During lunch break, I picked up what I need while eating lunch with Shinozuka and write it down in my notes.
Then, as usual, I read a book and a quiet moment passes between us.
I feel as if I’ve been in a deserted food court.
Even though this is a school.
Reading a book calms me down.
It has always been with me.
Today, time seems to be passing by more slowly than usual.
The teacher finishes explaining about next week’s field trip, and the HR session ends.
Destiny Land …… When we went on field trips in junior high school, I would spend all my time reading books on the park benches.
“Nya…… Shinjo, what are you blabbering about? It’s already the end of HR. Let’s go before it gets too late!”
In the morning, I was embarrassed and upset about what I said, but I’m okay now.
My mind has calmed down. Shinozuka and I are not even friends. It’s impossible for us to be a couple. My …… romantic feelings slipped away when I was in middle school.
We are just writing buddies.
So it’s okay. …… Suddenly, I felt a soft, dull pain deep in my chest. I ignored it and replied to Shinozuka.
“Oh, let’s go before it gets too late.”
I stood up from my seat and looked around the classroom.
There was a strange atmosphere in the classroom all day today.
I can see Saito-san leaving the classroom in a hurry after she had finished preparing to leave.
My stepsister and Miyazaki-san were beckoning Saito-san from the entrance of the classroom.
–Why were those girls so close to each other? …… Oh well, it’s none of my business.
Only my stepsister poked her head out of the doorway, and she was struggling to say something.
But my stepsister, who looked as if she was overwhelmed with emotion, waved at me then disappeared.
What was that about?
I didn’t care and decided to leave the classroom with Shinozuka.
The shopping center in front of the station was very clean and large.
You can find almost any kind of furniture and sundries. However, there are a lot of people here, so we have to be careful not to run into anyone we know.
I just don’t like …… the hassle. And I don’t know many people, so I’m fine.
On the way, Shinozuka and I kept talking about our novels.
“I’m writing a new novel, but I haven’t posted it yet.”
“Are you going to write another romance? How about a rofan for a change?”
(Romance Fantasy – Rofan)
“No, I’m not good at creating a fantasy world. I mean, it’s hard to write something that doesn’t exist in reality.”
“…… Is that how it works?”
It’s true that even if I were asked to write a romance novel, I couldn’t come up with a plot. I think I can still write a mystery or human drama.
Shinozuka scratches her head and tells me.
The hair is so beautiful, but the …… stupid hair popped out.
“It’s the way it is. I’ve been working on a …… book, but due to various reasons, I could only publish one volume. I’ll go back to the beginning and write it.”
I read the book version of Shinozuka’s work.
I don’t know how to describe it, but it shook me up emotionally.
There was something that came to my mind.
“I like that piece.”
“Yeah, I see. Thanks…….”
We are not flattered by the work. We say what’s wrong is when there is wrong about it. Shinozuka understands that I really like that work.
That’s why my response is straightforward.
As I walked through the shopping center, I arrived at the place I was looking for.
“Oh, there’s MUZU. Can we get everything here?”
“Yeah, it’s the least complicated.”
MUZU is one of the largest general merchandise stores in the country.
You can find most things at reasonable prices here.
Shinozuka and I huddled together and looked at the notes we had written down.
I can smell the soft and gentle scent from Shinozuka.
…… It would be rude to get too close.
We looked at each other and nodded.
Shinozuka picked up the shopping basket from the store and got into the spirit of things.
“Ooh! Let’s go shopping! Uwa, it’s so big, I don’t know where to go.”
“Pomeko, you …….”
“Oh, shut up! First of all–“
Thus began our shopping spree.
“What’s life like in another world? I mean, if you put a sandwich in the story, it’ll go up in flames, right? Wow, another world novel.”
“I’ve got swords and rice and stuff. …… Maybe there’s a cop in every one of them.”
(It’s a pun about describing stuffs ‘sword’ part is written in katakana ‘katana’ [刀と’] ‘with rice'[ か米と] , I don’t really know much japanese but it’s a wordplay I guess?)
“Oh, I know what you mean. I remember getting beat up for describing a club activity.”
As we talk, we pick up the items we need.
We had already decided what we were going to buy, so there was no need to get lost.
The shopping went smoothly.
“Well, what are you going to do with the stuff in your room?”
I don’t have much stuff in my room. When I bought books, she gave me a disapproving look. That’s why I was in the library. All I had was my school stuff and a few personal clothes.
My stepsister once looked sad when she saw my room.
I didn’t add to my personal belongings so that I could leave whenever I wanted.
She might have noticed that I was about to leave.
“I packed it up last night and this morning. It’s as much as I can carry by hand.”
“Hmm, well, I’ll help you. Let’s go to Shinjo’s house after we drop off what we bought. Or don’t you want me to go?”
“…… No, thank you.”
In the past, I would have outright turned it down. But with Shinozuka, …… it’s okay.
Grandpa’s house is fully furnished with big appliances and furniture.
So it’s not like I have that much shopping to do.
We finished our shopping and decided to leave the store.
“It’s fun to buy a lot of stuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve shopped with someone.”
“What about Saeko-san? I think your sister would want to go.”
“Oh, my sister is busy with her work, so we don’t have much time together.”
“Anyways, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Do you really not need the …… cup?”
In the end, Shinozuka did not buy a cup, Even when I insisted. I have a cup at my grandfather’s house anyway, so that was fine.
“Baka, we’re just …… writing buddies, right? If we were ……, we wouldn’t go that far.”
“Yeah I guess, were not friends …….”
I remember the shy smile on her face when she said I would buy a cup for Shinozuka.
We were really looking forward to it. But we are afraid of getting deeply involved with others.
For a moment, Shinozuka’s face looked as if she was enduring something.
She immediately returned to her normal Pomeko self, though.
“Come on, let’s hurry up and go home!”
We started walking slowly through the shopping center.
We were walking slower than before. I wanted to stay here.
I pushed down the feeling of wanting to stay here, and stepped forward.
Suddenly, I noticed a shop attendant in the distance.
“Shinozuka, I’m going to the bathroom.”
“What? Hurry up and go. I’ll be waiting for you here.”
I left Shinozuka behind and hurried to the shop attendant in.
“Slow. ……, Nyanta, are you lost?
I get anxious when I’m alone.
As it is, it reminds me that I was left behind.
…… Don’t worry, I don’t feel anything when I’m left behind.
Because I am not friends with Nyanta.
…… But I still feel lonely.
The more I trust him, the more he trusts me.
The more I trust him, the more …… my heart will be destroyed when he betrays me.
So, nyanta is ……, but only nyanta is …….
An inconclusive problem. I’ve heard bad rumors about Nyanta.
I think that’s just a lie.
Yes, it doesn’t matter to me. …… When I’m with him, he’s blunt, but he’s kind and …… fun. It reminded me of a smile I had forgotten.
I …… don’t know what I’m doing.
After all, Nyanta is not coming back ……. I get anxious – I take out my phone and read the novel about Nyanta again.
I don’t know why it calms me down.
As I was looking down, I heard footsteps.
I looked up to see if it was Nyanta.
“Shinjo, oseo……, eh…….”
“Hahaha, sorry I haven’t seen you in a while, Anri!”
The blood drained from my veins. The mask that I had been wearing fell off.
There they were, my …… classmates from junior high school.
“What? You’re waiting for your friend? I didn’t know a creepy girl like you had friends. That’s so funny! Hahaha!”
My body began to tremble. I couldn’t help but feel scared. I hated that I couldn’t change even if I tried.
“‘I mean, are you still writing creepy novels? We had a good laugh about it then, didn’t we? I trusted you, and you took my phone.”
Momo and I were best friends.
We both had geeky hobbies, so we became fast friends.
But ……, Momo-chan…
“You’re making your high school debut, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, yeah, gross.”
“I bet he’s a creep, too.”
“You know what I mean? You know, the ones you think up lines for your novel with?”
“That’s funny. Why don’t we call Momo? She’s become a nuisance to me.”
I wanted to run away. That’s why I didn’t want to go to town. I wanted to stay at home.
It was better if people thought I was scary. The deserted food court was the place for me.
–But at the food court, I was able to meet Nyanta and Shinjo.
The weight of my luggage in my hands gave me courage.
A weak voice, like the buzzing of a mosquito.
“Ugh, shut up ……, I’m–“
Suddenly, the weight of my luggage disappeared.
I was so excited I thought I had dropped my luggage.
–But it was not.
“I’m sorry, ……. I’m sorry I’m late. You could have left your luggage downstairs.”
Shinjo came to see me.
I was waiting for him, so it’s normal for him to come, but …… I was thinking in my mind that maybe he betrayed me again. ……
I don’t know. Why do I feel this way?
“Ugh, ugh ……, yeah, let’s go!”
I changed my mind and looked up.
My former classmates were surprised by Shinjo’s intrusion, but he was the one who broke in.
“Oh, you’re Anri’s friend? What? It’s impossible. ……”
“Wow, super handsome ……. Really?
The face of the leader of the group, a former classmate, distorts.
“We’re old friends, you know. Hey, big brother, do you know the rumors about Anri? She’s a super bad girl, you know? She’s just playing with you like she always does anyway, you know? Hey, leave that girl alone and come hang out with us! Let’s go to karaoke!”
I denied in a weak voice.
“I’m not his friend. …… I’m not–“
A large back spread out in front of me.
Shinjo is more stoutly built than he looks…….
Shinjo’s low voice was uttered.
“A …… friend? Shinozuka doesn’t have any.”
I’m sure it’s because he found out that I was bullied …… and that Shinjo is already …….
“Yeah, ah, haha, what does it matter? Let’s play together. I’m not sure what to do with it. Because he writes creepy novels…”
Shinjo’s voice became more intimidating.
“…… Isn’t it wonderful that she can write such a wonderful story? I don’t know about you guys. …… but I can guess the extent of it when you assume Shinozuka is a bad girl. I don’t even want to get involved with any of you.”
I don’t know why. The only person who could affirm me like this was my …… sister. Shinjo’s words echoed in my heart.
“Oh, haha,we’re just kidding ……, we were thinking of your–“
Shinjo took a step forward.
He looked at me as if he was looking for something and said.
“Don’t ever come near us again. I won’t allow anyone to make my precious friend cry.”
The former classmate backed away, her body’s trembling. Shinjo’s intimidation was unbelievable.
Eventually, the former classmates, overwhelmed by Shinjo’s intimidation, ran away.
My emotions had not caught up with me.
I put my hands over my eyes – there were indeed a few tears spilling.
I couldn’t tell because my emotions were all messed up. I didn’t want Shinjo to see me. I was scared. I was so happy to be saved–to be called a friend. …… I was so happy. ……
Oh, no, I can’t stop crying.
“Oh, come on, you’re a Yankee. You can’t cry. I’ve had rocks thrown at me before. Here, I got this for you. ……”
No, they didn’t hurt me. It’s okay. They just made fun of me. ……
When Shinjo saw me crying, he panicked and showed me this.
It’s a mug with a picture of Mookie, the mascot of Destinyland. My favorite – Mookie …….
“You know the Destiny store here? It’s my way of thanking you for accompanying me on my shopping trip today.”
Shinjo handed it to me, looking embarrassed.
I took the cup with trembling hands.
“Ugh, ugh ……, cup, pretty …….”
I hugged the cup to my chest.
I really wanted a cup for myself.
I gave it up, putting up a wall in my heart because we were not friends.
Even though the cup was cold, it made me feel warm.
I felt as if the feelings that were frozen inside me were melting away.
I don’t know what it is.
But I don’t have to feel betrayed.
Because Shinjo, who was supposed to be untrustworthy, told me that he was my friend.
I couldn’t stop crying.
I’m so happy.
I thought it was too late for me to be your friend, but…
Instead of thinking about it, my feelings came out in words.
“I’m not sure if we can be friends,…….”
Shinjo touched my shoulder with a gentle hand.
The area he touched became warm.
“Idiot, we’re–we’re friends now. It’s too late now. ……”
I understood at this time.
If it’s Shinjo, it’s okay to be betrayed. I finally understood what that Sensei meant.
I held the cup in my hands and continued to cry as I felt the warmth of Shinjo.