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.
I, Satoshi Hirano, haven’t had a friend since junior high school. Back then, my sister was healthy and I had a best friend called Shoki. We were both in the boxing club, and we practiced hard. The time we three spent together was the most glorious period of my life.
Hayakawa trained with me earlier, and I couldn’t help but think he looked just like my old friend, Shoki. Though, it wasn’t about their appearance, but rather about the weak aura they exuded.
I tried to find any other resemblance in Hayakawa’s face, but all I noticed is that Shoki was just more handsome.
“Kaede, your big bro’s doing his best, so do your best too… Shoki, I found an idiot just like you. Let’s play together when you two wake up.”
Hayakawa’s part-time job was just about to start, so after we parted ways, I went to the hospital to visit these two. In one of the rooms, both my sister and Shoki slept peacefully… They had such beautiful sleeping faces.
Kaede, my sister, and Shoki loved each other a lot. Meanwhile, I was born as some sort of psychopath who didn’t know the first thing about love. I couldn’t even grasp human pain, favoritism, or even anger.
But because they were who they were, I gradually came to learn about others’ emotions. We had a lot of fun, we laughed, we even fought, but in the end, we made up. Together, we three were happy—
Until my sister got into a traffic accident. It was she was going home with Shoki.
I wasn’t there when they needed me most.
That day, I’d left something in the club room, so I ran back to get it. If I hadn’t gone back then, if I hadn’t met Shoki, if I hadn’t been born…
Regret for not being present consumed me from the inside out.
Shoki and I weren’t always friends. He was bullied in class, and even seeing it happen didn’t move me. After all, I had little emotion.
Though, I was somewhat interested when I saw him join the boxing club and work hard at something. I think it was a whim at first, but when I got to know him better, unknown feelings started to grow inside me.
And soon, he became my first friend.
“Yo, Satoshi! Let’s play again today!”
That’s how he always called out to me. Every day he’d shout “Let’s play!”, even when I was right there beside him. Before I knew it, I had picked up that loud habit too.
He and my sister kept sleeping in this hospital room, together. For the first time in my life, I knew what tears were. In that moment I finally understood this emotion called “Sadness”.
I had no idea it was such a gut-wrenching emotion. Even so, I don’t wanna give this feeling up, for it’s the result of both Shoki and my sister’s hard work.
Surgery might bring them back to consciousness, though the hospital bills alone put the family’s finances under pressure. We were rather poor, so we didn’t have great healthcare.
I desperately worked part-time and continued boxing. All I needed was a few more years and I’d become a champion. Meanwhile, I was hurting for money, and these newborn feelings tried to break me apart from the inside.
But then, I found out who the perpetrator of the accident was. It was right before a boxing match, but I didn’t care.
The assailant was an unlicensed sc*mbag. I punched him without the intent to kill, but he turned the tables on me. Never had I thought that I, said to be a genius boxer, would lose.
Upon beating me, he just dropped his business card and walked away. It contained contact info of the Underground Fighting management.
So, I fight for money.
I fight to pay for their hospital bills and surgeries.
I don’t care about my body. I don’t care about my life.
All I care about is the people I love, so, please—
Shoki and my sister slept with serene expressions. I often forget the passage of time when I come here. I’ve even seen Hayakawa walking around the hospital a couple of times, for whatever reason.
I asked the nurse about him, and she said his parents were ill.
… You’re just like Shoki, aren’t you? Even the bullying part of it.
Looking back at the two’s sleeping faces, I recall the message I received from the management—
“If you beat up Toshiki Sawada, you’ll be promoted to the three-star rank.”
—and I laugh to myself.
My sis used to praise me all the time.
“You’re the coolest guy in the world, so get yourself a nice girlfriend!”
“Well, you’re not gonna get one anytime soon. Hm? You don’t know what it’s like to love someone?”
“Don’t worry about it. When you do fall for someone, I’m sure she’ll be as wonderful as you.”
And just like she said, when I saw Sakashita, that tomboyish girl, I felt love for the first time in my life. I was so nervous I could barely form coherent thoughts.
I’m scared I won’t feel this kind of emotion ever again, as long as it’s not her. It was that intense, I tell you.
Isn’t it weird we’ve never talked about this, Shoki? Did you love Kaede this much, too? —Sorry, I shouldn’t be the one happy while you guys are asleep.
Sakashita doesn’t have to date me. All I ask is that she’d talk to me without hatred. Every thought of mine she was in squeezed my heart.
… But I don’t deserve this. I shouldn’t be soaking up every drop of happiness that pours on me without you two here, with me.
So I’ll make money. I have to make money. That’s why I’m sorry Hayakawa… I’m gonna have to fight your friend.
I trudged along the hospital corridor, detaching myself from this newfound feeling of happiness, just the way I used to be.
The only thing in my mind was Shoki and Kaede, nothing else.
“Yo, Toshiki Sawada, I’ve been waiting for you. Put these on,” I tossed him a pair of gloves.
I’d waited until nightfall for him to show up. Hayakawa told me about his schedule a few days ago. Next to him, Sakashita stood donning a gorgeous dress.
Just by looking at her, I could almost feel my heart burst into a million pieces. —But I’m only a fighter now. I need to kill my emotions and turn these heartbreaking feelings off.
If I win, I’ll be promoted to the three-star rank. Doing that will make my views, and consequently, my income, jump up.
So, back to the old me, it is.
I knew Sawada’s moves from the video of his fight with Hiratsuka. He’s more of a grappler than a striker, and his technique to escape Hiratsuka’s hold was amazing to look at.
His striking was heavy and slow, so he’s no match for a boxer.
We were in the middle of the streets, lit only by the city lights around us. Pre-called operations were placed all over the area, so they were ready to record this fight from multiple angles.
Out the corner of my eye, I saw Hiratsuka sit on a bench at a fountain nearby, looking like some sort of big shot… Damn closet geek, stop calling yourself “General” in the comment section.
Anyway, I gazed straight ahead. Sawada wasn’t the least bit upset when I showed up outta nowhere. He sensed my fighting spirit, and words weren’t needed. Silently, he put on the gloves.
Meanwhile, Sakashita tugged on his back. Haha, stop showing off, won’t you?
But then, someone came running up to him out of nowhere. It was Hayakawa, still wearing his part-time uniform.
… Why is he here and not working?
“Toshiki! D–Don’t fight, okay? Please! I’m sure there’s a reason for this! Hey, Hirano, give me some excuse, any—!”
He screamed, but I throw a signal at management. They soon grabbed him and held him on the ground… It will all end well. You’ll just be disillusioned with me.
“… Well then, let’s play.”
“Oi, Hirano—! Listen, Hirano—! S–Sawada, please stop him—!”
Hayakawa’s cries were the signal.
The jab is a boxer’s fastest weapon, and the “step” was one of the strongest techniques. Combining these two is something that most pros strive to accomplish. Moreover, mine wasn’t your regular jab.
Sawada, with his little experience, will only be able to eat my fists. My jab connects with his face, and I finish it in an instant so that he doesn’t suffer—
No, he moved away from me. He was in an obvious boxing stance, and he slightly quaked his body. Is that some kinda weird technique or another martial art altogether? If it was boxing, I wouldn’t lose.
So I step in and close the distance in an instant. I started my combo with a jab—
But a strong punch pierces through my face, almost like a spear, and goosebumps travel through my whole body. That was not a jab, and it was too dangerous to take it again.
Soon, we threw several punches at a quick rate. We both weaved in and out, feinting constantly while mixing and matching different combos. I managed to connect a strong hit right on his chest, but he didn’t even stagger.
What is this guy? That was one of my strongest punches yet, wasn’t it?!
“Sawada! Hirano is no ordinary boxer, he’s an all-rounder, a genius that can do everything! —Hirano! Sawada doesn’t have any windups, he’s too fast! He’s also a heavyweight that weighs more than you!”
Haha, what are you on about? I’m beating up your friend, so why are you even cheering for me?
Even mid-fight, I’m surrounded by these strange emotions. The image of Shoki sleeping in his hospital room flashes through my mind in an instant. All my life, I thought I was unhappy… I thought I made them unhappy.
—He switched his boxing style, playing with the technique. Though, just when I had that thought, he suddenly disappeared from my view.
Sawada jumped at my side, and connected a powerful punch right on my liver. I even heard my bones cracking.
He didn’t even wait, throwing a second hook right on my temple, as though he was a flowing katana. My guard was blown off, and I was knocked unconscious for a split second. He connected another punch, which woke me up.
I tried to counter him, but he weaved with flowing movement that almost resembled an infinite sign, putting his arms in front of his face while moving and hitting back. Damn, I’ve never seen a Dempsey Roll¹ in person before.
Even the adrenaline couldn’t neutralize the pain. It almost felt like was hitting me with cast iron, and it hurt like absolute hell.
However, I couldn’t help but smile.
The last time I was this close to losing, was when I fought against Shoki… I haven’t had a proper boxing match in a long time, have I? Ever since that day, all I did was fight people I knew nothing about.
I wanted to box… I wanted to box with Shoki…
Then, flashes of my time with sis and my old friend flurried my mind. I’m gonna spend time with them again. We will be together!
Pushing through the agony, I unleashed all strength I could muster into a high-speed jab, and Sawada stepped back. Pain coursed through every fiber of my being, and it seemed I could fall down at any second.
—Not yet! I can still fight, I can still box!
I lowered my unmoving arm and concentrated every drop of strength on the other.
“Satoshi, your straight is the strongest, isn’t it?”
Oh yeah, that’s right, my straight is the strongest. No one can beat me. And above all, if I don’t win, they won’t come back!!!!!
Sawada waited for me to gather all the strength I could.
“Come on… Let’s finish this.”
His body moved, but I released my straight before he could throw his attack. It was perfect. The straight Shoki and I relentlessly practiced. An absolutely inevitable blow.
My fist connected with his face, but he didn’t budge an inch. Then, he threw his counter, a straight, right at me. Suddenly, heaven and earth switched places and I didn’t know what just happened. When I came to, I was laying on the ground.
I tried, but couldn’t move my legs to get back up. Not even my hands could support me, for I was completely out of strength.
Not yet, I… I can still box… I can…
Suddenly, I heard a voice crying, almost breaking. Then, I felt my body being held up in someone’s arms.
“Y–You d*mbass! Stop fighting! Don’t get up again…”
Hayakawa cried raggedly above me, his arms supporting me.
Hah… Why isn’t it Sakashita instead of you? —But these words just wouldn’t come out of my mouth.
“Oi, don’t pass out laughing!!!”
I lost, but it felt good… Though, I don’t know what I’m gonna do about the money. While thinking these things, my mind began to slip.
All I could feel was my consciousness slowly fading into darkness.
1 — Here’s an example of a Dempsey Roll, from Hajime no Ippo.
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