TL: To clarify who’s Itakura is, she is Emi’s (best?)friend and the one spreading rumor’s about him.
I turned my head toward Itakura asking,
“You know, in Itakura’s mind, what am I supposed to have done?”
Let’s just check there for now.
“Well… You bullied Emi, and maybe it got out and you got harassed. It’s your own fault that you got being bullied, so don’t play the victim, okay?”
Itakura replies. She is now calmer than she was a moment ago.
”You stopped coming to school, then you transferred to another school and went into hiding. In short, you ran away.”
Itakura said clearly that I ran away.
(Indeed, I might have run away…).
But I don’t think running away is wrong, not now and not in the past.
What is wrong with running away from something painful?
Is it wrong to try to avoid suffering?
I don’t think so.
”There are two things that are wrong.”
”Say it. Tell me.”
Itakura shows a willingness to listen. Fukumura was waiting for me to tell the truth as well.
“It was Sonoda who was bullied first. That’s not wrong.”
I explained step by step.
But the people who bullied Sonoda were other classmates, and I had nothing to do with it.
“No, such things…! That can’t be true!?”
Itakura can’t hide her surprise at my words.
That’s probably true. All of the abuse that she had hurled at me was based on the premise that I had been bullying Sonoda.
Now that premise has been destroyed.
”I’m sorry, but it’s true. The fact that I was bullying Sonoda doesn’t existent.”
“That’s a lie! Emi said you bullied her!”
To be precise, Emi did not say so, but only the people around her judged her that way, but these two had no way of knowing that.
“That’s a lie!”
“It can’t be true!! Because, because! why didn’t you ever say anything back!!”
The reason is simple.
But from Itakura’s point of view, that was the most important thing.
”At the time, I did talk back. But nobody believed me. So the truth became what it was. I didn’t have enough to overturn it.”
”Even if that were true! Then why did Emi make you the culprit? That’s of no benefit to Emi!”
Itakura was right about the information so far.
But she and I have different ideas.
”I’ll tell you the rest of the story.”
Then I continued.
The next target of those who bullied Sonoda was me. That’s why I was bullied. That’s what Itakura was talking about when you said that I was being hounded and so on.”
”I… I don’t understand. Because if that story is true, both of you are just victims! Stop lying!”
That’s right. That’s the way it should have been.
If both of us had been victims, the outcome would have been different. We would have found a better place to land.
But that was not going to happen. Because—-
”Are you saying that Emi might have been the perpetrator?”
It was Fukumura who said that, not me.
“W-what, you’re saying that Emi is the perpetrator… You mean she’s on the bullying side?”
Itakura was stunned by what she said.
”That’s right. The ones who bullied me were the ones who originally bullied Sonoda and Sonoda herself.”
”That’s impossible… How is that possible?”
”I’m sorry, but I’m not lying. This is the truth.”
I told Itakura as if admonishing her.
But Itakura still can’t believe it.
“I-It can’t be true! It might be a hoax! What reason do you have for not lying?!”
It would certainly look like I was lying to Itakura.
But I already have…
”Kitami, you have it, don’t you? Proof.”
Fukumura looks me in the eye and asks me that.
Yes. I have proof.
”You said it earlier. That there wasn’t enough to overturn it. Now that you’ve told me, there’s enough to change their minds, right?”
I answered Fukumura’s question without looking away.
Of course, the evidence was Miyajima. I was sure she would testify to the correctness of the story.
However, Itakura was still unconvinced by what she heard.
“—But even so, I can’t believe that Emi is to blame, or that she has done anything wrong….”
With a look that says she’s not ready to give up yet, she continues.
”Anyways! There might have been some circumstances! For example, maybe she was threatened by the bully. In any case, Emi is not just a perpetrator…”
Itakura said, softening her tone.
“—it could be”
I only said one sentence in reply.
It was a sincere remark.
”—! I-If that’s the case!”
”Sorry, but that’s not the same thing as this. Sonoda or not, I’m not going to leave things to being beaten up.”
Now… I added in my mind.
If it had been me before, I would have stopped at this point.
But that’s not the case now. That’s all there is to it.
”—-I can’t believe it.”
”…I guess so.”
It must be shocking. The person he trusted had lied to him.
I knew how hard it was for him.
”—I’m going home. I’m sorry, but I’d like to talk to you again.”
”Okay, another time.”
Itakura left the store with unsteady steps.
Itakura’s backside looked terribly lonely in my eyes.
I, Fukumura, and Sakakibara remained in the restaurant.
”I’m sorry, Sakakibara. For making you hear this story.”
”No, I was rather glad that you told me.”
Telling her that I was glad to hear that, I turned to Fukumura again.
“This is about how it is. Are you satisfied?”
Satisfied or not? For Fukumura, it was the truth at last.
“No. Not at all.”
What came back was such an answer.
The unexpected answer surprised me a little.
“Because there are things you haven’t told me yet.”
Fukumura turned her head down a little and said in a slightly sulky manner.
What have I not told her? I had an idea of what he was talking about.
And then, as I had expected, Fukumura asked me a question.
”—Why did the target change to Kitami?”
Fukumura’s eyes told me that I would not be deceived.
Why did the target change to me?
I had a hypothesis based on the look in her eyes when she asked me that.
“—-Perhaps you are aware of it?”
I had a feeling that she already knew.
”I don’t know. But… I believe that Kitami is not a bad guy.”
I don’t know. But I have faith.
It’s something I once reached out for, but couldn’t grasp at the time.
It is being offered to me now. I felt reassured.
”—-Could it be that Senpai was involved in this because of So-Sonoda? Was it because you helped Sonoda?”
It was Sakakibara who interrupted here. I knew she was listening to the conversation. I thought it would be okay with her and left it at that.
And it was the right decision.
“Aah, that’s right”
”I knew it…”
It was Fukumura who said that. What, did you know?
“If that’s the case, I can’t forgive her.”
Sakakibara muttered angrily.
I felt grateful that someone was angry with me.
”Well, then why didn’t you say so earlier? It’s as if you were protecting me.”
I couldn’t even verbalize it well.
It is true that I deliberately and consciously concealed the fact.
I am sure of that.
But when asked why, I couldn’t figure it out.
“—-I think Kitami is too kind.”
That’s what Fukumura said. I am too kind.
That was what Sachi had said to me just recently.
”Let me ask you something. Kitami, in the end, do you think of Emi as a victim or a perpetrator?”
I surprise myself that the answer doesn’t come immediately. And I think I understand a little bit what Fukumura was trying to say, what Sachi said to me that time.
”I think Kitami was convinced by Mizuki’s words earlier. That, you know, Emi had her own reasons.”
”I think she’s still the victim in her mind. That’s why he is so careful about Emi, even in this situation. He avoids making her the bad guy.”
Stoned. I was convinced of those words.
Ah, yes. I had always been like that.
I had never blamed Sonoda for betraying me.
I certainly felt hatred and even jealousy for her position.
But I had never blamed Sonoda.
I could not even realize it myself. She made me realize that.
”That may be one of the good things about Kitami, though.”
Fukumura smiled a little self-deprecatingly as she said this.
At the time, I still did not know what that smile meant.
”—-I don’t understand what you mean.”
Sakakibara was the one who interrupted.
“That is clearly crazy. I’m sorry, senpai, but I think it’s wrong.”
Wrong, she said.
And there is another that also agrees with that idea.
“Yes. I think so, too. I don’t think you take care of yourself.”
”Yes. Well, I understand the self-sacrifice in rescuing someone from bullying, but after that. Of course, the other bully was wrong, but clearly, Sonoda was also wrong. It’s a wonder that you are not in the dimension of forgiving or not forgiving that person…”
It is true that I have never thought of forgiveness or not forgiveness in that way.
”If it were me, I would have hated her. I would be so resentful that I would curse her.”
”Curse? That’s an exaggeration…”
”I’m not exaggerating. Senpai is crazy. The reason you decided to do all this is for Fukumura-san’s sake, isn’t it? There is no level of good-naturedness here, to be honest.”
When you say it that clearly, I can’t say anything.
”Well, that’s… well… maybe…”
She suddenly started to speak so softly that I couldn’t hear what she said.
“Nothing! Well, anyway, I’m just saying that I want you to take better care of yourself.”
“I understand. I’ll be careful.”
It was a good advice from a junior colleague. I’ll keep that in mind.
I mean, thank you for today, Kitami. I’m sorry I came all the way out here, sorry?”
”No, I’m glad we had a good talk. Well, you better go home.”
After thanking the manager who was waiting for us at the back of the store, we left the store together. In the end, there was no need to ask him to drive us home.
There are many things to do.
But first, I decided to buy some souvenirs for the people waiting for me.