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.
After Reika and I expressed our feelings for each other, we had an honest heart-to-hearts. We were both clumsy people, so we didn’t know how to put feelings into words. But now our hearts were finally in tune with each other.
Talking with her brought back vivid memories of my childhood, previously locked away. She’s been by my side through thick and thin, always. I’ve also managed to remember my dad’s case…
But before I can truly swallow what happened, I need to face Eri properly.
“Ah, I just got a call from Hayakawa… Everyone’s in front of a restaurant.”
“Mhm, got it… I’m kinda nervous, to be honest.”
After reading the message, we headed there.
In front of the restaurant stood Hayakawa, his eyes red and swollen, with Nakajima by his side. Hirano watched over them while Hiratsuka and Eri smiled cheerfully over a conversation… Hm? Aren’t both of them a secret to Hayakawa?
Hiratsuka noticed us approaching and waved his hand. “Toshiki! Over here! I’m starving, so let’s grab something to eat, quick!”
“Toshi! Over here, over here! Hm? You two are so close. You’re holding hands! Ehehe, I’m so glad we are all friends!” Her innocent smile hurt a little.
We then walked straight to our reserved table to enjoy dinner.
“Hey, Hayakawa-senpai, do you want some of this? It’s su~per delicious!”
“D–dummy! I can eat it by myself!”
“Hirano? Have these two made any progress?”
“Hm? No idea. They’re getting along, right? —Oy, pass me the soy sauce.”
“Oh~? It’s Lee over there! He’s with a beautiful older girl, too!”
“Eri-chan, don’t look away or you’ll spill it. Let’s leave Lee-senpai alone.”
The only time I’d ever sat around a dinner table with other people was with my grandpa. It was also my first time enjoying such a nice dinner with people my own age. Eri was smiling too, and her smile harbored no evil. It was quite adorable to boot.
“Aw, Toshiki, you’re looking at Eri-chan again. Oh well, you can’t help it, she’s cute.”
“Yeah, she’s a cute childhood friend.”
“Hm? You said I’m cute, Toshi? Thanks! Ehehe, but y’know, Reika-chan is cute too!”
“Yeah, she’s beautiful,” I agreed.
Reika, who sat right next to me, chewed her meat with a shy look in her eyes. It’s nice seeing her eat so heartily. Oh well, I have to tell Eri we need to talk later.
“Hey, Eri-chan, can I talk to you in a bit?”
“Hm? You wanna talk? Is it about you going out with Reika-chan?”
Reika almost spits her meat, and I let my fork fall to the table.
“Eri-chan, how do you know that…?”
“I knew as soon as I saw you two! It was soooo obvious!”
Everyone around us started to buzz at her bombshell.
“Hey, Hayakawa, let’s have a drink tonight.”
“I can’t drink, I’m underage! Oh well, congrats dude.”
“Hayakawa has grown up, huh… I see, Toshiki is with Reika now.”
“Eh, for real? I had no idea! I even thought you and Eri were back together!”
“Nakajima, you idiot!” Eri herself scolded Nakajima. “I love Toshi, but I love seeing him happy even more. I’m not the one who can provide him that.”
“Eri-chan… Yeah, this is the right time to tell everyone then.”
I then told everyone about what happened in the observation room earlier. It was simply me telling them we decided to go out with each other.
“That’s why Eri-chan… I’m dating Reika now.”
“Yeah! If you’re happy, that’s the best! Huh? In that case, shouldn’t I stay away from you? I mean, you were pretty careful when I had a boyfriend… Hmm? My chest hurts, w–what is it?”
She smiled, but despite her chirpiness, tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Isn’t it weird? I’m not sad at all, and yet… I had Toshi by my side, and I still went out with many people… So you’ve always felt this way…”
Reika patted Eri’s back and I started to speak.
“When you got a boyfriend, Eri-chan, I was pretty sad. That’s because I loved you so much… How do you feel now?”
I restrained Reika with my hand. I had to listen properly to Eri’s feelings. Neither she nor I were living a normal life, and we both lacked understanding of each other over the years.
“I’m going to be all alone, but… I, I love you, Toshi… It’s like that.”
“Ah, yeah! I’ve never been with a proper family, so you were the closest thing to one. That’s why… I’m happy you’re dating Reika now. I just felt I was going to be left all alone…”
I took out a handkerchief and wiped Eri’s tears. I knew they were genuine since I was basically her family. That’s why she’s always been so fixated on me.
“Like a big brother?”
“Hmm, more like you were my real papa!”
“P, papa, huh… You know, Eri-chan, even if I’m now going out with Reika, you’re still my precious friend. I just hope one day someone will really love you and you’ll have a family, but even then, our relationship won’t change… I’m your childhood friend, after all.”
The tears stopped falling once she heard my words.
“Toshi, really…? Um, can I still talk to you?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Can I still play with you?”
“That’s a no-brainer.”
“A–are you sure you still want to be my friend…?”
“Yeah, we go waaaay back. We’re childhood friends, it’s in the name.”
One of the biggest smiles she ever smiled showed on her face. It was childish in a sense, holding no ill intent. I’d never seen her face like that before. Never.
“Ehehe! So that means you’re like my mom, Reika-chan! Yay! Now we have a whole family!”
“H–huh?! T, Toshiki, what should I do here?! …You seem happy, so is it okay?”
“Yeah, we’re both like her family. That’s all right, isn’t it?”
“Yeah… Eri-chan, thank you too. For staying by Toshiki’s side all these years.”
As the conversation was about to close on a high note, Hiratsuka started mumbling something.
“I’ll happily someday… No, I will support Toshiki from the shadows… Yeah, I’ll feed him with my underground savings.”
Yeah, I’ll just ignore him.
“Oh yeah, Sawada, you sold a fight to UF, didn’t you?”
“I just bought it.”
“…Wait, you’re going against—! What are you gonna do now, man? You’re registered as a player, and the upper management still holds a grudge against you! That means both Sakashita and Mashima are in danger, right?”
Yes, all matters related to the underground organization were still open. All of that still had to do with Eri’s father. As expected of Hirano, he said what was hard to say.
“It doesn’t matter,” I answered. “Their reasons are clear, and I decided to talk to my grandfather and fight as family… Reika is also prepared for that, and Eri rather stay by our side, since she’ll be involved whether she likes it or not.”
“O, okay. You say that so lightly, dude.”
“Yeah. Grandpa didn’t want to fight Eri’s father in the first place because he thought we’d be taken hostage.”
I remember talking to Reika and remembering many things that were locked away. Before I even arrived at the restaurant, I called my grandpa, telling him he didn’t have to protect me anymore and that I’d fight for the ones around me. I look at Eri, who Reika is spoiling.
Honestly, I don’t know what kind of person Eri’s father is. I heard she hardly ever saw him. Still, I remembered my dad who died protecting Reika, me falling down, and Reika crying and screaming.
If only I’d been stronger that fateful day…
Grandpa told me a few stories over the phone. He said Eri’s father and my own fought over my mother, and that when she died Eri’s father got furious. Both my dad’s self-defense and my mom’s death were a series of unfortunate events, and they were no one’s fault. Despite that, Eri’s father could not forgive me.
But I don’t care how long it takes, I’ll get it right someday.
“I’m going to fight in the underground for the time being,” I said. “I mean, a lot of people there have probably seen your father, right Eri-chan? Hey, Eri-chan?”
“Hm, I don’t really know where he is. I rarely saw him, even as an executive. Besides, he has a lot of other kids as well.”
“I’m going to climb UF’s ranks and find your father. I’ll even get my grandpa’s help and explore the behind-the-scenes of the organization.”
For some reason, silence reigned after I pronounced these words. Huh? Everyone except Reika and Eri had subtle looks on their faces. Then Hayakawa, who sighed loudly, slapped my back extremely hard.
“You’re an as*hole! We’re your family too! I’ll fight with you, man… Also, it’s great to get an insider’s view for live-streaming.”
“Hm? Are you’re gonna take the introductory exam for the organization next month? Join us as a fighter.”
“Ha?! W, what the hell are you doing? I’m an amateur!”
“Shut up, you’re stronger than you think. Also, we need money, right?”
“Ugh, yeah, but y’know… Ah~okay, damn it! I’ll do it, I’ll do it!”
“I’ll be rooting for you, senpai! Um, I’ll be your manager!”
Hiratsuka then stood up and walked up to me, kneeling down for some reason.
“I’ll follow you for the rest of my life, Toshiki-san… I’ll also punch Eri’s dad once because I want to. After we get back home, I’ll train with your grandpa.”
He then gazed at Eri with full seriousness… I see. He said she was his first love, and while his tone was joking, I could tell he was serious. In response to his words, Eri smiled.
“Haah… Everyone’s an idiot. Well, I’m your friend too, Toshiki, so I’m one of them.”
“Ahaha… Glad to hear it. Well, we’re still students, so let’s enjoy our school life to the fullest. We have a lot of problems, including the whole underground organization thing.”
I’m still worried Eri might be bullied at school. Even if she herself changed, people around her might not accept her. Eri’s reputation is still horrible, and I’ve also been bullied… Well, Yamada has been educated already, so it’ll be okay. The problem will be if it all piles up.
I have a lot of work to do, still.
Noticing my deep thoughts, Reika gently held my hand. I squeezed back. In the past few months, I’ve changed and so has everyone around me.
But despite it all, only one thing has never changed.
“Reika, I’ll protect you.”
She has always been by my side, and I steeled this promise within myself. I would never let go of her hand ever again.
T/N: Review time.
This is an honest 3/10 from me. I had high hopes initially, but it just kept derailing and derailing. I mean, what’s up with the whole fighting schmuck in the first place? Zero world-building.
But my main issue was with the lack of stakes and consequences. People made mistakes, but their reasons became excuses. That wasn’t cool at all. The author just shrugged every single problem under the “they were suffering” rug, and there was no real consequence for any of their actions. Looking at you, Eri.
Oh well, I still translated this whole thing, and I hope you at least had some fun. I know I had during some chapters.
Either way, thanks for reading, and I’d recommend you check out the other novels on this website. There are some excellent projects around. I’m particularly enjoying I Cut Off The Exes (https://soafp.com/i-cut-off-the-exes-that-ridiculed-me/), and so far the writing in that has been waaay better than here.
With that said, have a good one.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to comment your opinions below!
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