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.
“Now, no one can spy or listen to us here. This is my castle. Put yourself on the couch over there.”
As soon as Lee entered the office, he tossed his jacket over his shoulder, and the atmosphere softened quite a bit. After that, he plopped down on the sofa. There’s only one… H–he wants me to sit beside him?
“N–no, I’ll just stand up. So, what happened between Hiratsuka-senpai and I is—”
He restrained me with a gesture. “Don’t say a thing. I’ve seen enough of your fist fights. I’ve no intention of saying anything from the school’s side.”
“Eh? Then why are we here…?” He sighed audibly to my words.
“Truth is, I have something to ask… Did you get a grudge from someone from the underground?”
“No, nothing I can think of.”
“… Got it, but you’re apparently being eyed by their upper management. They ordered me to tell Hiratsuka about your father, and I couldn’t go against it.”
“The fact they have their eyes on you is a problem, but you still have a bigger one… That is, you’re at odds with Eri Mashima.”
“Huh?” I couldn’t help but let out a weird noise. Not in a hundred years would I think her name would be involved in all of this.
“You’re being isolated in your class, right? That’s Eri Mashima’s fault.”
“Well, it’s not her direct fault, to be exact. The ones doing it are her worshipers, and they’re on their own. Eri Mashima is acting as ‘usual’, and there’s no malicious intent coming from her. O–Oh, by the way, what you saw me do earlier was an act! I–I really don’t like her.”
“You don’t have to deny… Though, I get what you mean by her acting as ‘usual’. It’s like a kid brutally killing an insect, yet bearing no sort of ill will towards it while doing so.”
“Exactly, and the fact you separated from her made Mashima worse. Moreover, her father is one of the highest executives of that underground fighting organization… Frankly, he’s so important over there that if he so asked, I would have to fight you.”
Does her father have that position? … I’ve never seen him, and I heard her mother died when she was little. But none of this matters. I’m awake, and I don’t care that her father is some sort of big shot, I just don’t want anything to do with her anymore
I noticed Lee’s face contorting as if his next words were hard to say. “So I need you to do me a favor… I would like to have you and Eri Mashima back together… I’m not asking you to date her, just that you become her friend again.”
These words absolutely mortified me. I didn’t think they’d try to force us back together like this, and even less so that it’d be done via Lee, whom I met for the first time today. If it was Hayakawa telling me these words, I’d at least understand where he’s coming from.
“I can’t do that. I’ve burned ten years’ worth of feelings and cut ties with her. All this time I’ve been in constant pain, and finally, for the first time in a decade, things have been looking better for me.”
“I understand that, but—”
I’ve been by her side for a whole decade, slowly suffocating my heart and supporting her without reserve. I placed her above everything else in my life, accepting every little thing she did and loving her every second of the way, despite it all.
Lee bowed to me, the same guy who was so famous for his own pride… Seeing him do that made me feel bad.
“Please, Sawada. If this continues, even I can’t predict what she’ll do with the other fighters. All my favorites may start to go crazy from whatever she tries to do in her madness, and it won’t be only you who’ll be in danger. —Your friends might pay the price…”
The first thing that came to mind was Reika’s face, followed by Hayakawa and the others… Are they in danger?
Honestly, I felt Mashima’s gaze pierce me from time to time. It was a nasty glare.
“You’re being selfish…” I said after a few seconds of silence.
“Sorry, I’m a muscle-brained idiot who can only do Jeet Kune Do. This is all I could come up with.”
“… Can I punch your face?” I retort.
“If that makes you feel better.”
Mashima’s icky glare… What if it was aimed at Reika instead of me? Thinking that, a vague sense of uneasiness spread through my chest, and I couldn’t say anything to Lee’s words.
I don’t remember how I got back to class, it was all a haze. After my conversation with Lee, I called Reika since I was worried about her.
“Hm? is something wrong, Toshiki? Aren’t you in class right now?”
“No, I’m just a bit worried.”
“Ahaha, well, I’m with my dad now! Everyone’s doing fine over here!”
“I see… You didn’t see anyone strange or anything over there, did you?”
“Strange? Hmm, actually there was a guy tailing me all morning, but he suddenly disappeared halfway through. He wasn’t good at following me, as if he wasn’t used to it. I thought he might be related to my dad or something, but—”
After that, I just had small talk with her and hung up the phone. Reika’s surroundings were special, with her dad and all, but… She was a normal girl. What if something bad happened to her?
Sitting at my desk, I could feel the constant glares piercing me from all around. I guess this is all Mashima’s influence… After a bit, I got up and told the teacher I wasn’t feeling well, leaving early for the day.
Then, on foot, I walked to where Reika currently was.
Yesterday I was able to welcome Reika back without any incidents. Last night I even told her about every thought that had been plaguing me, and what I planned to do.
I haven’t slept much, and it was soon time to go to school. I finished my morning preparations and was about to leave the house. It wasn’t a normal morning.
“Um, here’s a gift. I thought I’d give it to you on the last date, but Hirano-kun got in the way…” I handed Reika a bear keychain right outside the entrance.
She accepted that gift happily, but her face soon turned gloomy. “Thanks… I’ll take good care of it…”
Seeing her happy made me happy, and seeing her sad makes me sad… How wonderful it is to have someone I care so much for.
“Okay, I’ll go first.”
“O–Okay… See ya later!”
With that, I opened the front door and stepped outside.
—Only to meet Mashima.
“Toshi! We can finally go to school together! Ehehe, we’ll be together from today on!”
I left the house without saying a word. I didn’t want to look back, nor did I want to see Reika’s face yet. Forcing a stiff smile on my face, Mashima and I walked away.
“—So Tachibana-sensei bought me a cake. Oh, Toshi, are you jealous? Don’t worry, I like him too, but you’re the best!”
Maybe coming back with Mashima was the right thing to do, as Lee told me in that office. Glancing beside me, I saw her walk next to me, happily talking about some other guy she liked other than me.
What a distorted relationship we have…
Suddenly, a thought runs through my mind. I never knew anything about her family, only that she lived alone in a big house. I only saw her nanny once in a while.
I’m really ignorant of a lot of things, huh.
I kept walking to school while listening to Mashima’s absurd stories, and soon I notice the type of gazes around me shift dramatically. It was then that I finally saw it was her influence all along. Still, my classmates’ glares didn’t change much.
When I approached the school gate, I saw Lee standing there. He looked at me and bowed his head…
I can hit you, right? Prepare your a*s.
“Ah, you’re going on a trip soon, aren’t you? Mmm, I’ll go with you! You’re Reika-chan’s favorite, but I know you’ll definitely come back to me!”
“Reika-chan? Why are you talking about her as if you were friends?”
“Hm? Are you mad, Toshi? Hehe, what’s yours is also mine, so I have to be a bit kinder to Reika-chan, too!”
Glancing, I could see Reika, Hayakawa, and the other walking right behind us, and I could also notice by their voices that they were extremely confused.
“… Hey, Eri-chan.”
“Toshi! You finally called me ‘Eri-chan’ like you used to!”
She’s not normal. I don’t know what happened to her in the past, but we’re childhood friends who spent a long time with one another. I shouldn’t have pushed her away under any circumstances, nor said that I didn’t care anymore.
That’s because we were broken. What we should’ve done is talk more deeply about stuff, and I should’ve been clearer about the things I didn’t like her doing.
I shouldn’t have been the only one to heal and move on.
So I gently place my hand on her shoulder—
“Uwaa~! Toshi, you’re embarrassing me! Hehe, I see, I see! You need me Toshi—”
As Lee had told me, if I went back to my old relationship with Eri, I’d go back to my old peaceful life. However, our relationship was distorted and mangled. I’m not her friend anymore…
I made a decision.
I had to face her.
Letting go of the tension in my body, I finally conveyed everything I felt to her.
“I won’t push you away again… You’re my childhood friend, Eri-chan, but you know… I found someone I like. —I love Reika.”
“Eh, b–but, you l–love me, don’t you? I–I don’t mind if you have a favorite! R–Right?!”
All of this is still weird… Her response made me feel more sadness than hatred. What kind of life did you lead until now, Eri? This is definitely not right!
But she then shouted to the surrounding students, seeking agreement with what she said. They all stopped in their tracks.
Seeing her face swelling up, tears starting to roll down her face, messed my emotions up. For some reason, I felt like crying along with her.
But my mind was already made up.
“Eri-chan… There are different kinds of love. I love Reika, and you love me… as a childhood friend, don’t you? … I get it because I’ve been in your position.”
“But, but—! I don’t know what you’re talking about! Why are you being so mean to me? I care about you Toshi, and I love everyone!”
I grabbed her shoulders tightly, raising my voice against her for the first time in my life.
“No, you don’t Eri! We were both crazy… Hey, Eri-chan, I know we can’t have the same relationship we had, but… Do you wanna go back to normal with me?”
“N–Normal? I–I’m not normal? But they all affirm me, you know. Toshi, am I crazy? Huh? Why am I scared? No, no no no no no, stop, STOP! I don’t want it to hurt! Make it stop! I… I don’t like you anymore, Toshi…”
At that moment, people gathered around her. Some were from other classes, and others were from her own. Many of my classmates were also there.
“Mashima-san, are you okay? Did he say something you didn’t like?”
“Eri-chan, leave him alone and come with me.”
“Oi, don’t let that criminal get anywhere near her!”
“Are you bullying her? You piece of sh*t!”
Yamada, one of the guys in my class, grabbed me by the chest. Reika and the others tried to run up and help me, but I shook my head at them. Soon, Lee came running up to me.
“Oi, everyone scram! If anyone starts fighting, I won’t forgive you! … Sawada, what the hell is going on? Aren’t you guys supposed to go back to your original relationship? If you don’t, the power scale between the internal factions in the underground will… No, Eri Mashima will go berserk.”
He whispered that last part to me so the other students couldn’t hear me, then grabbed my shirt tightly… Lee was truly selfish, and he doesn’t think about others.
“Hey, Lee-senpai. I’m pretty sure I have one punch on your tab, right? You consented to it, so… Steel your stomach and take it.”
We’re extremely close to each other, so much so there’s only a few inches of space between us. That was more than enough.
Using every muscle in my body, every joint, every drop of strength I could muster, I punched him in the gut. It was widely known as the one-inch punch, performed by Bruce Lee himself.
He was blown away, his eyeballs almost popping out of their sockets. He had no time to even scream. That was me giving a half-serious blow.
Then the buzz around me soon turned into bewilderment. —Lee, due to his strong grip, ripped away my shirt as he was being blown off. My scarred body was revealed to all of them.
But before anyone could say a thing, I started shouting at the people surrounding Eri.
“You guys don’t know SH*T! Even I, who was by her side for ten whole years, know nothing about her! So outsiders, get the F*CK out of my VIEW!!!!!”
The bodies of Eri’s followers were shaking uncontrollably, their mouths gasping for air. No one could utter a word at my sight. No wonder, they don’t know the horror of true violence.
For the past decade, I haven’t had a proper talk with Eri, even though I knew something was wrong with her.
I had to face her because we were childhood friends.
But then Lee, barely conscious, started talking—
“Underground fighting? Danger? Eri’s parents being executives? I DON’T GIVE A FLYING F*CK! I’m just her USELESS childhood friend! So, from now on, I’ll make her a normal girl again. —And y’know what…? I’m f*cking pissed. Oh, and you guys tried to kidnap Reika, right? So—”
My voice lowered an octave, almost turning into a growl. They tried to hurt the person most important to me. I can’t let that happen. Looking around, I saw all of the students trembling, immobilized by the sheer fear of my intimidation.
“—So, I’ll get you the fight you want.”
I approached Eri-chan, who was kneeling down on the floor with her head in her hands, and hugged her. She was just like a scared child…
If you have a fight, just makeup. Well, it’s not that simple, but it’s a normal thing in every relationship. Yet we didn’t even know how to do that…
“Hey Eri-chan, let’s be proper friends from now on.”
“Eh, Ah, Toshi-kun… I, I was t–told to love you, T–Toshi… A–Ah, you’re my childhood friend…”
“Yeah, we’ve known each other since we were kids. C’mon, let’s go to the infirmary.”
Reika and my other friends approach us. Then Reika herself supported Eri, who was dazed and confused.
After that whole ordeal, we went to the infirmary…
TL: Wasn’t expecting this outcome, but I’m definitely loving it. No person on this whole planet is 100% good or bad, and life is just a huge canvas painted in gray. It’d be two-dimensional to just put any character into the “villain” bag and call it a day.
Frankly, this novel isn’t perfect. Its execution is sometimes messy, but it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless. The author at least tried, to the maximum of his abilities, to do more with the characters than a lot of other novel authors out there.
This novel is almost done, with ten chapters to go, and all I can say is that I’m excited to see where this goes next.
With all that said, see you on the next one!
Thank you for reading! Feel free to comment your opinions below!
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