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.
I had never denied Eri, and she’d never denied me. That was until the whole thing with Hiratsuka happened, and I finally woke up after she reject me for the first time.
I pushed her away. For the first time, I disobeyed Eri. Perhaps that was the first time she ever felt a sense of discomfort creeping up on her… It was jealousy, something I’d never seen come from her before.
We were at the infirmary, and she was lying on one of the beds with her upper body up.
“Um, Reika-chan, right…? I’m sorry. I told my dad’s friend about you yesterday… I said I didn’t like any girls flocking around Toshi, and that you should just disappear…”
Obviously, it was not the normal behavior of a high school girl. It was due to my suspicions that I went to see Reika yesterday, but I didn’t enter the house she was staying at. Instead, I waited outside to observe any suspicious movements.
But as soon as Reika left the front door to do something, a car came out of nowhere and sped up in her direction. Meanwhile, I ran toward her, and as soon as the car stopped and a group of men stepped out, I was already between them and Reika.
—Reika was almost kidnapped, and yet she touched Eri’s shoulder with a peaceful face.
“Yeah. I don’t wanna get kidnapped ever, and I wasn’t, so I’m fine now. Besides, you’re his childhood friend, aren’t you? You can’t just say and do things like that!”
“So it was a horrible thing after all… I’m sorry.”
Only Reika, Eri, and I were in this infirmary room. Hayakawa and the others had already left.
“Okay. At least you apologized, Mashi—”
“Reika, it’s useless. Eri doesn’t have a shred of malicious or good intent attached to her, and she doesn’t feel bad either. She’s just apologizing for the way things went… And she doesn’t understand that she tried to do something atrocious.”
To answer my words, Eri nodded her head without a hint of trickery.
“I guess… I don’t really understand it, but I figured what I did was ‘bad’ because of your reactions.”
Reika was stunned at her words, as well as her actions. Eri naturally spread hurtful actions, and I’m sure there were many victims of this nature of hers.
“Eri-chan, you can heal slowly from today onward… Also, your dad’s friend did something grave, so don’t contact him ever again.” I warn her.
“If you say so, I won’t.” She complied.
“Toshi… Are you sure it’s okay? I’ve seen all kinds of people, but it’s the first time I’ve seen one so… insane.”
But Eri interrupted her story, speaking as if she was in her own little world.
“Um, please call me ‘Eri-chan’. You’re Toshi’s friend, after all… But hey, did I ever ‘love’ Toshi? Or even Hiratsuka-senpai and every other boy? Actually, what is ‘love’ in the first place? All I know is that my only friend was Toshi.”
Her speech was like that of a child, and she seemed as if she had just broken off a trance that plagued her for ages. She was calm, peaceful even.
“Eri-chan, you don’t know why you liked me, right?” I ask her.
“Um, I feel like someone kept telling me to like you… My memory’s a bit fuzzy, but when I was in elementary school, it hurt me not to like you even though I liked Hashiba-kun.”
It hurt…? When I heard those words, I felt my heart ache.
“And I tried my best to fall in love with you, Toshi, but I don’t even know what ‘love’ is anymore…”
“Eri-chan, you don’t have to keep going. Let’s have a little break.” I interrupted her.
“No, I’m fine now. I can get up properly now. But if I don’t go to class soon, I’ll be scolded later. Besides, I feel like I’ve woken up ever since you rejected me, Toshi!”
“Toshiki, let’s go back to class for a while, okay?” Reika added. “We can all continue talking during lunch break. Can you stand up, Eri-chan?”
“Yeah… Ehehe~ You’re so sweet Reika-chan, just like Toshi.”
“Okay okay, if you’re that healthy, you’ll be fine.”
“… Ah, I feel at home when Toshi’s by my side. —Oh, I see! You’re my ‘friend’!”
Eri seemed to be in good physical condition for the time being, so we decided to leave the infirmary and take her to her classroom.
“See you later then, guys! Phew, I’m looking forward to having lunch with Toshi and Reika-chan! Oh, I can live a normal life now, right? I don’t have to do anything weird anymore! —I know, I can settle lots of things now!”
“Settle? Eh, Eri-chan? Wait a second, what on earth—!”
She grabbed her phone and walked into her classroom…
“Toshiki, wasn’t the atmosphere in that classroom dangerous?”
“… You felt it too, Reika?”
Her classroom was strangely agitated. They were talking excitedly with each other, fiddling with their phones. When Eri entered the room, there was little reaction from anybody… Even though she was so loved by everyone.
“… So I didn’t know you at all, Eri, even though we were together since we were kids,” I muttered.
“Well, can’t be helped. You’ve made up, so why don’t you two just get to know each other from now on?”
“Hm? Is something wrong?”
I just remembered something crazy. I think I confessed my love to Reika back when that whole confrontation happened this morning.
“R–Reika…? A–Ah, y’know, I think I said something about you… recently.”
“Eh? A–Ah, um, I didn’t hear it at all! S–So, well, maybe I’d like to know w–what it was, um, at another time… I’d love to! Uh, y’know…”
“Y–Yeah, right… I–I’ll try again next time…”
Both she and I had extremely good hearing… Yup, she didn’t hear it, I’m sure! After all, I wanna confess in a more romantic place, not in that cesspool of confusion.
“Hey, let’s run back to class! It’s almost time!” Reika started running.
“O–Okay, wait for me!”
I ran after her, deciding to keep these precious feelings to myself for now.
“You got that? Seriously, this thing ain’t gonna work at all!” Hirano said.
I, Rio Hayakawa, Hirano, and Hiratsuka were having a strategy meeting in the hallway. Hirano was talking about the footage he got from the confrontation we had today.
“… Toshiki’s body was extraordinary. What kind of past does he have for him to be covered in scars like that? Also, the density of his muscles was out of this world. I felt an overwhelming presence just by looking at him, which reminded me of his grandfather.” Hiratsuka said.
Hiratsuka took Hirano’s phone from him and stared at Toshiki’s half-naked image, even zooming in and out constantly… His expression was a bit creepy.
“So we couldn’t win in the first place. Our whole foundation was different from his… Also, there were some knife wounds as well as some gunshots engraved on his body, right? It was really bad, I don’t think I can upload the video…”
Apart from all that, it was impossible to blow away Lee with a single punch. He was strange, but he was still one of the best in the whole organization. Even if Hiratsuka and Hirano fought against him 2v1, they wouldn’t stand a chance.
“Ah, here they are. Oi, come over here!”
I saw Hikari Kana scurrying through the hallway looking for us. I waved at her, and she ran up to me while complaining.
“Hey, why are you guys huddled in a corner like this? … I–I’m not lonely, don’t say a word!”
“Okay okay. So, I have a question for you Kawano.”
“What is it? … I–I’ll listen to anything you say.”
Wow, your words don’t match up with your attitude. How can you be so straightforward with that scary look on your face?!
“Uh, you’re Mashima-san’s classmate, right? And she was your best friend too… So what kind of person was she? Be honest.”
“O–Oh, you mean Eri-chan…? Well, to be honest, we weren’t that close. We just talked in class and ate lunch together. We also talked about boys a lot, stuff like who we liked or who we thought liked us…”
“But she liked Toshiki, didn’t she?”
“I don’t know that either. I had no clue what she was thinking, and she’s been with a lot of guys, though she broke up with them extremely quickly. Sometimes it was because they held her hand out of nowhere, or because they made fun of Toshiki, or reasons similar to those.”
“Hey, wait a sec… Hirano, stop pointing that camera at me! Why are you filming me and Kawano together?!”
They were both a bit far from us, filming our conversation from start to finish.
“What? It’s because it’s funny. These days you can get more views if you add a pinch of romance. Oh, can I call Nakajima, that junior from the manga club, too?”
“Stop that! You’ll make them fight again!”
Kawano and Nakajima were like cats and dogs. I frequently see Nakajima puffing her cheeks like a hamster, threatening Kawano with all her smol energy… I hate myself for thinking she was a bit cute doing that.
Though Hiratsuka had a strange expression on his face.
“Oi, isn’t this Mashima-san’s classroom? One of my informants sent me the URL to a video, but it’s got an eerie vibe to it…”
Hirano stopped filming and looked at Hiratsuka’s phone. We all stopped the banter to watch the video along with them.
We saw Mashima sitting alone in her classroom. No one wanted to talk to her, and whenever she reached out, they ignored her. I knew that firsthand. It was called the ‘ghost game’, and it was a form of bullying where the whole class treated you like a ghost… It was a simple and horrid game.
“Wait, for real? I know what happened this morning, but there’s no way they all would turn against her. Not in a thousand years would she lose her followers over something like that! I mean, Eri-chan didn’t do anything to any of them! She just had a quarrel with Sawada!”
But in contrast to Hikari’s words, we saw a lonely image of Mashima on the screen. She had a dreary expression.
After a while, a girl approached Mashima Then, she started hurling insults at her, and with that snowball, it turned into an avalanche where the girls started to surround Mashima while repeatedly throwing verbal abuse at her.
All Mashima did was pout with a listless gaze, and I had no idea what was going on in her head. As she sat there, a strange guy entered the classroom, and Hirano muttered something from beside me.
“Hm? Isn’t that one of the best fighters? Oh, isn’t he also the guy who was excited that he was dating Mashima?”
“Yeah, he’s famous for his bad character. Unlike me, he’s a real womanizer. His name is Tashiro. He’s obsessive and a pain in the a*s.”
I immediately sent a message to Toshiki just in case. But as soon as I hit send, the man suddenly slapped Mashima on the cheek. It was a vicious blow. And yet the girls in that class were cheering for the dude.
“What the hell?! Let’s go stop them!”
In the video, I saw Mashima mutter something, though I couldn’t hear her. That outrageous scene made my blood boil, and I felt my body shake. Even though I wasn’t Toshiki, seeing something so heinous enraged me.
As soon as we started running, we saw that Mashima was about to be hit again—
TL: There’s definitely something sketchy going on behind Toshiki and Eri. Someone tried to manipulate both of them so they loved each other, which is alluded to by Toshiki questioning why he even loved her in the first place and Eri’s dialogues in this chapter.
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