“Ara, good morning, Makoto. Are you going right away again today? Why don’t you at least eat and go?”
“Ugh …… good morning, Onii-chan……. I’ve slept so much that I can’t …… remember …… anything important …….”
The morning scene was the same as usual.
My stepmother looked at my stepsister and let out a sigh.
I bowed as usual and was about to leave the living room – but I stopped myself.
–I’m a minor. If I wanted to go ahead with the book project, I would need my parents’ permission.
“Ara, what’s wrong?”
My stepmother, beautiful for her age, tilted her head.
It was because I stopped her in her tracks. Normally, I leave the living room immediately.
I shut my eyes for a moment. I remember the words of my stepmother from the past.
“—-I’m really speechless…….. you molester.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a rumor or not. We live in a world where it’s a fact even if you didn’t do it.”
“I’m begging you, don’t cause any problems or another violent incident okay?”
“Did you just help a classmate? You have no one to testify, do you?”
“Don’t interfere, father! You haven’t raised a child at all!”
“Don’t bother the family—-“
She is not a bad stepmother. She’s just a normal stepmother you can find anywhere. She has to deal with her unpleasant female friends on the surface, and she works tirelessly to do her housework and raise the kids.
She wants everything to be perfect. I didn’t want my …… mom’s friends to tell her that she made a mistake in parenting. Her pride would not allow it.
Stepmother’s righteous argument drives people away. It’s mind-numbing. There is no escape. She may never understand it, but ……, I know it, my stepsister knows it, and my dad knows it.
“……, speak up. Don’t keep dwelling on it.”
I still can’t imagine it. What would happen if I told her I was writing a novel and that I wanted to turn it into a book?
“No, it’s just my imagination. I’m off.”
High school students are still minors, even if their bodies have grown.
They are children. They have no social credibility.
–I’m meeting Saeko-san today. There’s still time. Let’s think about it at school.
“Onii-chan! Have a good day! Kusamochi!!”
My stepsister suddenly shouted, and my body jolted.
Something softly flew into the air. I caught it, trying not to drop it.
Normally she would say she was going with me, but …… she was going to see me off?
“Y-yeah, Kusamochi? Ha-Haruka-san, are you going too? Please don’t be late.”
My stepsister looked at me in her pajamas, jam and food debris around her mouth and a big open-mouthed smile on her face.
She was waving her hands in the air.
I opened the front door and walked out, not caring.
I heard a loud voice breaking through the front door.
“MOM! ！！！！ ONII-CHAN, ONII-CHAN WORRIED ABOUT ME————-!!!!”
Is that so? It just came out of my mouth.
I put my stepsister out of my mind and started walking. I bit into a …… Kusa mochi while thinking about the plot of the latest episode.
“So, the two troublemakers in our class. Are you guys friends now?”
After the return HR, Shinozuka and I were called to the staff room.
It’s not that we did anything particularly wrong. I didn’t really like the staff room at school.
In junior high school, I was called in many times and …… scolded.
“We’re not friends.”
“No way, man!”
The teacher ignored our objections and proceeded to talk.
“You’re both stubborn……. Look.. I am not going to tell you to be quiet. I’m not telling that you caused trouble. I’m just a homeroom teacher, after all. but I’m still the only adult to you outside of your family. I can at least give you some advice.”
“I don’t get it. What’s the teacher trying to say?”
Shinozuka furrowed her brow. She can’t see the intention of the teacher’s talk, and neither can I.
The teacher continued to talk over a cup of tea.
“…… This world is full of unreasonable things. School is a microcosm of this society. I’m not saying that you should make …… friends. I’m not saying you have to get along with your classmates. A few …… are fine, or even one. Meet someone you can really trust.”
I thought the teacher had called us here to scold us. She heard a bad rumor about me in junior high school and decided to warn me.
I raised my eyebrows too.
“I’m sorry, teacher, but if I believe you, I will be betrayed.”
“…..Yes, that’s right. I don’t need friends if I’m going to be betrayed in the end anyway.”
The teacher threw the candy on the desk to me and Shinozuka.
We caught it without panic.
“Fufun. I have missed ……. I agree. It would be nice to have somebody who doesn’t betray you–“
The teacher had a calm face. I wondered if she was thinking about her old memories. I don’t know the teacher. I’m a little curious ……. I haven’t seen many people who can look like that.
“She got betrayed?”
“Eh, I don’t get it.”
Shinozuka and I looked at each other.
“I-idiot! Don’t you dare look at me!?”
“No, no, no, Pom-Shinozuka. I’m not looking.”
The teacher said he was done talking and began to organize the papers on her desk.
“There’s nothing more to do. Get the hell out of here. Be sure to come to the field trip. If you don’t, I’ll force you to get a failing grade.
The teacher’s face returned to that of a teacher, and she kicked us out with such a line.
We left the staff room.
We could hear the voices of the club activities from a distance. It was an after-school atmosphere.
We looked at each other without saying a word.
It didn’t seem like a meaningless conversation …….
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t miss the field trip after all? I don’t understand. ……”
“Yeah, what was that about?”
Both Pomeko and I sensed something from the teacher. We don’t know what it is. I can’t put it into words.
Pomeko seemed to want to say something to me.
Pomeko-san cut off her words. Someone’s voice interrupted her.
“Oh, uhm, ……, Makoto? That’s right, isn’t it? Hi, long time no see. Hey, heey, I’ve been wanting to talk to you…”
I turned around and saw a plain looking female student standing in front of Pomeko’s gaze.
Her legs were trembling. She had both hands on her chest and a sad look on her face.
I nodded my head.
“Who are you ……?”
I have no idea who she is. A schoolgirl I don’t remember.. Is it a girl from my class? No, I’m sure I’d remember at least a little bit about her. She may be plain, but she’s objectively pretty. I’m not interested, though.
The girl had a shocked look on her face.
“N-no way……Hey, don’t be mean to me. …… I-It’s me, Kisaragi. You haven’t changed at all.……”
Pomeko-san was leaning against the wall in the hallway, though I thought she was heading to the food court alone.
I got a good look at the schoolgirl’s face. Did she look like this…… Kisaragi?
I don’t remember it at all. When I erased the data on my phone, I tried to forget all about Kisaragi-san. [TL: She was the one that false confessed to him]
A fake smile stuck to my face.
“It’s been a while, Kisaragi-san. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“Well, Makoto, I didn’t lie to you! I really like you and confessed it to you, but ……, my friend played a joke on me and ……. Hey, can’t we start over ……? I’m still in love with …… you.”
“Excuse me, that was a punishment game, right?”
“Y-yeah …… b-but…”
“So, we weren’t together. We weren’t even friends. You were laughing at me, weren’t you?”
What? Normally, I would have been able to let it go, but I just couldn’t.
It didn’t change the fact that my heart was empty. There is no change in the fact that nothing resonates in my heart.
But I didn’t want to.
…… To have this kind of exchange in front of Pomeko’s eyes.
I can’t control how I feel. I wanted to deny it when I could just let it flow.
“I-I apologize! So, why don’t we go to the aquarium or the movie that we couldn’t go to? P-please!”
I muttered to myself.
“—–It’s too late now…….”
It was a simple statement, but it contained everything I was feeling right now.
But Kisaragi-san still came at me.
“I-I didn’t like it either! However, I also had friendships with them.……, you could have a little sympathy for me! Ma-makoto, it’s not like I like doing this……”
Oh, she’s the most important person in the world.
You’re drunk if you say I should feel sorry for you.
I couldn’t imagine it from her plain appearance, but she might be more troublesome than Saito-san, Miyazaki, or even my stepsister.
“D-Don’t get carried away just because you’re a little better looking! Hiccu, hiccu!”
I wanted to leave this place as soon as possible. Kisaragi-san tried to hug me while crying. I definitely did not want to touch her body. I don’t want any more misunderstandings or false accusations.
“Hey, that’s enough. Shinjo has a meeting with me about a field trip. Stay out of our way.”
Did Pomeko-san intervene with her body?
“Mugyu ……, W-who are you! It’s just me and Makoto talking now!”
“An? That’s funny. You’re the one who interrupted me and Shinjo when we were talking, right? That’s why you’re the outsider. –Get out of here.”
Pomeco-san quietly told Kisaragi-san, as if to admonish her.
“Hi, hie …, no, stop …”
Pomeko-san let out a sigh and relaxed her shoulders.
She suddenly grabbed my hand. Not through my jersey. She grabbed my hand directly.
“Let’s go Shinjo.”
She pulled me to avoid Kisaragi-san and went through the corridor.
As we passed by, the crying stopped. When I glanced back, Kisaragi was glaring at Shinozuka with a scary expression on her face.
Pomeko-san walks in front of me with her big toe. I can’t see her face, but her neck is turning red.
Eventually, we arrived at the shoe box holding hands.
In order to take out the shoes, we have to take our hands off.
Pomeko and I looked at each other – and let go of each other’s hands.
“…… Y-you’re going to be late for your appointment with my sister, aren’t you? Damn it, it’s because you’re so unclear, Nyanta.”
“No, didn’t you hear what she just said?
“I did. That’s a crazy girl.”
Pomeko and I continued to talk while putting on our shoes, as if to disguise our embarrassment.
“Come on, let’s get a move on.”
I looked at my hands. The warmth of a person’s hand was still on my hand, and it was terribly refreshing. I didn’t hate it.
It’s not that I don’t like it. For some reason, I felt as if we were still holding hands even though we were not …….
Pomeko said to me in a nasty tone.
“Fufun, do you want to hold my hand?”
I gave a small shake of my head.
“Don’t worry, Pomeko will be embarrassed, so I won’t.”
We started walking towards the shopping center.
It was different from usual.
The two of us walked together, talking–