Now, who exactly took this picture?
I thought the most likely possibility was the Shirakawa faction (including Itakura).
They are the ones who do most of the harassing.
Another possibility was Sonoda.
Currently, there was no one else I could think of.
Well, there was no point in thinking about something I didn’t know.
But there is something else that is bothering me.
I wondered if Shirakawa and Sonoda knew about the circumstances of each other.
To begin with, how much does Sonoda know about what Shirakawa and the others have been doing?
Or, have Shirakawa and the others been able to accomplish their original goal?
Probably not, I don’t think Shirakawa has. Given that guy’s target, I don’t think Shirakawa has the personality to be dominated by her.
But what about Shinohara?
I’m sure his goal is to get in Sonoda’s good graces. And if he gets to the point where they end up going out….
I wish he would stop using other people as an excuse.
Anyway, I can’t let this go any further, emotionally speaking.
To be honest, I’ve crossed the line in the past, but this is just another one of those changes of heart.
I wonder if this is one of the changes in my mind.
No, perhaps a change in environment is more accurate.
Because I am sure I can get back what I lost. I finally realized that even if I lose something, just knowing that there is a place for me can change a person so much.
Although not as much as I once did, I felt I could understand Fukumura’s thoughts a little better.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that her idea was, for me, the very —“ideal.”
That may be why. I was not compatible with her.
I was so afraid that I would be the one to destroy that ideal.
Maybe it was hubris. However, as someone who had experienced this, I was unable to believe this woman, who was stranger to me.
I couldn’t help but compare her to myself.
I don’t think she will be involved any more.
However, depending on the situation she is in, I wonder if I should take action.
If I were in the opposite situation, I would say no. I don’t want to involve others in the consequences of my actions.
But if I were talking about “ideals,” I would say yes.
I wonder if that “ideal” is still there in her.
My conversations with her have decreased dramatically. I know why. Something must have happened to Fukumura.
I don’t know the details, but I’m sure it has something to do with Sonoda.
This is a turning point for me. Whether to get involved with Fukumura or not.
Half of me feels responsible. The other half was a desire to let it go, as if I had already given Fukumura some advice.
In the end, I could not give an answer, and I gave a lousy answer of postponing the problem.
Then, during lunch break, I received a shocking news.
”Hey, did you hear that? Shinohara’s going out with Sonoda!”
”Uwa! Seriously. Eh, where did that come from?”
“I don’t know from whom, but it seems that she accepted his confession.”
What a surprise, it was an information about Sonoda’s relationship.
The other party is Shinohara, the very person who is the subject of the problem that is currently plaguing me.
In other words, did he succeed in his plot?
No, it was too good to be true. Rather, I thought the timing was too good.
This was happening in the midst of all the other things going on.
I was not optimistic enough to accept the information as it was.
There must be something contrived. I sensed something close to a certainty.
Despite this, after school I was working part-time as usual. Money is important.
Then Sakakibara said something to me.
”Senpai, are you worried about something?”
I was a little surprised at her words. I was indeed troubled.
“Aah, maybe it’s on my face?”
“I don’t mean your face…it’s more like your mood.”
Atmosphere, huh….. It wasn’t my intention.
But if that’s the case from the perspective of a mere junior, I am sure it was just an overt attitude.
I had to be careful. I tightened my grip on the situation.
I’m sorry. I’ll be careful.”
“…It’s not like you’re bothering me or anything.”
What I got back was something like that. Not a nuisance or anything?
“Eh? What do you mean?”
”—So, you know, maybe you could… you know, talk to me a little bit about it?”
She said this with a modest upward glance.
This is… I seem to have made her feel uncomfortable.
However, this is a school thing. I don’t want to bother even my part-time junior staff.
“No, it’s not about part-time job. I’m fine”
”…That’s not what I meant.”
”It’s nothing! Now, let’s get to work, back to work”
She kind of shrugged it off.
(I mean, I was talking like a normal person.)
I tried to keep my distance from her as much as possible, and tried to keep communication to a minimum, but somehow I felt like I was getting closer to her as well.
Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I am at a loss to decide.
I guess it all started with my conversation with Sachi.
I’m starting to feel a bit pathetic because my sister is helping me so much.
I decided to concentrate on my work to distract myself. I took down the dishes and put away the dishes.
It was after 8:00 p.m. when most of the work was done. It was past eight o’clock.
It was almost time to close the restaurant when I spotted someone outside the restaurant.
“Hey, is that Fukumura-san?”
”O-ou. I think so”
Sakakibara came out from the side, and I flinched a little at the proximity.
Anyway, the figure was Fukumura.
“—-Senpai, are you dating that girl?”
“Eh? Don’t make fun of me…Sakakibara?”
At first I thought Sakakibara was teasing me, but then she looked at me with serious eyes.
It was a look that would not allow any deception.
“—We are just classmates. And we’re in different classes.”
It wasn’t a lie, and I couldn’t have given a better answer.
I turned away from the fact that something was stuck in my chest.
But Sakakibara didn’t seem to be convinced by that answer.
Again, she looks up at me. What is it? I feel like I’m familiar with this feeling….
(Aah, is it similar to Sachi’s?)
I can’t help but feel the distance between us, or the gestures.
”It’s true. We are not in love or anything like that.”
”Funn. Then it’s fine. right?”
What do you mean ‘then it’s fine’?
Would you please go a little further away from me? It would be so much easier if I could say so directly.
Maybe if I told her, she would get unhappy again. So I can’t and won’t say it.
“Why don’t you ask her to wait inside for now? You’ re almost done senpai, aren’t you? I will come later”
”…I guess so. I will be going.”
It would be a complete red herring if I had no use for this at all, but I don’t think that’s going to happen by waiting here in the stones.
I left the store and called out to Fukumura.
She was startled by a voice I had never heard before.
It was bad enough that I called out to her from behind.
“Uhm, you need something?’
In a manner of speaking, she asked.
“Uhm, well, I wanted to talk to you for a minute, Kitami.”
The answer came back as expected.
”I’m almost done with my part-time job. Please wait inside. No need to ask me for anything.”
The manager would probably allow me to do that.
”Oh, thanks. I’ll do that.”
Fukumura entered the store and took a seat.
I took care of the rest of the work. Soon after, I finished my work and changed into my uniform.
Then the manager spoke to me.
“I’m going to leave the store open for a while, so you can talk inside, okay?”
It was a very kind offer. He must have sensed that I was involved in something that had happened the other day. The thoughtfulness made my heart warm.
”Thank you very much.”
I took him at his word and decided to borrow some space in the store.
”Sorry to keep you waiting.”
With that, I put two latte’s on the table and sat down.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s just a service.”
”I cant….. Thank you.”
That’s very sweet of you. At least, that’s what I thought.
The way in which she interacted with me was very different in the past.
She was more reserved, or at least that’s what I thought.
“So, what did you want to talk about?”
I asked her.
She slowly opened her mouth and began to speak.
” Uhm… where should I start?”
Slowly, she began to speak, picking up each word one by one.
Without interrupting, I silently waited for her to speak.
She took a sip of her latte, drank it down.
“For now…..I just want to apologize.”
She then looked down at me with her eyes slightly downcast.
Her shoulders shook a little, reminding me of a child who knows she is about to be scolded.
She seemed quite nervous. I could see that even from the corner of my eye.
”I’m sorry for all the selfishness and trouble I’ve caused you.”
She bowed her head. Her figure looked so small.
My heart swirled with disappointment that I had allowed such a thing to happen to her.
I understand. She had it coming.
I’m not saying it’s my fault.
I won’t make that mistake. I will not misunderstand the meaning of her apology.
So I don’t deny her guilt.
I was certainly annoyed and smothered by her at the time.
I try to be honest with her, including that.
But I was interrupted by someone.
”Wait, Maika!? What did he do to you?!”
I was about to open my mouth.
It was Mizuki Itakura who entered the store.