After the lingering sting of the slap, we sat on the bench again, facing each other.
“Uhm, I’m really sorry for everything… I mean, I’m truly sorry.”
“It’s fine now. The slap settled it.”
For some reason, things became awkward. It’s the sad reality of having a lack of immunity to women. Earlier, I was casually holding her hand and touching her shoulder, but now, I feel the embarrassment creeping in.
“So, how can you convey your feelings to them…?”
“Well… I guess there’s no other way but to say it out loud, right?”
It’s probably difficult for her to express her feelings straightforwardly. But in times like this, I have the perfect solution!
“How about using a letter to express yourself?”
“A letter… that’s a good idea.”
“Yes. It’s a classic approach, and it conveys a sense of heartfelt emotions, don’t you think?”
“I agree. Plus, if I organize my thoughts and put them into words now, it’ll be less confusing when I actually say it!”
“Alright, here you go. Take this.”
I took out a letter set from my pocket. I bought it at a convenience store before coming to school in the morning.
“You came prepared..”
“Yes, I bought it a while ago, but I never had a chance to use it until now. Luckily, I had a brand new set with me.”
She looked at me with a slightly suspicious gaze. Was my preparation too perfect? Does it seem strange? Well, it’s not exactly normal for a high school boy to carry around a letter set, but hey, I’m a high school boy, after all!
So, no problem there.
“Come on, let’s get started! Here, use the letter set, this writing mat and pen!”
I handed her all these things with enthusiasm.
“Hmm, how should I start…”
“Maybe something impactful would be good for the beginning? Like in web novels, they say the first chapter needs to be good, otherwise people won’t continue reading.”
“You’re right. I want to draw my parents closer to me from the start. Let’s see… ‘I love my mom and dad very much’…'”
While she was writing, she suddenly stopped.
“Well, it’s embarrassing, but… I feel uncomfortable when someone’s watching…”
Ah, I see. She doesn’t want me to see the letter about how much she loves her mom and dad. Because, at her age, she wouldn’t want me to see it. Hoo, I see, I see.
“Senpai, don’t hold back!”
“You’re about to express your true feelings to your parents, something you haven’t been able to do until now! And yet, you’re hesitating because of something like this!?”
“Come on, keep writing!”
She needs to put some effort into this. When embarking on a new and unprecedented challenge, she can’t afford to be lazy. She has to approach it with confidence.
First, she reflects on the past and jot down memories. Things like wetting herself, scribbling on a car with a stone and causing scratches, drawing on her sleeping father’s face with mayonnaise, drawing on her sleeping mother’s face with ketchup, and staining an expensive white suit with soy sauce, and so on.
She wrote about her mischievous childhood. Occasionally, I provide advice or opinions as I go along.
“Phew. I think this is enough reflection on memories. From here, I’ll write about what I want to do…”
“Do you think you can do it?”
“Yeah, I have a feeling that I can this time!”
She seems full of motivation. She continues writing, and she finally completes the letter.
“Yes!! It’s done!!”
“Congratulations. Now, it’s time to practice so that you won’t get nervous during the actual moment.”
“I’ll do my best, no matter what!”
She stands up from the bench. She must be heading home now. It’s already past 4 o’clock.
“Well then, I’ll go home now!! Thank you, Izayoi. I’ll do my best!”
She runs off towards her home. She’ll probably practice in her room after returning. That’s all I can do…
But you know, once you’ve come this far, I want to do something “cool.”
In the meantime, let’s go see Hihara Enra.
To do that, I need to take the same train as her and go to the Hihara residence!
I didn’t follow her like a stalker or anything. We just happened to have the same destination.
The Hihara residence. It’s past 6 o’clock. After seeing the entrance of the house, I press the intercom. Since she’s practicing in her room on the second floor, she won’t come out.
And there’s a car parked here, right?
“Yes? Who is it?”
The one who comes out is Hihara Enra. Oh, he’s quite handsome. And tall too.
“Um, I’m Kuroda Izayoi, a junior to Hihara Karen-senpai.”
“Ooooohh! You’re the one! My daughter is indebted to you. Thank you so much.”
“Oh, it was nothing.”
“No, if it weren’t for you, I don’t know what would have happened… Thank you, really.”
Hihara Enra bows deeply. As expected, he’s a kind person.
“Please raise your head. I’ve always been indebted to Senpai, so it’s mutual.”
“I see. Please continue to get along well with my daughter.”
“Yes. It’s my pleasure.”
“If you’ve come here, you must have something to discuss with Karen, right? Wait a moment, I’ll call her…”
“Please wait!! I came here to talk to you!”
I managed to stop him from calling her. It wouldn’t be a problem even if she found out, but I like surprises.
“Uhm, I don’t want to be overheard, so let’s go over here.”
I gesture with my hand like a beckoning cat, drawing him closer and closing the door. We can talk alone without being heard.
“Actually, I received a consultation from Senpai.”
“What is it?”
“She’s concerned about the deteriorating relationship between her parents and wants to do something about it.”
“!!!… That girl…”
“Yes, she’s really worried. With tears in her eyes and a serious expression…”
“I see. So she found out… It’s only natural… We can no longer pretend when we can’t even satisfy each other anymore.”
Enra reflects on his powerlessness and furrows his brow with regret.
“I say this because it’s you. The gap between my wife and I have already widened irrevocably. We’ve come to the realization that there’s no going back.”
“It’s my fault. It’s because I’m inferior to my wife. …… I’ve caused a lot of problems. We hardly talk at work or at home anymore. I think she’s gotten fed up with my inferiority.”
“…Is that the reason for the separation?”
“Yeah, that’s right. We might separate soon because of that reason. I feel truly sorry for my wife and especially for that girl.”
“What did you say to your wife and daughter?”
“Well, I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t bring myself to say it.”
“Then you should say it. Your daughter is desperately trying to express her true feelings. She doesn’t want you to separate, she wants to start over from scratch.”
“Your daughter believes in you. Despite the deep-seated issues within your family, she still believes that you can make a fresh start. She has overcome the inferiority she felt while witnessing the deteriorating relationship between her parents for years and is trying to move forward.”
“… She noticed all that for so long?”
“Hihara Karen has grown more than you think. So the gap between you and your wife has become unbridgeable, and it’s inevitable to separate? Don’t belittle her. She knows that there’s something wrong with her parents, something beyond repair, and yet she still believes.”
I unconsciously clench my fist, my tone becoming rough without realizing it.
“She believes that the family can start over. So believe in yourselves too. Aren’t you the ones who should believe in Hihara Karen the most? By believing that you can start over, you can have a reason to rebuild your family from scratch.”
“Please, don’t let her have a sad expression. You still have a chance to start over. For that, please take a step forward.”
I lowered my head.
“Why would you go this far?”
A natural question. It might seem abnormal to go this far. But there is only one reason for going this far.
“I don’t want to see Hihara Karen’s sad face. That’s all.”
My eyes met with Hihara Enra. He expressed astonishment in his gaze.
“I see… Karen has found a good boyfriend.”
“No, we’re just friends.”
“I see, so it’s still at that stage. Karen is shy and has a hard time getting close to anyone easily. And sometimes, she does the opposite of what she thinks and feels, much like my wife.”
“Yeah, I can sense that.”
“Haha, I see. She’s been timid and small all this time, but somehow she has grown bigger than I thought.”
“Yes, but you’re still needed.”
“Is that so?”
With a slightly lowered gaze and a distant look, I handed him a set of stationery for writing letters.
“Here. Without this, she wouldn’t be struggling like this. She’s taking action because she wants to be with you and needs you. Please express your true feelings as well.”
“Is this a letter?”
“I gave one to HIhara-senpai as well. I thought it would be a good way to organize and directly convey your feelings.”
“Expressing feelings through a letter, huh…”
“Please do it. I’m sure something will definitely change if you do.”
“…You’re right. I’ll give it a try.”
“Really? Then I have somewhere to go after this!”
I immediately ran off to the next place I needed to be.
“If my daughter wants it and believes in it, maybe that’s enough… Thank you, Kuroda-kun. I will also take a step forward.”
I ran, or rather, I took a taxi. The current time was 7 o’clock.
At this moment, I was driven by the desire to save her, as quickly as possible, even if it was just a little.
I arrived. It was now 8 o’clock.
I hurriedly entered the company where her mother and father work, and went down to the receptionist.
“Excuse me. Is HIhara Konana here? Please call her. Tell her that Kuroda Izayoi, who owes her a debt and wants to save her precious daughter, is calling.”
“Huh? Oh, yes. Understood… Who is this kid??? “
The receptionist, while wary of me, who seemed suspicious, made a phone call. After that…
“Yes, some strange kid …… a high school student, I guess? He’s wearing a Mina no Iro High School uniform, but maybe he’s a pervert in cosplay.”
She said it in a loud enough voice. Couldn’t she make an effort to speak more quietly?
“He said his name is Kuroda Izayoi. Uhm, he looks pretty ordinary. But in a slightly abnormal way, I feel… Yes. What? Acquaintance? Really? No way? Again~ Is it for real!? Alright. Understood.”
Quite rude, isn’t it? They should consider replacing the receptionist here. But maybe it can’t be helped since she’s quite beautiful.
“Please wait for a moment. Hihara Konana will be here soon.”
I waited for a few minutes. From the elevator, a beautiful woman who looked just like Hihara Karen with red hair and seemed capable in her work came out. When she spotted me, she walked towards me.
In my uniform, she must have thought I was Kuroda Izayoi.
“Are you Kuroda Izayoi-kun?”
“Yes. I’m Kuroda Izayoi, who owes you a tremendous debt and must repay it.”
“I-I see. You’re a bit different from what I imagined… Um, thank you for helping my daughter…”
“That’s not important right now. Let’s get to the point and repay the debt.”
“Ah, uhm, can you wait for a moment? I’m almost done with work.”
“Sure. I understand.”
She went back into the elevator for a moment, looking puzzled. And then, I waited for about ten minutes. She came out again.
“I’m sorry. Thank you for waiting.”
“No problem. If it’s work, it can’t be helped.”
“So, what did you need?”
“I can’t say it here.”
I used my thumb to gesture outside, indicating that we should go somewhere where we won’t be overheard.
“I understand… It really is different from what I imagined.”
We stepped outside and found a place where no one would overhear us—a parking lot.
“I’ll get straight to the point. I have heard from Hihara-senpai, who wants to prevent her parents from divorcing due to their troubled relationship.”
“Let me continue. Hihara-senpai has been aware of the discord in your relationship for many years, but she pretended not to see it.”
“For such a long time…”
“She is practicing letter reading very hard right now because she wants to do something about the two of you. It’s great, isn’t it? She wants the whole family to be able to laugh together again, to laugh at each other. And Hihara Enra-san, in response to her daughter’s wishes, is also writing letters to the family so that he, too, can believe in what her daughter believes in.”
It seems she’s also surprised by this unexpected turn of events. It’s a natural reaction when suddenly confronted with something like this.
“Hihara and Hihara-senpai have taken a step forward. Now it’s your turn. Take a step forward.”
She was hesitating. She didn’t know what to say. It’s understandable since she had been struggling with it for a long time.
“You’re a family, so you don’t have to be so choosy with your words, okay?”
“Just say a few words, like ‘I’ve been worried even though I didn’t know how to express it.’ or ‘Thank you for always cooking for us.’ That alone is enough to covey it.”
She still couldn’t make up her mind.
“Is the person you chose really that small-minded?”
“No, that’s not it!”
“Well then, it’s okay to make a little mistake. Your beloved husband and daughter have started reaching out. So go ahead and grab onto that.”
I took out a letter set from my pocket.
“Write a letter and take it home. And please deliver your feelings through it.”
I handed her the letter set, along with a notepad and a pen.
“Thank you. I have to go home now, so excuse me.”
“Yes, do your best.”
She got into her car and headed back home, while I made my way to the station to return home as well.