OreShura: Volume 5 Chapter 1
#1: Chiwa, a Nine Year Portion of Love
Although our summer club trip already ended, there were two weeks left of summer vacation.
The intersession break for cram school is also ending this week, so next week I'll have to start studying seriously again when the latter session of classes begin.
I told myself this, but my frame of mind actually wasn't relaxed at all.
After being confessed to by Chiwa and assaulted by mayhem, my head was still throbbing, and my thoughts were a mess. I felt light-headed just from walking, as if I wasn't standing on my own feet.
By the time I got home and closed the front door, I was practically about to fall over.
"I-I'm finally alone...!"
After taking a huge gulp of tap water from the kitchen, I wearily laid down on the sofa in the living room. Smelling my home after being away for three days made me feel nostalgic and relaxed. It made me want to take a nap.
By the time I realized it, it was already about four o'clock in the evening.
It was about time to make dinner. I needed to make two portions of rice, and two portions of vegetables, so the two of us could eat together. Like usual, I'd share dinner with my childhood friend.
...but with everything that's been going on, will Chiwa still come to eat?
Suddenly, the phone in my pocket started vibrating.
Trying to guess if it was Masuzu or Chiwa, I took a look at my phone—
"Kaaaaaaoruuuuuuuuuu——————! I love you the most!"
The warped sound of my best friend's voice came from the other side of the phone.
"Don't suddenly shout like that, Eita! You'll scare people."
"Your phone call came at the perfect timing! You really are my best friend! My one and only best friend!"
"...What's wrong? Are you at home right now? Did something happen during the club trip?"
My best friend is so awesome. He understands me so well!
I told him everything that happened during the clup trip.
Like during the OreDere Contest, Masuzu and I kissed on stage.
Afterwards, Chiwa confessed to me.
Then Hime and Fuyuumi got bundled in, and it turned into mayhem.
"Really? Chihuahua finally decided for herself then."
After hearing everything, Kaoru didn't seem particularly surprised.
It sounded like he was in the bathroom, with how his voice echoed. Kaoru had this habit of taking baths while texting and making phone calls. As a high school boy, this was a rather strange habit.
"What do you mean by 'finally'?"
"'Finally' just means finally. I've known that Chihuahua's liked you for a while."
"Mm, really. I think the only person who didn't know was you, Eita?"
"...is that so...?"
To be honest, I was thoroughly shocked. I used to always brag I understood Chiwa the most, but I never realized it was only in my head...
"Well for anyone, if they were to look closely..."
I didn't know if Kaoru's words were meant to comfort me or what?
"You considered Chihuahua to be your little sister, right?"
"Yeah, I basically took her as family. To be honest, for her to want me to become her sweetheart is rather..."
"About that point—"
The sounds of water splashing over could be heard.
"I think Chihuahua was aware of that herself. That's why she couldn't confess during middle school."
"Isn't it the same now?"
When I asked this, Kaoru replied very clearly,
"Well, Eita has a girlfriend now?"
I couldn't help but give a sigh.
"If Natsuzawa hadn't started going out with you, Eita, the situation wouldn't have turned out like this so suddenly."
Kaoru's words really drove the nail in.
If you went back to the very beginning, the root of all the mayhem started from there.
Furthermore, my relationship with Masuzu was only fake, so this honestly was just one thing following another. All the strings were tangled together, and it had reached an irreparable extent.
"Eita, it seems like you're in a tight spot."
Kaoru's voice from the bathroom suddenly became soft.
"Actually, I have a good plan. Do you want to hear?"
"Sure, what's your plan?"
"Go out with me."
"Dump Natsukawa-san and Chihuahua, and come date me. Like that, both of them will give up, right!?"
Kaoru's energetic voice seemed to say, ｢What do you think? It's a great idea, right?!｣
"W-What's that whole-hearted sigh supposed to mean?!"
It was probably true that if I faked having that kind of interest, the girls wouldn't be interested anymore, but—
"No way. Absolutely no way. Definitely no way."
"Hmph—I really thought it was a good plan~!"
I heard the splashing sounds of legs agitating the water through the phone.
"So why don't you just spin a pencil and decide—?"
"Hey, you've suddenly become really trivial!"
"Well becoming trivial is completely called for! Even if it's me, if you treat me like that, I'll be upset, you idiot!"
To be honest, I had no clue what he was talking about, but I felt I should at least apologize.
A small sigh came from the phone.
"Alright. Just take it as a joke. If we're talking about my personal desires, I hope you'll pick Chihuahua, because I don't want to see her crying expression."
So Kaoru's relationship with Chiwa was quite good. After all, we've all played together since middle school.
"Although I've never said it before, I've always secretly supported Eita and Chihuahua's relationship."
"Because you two make me feel jittery, and also because Chihuahua once sweetly asked me to help her. I think that if your girlfriend was Chihuahua it wouldn't be bad... ah, but since Ai-chan also showed up, nothing's definite."
"Sorry, thanks for all your trouble."
Really—Kaoru laughed and spoke,
"Eita's really made me suffer many things, so you should listen to my ideas occasionally, okay? Oh right, after second semester, my—kyaaa!"
A scream came from the other end of the telephone.
It sounded rather like a girl's voice.
...was that Kaoru's voice?
"Hey, Kaoru? Are you okay?"
"Honestly! Why'd you come in, Dad!? ...I said I didn't faint, and I was talking on the phone! That being said, cover up your front you pervert!"
I guess it was an argument between father and son.
Though, it was kind of weird to call your father a ｢pervert｣, right? Perhaps he only wanted to have some time with his son, so it seemed kind of pitiful.
It was was vulgar to be eavesdropping on the details of a fight between a father and son, so I quietly hung up the phone.
"I guess I can only come up with a plan myself..."
I laid flat on the sofa and gave a sigh.
If you looked at the facts, being confessed to by a girl should normally make a person happy.
But, why is my mood so downcast?
Is it because I'm Anti-Love? Or is it because I hate mayhem?
—no, I actually felt it was something else.
But what was it? This sulky mood.
"...it was Chiwa."
I never expected that Chiwa, who was a sister to me, actually liked me.
Why would she... have those kinds of feelings...?
"Ei-kun, wake up! Ei-kun—"
Just when I was about to guess who it was, Chiwa's face appeared in front of my eyes.
I guess I had unintentionally fallen asleep on the sofa. I glanced at the time, it already six o'clock in the evening.
I hurriedly wiped away my drool and sat up.
"S-Sorry. I haven't made dinner yet."
"No, you don't have to do that anymore."
Chiwa spoke while nodding and smiling.
"What don't I have to do? Are you not hungry?"
"I wasn't talking about that. I actually came to apologize about things that happened today."
Chiwa deeply bowed, being very serious about the matter.
"I'm sorry for making a scene in front of Ei-kun!"
"I never considered Ei-kun's conflicting feelings, so I must have made things difficult for you, right? I made a huge amount of trouble for you, so I'm really sorry! Ah—why I am I like this? It was the same during my confession. My heart was thumping like crazy, and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to express myself clearly. Just when I thought I'd finally be able to say it, Natsukawa suddenly appeared with something that didn't make sense, and after that it turned into a mess! I don't even remember what I said! I'm sorry!"
After saying everything with one breath, Chiwa again lowered her head. Her entire face was red.
"Hey, don't apologize, Chiwa. I won't mind it."
I tried to comfort her.
"Think about it. Up until now, you've been practicing confessions during club activities, right? Compared to that time when your tongue slipped and said, ｢I'm going to confehsuyu!｣, you've already improved a lot.
When I finished speaking, Chiwa's face turned an even brighter red.
"I-I-I tried really hard to forget about that~!"
Damn. I thought that would help comfort her, but it turns out I stepped on a landmine.
"Ei-kun you idiot! Idiot! Go die!"
This time, the person bowing their head was me. Damn. Why did I have such bad luck?
Just then, a soft thing touched my forehead.
There was a ｢chuu~｣ sound.
I recognized this sensation.
Just half a day ago, my lips had experienced it.
"Just kidding. Actually, I love you the most."
The area around Chiwa's eyes was slightly moist, and she smiled slightly.
"W-Wait! That wasn't what I meant to say!"
"In the past, I've never been able to say ｢love｣ like that. From now on, I'll say it a lot. To make up for nine years, hm? Are you prepared for this?"
"I said that wasn't what I meant!"
No good. If this continued, I'd be pulled down this route!
I took a deep breath, and spoke only after my boiling head cooled down a little.
"Hey, Chiwa. Let me say this clearly."
"I've only looked at you as my childhood friend, so even if you say you like me, I honestly can't understand you very well."
"Mh. I understand that very well."
Chiwa nodded her head, not caring even to the slightest degree. It was just like Kaoru had said.
"Even so, I still love Ei-kun, and I think Ei-kun is the best. This isn't love towards a childhood friend. It's love towards a boy… is that not okay?"
"It's not not okay…"
"So that's why I decided, starting today, I won't be eating dinner at Ei-kun's house."
Although many things happened today, this short statement actually shocked me the most.
"What? What did you just say?"
"I said, I don't intend to eat at Ei-kun's house anymore."
"W-Why, Chiwa!? What kind of strange food did you eat?!"
Seriously worried, I put my hand on her forehead to take her temperature. Strange. She didn't have a fever. What was going on?
"I'm perfectly normal!"
Chiwa shook away my hand.
"I thought about this for a very long time on the train. How could I, who always acted like a spoiled childhood friend, make you look at me like a girl? I kept thinking and thinking, on and on, and I felt this was the only thing I could do.
"Why?! It's just a meal, and there's nothing wrong with eating together?"
However, Chiwa shook her head.
"Because if I'm depending on Ei-kun like that, I'll never be able to break away from my position as your childhood friend."
Chiwa's eyes were completely serious.
Because we've been together so long, I knew that when Chiwa had those kinds of eyes, she wouldn't give up no matter what.
"Then, how are you going to eat from now on?"
"I think I'll eat take-out or convenience store food temporarily, but I also plan on slowly learning how to cook. It's kind of embarrassing to never ｢know how to cook｣.
"Y-You want to cook!?"
The attack power of the statement far exceeded that of the previous one, and it surprised me.
In cooking class during home economics, Chiwa once negligibly tossed a tomato into beef stew saying, ｢this is so boring｣. The Chiwa who had this kind of worldly view actually wanted to cook?!
"Hey, can't we at least cook together? Eating is very important! Life is much much much much much much much more important than romance or whatever."
"Don't worry about me! It's no big deal. I can do it by myself!"
Chiwa slapped and rubbed her stomach, but at the same time, the sound of a growl echoed through the entire room.
Now, of course that wasn't my stomach.
Chiwa's face turned red again, but this time the reasons for it were different.
"Just then! That was just the speakers in my stomach!"
What kind of excuse was that? Though honestly, that wasn't much of an excuse at all.
"T-There's also one more thing I want to ask you!"
Chiwa seemed to be in a hurry to change the subject.
"Are you free tomorrow afternoon, Ei-kun?"
"I am. Next week cram school classes start again, but this week I have time."
"Then can you come with me to school, then?"
"You want to go to the club room?"
Chiwa listened and shook her head.
"Not Hane High. The Middle School. There's something I want to do at Hane Middle School."
This Hane Middle School was the middle school Chiwa and I both graduated from. Hanenoyama Middle School, in other words.
To me, that place was buried with the black history of the time when I had eighth-grade syndrome, so I didn't really want to go near there, but—
"Please. If you don't come, Ei-kun, there's no point."
If she said it like that, then I couldn't refuse.
Also, it probably had something to do with all the events that happened lately.
"I understand. Then let's meet in front of my house at one o'clock."
"Thank you! I love you the most, Ei-kun!"
She smiled sweetly at me, and for some reason my cheeks seemed to be burning.
It really made me uneasy that Chiwa said she wasn't going to eat dinner.
Could a person do things that seriously in the name of love?
Could love change a person to that extent?
For an Anti-Love person like me, there was no way I could understand.
Just when I walked out the door at the appointed time, I found Chiwa standing there dressed in casual clothes.
"Good afternoon, Ei-kun! You're just on time."
Since we arranged to meet at a place five seconds away from my front door, it was impossible for me to be late unless I overslept.
"Do you want to walk to school?"
"That's what I was planning, but do you want to take a bus?"
Today's sun was vicious like usual, so there was plenty of reason to take an air-conditioned bus, but—
"We haven't done this in a while, so let's walk to school like we used to."
Chiwa very happily nodded her head twice, and started to walk beside me.
When you compared the distance between our shoulders, there was a subtle fist-length of space between us.
…it was quite different than it used to be.
- Chiwa leans against my shoulder.
- ｢I'm getting burnt to death! Go away.｣
- ｢What? What? Is Ei-kun embarrassed? Are you at that age boys yearn for love?｣
- ｢You're annoying! Shut up and be quiet!｣
That was our usual pattern.
This was the chain of events from ｢Plan: Escape from Childhood Friend｣. Even though I probably wouldn't be burnt to death, I always did find this to be rather strange.
"Hey, Chiwa, did you eat well yesterday?"
"Of course! I bought vegetables and meat from the groceries and stir-fried them. Though, I burned it a little."
What. This really was surprising.
"How did you season it?"
"With nothing special. I added barbecue sauce and ate it."
"Oh—I guess that's not bad."
That was because Chiwa always tries to make extra seasoning but always forgets. But I guess if it was stir-fried meat and vegetables, the nutrition should have been alright."
"Hey, Ei-kun. You worry so much. Am I really that unreliable?"
"No. It's just with respect to food… you might be able to catch up a little."
"No problem! I'll rely on barbecue sauce."
"I think you'll grow tired of that soon."
"No way. There's spicy flavor, sweet flavor, medium-hot… there's lots of choices."
Chihuahua had the expression of someone extremely experienced with this… no, you'll definitely become tired of it!
We passed the number four convenience store at the crossroads, and cut across the residential area through the alley. Even though there was only enough space for one car to pass through, one could shave a minute off the time needed to get to school by passing through here. During times we'd be late to class, you could say this minute made either life or death. In either case, this was a very important route for both of us back then.
"We haven't gone through here in a long while."
"That's because we'd only go through here on the way to Hane Middle School."
A red truck just opposite of us turned right from the intersection into this tiny alley. The back of the truck was loaded with a mountain of wood, and it drew close to us as its low engine rumbled.
I gave a fright, and looked at Chiwa who was walking to the left of me.
Chiwa's face had turned white, and she was frozen in her steps as she stared at the truck. Her knees trembled slightly, and she clutched at the corner of my shirt hem.
"Don't worry about it. I'm with you."
I pulled Chiwa's arm, and pushed her against the cement wall. Then, I opened my legs and covered her delicate body with mine, as I waited for the truck to pass. The truck driver seemed to misunderstand something as he passed, and he continued to chuckle and watch us.
Chiwa's eyes were glued shut from the beginning to the end, and she only held onto my shirt.
"I-Is it gone? Did the truck pass?"
"Yeah, it's out of sight now."
Chiwa opened her eyes to confirm it, and then gave a sigh as if relieved.
"Sorry, Ei-kun. I even said I wouldn't depend on you yesterday."
"It's not a problem, this little thing!"
"I'm really useless. It's just a red truck, after all. It's okay if it's further away, but when it passes in front of me like that—"
"I said don't worry about it. Look. Just look at this cement wall. It's actually gray and gray colored. Yeah, this ordinary cement wall is gray colored. If it were red or blue, it'd be terrifying. Haha, it's no big deal! No big deal!"
I really hated myself for only being able to say such rushed and choppy consolations.
Last year in June, Chiwa got in a traffic accident with a truck, so she couldn't practice kendo anymore. Yeah, it just happened to be a red truck around that size. In the past, if she saw any kind of truck on the road, her legs would weaken, so right now you could say it was even an improvement.
But she couldn't forget about it entirely.
That's why I wanted to become a doctor, and cure Chiwa's body.
"Um... Um, Ei-kun?"
Chiwa squirmed shyly as she rotated her eyes and looked up towards me.
"If you maintain this uh, position, it might lead to some misunderstandings?"
At that moment I came to my senses.
My body was pressed against Chiwa's and our faces were close... wasn't this basically a kissing posture? So that was what the truck driver was snickering about!
I hurriedly retracted my body, but Chiwa wound her arms around my back and properly hugged me.
"If your girlfriend saw you like this right now, it'd spell death."
From the way her voice sounded, she wasn't mischievous at all. Chiwa was serious.
"I like you so much, Ei-kun..."
"Wait—w-why are you saying that now?!"
"I said it yesterday, right? I want to speak out all the ｢Love｣ I've kept hidden for nine years.
I never imagined she was serious about that.
While being hugged by Chiwa, I felt very unsure about where to place my hands. It felt very clumsy to keep it dangling, but if I held her, it'd basically mean that I accepted her.
Chiwa hugged me tightly, and repeated that ｢I love you...｣ several times. I almost felt like I was being brainwashed.
Just when I was stuck in this conundrum, unsure what to do, that famous RPG background music, ｢Equipped with a Cursed Weapon｣, started playing.
It came from the pocket in my pants.
"Ei-kun's cell phone?"
"Ah, yeah. It looks like a text."
This text message ringtone meant that the person who sent this was—
"Natsuzawa Masuzu! You bastard! You're watching us right now?!"
I faced the empty alleyway and shouted loudly—but there wasn't any response.
For a second, I thought we were being followed, but apparently that wasn't the case.
Masuzu's intuition was abnormally keen, and occasionally I receive texts that seemed like she was watching with her own eyes. I've even wondered if she had Stand Powers.
"Was that Natsuzawa's text just now?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Mm."
"I see. If that's the case, why don't we take a picture of us hugging and send it to her?"
"Do you want me to die?!"
"Just kidding. I'm making a joke."
Chiwa smiled and separated from my body. Without saying another word, she started walking forward.
"I'm really at my wit's end..."
I wiped the sweat on my forehead with my short sleeves.
Even when Chiwa and I were alone, my ｢girlfriend's｣ presence never quite went away.
When we passed through the school gates that we haven't seen in half a year, we were greeted by the bust statue of the school's first headmaster.
"Hey Yotasuku! How are you?"
Chiwa lightly patted the corners of Nagashima Yotasuku's (1918-2000) shoulders, an old man forever old. Then she started walking in the direction of the athletics fields.
"Can we just walk in like that?"
"No problem. I contacted a teacher beforehand."
In other words, she went and found a teacher?
"Shouldn't you tell me what we're doing here at Hane middle school now?"
But Chiwa ignored me and didn't even offer a ｢you'll find out soon enough｣. She only stared out towards the fields.
Under the relentless glare of the sun, the softball club and baseball clubs were having a joint practice. This was a relatively frequent sight, since the infield of baseball club was shared with the outfield of the softball club.
"From what I remember, wasn't the softball club about to be shut down?"
"Back in our time, there were only four third-years and three second-years."
I remembered this because during competitions, they didn't have enough members, so Chiwa was frequently asked to give them a hand. Everyone said that once the the third years graduate, it'd be extremely difficult for the club to continue on.
We walked around the perimeter of the fields in order not to disturb their practice. Suddenly, a ball hit by the softball club rolled over across the boundary of the outfield.
The outfielder who came running waved her hand and shouted, "Sorry about that—Mhm."
Chiwa nimbly caught the rolling grounder and beautifully returned the ball with a flick of her wrist.
Perhaps because Chiwa threw the ball so beautifully, the outfielder stood gaping with wide eyes.
I was just thinking that, though I didn't realize—
"Excuse me, are you Harusaki Chiwa-senpai?"
"You really are! It's me! Look!"
The outfielder took off her baseball cap that had been lowered to shield the sun, and revealed a faintly smiling tanned face.
"Ah—could you be Mitsuru? I haven't seen you in forever—!"
The two of them ran to each other and excitedly shook hands. It looked like they were acquaintances.
"You got new first-year members? That's great! Mitsuru, are you the captain?"
"Yup! This is all thanks to Chiwa-senpai."
The other softball club members also gathered around, and they gave shrieks and welcomes in close succession.
"Is this senpai the legendary person who helped the club?"
"I've always wanted to meet you! I'm really honored!"
Chiwa was crowded with barely any room to breath. Incredible praises like ｢this person｣, ｢legendary｣, ｢honored｣ continued to appear.
A first-year with long braided hair spoke excitedly,
"I started playing softball because I admired Chiwa-senpai so much!"
"I wasn't even a proper softball club member in the past..."
"That doesn't matter! When I saw you hit three consecutive home-runs at three at-bats during the district tournament, I never imagined a girl could possibly accomplish a feat like that. I was extremely, extremely moved!"
Chiwa lowered her head bashfully and scratched her nose as she faced the first-year with glittering eyes.
I felt quite happy!
When Chiwa received so much praise, it made me happy as if I were the one being praised. I really wanted to let Masuzu, Hime, and Fuyuumi see this.
Because they seemed like they were in such high spirits, I discreetly slipped away from the scene. I, Kidou Eita, would elegantly make my exit and hang around the school.
At that moment, a first-year with a bob-cut hairstyle called out to me.
"Delivery guy person." 
I inadvertently reacted, and the bob-cut girl covered her mouth, startled.
"Sorry, I didn't say anything."
"N-N-Never mind about that. But what did you just say? Delivery guy?"
"N-Nothing at all, really."
The bob-cut girl's face grew red, and she lowered her head.
What was going on?
No way... was I really that popular?!
After spending so many days being popular in ｢Jien-Otsu｣, did I unconsciously start emitting a popular pheromones?
Aghh, I'm deliberately anti-love too. Being popular is—
"Really, don't worry about it. Though to be honest I'm kind of curious about that ｢delivery guy｣ part."
I gave a bright smile to help relieve the anxiety in my underclassman.
The bob-cut girl's expression seemed to relax slightly.
"Ah, it's something from when I was in sixth grade last year. On the way to school with my classmates, I'd often see senpai."
"Senpai, you always wore these half-finger gloves to school right? Even in the summer."
This conversation was getting weird.
"Your gloves were just like those of delivery guys. The part at the fingers were cut off, and there was something written on the back."
Damn the sweat that was beginning to drip!
"Because of that, I assumed you worked for an express delivery company, so I always called you ｢delivery guy person｣ among my friends."
"E-Ehh~? Is that really true~? Was that really the case~?"
The third-year girls started to pursue the topic as I desperately tried to avert my eyes.
"Now that you mention it, I think I heard a rumor that Kidou-senpai frequently carried firecrackers around with him."
"F-F-F-F-F-Firecrackers? Who'd recklessly carry things like that around? It's not like it's a shrine festival?"
"You used to always shout ｢Annihilation!｣, but what did annihilation mean anyways?"
"I-It's just like the things people shout when they're really hyped up to do things, right? I don't think I did it that frequently. Occasionally, I guess. Just occasionally."
My shirt was becoming soaked with cold sweat, and I started backing off.
"Um, Chiwa, I won't bother you any more, so take your time!"
I openly gave a wave, and then ran away at full speed.
"Wait a minute Ei-kun! Where are you going?"
"I'll just wander around nearby!"
I shook off Chiwa's confused expression and voice, and I escaped into the school building from the east entrance.
God, that was dangerous.
This really was a dangerous place. There were so many landmines buried about. But since these were landmines that were buried when I had chuunibyou, I guess you could say I was reaping what I sowed.
I placed my sneakers in the shoe cupboard, put on the slippers for visitors, and walked inside. Since I wasn't wearing a uniform or carrying anything like a permit, it'd be a big hassle if I ran into a teacher.
Just when that thought crossed my mind, a fat teacher wearing the school's athletic outfit walked by from across the hall. I didn't recognize the face at all.
Since the situation was quite a hassle as I mentioned above, I simply hid in a nearby classroom.
I pressed myself against the blackboard, and waited for the sound of footsteps to pass.
Didn't this used to be class 2-C's room?
The reason why I knew this was because there was a spot on the blackboard that was slightly sunken in. Although the depression wasn't deep enough that you'd notice it unless you looked carefully, I recognized it right away.
That was because the person who made that dent was me.
I'd hang myself if I thought about it in detail, so let's forget about that for now—though to recall, I became more cautious to gain favor in the eyes of others. Although Masuzu and them all call me stupid pretty often, it shouldn't be a surprise that I've become timid after being embarrassed that often.
I waited for the the sound of footsteps to pass before I returned to the hallway, but this time I heard more steps approaching from the opposite direction.
It was a rather tall male student.
He wasn't wearing Hane middle school's uniform. Instead, he was wearing a blazer from from the most prestigious private school in the district.
I felt his face looked kind of familiar. When he noticed me, he spoke,
"Hey! Is that you, Kidou?"
Although I responded, I couldn't remember who that person was. He wasn't in the same class as me, but I was certain he was in the same grade as me.
"Hey, did you forget about me? I even considered you to be my ultimate rival."
"Yup. I'd never forget your name."
If he said we were rivals like that, I should be able to remember him, right?
"I'm Inui… Inui Boshi."
Damn. Even when I heard his name, I didn't recognize him. This was making me feel annoyed, since I knew I've seen his face before.
"Perhaps it'd be easier to understand if I said I was the ｢captain of the boy's kendo team｣."
That's right. I've seen him at the kendo dojo.
Since Chiwa didn't have any worthy opponents among the girls, I'd remember that she'd often try to practice with him. But since Chiwa only mentioned it to me a few times, I naturally forgot his name.
When I thought about this, a rumor that I heard from Kaoru suddenly appeared in my head.
｢I heard that… when Chihuahua was in middle school, there was a guy who confessed to her.｣
｢The captain of the boy's kendo team. I thought everybody knew about this rumor. Did you not know?｣
"So that was the case…"
That's why he never forgot about me.
From Inui's perspective at that time, he must have been very bothered by how Chiwa and I were always together.
"It looks like you've finally remembered."
His grin revealed white teeth. His smile was so candid, it wouldn't be surprising if he were in TV ads for sports drinks.
"You really are a merciless guy. To me, you're a rival in love you know."
In the past, I would have adamantly denied my status as a ｢rival in love｣, but at this point, there was no way I could deny it.
"Why apologize? Harusaki doesn't even look at me. It's rude of me to even say you're my love rival."
"That's not true. For Chiwa, being confessed to is a very rare experience."
As soon as I said that, Inui gave a flabbergasted look.
"What are you talking about? I'm not the only one who likes Harusaki-san."
"I'm only aware of three others myself. There's one each from the basketball club, soccer club, and swimming team. I think there are other clubs that have her fans."
Is he joking?
If Inui was speaking the truth, Chiwa was actually popular in middle school.
Was I the only one who never noticed?
In other words, the more Chiwa took part in ｢Jien-Otsu｣ activities, the more unpopular she got…?
"T-That's so depressing!"
"What's wrong, Kidou? Did you get dizzy from standing?"
To be honest, I really did feel like I was dizzy.
"Girls like Harusaki-san are really cute, right? There are a lot of boys who try to get close to her with ulterior motives—"
My responses were getting incomprehensible.
So all along, people actually saw Chiwa as cute...
This really surprised me.
"But, she's actually popular because of her looks. Anyone who's had club activities with her, knows this well. Exactly. She's not like any ordinary girl. Even if it's a little embarrassing to say this—she's dazzling, especially when Harusaki practices kendo."
Now that I think of it, Masuzu said something like this before too.
—That girl is so dazzling.
"Do you know why she rejected me when I confessed to her that time?"
"No. I have no idea."
"She said, ｢There is someone I've always liked｣. Even if she said it ambiguously like that, the person she's referring to is you, Kidou, right?"
"Hahaha. Don't be so embarrassed about it."
Even if he said so, I couldn't control how my cheeks burned.
"Anyways, everyone's very clear about this. That's why even though there's many people who like Harusaki, I'm the only one who's ever confessed. The reason is because nobody wants to be a kamikaze pilot."
"...Why did you, Inui, decide to go for it?"
Inui looked tongue-tied as if he had been attacked.
"You have a point. Hmm, how should I put it—I liked her so much I couldn't help it. Even though she had someone she liked, but I couldn't stop my feelings, so it just happened."
That's what I thought from the bottom of my heart.
Hane middle school's boy's kendo club was as impressive as the girl's club. They had a lot of members, but after talking to this club captain, I realized that with this guy as captain, he could really lead all the members of the club.
Just then, Inui became shy and fidgety with his enormous body.
"I'm not cool at all. And actually, I have a new lover in high school now."
"Oh, that's impressive."
That girl is lucky to have gotten this guy. Even though I was anti-love, I couldn't help but bless him.
"Ah seriously. It's a waste for such a cute person to be together with me. So sweet and understanding. Every day, there's even a bento for me—ah, if you don't believe me, do you want to see a picture?"
What kind of cute girl was she? I peered over at the smartphone he presented.
The liquid crystal screen showed two extremely round eyes.
...a very short haircut.
"..........................it's a guy?"
"Yup, a guy."
Inui for some reason pushed out his chest and happily spoke,
"My relationship with him after starting high school in the kendo club was really good. Although the gender barrier is a problem—there's nothing I can do since I love him!"
"There's nothing you can do about it—!? Do you actually intend to insist on that?!"
Inui happily brought his smartphone against his chest and curled around it.
"Even if he's a boy, I can't stop my feelings if I love him."
"Control yourself a little—!"
"Actually there's several other things that have become difficult to control, like incontinence."
"Enough! I don't want to hear anymore!"
It took so much trouble to get the conversation good!
How did the conversation topic manage to turn into homosexuality!? There's no way I could calm down like this! What conspiracy was this?!
"Oh, it's this late already?"
Inui looked at his watched and patted my shoulder.
"It's about time to get going, Kidou."
"N-No! I don't want to go to your place! When I entered high school, I pledged not to let people mistake me as gay!"
Inui took my shaking head at wits end.
"Weren't you asked by Harusaki to come here? Since that's the case, our destination should be the same."
I stopped making a ruckus and looked at Inui's face.
"Chiwa also asked you to come?"
Inui nodded with a substantial margin.
"In order for her to enter that place again, she'll need an extraordinary amount of awareness and resolution. So at the end of it, the person she wants to see the most is definitely you."
The place that Inui took me to was the kendo dojo located behind the school.
On the floor that had been wiped sparkling clean, kendo club members wearing protective equipment sparred each other. It looked like they were actually in the middle of practice.
In our middle school years, this was a place that Chiwa and I often stopped by at on the way home. For a person born booksy like me, the hot blooded enthusiasm here was difficult to bear. Since the ceiling was rather high, the dojo didn't actually get swamped with heat, but just looking at them made my back start sweating.
"Look, you're just using your hands! Your gripping hands don't need to exert force. Rely on your waist to generate hitting power! Kendo is dependent on your waist!"
A particularly energetic voice interwove with the intense shouts of the kendo dojo.
A person was earnestly teaching basic movements beside a first year wearing a completely new set of protective gear.
The instructor was Chiwa.
"Look in the mirror across you and pay attention to your posture. Use your head and body to copy the demonstration I just did for you."
Chiwa had a solemn expression I very rarely saw these days as she made strikes and gave suggestions—it was like she had returned to being the old Chiwa.
It made me happy.
It really made me feel so happy.
The opportunity to see Chiwa look like this made me so happy.
"Was this what she wanted to show you?"
Inui narrowed his eyes as he stood next to me.
"It's been about a year since she's last shown up at this dojo. Ever since that accident, she's never come close to this place."
Even though that accident happened and she wasn't able to practice kendo, Chiwa was always hesitant to show up at the dojo. Even when it came to picking up her protective equipment and personal items, I was the one who picked them up for her.
I never asked her the reason, but I always felt I understood why.
Since she couldn't practice kendo, it would have been painful to return to the dojo—that must have been the reason.
Her goal to compete at nationals, which you could consider a ｢final summer dream｣, had always been abandoned and preserved here.
And like this, after a full year, Chiwa's finally returned. This meant...
Chiwa noticed that I was standing at the dojo entrance, and ran over like she was skating on the wooden floor.
"Where did you go? I sent quite a few text messages to you earlier."
"Sorry, I didn't notice."
Inui lightly raised his hand,
"We happened to bump into each other earlier, and I brought him over."
"I haven't seen you in forever Inui! Thanks for coming!"
Chiwa smiled widely.
"It must have been since May, right? I kept being asked to become a coach. This year you guys received no less than twenty new members, so it was really difficult to manage them all, so you asked me to come help whenever at I had free time. I was really worried about what I should do—"
"It looks like you're pretty happy, no matter how I look at you."
I said after she spoke. Chiwa nodded widely.
"I wanted to show you two that I'm fine now. Back then, I gave you guys in the boy's kendo club a lot of trouble. Inui can count as their representative, and Ei-kun can count as the representative for the ｢Maiden's Club｣."
Chiwa explained it to the confused Inui who had his head tilted,
"It's a new team that I joined at Hane high school. I have a new goal just like winning kendo nationals. Now it's club activities with a dream of becoming beautiful."
"...Harusaki's so incredible."
Inui sighed as he shook his head.
"You found a new goal, and you're striding in that direction with all your strength. That's incredible. I really admire it."
"That's not true. It's all thanks to Ei-kun's efforts."
Chiwa looked at me and smiled.
"I see. I understand why I was rejected now."
Even Inui looked at me.
What was with these two people? Why were they fawning over me? It made me really uncomfortable.
"Goodbye then, handsome young man."
Inui patted the shoulders of my dumbstruck self, and he left first.
"What about you, Ei-kun? I'll be a little late, so you can go home first."
I rapped Chiwa's forehead.
"Of course I'll wait for you."
"I'm going to look around here and watch the brave swordsman Chihuahua coach until the very end. Then, I'll report it all to Hime and the rest of them, since I'm the representative, right?"
In order to not disturb their practice, I sat down in the corner of the dojo.
Chiwa stared at my face for a little while, and then,
"—Hey, you're using only your hands to wave the sword again! When you make strikes, pay attention to your footwork!"
She returned her attention back to coaching her underclassmen again.
In that split second, for barely an instant—Chiwa's expression looked almost like she was holding back tears. I guess that was probably because she was still keeping a secret from everybody.
When practice was over, the skies outside were dark.
"Sempai, please come teach us again in the future—!"
"In the autumn competition, I'll be sure to surpass the upperclassmen and show you the results! Definitely!"
The underclassmen girls from the kendo club all came to bid us farewell, and we walked out the school gates.
Chiwa kept turning back and waving to them; on the other hand, I shyly shrunk my body, unable to keep up with the enthusiasm of athletes.
When we were far enough away that the school building couldn't be seen, Chiwa lightly hugged my right arm as we walked alone.
"I really need to thank you for today… thank you so much."
The delicate touch of Chiwa's body made my voice inadvertently distort.
"E-kun, I love you."
"I know that already! You don't need to say it that many times! How many times have you said it today?"
"I said it before. I'll keep telling you many many times that I… love you."
Through my clothes, I gradually started to feel Chiwa's body heat. Chiwa exhaled near her neck as she repeatedly murmured about ｢love...｣. Seriously, it was enough. I basically wanted to run away.
"L-Let's put that aside for now."
I coughed and cleared my throat, and calmly arranged the events that had happened today in my head.
The dividing line that had separated Chiwa and me in the past had taken a step forward.
Since that was the case, I knew I needed to make a clear response.
Because I couldn't violate my agreement with Masuzu—at least, as far as the limit would allow.
"I'm Natsukawa Masuzu's boyfriend."
"That's why I can't return your feelings. At least, I can't in these three years of high school."
Chiwa's face had an incomprehensible look as she looked up to me,
"You're only going to date Natsukawa for three years?"
"What will happen in the future is uncertain. Even if we're lovers right now, you never know when we might break up."
It was just like my missing parents. You never knew when they're formally going to fall apart.
Even if Chiwa said she ｢loves｣ me right now, you never know if her feelings will change in three years. You never know what will happen tomorrow. True love is just like that.
"I get it!"
Chiwa let go of my arm, and lightly hopped onto the ridge that separated the sidewalk from the road.
"I know that you don't intend to break up with Natsukawa, Ei-kun. However, since you say that ｢what will happen in the future is uncertain｣, basically you could break up with your girlfriend tomorrow!"
That really was an optimistic way of looking at it.
"I guess you could put it that way."
"Then there's only one thing I need to do!"
She extended a finger out to me and pointed.
"I'll work harder during Maiden's Club activities, and I'll become a girl even cuter and more popular than Natsukawa—then I'll steal Ei-kun away for everyone to see."
"...I don't think that's any different from the past."
Everything will turn out alright you could say. Though there was still a very very long road to travel before I could be liberated from mayhem.
"Since that's the case, then I also have something to say."
"What is it?"
I looked away from Chiwa and gazed up towards the orange-dyed sky in the west.
"You can occasionally, um, come over to eat dinner. It's very tiring to make only one portion of food."
"D-don't worry yourself over being dependent or not dependent! Anyone can eat dinner at my place, so don't think too much about it!"
Chiwa whispered in a low voice,
"Ei-kun, could you be very lonely?"
"W-W-Who's lonely you idiot! I'm just concerned about your nutrition and digestive health!"
Chiwa's hairband changed direction as it fluttered. She hugged me from the front.
"Let go! You're roasting me to death! Let go alreadyyyy!"
Even if I struggled and thrashed with my hands and feet, Chiwa's arms tightly wrapped themselves around my back and refused to let go. It felt like she had completely returned to the enthusiasm she had prior to the club trip.
"Ei-kun, I love you I love you! I love you!"
"Just let go alreadyyyyyyyyyy!"
If time could continue on just like this, it would be great.
Even if I was anti-love, I couldn't help but think this way.
Translator notes and references
- I'm guessing at this (correct me if I'm wrong), but Chiwa has been using a less serious way to say "love" in the past instead of the most serious way of saying it.
- The reference is specifically to a delivery service company called Takkyūbin.
|Back to #0||Return to Main Page||Forward to #2|