I did it. I said too much… I pushed away Izayoi, who was genuinely concerned about me, with coldness.
But there is a territory I don’t want to be touched. It’s the absolute core of myself. The moment someone enters that territory, intense panic and anxiety engulf me.
I tried not to think about it too much. The fear of thinking about it made me pretend not to notice it, but suddenly I couldn’t suppress my emotions anymore.
As I rode the evening train swaying under the setting sun, I reflected on everything alone and returned home. Even when I got home, everything was as usual. Dad came home a little later, and then Mom came home.
While Mom and Dad were together in the living room, I said,
“Today, I went to a café with my junior…”
“Oh, did you properly thank them?”
I couldn’t say that I pushed him away. It is not fair of me to use it as a topic of conversation here and be so cold about it.
“I want to thank him properly, but when are you going to invite him over?”
“Well, um, maybe around next week?”
“Should we buy him a thank-you gift or something?”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea… But hey, Mom and Dad, did you ever go out together in the past?”
Both of them had complicated expressions. They were unsure of who should start the conversation.
“…I wonder. I remember going out together, but I don’t remember the specific places.”
“Well, it was a long time ago, so it can’t be helped…”
I couldn’t do anything. I tried to initiate a conversation and create a small bond, but even that didn’t work well. A true family should be able to express their true feelings more and laugh together.
It’s not just me. Even the two of them… None of us can speak our true feelings. Because of that, the distance between us keeps growing. I think I need to change something, but even with that thought, I remain stuck.
What should I do…?
I lay on the bed in my bedroom, thinking. She made it clear. Our relationship must have become awkward after what I said.
But why did I go this far? The bad end has been avoided, so it should be fine now. I was mostly driven by a sense of duty to prevent the world from being destroyed. Therefore, there’s no need for me to take any further action.
And yet, I can’t suppress the feeling of wanting to do something, to figure out what to do.
Maybe I need to reevaluate myself as well. No, perhaps deep down, I already knew. I just pretended not to see it.
…That’s probably the case. Haa. I don’t want to admit it.
I should sleep. Yeah. Abandoning my thoughts, I closed my eyes.
[Oi, you’re reading that again!]
This person was my classmate when I was alive. I remember talking to them a lot during middle school. We lost touch after entering different high schools…
[This is so interesting!]
[Masou Shoujo? There’s a girl in cosplay on the cover.]
[It’s not cosplay. They’re magical outfits!]
[You’re being too specific. Did you get into it?]
[Yeah, it’s because seeing them give their all and move forward, even in difficult times, is so cool!]
Ah, embarrassing. I had a phase like that. I was seriously obsessed with it. It’s a fond memory of constantly reading light novels even in the classroom and slightly alienating my female friends.
[Hmm, well I’m not interested.]
[Eeh?! Give it a try! It’s seriously amazing. It’s the best. It’s full of dreams, friendship, courage, and it’s so cool. I want to become like that too.]
[Scary, scary. Middle school boys who aspire to be magical girls are off-putting.]
I want to become like that too… Aaaaaaaah!
Embarrassing. It’s just embarrassing that there was a time like that.
[This is the end, huh… Thank you for everything. Masou Shoujo.]
Now it’s the memory of when I read the final volume in high school and put the book down. I was so sad at that time.
[Thank you so much. You gave me dreams, courage, and so much enjoyment while reading. You were my idol. Thank you, Masou Shoujo, and thank you, author.]
Well, I did feel gratitude towards the author. Yeah, that’s fine, but…
They gave me dreams, courage, and admiration. The girls inside the book gave me a truly enjoyable time…
So when I realized that I had been reborn into this world, my first thought was not out of a sense of duty to the world, nor out of pure goodwill.
Because I received so many important things from them. I want to repay them, no matter how I become…
But I didn’t want to admit these feelings. It’s embarrassing to feel this way normally.
I’m mentally over thirty, almost forty, and I’m an old man with one foot in the grave. Being grateful and admiring underage magical girls gives off a dangerous vibe or something.
There are times when I might think that way on my own, but generally speaking, I think it’s just plain messed up. Or rather, dangerous.
These are insignificant thoughts and memories. No matter how you look at it, I know I’m an ordinary person, a background character.
I don’t have a terribly sad past, nor do I have any talent. I’m just an average person, aged thirty mentally.
But it’s because of them that my otherwise unremarkable life and memories have become so vivid.
I don’t want to admit it. But that’s the truth.
That’s why I…
The alarm clock rings, and I wake up. Despite just waking up, I feel refreshed somehow. The feeling of embarrassment lingers in my chest, but I don’t care about that anymore.
I’ve made up my mind. I won’t let Hihara Karen experience sadness. Absolutely not.
I prepare myself and head to school. After school today, I’ll talk to her again. And I’ll change something. I don’t know if I’ll succeed or if it will go well. But I’ll do it. I won’t turn a blind eye to myself anymore. I’ve decided to repay them, so I’ll see it through.
I’ll do at least that much.
“Oi, you’re making a really weird face, somehow…”
“Of course. I’ve awakened.”
“Too much chuunibyou…”
Sasamoto looked at me with a slightly wary gaze in the classroom.
“If a couple who loves each other ends up in a strained relationship due to misunderstandings, what do you think they should do?”
“What’s really going on? Well, if they love each other, they should create an opportunity to talk and have a serious conversation.”
“I think so too. But this time, it’s so strained that they can’t even do that.”
“In that case, it might be difficult.”
“Yeah, but they love each other. It’s not just a strain. So, I’ll try to resolve it with that classic move.”
“What are you talking about?”
I’ve made up my mind. I don’t know if this approach will work, but I want to do what I can. I want to face it head-on.
Even if it’s a bit forceful or convenient. If it can change something…
“I don’t really get it, but do your best.”
During lunch break, I ordered a plate of gyoza with lots of garlic chives at the cafeteria. I devoured two servings of it and then went to face the afternoon classes. Everyone seemed intimidated by my presence.
Although there was a lot of noise around due to the school festival or other events, I didn’t really care at the moment. I could worry about it later. What mattered was what would happen after school.
During the break between afternoon classes, Gindou Kohaku approached my seat.
“Um, Izayoi-kun, is there something wrong?”
“Don’t worry about it. Thank you for your concern, though.”
“I-I see. You’re welcome.”
Lately, we’ve been talking quite often. She seems interested in light novels and comes to me to discuss various topics. After a brief conversation, she returns to her own seat.
When I helped her, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but looking back now, I did have special feelings for her. Gindou Kohaku is an incredibly special person to me. Not in a weird way, though.
I watch her laughing and talking with Noguchi Natsuko. Have I repaid her kindness? It’s something I’m doing on my own, but because I received something much bigger, I wanted to at least give back a little.
After school, I decided to contact Hihara Karen first.
“Sorry about yesterday. Let’s walk home together after school.”
I quickly received a reply from her.
“I also went too far. I’m sorry. Let’s meet at the school gate.”
I get ready and head towards the school gate. I arrive before her and wait for a moment until she shows up.
“Sorry about yesterday.”
“I’m sorry too. I said too much.”
We both lightly bow our heads. It’s a bit awkward, but we start walking together, matching our pace.
“Uhm, there’s a place I want to go. Is that okay?”
We walked for a while and I brought her to a certain park. It’s the quiet park where I confronted the stalker of Gindou Kohaku. It’s still bright outside, but there’s no one around.
We sat on an old wooden bench. After a moment of silence, I start the conversation.
“Senpai, I’m really sorry about yesterday.”
“It’s fine. I was also in the wrong…”
“But I still want to help you solve your problems, Senpai.”
“I told you there’s no problem.”
“Please, tell me. I beg you!”
I gaze directly at her. It’s a straightforward confrontation without any pretense. It’s the choice I’ve made, thinking that it’s better to go straight for the center with a powerful strike rather than using a weak strategy.
“I already said there’s really nothing… You’re being persistent.”
She starts showing some discomfort, but that doesn’t matter. I firmly grab her shoulder and ask again.
“I don’t care how persistent I am! I won’t let go until you tell me, Senpai!”
“H-Hey, I said there’s nothing! Let go of me, or I’ll call the police!”
She reacts with surprise, but then gradually becomes more heated. She threatens to call the police and tries to take out her phone from her bag.
“I will take this!”
“Aah! My phone!”
I snatch her phone from her and throw it into the bushes. Then, I grab her shoulder again.
“Do you think you can get away with this?!”
“I don’t think so. But I want to solve your problems, Senpai. I’ll do anything for that, even if it means getting caught by the police!”
“To that extent?”
“Yes. If you still refuse to talk even after this… I’ll kiss you right here!”
“Eeeeeh!? A k-kiss!?”
Even though she has seen various kissing scenes in light novels, it seems to be a completely different experience for her when it comes to actually doing it in reality, and she blushes.
“Yes, I’ll do it.”
“Not ‘I’ll do it,’ right!? Are you stupid!? If you do that, you’ll really get arrested!”
“Don’t yes me! Are you serious!? Are you willing to ruin your life like this!?”
“If you don’t tell me your troubles, I’ll kiss you and ruin my life.”
She doesn’t know what to do when I push it this far and looks around, unsure of where to focus her gaze.
“That’s unfortunate. I’ll kiss you and ruin my life.”
“Wait a moment!! Kissing is… I’m the type who wants to treasure my first kiss…”
“I won’t wait.”
“I won’t wait. By the way, for lunch, I had two sets of gyoza with lots of leeks.”
“Wait a little longer!! No, I don’t want that!”
“If you still refuse to talk, your first kiss will go to a plain underclassman who had gyoza for lunch. Is that okay with you?”
“That’s a bit… No.”
…I feel a little hurt. Well, I’m the one who set it up to go this way, but it’s still tough when I’m straightforwardly rejected.
“In that case, please talk to me.”
“Please, give me some time…”
“We’ll move on to the kiss.”
“Fine, I’ll talk!! Please, stop!!”
“Alright, then go ahead.”
After pushing her so forcefully, she couldn’t help but speak up. I was also hurt, but that’s not something I should worry about at this point.
It seems like it’s something difficult for her to bring up. I should take the lead in the conversation for now.
“Are you worried that your parents’ relationship is deteriorating and they might get a divorce?”
“!! Why would you think that?”
“It’s a simple deduction. I noticed how concerned you were about divorced parents when we talked about parents with children on the train. And whenever you see parents with their children, you always look envious.”
It’s a lie, of course. But the logic seems reasonable, right?
“No way… Are you a detective, Izayoi?”
“No, I’m just a regular high school student.”
She thought that I had completely seen through her, so she gave up and started speaking hesitantly.
“That’s right. My parents’ relationship is bad. I didn’t want to admit it or say it out loud, but I have no choice now, especially since you even noticed it, Izayoi…”
She sadly lowered her gaze and continued speaking.
“I don’t know when the rift between my family started. It just appeared one day, and at first, I thought it was just my imagination and didn’t pay much attention to it. But then the sense of unease kept growing, yet I pretended it wasn’t happening.”
She expressed her self-disgust and continued talking.
“And from there, I kept running away. I was afraid to admit it, and I didn’t want to believe that my family would fall apart. But the more I ran away, the deeper the rift between my dad and mom became, to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore.” (Karen)
“So, I thought I would try to do something about it, but I couldn’t do anything. So, I ran away again, and again, and kept running away. And now, it has reached a point where there’s no turning back… I understand now. My family is going to fall apart.” (Karen)
She had tears in her eyes. After a moment of silence that filled the air, she spoke again.
“I’m sorry about yesterday. Everything Izayoi said was right, but I couldn’t admit it. I was at fault.”
She laughed with a self-deprecating tone. I didn’t want to see that expression, which included resignation.
“What are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know… Maybe I should just give up. It might be easier and better that way.”
“…Won’t you give it another try?”
“It’s impossible. Because every time I tried to say it, my body froze, and I couldn’t say what I really wanted to say. I felt like if I said it and failed, I would completely break down. So, I always end up staying the way I am now. That’s why it’s impossible.”
“Then, is it okay to leave it like this? Are you okay with your family falling apart someday and regretting not speaking up at that time?”
“That’s not an excuse. But it’s impossible for me… I’m a coward, and I lack the courage.”
“I will support you and push you forward. Even if something happens, I’ll be there for you. So, please give it another try! I don’t want to see you filled with regret!”
She didn’t avert her gaze this time. I wouldn’t look away from her teary eyes.
“Skip the formalities. Let’s communicate what you want, what you want to be.”
“But what if it doesn’t work?”
“I’ll keep telling you until it gets through. It’ll be okay. Your parents will surely be moved by your words. Let’s believe in that. Believe in your family and yourself.”
“Believe… in the bond of my family…”
She asked herself, closing her eyes lightly and contemplating. After a while, she opened her eyes again and met my gaze.
“Yeah, believe. In my family. I want to convey my feelings to my family.”
“Alright!! Once you’ve decided, let’s take action right away!”
“Strike while the iron is hot. Let’s do it today.”
I took her hand and stood up from the bench.
“Can I ask you something? Why are you going this far for me?”
“Because I want to.”
“You’re really strange, but thank you.”
“No problem, don’t mention it.”
I truly should be the one expressing gratitude…
“Did you say something?”
“No, let’s focus on finding your phone, Senpai.”
“Right. Let’s find it quickly and go to my house.”
We started searching for her phone in the bushes where I had thrown it earlier. I thought we would find it quickly, but it wasn’t turning up.
“Hmm, that’s strange. I’m sure I threw it over here…”
“Hey, did you really need to throw it? “
“Well, I didn’t want the police to bother us over there…”
“It would have been better if they confiscated it. And if you were going to throw it, you should have done it closer.”
“I’m sorry. I got carried away…”
We both lowered ourselves and continued searching for her phone. Oh no, I can’t find it. I came here so coolly, and now it’s going to be embarrassing if I can’t find it.
“Uwa, a bug!”
Despite wanting to find her phone quickly and do something about her parents, I was completely absorbed in searching. I’m actually not a fan of bugs, but I keep searching.
She had been looking in a certain direction, but I didn’t even notice because I was so focused on searching.
“Ah! I should have just called it!”
“I was being absent-minded too. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”
“We all have moments like that.”
I called her phone. The sound started coming from somewhere nearby.
“Is it around here? Let’s see… Found it!”
She approached the source of the sound in the nearby bushes and started searching. I stopped making the call. I thought it was all over, but then a grasshopper jumped onto her face.
Startled, she spun around, causing her head and legs to switch positions. As a result, her red panties were exposed under her skirt. She quickly covered herself with the skirt and looked at me with a flushed face.
“D-Did you see?”
She was embarrassed beyond words, and I have to admit, I was embarrassed too. Heat naturally rose to my face. But in this situation, I should act like a gentleman and say I didn’t see anything.
“No, I didn’t see…”
Wait a minute. Can I really lie here? She’s about to have a heartfelt conversation with her family, without any pretense.
Is it okay for me, who encouraged her to be honest, to lie? No, it wouldn’t be right. It’s important to be sincere from moments like this, right? Besides, I did see it, so saying I didn’t see anything would be the opposite of honesty.
What I should do is admit that I saw it. I should apologize, right?
“I’m sorry. I saw Senpai’s red and slightly naughty panties.”
I bow deeply, apologizing. After a while, her legs became visible. As I lifted my head, she said,
“I’m sorry. Let me slap you once.”
Smack, the sound resonated through the quiet park.