Movie time is still a ways away, but the place is not Akihabara, so I have to move on soon.
Come to think of it, the only time I go out with someone like this is with my sister Misa or my mom.
I steal a glance at the face of Shinjo-kun, who is checking his phone next to me.
He looked so kind.
“It’s roughly thirty minutes from here. Do you mind if we go shopping at the Shinjuku shopping center?”
“Hmm? I don’t mind at all. What are you going to buy?”
Apparently, he wants to give Anri something as a gift to celebrate her book launch.
But he doesn’t know what to give because he’s never given a gift to someone before.
“You, leave it to me, hamumi! I mean, I’ve been thinking since a while ago that you have no taste in shopping!”
Shinjo-kun said, “I’ll buy this for my sister, this for my mother, and I wonder if Anri will be pleased.” The items Shinjo picked up were all subtle.
They were toys that had no practical use, and things that women would never like that were not cute. When he tried to buy a T-shirt with a cartoon picture on it, I did my best to stop him.
I don’t mean that as a bad thing, but that’s no good as a gift.
“As expected of Hamumi. That’s reassuring.”
“O-of course! Come on, let’s go!”
Don’t give me that reassuring smile.
So we decided to take the train.
Shinjo-kun is different.
Boys my age often look at me with ulterior motives.
I don’t like it when my classmates are kind to me. It may sound self-conscious, but I don’t really like that gaze.
I think I have bigger chest than other girls of my age. To be honest, I have a complex about it, and I have trouble finding clothes in the summer.
I wear a loose one-piece dress, but I can’t help but notice the way guys look at me.
I don’t feel the same kind of stares from Shinjo-kun that I usually get.
It’s kind of like talking to my sister, very natural.
When we were walking together, he paid attention to me every time a bicycle or a car passed by.
When we were in a crowded anime store, you covered for me so that I wouldn’t bump into people.
On the train, he moved in front of me to protect me from the male gaze.
….B-But you know what, I won’t misunderstand. Because Shinjo-kun loves Anri-chan.
“I see, surely this will please Anri.”
“It’s obvious! Hehe, Anri loves cute things, right?”
Shinjo-kun and Anri-chan are terribly close, but if the gift is too expensive, the girl will pull away.
“I guess precious metals are not good enough.”
“O-of course not! If you’re friends with a high school student, you definitely shouldn’t give her something like that!”
I can’t believe he would try to give a ring to a girl he’s not even dating….. I’m a little envious, but you can’t do that.
For some reason, Shinjo-kun was smiling at that moment.
“…..It’s kind of like I’m communicating with Anri. I mean, this is the first time I’ve met someone other than Anri outside like this.”
“I-is that so? I-I, I don’t care, we’re friends. After all we are…..”
There was me who was about to soar at the mention of such words. That’s not who I am. ……
“Hm? Hamumi. Let’s go to the cinema soon.”
“Hear me out! You oaf!!”
It was very crowded inside the movie theater.
It was great to see so many people looking forward to seeing Tetsuro the movie.
“Isn’t Hamumi going onstage?”
“Haa? I don’t want to show my face, because I’m not an actor. Oh, it would be troublesome if you got tangled up with some weird stalker or something.”
“Hey! What are you talking about!! I-I’m beautiful? O-Of course not!
Shinjo-kun said to me with a straight face.
He had no other intention, no good intention, no bad intention.
He was simply stating a fact. That’s how he looked at me.
My own face turned bright red. What is this guy, …… You don’t even know what you’re talking about!
“Stop talking nonsense! Anri-chan is more beautiful than me!”
Shinjo-kun looked embarrassed as I said that.
“Of course Anri is beautiful ……. Well, Anri is special. Hamumi is definitely no less beautiful than Anri.”
“T-This is embarrassing, you idiot! I mean, I’m going to go to the back and greet the staff and the actors, you should come with me.”
I pat Shinjo-kun on the back.
I don’t know why, my chest hurts, mother.
Why is that? I’m happy, I’m having fun, I’m not sad, but I feel like crying?
If, by any chance, …… I had met Shinjo-kun a little earlier–
I am sure that even if that had happened, Shinjo-kun and Anri-chan would still have a strong bond.
There is no room for me.
Sentimental feelings don’t suit me.
I am a writer with a spirit of steel.
So feelings like this–
Feelings like this?
Why do I think about Shinjo-kun so much?
Why does my heart ache so much?
Even though I have seen the film dozens of times, it feels fresh when I see it in a movie theater.
The greetings from the stage ended with a great success, and the movie started with the same tension.
Shinjo reacted normally when he met the voice actors.
I thought he would be more pleased, but he was not.
When I asked him why, he said
[No, I don’t know much about voice actors. I was happier when I met Hamumi at the editorial office. I even put your autograph on the wall.]
And that’s what he was talking about …….
My mouth starts to mooch. I was so happy I wanted to jump up and down, but–
“Well, of course you are! I’m the Hamumi of the world! You should do your best too!”
I really don’t want to be this high and mighty.
I’m just embarrassed and don’t know how to act.
I get out of control when I talk to someone I like.
It’s not that I like Shinjo-kun, it’s just that when I first got to know Anri-chan, I went berserk.
The movie ended in a blink of an eye.
After the movie, our date was over.
We had no plans for the rest of the day. Shinjo-kun is probably going to visit Anri-chan.
After the movie, while we were walking on the street or waiting for the train at the station, Shinjo-kun talked passionately about the movie Tetsuro.
“I was shocked to meet Tetsuro.”
“That story saved me from being all alone.”
“It was Tetsuro who made me strong.”
“I became friends with Puggy through Tetsuro.”
“It’s amazing that Hamumi can write a story like that.”
I also spoke passionately about Tetsuro’s thoughts.
We talked without paying attention to our surroundings.
“Hey, Nyanta ……. Why are you on this train?! This is the Tokaido Line!”
“Oh, I was just talking ……. Well, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been told by Anri to take Hamumi home properly.
“Haa? My house is an hour and a half away from here!”
“Get off at the next stop.”
It would be a nuisance to ask him to come to a place that would take so long.
When we arrived at the next station, Shinjo-kun somehow started to sit in an empty seat.
“Hamumi, there’s a seat available. Let’s sit over here.”
“Haa? Are you listening to me?!”
” Yeah, it’s just that much, isn’t it? That’s not enough to tell Tetsuro’s story.”
Shinjo-kun pulled my bag, which I would not sit down.
Eh, what? What do you mean?!
I sat down next to Shinjo-kun.
For a brief moment, my hands touch Shinjo-kun’s.
I feel my heartbeat quicken. A sense of guilt spreads. If Anri-chan sees us like this, I’ll feel bad.
Such feelings disappeared in an instant when I saw the look on Shinjo-kun’s face.
Shinjo-kun was talking passionately while looking at me with his sparkling eyes.
He didn’t see me as a girl.
No, it’s good that he has no ulterior motives, but …….
I don’t know, I guess I’m a little sad. ……
We’ve only been together for a few hours, only a few times, so why do I feel like this?
It’s crazy, right?
“Ha, can’t be helped! I, the author, will explain it to you!”
I hid my weak heart with strong words—‘
“It’s quite an amazing place. You can see the ocean. ……”
“I mean, it’s in the middle of nowhere.”
Normally, I would go home from the station through the shopping street, but today I wanted to take the long way around and walk along the sea.
The sea at dusk is so beautiful. I wanted to share it with someone.
“Does Hamumi go to school around here?”
“Yes, it’s a high school just a few more steps away. You can see the Enoden and the ocean, and it was the setting of a basketball manga.”
“Ooh, I’d like to see that next time.”
Nothing much to it. My sister and I take a walk on the beach every once in a while.
We walked along, talking like this.
At some point, we started to lose our words.
And yet, I didn’t feel rushed. In fact, I didn’t dislike this atmosphere.
Shinjo-kun is a mysterious person.
He is a bit of a blabbermouth, but he also has a manly side to him.
“Hamumi is amazing. For someone of your age, you write such amazing works, and yet you are so firm and kind.”
So I got a little annoyed.
Because this guy really doesn’t understand himself.
Earlier, in front of the station, one of my classmates looked at Shinjo-kun and had a surprised look on his face.
…… but it’s not his face.
What makes Shinjo so great is that he’s–
“…… Honestly, when I saw your work, I thought at first that a rough novel had made it into the rankings.
“Yeah, the writing is rough, there’s a lot of dark twists and turns, and it’s not exactly a template.”
I have to make Shinjo-kun understand.
“But, you know, I just keep wanting to read more and more of it. I’m curious to see what happens next. Every time the story progressed, the novel got better and better, and my emotions were shaken, and I was so engrossed in reading it.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that.”
“Haa? To be honest, I was super jealous. You have something I don’t have.”
A hot feeling flows from deep in my chest.
This is not love. This is not affection.
The feeling that wells up in me is rivalry as a writer.
I looked straight at Shinjo-kun.
“You are my rival. As a fellow fantasy writer, I declare to you that I will continue to write works that are definitely more interesting than yours. You should know what you are capable of. There are always people who have been saved by reading your work.”
I breathed on his shoulder.
I had said some uncharacteristically foul words.
But I will never forget the look in Shinjo’s eyes at that moment.
They were serious eyes. They were so beautiful.
“I understood—-. I will create a work that surpasses Hamumi’s.”
I smiled fearlessly when I heard those words.
Shinjo-kun replied with a smile.
I felt a solid bond was born between us.
…….I know it wasn’t romantic love,—-
But that’s okay.
Shinjo-kun ended up dropping me off in front of my house.
I went home on the same day. I really wanted to go up to my house to entertain him, but it was too late.
My sister is writing in her room.
When she concentrates on her writing, she doesn’t even reply when I talk to her.
She has a terrible talent, though not in the same genre.
My sister had a rivalry with Anri’s work.
Anri’s first work was such a shock to romantic comedy writers.
……Shinjo-kun is Anri-chan’s precious person.
Before this day began, I thought it was a simple fact.
I knew there was no room for it from the beginning.
“Ara, I didn’t know you were home. You haven’t eaten yet, right? I’m going to make it now, so wait for me. …… Hasumi? Are you crying? Is something wrong?”
“No, it’s not Shinjo-kun’s fault. E-E-Even though I knew about it, I was so excited and stupid… Why did I feel like this…”
Mom hugs me without saying anything.
“Mom, why am I in pain …… We just went out together. ……”
No matter what kind of pain I was going through, I did not speak out in weakness.
And yet, like a child, I cried in my mother’s chest.
–Only now can I be spoiled …….
My mother hugged me all the way until I stopped crying.
–Don’t worry, the next time we meet, I’m sure I’ll be able to smile.