“See you on tomorrow’s stream. Bye-bye.”
I finished my first streaming of the summer vacation.
I open the Discordo one last time to check it. Confirming that there were no replies to last night’s messages, I turn off the computer. Lying in bed, thinking.
Once upon a time, I had a best friend.
I put it in the past tense because I no longer qualify. It’s all because of my weakness and ugliness.
I always liked to play with someone. Especially as a child, I loved to move around outside, play dodgeball, tag, and join in with the boys. Since I was masculine looking, the boys were willing to accept me.
The one I got along with the best was that guy – Shota.
Shota always hit me with everything he had.
At first, he didn’t think I was a girl. I had a complicated feeling about that, but even after he found out I was a girl, he would throw dodgeball at me at point-blank range and chase me when we played tag. The other boys were a little more reserved because I was a girl. All of them may have been unaware of it, but it was frustrating to know that they were cutting me some slack.
But he was the only one who was serious.
He really fought.
Thanks to him, I always lost, but I was happy that he was serious about the fight. No matter how many times I lost, I always challenged him. But when we yelled at each other and voiced our dissatisfaction, we made up the next day and played together again.
The relationship continued into junior high school.
By that time, we were not playing outside, but were into other kinds of fun.
I was especially into FPS. I went out and fought on the battlefield every day. When I went online and matched with people from all over the world, they would all seriously fight with me, regardless of whether I was female, male, an adult, or a child. That was the most exciting part. At first I couldn’t win at all, but it was fun and I gradually became addicted to it.
When I entered junior high school, I entered puberty.
It was common for boys and girls to play separately. Whenever boys and girls talked, they immediately started to make love connections.
“Listen? Friendship doesn’t exist between a man and a woman.”
One day, a friend let loose on me.
I was a little worried and told Shota about it, but he laughed and denied it.
“We are friends.”
I was happy to hear his strong words and said, “We are best friends!”. I really thought so back then, and I’m sure Shota felt the same way.
Even so, I tried to avoid contact with him at school.
I wasn’t very interested or knowledgeable about love, but I did have some common sense. If a boy and a girl in their adolescence were to get along with each other, there would be strange rumors. The most important thing to remember is that you should never be afraid to ask for help. So at school we would say hello to each other, and when we returned home, we would voice chat with each other as we headed off to war.
Such days continued for a while.
In hindsight, it was the most enjoyable time of my life.
I had many friends and good relationships on the track team. I was expected to keep good records in my club activities. However, my head was not as good as I would have liked.
The turning point came suddenly.
…… I became aware of the betrayal of a friend.
One day, I witnessed a group of girls who I thought were my friends, talking about me behind my back. It was too sudden a betrayal. What scared me more than anything was that she acted like a friend in front of me as usual. I was shaken because I didn’t know how to deal with her.
In the end, I could not continue the relationship with her.
From then on, I was afraid of losing friends.
While I was living with a certain anxiety, I heard a strange rumor.
Shota Mukawa is stalking Yuuhi Akazawa.
Never heard of it before.
Shota and Akazawa were supposed to be childhood friends. I know they have been going to school together since elementary school and used to play tag with Akazawa. They stopped playing together in the middle of the school year, though.
But when I think about it calmly, I don’t get it. Shota said they were childhood friends, but I don’t know what Akazawa thought of him. Akazawa and I had a relationship where we played together a few times, but it wasn’t enough to call us friends. On the contrary, she didn’t seem to like me and gave me some nasty looks.
So I couldn’t answer the question about their relationship.
I don’t remember ever seeing the two of them together. In fact, my friends didn’t know that they were childhood friends.
I had never been in love before, and I had no ability to recognize such a relationship. So I could neither confirm nor deny the rumors.
“That guy in the next class, Mukawa, is a scumbag, you know? I heard the rumor is true.”
” He looks dark, right? It’s possible.”
“Akazawa-san seems to be the victim.”
“I heard he stays out late every night watching in front of her house.”
Yuuhi Akazawa is a popular girl at school.
She was considered the school idol and was rumored to be dating Renji Inuyama, a childhood friend at the time. Inuyama had been famous for his good looks since junior high school.
In contrast, Shota was ordinary.
He was bright in elementary school, but when he entered junior high school, he became a little darker. He grew his hair long and his smile became somewhat shadowy.
To me, he was the same as before. He always seemed to be having fun, and he was my partner who got burned when we played games together.
“You think he’s creepy too right, Umi?”
I froze at the question.
“Don’t go near that guy.”
“Yes yes. Umi seems to have a loose guard, and you seem sparse, and come to think of it, you’ve been approached before, right?”
“If you’re nice to him, you might turn stalked. Ignore him.”
“If you’re friends with someone like that, you cut them off, usually.”
I was told a lot of things.
There were rumors that he would ambush Akazawa in the morning, talk to Akazawa during recess when she didn’t want to be there, and after school he would keep an eye on her until late at night.
The vicious rumors probably spread because Akazawa was an idol of the school.
Shota is not such a lousy guy. There is no way that he would do such a thing.
I don’t know about an actual romantic relationship or anything, but there is no way he would keep an eye on her late at night. Because he always plays games with me at night.
At least as far as the after-school rumors are concerned, I can say with absolute certainty that they are false. I have to say it.
But I didn’t want to lose my friend. So I kept quiet.
The decision I made that day was everything.
From that day on, I started ignoring Shota at school.
I didn’t want to lose my friend, so I weighed Shota and my friend in the balance. And I decided to cut Shota out of my life. But that was only at school, and I continued to play the game after returning home.
Shota understood that. He also agreed to my proposal because he didn’t want strange rumors to spread.
But at that point, our friendship was already broken.
After that, I got busy. I received awards in track and field competitions and was praised by my school and peers. My friends started inviting me out more often, and I had fewer opportunities to hang out with Shota.
–I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I can’t be with you for a while.
After that chat, our paths diverged.
I stopped playing games and started to focus on club activities.
Shota, on the other hand, became more and more isolated. The only person he spoke to occasionally was Inuyama. Even in class, Shota’s bad-mouthing is the same as ever. I didn’t want to be isolated, so I went along with the conversation.
Another rumor began to circulate at school.
Shota Mukawa attacked Tsukiyo Kuromine.
It was an unbelievable rumor.
By this time, I had never spoken to Shota, but I thought the rumor was also false. He is not the kind of guy who would do anything criminal. I knew that and yet ……
Shota’s birthday, which came after the disconnection.
That day I was so sick that I felt like I was going to die. I know the cause. It was a combination of my period and a cold. Nausea, headache, and chills attacked me in tandem.
I was proud of my record of no lateness and no absences.
I had always sold my energy and secretly looked forward to being praised by my teachers for my perfect attendance, so I went to school that day even though I was in the worst shape.
But I soon reached my limit. As I was on my way to school, I had a severe headache and nearly blacked out.
That’s when I felt a jolt in my body.
I was in a daze and didn’t know what it was.
I somehow regained consciousness in response to my friend’s voice.
Eventually I was carried to the infirmary on my shoulders and driven home in my parents’ car. My mother was furious with me and told me to take the day off if I wasn’t feeling well.
That is why I didn’t know. I was walking unsteadily in a daze when I came into contact with Shota, who was coming up the stairs, and I dropped him.
I don’t know why, but Shota didn’t report to anyone that he had been hit by me. That’s why I didn’t know. Time passed without my knowing.
And then Shota moved away.
As a ninth grader, I was a little shocked to hear that Shota had moved away. I felt sad that he was gone, even though I was no longer supposed to be involved with him.
“Hey …… Umi are you really okay with that?”
The one who approached me was a fellow member of the track team, the girl who carried me to the infirmary when I was wobbling on the stairs.
“I still think it’s a bad idea. No matter how much you dislike him, that was the worst thing you could do. I think it’s because of Umi that Mukawa-kun moved out.”
For the first time, I knew what I had done.
She had seen the scene. The part where I made contact with Shota and pushed him. Afterwards, while carrying me to the infirmary, she reported to the teacher that Shota had fallen down the stairs. She said she had kept quiet about what I had done because we were friends, but she confessed that she had been wondering about it for a long time.
“After that, I went to Mukawa-kun’s house. I thought maybe he was in shock from the blow to the head and had forgotten that he had been pushed by Umi. But Mukawa-kun wouldn’t see me. I didn’t know what to do. Hey, did Umi apologize for that?”
When I learned the truth, I moved quickly. I tried to contact him, but I did not have Shota’s contact information.
The best I could come up with was on Discordo.
I made a series of apologies. I begged for forgiveness, saying I had been a fool.
In the days of regret and guilt, the rumors that covered Shota were changing.
Shota Mukawa never attacked Tsukiyo Kuromine.
Shota Mukawa is not a stalker of Yuuhi Akazawa.
Kuromine suddenly changed her appearance and said she was not attacked by Shota. I also heard that she had punched a girl who had said bad things about Shota.
Akazawa herself also said that she and Shota were childhood friends and that there was no truth to the rumor.
Shota’s innocence was completely proven.
“I know right. Whoever started the rumor really is the worst.”
“Bullying and all that lame stuff.”
“I believed Mukawa-kun, though.”
We talked like that. They treated Shota like he was a bad guy, but it was as if they had believed in him from the beginning.
But I had no right to be angry. I was the one who did the worst. I was the one who said we were best friends, but at the most crucial moment, I turned my back on him.
I told my teacher everything. The teachers seemed to think that Shota had fallen on his own and were shocked by my confession.
That was all.
Shota was already gone from the school, and he himself was not suffering from any aftereffects.
I told my mother what had happened and went to Shota’s mother to apologize. I apologized again and again. Shota’s mother knew everything. In other words, Shota knew and kept quiet that I had pushed him. He was protecting me because he thought I was one of his friends.
Compared to my own lousiness, I began to cry.
Shota’s mother forgave me.
That was it.
…… There was no punishment for me.
It was hard. The most important thing to remember is that there is no one to punish me for betraying, humiliating, and even injuring the people I care about. I would have preferred to be scolded by the teacher, reprimanded by Shota’s mother, and cursed by everyone at school.
No punishment, but I couldn’t even apologize.
In the midst of my days of self-loathing, I inadvertently fell during a club activity and broke my leg.
I thought to myself. I thought that I had finally been punished. I just wanted to think so. I was trying to lighten my sin as much as possible by thinking so.
I quit track and field because of my injury. I completely lost my motivation.
After that, I studied hard.
I didn’t really have a goal. I just wanted to devote myself to something and turn away from the hard, dark days. I resumed playing GPEX because I wanted to connect with Shota.
My heart remained in the dark for a long time.
–But then my mind became even cloudier.