Thursday, March 3, 2022

Please Leave Me Alone V1 Chapter 4 & Epilogue


Translator: Pingas


It’s very sunny on the trip day.

Why not just let it rain horrendously and mess everything up? Although I thought about shitty things like that, the gods seem to have brilliantly ignored my wish. That’s probably the right thing to do.

I also gave up and wore the backpack for the outing. Since I don’t need to bring my textbooks and bento, it’s much lighter than usual.

“Onii-chan, you’re early today.”

Satsuki seemed to have noticed me when I got into my shoes at the door. She dashed here to greet me.

There aren’t any trips in middle schools, so she’s still in her pajamas.

“The island that our class is going to is pretty far. We have to meet up early. Seriously, why don’t we just go to the zoo nearby for a trip?”

“No, the zoo is literally right next to the high school. It’s not even a trip. It only takes 5 minutes to walk there.”

“That’s the entrance of the botanical garden. It takes 15 minutes to get to the zoo.”

“Isn’t that close enough?”

There’s a huge zoo and botanical garden next to Higashidani High School. If there’s nothing to do in the class assembly, we’ll just be like, “Hey, let’s just go to the zoo and get closer to each other.” It’s a bit scary. I think we went to the zoo once per year in my previous life.

While we haven’t been there this year, I’m always afraid that one day, sensei will say, “There’s nothing to do today. Let’s go to the zoo.”

“The zoo, isn’t it nice?” Satsuki mumbled to herself and suddenly smiled.

“But, onii-chan, you’re so brave. You actually dare to go on the trip. Don’t you have no friends?”

“Shut up. You can’t be sure of a friend’s existence before you directly observe it.”

“That’s a cat, right?”

“Even a lone wolf can go on a trip. Don’t underestimate a lone wolf with a heart of steel.”

“From onii-chan’s personality, I thought you have a 50% chance of just pretending to be sick.”

This little sister really doesn’t mince her words. Even though this isn’t her first day of doing that, at least be kinder to your onii-chan.

“Sigh, I guess that’s one way. Isn’t it kind of cool to go to a net cafĂ© with the money I got from Mom for the trip?”

“Cool, what!? That’s just being the worst person ever! Don’t lie to Mom!”

Satsuki seemed to be genuinely angry. I comforted her and told her that it was just a joke.

Even I won’t come up with immoral lies like that. I’ll just properly announce that “I’m not going on the trip because of some noble reasons.” And then I’ll just ask for leave without any hesitation.

“It’s nothing. I just think going to school activities for real is nice sometimes.”

Shiramine took care of me when we were forming groups. Someone will not be happy if I can’t have fun. Although I don’t have much motivation, I should work hard here.

I’ll show you. Even I can have fun with my classmates in high school if I’m serious.

*

The sizzles of fat breaking down can be heard everywhere. The meat is grilled just right. Its scent is stroking my nose along with breezes from the sea. The barbecue ground is set between the beach and the breakwater. There are rows of grills and gazebos around. The high school students cheered as they grilled the ingredients they prepared.

Our net is filled with ingredients. Aside from the meat, there is seafood like shrimp and shellfish. Of course, vegetables like onions and green peppers are a must.

“Hey, it’s done.”

A guy yelled as he held the clip in front of the grill monitoring the heat. I think his name is Sagawa.

Yeah, there’s always a dude who acts as the guard of the grill during barbecues. His dedication to helping other people grill is amazing. My little sister said that I’m suited to help pick up trash in the neighborhood committee. However, unfortunately, I don’t like to volunteer.

Upon hearing Sagawa’s signal, my groupmates brought their paper plates and chopsticks before surrounding the grill. They chatted and laughed as they put the grilled stuff onto their plates. This reminded me of bird parents feeding their young ones.

The sea reflects the sunlight irregularly. Tides are rising and falling tens of meters away from us. They are rustling. In a month, this beach should be filled with families and couples.

It’s barbecue time in name right now. However, some people are grilling stuff while others are playing. Anyway, you can do whatever you want.

Many people ignored the barbecue, chased the waves, or dipped their foot into the sea. The crazier ones even just rolled up their sleeves and charged into the water. Some guys got their upper body wet as well. What are y’all going to do when we’re taking the coach bus back?

However, these worries won’t survive a hit in front of the overwhelming joys of youth.

Phew, the joys of youth. …I pretended to be a mysterious old man acting all nostalgic about my youthful times to reduce this scene’s mental damage to me.

Also, I’m sitting under a tree a few meters away from my group. I’m slowly tasting the tea in my paper cup. An utterly youthless circle that stretches a couple meters long surrounded me. This hurts.

It’s fine. I love to have lunch quietly, anyway. Don’t you dare say I’m eating alone because lone wolves have no one to chat with.

The barbecue place is split between Class A and Hanamitsuji’s Class F. I don’t know where she is.

Hoshigasaki is playing happily tens of meters away from us.

Someone suddenly appeared before me when I was staring at the scenes dazedly. It’s Shiramine. She’s wearing a white baggy long-sleeve T-shirt with black slim-fit pants. The black baseball cap used to block sunlight suits her very well.

“Nanamura-kun, you’re not eating? Sagawa-kun is still grilling.”

Shiramine is holding another plate aside from her own. It looks like she got mine as well.

“Ahh, I am. Thank you.”

I put my single-use chopsticks onto the plate. I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but aren’t there too many vegetables? I took a bite of the onions. It’s grilled pretty nicely. Thanks, Sagawa.

Shiramine is still standing next to me. Both of us are looking at the grill.

“Are you having fun at the barbecue?”

“Do I look like I’m having fun?”

My question made Shiramine stroke her long hair for a second. She looked at my face.

“Well, honestly, you look like someone sitting on the train at night with your head lowered after getting off work.”



“Do I look exhausted?”

“Aren’t you?”

“No, you’re right. Honestly, I’m pooped…”

Seriously, I underestimated this trip. I should’ve already experienced it in my previous life. However, it seems that memories classified as trauma are suppressed.

The first difficulty is the meet-up spot. I arrived at the designated stadium parking lot pretty early. Therefore, I had to keep a subtle distance of around ten meters from my happily chatting classmates. I stood there idiotically for nearly 20 minutes.

What is this? I feel like I’m being brilliantly excluded!

Since I’m sitting on my seat in the classroom, I still exist in the class. However, I had to stand there alone after distancing myself from my classmates. The fact that I’m physically a lone wolf cannot be covered at all. It hurts. 

Even when we got on the coach bus, everyone played cards or ate snacks together. I was the only one pretending to be asleep with my earphones on.

I literally couldn’t sleep. I could only put up an act.

I tasted the same amount of awkwardness on the ferry as well. Then, after getting on the island, we were brought to the barbecue ground and the present.

Well, I guess you can say I’m spending more time sitting, but my mental state isn’t in great shape right now. Seriously.

I was so determined to work hard today before leaving home. I’m sorry, Satsuki. I can’t do this at all…

Shiramine looked away from me. She stared at the sun and the blue sky that was unwilling to go away.

“In a way, it’s a talent to show such a frustrated face under the sun.”

“I’m honored. By the way, are you sure you want to stand next to a man who can show such a frustrated face under the sun?”

“I can’t just leave you alone. No one will blame you if you just take what you want to eat on the grill. I just took what I wanted. That’s all.”

“Oh, thanks.”

Shiramine waved at me and returned to her group.

“Ah, Shiramine, try this too! It’s good.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

The groupmates spoke to Shiramine intimately. The guys next to them are waiting for the opportunity to talk to the girls. How young.

Although I made several conversations about work with my groupmates, everyone aside from Shiramine still feels like they are avoiding me. It’s not great to just keep talking to them.

In the end, after this, I keep observing the moment that the groupmates aren’t paying attention to the grill and take the food in a flash. After that, I bring them under a tree far away to dig in.

The guilt of not doing anything but eating is pretty heavy. It made me subconsciously only take burnt meat and the left vegetables. I feel like I’m a NEET searching for food in the kitchen at midnight.

I didn’t expect to leave memories like this on a beach next to the blue sea while bathing under early summer’s charming sunlight…

The barbecue party was over after around 2 hours. Somebody had to clean up. After that, it’s time for us to move as a group.

Our group seems to be going to the coach a bit far from the barbecue ground. We’re catching octopuses.

Why the hell does it have to be octopuses? Even though I know it’s famous here.

“Hey, everyone. Here.”

My left-hand side is the sparkling ocean, while the right is a coastal road filled with hotels and bars. The girls in the group are waving their hands exaggeratedly in front. Someone is also answering something like, “Hey-“ and “Wait for us-“

Even though I really want to complain about whether catching octopuses is this happy, I know I’m not supposed to say that.

Actually, it doesn’t even matter. Whether it’s octopuses, eels, or even sea urchins. Doing things like this is one of the happiest moments of a high school student. Well, even though I feel like it’ll hurt a lot in the end.

Is it because of this unusual space? I feel everyone is 20% more excited than usual. They are so electrified despite not having a swimsuit event. How youthful.

There aren’t many people around since it’s a weekday. However, aside from high school students, some teenagers are around. Although there should be locals among them, most are probably tourists, right?

Even though there’s still some time until summer, the sunlight is already so annoyingly strong. I regretted underestimating this activity and not bringing sunscreen as I walked behind the group.

“Have you caught octopuses before?”

The voice next to me made me turn around in shock. Shiramine stood next to me for some reason.

She seemed to have slowed down on purpose.

“Regrettably, …no, come to think of it, it’s not regrettable at all. I haven’t.”

“I guess so. Honestly, I’m a bit afraid. They feel sticky.”

“They must be, right?”

I can’t agree more. However, to a youthful high school student, even being afraid of sticky octopuses is a nice memory, right?

But, by the way, I think I’m letting Shiramine worry about me too much.

“I’m sorry about all of this.”

“It’s fine. I just did it because I want to.”

“Glad to hear that.”

At this point, I can feel weird stares. After raising my head, the groupmates in front of us exchanged looks and whispered something as they were waiting for us.

Shit, we’re too slow.

We dashed and chased after our group.

*

As I expected, the octopuses swimming in the pond are very sticky. They made the girls scream. The guys also frowned intensely due to the weird sensation on their arms. I can’t believe this thing is popular. What’s wrong with the world? Don’t tell me tentacles are suddenly the mainstream fetish now?

Finally, the octopuses were caught after rounds of tough battles. Tragically, they were turned into takoyaki and sashimi for our enjoyment with the chef’s hands.

This octopus was just sucking me with its suction cups lively a while ago. Now I deeply understand how noble life is.

Then, everyone talked about checking out the souvenirs while we were on the way to go fishing. All of us visited the souvenirs shop near the fishing port.

I stopped nearly the entrance and was surprised by rows of dried goods and tsukudani. Others in the group are checking the snacks and unknown key chains inside. [TL: It’s a salty dish made to go with plain rice. The usual ingredients are small seafood, meat, or seaweed simmered in soy sauce and mirin.]

I’m looking somewhere a bit further away from my groupmates. Honestly, it’s Shiramine. She’s browsing the souvenirs around me.

Her expression is still very serious. I’m amazed at the fact that she still carries her class president aura around, even when it’s a trip.

Shiramine talked to me a few times while we were on our way here since I was isolated. I really appreciate her consideration, care, and feeling.

However, this has its own issues.

I started revising the conclusion I reached in my brain. The more I think about it, the more I think it is correct. This answer won’t be wrong.

I cheered myself up and walked toward Shiramine silently.

“Shiramine, come here.”

“What?”

I got closer to Shiramine when everyone else couldn’t see us and whispered to her.

“I should leave. Take care.”

“Ha!? Why are you suddenly…”

Her eyes bulged. I raised my finger to signal Shiramine to keep quiet. Then, I spoke calmly.

“You’re really a great help for coming and talking to me. Thanks to you, I almost forgot the reality that I’m a lone wolf.”

“Glad to hear that.”

“However, this also makes some people unhappy.”

I looked around in the shop. Shiramine also understood what I meant.

“Well, I know that too.”

The groupmates are clearly worried about this side when Shiramine and I talk. From their aura, I don’t think their emotions are positive.

In their eyes, Shiramine belongs to their side. They must be unwilling to see Shiramine caring about a problematic child who’s a stalker of Hoshigasaki.

Even if they don’t say it before me, I can feel that atmosphere.

“It’s almost time for me to retreat.”

After I said that, Shiramine still found it unacceptable and shook her head.

“Indeed, they aren’t close to you in any means. However, I was hoping that this trip can…”

“That’s not what I meant. You can be the middleman between them and me. However, they may start hating you during the process.”

Indeed, it’s fine if they just hate me alone. The worst is just me having some slightly awkward memories.

However, I can’t ignore it if their dissatisfaction involves Shiramine.

“The best way is for you to ignore me for them to not hate you, but you’re not willing to do that, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“So, it’s okay as long as I just go somewhere else alone. I’m already a lone wolf. I’m already used to spending time alone.”

This is my answer. It’s probably the best option to solve this problem.

“…As the class president, I can’t just watch you go without the group.”

“Relax. I’ll be back when it’s time to go back.”

“That’s not the issue.”

Shiramine remained firm. I sighed. However, I also understand that she’s not an easily convinced person, especially regarding suggestions like this.

I glanced at Shiramine directly and continued trying to convince her.

“I really appreciate you. It’s all thanks to you that I get to follow the team and have fun for so long today. We had the barbecue and caught octopuses.”

Without Shiramine, I would’ve probably had my lunch in the kiosk near the pier. If I had taken a step ahead, I would’ve probably just not gone on the trip.

“So, I can’t just let Shiramine waste the trip for my sake.”

Shiramine had enjoyed this trip carefreely in my previous life. I can’t let her leave a painful memory behind just because I returned 3 years ago.

“Everyone will probably be bothered if I’m suddenly gone. Can you help me find a good excuse? I’m not MIA. We’re just splitting up.”

“…You’re so selfish.”

“Lone wolves love to be alone. You don’t need to care about me.”

I went around Shiramine and walked out of the souvenir shop. Someone pulled my shirt.

“Don’t you understand? This trip is only successful when you can enjoy it with me too.”

“I’m already grateful enough from hearing that alone. Right, I don’t think I need to remind you about this, but please don’t tell anyone about that incident.”

Shiramine accidentally reveals Hoshigasaki’s secret because she wants the classmates to stop misunderstanding. This must be avoided.

“Didn’t I already promise you…?”

“It’s way better to have a good class president. That’s what written on <Kojiki> as well.”

“You’re lying again.”

“My dream is to become a novelist, after all. I’m pretty good at lying.”

“Do you have weird biases toward novelists?”

She glared at me dumbfoundedly. Her tone turned even deeper.

“However, I don’t agree with you. You can’t just think everything will be okay if you take the blame alone.”

“In reality, it’s enough as long as everything is okay.”

“Then what about you? I don’t like this.”

“Well…”

She was pretty blunt about it. I couldn’t think of an answer.

I chose to leave because I didn’t want to cause Shiramine trouble. This is fine to me since I’m already used to being alone. Her groupmates should be more than welcome of this too.

Even though this strategy is perfect in my brain. Even though this is the only method I can think of.

A single “I don’t like this” from Shiramine turned this into a wrong answer.

Whether it’s Shiramine, Hoshigasaki, or Hanamitsuji, why do they love sticking to me so much? Moreover, my mindset isn’t even at the same level as theirs. It’s either eternal parallels or conflicts.

I attempted to think of a new way to solve this for a moment. However, at last, this is the only one I know.

“…What else can I do? That’s the best way I can think of.”

I’ll leave the rest up to you. I left that and gently broke free of Shiramine’s hand.

“You’re an idiot.”

“Yeah, …you’re definitely right.”

What did I do wrong? That feeling came up. However, even so, again, this is the only way I can think of.

If it involves people, it’s not a correct answer as long as the person doesn’t accept it, even if it’s perfect in my heart.

I’ll cause trouble to others if I just act on my own. I’m going to make people unhappy. I’m going to cause misunderstandings.

Ah, this is a pain in the ass. Am I just a cold-hearted person, or am I just ill-suited to dealing with people?

Perhaps both are true.

This time, Shiramine didn’t say anything. I walked out of the shop without turning back.

The sunlight is scorching my skin. The sparkling sea is so wobbly that my eyes hurt. The sea’s rancid smell is filling my nose. The cheers and laughter from somewhere are fading away in the wind as if it’s just my imagination.

Anyway, let’s just check out the town. I thought about that as I started moving.

*

The road leading from the coast to the island center is a flat, uphill ramp. It only takes a few minutes to see the area packed with houses, shops, and public infrastructures. The roads are developed after the houses are built where I’m from. So, it’s kind of refreshing to see the streets built along the road.

I can even see structures that resemble a school from afar. Really? Are there students on isolated islands like this? At this point, I finally realized that’s perfectly reasonable.

There are many unknown lives in a place that I had no idea existed. Even though this is something ordinary, it still feels a bit lonely to know that. Isn’t this weird? Although I’m a lone wolf already, I should be used to distancing myself.

Encountering someone is a very troublesome thing. It’s very mentally demanding. One day, both sides will suffer and separate with unhappy memories. If that’s the case, isn’t it better to just not meet with each other in the first place?

I changed my mind and looked at the trip guide I received.

I’ll probably bump into acquaintances if I walk along the coastline. It’s going to be troublesome if the teachers see me and ask, “Where’s your group?” Right now, I should just check out the monuments that aren’t popular with high school students. Let’s just kill time until the ferry is ready.

A capable man will study to increase our differences when others are playing. Well, even though I think it’s fine to not study on a trip.

*

After that, I compared the map with the views as I proceeded. I checked out the old temple and the stone wall halfway up the mountain. There is also a huge ancestral hall and shrine with statues of octopuses.

I didn’t bump into anyone from my high school as I expected. It’s pretty peaceful.

I went back to the center after exhaustion from a long walk. There are some souvenir shops here too. I can see a few high school students and tourists from afar.

However, I won’t be questioned as long as I act naturally, right? My ability to hide my presence has already received public acknowledgment. I’ve also used my perfect invisibility on the coach bus. Perhaps some military will utilize my power to develop new fighter jets.

Finally, I found an old store next to the road. I should say it’s a shop for cheap snacks. I bought a bottle of cola and sat down on the bench in front of the store. Carbonic acid was poured into my throat aimlessly.

“Phwah.” I took a deep breath and pulled out my phone to check the time.

There’s still a lot of time left before the ferry sails. …Although checking out monuments feels nice, it’s almost time for me to sit down leisurely and relax.

Is there a family restaurant or something like that on this island? I miss the drink bar so much.

I can feel someone approaching me when I observe the snacks shop’s goods. What excuse should I come up with if it’s a teacher? I thought about that as I refused to turn around. Then, I received a sudden blow on my leg.

“Ouch!”

I was kicked. Is it delinquents instead of teachers!?

I quickly looked forward. A beautiful girl with a furious expression is standing in front of me.

She’s wearing denim hot pants and a sleeveless hooded sweatshirt that feels refreshing. I can faintly see her striped undies below the shoulders. A beautiful girl in revealing casual clothes during summer, even though this combination is really dazzling to look, now’s not the time for that.

The no.1 person I don’t want to see right now is in front of me.

“Why are you here?”

“That’s my line. Where did Mashiro and her friends go?”

Hanamitsuji shot me cold stares. She asked me with a freezingly deep voice.

I don’t see her groupmates around. Why the hell is this girl alone?

I sighed internally and thought, what a mistake for me to come to a crowded place.

*

Hanamitsuji got a cola from the snack shop. She rudely twisted the cap open while sitting next to me. Come to think of it, this is the first time I have seen her drinking cola.

“Hanamitsuji, you drink cola too?”

“Not really.”

Don’t buy it if you don’t like it, girl. I thought about that as I secretly glanced at Hanamitsuji’s side profile while she was drinking cola. Her anxiety is barely covered under her beautiful face.

Yeah, she’s obviously angry…

I spoke up after confirming there are no high school students around.

“Why are you here? Where’s your group?”

“I saw you were sitting here dazedly, so I left them after apologizing and saying I have something to do.”

“Are you serious…?”

This is really freaking me out. Will someone really go this far normally?

Depending on the situation, perhaps this sentence will make people really happy. However, Hanamitsuji looks super pissed next to me. I literally can’t cheer up at all. It’s because I made Hanamitsuji mess up her plans. I’m sinking in guilt right now. Damn, my invisibility is not working at all.

“Why are you not with Mashiro?”

“She’ll just worry about me if I stay. Even though I’m really thankful, I’ll just cause her trouble.”

“I see.”

I think she understood the basics despite me not explaining the details. It’s too much of a pain to explain. I’m glad that she understood so quickly.

“Shiramine’s personality is making her suffer as well.”

“You’re the same, right?”

“I won’t be so sure. There’s a reason for me to suffer. Things like interpersonal skills, conduct, and retribution from my previous life.”

“You know too much, right?”

Hanamitsuji gazed at me calmly. I looked away and drank some cola.

Although the bench is outside, it’s at a shady spot. The wind of this season is still pretty refreshing. It feels kind of nice with an ice-cold cola in my hand.

“…But I still think you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself for others.”

Hanamitsuji mumbled. She kicked the ground with the tip of her shoe.

I stared into the distance and sighed gently.

“I didn’t suffer anything. A determined lone wolf is better off being alone than in a group. Don’t some people prefer traveling alone than with people? I’m just a wolf walking on my own path.”

“The only thing you excel at is describing your loneliness as something very grandeur.”

“Also, it’s okay as long as Shiramine can have fun during the trip. I’m a philanthropist.”

“What philanthropist? You literally don’t care about other people’s feelings, including mine-“

Hanamitsuji was furious. She suddenly went quiet.

Other people. I was startled to hear that.

What the hell? Even if you say that, a lone wolf like me won’t understand.

Indeed, I never care about other people’s feelings. Lone wolves have very little experience in dealing with others. I can’t think of a good reason.

It’s easy to cause misunderstandings after overthinking too much. I’m the disappointed one after having weird expectations.

Therefore, it’s better to just not overthink. It’s just like instead of knowing more awkward acquaintances because I randomly decided to make friends, it’s better to just give up constructing relationships in the first place.

“Anyway, I’m satisfied with how I’m doing right now. There’s no reason for you to complain. Even my mom let me indulge more.”

“Do you really think you’re satisfied with this? You’re friendless and an outcast in the class. You really think this kind of high school life is good?”

I was furious to hear that as well. It’s fine for a lone wolf to go hard on himself, but other people pointing fingers at me hurts way more. You have to treat us carefully like glass products, alright?

“I’m not like Hanamitsuji. You need to have barbecues while singing and dancing.”

“I don’t want to have barbecues while singing and dancing, okay!? Where did this mysterious impression of yours come from?”

I cleared my throat and tried to cover it up.

“However, I’m serious about you having no rights to tell me what I can and can’t do. Also, why are you coming here to tell me what to do?”

I turned my frustration into words and sprung them out. I don’t know whether this frustration is toward Hanamitsuji or me.

Bam. Hanamitsuji slammed the cola onto the chair. She moved her body and suddenly got close to me.

The smell of seawater that has always lingered around the air is mixed with Hanamutsuji’s sweet scent.

“I think I’m the one who’s hanging out with you in this world. I’m the one who dragged you to 3 years ago, which is where we are right now. That’s why I’m responsible for you.”

I remembered Hanamitsuji suggesting we go on the trip together. This is the last thing I expect is to be brought up again right now. I couldn’t help but smile bitterly. I took a deep breath.

“You said you’re responsible, but I’m the only one who’s responsible for my life. You can’t take responsibility for this.”

“Perhaps you’re right.”

“You should go back to your group for today. Everyone is worried about you.”

“You don’t know anyone in my group, anyway.”

“At least I know you’re pretty close with your friends. I’m trying my best to do what a lone wolf can do right now. You’re just bringing me trouble by coming here and messing with me. Go back now.”

“Did you just say trouble…”

Hanamitsuji bit her lips. Although I think I went over the line, it’s too late. I made up my mind.

Let’s end everything right here.

“You realized it already, right? Our mindsets are fundamentally different.”

After a moment of pause, I took a deep breath and continued emotionlessly.”

“We’re going to fight, anyway. So, can you please just leave me alone?”

That’s the answer I obtained.

I should’ve told her earlier. I was being coward for dragging it until today.

I think it must be because it was too comfortable hanging out with her in the family restaurant after school.

However, I have to release Hanamitsuji from this.

“Let’s stop meeting in the family restaurant. Also, we shouldn’t interfere in each other’s relationships. Uh, even though I practically have none.”

“…You think this is the correct answer, right?”

“Yes. People with different mindsets will always fight each other when they stay together. It’s going to end up in parallel lines, anyway. Well, but I’ll still say hi if we see each other outside of school. This way, I can forget that I’m alone.”

I forced myself to relax when I said that last part. As long as there are people in the world, we will encounter numerous departures. Isn’t it too sad if it’s so serious every time? It’s best for us to just laugh it off.

Life is all about parting. Famous figures had said that as well.

“I…”

Hanamitsuji lowered her head silently. She stared at her clenched fists on her kneecaps.

Please don’t let there be any accidents. I prayed. Please just accept it quickly. Everything will be solved this way.

Even though I know thoughts like this are proof that this won’t go smoothly, I still decided to ignore it.

Of course, my wish isn’t fulfilled.

Hanamitsuji’s sakura lips briefly opened and mumbled.

“…I would’ve never gone back to 3 years ago if I knew this.”

“Eh?”

What does that mean? Hanamitsuji already stood up before I could ask her.

“Sorry, I just forced my mindset and expectations onto you and being disappointed on my own. What an idiot.”

Even though I can’t see clearly due to sunlight, her face shows an unprecedentedly stiff smile.

The deepest part of my chest is getting restless. Don’t tell me I-

“No, you’re not. …If anything, I’m the idiot.”

The words I sprung out weren’t convincing at all. I was just trying to fill up the void.

“I won’t bother you anymore. Sorry.”

“No, why are you apologizing?”

“I’m really sorry. …I won’t beg you to forgive me.”

That heartbreaking smile twisted and twitched. No, that’s not the expression I want from her.

“Goodbye.”

Hanamitsuji turned her slim back around. I couldn’t help but reach my hand out toward her.

“Hanamitsuji.”

Hanamitsuji didn’t turn back because of my voice. She ran away, just like that. Only her unfinished cola remains next to me, who is sitting there dazedly and lonely.

*

It’s already been a few minutes since Hanamitsuji ran away. I still remained on the bench.

I remembered the conversation just then.

It feels much better now. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have thoughts like that. I’m ill-suited to dealing with others. This is clear from the start. Being tangled with someone is just an additional burden.

This is where it ends.

I don’t have to be bothered by Hanamitsuji anymore. Hanamitsuji doesn’t need to trouble herself from her involvement in my business.

…Even so, what’s with this feeling?

Hanamitsuji and I fight with each other because of our differences in mindsets. That’s why our opinions aren’t the same. That’s why our interactions are parallel lines. It’s not going to help even if we stayed together. With that in mind, I wanted to keep my distance from her. This isn’t a negative suggestion. Instead, it’s a solution that helps us look forward. At least it was the perfect answer in my mind.

However, after witnessing Hanamitsuji’s heartbreaking smile, I have painfully realized that I was wrong.

Here it is again. Even though it’s the correct answer in my heart, it’s wrong as soon as other people are involved.

This lone wolf here can’t understand the dynamics of it. No, does everyone just cross this barrier with the effort despite not understanding it? Isn’t this too hard for a lone wolf?

I thought about Hanamitsuji once more time.

I didn’t speak to her in my previous high school life. I don’t think she noticed me either. However, since I pushed her away from the truck that day, everything changed when we returned 3 years ago.

Hanamitsuji held my hand and cried after the entrance ceremony. My legs went numb after visiting the shrine with her. She questioned me in the corridor after knowing my lone wolf identity. We had strategy meetings in the family restaurant to help me make friends and chitchat. She chattered me after the Hoshigasaki incident. The novel I was very confident about was seriously critiqued. I rejected her suggestion to go on the trip together.

She tried her best to suppress her shattered heart and put up a smile just then.

Ahh, am I an idiot?

I’ve finally realized it at this point.

I have already met with Hanamitsuji.

This fact is so unshakable that I feel pain from parting ways with her.

At this point, I can’t treat nothing has happened anymore.

Previously, I’ve never encountered someone in a real sense. That’s why I didn’t feel sad about parting. I didn’t understand the pain. Due to that, I didn’t realize it until I actually felt bad about someone’s departure. This time, I encountered a girl whose mindset and personality are completely different than mine. It wasn’t until this point that I understood the feeling I had when I saw Hanamitsuji leaving is called regret.

I bitterly smiled at my own helpless stupidity.

I felt that we should part ways out of consideration of our differences. No one will get hurt this way.

But I was wrong.

The encounter between Hanamitsuji and I is already irreversible. At this point, it’s impossible to wipe this fact off clean. Our relationship is already one that will cause pain when we part ways.

The only thing I can feel it’s over is when I put the word “End” on the novels I published online. However, that’s not how interpersonal relationship works. The person is an alive human.

Life is all about parting. It’s not rare for people to leave each other.

Parting ways with Hanamitsuji is just one farewell out of many.

However, if life is really all about parting, if all of the people you meet part ways eventually, if living means experiencing parting again and again-

The least I can do is to make the parting scene prettier.

“I can’t just end everything here, right?”

I sighed helplessly and stood up. My eyes squinted impatiently due to sunlight. No, perhaps this isn’t because the sunlight is too bright. Perhaps it’s because I’m pissed at myself. Even though I really love myself, sometimes I find myself very disgusting.

For example, it took me too long to reach the 7-word conclusion, “I can’t just end everything here, right?”

I finished the cola and threw it into the bin before taking Hanamitsuji’s. There’s still more than half left in her bottle. I guess it’s true that she doesn’t like cola.

I can’t drink it, but I don’t just want to leave it here. So, I took the cola bottle and walked toward the direction where Hanamitsuji left.

*

After enduring the sun and walking in a hurry, I can see more and more tourists. This site is right behind the fishing port, so I guess it’s normal.

I thought I could find her by following this path. However, unexpectedly, this place is crowded with houses. The vision is very poor. I can’t find her by just dashing blindly.

What should I do? Just as I thought about that, I saw some familiar blonde hair wobbling around in the distance.

It’s Hoshigasaki.

Right, I should ask Hoshigasaki instead of just searching on my own. Why didn’t I think of that? Oh, right, because I’m a lone wolf.

I selected Hoshigasaki from my empty friend list and texted her on Line.

<Sorry for the sudden message. Did you see Hanamitsuji?>

<Eh, what’s wrong?>

She should be with her group, but she texted me back in less than a minute.

<Your group is behind the fishing port, right?> <Did Hanamitsuji go over to your side?>

<Eh?> <You’re here?>

Did she freak out because I know where she is? Hoshigasaki looked around. She seemed to have found me after a while and waved.

<Don’t come here. It’ll be bad if you leave your group.>

<No, what’s wrong, Nanamura!? Did you get away from your group? Are you lost?>

Hoshigasaki looked at her phone and me repeatedly as she asked. Do you think I’m a kid? I won’t get lost. Well, honestly, I got away from my group on purpose. …However, it’s going to be a pain to explain. Let’s just leave it here for now.

<I guess. Forget about that. Did you see Hanamitsuji within these couple of minutes?>

<I think I saw someone who looks like her.> <But we were really far away. I wasn’t sure since she’s not wearing a uniform.>

I asked the right person. My fingers trembled in excitement as I replied to Hoshigasaki.

<Where did you see her?>

<The road next to a dried goods shop.>

I hastily looked around and saw a shop with many hung dried goods beneath its roof. The road seems to be leading to the mountains.

<I’m not sure if that was Sora-chan as well.> <She doesn’t seem to be with her group too.>

I received text after text. I’m pretty sure that was Hanamitsuji. What the hell, girl? Are you still not with your group yet?

<But why are you looking for Sora-chan?> <Aren’t Nanamura in the class president’s group?>

<Something happened.>

<What happened?>

<Don’t worry about it. Have fun on your trip.>

Before dashing out, I clapped my hands together and apologized to Hoshigasaki from afar. I charged to the road next to the dried goods store. There are shops littered around here too. Tourists prefer the area around the main road. It gives off an isolated impression.

I looked around and searched for people with Hanamitsuji’s clothes as I ran. After tens of meters, I saw a small alley on my left-hand side. I peeked inside it just to be sure. There’s a group of seemingly bad guys. I can only see their backs. They gathered before a shop. I don’t know whether it’s an arcade or a Don Don Donki store.

“He who has the true idea of what is Heaven’s appointment will not stand beneath a precipitous wall” is my motto. So, I instinctively wanted to turn around. However, I saw a familiar face deep inside. My bad feelings came true. It’s Hanamitsuji.

Why are you hanging out with these dangerous-looking people!?

I couldn’t help but scream internally. However, I changed my mind and thought, “Wait.”

Hanamitsuji is very clever. She shouldn’t be dumb enough to be brought into an alley by local gangsters, right?

There must be a deep reason for this. It’s probably just going to be a clichĂ© plot where they aren’t actually gangsters. Hiya, don’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve learned something. I’m sorry that my light novel brain immediately associates delinquents with danger.

Roars can be heard from the alley as I thought about that.

“Hey, what did this asshole just say!?”

“You’re looking down on us, right!?”

Alright, out! They are totally delinquents. Thank you so much. I want to cry.

Fuck me. I really wanted to run away. No, I’m aware of it, alright? I’m a total coward if I decide to run away now. It can’t be helped if people throw rocks at me since I’m not even a human at that point. However, fear is fear. I’ve never fought someone before. However-

Even I know it’s wrong to run away now.

I took a deep breath and stepped forward.

“Hey! What are y’all doing!?”

The men turned around after I yelled.

“Who the fuck are you!? None of your business!”

“Shut up! I’m not interested in delinquents like you either.”

I already wanted to cry from getting intimidated by delinquents. However, I still forced myself to walk forward and continue my bluff. Their attention is entirely onto me due to my insane provocation. Who cares about the rest? I already couldn’t turn back the moment I voiced out.

Hanamitsuji raised her head. Her eyes bulged. She’s basically telling me, “Why are you here?”

I approached them as I signaled Hanamitsuji to remain silent. Two men walked toward me with ferocious expressions.

“Hey, brat, you think you can fuckin’ look down on us?”

“Do you fuckin’ know who you’re talking to?”

For some reason, their heads wobbled as they intimidated me. What the hell? Are these two’s brains not fixed in place? You two are infants, right?

“Why would I know who I am talking to!? We saw each other for the first time. I don’t know you!”

I clenched my fists and entered combat stance. Just a little bit more. They have to get just a little bit closer. I have to hold back before that.

“You’re fuckin’ kidding me!”

Perhaps they couldn’t tolerate it anymore. The duo charged straight at me.

I also charged forward. …I then turned around and made a mad dash.

I charged all the way back to the alley’s entrance.

“Hey, asshole! Don’t run!”

“Get back here, brat!”

“Shut up, retards! I’m definitely running!”

I answered them without facing them. Then, I turned around after reaching the entrance.

After seeing there’s still some distance between us, I took a deep breath.

“Uwahhhhh! Help meeeee! I’m gonna get raped! Noooooo!”

I screamed with everything.

This is probably the loudest I’ve ever screamed in my life. It’s probably louder than the girls who scolded us back in elementary school. “Boys! Can you guys sing properly!?” The choir ended up in a mess that broke the class. Why are girls so worked up in choirs? Don’t tell me they watched that movie where the nun chants gospels excitedly?

Perhaps they didn’t anticipate my actions. The men were dazedly for a moment. However, they immediately returned to their vicious expressions.

“Huh!?”

“What the fuck are you talking about!?”

They quickly closed the gap between us. However, I didn’t stop yelling.

“Help meeeee! I’m going to lose my virginity! Noooooo!”

Even though this is a desolate alley, it’s just tens of meters away from the main road. A curious crowd gathered here upon hearing my scream. Some even walked inside with a face full of interest.

It’s suddenly much more crowded here. The men started to hesitate.

“W-Who’ll target you, retard!”

“How the hell? This guy’s brain has some issues.”

While they complained like that, they must have held themselves back under public pressure. The two knocked me on my shoulders and ran furiously into the depths of the road. Phew, I was totally prepared that I was going to receive numerous punches. Of course, I’m glad that didn’t happen.

The crowd is starting to get rowdy. I grabbed Hanamitsuji’s wrist while she was still standing dazedly in the alley and pulled her along.

“Hiya, I’m so sorry for bothering everyone. Excuse me.”

I made a vague excuse as we left the crowd. We dashed along the main road where there were the most people.

“N-Nanamura-kun.”

“Shut up. Just follow me for now.”

Hanamitsuji spoke up. I didn’t turn back. We went past the automatic door of the observation center made with concrete. After going up the stairs next to the entrance, we came to the second floor. This is where the gift shop and inquiry desk are. There are some people here. I guess we’ll be fine at this point. I sighed in relief and stopped, but someone gently tugged my shirt, and I turned back. Hanamitsuji blushed as her eyes moved around in confusion.

“What?”

“M-My wrist hurts.”

“Uh! Sorry, I accidentally…”

I hastily let go of her hand and wiped mine on my pants. Shit, my hand is super sweaty. It must be super disgusting, right? I can also feel that my ears are flaring up. Stop making more memories that I want to forget, sheesh!

However, Hanamitsuji doesn’t seem to be angry at all. She gently stroked her wrist and answered lightly.

“No, it’s fine.”

“I see. …Ah, I’m thirsty. Do you want juice? I can pay for you.”

“Eh? Why?”

I thought I was considerate to her, but Hanamitsuji looked confused. No, I’m messing things up because of the emotions I’m feeling right now. However, I’m indeed thirsty. So, I took out my wallet and went to the vending machine.

Come to think of it, I left Hanamitsuji’s cola in the alley. Hanamitsuji supposedly threw that away already, so I don’t think she’ll be mad. But I still feel bad about littering around. Well, even though I don’t dare to run back again. Gangsters are scary.

I thought about that as I tried to insert a 100 yen coin inside, but it’s not going in.

Huh, isn’t this change port too small? …I thought about that as Hanamitsuji whispered next to me.

“Your hands. They are shivering too much.”

“Ah…”

I couldn’t put the coin in because my hands were shivering too much? Of course, I couldn’t. This is so embarrassing.

“No, this isn’t because I’m afraid of those delinquents, okay? Should I say I’m trembling in excitement for the upcoming battle?”

“What kind of battle are you facing? Gimme.”

“O-Okay…”

She rejected my excuse without hesitation. Hanamitsuji put the coin in for me. Click, a pleasing sound can be heard.

“Do you want cola?”

“Ah, yeah. Thanks. You can just get whatever you want.”

“Thanks. I’ll accept then.”

Hanamitsuji and I sat next to each other on a bench. I chugged my cola silently. I wondered what Hanamitsuji got. It’s unsweetened black tea.

After moisturizing my throat, I finally calmed down.

Phew, I almost wetted my pants there. …No, I’m not afraid, alright? Seriously. Even though I wasn’t afraid, I still felt my life was in danger. I should’ve prepared my will beforehand if I knew this would happen.



“Your hands were shivering so much back then, even more than my grandpa.”

“Stop bringing that up.”

“Your hands were very sweaty as well.”

“Sorry…”

“Also, what’s with that scream? That’s super embarrassing.”

“What else could I do? Do you think I can beat them?”

The only solution to that situation is the one I learned from light novels. Although some MCs are strong in fighting sometimes, I’m not one of them.

“I thought you know how to fight when you put up your combat stance.”

“I’m not bluffing, but I suck at sports. I’ve never fought with anyone aside from my little sister, and I’m frequently on the losing side. I don’t even know if I can beat a 6th-grade kid if I try. I may even barely lose to a serious 4th-grade child.”

“That’s really no need to bluff. …Well.”

Hanamitsuji sighed dumbfoundedly. She put her hands on her lap and turned to me. That made me straighten my back.

Hanamitsuji’s long eyelashes are shivering. She gently opened her beautiful sakura-colored lips under her elegantly shaped nose.

“Thank you so much. You saved me.”

“O-Oh, …well. I just did it instinctively. Alright, it’s just instincts. Honestly, I almost wanted to pretend I didn’t see anything when I saw those delinquents. You were lucky that I didn’t manage to escape, Hanamitsuji.”

“Nanamura-kun, can’t you just accept someone’s gratitude?”

Hanamitsuji glared at me dumbfoundedly. Don’t blame me, girl. That’s how I lived for more than 18 years. It’s too late to change it at this point.

“Whatever. Even so, you still came to save me. That’s how you are.”

“…I think your comments are too exaggerated.”

“I think you would’ve probably done the same thing even if it was Hoshigasaki-san or Mashiro. Not that you’ll admit it.”

I won’t be so sure about that. If it was Hoshigasaki instead, …no, this hypothesis is meaningless. It’s because you can’t be sure of something that didn’t happen.

“Come to think of it, Nanamura-kun. Why were you there? Were you looking for me?”

I remembered it when she asked me. That was close. I nearly forgot about this because of the delinquents. Perhaps I could’ve ended it on a happy note after coincidentally saving her, but that’s not what I want.

“Ah, right. There’s something I want to talk about with you.”

I swallowed my words before I could speak up. It means I’m taking back what I said, after all. The difficulty of this is insanely great.

However, this is something that only I can and must say.

“…I thought about what I said earlier. I said I shouldn’t stay with you because of our different mindsets.”

“…Yes.”

“It’s a fact that there are differences in our mindsets. We may argue and fight each other if we choose to hang out more. I should say that’s probably guaranteed.”

Hanamitsuji raised her head and looked at me. She doesn’t seem to know what I’m trying to say.

I gulped and continued slowly.

“However, I’ve already met you. I met you. I knew you. I befriended you. That was the first time I understood how painful it was to bid farewell to someone like this. Destroying a relationship because our mindsets are different is an incredibly wrong reason. …That’s what I think.”

“You’re awkwardly vague at the last part.”

I can sense her dumbfounded eyes. I scratched my head in defense.

“Sorry, I don’t even know what’s the correct answer as well.”

What is the correct answer for interpersonal relationships? I really don’t know. However, even if I don’t, the right thing to do is probably keep searching.

Even if it means I have to keep making mistakes.

“However, right now, I feel very regretful for leaving you right now. I’ve only realized that my encounter with you has already left such a long-lasting mark.”

After that, I put my hands on my kneecaps and lowered my head to Hanamitsuji.

“That was my fault. I was too rash. I thought cutting off my relationship with you was the correct answer, but now I disagree. If Hanamitsuji doesn’t mind, …can we still go to the family restaurant and hang out?”

Even though my words were kind of weird, right now, our relationship just revolves around chatting with each other in the family restaurant.

Even if we don’t think the same, we can still hang out. We can still argue with each other.

Right now, I don’t want to part ways with Hanamitsuji yet.

Instead of a heartbreaking farewell, it’s better to keep arguing between our different mindsets.

Then, one day, perhaps there can be a grand finale. Of course, other answers are possible too.

This is how I feel right now, an answer that’s infinitely close to correct.

“…Sheesh, you’re helpless. I was thinking about something similar too.”

I raised my head. Hanamitsuji gave me a shy smile. She swept her bangs with her fingers.

“To me, Nanamura-kun is indeed a special person. I’ll be looking forward to hanging out with you.”

“O-Oh, I’m not the best person, but I’ll be looking forward to it as well.”

“That’s not how you’re supposed to say it.”

Phew, I sighed. Anyway, at least my effort wasn’t in vain for chasing after her.

“By the way, I can’t believe you said something so embarrassing.”

“Shut up. Ah, I’m exhausted. That’s enough. I was thinking…what I should do when I saw the delinquents. Why were you with those people? That was scary.”

“W-Well, that’s because, …after leaving you, I was thinking about stuff, and then I bumped into them. Of course, I apologized as well, but they said my voice was too small and brought me there.”

Hanamitsuji’s eyes floated around. She seemed to be hiding someone.

“Couldn’t you just yell earlier like I did?”

“I was so terrified that I couldn’t speak. …What’s with your face?”

“It’s nothing. I just didn’t expect you are afraid of something as well.”

“Are you looking down on me?”

“Not as much as you think.”

“You’re really an inconsiderate guy!”

Hanamitsuji punched me on the shoulder. It doesn’t hurt, probably because she held back.

“Also, what were you thinking about?”

After my question, Hanamitsuji blushed and moaned. What’s with this rare reaction? Finally, she gave up under my curiosity and answered.

“I was thinking about…you. The novel, when you saved Hoshigasaki-san, and why do you insist on being alone.”

Why were you thinking about those things? I was speechless due to confusion. Then, Hanamitsuji got even closer to me.

“Didn’t you ask me why we returned to 3 years ago instead of the day before the accident?”

“Ah, yeah, I think. In the end, didn’t we agree only God knows?”

“I lied.”

“Eh?”

“It’s not a coincidence that we went back 3 years. That’s because my wish is: Please let me live through high school again with Nanamura-kun.”

I thought about what Hanamitsuji said for a while. Come to think of it, I remembered her saying, “I would’ve never gone back to 3 years ago if I knew this.” Now I know why, but I still don’t understand the reason.

“Why did you want to live through high school with me once again?”

“…I felt very bad after the accident.”

Hanamitsuji looked into the distance and continued calmly.

“Someone sacrificed himself to save me, yet I knew nothing about him. I didn’t even know that person was in the same class. We’ve even spent 3 years in the same high school.”

“I don’t blame you since I’m a lone wolf. …Ah, I feel like we had a similar conversation before.”

When she knew I was writing novels and when I saved Hoshigasaki, Hanamitsuji said, “I didn’t know about this last time.” She was very happy about it too. I see. That’s what has been going on.

I interrupted her awkwardly. Hanamitsuji’s lips curled upward.

“I also had no idea that you are this humble. I really want to know everything about you, even if it means going to high school once again.”

“So, that’s why you went back to 3 years ago?”

“This is very important to me. …Also, I did the right thing.”

“Ha?”

“Didn’t you save Hoshigasaki-san? Although you were pretty humble about it, not everyone can pull it off. At that time, I really wanted to keep hanging out with you. I feel like our high school life will be amazing if I can restart it with you.”

Hanamitsuji crossed her fingers together embarrassedly and mumbled.

I-I see. …Our high school life will be amazing if she can restart it with me, right?

“No, isn’t this too heavy!? What was that? I’m very sorry now that I know.”

Don’t request that from a lone wolf, girl. The burden is too heavy.

After I expressed my honest thoughts, Hanamitsuji blushed and answered.

“T-That’s why I kept it as a secret! I was thinking if you said something that embarrassing while I didn’t, that would be too bad for you.”

“Don’t say it’s embarrassing, okay!? No, I mean, even though it is very embarrassing!”

“Moreover, Nanamura-kun is way too odd, right? You’re the first person who I have such a hard time dealing with, okay?”

“You’re blaming me? Well, yeah, blame me…”

“And yet you said you wanted to go back immediately after returning to 3 years ago despite knowing my reason.”

“Everything would’ve done that, right?”

Come to think of it, this girl said perhaps we would be back in the future if we prayed again. That literally didn’t make any sense. Now I know why.

“You turned into a lone wolf again after going back 3 years.”

“I did it by myself. Shut up.”

“Well, I’ll be frank with this opportunity. I just did it for myself when I cared about you after returning 3 years ago. Don’t think I care about you because I feel guilty, alright? That’s a weird misunderstanding.”

“O-Oh.”

I realized something as she said that.

Hanamitsuji must find me “leaving” her unacceptable before going back in time, right?

That day, even though I made an important connection to Hanamitsuji’s life, I died before we could even speak.

That’s why she wants to restart once more, right?

Even though we’ll leave each other in the end.

Although the time and situation are completely different, our feelings of not wanting to part ways yet more or less coincide. That’s how I feel.

“This is the reason why I suggested we go on the trip together. I said it before, right? You’re already special to me. How can I let a person like this live his high school life alone?”

Hanamitsuji was angry. I bitterly smiled.

“I understand, but I don’t want to make friends.”

“Yeah, we just don’t think alike.”

Hanamitsuji’s lips curled down in dissatisfaction. This impossible canyon won’t be filled that simple, right? However, I guess you just have to go for it when it comes to relationships.

“Well, but I’m relieved to know Hanamitsuji’s reason.”

“Relieved?”

“My little sister told me to watch out for people who don’t ask for something in return. She said I’ll get tricked into lending huge loans.”

“What are you even trying to do? Don’t make your little sister worry about you.”

Hanamitsuji sighed helplessly. Hey, don’t give me such a pitiful look. My little sister said that because she’s considerate to me. There’s no way she was just underestimating me. …I guess not?

The conversation suddenly ended. I heard someone moving their body closer to me.

“Hey, look at me.”

I raised my head after hearing that. Then, I’m startled upon realizing Hanamitsuji’s body is much closer than I expected. I wanted to back up, but my body was captured by her dazzling eyes.

“Can I say something weird?”

“Ah, yeah.”

After I answered, Hanamitsuji gently smiled and tilted her head. …She’s carrying a very, very attractive expression.

My body froze as she leaned to me. With a tinge of redness on her cheeks, Hanamitsuji whispered next to my ears.

“You were just a little bit cool when you came to save me. My heart was pounding.”

The sudden words took my ability away to react. My body remained stiff.

Wait, calm down. Don’t overthink. She just said that because of what I did. There’s no other meaning. Calm down. Inhale, inhale, exhale. Inhale, inhale, exhale. No, why am I using the Lamaze technique? I’m not a pregnant woman experiencing labor pain, right?

“W-Well, of course, your heart pounds when the delinquents surround you. Yep.”

“You’re being like that again…”

I quickly distanced myself and started making excuses. Even though I felt cold gazes, I forced myself to turn my head around. I feel like I won’t calm down if I see Hanamitsuji’s eyes right now.

Hanamitsuji sighed and changed her mood. She spoke up.

“Hey, there’s a photo booth.”

I looked in her direction. There’s a fancy machine at the corner of the room.

…A photo booth? At this moment, a flash of light appeared in my mind.

“O-Ohhhhhh! I-I remembered it…”

“Wait, what are you doing!? That’s so sudden.”

I suddenly screamed. Hanamitsuji’s shoulders recoiled in fear.

I put my right hand on my forehead and told her that miserable memory I had recovered.

“I remembered…what happened when I came to this island last time.”

“Isn’t that a nice thing?”

“Nice what? …I was shoved into a group that I’d never talked to and was dragged into an awkward outdoor barbecue. …The groupmates suggested coming to this photo booth after the barbeque was over.”

“You took a photo here last time?”

“No, I didn’t. They said it was full when I tried to go in, so I stayed outside. There was nothing I could’ve done. I went to the toilet to kill time, and then everyone disappeared before I knew it. The last thing I did was reading light novels on this bench as the trip came to an end.”

“I-I shouldn’t have asked you…”

Hanamitsuji showed a genuinely disgusted look. Her regret is real. You’re the one that made me remember shitty memories like this. Of course, I had to share it with you.

“Well, at least this won’t happen again.”

Hanamitsuji said that as if she dragged me back from the abyss.

Indeed, I had already left my group at the start. That’s why I wasn’t abandoned. Glad to know that. I can finally eradicate my last high school life.

No wonder I forgot about the last trip. It’s too tragic to remember things like this.

“Hey, why not we take one just to refresh our memories?”

Hanamitsuji hugged my arm as she showed a mischievous smile. I answered her in a weird posture.

“Why me? I’m not planning to get a motorcycle license.”

“We’re not taking an ID photo.”

Hanamitsuji sighed. Oh, I see. Photo booths are different than those ID booths in front of supermarkets. I’m more used to that one.

“Let’s just take a photo as a memento for today.”

“Why not just take a selfie?”

“You think selfies are better? You won’t get in the shot if we’re not close.”

“Well, I’ll help you take one. Borrow me your phone.”

After that, Hanamitsuji handed me her phone with a dumbfounded expression. I checked the camera was opened and stood before her.

“Here, cheese.”

“Wait! This isn’t a selfie!”

“It’s better for me to be off-camera, right? The photo will be worth more.”

“What kind of mindset is that? That’s enough. Let’s just go to the photo booth.”

Hanamitsuji took her phone back and answered determinedly.

“Why do we have to go into that?”

“Even though selfies give off a slice-of-life feeling, don’t photo booths feel more proper? A day like this should end with a good photo.”

“No, I don’t take selfies usually. Don’t you hate it when there are your own photos on your phone?”

“How is your consciousness even formed?”

Hanamitsuji is clearly startled. Aren’t there many people who are disappointed upon seeing their own photos in the album too?

“Throw away your self-consciousness. Anyway, let’s just try it once first.”

She kind of just dragged me to the booth. Is it really okay for a guy like me to enter a sparkling machine like this? I freaked out as I entered it. I’m probably the first to be kicked out if there’s an introvert identifying system. However, fortunately, or unfortunately, this machine doesn’t seem to have that function.

“Eh? There aren’t any adjustable spinning chairs here?”

“I told you we aren’t taking an ID photo.”

The inside is filled with fancy decorations as well. The wall in front of us has a sign explaining the resulting photos. However, I don’t think I can reproduce that sunny feeling.

I left the controls to Hanamitsuji since I’m a photo booth newbie as I curled up. You can leave it to me if I just need to shut up and stand aside. That’s how I basically do in every single photo.

“Here. Come closer.”

“O-Oh.”

Hanamitsuji is standing in the center of the booth. I can’t help but stand next to her as well. I don’t know where I should stand, even though I know I probably won’t appear if I stand too close to the side…

Suddenly, with a high-pitched voice, I was scorched by flashlights. The booth turned to pure white. E-Eh? What’s with this atmosphere? It’s too tormenting for an introvert, right!?

The voice asking me to pose was very noisy, so I blatantly ignored it and remained still. Hmph, you’re a hundred years too early to command me, stupid AI voice.

We left the booth after taking the photo. I’m exhausted…

“Your face is too stiff.”

Hanamitsuji looked at the “Photoshop” options outside the machine and laughed.

“Come look at it, Nanamura-kun.”

“No, thanks. What kind of punishment game is it for me to look at my face?”

“We can always edit it.”

“I don’t like that photoshop option. ‘Please choose the face you want.’ Are you looking down on me?”

“You’re such a pain. …Well, I’ll just do whatever I want, okay? I can listen to your request.”

“Please make it as natural as possible.”



“Got it.”

Hanamitsuji seemed to have finished after a while. She came next to me.

“Your face went very creepy when I tried to edit it, so I didn’t do much.”

“Don’t say it’s creepy, alright?”

It seems that the edited photos are sent to our phones. Hanamitsuji sent it to me as well. Her pose on it looks slightly embarrassed, while I’m just standing there idiotically with a stiff face. Indeed, it feels natural, and I like it. However, isn’t this combination too weird? It’s literally two people being forced to take a photo together after some kind of punishment game.

“Why did you just stand there like an idiot?”

“I’m always at the left-top or right-top corner whenever I’m in a group photo. I already have the habit of standing there insignificantly when it comes to photos.”

By the way, it feels really uncomfortable to have your own photos on the phone. Goosebumps appeared on my back. I really want to delete them right now. …No, Hanamitsuji is there too. I can’t.

“At least smile.”

“I couldn’t help but rebel when the voice said cheese.”

“Sheesh.”

Hanamitsuji sighed. She then suddenly looked outside the window. We can see the sea outside of the observation center. The sparkling ocean reflecting sunlight came into view.

Naturally, Hanamitsuji and I walked to the window.

Waves breached out from the tiny gulf before being knocked back by the breakwater. The ships from afar left behind a golden trail.

“It’s beautiful.”

Hanamitsuji put her hand on the glass and mumbled intoxicatedly.

I agreed and stood next to her.

“It’s indeed beautiful.”

“It’s already much better than last time when you get to see this, right?”

“Ho, it’s not that easy to find a trip worse than last time.”

“You’re really lame…”

“Sorry, that’s who I am.”

Then, I glanced at Hanamitsuji.

Did she notice me? Hanamitsuji looked at me in the eyes as well.

“What?”

“I’m thinking whether you don’t want me to be the one standing next to you.”

“You’re right. You’re careless, unpopular, bad at writing novels, boring, stubborn, and timid.”

“Don’t just expand on the parts I skipped over! Also, my novels are the late-game carry type!”

I thought she would answer, “That’s not true!” This girl is really not cute.

“It’s even worse when you are aware of it.”

“Shut up.”

“Our mindsets and personalities are entirely different as well.”

She’s right. It’s not like our mindsets will change after experiencing those things.

Something this rooted won’t disappear that easily. That’s why both of us make mistakes.

“However, I didn’t even know we think differently last time. It wasn’t until we restarted and argued that I knew. I’m glad to know that. It’s too empty if I understand nothing about you.”

Isn’t it? Hanamitsuji tilted her head as if she was asking me that. I was dazzlingly attracted to her face.

“…Maybe.”

“There’s still time for us to make peace, no matter how many times we argue. We still have 3 years, after all, right?”

“3 years, right.”

It’s a bit embarrassing to hear that from her. I couldn’t help but look outside the window.

By the way, didn’t that sound like she’s going to keep messing with me for the next 3 years? Suddenly saying things like that is cheating, right? What if I misunderstood?

I took a deep breath and exhaled all of my weird imaginations.

I observed the view before me again. I must have seen the same view previously, right? I should’ve at least looked outside the window when I stood up from the bench and realized the time was up.

However, the last scenery is not as beautiful as this one. I didn’t remember it.

Compared to what you see, who are you seeing it with, and what kind of scenario are you in are the most important, right?

I saw this brilliant view with someone next to me.

We argued, and then I felt like I had learned something.

I’m sure that I can remember what happened today 3 years later when I graduate.

Leaving memories like this, I think, yeah, it’s nice.

“Right, Nanamura-kun. I’m really sorry to interrupt when you’re showing an awkwardly disgusting smile.”

“Hey, you don’t sound apologetic at all!”

“You still haven’t paid me the money for the photo booth yet. Please give me 100 yen.”

“You still want the money? Shouldn’t you pay for me in that mood?”

“I have to pay more. What’s wrong with it? It cancels out with the black tea just then.”

“This is unacceptable.”

“Also, you got my photo, Nanamura-kun. 100 yen is worth it, right?”

“…Well, you’re right. Sure.”

“Eh, what’s with that answer? Are you really willing to pay because of my photo?”

“I just feel like it’s going to be a pain to reject.”

“I was right. I can feel my life is in danger. I’m blacklisting you on Line.”

“Suggestive questions don’t count as evidence!”




“We’re holding a reflection meeting today.”

It’s the day after the trip. Hanamitsuji held her glass of oolong tea as she said that to me. We’re at the family restaurant, even though it’s Friday. Her determined eyes are even more stern than usual. It’s clear that she wants to have a nice, long talk with me.

“Uh, do I have to be in this reflection meeting as well?”

I spoke up tremblingly. Hanamitsuji pointed at me sternly.

“It’s all because of you!”

Her teary eyes are filled with resentment. I looked away awkwardly as I remembered the reason for this after the trip.

*

This morning, I was a bit late for school as usual. Some classmates glanced at me in secret. What’s wrong? No one cares whether I’m late or not normally.

I only figured out the reason during the break after the first lesson.

“Nanamura-kun, come over here.”

Shiramine appeared in front of my table. She dragged my arm and pulled me to the corridor.

I already apologized to her on Line about leaving her group during the trip. Is that not enough? Just as I was thinking she wanted me to pay her back with my body, she went ahead and asked a weird question.

“You sure had fun yesterday, right?”

“Huh?”

“Ah, ah, even though I spent so much effort trying to make you part of the group. Don’t I just look like a clown now? …Sheesh, how are you going to pay me back?”

Shiramine’s eyes turned dark. I hastily asked her.

“Wait, I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

“Ask yourselves.”

“No, what did I do yesterday…?”

“Who did you meet after leaving our group?”

An unpleasant imagination came into mind after hearing that. Don’t tell me.

“The people in Class F saw you. Precisely, they saw you were with a cute girl.”

“…………”

Cold sweats dripped from my back. I fell into silence. How should I explain? No, I don’t think she’ll believe in anything I say.

“Of course, it’s not rare for couples to break off the group during the trip. However, I was surprised to know that you are one of them. That’s all. I hope you and Hanamitsuji-san from Class 1F can live happily ever after.”

“No, there are a lot of reasons for this.”

“Ah, ah, ah, I don’t want to hear you showing off! Give me back my worries. That’s enough.”

Shiramine walked away furiously. She didn’t plan to listen to my explanation at all.

*

After that, Hoshigasaki called me to the back of the Special Building during lunch.

“I didn’t expect Nanamura to be dating Sora-chan. …Why didn’t you tell me!?”

“No, you misunderstood.”

“But I heard someone saw Sora-chan and you holding hands. Only couples will do something like that, right?”

Uwahhhh, I want to die when I know someone saw that. I was pretty upset. Hoshigasaki continued.

“You asked me where Sora-chan was on Line because you couldn’t find her, right?”

“No, it’s not like that! I didn’t ask you just so I could meet her!”

“But you two did see each other, right?”

“You’re right! But there’s a reason!”

After skipping some parts, I told Hoshigasaki about the trouble of Hanamitsuji getting messed up by delinquents and us running away together. There’s no way I can tell her we’re from the future, though.

“Hmph…”

“What’s with your suspecting eyes?”

“No, I do believe in you. You’re that kind of guy, Nanamura. You’ll always save someone as long as she’s a girl.”

“Don’t say weird things like that. I won’t just save anyone.”

“I know. Alright, alright, I wish you two can live happily ever after. Bye-bye.”

“Listen to me.”

*

In conclusion, everyone knew Hanamitsuji and I spent time together during the trip. Sigh, give me a break…

“I should be the one getting a break! Everyone is asking why did I choose you!”

Hanamitsuji read my mind and slammed the table. Even though she’s very impolite, she spoke the truth. I couldn’t retort.

However, it’s not hard to imagine how hard things are for Hanamitsuji when she has many friends.

“I messed up. …Why did I talk to you in public?”

“That was an emergency. It couldn’t be helped, right?”

“You’re right, but you didn’t have to hold my wrist for that long, right? Come to think of it, the delinquents were already gone. Were you just trying to touch me?”

“I wasn’t! I was just, …you know, caught up in the moment.”

That place was not ideal for us to disband, right? Of course, I was too hyped when I held her wrist. By the way, the memory of my sweaty hands came into my mind again. I really wanted to forget it.

“Ah, that’s enough. None of this will happen if you’re a normal person!”

“I’m a normal person.”

“You were already not a normal person when you became a lone wolf and Hoshigasaki-san’s stalker!”

“Don’t crush me with the truth! Be nicer to weaklings!”

“Shut up, you better take responsibility right now!”

“I feel like your way of saying it is a bit, …can you don’t put it that way?”

Our argument brought the staff member.

“Excuse me. Please keep quiet in the restaurant…”

We fell silent after the reminder.

I drank the sizzling cola. Hanamitsuji quickly glanced at me.

“…Sorry.”

“Eh? What’s wrong? That’s sudden. Did you forget your wallet?”

Hanamitsuji shook her head.

“…I caused you trouble because of this, right? You must hate all of this hustle and bustle, right?”

What? That’s why she apologized? Hanamitsuji held her glass tightly. I sighed and pretended to answer stiffly.

“Yeah, I think I got myself into trouble.”

“I guess so. ..Sorry.”

After hearing my answer, Hanamitsuji lowered her head and mumbled.

“But it’s fine, right?”

“Eh?”

“Relationships are annoying. It’s better to chill alone. I still think that’s absolutely true. However, I feel like if I just live intending to avoid all troubles, I’ll just end up with nothing. I don’t know how to describe this. It’s like life needs troubles. These troubles should create new connections as well. That’s what I think after staying with you, Hanamitsuji.”

“Nanamura-kun…”

I felt that Hanamitsuji raised her head, but I didn’t look at her. It’s too embarrassing.

In the end, our mindsets are still parallel lines. Even though a lot has happened in these months, we still didn’t understand each other.

However, we can’t just disconnect because we think differently.

Even if I have to bid farewell to Hanamitsuji one day, I hope I can find a beautiful way to do it.

Gentle laughs can be heard when I am thinking about these things.

“You sound like a novelist right now.”

‘Don’t say that. It’s embarrassing.”

My ears should be full red right now. Uwah, what did I even say?

“Don’t tell me you’ve been writing novels.”

“The novel I gave you was so terrible that you erased it from your memories!?”

“I’m joking. I still remember how terrible it is.”

“Please forget about that.”

Hanamitsuji laughed cheerfully for a while. Then, she looked at me with a peaceful smile.

“Well, but I was really happy to hear that. Thank you.”

“O-Oh, …I see.”

I answered boringly and looked at her. I was dumb.

Her long eyelashes, a beautifully-crafted nose that deserves a place in the museum, and gently breathing sakura-colored lips all converted into a wave of powerful destruction hurling toward me when I looked at her face.

This is breaking the rules. I mumbled internally, even though I didn’t know what was breaking the rules.

“This is where we see each other every time.”

“Well, yeah. Uh, the drinks here are good.”

“I think every drink bar tastes the same.”

She caught onto my half-assed reply.

“It’s also after school.”

“Well, we can’t see each other in school, after all.”

“Uh, …can’t we meet during the holidays?”

“Ha?”

Then, a tinge of redness appeared on Hanamitsuji’s cheeks. She crossed her fingers together in embarrassment. Finally, she cleared her throat and spoke up.

“It feels boring to meet in the family restaurant. Well, for example, it’s Saturday tomorrow, right? Should we go somewhere…?”

Ding. My phone rang as if it were a bucket of cold water on Hanamitsuji’s determination. It’s a Line notification.

“Oh, sorry.”

I looked at my phone after that. I saw the message on the notification bar upon unlocking it with Face ID. The sender is Hoshigasaki.

<You should be free this weekend, right? Can you come to my house?>

For a moment, I failed to interpret what this text means. My brain turned blank.

It’s fine that she thinks I’m free, but what does “can you come to my house” mean?

The worst part is that Hanamitsuji saw everything too.

“What. Is. This? Don’t tell me you two have already developed such a relationship behind my back?”

The mood just then disappeared in an instant. Hanamitsuji asked me with a freezingly cold smile. I could only shake my head repeatedly.

W-What is happening here, Hoshigasaki-san…!?


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