Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
-sensei: A suffix and noun that literally means teacher.
The following happened when I was in fifth grade, on a hot day in the crux of summer. The August sun prickled my skin that day, and I sat in the park by myself. Haruka had gone back to her grandparents’ house in the countryside, so I had no one to talk to.
This was the park I used to play with my sister, but since that day I’d never been here with her again. Even though I was there, I had no clue what to do by myself. I looked around the park, lost. My eyes then caught sight of some brats bullying a kitten at the edge of the park, right where the clearing gave way to the trees.
I tried to stop their cruelty by separating them, but due to my promise to Haruka, I didn’t put much of a fight. I ended up beaten to a pulp.
“Ugh… It hurts…” I touched the apple of my cheeks where they hit me. It was still red and ached, but I was able to protect that little cat. My bruises were a small price to pay for its safety. “…You alright, pal?”
He seems to be. Thank goodness… Relief washed over me as he started meowing back to me.
“…Why did you get beat up without doing anything about it, boy?”
When I turned back to the source of the voice, I saw someone looking at me with curiosity. The overwhelming white was almost like a flashbang, and I instinctively put a hand over my eyes.
“Who…? Um, mis… ter?”
He had an androgynous face but was too tall for a woman. At least that’s how I saw it.
“Hm? Oh, just think of me as a passing friend of justice.”
He’s a weird guy. At the time I had that impression of him. Well, I still do.
“So why? Why didn’t you resist?”
“I… I made a promise to Haru-chan.”
“Ha? A promise?”
“That I wouldn’t fight…”
Hearing my words, Hikaru crossed his arms. “Hmm…” He wondered what to say, and after a few moments of silence looked at me with a serious expression on his face. “Hey, do you know the difference between a fight and a battle?”
Both are still about hurting people. What the hell is this guy on about?
“Yup, they’re completely different. A fight is when you swing your fists in response to your feelings. A battle, however, is when you use your strength to protect something.”
“Mhm. It doesn’t matter if it’s your family, your friends, your pride, or anything else. To battle is to use your strength to protect something you absolutely hold dear to yourself.”
I nodded my head, but the concept was still too difficult for me to understand. Hikaru was a bit troubled when he noticed that.
“You don’t get it, huh… Well, you don’t have to get it now, but if you don’t have enough strength when the time comes, you won’t be able to protect anything. Don’t you agree?”
“You don’t have to use your fists for yourself. Instead, be a man who can fight without hesitating to protect something! For the future, I’ll start teaching you how to fight today!”
“Hey, wait a second—!”
After that, my screams and his laughter echoed through the park. Hikaru taught me a lot more than just how to fight. That encounter may have been the worst, but I gradually began to trust him.
“Oh, this brings back memories.”
When I tell him about the day we met, Hikaru’s eyes close nostalgically.
“Who would’ve thought that kiddo would turn into our number two.”
“You’re only two years older than me. Zip it,” he’s 16 now. I don’t deserve to be called a kid.
“Mitsui got very disappointed. He’d been defending the second place for a long time, yet you still easily took it away from him.”
He was the second best in the White Dragon Pylon, but I beat him the day before, so now he’s the third.
“Should I apologize?” I asked.
“Nah, don’t. It’ll hurt him even more. Besides, I don’t even think the girls will.”
“Ah, the Mad Fighters…”
The Mad Fighters was a ladies’ team that we were close to. Don’t get your hopes up though, they weren’t beautiful. Just a bunch of amazons.
“Yeah, that’s what I mean,” Hikaru continued. “More importantly, Tatsumi… Now that I think about it, was it a good idea? To join us?”
I told Hikaru about what happened between Haruka and me, so he must be concerned about that. However, I broke that promise with my own two hands. It’s already over. And besides, I’d like to help the guy who helped me out so far. While this is all I can do, it’s better than nothing.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here. Oh, sorry to jump the gun here, but can I ask you to go out with me next time?”
“Yeah, my dad says there’s a team called the Black Death made up of high schoolers, and it seems they’re doing pretty bad stuff. Even the police can’t handle them, so…”
“Ah, the usual.”
The White Dragon group is indeed a team of delinquents, but we’re not bad. If you had to describe us, we’re more like vigilantes, dealing with the bad guys when the police can’t. Well, despite that I couldn’t just brag about it. I mean, it’s no different than random brawling at the side of the road…
“I’m the second-best here, so I’ll go as well,” with that, I stand up and walk the steps to the auditorium.
“Where are you going?”
“My throat is a bit dry, I’ll just grab some coffee.”
I replied to Hikaru and walked to the nearby vending machine. As I reached the top of the stairs, I met the machine glowing eerily in the darkness of night. As soon as I get there, I buy an unsweetened iced coffee.
Autumn was already upon us, so chilly winds perambulated the night. Even so, I was in the mood for a cold drink, probably from the matches I just went through.
Psshhh! I opened the can and took a sip of the cold and brown… Ugh, bitter.
I say so, but I’m a coffee drinker. For some reason, though, today’s drink was way more unpalatable than usual, as if it represented my innermost feelings. I made the wrong choice here. It would’ve been nice to have something sweet, even if only at a time like this.
As I was about to drink the rest of the coffee, I heard someone walking in from the entrance of the park where the auditorium was. Night was too thick to see clearly, but they seemed to be coming my way. Eventually, the figure walked close enough to be illuminated by the flickering light of the vending machine, and her outline finally becomes clear.
It was the girl my mind couldn’t help but think about earlier, my childhood friend. Her chestnut hair was disheveled unlike its usual primness, and her breathing was rough, as though she ran a marathon here. I was the one to call out to her, but I was still not used to using her last name. It’s not what I’d normally use.
“Haah… Haah… Takkun…” Her voice echoed through the night.
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