In the end, Shu’s family is falling apart… or more accurately, it seems that only Hatsune-san is leaving that house. The cause, of course, is cheating, and the person involved is the man I witnessed with her. I had a feeling that Kanzaki-san might know something, but she emphasized that I shouldn’t ask, so I didn’t.
“…… That’s what happens when you cheat on your husband.”
I’m worried about Shu, but I haven’t contacted him yet. I don’t know what words to say in times like this. Maybe he needs some time to calm down…it’s such a difficult situation.
…But still, today my mom had something to do and wasn’t home, and Ayana wasn’t here either. The absence of their usually constant presence and the silence in this space, which had recently experienced such commotion, made it feel incredibly wide and quiet. Wait, have I always been this lonely?
“I guess it means I care about them that much.”
As I stared up at the ceiling and mumbled, I thought about going outside for a bit. I quickly freshened up and left the house. As I walked, I felt the intense heat of summer. Sweat trickled down my forehead, but I continued walking, taking a stroll… and when I reached a certain park, I found him.
Shu was sitting on a bench, staring into the distance without moving. Oi, oi even if he is in the shade, it’s still hot. It must be tough to be doing that without a drink. I bought two cans of juice from a nearby vending machine, approached him from behind, and pressed a cold can against Shu’s cheek.
“Ooh, that was quite a reaction.”
The entrance to the park should have been in Shu’s line of sight, but he still didn’t notice me… Well, it’s understandable, considering that his mind is elsewhere. I handed him the juice and sat next to him. Shu looked puzzled, but he quietly said thank you.
With a fizzing sound, we both drank our juice.
We sat in silence for a while, and then Shu quietly spoke up.
“By the looks of it, you want to hear what I have to say?”
“Yeah… well, it must have been tough, right?”
“Well, I never thought I would end up in this situation myself. But I did have a feeling that something was going on from my mom’s recent behavior. I just didn’t expect it to be cheating.”
And then, Shu told me.
He mentioned that Hatsune-san had been acting strange, that he became suspicious when he received photos of their secret meeting, and that even his father, who was supposed to be away on a business trip, somehow knew about it… And he also mentioned that he has no information about what happened to that man. Apparently, Hatsune-san was surprised to hear that she didn’t know about it either.
“…And there’s one more thing. I learned that Kotone was almost violated by that guy.”
Kotone-chan, huh? I haven’t seen her at all lately… I never even thought about meeting her, but I see now that such a thing happened. Although I don’t have any desire to see her, just hearing it from Shu makes me feel incredibly conflicted.
“Through tears, she told me what happened… and it became an opportunity for me to confront my mother. Hey, Towa.”
“What is it?”
“Like I mentioned before, I learned that my mother and Kotone said terrible things to you. I understand that my mother was at fault, but Kotone ended up believing it was true. Of course, it’s just an excuse in hindsight, and I know it’s an indelible scar for you. Nevertheless, I wanted to protect Kotone …”
I wonder if Shu thought I wanted some kind of punishment for Kotone-chan. But the truth is, I don’t think about that at all, and I don’t even care. It’s true that I was hurt in the past, but as I’ve said many times, it’s already “over.” I’m not the type of person to drag the past along or hold onto grudges. I have no intention of complaining or harboring resentment. I don’t mean to boast, but I don’t want to be such a small-minded person.
“When I saw Kotone crying in front of me, I felt the need to protect her as her older brother. We may have irredeemable aspects in common, but at that time, I just couldn’t turn a blind eye.”
Shu said that while tightly clenching his fist. I can’t fully understand those feelings since I’m an only child, but I think it’s a cool brotherly attitude to want to protect his sister.
“Isn’t Kotone-chan happy? She has a brother like you, Shu.”
“…Haha, it makes me happy when you say that.”
…From the way things are now, it seems he’ll be fine. He may not be energetic, but I couldn’t see any signs of pessimism in Shu’s eyes. Even if he lost the presence of a mother, having someone he needs to protect nearby will give him the strength to stand tall, I believe.
As for Kotone-chan… Indeed, there have been times when I felt an indescribable anger towards her. I thought, “How dare she,” or “Rot in hell.” But thinking about such things won’t change anything; it’s a futile endeavor. The happiness I feel in the present has washed away the smoldering feelings within me.
“But if anything happens, let me know. I’ll be there for you.”
“Yes. Thank you, Towa.”
We’re friends, after all.
After finishing our drinks and taking a breath, I noticed a soccer ball rolling nearby. No one else was around, so it must have been forgotten or abandoned. It didn’t matter much, so I stood up, approached the ball, lightly juggled it, and then kicked it towards Shu.
Shu was surprised but quickly got up, controlled the ball, and let it drop to his feet. Then he kicked it back to me.
“It’s a bit hot, but how about playing for a while?”
“Sounds good. Then next time, I’ll treat you to a drink… Oh, if you prefer ice cream, that’s fine too.”
“I’d love to. Let’s work out a little.”
I’m sure we’ll be sweating no less when we are done. …… Well, it’s too late to worry about that now. We won’t be running or anything, just kicking and passing the ball to each other. It’s been years since I played like this with Shu…
“Hey, Towa, how many years has it been since we played like this?”
“What’s with you thinking the same thing as me? It’s creepy.”
“Isn’t that mean?! I may be the cause of your injury, but isn’t it disrespectful to me, who was moved by seeing you in your current state?”
“Hahaha! Just kidding! Look!”
For the next while, we enthusiastically spent our time playing. It wasn’t a particularly long time, but we ended up sweating enough for our shirts to stick to our backs. We both felt a bit uncomfortable and couldn’t wait to go home and take a shower.
Instead of breaking up, Shu bought ice cream for me, as promised. While we were eating ice cream together, a refreshing voice reached us.
Turning around, we found Iori. She had bags in her hands, likely from shopping… ah, Shu blushed and averted her gaze. Well, I can understand his feelings. There’s a slight glimpse of cleavage visible. I don’t know why, but I felt a strange chill in this blazing sun, so I slowly changed my gaze too.
“Are you shopping?”
“Yes. What about you two? Why are you sweating so much?”
We explained that we were playing with a soccer ball just a while ago, and Iori chuckled, looking a little troubled.
“I won’t say exercising is bad, but pushing yourself too hard in this hot weather can lead to heatstroke, you know?”
“That’s why we bought ice cream to cool down our bodies.”
“Oh, I see. Hey, Shu-kun… that ice cream looks delicious.”
“…..Onii-san, can I have another one please”
“Thank you for your continued patronage”
“Thank you, Shu-kun!”
They really make a great pair.
Ah, I see. I wonder if Iori has something to do with the reason why Shu wasn’t too pessimistic. Maybe they had a conversation, or perhaps Iori sensed something from Shu’s demeanor… Well, that’s just my speculation, but thinking this way, it seems like everyone is the same.
Even in the face of painful reality, just having someone who thinks about you and cares for you even a little can help you face that pain. If that person was Ayuaa for me back then, maybe Iori has become that person for Shu now.
“Hey, Shu-kun, why are you turning your face away?”
Hey, Iori-san, be a bit more conscious of yourself…
That’s when the ice cream dropped onto Iori’s chest. The melting liquid started flowing toward her cleavage, and with a troubled expression, she made this proposal to Shu.
“Hey, Shu-kun, there’s a handkerchief in my pocket? Can you get it for me?”
“Thanks. Hey, Shu-kun, both of my hands are occupied right now. Can you wipe it for me?”
“Ah, sure… Sure!?”
“You just said ‘sure,’ didn’t you? Come on, don’t hesitate and help me.”
“T-Then, I’ll hold the ice cream.”
“Sorry about that. If I let go of the ice cream, I’ll die.”
“What on earth?!”
Take your marital comedy somewhere else. Look, the ice cream vendor is clicking his tongue.
I was wondering what would happen with Shu, but as I watched the scene unfolding before my eyes, I laughed and became convinced that everything would be alright.