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.
The heat of the sauna enveloped my body. It was my first time in one, but the vapor was very comforting for me.
“Toshiki bro, look at these broad back muscles,” he flexed. “I worked hard to keep up with this guy.”
“Zip it! Isn’t the power of a punch determined by technique rather than muscle mass? —Ouch, it’s hot!”
I’m currently sandwiched between Hiratsuka and Hirano for God-knows-why. Hayakawa wasn’t feeling well, so he was resting in his room. Nakajima seems to be taking care of him too. I could still vividly recall the last face he made. Sorrowfully it etched itself into my mind.
I’m useless socially, and I’m aware of that. I spent all my time with Eri and didn’t get involved with other people. The only friend I’ve ever made apart from the ones I already had was Hayakawa. My lack of social interactions is the reason I don’t quite understand people’s feelings, and I just couldn’t imagine what brought Hayakawa’s face to cry without tears.
“Toshiki? Stop ignoring me, you’re making me sad…”
“Could you shut up for a second, you muscle-loving freak?”
“…Hey, is there someone Hayakawa truly likes?”
The two usually talkative guys had their mouths shut. They knew what was going on, yet couldn’t put it into words. I felt at least that. Only the quiet sounds of the sauna could be heard. After staying there until our bodies couldn’t handle it anymore, we left the heat-bound room and rinsed our bodies before going to take an actual bath.
“Phew… I feel refreshed. Yo, Sawada, you should have more confidence in yourself. You’re Hayakawa’s pal, ain’t you? The man I approve of.”
“That’s right. You woke me up from being just another piece of sh*t in the world.”
A strange sensation washed over me as I listened to the two. My burning body and the water couldn’t touch each other, and I felt as though I was covered in a thin membrane. Is this the power of an open-air bath?
“You listening, dude?! Tch, you’re really…” Hirano said.
“Toshiki is a natural, huh. Hmm… seems he’s having trouble with love. I, the General who’s fought a hundred battles against both men and women, can lend an ear to your troubles,” Hiratsuka let out his alias without a shred of worry.
“Hey, you’re not even hiding it anymore, are you?!” Hirano snapped back
After a few minutes, I left the bath and cooled down while sitting in a chair provided to us. The accumulated heat gradually dissipated from the inside out, and I felt that contrast with my whole body. I could almost feel my blood flowing through my veins.
Phew… Warmth sure is nice, ain’t it?
“Hiratsuka-senpai, you still like Eri-chan?” I asked.
“Ah~ W–Well, honestly… No matter how bad, she was my first love. I’d be lying if I said I don’t hold some feelings for her still. That’s what loving someone is like, after all.”
Hiratsuka’s answer was surprisingly decent. I myself still have a lot on my mind about Eri.
“I see… Do you have someone you like, Hirano-kun?”
“Well, my case’s a bit special.”
“Huh? Oh, sh*t! I knew it, you’re—” I was about to say.
“Get that thought back into your head, stupid idiot! I like girls! You know I have a crush on Reika Sakashita, don’t you?”
“A–Ah, I forgot…”
Hirano sighed at that but continued to speak. “Haah… I mean, I confessed to her after you beat me up. You don’t remember that? —Wait, wait a second! Why are your muscles flexing?! Your scars are showing, Toshiki!”
I wasn’t angry, just shocked. Reika was confessed to by someone, and I’d never even imagined it. A weird feeling, almost alien, lurched around in my gut.
“She immediately dumped me, though… It’s true man, first love never comes true. —Yo, Hiratsuka?! Get away from me! Why are you patting my head? You think you’re comforting me with that?!”
Even though I was with Reika for as long as I could, we still had times we weren’t with each other. It’s obvious she would receive confessions since she was cute. The logical part of my brain thought so. Meanwhile, relief washed over me as soon as I heard he was dumped, and guilt pierced my chest soon after.
“Don’t look at me like that, bro. You won a match against me, so lift your chin and be proud of yourself,” Hirano told me.
“I wonder if you’ve become an actual underground fighter now, Toshiki? I think I saw your name on the roster if I recall correctly.”
“What? I don’t know anything about that. Did someone just buy a fight?”
“Oy, you should use some of those guts in your love life… Tch, I saw you on the roster too. The guy you’re fighting seems to be top-tier too. Well, it’s probably Mr. Tachibana harassing you again, isn’t it? Just check your phone later.”
“Toshiki, it’s time to go up. I’ll be on ‘Shogun Channel’ after this for some love talk. I hope you’ll watch it if you’re so inclined. Hirano will also be there as a guest.”
“Huh?! What are you talking about?” Hirano was wholly confused.
“O–Okay, whenever I feel like it…” I say.
And so, the three of us left the hot springs.
“Ah~~! Could it be Hirano and Hiratsuka from UF?! That’s amazing!!! I’m a huge fan!”
We had already left the springs, though there was still some time before meeting up with Reika and the others. Me and the boys were chatting in the lounge when a random girl approached us. Hiratsuka and Hirano were used to it, so they dealt with the situation flawlessly.
“Oh? Are you… Oh, it’s Toshiki Sawada! You were featured in that video! C–Could you shake my hand? Oh God, you’re super handsome~!”
Another one approached me daintily. She looked like a college student. Well, I wasn’t immune to women at all. Eri and Reika were the only ones I knew, so the first thing that popped into my head was the possibility of her being a shady person. At school, most people didn’t even bother talking to me, so I didn’t bother talking to them.
“Huh, who are they? Aren’t those three guys su~per hot? Are they together?”
“I’ve seen all the videos! You’re super strong!”
“Aw look, they’re so high-schoolish, it’s adorable!”
“We should call out to them, too! Oy, can you take a picture with us?
“Could you appear in my Insta’s stories?”
“Oh? Is that Lee’s junior?”
“Wait a sec, is Lee their acquaintance? Is he hot?”
“Lee’s got sideburns, but he’s a cool guy.”
After the first girl approached us, a group followed suit. They all seemed like friends… I felt the same way at school, but when a large group of girls gathers, a special kind of pressure is created. It made me incredibly uncomfortable.
This isn’t what I’m looking for… I just wanna spend my days peacefully with my friends. Look, I know this situation might envy some, but it isn’t something I want. I’m not a celebrity, a showman, or anything like that. I’m just Toshiki Sawada, an ordinary student who happens to be a bit stronger than others. All I ever did was exercise to… Hm? Why was I even exercising for? That question got stuck in my head, and after lingering for a while, I finally got why I was treated as shady at school.
I didn’t care about anyone other than my dear friends. Then, I saw Reika and Eri, both in yukatas, waiting at the entrance to the lounge.
“Hiratsuka-senpai, take care of the rest, please. Sorry, I’m not really interested in these girls.”
“—?! T–That’s… Okay, I’ll take care of it!”
I walked through the group of girls just to get to the two. They noticed me approaching, and my face naturally broke into a smile.
“Toshiki, good to see you! What’s up with that crowd? Oh, is that Hirano-kun and Hiratsuka-senpai?”
“Yeah, though Hayakawa seemed to be anxious.”
“Hiratsuka-senpai, huh… Come to think of it, I haven’t apologized… Toshi, could I talk to him for a minute?” Eri looked at me with gentle eyes.
She was no longer the old “Eri-chan”, so I was confident they’d be fine. I gave her a little push on the back, urging her to do what she had to.
“Go ahead and talk to him. I’ll see you at dinner later!”
“Okay! See ya!”
Reika and I watched her go, and after a few moments she snuggled up to me, fidgeting ever so slightly. “U–Um, T–Toshiki, why don’t we go to the, um, observation room? I heard the night view there is breathtaking.”
“Oh, okay. Let’s go together, Reika,” I naturally held her hand.
There were many things I didn’t know about love, yet despite all my ignorance one thing was as clear as day.
Reika is very important to me.
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