Afterward, I walked down the hallway with Ayana.
Her expression had completely changed from what she had shown to Senpai, and she seemed to be in high spirits, with a continuous smile on her face.
(I’m sure… she must have received confessions from various people in that manner.)
This time was just a summons, but if you counted it as a confession, there must have been quite a few… Ayana was such an attractive girl that many boys wouldn’t leave her alone.
And above all, because of my past, I can’t help but feel a little satisfaction in seeing Shu’s predicament, which makes me think I’m a terrible person.
While walking in the hallway with Ayana, I noticed Shu and Iori carrying heavy bags.
Although they didn’t notice us, I couldn’t help but wonder if their bags were too heavy and watched them intently.
Should I offer to help… I thought, but strangely, my legs wouldn’t move.
I was perplexed about why my feet wouldn’t move. However, Ayana was the one who took my hand.
“Towa-kun, Shu-kun and Iori will be fine, so let’s head home.”
As soon as I heard Ayana’s words, my legs, which had seemed glued to the ground, began to move.
It was as if her gentle warmth in the palm of my hand and the reassuring tone of her voice were whispering to me that I should just trust in her.
The farther we distanced ourselves from Shu and Iori, the more the discomfort I had felt earlier disappeared, and by the time we left the school building, I no longer had anything to worry about.
“What are we going to do now? Are we heading straight home?”
“Well, wouldn’t that be a bit boring?”
“So, does that mean… you want to spend more time with me?”
Ayana playfully placed her index finger on her lips and said it with a hint of charm.
No matter what gestures she made, she always looked stunning, and as if it were the most natural thing in the world, I nodded in agreement.
“In that case, let’s make this date a memorable one!”
That’s right… let’s enjoy my date with Ayana to the fullest.
However, we hadn’t decided on what to do or where to go, so we would likely be wandering around with Ayana following her whims today.
As we walked a little further from the school gate, I noticed the track and field club members running.
It seemed like they had just finished running outside, and among them, I spotted a familiar face.
“Oh, Ayana-senpai and Yukishiro-senpai!”
Despite running and being out of breath, cheerful greetings came from Mari Uchida – our junior, and one of the heroines, just like Ayana and Iori.
“Hello, Mari-chan. You’re working hard, I see.”
“Yes! I always give it my all! That’s my motto!”
Mari, who continued to move her legs as if doing high knees even after stopping, was like a bundle of energy. When I first talked to her, I thought the same thing: her boundless cheerfulness was infectious, and I couldn’t help but smile.
“Hey, where’s Shu-senpai?”
“He’s helping out with the student council.”
Mari blatantly looked dissatisfied with my response, but it suited her because she had an inherently cute face, and any expression she made only emphasized her cuteness.
“Hey, Uchida! We’re still in the middle of practice!”
“Oh, right! Well, then, both of you, let’s talk again sometime!”
“Fufu, I’m looking forward to that.”
After seeing Mari off, we headed towards the bustling downtown area.
As I mentioned before, we didn’t have a clear purpose, so we were just going to spend time walking around aimlessly with Ayana.
(…But, you know, that’s not so bad either.)
Just being with Ayana made my heart leap with excitement.
What can I do for her… it’s not that serious, but I can’t help but wonder what I could do right now to make her even happier. What should I do?
“Oh, are you two on a date, Onii-chan and Nee-chan? How about some takoyaki?”
As we walked together, a guy making takoyaki called out to us.
I felt a bit hungry, so I looked at Ayana and she nodded, saying we should go for it.
“Alright, we’ll take eight pieces, please.”
“Sure thing. How about mayonnaise?”
Takoyaki without mayonnaise is unthinkable, after all!
So, we received the piping hot takoyaki from the guy and sat down on a nearby bench.
We both blew on them to cool them down, being careful not to burn ourselves, and it was no surprise that eating them was a bit of a struggle due to the heat.
“Hot… it’s hot!”
“Yeah, hot… hot!”
We both exclaimed it’s hot as we tried to roll the takoyaki in our mouths without burning ourselves.
Despite being hot and not easy to eat, the taste was truly exceptional.
Soon, we finished all eight pieces of takoyaki and relaxed with a cold drink in hand.
“What is it?”
“Thank you for what you did earlier.”
“Earlier… Ah, you mean about that senpai?”
It seems her thanks were for what happened with that senpai.
It wasn’t as if things had escalated into a physical altercation, and that guy backed down immediately, so it really wasn’t something to be thanked for.
I reached out to touch Ayana’s cheek naturally while I continued speaking.
“No need to thank me. I knew that Ayana was bothered, and above all, I couldn’t just let that happen right in front of me.”
Ayana happily loosened her cheeks and enclosed my hand with her own, savoring the touch as she held it in place.
“Can we stay like this for a while?”
If it’s a princess’s request like that, I can’t say no.
But… Ayana is indeed a strange girl, or rather, she possesses an astonishing level of charm, almost at a bewitching level.
Although it’s not something I don’t care about, I find myself thinking that I can just let go of everything and enjoy a carefree life as Towa Yukishiro.
(That must be an easy path… simply living as Towa Yukishiro without thinking about anything… it’s probably the entrance to a sweet daily life.)
As a human, it’s only natural to choose the easier path if one exists instead of a difficult one.
However, something inside me screams that it’s not right—so I mustn’t become a passive, drifting entity.
“Ayana, may I take the lead this time?”
I gently released my hand from her cheek, placed it on her shoulder, and pulled her closer.
As I held Ayana in my arms, a strange thing happened—my feelings of affection for her surged strongly in my heart.
It’s just as it always is… that’s for sure.
But this determination residing in my heart is not something half-hearted. I can’t just go with the flow; that would be wrong. Two conflicting emotions fight within me, almost making me want to laugh, but my strong determination is the only thing that’s certain.
“Alright! Thank you, Ayana.”
“Haha, Ayana, your surprised expression is cute.”
Ayana wasn’t just wide-eyed; she also blinked rapidly, and it was utterly adorable.
We spent about an hour strolling through knick-knack shops, and when it was past 5 o’clock, we decided it was time to head home…
However, at that moment, I witnessed something that left me speechless.
Who I had witnessed… was clear as day from their backs.
[You know, you’re not needed.]
[Ayana Onee-chan, it was a disaster wasn’t it]
As if to trigger an old wound, those voices echoed in my mind.
The two people with their backs to me—Shu’s mother, Hatsune Sasaki, and his little sister, Kotone Sasaki.
I had met Kotone once since I became Towa, but I hadn’t met or spoken to Hatsune … although I remembered the conversation we had in a dream in the hospital, I had nothing but unpleasant memories associated with them.
“Towa-kun, come over here.”
Softly, Ayana led me by the hand.
For a split second… just for a split second, I thought I saw Ayana’s expression turn stern. But I quickly dismissed it as my imagination and just as I tilted my head in confusion, everything around me suddenly went quiet, as if the sound had been turned off.
“What’s going on…?”
It felt like I had been isolated from the world, as if I were the only one left.
Ayana was still leading me by the hand, and everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. What on earth…?
“What are you feeling right now?”
I asked that question in an instant, and as I did, someone passed by me.
In this strange situation, I couldn’t help but be drawn to that presence. A person in a black coat with a hood, an unusual sight that didn’t reveal their expression or identity, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
When I turned to follow that presence, it had vanished.
As if it had never existed to begin with.
I was left speechless by this surreal experience. But when I turned my gaze to where I had just been looking, Kotone and Hatsune-san were still there, with their backs turned.
Corner them… Corner them
Make them suffer… Make them suffer…
Someone whispered in my ear… a girl’s voice.
And it seemed to be reciting the same text that had appeared on the chalkboard during class today, resonating in my eardrums.
I put my hand to my forehead and stopped in my tracks. Suddenly, an image from the past flashed before my eyes.
A still depicting Kotone and Hatsune being r*ped and corrupted by men respectively in the game, and their depravity, where they talk about Shu, whom they loved so much, as if he were an obstacle. …… and.
I was snapped back to reality when my name was called. I had thought we hadn’t walked that far, but apparently, it was all my own confusion. We were quite a distance from Kotone and Hatsune-san. How could I have been so absent-minded?
“Are you okay? You seemed lost in thought.”
“I’m fine… yeah. I’m fine. Sorry, Ayana.”
Geez, I shouldn’t have worried Ayana!
She doesn’t need to worry about anything, and I want her to know that. So, I took Ayana’s hand and started walking, silently letting her know that I was okay.
We headed to that park, a place filled with memories for both of us.
Since it was late in the evening, there were no children playing around like usual, and except for us, there was no one in sight.
Ever since we came here, or perhaps from the moment I took her hand, Ayana has been like this. Although she usually wears a smile when she’s by my side, now she’s just looking down in silence.
The cause is probably my reaction when I saw Kotone and Hatsune-san… I hug Ayana and pat her back gently.
“I’m okay. I was just surprised, and…”
“That’s a lie.”
She said it was a lie, and I fell silent. Since I was holding her, our faces were very close as we looked at each other, and her dark, cloudy eyes locked onto mine.
“Yes. It’s your very own Ayana, okay?”
Her voice was very gentle, but her eyes were frightening, and I felt like averting my gaze.
Ayana wrapped her arms around my back, hugging me tightly, and continued.
“It’s okay, Towa-kun. I promise, I’ll take care of everything.”
“What do you…?”
“It’s okay. You’ll be fine, Towa-kun.”
It’s fine. The sound of those words was like a sweet melody invading the depths of my heart.
Even though her demeanor was different from usual, and there was something scary about it, I still accepted her embrace and held onto her.
“Ayana… how do you feel about those two?”
She answered my words with a smile and a chuckle.
“I hate them. I’ve always hated them, from the bottom of my heart.”