[Hinagi Suzurikawa PoV]
The bustling traffic of people now flowed by like pleasant background music.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I walked quickly to his place. I was frustrated with my unaccustomed clogs and my unsteady footing, but I couldn’t help it. It took me a long time to get ready. It looks like I’ll be arriving just in time.
I hope he likes this yukata…….
A naive idea to any extent. If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if I got a nasty look.
It’s been three years since I’ve been to a summer festival with him. This is the same yukata that I wore when I shook his hand off in the first grade.
I hadn’t had a chance to wear it since that day. Even the size has changed. At first, I thought about choosing a different pattern for a new one, but I still chose this one.
“–But I’m still……” (Hinagi)
What I need is courage. Inspire yourself.
It took courage for me to choose this design again.
The unchange and the changed me.
Even if my appearance changes, even if I grow up, my feelings remain the same. Maybe that’s what I wanted to show.
As I entered junior high school, my surroundings, friends, and even myself were changing rapidly. I can’t remain a pure child. On the other hand, I can’t be an adult either. In the midst of such changes, I sought for something that would not change.
It was right around this time that things started to go wrong with him. I didn’t know how to treat him. It was during this time that I started to be harsh with him. I’m sure that if we had remained childhood friends, this would not have happened.
–But I wanted to go beyond that.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle, he was still the same, trying to hold my hand so we wouldn’t get separated, just like in the past. I rejected him, not because I didn’t want to. I shook him off, simply because I was worried about my sweaty hands, so I secretly wiped them with my handkerchief and waited for him to grab them again.
All I had to do was tell him myself. I laugh at my own stupidity. At that time, I couldn’t even be honest like that anymore.
After that, our hands, which were always linked, were never linked again. I was left in limbo, wondering why he didn’t hold my hand, shifting the blame, and words that I never thought would come out of my mouth kept spilling out. Even after the summer festival was over, the distance between us continued to grow.
I thought we had decided that next year would be the year.
Forgetting such a vow, I denied him again when he tried to change.
If only I could have waited a little longer, my wish would have come true.
He would have needed the courage to make a decision. The courage to change. I was the one who trampled on that. In the worst way possible. I didn’t do anything on my own, on the contrary, I hurt him, and I was always asking for it.
I can’t just wait around. I can’t just be a princess who receives.
–I’ve always made the wrong choice. So this time!
It was my choice to step into the darkness with no way out, throwing around words that were contrary to how I felt. Everything was my own fault.
But he still helped me and protected me, never giving up on me. No matter how bad I became, no matter how much I humiliated myself, no matter how much I made everyone around me hate me.
Everything is my turn now.
From now on, it will always be my turn.
The glass slipper has already been shattered.
There is no carriage to the castle, no witch to push me.
There are many rivals, but that doesn’t matter. I just have to get to where he’s waiting with my legs.
With a bouncy heart, I headed for the meeting place.
This is the only day when the roads are restricted and no cars are allowed to enter. The excitement of the festival. Even from a distance, I could feel the joyful atmosphere.
I’m almost there. I wonder if he’s already waiting for me. I check my watch. I’m only a little late. I should apologize first when I get there.
I have to be honest. No matter what, if I tell him how I feel, he’ll understand. There’s no need to pretend. That’s what I told myself.
“Are you Suzurikawa?” (???)
I heard a horrible voice behind me, frustrating my resolve.
“……Yoshikawa ……?” (Hinagi)
“Oh, come on, you can’t call me that. I’m your senior, after all.” (Yoshikawa)
My high spirits froze as if I had been splashed with cold water. All I could do was mutter his name in a daze. A name that I had avoided even remembering.
I hoped I was mistaken, but even though his body had grown since middle school, his face was unmistakably the Yoshikawa of my memory.
“What’s the matter Toshiya, do you know each other?”
“It’s my ex-girlfriend from middle school.” (Yoshikawa)
Toshiya Yoshikawa. Toshiya Yoshikawa was the guy I went out with when I was in the second year of junior high school. In fact, such days do not exist, but the fact remains as a fact, and no matter how it is, it is impossible to erase.
The word “ex-girlfriend” made me shudder, and I felt nauseous.
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she? Senpai, please introduce me later.” (???)
Yoshikawa was not alone. There were two other men, one larger than Yoshikawa and one smaller. A man with a larger body and a man with a smaller body.
“Long time no see, Suzurikawa” (Yoshikawa)
“—-Why….why are you here!” (Hinagi)
“Just hanging around. Why?” (Yoshikawa)
“What is it, Toshiya? Is there a reason?” (???)
“It was a long time ago.” (Yoshikawa)
I suppressed my trembling body and raised my voice as if to make a show of it, but it had no effect, as if I had been seen through. Finally, my brain, which had stopped thinking, began to spin. I shouldn’t have been dealing with them in the first place.
It’s a big festival. Many students participate in the festival. It’s not unusual to meet someone you know. I should have ignored them and moved on quickly. It was a mistake to stand still like this.
“Are you alone? Then why don’t you go around with us?” (???)
The man who had called Yoshikawa his senior approached him in a familiar manner. Yoshikawa must be in the second grade. I wondered if this man was a first grader like me.
“Just right. Suzurikawa, come with us.” (Yoshikawa)
“Don’t be silly! Why would I…” (Hinagi)
“You don’t want to get messed up again, do you?” (Yoshikawa)
The whispered words brought back flashbacks of my nightmares.
I cried and cried every day, and struggled to find a way out of it. I thought I had finally moved on. I felt as if I was being dragged back into the bottomless pit I thought I had escaped from.
The past, which I thought I had cut off with the help of others, was once again in my way.
“I’ll entertain you. Let’s go, shall we?” (Hinagi)
“I think so. Suzurikawa…… No, it was Hinagi. Let’s let bygones be bygones and get along, shall we?” (Yoshikawa)
He was slowly closing the distance.
Yoshikawa said again. So, if I don’t take Yoshikawa’s hand here, will he destroy it again? The daily life that I had finally obtained. The days that I had hoped to get back.
–And the bond with him.
I can’t bear it anymore.
Like a frog caught in a snake, I couldn’t move.
The courage I had built up had dissipated too quickly.
I couldn’t even raise my voice.
I hung down helplessly. In the end, I hadn’t changed at all. The past would never let go of my grip on my legs. Like being trapped in an ant hell, I couldn’t get out of my despair.
I was weak, and I would always be weak.
I thought I had made up my mind to be strong enough to stand next to him.
There were tears in my eyes.
Yoshikawa grabbed my hand.
I shook off his hand that day, and now he’s not the one holding my hand.
“—-No, I can’t accept that!” (Hinagi)
As if driven by emotion, I had rushed out of the place.
I’ll admit it. I’m weak.
I’m always trying to be strong, and I can never be honest. I’m not like him.
But I’m not alone.
I almost forgot again. I’m sure I’ve made the same mistake over and over again. I might get in trouble again. I’m always relying on him.
Still, what I can’t handle on my own, we can handle together. With him, I can do anything. Let’s start all over again. And this time, I’ll be able to rely on him, to be needed by him.
It’s not one-sided. I want us to be equals.
Because we are “childhood friends”.
“Oh, you’ve been rejected, haven’t you, senior?” (???)
“What the heck. Toshiya, was that really your ex-girlfriend?” (???)
“She’s as annoying as ever.” (Yoshikawa)
Yoshikawa and the others followed Suzurikawa back with their eyes. They had no intention of making a scene in such a crowded place. It was true that they were looking to pick up girls, but there was a lot of trouble at the festival, and the police were keeping a close eye on the area. I was not foolish enough to act without thinking.
“But she looked good.” (???)
“Did you f**k her yet?” (???)
“No. But yes, that would be nice if we did. I don’t want to end up looking like a fool.” (Yoshikawa)
“That’s what I’m talking about! If he looks like that, he’s going to crash easily, isn’t he? …… Come to think of it, Toshiya was quite popular in junior high school, wasn’t he? I like handsome guys. They can do whatever they want.” (???)
“Idiot. I was quiet in middle school.” (Yoshikawa)
“Don’t lie to me, Toshiya.” (???)
“I’m serious. There was a guy in the grade below me who was really bad and he didn’t stand out at all.” (Yoshikawa)
“Was there a guy who could fight?” (???)
“I don’t know, that’s not what…… stopped me. I don’t even want to think about it.” (Yoshikawa)
I almost remembered something very bad and frowned. It’s like a god who won’t touch you. If you get involved, nothing good will come of it. As if to end the conversation, Yoshikawa and the others also walked away.
“Well, I guess I’ll look for someone else today. We’ll get to the real thing after that.” (Yoshikawa)