I still don’t think what I decided to do in the principal’s office at that time was wrong.
But to be honest, there is a part of me that is already wavering in my resolve.
I realize now, from the bottom of my heart, how easy it was for me to say with my mouth in the spirit of self-sacrifice that I had made up my mind and that I had no choice but to make the sacrifice.
I actually saw the crying faces of my entire family right in front of me. With my own eyes, I saw the actual breaking down of the family bond.
The cracks in my heart are already so serious that they could burst at any moment. If I continue like this day after day, I will be scarred more than I can ever hope to replace.
I haven’t had any conversation with my sister since then. Will I not be able to spend time watching TV or playing video games with them?
Will I be blamed for this, and will my mother be blamed as well, and will she always feel small?
I wonder if it is really okay for me to stay here.
I lost confidence in everything, and the more I thought about it, the more my thoughts went in a negative direction.
Just as I was feeling more and more depressed, I heard a line arrive from my hand.
[Are you okay? Are you safe! You got your phone back, right? I heard a lot of things from Aoi-chan! It sounds like you’re in some kind of a tough situation…. But the teacher said I can trust Taiga just like you said. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t cover for you right away. I know I’m like this, but no matter what happens from now on, I’ll always believe in you! I’m on your side! Please believe me on this! I’m worried about you, so definitely respond to me! Promise me?]
[Hey, please respond to me, Taiga! I can’t sleep because I’m worried…]
I was thinking a lot and forgot to look at my phone, but it seems that Mio had sent me quite a few messages.
The moment I see the text filled with her kindness, I burst into tears for the first time today, and I unashamedly hug my phone.
I’m the one who should apologize. Thank you so much…. I can still do my best because of you. I love her so much, I want to go see her right now.
But since it was late at night, I held back and wrote a reply with all the feelings I had for Mio. Then, the moment I sent the message
The message was read surprisingly fast and a stamp with a cute cat character was sent to me.
I guess she must have been waiting for me for a long time… I’m sorry… Mio.
Despite the situation, I felt a little bit saved by the warmth of the exchange with Mio. Perhaps relieved by the comforting presence of Mio, I fell asleep as if I had just died.
The next morning, I forced myself to wake up my still heavy body. I don’t want to go to school in the slightest, but I can’t stay in bed all night.
I had lost the time for breakfast with my family, which was supposed to be a fun time for me. Although we are sitting at the same table, my mother looks uncomfortable with the family from start to finish, and both of my sisters refuse to make eye contact with me.
I try my best to talk to them, but it’s not that easy. I give up trying to talk to both of them, and quietly move my chopsticks around.
Usually Tsumugi is the first to leave the house, but today she was not so cheerful and did not greet me alone.
I sometimes go to school with my sisters, but as a matter of course, both of them leave first without saying anything to me.
I feel like s**t this morning, but I have to get out of here in time, so I go out to the front door.
“H-have a safe trip! Ah… Taiga. Wait a minute. If you have a hard time, come home right away. You know what I mean? You can count on Yuki-sensei, too.”
I only said thank you to my mother. I was glad that she was concerned about me, but it was obvious that from now on, unless I was exonerated of all the bad things I was going through, they would continue for a long time to come. I couldn’t afford to go home every time.
I open the door to my house and find the person I’ve wanted to see the most. The person who will heal my heart that is about to be swallowed by the darkness.
I can’t help but embrace her without fear of being seen.
“T-T-T-Taiga?! It is embarrassing to be in a place like this.”
“I’m sorry. But I wanted to see you. I really missed you.”
Although she was embarrassed, Mio was still hugging me for a while. I’ll take advantage of it and feel free to supply her with the things I can only get from her.
As we walked to school together, we talked to each other about what happened yesterday.
Of course, I didn’t tell her exactly what I talked about in the principal’s office. I don’t want to put the people I care about most in danger.
That is to say, I told my sister yesterday, “I didn’t do it. But I can’t go to the police.” But she still believed me unconditionally.
“Thank you…why do you believe me so easily?”
“Because you’re Taiga! No matter what happens, I believe in you and I will never leave you!”
When I heard her say those words, I felt madly in love with her, a feeling I had only heard about in novels.
I will never forget what she said to me with a big smile and a little bit of a smile on her face. I swore to myself that I would never forget what she said.
When I arrived at the school, as I expected, I was met with curious stares. I could tell that even people I didn’t know well were whispering to each other.
Most of them were saying, “That’s the sex predator I told you about. How dare you come to school?”
I knew this was going to happen from the beginning, and with Mio next to me, it wasn’t that damaging.
I took a breath and entered the classroom. As soon as I entered the classroom, all of my classmates who had already arrived at school looked at me. Among them were Rena Saito, whom I hated, and my best friend Rinto.
“Oi, oi, what are you doing at school, you criminal? You’re supposed to be in jail, not here.”
“That’s right! You are an enemy of women! Why don’t you quit school already?!”
I was bombarded with endless abuse from people I used to be friends with and people I didn’t know that well.
“Cut is out, everyone! Taiga didn’t do anything!”
“Oi, oi, Mio-chan. You’ve really lost your mind if you’re still defending a guy like that?”
“If you protect Taiga, that means Rena will get hurt even more, you know?”
The fact that Mio is still defending me doesn’t stop them from coming after me. More importantly, she’s going to be in a lot of trouble if she continues to have cover for me. I’ll have to think about what to do later.
I’m going to school here every day from now on. I couldn’t afford to be intimidated by every little thing like this. I decided to walk forward without losing face.
Rena Saito, the person who put me in this situation, is pretending not to care. She’s got a thick skin, no matter what.
As I was about to take my seat, someone put their foot on my leg and I fell down. The class bursts into laughter, probably because they thought it was so funny to see me fall.
Someone extends a hand to me. It was a familiar face, Rinto.
（Thank you, Rinto. I believe you will understand if I talk to you. I’ll talk to you later, so please listen to me. We’ve been best friends for a long time.)
I was so happy that he reached out to me, I thanked him in my heart and held out my hand with a slight smile.
Rinto pulls up my hand and whispers in my ear in a voice so quiet that only I can hear it.
“To tell you the truth…. I’ve thought of you as my rival, but I’ve never thought of you as my best friend.”
“Eh? Rin… to? What…. did you say?”
Rinto doesn’t answer.
I think this is the kind of situation where one’s mind goes blank. Rinto’s unexpected words had such destructive power that they instantly made me stop thinking.
“Oi, you guys! That’s enough! Even if it was my best friend. I won’t allow you to do anything more to Yagami in front of me.”
Hey, Rinto! What was that all about earlier?
What do you mean, “was my friends”? Please say “we are still best friend”…!!
Why are you calling me Yagami…! You always called me by my name, Taiga….
You mean to say that our 10 years of friendship was all a lie?
No matter how much I tried to question Rinto after that, he never took me seriously.
I don’t think so… Rinto … is it you? To be honest, I didn’t think about it. But you are my best friend, so I tried not to think about it.
Did…. you also set me up after all?
For about a month since then, I have spent my days not knowing whether I am alive or dead. Or perhaps every day was so bad that my brain subconsciously avoided remembering. I think I was already one step away from breaking down by then because I thought too much about my sister, my younger sister, and Rinto.
Mio, my mom, and Yuki-sensei cared for me, but still I couldn’t protect myself from all the bad intentions.
Lately, even when the three of them were talking to me, I felt as if I was somehow absent-minded. Steadily and surely, darkness was eating away at my heart.
The days I spent after that were too harsh for my 16-year-old glass heart, which was not that strong to begin with.
The days were mostly the same s**t. At home, my sister still won’t talk to me, and although Tsumugi seems to want to talk to me, she runs away when I try to talk to her.
At school, ignoring me is the norm, and when Mio, the teacher, or Rinto is not around, I get a storm of verbal abuse. Whenever I pass by on the street, everyone avoids me at once as if I were some kind of virus. Fortunately, there are no delinquents in my grade, so I have yet to experience any violence, but I don’t know what will happen if it escalates further in the future.
I decided to leave the tennis club. When the advisor was not around, I was not even allowed to participate in proper practice. When we played doubles, no one wanted to pair up with me. There was no reason to continue under such circumstances.
It was a day of hell. I was naive…in every way.
I have no intention of selling my sister, but I honestly didn’t expect it to be this hard.
And now, what is happening right in front of my eyes has broken my heart as if it was the final blow. Something that had been holding me together, just by the paper-thin edge of my hand, snapped.
[Because you’re Taiga! No matter what happens, I believe in you and I will never leave you!]
I saw the moment when the person who said such happy words that would stay in my heart for a lifetime… Mio, threw away the keychain that was supposed to be a precious memory between us in the trash.
From a distance, I could see that she was smiling with her classmates.
I know. I know that Mio is not the type of girl who would do something like that. I know there are circumstances.
I am also aware that my thoughts have been elsewhere lately and I have not been able to listen to Mio.
Still, the shocking sight was too heavy for my unstable mind.
I felt as if my eyes had locked with hers for a moment, and I left the place at once.
I ran like a maniac and went straight home. I was about to go back to my room and climb the stairs to be alone when I heard a sobbing voice coming from my room on the first floor.
“Dear…… I’m sorry……. I wonder if I am being my normal self to him. Am I being a good mother to him? I care about him, of course I trust him. But sometimes, in a moment, that trauma comes back to my mind and I feel like I can’t help it.”
I ran up the stairs and jumped into the bed in my room.
I realized that I had received a voicemail, and after some hesitation, I pressed the play button with a shaky hand.
[I’m sorry… I’m sorry Taiga… but I’m already…]
After listening to the message, I was afraid to listen to the rest of it, so I hurriedly turned off my phone.
At my wit’s end being near Taiga. [TL: This is what he thinks]
I didn’t have the courage to listen until the end, thinking about what kind of words they were.
“Ha….Haha….Hahaha…What the….hell…is this…..”
My dry laughter leaked out in the extremely quiet room.