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.
-sensei: A suffix and noun that literally means teacher.
Eri Mashima was loved by everyone. She was cheerful and sociable, dressed nicely, had a lot of connections, and was extremely beautiful. Despite all that, she had an empty heart.
By going to and from school with Toshiki, just talking about their favorite anime and manga, she realized those simple exchanges were her source of happiness.
She viewed dating and friendship as two of the same, not realizing that the former had a deeper connotation within, and the seriousness it entailed. It never occurred to her she was hurting Toshiki’s heart with her constant dating around. —Her intentions were neither malicious nor good.
Even if an ex-boyfriend she dumped goes and tries to attack her, her relatives would just get rid of him. And even girls who lost their boyfriends to Eri couldn’t say a word against her. As such, there were many unfortunate accidents and incidents around Eri Mashima.
Although was being blamed and shunned by everyone in her classroom, she was indifferent to those she wasn’t interested in. Her classmates were but living action figures to her, and that was the extent of her perception.
When she came in contact with Reika in the infirmary, her empty heart grew to the size of a grain of rice. Considering her background, it was a miracle that growth even happened in the first place. Toshiki was the catalyst for such change, and Eri knew that instinctively.
“Oi, you said you didn’t like me, didn’t you?! Say something Eri-chan!!!”
“We would’ve been so much happier without you!”
“Y’know, I’m the laughingstock of everybody because of you, Eri-chan.”
“I was bullied because of you!”
Guilt was something she understood on a conceptual level but never experienced. That was because her heart was devoid of anything but her father’s teachings and Toshiki. And it was thanks to him that she understood she did something a “bit” bad.
As she was being slapped on the cheek by Tashiro, a male student at the school, thoughts ran through her head.
Violence kills the human heart, especially if it’s suffered at an early age. Her abnormal relationship with her father completely wrecked her, and all that remained in her heart was Toshiki.
To add insult to injury, she was completely abandoned by her dad. As soon as she left the infirmary, she got a message on her phone.
“Eri, don’t take the Mashima surname anymore. You’ve been disowned, and you’re not my daughter anymore. Bye-bye.”
At that moment, she lost everything. Her family, her house, her classmates, her source of income, her nanny, her power, her connections. Everything.
Eri Mashima, daughter of one of her dad’s mistresses, had a seat on the executive board of Underground Fighting for those exact reasons. Contrary to the emptiness of her heart, she had a brilliant mind. Every single idea she had for the organization had overwhelming popularity, but her brilliance wasn’t taken well by the adults around her.
While her classmates’ countless insults cut her like knives, these thoughts ran through her mind. Her heart wasn’t empty.
Why did I abandon myself here?
Why couldn’t I do it before?
Why am I being attacked?
Eri had received strenuous education from her father, something she did not wish for. She was unbalanced, with an intelligent mind and an empty heart.
However, that same confused girl woke up because of Toshiki, and she finally came up with an answer.
“Ah, it’s you, Toshi.”
Eri finally realized her very existence was harmful to Toshiki. While she didn’t grasp the reason why she finally understood he resented her. No matter what she did, her very breathing made him suffer, and she was unable to escape the weight of ten years worth of pain.
If she died in front of Toshiki, he’d drown in anguish. Even if they were to date, her father would strike her at the peak of her happiness. That’s why she guessed the reason she was currently under attack was to afflict Toshiki himself.
No matter what I do, I’m doomed to never be happy — As those words ran through her head, she finally understood the emotion of sadness. At the same time, memories of all the kindness and love she received from Toshiki rushed to the surface like a geyser.
“I saw that anime, Eri-chan! It was su~per interesting!”
“Hey, did you forget your homework again, Eri-chan? I’ll show you mine later!”
“Yeah, no prob. We’ll go home together tomorrow!”
“Oh, oh! This is for you, Eri-chan. You said you loved cats!”
“… I’ll be by your side, Eri-chan, no matter who you fall in love with…”
As these images rushed in, tears ran down her face. She finally understood what it meant to be a human being. Her mistake was now clear to her, and she finally grasped how much she hurt Toshiki with all she did. —This is the answer Eri found for herself.
And then her consciousness came back to what happened in the classroom. She did something wrong, and she understood that. However, despite all her wrongs, violence was still overkill.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry for what I did… But please, don’t hit me anymore, or Toshi will be sad…”
Tashiro, an underground fighter, and the girls that surrounded her were incensed by her sorry words, which only added fuel to the fire. They knew Eri had lost her power since there was a video exposing the whole situation on the top page of the website.
Her apology was ultimately useless. They just wanted to crush a popular person with their own self-righteousness. Having none of it, Tashiro was about to slap her again, but then Eri moved gently.
“Stop with the violence… I know I’ve done terrible things to everyone here, but if you hit me harder, Toshi will only suffer more because of me… I don’t want to hurt him more than I already have.”
Violence shackled Eri for her entire life. Her father, her dead mother, her stepmother, her nanny—every single person she knew was violent against her. From the very moment she was born, her life was full of misery. The fact only her heart broke from all that was a miracle.
And now, tears rolled down her cheeks. Those were real tears, unlike this morning when she broke down for no real reason. Every single time she cried, she was pretending. Not once in her life was she actually sad, for her heart was already broken.
But now, for the very first time, she grieved. Eri felt deep regret for being born and causing so much suffering for Toshiki.
—Eri avoided Tashiro’s slap with minimal movement. Since violence was something she grew up with, not learning how to defend herself would be fatal. Her next moves were all done by sheer observation.
“Stop avoiding me! You b*tch!”
He staggered back and tried to slap her again, but this time he was the one who took it and screamed. Eri grabbed a ballpoint pen that was laying on her desk and impaled his palm with it.
Despite her growth, Eri was still broken. Being stabbed was an everyday occurrence to her. Physical pain was numbing, yet the only lasting ache was the one in her heart.
“… Class will be starting soon, so everyone, get back to your seats. If you need to talk, I’ll hear you later!”
Eri said these words without a shred of hesitation. Her classmates were taken in by her atmosphere.
But at that exact moment, Toshiki entered the classroom. He was the first one to arrive, and as soon as he stepped into the classroom. he sensed the weird vibe of the place.
Shrugging off everyone else, he approached Mashima.
“Eri, are you okay? What happened…?”
And her heart ached. She worried that if he found out she was violent, it’d make him sad. Wiping the tears, she put on a smile.
“Yeah, we were just playing together! Look, Toshi, you promised to meet me at lunch, right? Hehe, I wanna eat at the cafeteria today!”
She said that while trying to push him out of the classroom. It was then she thought about Toshiki’s words. He said her love for him was only as a friend.
You’re still dense as ever, aren’t you? Hehe, but I finally woke up… Yeah, I love you after all, Toshi.
Her feelings for Sawada were genuine. The only thing holding her broken heart together was her love for him, and she didn’t want to make him suffer ever again. Eri had no intention of expressing her love with guilt and regret.
Although she pretended to be calm, Eri’s mind was a raging storm. Her beloved Toshiki suffered because of everything she did, and uncontrollable feelings consumed her body from the inside out like acid.
So much pain flowed inside that even she, who endured countless suffering throughout her life, couldn’t endure it.
It was unbearable.
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