Ayana was still crying, but her expression had softened thanks to our recent conversation. I thought to myself, “This is it,” and started to act to make Towa’s and my conversation a reality.
“Hey, Ayana, today I want to overcome the sadness from my past right in front of you. And at the same time, let’s move forward together. Let’s not be trapped by the past but aim for the future.”
I held a ball that I had hidden in the shade away from Ayana.
Ayana’s eyes widened in surprise at the sight of it. Well, it’s understandable that she was so surprised. If my memory serves me right, I haven’t touched a ball since I was discharged from the hospital, which must have been one of the reasons for her surprise.
(To be honest, even if you told me I was playing soccer, it wouldn’t have rung a bell… But now I know what to do… No, that’s not it. I know what I want to do.)
From there, I simply followed my instincts.
I placed the ball on the ground and skillfully balanced it on the tip of my toes, then began juggling it. It was a strange feeling, as if my body remembered the skill as if I had done it before. I was adept at controlling the ball, just like I had been in the past.
“Alright! Ho! There!”
As I continued to juggle the ball, memories of the past flooded my mind—memories of the first time I met Ayana. I wanted to cheer up the downcast Ayana and did everything in my power to make her smile. I wanted to see that smile again, the one that was the beginning of my feelings for her.
While skillfully handling the ball, I glanced at Ayana, who was in tears. But her teary face wasn’t solely filled with sadness.
And then, I saw it.
Ayana was smiling.
“Ayana, do you remember? How I tried to make you smile when you were on the verge of tears… I did this because I wanted to see you smile!”
“Yes… yes! I remember, of course… After all, that was when I first met you, Towa-kun!”
I nodded as I continued to juggle the ball.
That’s right… from that moment, our time together began, and we’ve shared so many moments since then. But this isn’t a story that ends somewhere—it’s a story that we don’t want to end. The story that started from our meeting continues to stretch on.
I stopped juggling and kicked the ball as I stood in front of the soccer goal. The reason I chose this place to spend time with Ayana was that it held so many memories, and the presence of a soccer goal felt symbolic.
As if this place was saying, “Use me,” everything was coming together perfectly, making it a suitable starting point for both Ayana and me.
“It’s true that I still have remnants of sorrow and anger from that accident… It’s natural to have moments when I think, ‘Why did this happen to me?'”
The sadness and resentment that Towa held still smoldered within me. But isn’t it enough now? Even if I can’t change the past, I can overcome it. Let’s show that changing Ayana’s crumbling future is as simple as that.
“So, I’m going to overcome it! That’s why, Ayana, you should stop being trapped by the past here. Let’s overcome it together—because I’ll be just fine… So there’s nothing you need to carry in my place!”
With Ayana’s watchful gaze fixed on me from behind, I focused my stare on the goal.
I took a deep breath to steady myself. It might seem like an overly simplistic notion or something too trivial, but for now, I needed to settle the negative emotions that had lingered in my heart. Because it was my own feelings that I held, and only I could deal with them.
(I’m going for it… I can do this, Towa.)
I wasn’t sure if he was still within me, but I sensed a presence nodding in agreement. I swung my leg, sending the ball straight into the goal with a powerful kick.
The ball sailed directly into the net, making a satisfying “swish” sound. It was a sensation I hadn’t felt in a long time, and it brought a sense of freshness, as if something that had been clinging to me had been blown away.
I nodded to myself; it was indeed a great shot. While I was self-praising, Ayana suddenly embraced me from behind, her arms wrapping around my stomach.
For a moment, I was surprised by the unexpected impact, but it was quickly replaced by overwhelming love for her. The euphoria of scoring that goal began to subside.
“I thought I’d never see Towa-kun playing again… Showing me that now, it makes me happier than anything. I really loved watching Towa-kun play soccer.”
“I feel the same… I loved seeing you and Mom cheering with your megaphone.”
As we reminisced about the past, I gently unwound her arms from my waist and turned to face her again. I held her, just like I had earlier.
(…I’m really happy. To hold the person I love in my arms like this.)
After holding Ayana for a while, I looked into her eyes once more.
“I said this before, but I’m really okay now. With this, I say goodbye to the sad past and the difficult times.”
“… … … …”
“Once again, Ayana… You don’t have to carry anything. You really don’t.”
Even after all I had said, Ayana still couldn’t bring herself to accept it. As I thought earlier, she was really stubborn.
I couldn’t help but chuckle, thinking that I must look like the protagonist struggling to win over a stubborn heroine. Nevertheless, I continued to address Ayana earnestly.
“Don’t carry it, don’t bear it. Ayana has always been like that, and I know it’s not something that can be easily discarded. So, I won’t deny those feelings… I’ll be there for you, constantly trying to heal those emotions.”
“So, I will teach Ayana that there’s no need for past hatred or sadness. If one of us is happy while the other is miserable, that’s not the right way. It’s not either of us… We both have to be happy.”
That’s right, it’s meaningless if only one of us is happy. If we truly want the other to be happy, we must find happiness ourselves. I believe this is the way we can both be happy and truly hold each other’s hands for the future.
“I invited Ayana here today because I wanted to talk about this. And there’s one more thing I want to tell you.”
“…Is there more than this?”
“Of course… Oh, but this one might be more important.”
I hadn’t received an answer from Ayana yet, but I would let her hear what I had to say now and let her decide. What I was about to share was necessary to end our current ambiguous relationship and take a step forward.
“Um… So… well…”
Why am I getting shy now? I’ve been holding Ayana like this, said a lot of embarrassing things, and even had intimate moments… So why am I hesitating now? I took another deep breath and finally voiced the words.
“Come to think of it… I never really told you, did I? We’ve just sort of drifted into this relationship… So, let me say this… I love you, Ayana.”
Honestly, this is a part where I should complain about the original me.
Originally, Ayana and I just went with the flow and didn’t properly communicate our feelings… Of course, we said we loved each other many times, but it was ultimately just words that went with the flow of the moment.
That’s why I made a real confession now.
This is my answer, after thinking about how to overcome the past and move forward.
“You’re a truly mysterious person, Towa-kun.”
Saying that, Ayana once again placed her forehead against my chest.
Her hug became tighter, conveying her strong feelings for me.
“Honestly… I didn’t expect all of this to happen. Not only did you notice the things I’ve been carrying all this time, but you also showed me the side of you that I wanted to see again. And on top of that, you said the words I wanted to hear the most.”
Ayana lifted her head and looked straight into my eyes as she continued,
“Towa-kun, I’m a terrible person. I wanted to make those people regret what they did, and I considered using Shu-kun’s feelings to further my own goals. I even thought about using people who had nothing to do with it as pawns. But with just your words, I wavered so easily. I’m a fickle person… But even with that, Towa-kun…”
“I love you. No matter what kind of person you are, I love you. I can say it as many times as you want—I love you with all my heart.”
I firmly conveyed this, and Ayana nodded in response.
“I love you too, Towa-kun. I love you so much it’s unbearable. No matter what happens, I don’t want us to be apart. That’s how much I love you. Even if you think I’m a heavy girl, I don’t mind. I love you that much.”
With Ayana’s sincere words and the feelings in my chest, I felt joy swelling within me. While we had expressed our feelings to each other many times before, the words we exchanged now held a different, deeper meaning.
As I gazed at Ayana, she gently closed her eyes. In response to her signal, I leaned closer to her and kissed her lips.
We exchanged a kiss, then parted slightly and said our names, each kiss feeling like a confirmation of our love.
“Kisses really make you feel this happy, huh?”
“Yes, they do. I’ve always felt this way, but this kiss was even happier than any other time.”
I agreed with her sentiment. Now, there’s just one more thing… One more thing I have to say.
“Would you be my girlfriend? Will you go out with me? I want you to be with me from now on, always.”
“Yes, I’d like that. I want to be in a relationship with you… I want to be with you always.”
Having conveyed our feelings, I breathed a sigh of relief. Regardless of the complications and difficulties we might face in the future, I was content.
“A bit tired, aren’t you, Towa-kun?”
“Yeah… Let’s sit on the bench for a bit and take a break.”
I sat down on the bench with Ayana, just like we had done before. It was getting a little dark, but it seemed that Ayana had no intention of leaving. As a sign of that, she hugged my arm tightly.
(…It’s really comforting. Just being together with Ayana like this.)
It was indeed comforting, but considering everything that lay ahead, I couldn’t help but think about how challenging it might be. However, I had a strong conviction that with Ayana by my side, we could overcome anything.
“No, I was lost in thought and accidentally used formal language.”
I shouldn’t be so absorbed in my thoughts with someone by my side, but for now, I hoped she’d allow it.
She placed her hand on her mouth, stifling a chuckle. “It’s unstable how you switch between speech patterns!”
Geez! It just means I’m so happy!
In response to Ayana’s request, I leaned closer and kissed her again. We kissed as if trying to reduce the distance between us each time we broke apart.
“Thank you… Ehehe.”
“You’re so cute.”
To me, Ayana had always been cute, beautiful, and attractive from the beginning. But now, she seemed even more charming than before. I couldn’t help but be anxious, wondering if my fondness was becoming too evident on my face. Nevertheless, I considered this happiness I had finally grasped as one of my treasures.
Still, there was one thing that concerned me.
(Both in the game and in this world, Ayana was plotting to torment Shu and others, but could she really have achieved it all on her own?)
Though it had been mentioned in the fan disc that Ayana had arranged for a different guy for each heroine to compete over, it seemed unlikely that she could have orchestrated it all by herself. However, now was not the time to dwell on this.
Ayana called my name, and I turned my attention to her.
She gazed up at the sky, not meeting my eyes, making her look like a beautiful moon goddess. Although we had arranged to meet here in the late afternoon, it was already getting dark. It was about time to go home, but I wanted to talk to her a little longer.
“Towa-kun, you mentioned that the way I’m doing things is cruel. To be honest, I agree with you… What I’ve been trying to do is make Shu-kun despair by showing him the degradation of people who’ve become close to him, and in the end, I wanted to make him believe that I was never with him from the beginning.”
It felt strange to hear these words directly from her. Her words meant that she intended to cause cruel consequences, yet the atmosphere she exuded was so gentle that it didn’t make me fear her. I couldn’t help but feel that Ayana would never really do something like that.
“I still have feelings of not being able to forgive those people… But Towa-kun has been there for me, comforting me and saying that we should move forward together… So I will do my best to overcome those feelings.”
“From the beginning… From the very beginning, I didn’t need to bear it alone. But I had always thought, as strange as it may sound, that I could do it on my own. I had this conviction that I would definitely get my revenge on those people. Somehow, I just knew that I could. It’s puzzling.”
“Yes… It’s really strange.”
Perhaps it was the will of the world that had made Ayana feel that way.
But still, because we’re living in this world, this is our reality, and that’s precisely why talking like this can change the future as much as we want.
“Ayana is my girlfriend… My girlfriend, huh.”
Despite that, when I acknowledged our current relationship again, it made me grin. Ayana chuckled and playfully poked my cheek with her index finger while saying,
“I’m happy too, so please contain yourself. Otherwise, my cheeks might get all loose and never return to normal.”
“I’m lucky, you know. You look cute even when you make that face.”
“Ara, if you say that, Towa-kun, you’re still handsome, so it’s unfair.”
And like that, spontaneously, we both shared a laugh. This feeling was really, truly amazing. Even though being with Ayana was the same as always, there was a freshness and innocence to our current situation.
I mumbled softly, looking up at the slightly reddened sky,
“…I wonder if this is good for now… Phew.”
Perhaps Ayana still wasn’t entirely reconciled like me… But it should be alright now.
I muttered that unconsciously, my voice barely audible, but Ayana seemed to have heard it.
“It’s alright. After all, there’s no way I would do something so foolish as revealing my plans to the person I love.”
“Does that mean you would have done it if it weren’t known?”
“Of course. It just shows how strong my feelings were!”
…Geez, her words may be wicked, but because she’s already at ease, it just makes her look adorable.
“You mischievous little devil.”
“Fufu, if you don’t punish me, I might do something.”
I was running out of vocabulary to describe how adorable Ayana was.
After gazing into each other’s eyes for a while and sharing another kiss, we stood up to head back home.