realized that would be cowardly and sinful. No matter what the answer is, not responding will leave things unhappily unresolved for everyone. I’ve stagnated long enough.
 
I can’t continue to act nonchalantly like a harem protagonist.
 
“Then I guess I’ll have to wear a micro bikini.”
 
“I want to see! Wha-!? My true feelings just slipped out…”
 
“You’re pretty honest.”
 
“No, this is more of a conditioned reflex, Pavlov’s Kokonoe Yukito. Not my true feelings.”
 
“You don’t want to see?”
 
“I do.”
 
“Very well.”
 
“Really, is that okay?”
 
I have my doubts, but if Onee-chan says it’s okay, then it must be. In the demon-infested Kokonoe house, worrying about small details is defeat.
 
“So, do you… have someone you like or something?”
 
“Isn’t that something sisters and brothers usually talk about?”
 
“We haven’t had a normal relationship yet. That’s okay, isn’t it?”
 
“I guess, but…”
 
“And it’s not just me. We’re having a family meeting with Mom, too.”
 
“Anything but that, please have mercy…”
 
“Come on, let’s go.”
 

 
After that I was interrogated like crazy.
 


 
On Monday morning, a gloomy atmosphere pervades both teachers and students.
 
Feeling depressed, thinking sacrilegious thoughts like “If only a meteorite would crash and cancel school,” in the midst of it all, the most sacrilegious boy breezily appears in the classroom.
 
“What’s wrong, Yukito? You look blue!”
 
Hinagi rushes over in a panic. Seeing my obviously not normal condition, Shiori and the others quickly gather around.
 
“Yuki, are you feeling sick? Do you want to go to the nurse?”
 
“What happened, seriously? You’ve got big bags. Lack of sleep?”
 
Hinagi asks worriedly. Kokonoe Yukito gasps weakly.
 
“…Gambling…is bad…definitely…”
 
And Kokonoe Yukito collapses on the spot.
 
“Yukito, hang in there! Yukitoooo!?”
 
What could have made this man so exhausted and worn out goes back to the previous day.
 

 
“…A terrible rain. I wanted to go out with you too.”
 
Looking out the window, Mom sighed softly. Drawn in, I also looked up at the sky.
 
The rain that started in the morning was only getting heavier. Thick clouds stretched as far as the eye could see.
 
It’s dim inside, even though it’s noon. Looks like staying at home is the right choice.
 
“I know! How about we play some games and have some fun!”
 
“Games?”
 
Having come up with a good idea, Mom claps her hands in satisfaction.
 
I don’t remember ever playing games and having fun just the two of us, but with nothing else to do, just sitting around the living room, it might be nice for a change. Quality parent-child time.
 
“Let’s play mahjong.”
 
“Just the two of us?”
 
“Yuuri’s here too.”
 
“That’s still three people.”
 
There is 3-player mahjong, but the rules are more complicated, and with three people, there’s no need to stick to mahjong. As if on cue, my sister comes out of her room and quickly sets up a mahjong table.
 
“Why do we have a mahjong table?”
 
In the midst of various mysteries I can’t understand, the doorbell rings.
 
“Yuki-chan, hello! I bought lots of snacks. Let’s eat them together!”
 
“Sekka-san?”
 
As if waiting for the cue, the four of us gather in an unnatural flow.
 
I thought she might have some important business to attend to in such bad weather, but it seems she just came to play. Sekka-san’s participation out of the blue is decided.
 
“Well then, I’ll go get changed.”
 
“Change?”
 
“Look forward to it, Yuki-chan.”
 
Unable to keep up with the situation, I can only parrot her questions.
 
Left alone and confused in the living room, Mom and the others return after a few minutes.
 
“What’s with the outfits?”
 
“How is it, does it suit me?”
 
For some reason, the three of them have changed into cheongsams. An enchanting sight.
 
Stepping gracefully as if to show off, they turn around with elegant colors and fragrances spilling out.
 
Shamelessly revealing their shiny, supple legs slipping out of the slits, my gaze is fixed on them. For some reason, they’re even wearing shoes, even though they’re indoors. Such attention to detail.
 
Yuuri san wore a miniskirt. She was too sophisticated. Is this youth? …….
 
They sit in the chairs with their legs crossed as if to say, “Look at me, look. Yes, look at me, look!
 
Fanned at the chin by Yuuri-san’s feather fan. She blows on my ear.
 
“On a day like this, we have to at least liven things up.”
 
While Mom is saying something extremely reasonable, I want nothing more than to flee this room.
 
They all look like evil queen pins. As if they would say “Death to traitors”.
 
“Well then, Yuki-chan, shall we start right away?”
 
And so, beyond my comprehension, the [First Annual Kokonoe Family Mahjong Tournament] began.
 

 
“Ron!”
 
East Round 1, Mom cuts an 8 pin with “Yahoo!” and Rons.
 
A good omen. As I happily wolfed down the karintou Sekka-san bought, I secretly giggled.
 
I was surprised by the cheongsams, but there must be some kind of prize for the winner of the mahjong tournament.
 
I’ll take that game!
 
“Geez… Onee-chan really has no patience, huh?”
 
“Don’t overdo it, old lady.”
 
“Shut up! I can’t help it if it’s embarrassing!”
 
Ignoring Sekka-san and Onee-chan’ exasperated looks, Mom’s cheeks flush pink.
 
Mom stands up, then reaches into the open left and right slits and pulls the shorts she was wearing down from her hips. She slowly slides her feet out and places them in the basket beside her.
 
I was mesmerized by the shiny, lithe thighs, but quickly came to my senses.
 
“Um… why did you suddenly take your clothes off?”
 
“In mahjong, you have to take off a piece of clothing when you deal into someone else’s hand.”
 
“There’s no such rule!”
 
Mom spouts a blatant lie as if it’s obvious. No matter how ignorant of common sense I may be, I’ve never even heard of such a rule. To stop this outrageous act, I ask Onee-chan.
 
“Is that true?”
 
“Yes, it is.”
 
Whaaaaaaat!? But wait, this is surely just Mom and Onee-chan conspiring together.
 
Please let that be the case! Right, Sekka-san!?
 
“Is that true?”
 
“Yes, it is.”
 
“It is!? Amazinggggg! So cool! Huuuuuuuuh!?”
 
My soul cries out. Huh, am I the weird one here!? There’s such a rule in mahjong!?
 
“It was a local rule that was especially popular in arcades in the 90s, but let’s use it.”
 
Sekka-san kindly explains, but why on earth does such a barbaric rule…?
 
Nowadays, arcades are dominated by prizes for women, but if you look back in history, there was a time when video games reigned supreme.
 
I hear that back then, public order was bad, stores were dark, and ashtrays flew – a realm of carnage, but these mysterious mahjong rules may have been relics from that era.
 
This leaves a bad taste in my mouth! My body is shaking with indescribable terror.
 
This feeling is real [Fear]. Could it be that Mom and the others are trying to teach me this?
 
“Now, let’s continue the game.”
 
The mahjong tournament was gradually enveloped in an uneasy atmosphere.
 

“Are you kidding!? That’s impossible!”
 
East round, 9th turn. Onee-chan declares a strong attack with three characters. Startled by the unbelievable sight, I quickly check the river.
 
So far, almost no character tiles have been discarded. Therefore, it’s highly likely that someone has a character tile-based hand. And based on the discards, the most probable candidate for this is me.
 
I’m in a ready state with a reach and a two-sided wait for 3-6 characters. In this mahjong game, there’s a special rule that if you fold, you have to take off your clothes.
 
No one wants to do that. Even Mom and the others should want to avoid it at all costs.
 
That’s why I reached with a blatantly obvious ready hand to make it easier for the opponent to read my wait.
 
Character tiles, especially the 3-6 characters, it’s such an easy task to avoid.
 
But even so, Onee-chan swiftly discards the highly dangerous 3 characters from her draw without hesitation. It’s a suicidal move.
 
“What’s wrong? Hurry up and declare a win.”
 
“-!?”
 
Suspicion turns into certainty. She discards the winning tile after fully reading my wait.
 
“Are you, by any chance, thinking of getting away with drawing a winning tile without declaring a win? I won’t forgive you for pulling such a stunt in a serious game. There’s a penalty. Remember that.”
 
“…Ron.”
 
With no other choice, I can only say Ron. Dejectedly, I lower my hand.
 
“Oh dear, trouble. But it’s the rules. Nothing for it.”
 
Yuuri-san puts her hand on my back. She must have unhooked it, because something soft swings.
 
She takes out a crimson bra from under her clothes and puts it in the basket.
 
Why, why did she do that… Unless…!
 
“You measured this outcome!”
 
“You’re the one who’s measuring, aren’t you?”
 
Certainly, I’ve been measuring Yuuri-san lately, but this situation is terrible.
 
I can’t hide my horror at this suicidal tactic. Are you so determined to lose?
 
This way, I’ll win the match and lose the strip game. Yeah, that makes no sense.
 
“Don’t worry Yuki, this is my only one.”
 
“Sekka, you’re cheating!”
 
“I shouldn’t be told that by a promiscuous mother like you!”
 
“It’s a bit of both, I guess. Don’t worry, I’ll pass it on to you.”
 
Yuuri’s grateful words sound like a devil’s whisper to me now.
 
I’ve finally understood this game of death. Come to think of it, there’s no winning hand among the ladies. They are in cahoots. They will do anything to lose. Now that I think about it, the timing of Sekka-san coming to our house is too suspicious. It’s all been cleverly orchestrated from the beginning.
 
In other words, it’s a mahjong game where you can’t win.
 
It’s a variant of mahjong in which only winning by self-draw is allowed, and winning by claiming a discard (Ron) is strictly forbidden. My mother, my sister, and Sekka-san are all waiting for a chance to give me winning hand.
 
Intense tension. I wet my throat with a cold Coke poured into a frosted glass. Suddenly I realize.
 
“But what if, hypothetically, there’s no more clothes to throw away…?”
 
“Not to worry. You’ll pay with your body, so don’t worry. Besides, I’m like a service character that appears on one side in strip mahjong games, so Yuki-chan can easily defeat me. Good luck, Yuki-chan♪”
 
Sekka-san says with a smile.
 
“You’ll be paid even if you lose.”
 
Yuuri-san’s sharp look glitters and flashes.
 
“Kunkunkun.”
 
A voice like that of a lonely dog while its owner is away.
 
When I think about it, both cases lead to the same result for me.
 
Wait, I can turn things around here with one last effort! This is what scheming really means!
 
This is strip mahjong. So I should avoid the Rons and reduce their points, then go for the high-scoring Yakuman and Baiman hands to take them out in one fell swoop and negate their points.
 
“A despicable plan, hardly worthy of fear! I’ll take you out. End this by force!”
 
“Don’t worry, if you go bust, I’ll take the proper responsibility and undress completely.”
 
“Guh…”
 
No blood or tears shed. In sports, when Europeans can’t win, they immediately try to change the rules to benefit themselves, but since I have no power, I can only obey.
 
Analyzing the situation. The only table left is the southern round. If what Sekka said is true, then avoiding her discards could help prevent a major disaster.
 
My winning condition isn’t the points, but rather how well I can hide my waiting and avoid her discards to win by self-draw. At worst, we can end up in a draw.
 
Before I knew it, a strong wind was howling outside. Wind-blown raindrops slapped the windows.
 
A pale flash of lightning. Thunder rumbled as lightning tore through the clouds nearby.
 
A brief blackout. The lights came back on quickly. But that was when I saw them!
 
The three figures with demonic crescent-shaped grins!
 
“Come on, let’s continue the winning streak.”
 
Deadly words fell from Yuuri’s lips. I can’t refuse.
 
Now, of all times, the greatest crisis has come upon me, unable to defy my family.
 
I rack my brain for a way out. I’m using my head much more than for any test.
 
Damn it, how do I get out of this predicament? Help me, Zero!?
 
“Ron!”
 
“Yes! I’m so glad it’s finally my turn!”
 
Sekka eagerly reaches for her cheongsam, bubbling with excitement.
 
“See, I changed my clothes and everything, so you’ll see me in this cheongsam, right? My cheongsam outfit looks so good on me that you want to stare at it forever, don’t you? So, please? Please? Please?”
 
“Yuki-chan, do you really like it that much? I’ll let you wear it later as much as you want.”
 
No matter how desperately I beg, she never listens when it counts.
 
“You are all the worst! I’m going to strip you naked and peel off your skin! Are you ready? Say you won’t do it, please! I’m begging you!”
 
Nothing but the empty threat of a loser, but I’ll strike a fighting pose anyway.
 
“It’s so embarrassing to be seen so exposed by you.”
 
“Unlike Mom, I take care of myself down there, so I’m not embarrassed.”
 
“How rude. I groom myself properly too. Getting naked sounds so much fun. Be gentle when you peel me, okay?”
 
“Then I’ll peel your skin too!”
 
“Yay, Yuki’s going to strip me naked!”
 
“I can’t deal with this family…”
 

 
And so this nightmare of a day goes on.
 
[The 24 Hours I Absolutely Cannot Win Mahjong] has just begun.
 


 
“Social media?”
 
“Yes. An old friend from college invited me, but I’m pretty inexperienced with it.”
 
In the faculty advisor’s office, I was having tea with Sanjoji sensei. I came excitedly, thinking what kind of counseling it would be today, but for once it was Sanjoji sensei who needed advice.
 
As a fellow tea drinker, I want to help in any way I can.
 
“Of course, given my position, I should be the one to teach the students how to use it properly, but honestly, I haven’t touched it myself, so I’m conflicted.”
 
“I see…”
 
“However, incidents involving social media are also on the rise. Especially concerning you. I can’t stay ignorant and unaware forever.”
 
She’s such a conscientious, caring teacher. However, there is a generation gap when it comes to social media. I doubt that the social media her friend invited her to try is for teenagers. Still, it might be fun for her to try different social media now.
 
“Why don’t we start together? I’m a beginner too, so we can learn as we go. I doubt anyone will follow me though.”
 
“I don’t know anyone with a social network as extensive as yours…”
 
“What?”
 
Still confused, I leave the vaguely awkward faculty office and return to class.
 

“Yukito, you’re making an SNS account? Then I will too! Yay! Now we’ll follow each other. Heh. I’ll have to tell Hiori later.”
 
Hinagi is a true angel. I’ll give her candy.
 
“I’ll make one right now and wait for you, Yuki!”
 
“I left mine alone for a while, but I might open it again since Yukito is starting one.”
 
“Kokonoe, really?”
 
“That’s big news, big news!”
 
When I mentioned making a social media account, all my classmates said they would follow me. Of course I’ll follow them back. Some who don’t even have accounts are making them just to follow me. I have such nice classmates…heehee.
 
By the way, the classmate with the most followers was surprisingly Shakado. She has many reptile friends. She’s a real Reptile Circle Princess.
 
Having different hobbies really bonds you, I guess.
 
“Well, I doubt I’ll be using it much anyway.”
 
“Is that so? But why is your intro post, ‘It’s a me, Kokonoe Yukito! is so assertive right off the bat. What’s with that?”
 
“Just trying to be funny.”
 
“Trying to be funny?”
 
At that time, I foolishly thought it was trivial.
 
Unbeknownst to me, however, things were developing in an unimaginable direction.
 

 
Meanwhile, in Yuuri’s class,
 
“Yuuri, did you hear? It seems that your brother has opened an SNS account.”
 
“Huh? What do you mean? Why would he do that all of a sudden?”
 
“It’s become a hot topic.”
 
“….You’re right. He really did. I wonder what’s gotten into him.”
 
“I followed him too. His followers are blowing up like crazy though, it’s kind of scary.”
 
“I can’t leave it like this. I have to tell Mom right away…”
 
“Is it that important?”
 
“Of course it is!”
 
Even the student council presidents,
 
“What? Kokonoe Yukito started social media?”
 
“Yeah, I just heard it from someone, so no mistake.”
 
“And look, he’s being followed by our classmates–whoa, what’s with the number of followers?”
 
“We can’t just watch, Yumi. Let’s take care of it right away!”
 
The Loner Goddess,
 
“Eh!? Yukito started it!?”
 
And a certain loving couple,
 
“Kokonoe Yukito did it? I’ll tell my clubmates. By the way, how do you use this?”
 
“Even Toshiro is a little interested…”
 
The neighbor sister with limitless favorability ,
 
“Yukito started social media? Oh my, and he’s mutually following Sanjoji sensei? How clever~”
 
A person who seems to be a member of the prefectural assembly, who is reflecting on the situation…
 
“Father, I heard that Kokonoe started social media!”
 
“Kokonoe did? This won’t do, Erika. Send a wreath at once!”
 
“Wouldn’t that be a nuisance…?”
 
At the university,
 
“Ah, Yukito! This is Dad’s company and…”
 
“It hasn’t gotten out of hand, has it?”
 
???
 
“Wow, sworn brother is so wonderful. We’ll meet again in Kyoto one day. But for now, just seeing sworn brother like this, I’ll bear it.”
 
In Kansai,
 
“Haha! How interesting. It’s really interesting, Waiki!”
 
“Calm down, Kesuke. Is this the rumored Bunny Man? He’s really something.”
 
In Hokuriku,
 
“Hey, seriously? Will you send some seafood? Is it a bother?”
 
“I don’t know. Stop it.”
 
In the northern lands,
 
“Hehe, is that so? I finally found it!”
 
Even in the southern outskirts,
 
“The mainland is quite far away.”
 

 
“Kokonoe!”
 
“Good morning. What’s the matter? You seem panicked.”
 
When I arrive at school the next day, Sanjoji sensei grabs me and drags me away.
 
“Haven’t you checked your account? Check it!”
 
“Oh right, we did it together yesterday. Did something happen?”
 
“See for yourself!”
 
“Haa…”
 
I didn’t have anything in particular to post, no fictional friend anecdotes that are common on social media, no interest in impressions.
 
I created the account, but left it untouched–but–
 
“What the hell is this?”
 
My followers topped four thousand. Still growing in real time.
 
“I should say what is this! What happened?
 
“I don’t know. I didn’t do anything special. …… “
 
I check the answers I’m getting.
 
[Sir, please continue to guide me!]
 
“This is…from Congressman Tojo?”
 
“So these are the shit replies.”
 
A verified account with a blue badge. It seems that Congressman Papa Tojo sent a polite reply, and thinking he might be someone important, other politicians started following me as well. How annoying.
 
After all, my account is being followed by the Himiyama Office with hundreds of thousands of followers! Why? (Confused)
 
Tristy has posted a selfie. As expected, she was immediately identified.
 
There’s also tons of love advice like [Mr. Bunnyman, I have a crush on a senior three years above me, what should I do?] Somehow everyone has figured out that I’m the Bunnyman.
 
I’m dizzy with confusion. What’s happening without my knowledge?
 
“This is the account of the company Mom works for.
 
“Of course, what can I say? What about your social connections?”
 
Even as my follower count reaches five thousand, a chaotic mix of verified accounts has formed.
 
Far from a normal high school account.
 
“Ah! Got a lewd DM!”
 
“Don’t take the bait, Kokonoe! These are scams. Don’t look. Let me delete it, Misa!”
 
“Huh?”
 
The sender was Himiyama san? Save!
 
“Compared to you, I’ve lost all confidence. It’s not just about the number, and it’s not really an account I want to make public, but I’m still just a simple teacher.”
 
“Cheer up.”
 
Sanjoji sensei seems a bit down. I have to find a way to encourage her…I know!
 
“Sensei, can I talk to you for a moment? “
 
“What’s wrong? “
 
“Sanjoji sensei, listen to this. [Every like shortens my skirt 1mm. I’m Sangoji!] What do you think?”
 
“Wait, what are you posting?”
 
I’ll like it and share it.
 
Then it starts to shoot up quickly.
 
“Stop! What should I do? Three hundred likes already!? Is that thirty centimeters!? Impossible, I can’t shorten my skirt that much! I haven’t worn anything this short since I was in my twenties! This is shorter than a miniskirt!”
 
“This is… the principal.”
 
“I’m reporting this immediately!”
 
The rapidly growing number of followers of Sanjoji sensei was worrisome, so we deleted the post and ended up following each other on a private account.
 
We learned the scary nature of social media and grew a little more mature.
 
“Then thirty centimeters it is.”
 
“Absolutely do not spread this! I mean it!”
 
(What a good person…)
 
Later, she secretly sent me a picture of her skirt up to just below her crotch. Let’s keep that between us.
 


Although there are cultural differences, as Kokonoe Yukito, I won’t reject them.
 
What’s called deculturation, whether that term makes sense or not, may itself demonstrate cultural differences. Diversity should not be forcibly imposed, but rather personally embraced.
 
Mom says that bathing together as a family is perfectly normal. That too is a cultural difference.
 
I’ll never doubt it one little bit. Diversity, that’s diversity!
 
What’s wrong with being Galapagos? It’s started to be used with negative connotations, but independent evolution itself represents diversity.
 
On the contrary, homogenization could lead to ruin in no time.
 
Japan is an island nation. There are advantages, but sometimes going overseas to broaden one’s horizons can be a valuable experience. It would probably change one’s values drastically.
 
“Oh, Yukito! You came! I was just washing Daddy’s car.”
 
“It’s a real thing – a bikini car wash!”
 
Tristy, wearing a bikini and hoodie, greets us, sponge in hand.
 
Bikini carwashing is a unique subculture among American partygoers where they wash cars in bikinis to keep their clothes from getting wet during the wash. It’s mostly seen in B-grade horror movies.
 
Of course, being a B-grade horror movie, everyone is doomed. But don’t worry, this is Japan. Tristy’s safety is assured. Please spare us the splatter.
 
Tristy’s house is a mansion. She seems to be an heiress.
 
Mio and I have been invited to a house party by Tristy.
 
They’re having a BBQ in the garden. I feel a little touched by the cultural difference. I’ve only seen Americanized house parties in movies.
 
The Kokonoe household used to have a slumber party, but I was the only one wearing pajamas. The rules were pretty lax. I drank shandy (non alcoholic) relentlessly.
 
“We’ve been waiting for you. Come this way.”
 
Tristy’s mother greeted us with a gentle smile.
 
“We’ve been waiting for you, cool guy! Have fun today!”
 
“Thanks for inviting me. I brought cake as a souvenir.”
 
“Oh… cool guy! You don’t have to worry. Come on, let’s get the BBQ started!”
 
A burly, good-natured blond Texan dad in a cowboy hat grabs me and leads me along.
 
You can tell at a glance that he’s an all-American dad, and there’s no question about it. He’s a typical all-American dad, the kind you’d expect to see in a western movie.
 
Although he’s a jolly old man, when Tristy had her bike accident and came to our house to apologize, both he and Tristy’s parents were pale, just like Tristy.
 
It got to the point where I was afraid he might suddenly suggest something like “seppuku! If the matter hadn’t been settled out of court, it would have been a huge blot on Tristy’s record.
 
He must have been tragically determined. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, and I didn’t press charges.
 
Tristy and her family apologized repeatedly, in tears, and subsequently, after a series of twists and turns, we became friends. As a result, I was invited to this house party. Life is unpredictable.
 
“Hey, nice to meet you for the first time. Sorry my little sister caused trouble.”
 
A ridiculously handsome guy with an immeasurable face value strikes up a conversation with me. He’s the enemy. I become unnecessarily rebellious.
 
“How are you going to make amends?”
 
“Huh? Is this a unique Japanese cultural practice? Well, how about I give you my little sister?”
 
“Leon! What are you talking about?”
 
Tristy suddenly expressed her displeasure at the human trafficking proposal. I felt the cultural differences between Japan and abroad. It’s quite disgusting.
 
“By the way, Yukito-kun, right? Can I talk to you for a moment?”
 
“Yes?”
 
Leon calls me and I go into a corner.
 
“I’m grateful to you, even though you probably don’t know it. I heard you were feeling down after the accident.”
 
I told him not to worry because there were no injuries.
 
“I also want to apologize to you again. I’m really sorry. Thank you for forgiving my sister. I hope you can get along in the future. And, um… “
 
Suddenly, Leon becomes nervous and glances at Mio.
 
This super handsome guy was unexpectedly innocent at heart.
 
“Could you tell me about the beautiful, lovely woman who came with you? I’d like to get to know her.”
 
No way, he fell in love with Mio-san at first sight!? Is that really happening?
 
Wow, those good-looking guys!
 
I felt the cultural difference here as well.
 

 
The authentic BBQ was amazing. First of all, the meat was different. Meat for grilling like yakiniku is cut into bite-sized pieces, but here they enthusiastically grilled the meat without such considerations. They used knives to cut thick, juicy steaks dripping with meat juices and shoveled them into their mouths. The sausages were also absurdly large. The cultural differences were always refreshing.
 
Talking about this and that, I found out that Tristy’s father had been given an executive position in the Japanese corporation of a certain SNS. Apparently, the old management, which had kept the huge SNS in the red through mismanagement, had been ousted in an acquisition. Most of the Japanese subsidiary was laid off, and Tristy’s dad, who had been requesting a transfer to Japan for some time, was sent from headquarters to help rebuild the company.
 
“Oh, right, Dad! Yukito opened an account too!”
 
Tristy’s dad’s eyes went wide when she showed him my account.
 
“Cool guy, you were an influencer!”
 
“Not at all, I didn’t mean to…”
 
Somehow, my account had grown to over ten thousand followers.
 
And the PR job offers kept coming. I’m just a high school student. It’s too much to handle.
 
I can only cower in fear as the number of followers continues to grow, even though there is nothing I can do about it.
 
“Urban legend? Fiend? Not just teenagers, but corporations and politicians… And they’re all real followers, as opposed to bots! HAHAHA! Interesting! Very interesting! Just who are you? I’ll get your account verified right away! Maybe I’ll get a job with Crazy Guy in the future!”
 
The American dad happily made a call somewhere on his smartphone, and within minutes my account was verified, the blue badge now shining. Business happens too fast. It’s the cultural difference.
 
“Hey, don’t give Yukito any trouble! Sorry, he’s having a good time.”
 
“Wait! Crazy Guy is a child prodigy! I have to secure him now while I can…”
 
“Yes, yes. Let’s talk business another time, okay?”
 
The tipsy American father started to bother again after drinking and was led away by his graceful wife. Wives being strong seems to be a universal culture.
 
“Sorry about Dad bothering you! Oh, I know! Look, let’s take a selfie together!”
 
“The cause of the explosive follower growth is right here!?”
 
I posted a selfie with Tristy making a heart sign. It instantly exploded.
 
“Hey hey, Yukito-kun. Why do you think that company account is following you? Is there a connection?”
 
“Ah, that company? My mom works there.”
 
Mio-san scrolled through her phone and pointed out a company I recognized.
 
“No way! That company is my dream job! I’m going to intern there soon!”
 
“Is that so? They’re always understaffed and complaining about it, so I can tell them if you want.”
 
“Really? Is that okay?”
 
It’s not just Mio-san, if I can help my mother’s company, I have no reason to refuse.
 
“Refusing out of modesty is not always a virtue. Listen, young lady. Besides academics, connections are also power. Do you understand what it takes to succeed? That would be luck. To be shrewd in recognizing opportunity. Meeting Crazy Guy was also your luck. So don’t miss this opportunity.”
 
“And you are interfering again. Honestly. He’s taken a liking to Yukito-kun. Look, he’s not walking straight. Drink some water and sober up a bit or you’ll get into trouble.”
 
“That must not happen!”
 
The American father was led away again.
 
“Um, can I ask a favor then?”
 
“I’ve already received help from Mio-san before.”
 
“You’re so dutiful. That whole thing was just you getting caught. You don’t have to worry about it.”
 
“I’m afraid I can’t leave it at that.”
 
Mio-san didn’t just save me. The student council president and Mikumo-senpai were probably saved as well.
 
If the incident had escalated further, they wouldn’t have gotten away safely either. The relationship between the president’s group and me would have become irreparably hostile.
 
“Oh right, have you decided what you’re going to do about a job, Tristy-san?”
 
“A job… I’m ashamed to say that I still can’t really imagine it.”
 
Tristy muttered dejectedly. Her expression was somber.
 
“As a child, everyone has a job they want to be right? I always had trouble with that. I never really had anything I wanted to do, you know. Dad says I should take my time and think about it, but everyone else is always preparing for a goal, so I feel left behind somehow…”
 
Fear of the future, questioning herself. A lost goal.
 
Perhaps entering society means setting out on a journey without a map.
 
I subconsciously came to respect Tristy. I found her an admirable person. Her worries will feed her.
 
“I never thought about my future either. I didn’t even have the space to think about the future. I thought I’d just fade away and die, more or less.”
 
“Yukito…kun?”
 
A worried expression. Tristy’s future should be bright. Because she’s so sincere.
 
“It’s okay to wander aimlessly, to take the detour. You can find something you want to do in your fifties or sixties and still do it in time. Life is long. Getting there by the shortest route isn’t the only answer, I think.”
 
I think of my family, my childhood friends, my classmates. We took quite a detour, we took quite a detour, we even gave up at one point, and yet we gradually got to know each other, we took steps closer to each other.
 
“Nothing is wasted. Not Tristy-san’s worries, not this time spent together now.”
 
Nobody knows the future. Just because you graduate from college and get a job doesn’t mean you’ll stay at the same company, doing the same job, until you retire. It only goes so far.
 
We’re living now, not some possible future.
 
“So – should we enjoy it? Okay?”
 
“Yes!”
 
“Somehow you’re like the calming, stabilizing type. Talking to you calms me down, or you’re a good listener. You must get a lot of worries dumped on you.”
 
“How do you know? Why do you say that?”
 
“I thought so.”
 
Mio-san showed her extraordinary insight, the American dad came back and tried to get Tristy hired in his company’s PR department, Leon-san was lightly teased, and the fun home party continued well into the night.
 
…I ate too much. I’m going to lay off the meat for a while.
 


 
“It’s pretty.”
 
“Yeah.”
 
A place wrapped in blessings. I also applauded from the bottom of my heart.
 
Something that shouldn’t be seen, but was certainly there, happiness had taken shape.
 
The trust that united the bride and groom, the feelings that they had embraced until now, had become tangible.
 
The bride was crying. The groom’s brother beside her also had red eyes.
 
Someone in the family pews was crying. My mother was also wiping away tears.
 
A mix of emotions. The joy was conveyed. It was beautiful. A beauty welling up from within.
 
It’s an idea. That’s why you want to celebrate it. Exactly an anamnesis.
 
Together with my mother we say goodbye to the couple. Now we just have to go home.
 
My mother and I were attending the wedding. Initially, I was in the Himiyama family’s guest section, but I couldn’t bear the excessive attention, so I cried and come to my mother side.
 
I mean, think about it. That is strange no matter how you look at it. Himiyama-san’s parents and grandparents and even the groom’s brother took the time to say hello to me, even though they were busy. “I leave Misaki to you.” I don’t know what to do with that.
 
On top of that, I was formally invited to the Himiyama household (main family). If even going to Himiyama-san’s house is intimidating, what does the main family mean? It feels like the outer moat is being filled in and I can’t escape.
 
On top of that, I was greeted by people I didn’t know one after the other, and I was given about thirty business cards. It’s scary to hear whispers like “Sensei’s treasured child”, “The successor”, “Still a high school student, but eventually he’ll…”.
 
Luckily, my mom was at the same place, so the stress was reduced, and the food was delicious.
 
It turned out that the Boss Master had supervised all the cooking at the wedding venue. No wonder he had been so busy lately.
 
Still basking in the lingering vibes, we left the venue. Now it was time for the newlyweds and their families.
 
“This is the happiest moment of Megumi’s life.”
 
As if chewing on it, my mother muttered.
 
“Somehow it makes me sad.”
 
“Why?”
 
“If her wedding is the happiest moment, doesn’t that mean it’s all downhill from here?”
 
“After struggling so much, I think Megumi understands the value of happiness.”
 
“I hope she will continue to accumulate happiness and become happier and happier forever after.
 
“You are a kind child.”
 
My head was patted. Somewhere along the way, my mother had started making those mommy moves.
 
Her somewhat out-of-control maternal instincts seem to be settling down. I’m glad, so glad.
 
The newlyweds looked happy. The fruition of “affection”. Something I had lost.
 
Total strangers caring for each other, falling in love, joining together, becoming a family.
 
It taught me how joyful that is.
 
Will the day come when I will be so blessed? Will I be allowed to hope for happiness? When I think back, all I can see are crying face. I’ve always made my mother, my sister, Sekka-san, Himiyama-san, Hinagi, Shiori, the president and many others sad.
 
Instead of happiness, but I’ve also brought great misfortune to others. And yet…
 
“Does Mom want to wear a wedding dress, too?”
 
“Me? I think I’m past that. You fail once and that’s it.”
 
She laughed self-deprecatingly. But Mom’s look looked envious somehow, and you’re the one who said it was the happiest moment. In that case, it should be good to have such a moment again.
 
I decided. I’m the worst, lowest scum who only spreads misfortune, but at least I’ll do my best to bring happiness to those around me. So that they can always smile, so that I don’t sadden them any more. I’ve deprived and saddened them so much so far, so now it’s my turn to provide.
 
“Maybe you will succeed this time, you know?
 
“Having you now is when I’m happiest. I can’t even think about getting married again.”
 
Lately, my mother has been into cosplay. The other day she was an angel in a white coat, a nurse’s outfit.
 
She was excited to nurse me, but I have no symptoms. When I told her that, she said, “Then mental care,” and somehow, bit by bit, 10% at a time, my mental state was chipped away.
 
What is this care? The laws of the universe are out of whack.
 
There’s no way such a mother wouldn’t want to wear a wedding dress.
 
Oh, I see. She’s just being modest, huh?
 
Come to think of it, with her cosplay hobby, it would be difficult to consult a wedding planner about renting a wedding dress. Going to a store to try it on also takes time and effort. It’s not something you can do casually.
 
Wait a minute? I’ve been working on my sewing skills lately. Then I can make a wedding dress for my mother! That’s it, it’s easy! But I stop there.
 
Is that enough? Is it enough just to wear a wedding dress?
 
I can’t tolerate half-measures like that. If I’m going to do this, it has to be thorough. The word compromise doesn’t exist in my dictionary. Things like hairstyling, makeup and jewelry are also essential. There’s a lot for a bride to do.
 
I’m Yukito Kokonoe, seriously filial. My family’s happiness is my mission.
 
Oh, and I have that high-end DSLR that rarely used, so I can take pictures as well.
 
“Then I’ll dress mom in a wedding dress.”
 
“Eh!?”
 
Hehehe. Just you wait, Mom! I’ll make you a perfect bride!
 
Then I’ll make New Year’s cards with bridal photos and spread happiness in all directions.
 
My arms are tingling in anticipation of this new challenge. arms tingling
 
“I’ve never seen Mom in a wedding dress…”
 
“You’re going to… dress me up? Make me a bride?”
 
“Leave it to me!”
 
I give a big thumbs up. Sparkling tears streamed from my mother’s clear eyes.
 
Ehh!? I made my mother cry again. It’s become a specialty of Yukito Kokonoe’s.
 
“Ah… something like that – why would you… I can’t take it anymore – Yukito… uuuu!”
 
“What’s wrong, are you okay!?”
 
Hurriedly, I stroked her back.
 
“I can’t do this anymore… I’m sorry.”
 
My mother hugged me and looked up.
 
“Please let me… stake my life… and swear to love you.”
 
“It goes in a familiar direction, but our faces are close again–mm–mm–mm!”
 

My heart was pounding like fast temple bells. I couldn’t stop it, no matter how hard I tried.
 
As if I had regressed to my junior high puberty, a pounding excitement, as if time had flowed backwards.
 
I pretended not to notice. There was no reason to notice. Because family comes after romance. You can’t turn back the clock and fall in love.
 
But the son walking beside me, his words walking beside me, were seared into my brain and wouldn’t go away.
 
(I’m happy… So happy, happy!)
 
Voiceless words. My son who believes in following through will definitely do what he says.
 
If this child says he’s going to dress me in a wedding dress, then I’m going to wear a wedding dress again. I understand that, but I still can’t believe it.
 
At this moment, Yukito is standing next to me. I unintentionally imagine this figure.
 
Am I allowed to have such happiness? Am I allowed to have such happiness?
 
It’s not allowed, I shouldn’t be allowed. Calm down, Ouka.
 
A line that must never be crossed. Judging from my son’s behavior, his intentions must be innocent.
 
He probably only suggested it because he thought I would enjoy it, being the kind Yukito he is.
 
Did I look so envious? My perceptive son must have seen it that way.
 
Still, his words were enough to remind me of the love I had long since discarded.
 
What am I going to do? I’m too embarrassed to face my son properly!
 
The world has changed since that day. I might have breast cancer. Faced with this possibility, I realized that time was limited.
 
Calculating the remaining time, the terror closed in. Facing my own approaching death.
 
I didn’t appreciate my son. I couldn’t love him. Now, too late, I regret it. It’s not enough. Much too late to get him back.
 
Thinking I might die like this, I was desperate.
 
But the one who saved me when I was sinking into the abyss of despair was the son I didn’t love.
 
It’s impossible. I can’t bear it. He may have taken some forceful measures to improve our relationship, to change the circumstances, but he still didn’t deny me, Yukito’s kindness enveloped me.
 
After all, he’s my son. There’s no way I could ever dislike him, even during his rebellious phase.
 
At the same time, I was worried because I couldn’t help but fall in love with him every day. It just keeps growing, from yesterday to today, from today to tomorrow.
 
If things continue like this, I wonder what will become of me. To be honest, I’m afraid of myself.
 
However, even that fear was blown away by the words he just said.
 
He told me it was okay to love him more, to be in love with him, and he said he’d give me a wedding dress. I was happy, really happy.
 
Regardless of the intention behind those words, I’m already falling in love with him.
 
The only concern, if there is one, is this.
 
“Lately, I feel like Onee-chan has been acting strange.”
 
“You’ve noticed?”
 
“Well, yeah, I mean, when Mom sleeps in my room seven days a week, I’m bound to notice.”
 
“Yes, that’s true. I’m sorry, you must have found it annoying.”
 
I may have overdone it with my childish enthusiasm.
 
I probably overdid it. I have to think about it.
 
“It wasn’t that bad. With Onee-chan, it was like half and half.”
 
He forgave me. My son, so sweet. He’s so cute, I want to eat him..
 
“She doesn’t come to my room as often as she used to, and, um…”
 
Yukito looked worried. I know the reason. Yuri asked me about her career path.
 
Study abroad. If that didn’t work out, she wanted to go to a distant university.
 
It’s an unbearable choice for Yuuri. This child is still burdened with guilt.
 
“Please. I know I shouldn’t tell you this. But I’m powerless and I can’t help Yuuri. So please, save her. Your words are the only ones that can reach Yuuri. You’re the only one who can save her.”
 
Just as I was saved, only Yukito can save Yuuri.
 
She has certainly committed a sin. Over a decade of forgiveness. It has continued to torment Yuuri as if it were a life sentence. Yet this child still feels that it’s not enough, that she think she must punish herself. Forever and ever. An endless penance.
 
“Me?”
 
“Protect your big sister.”
 
“Can I do it?”
 
“It’s okay. You’re stronger than anyone.”
 
It’s a parent’s duty to save their child, but I entrust it to my son. I’m a failure as a mother. I shake my head in my heart. I’ve already failed. As a mother trying to start over, I have no such qualifications.
 
But I understand. I’m Yuuri’s mother. I know what this child needs right now.
 
I have no reason to worry. Yukito will surely make us happy.


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If you want to read another story with similar feel please check out recent novel that I just picked up: My Childhood Friend Called Me a Man of Convenience Behind My Back, I want To Reset My Favor and Live a Normal Youth


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