Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
Hiratsuka’s face was torn between anger and fear. I knew just what I was getting myself into.
Violence, no matter the cause, always breeds violence. By the same token, the stronger you are, the deeper you are into the mire. These were the reasons I didn’t want to resort to such a thing.
While these thoughts flurried my mind, Hiratsuka was carried out of the classroom by one of his peers. There was no need to stop him now, we’d get our apology later.
Frankly, I’m not confident in bare-knuckle fighting. I was happy with my skill level, but I wasn’t even close to my grandpa’s class. With him, blades just wouldn’t cut it. You’d be better off with a gun.
“… Nice work, Toshiki, um… I’m going ahead to pick up my junior, so please call me later.”
“H–Hey, Sakashita! Don’t pull my bag! Oi, what are you doing?!”
And with Reika pulling Hayakawa along, they both left the classroom. There was no one there but me and Eri… Even her friend, Hikari, had left.
… Awkward. I guess Reika went ahead so I could have a talk with Eri, while Hayakawa was just clueless about the whole situation.
Then, Eri took one step closer. She was too close, in fact.
“Ehehe~ You’re the coolest, after all, Toshi…”
No. This isn’t time to talk about something like that, is it? If you hadn’t come to the classroom in the first place, none of this would’ve happened… Well, at least nothing bad really went down, so it’s fine…
“Eri-chan, get away from me. You wouldn’t want me to misunderstand, right?”
“No, I’m fine with you, Toshi. I didn’t think Hiratsuka-senpai would change the moment we started dating…”
I couldn’t respond, or rather, I didn’t know how to. There have been so many fuzzy things happening to me lately, that I’m lost. However, one thing I knew for certain. That night I cried all my sorrows out, I gave up on any feelings I held for Eri.
It was excruciating to burn 10 years of feelings to cinders, but I’m never looking back. Still, I couldn’t really say goodbye to her, so I’ll make it clean here.
“You know, Eri-chan—”
“Um, actually… All the boyfriends I’ve ever had were just to edge you on, Toshi.”
No words could come out of my mouth, and my mind was a mess. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, no matter how many times I tried. Even after coming to my senses since yesterday’s outing with Reika, I could barely even comprehend.
Yet she continued on regardless.
“… You didn’t confess your love to me after such a long time. I knew you did, though, so I thought that if I went out with somebody, you’d get jealous and steal me away, you know?”
I count my heartbeats. That’s always calmed me down…
What the hell is this girl talking about? Do you have any idea how much it hurt to abandon all my feelings for you? So I’m expected to “steal” you away from your boyfriend? Even after the countless times you boasted your happiness to me?
And even after what you told me about my father?
“You know, Eri-chan… You said you didn’t like me because my dad is a criminal.”
Her face went bitter for a moment, but the next she was all smiles again.
“E–Eh~? That was a joke, a joke! Your father is your father, and you are you! Either way, I’ve been waiting so long for this moment!”
And soon memories of our past together crash on my mind, like waves on the ocean.
It was right after entering junior high. She was confessed to by Tashiro, a senior one year older than her.
“Toshi, I, um… I might get my first boyfriend! Ehehe~ You’ll support me, right?”
My biggest fear had come true. Because of what happened to my dad, I thought it would be better not to go out with her, so I feared she might one day get a boyfriend.
To begin with, she was leagued above me. She couldn’t see me as a man. the boys she’s always liked were handsome and wild. Every day she’d tell me about it, after all. Every. Single. Day.
My heart was cut every time, bitterness gradually growing inside me. However, I thought that if she was happy, it was all that mattered.
Before her date with her first boyfriend, Eri told me, “Hey, Toshi, I wanna practice for my first date, so can you please go out with me? Oh, and can you help me choose a present for him with me?”
I was in scorching pain, burning slowly inside the flames, but there was nothing I could do about it.
No boyfriend of hers ever lasted long. They always ended up fighting, for some reason…
And that reason was—
“I got angry because you said something bad about Toshi! I’m not going to let you berate my childhood friend!”
“Toshi is many times kinder! It’s impossible to continue!”
“If it was Toshi…”
—that she’d only talk about me in front of them, her boyfriends.
I just wanted her to be happy, from the bottom of my heart. But after all that, I couldn’t help but think that maybe… maybe she liked me? —No. She would never.
I hated myself for being shallow.
I hated myself for being gloomy.
Oh, and I still remember it vividly… It was on New Year, and I was seeing her Reika for the first time in a year. As we talked about numerous topics, I eventually spilled my long-lasting love for Eri.
“O–Oh, Toshiki has someone he likes already… W–What kind of person is she?”
“Eri-chan is cute, and kind, and she always looks out for me.”
“Y–Yeah… Right, such a rude woman…” She mumbled that last part.
“U–Uh, nothing! So, w–when are you going to confess?”
Then I told her how I’d never confess because of my father, only to be met with—
“Idiot! That doesn’t matter! If she really liked you, she wouldn’t care! I would never care… I–It’s fine! You’re super cool, so… Just don’t regret it afterward…”
Reika said that and pushed me back. I remember I almost cried when her words hit me.
But they made me decide that I’d tell Eri how I feel. However—
“E–Eri-chan, uh, y’know, I’ve been thinking about yo—”
“Toshi? Ah, hey, listen! I found out something about Marco, the soccer player I’ve been thinking about lately… Oh, and it’s a bit unbelievable, but he said his father was accused of molesting.”
“… Haah, I’m glad I found it out before we started dating… He’s saying it was a false accusation, but the rumors are already too much. Parents just can’t be criminals. I’m not gonna go out with him since I’d get caught up in some weird rumor. Oh, but Michael, a member of the dance club, asked me out on a date—”
I don’t recall my answer back then, though.
To be honest, her lightness regarding love frightened me. And my 10-year-old love, albeit unrequited, was heavy, and it didn’t help.
It was then I understood that I should never say I love her… My dad caused an incident in self-defense, after all.
Back then, I couldn’t give up my love for her. My heart burned, and it just couldn’t stop. While hiding these feelings in the deepest crevices of my heart, I made efforts to make things work with the girl I loved.
However, my heart was being chipped away, bit by bit.
I didn’t care about anything but Eri.
Even if her love was for someone else, her flirty remarks still thrilled my longing heart, so I always reminded myself not to get the wrong idea.
But you know what, Eri?
I’m awake, and I have people I care about. Although I don’t know if I’ll ever love again, I’ll never look back.
Then, yesterday’s date with Reika popped into my mind. It was very different from my outings with Eri, and I felt indescribably free. I thought of that tomboy as my best friend, from the deepest wells of my heart. I don’t wanna see Reika’s worried face ever again.
And Eri gazed at me with a soft smile. It was the smile that I loved, but not a smile directed at someone she loved. That soft grin was another’s.
Yet I wanted it so badly. I was so in love with her, that my heart shook to its very core. Even if I managed to go out with someone else, her face would surely pop into my mind again.
“Ehehe~ I’ve dated a lot of guys, and I know there are no boys kinder or prettier than you… You listen to everything I say, and we have the same interests. Also, I didn’t know you were that strong, so… Please, protect me… From this day forward.”
I remembered Reika’s words. “Just don’t regret it afterward,” right?
So I’d have no more regrets. That’s why, ten years’ worth of my every thought, of my every feeling, poured out.
“—Thank you, Eri-chan, for these ten years… But it’s too late. This is goodbye. I will never speak to you again…”
Her body jerked to my words, which were completely different from what she expected.
I know, Eri. I know you’ve been two-timing Hiratsuka, our senior, and Tachibana, a teacher, in parallel… Yet she continued on like a spoiled child.
“N–No! You’re my childhood friend, Toshi-kun! After I spent time with other guys, I found out you were the most wonderful person! So why are you being mean to me? You loved me, didn’t you!?”
It was at this exact second that I erased ten years’ worth of love from my heart.
“Yeah… But I don’t love you anymore.”
And Eri cried. Every time tears rolled down her cheeks for being dumped, rejected, or for any other reason, I was always by her side, comforting her.
But I’m no longer there to give you solace, Eri.
I left her crying figure alone in the classroom and walked out. After stepping out the door, I briefly tell Hikari, who was listening to our conversation from outside, these next words.
“Take care of the rest.”
“O–Okay… Y–You sure it was a good idea? You guys were super close…”
“There is no such thing as an unchanging relationship… See you later.”
“Yeah, I’ll take care of the rest.”
And I walked alone at school. When I think about it, I’ve always been alone throughout my life, yet she was there for me nonetheless…
Hey? I’m not sad, but it’s kind of rising up from my chest, sticking to my throat.
I don’t have to worry about her anymore… Don’t cry. People will worry about you. I have to wipe these tears so I can meet up with everyone…
But as I turned down the hallway, something soft enveloped me.
“Good work, Toshiki.”
“Shh, it’s okay, you don’t have to say anything… Hayakawa and the others went to the ice cream shop first, so we can take our time…”
My childhood friend, Reika, wrapped me up in her arms until I stopped crying. I let out every single emotion that welled up inside as tears rolled down my face.
This was the best chapter so far, in my humble opinion. Such character development! I honestly loved this to bits, and seeing him so vulnerable after suffering so long with unrequited love was moving. Hope you guys keep enjoying this series onward! It’s complete with 27 chapters, so let’s just enjoy the ride!
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