It’s a harrowing fact in hindsight whenever I thought about it, but I did have an existence called a boyfriend during a certain period of my ninth grade.
It’s the childhood friend who was with me ever since I was young—he’s basically family, and naturally, the one I got together with.
Have you ever loved your older brother? Have you ever admired your own little brother?
Well, there are such people in this world, but there are more people who would have their first crush on a relative they would meet once in a while. More often than not, people would easily fall in love with others they don’t often meet.
And so for me, I never actually thought of him as a love interest.
I heard that there’s a term called a ‘latchkey kid’.
These kids are basically entrusted with their home keys by their parents, return to their homes after school, with no parents at home.
It’s expected that we would have our house keys, that nobody else was at home, but such kids were a minority who were labelled such.
I was still in elementary school back then, so I opened my door as usual, and entered home.
I never got to say ‘Tadaima’.
It’s expected, since I didn’t have anyone to say that to.
I never had a day when I could say ‘sayonara’.
It’s expected, since I didn’t have any friends to say that to.
To be honest, I’m the type who’s extremely reliant on others.
And whenever I got along well with someone, I’d become very clingy, unwilling to leave. I feel anxious whenever there’s a distance pulled between us, and I can be so annoying, just as I did so to Yume-chan back then.
I didn’t have any self-awareness at that point, and didn’t actually put in the effort to control myself…that’s why everyone kept their distance away from me. I didn’t have any friends to go to school with.
I put my randoseru on the living room sofa, looked at the dining table, and found a note that said ‘Dinner’s in the fridge’. I opened it, and found heaps of frozen food. Like usual, I could choose whatever I wanted to eat.
I never thought such a life was a sad thing.
I got used to it, I thought such a life was natural.
But…there were times.
—…What shall I eat today—
Sometimes, I would have to face the reality, that my own mutters would never be answered…that I would feel like crying once in a while.
I sat on the sofa, took the laptop on the living room table, and started surfing video sites. I would watch the new videos from the popular uploaders, and laugh with my legs kicking about.
This was the daily life I had after school.
I could hear noise coming from the house next door.
It’s from Kokkun’s house.
Kokkun’s popular, had lots of friends, and often brought them home. His parents were often not around, he had WiFi and a game console at home, and it’s a great attraction for boys.
I wasn’t exactly ostracized from him back then. He would drop by often for dinner…he’s a naturally sunny character though, so the time he spent with me was reduced, that’s all.
And so I felt it was to be expected.
After all, he seemed happy with his new friends—I didn’t want Kokkun to find me a hassle, just like I did with my other friends.
Would my friend be happy if I invited them home like Kokkun did?
How would they feel? I couldn’t help but imagine. I wasn’t good at reading the mood, and always ruined it. Maybe I was better off being alone. If I were alone, nobody would find me weird for watching these cat teasing videos uploaded onto the site—
—Say Kawanami, are you dating Minami?
It was sudden.
I could hear a loud joking voice from next door, and my heart jolted immediately.
The time has come, and so have I—probably.
That’s probably the phase where for the first time in our lives, we were aware, hoped to grow up, and would whisper things whenever guys and girls were together. That’s how it was.
Kokkun didn’t change his distance from me, and that question was inevitable. Maybe I heard it for the first time in my life, and Kokkun was asked many times before.
How would he answer? I was a little curious.
I wasn’t Kokkun’s girlfriend, and I would be troubled, even though it was a joke. After all, Kokkun’s that popular. I might be viewed as someone who got too ahead of herself, and ended up bullied…
In hindsight, that was such a shallow thought.
I only thought about myself, and never considered other people’s predicament.
Yet Kokkun—was clearly so sincerely concerned about me.
—Huh~? I said that’s not the case.
—She’s a lot more interesting than a girlfriend.
The moment I heard that, I froze up.
I couldn’t think at all, and only my heartbeat continued to echo at my ears.
—So doesn’t that mean you like her?
—Not at all! Don’t say it like it’s the same thing!
Those words slipped into my entire body through my right ear.
The next video played before I realized so.
The laptop dropped onto the floor.
But I didn’t pick it up. I stumbled to my room—
Pomf, and I landed on the bed.
I cupped my pillow onto my chest, and kicked my legs about.
My face was red, as though I had just ran, and my heart beat wildly. The heat’s swirling inside me, but I didn’t know how to cool down at all.
I’d definitely be laughed at. I’ll definitely be gloomy. I couldn’t grumble if he actually passed it off with a yawn.
But despite that, Kokkun’s willing to say my good points.
Maybe it’s just an eye for an eye, or just an instinctive reaction. In hindsight, those words meant nothing. What’s more interesting than a girlfriend anyway?
…But. But. But then.
At that moment, I was so happy, so happy, soo happy I couldn’t help myself, all because of those words, that I nearly went mad.
I guess that was probably when a certain important part inside me crumbled.
—Ahhh, but, it’s troubling. It’s really troubling.
—Wouldn’t that mean Kokkun would be forced to be forever Suguha’ed?
—All because of me. That’s really a pity…
—If one day, Kokkun wants a girlfriend…
—Can’t I just be his girlfriend then?
The seed of Hell sprouted then.
Summer vacation started.
And I was on my bed, in the room, just rolling about aimlessly.
I wasn’t worried about anything.
Even though it was school vacation, I could meet Yume-chan whenever I wanted to—or so I thought.
Yume-chan was a more rigid person than I thought.
She didn’t have any plans to go out to play in July, because she said she wanted to finish her assignments earlier.
I liked this part about her too, but the result was that my vacation was delayed because of Yume-chan. I was suffering due to a Yume-chan deficiency.
I then had an unreasonable rage against Irido-kun for being able to live with Yume-chan under the same roof. I decided to bombard him with LINE emojis on this day due to this grudge. There wouldn’t even be a ‘read’ tag, but I wouldn’t cry over it.
I spent my entire morning like that. At noon, the bell rang. Someone rang my doorbell.
it’s not the intercom at the entrance of the apartments, but the bell at the door. The doors had automatic locks, so it should be a neighbor on the same floor. To be honest, it’s really quite the hassle, but since I had to watch house, I couldn’t just leave it be.
I crossed the clothes scattered all over the floor, went to the entrance, and opened the door without checking the peephole.
Beyond the door was my neighbor.
The one neighbor I was most familiar with, and really didn’t want to meet.
Greeting me frivolously with a wave was the boy next door, of the same age.
To summarize, Kogure Kawanami.
I wanted to shut the door without saying anything.
“Oho, allow me to re-introduce myself.”
But Kawanami stuck his shoe between the door, like a salesman.
I glared at the disgusting smile with blank eyes.
“…What? Hope you’re not intending to just barge into a girl’s house. I’m calling the cops, you know?”
“I didn’t want to show up. Aunty asked me to check on you since she said she hasn’t been back in a while. You just don’t want to do housework even though you can do it, so you’re just going to spend holidays getting wasted, right?”
“…I’m not getting wasted.”
“With that getup? Your hair’s a mess, your collar’s loose, and a closer look shows that you aren’t wearing a bra. Ah, don’t think you need to wear one though.”
“Somebody—!! Save me—!!”
“Shut up with the hijinks! Any neighbor knows this is a bluff from you!!”
Kawanami covered my mouth with his hand, and shoved me to the entrance. He’s basically a criminal. Anyway, let’s kick the groin first.
“Pak!” I felt something hard on my foot.
“Too bad for you. I got my guard up.”
The same move wouldn’t work twice? He’s despicable.
It’s troublesome to shove him back out, so I returned to the living room.
“You’re checking on me? Sure sure. Have a look then?”
“Allow me to then—woah …”
Kawanami followed me into the living room, and squealed as though he saw a cat carcass.
“That’s quite a mess. At least throw away the cup noodles.”
I kicked aside the bento box lying on the floor, and tumbled onto the sofa.
I used to be the one taking care. I really got carried away …
Well, I should use whoever I could. I wasn’t in a mood to clean up.
Kawanami brought a trash bag, stuffed everything on the floor in. He knew without me saying where the trash bags were.
I continued to sprawl on the sofa, playing my cellphone while flailing my legs about. Kawanami saw me like this, scanned everywhere, and looked completely speechless.
“Man, pay attention to how others look at you.”
I was wearing an oversized shirt. Yep, just that, and also a pair of panties underneath. The loose, oversized clothing was basically a one-piece dress that’s more than enough for me. It’s comfy, cooling, and I didn’t have to pay attention to my attire for other people’s sake.
But this Kogure-kun of the Kawanamis seemed rather concerned about the thighs and the vaguely appearing inner parts under the shirt. Haha~?
“So~rry ~then~? Feeling horny from my pretty thighs~? You can go home and relax if you find it unbearable then?”
“Ah yeah. I’m in the mood for big breasts today.”
“I’ll kill you!!”
I threw my cushion over, and Kawanami caught it easily, tossed it back onto the sofa, and picked up the clothes scattered all over the floor.
“Ack, don’t throw your underwear in the living room.”
“Don’t steal them. I don’t have enough to use.”
“Because you got fat?”
“Just because I didn’t wash my clothes!”
“That’s not something to be proud of either.”
I got sick of playing the phone, so I laid down sideways and saw Kawanami deftly clean up the room.
“You don’t care about yourself, but you like to be a busybody to others.”
“From you of all people? Can’t you see? You’re basically the embodiment of having no care in the world.”
“Aren’t you the same when dealing with Irido-kun?”
“Aren’t you the same with Higashira? I heard that you gave her quite a few ideas, right?”
“…I guess similar personalities are derived from the same environment, huh?”
“Huh? Me and you?”
“If you’re trying to annoy me, congrats, it’s super effective.”
…Well, to be honest, it’s ironic that we weren’t alike at all, even though we grew up together like siblings. I was more of a gloomy person, but he’s a natural riajuu.
“Haa~, I’m angry now.”
“Stop complaining. I’ll leave once I can clean up to a point where I can walk through. I got an appointment today.”
“Ehhh~? What? You got a girlfriend?”
“Are you taunting me? You’re taunting me, right?”
I suddenly laughed.
Truth be told…I was the reason why this guy ended up unable to have a girlfriend.
“I got a visitor this afternoon. Won’t be noisy, don’t worry. It’s someone like him after all.”
“Hmm~. Some quiet kid then.”
“Yeah. You know him too.”
Kawanami said as he curled his lips mysteriously.
“Mizuto-kun of the Iridos.”
I proposed to head over, and got rejected by him.
It’s boring. I wanted to see the expression he would make if I pushed down Irido-kun. The latter would probably just shove me aside without changing expressions though. He’s so boring that I wanted to cry…just kidding.
Maybe matching him with Higashira-san’s the best option? I could then free Yume-chan, but what would I do then? Ahh~ I want Yume-chan to sleep with me …
I let my thoughts run wild, and heard a speaking voice from the corridor.
It seemed Irido-kun noticed.
The voice moved to the next door, but it’s too vague that I couldn’t hear it clearly. Well, the soundproof function had improved somewhat since the last time.
It’s rare for Irido-san to drop by. I was curious as to what the aim was, but he never told me. If it’s me, there’s no way I would leave a house with Yume-chan to visit his place. There’s definitely something.
And again, no matter how I pricked my ears, I could only hear a feeble voice.
What were they saying? I couldn’t hear the conversation clearly, and instead, my curiosity was piqued.
“…Well, if I remember correctly…”
I got up slowly, and opened the wall closet in my room. The wall at this point was just a dump stuffed with so many useless tools, but I remembered putting it in there—
“Ah yes, it’s here.”
I found a box with an earphone and a stethoscope, beneath the junk, and pulled it out.
It’s a concrete microphone.
It’s something good that can read the tremors through the wall to accurately capture sound from beyond. It’s a cheap item I bought with my pocket money back in middle school. (TN: 1 set costs at least US$30)
I gently dusted it off, took it to the wall next to the living room, and switched it on. Once I was sure it was switched on, I put on my earphone, and put the stethoscope shaped microphone on the .
“—All the boys in school are so envious of you. You aren’t counting your own blessings man.”
“Stop saying that the grass is greener on the other side. Your situation looks a lot better to me. I’m really envious.”
I could hear the conversation clearly.
…But what were they talking about?
“Haha, I see. So people can only see what’s to be envious of me. To be honest, I rather swap my position with anyone if I can.”
“……No, I don’t think I have to swap positions.”
“Oy, what are you laughing about? It’s disgusting. I don’t mean that. I’m saying that I’ll be glad to push the pain of living under the same roof as that annoying woman to someone else.”
“I get it. I get it.”
“You don’t get it at all…”
Did Irido-kun drop by just to get away from home?
So Irido-kun evacuated here just because he’s sick and tired of seeing Yume-chan 24/7…?
What kind of luxury is that!? I’ll take over if he hates it!
—But if I said so, he’s going to give me that annoyed look again! I knew him well! Argh it’s annoying!
“Time for the resting fee then.”
Kawanami’s voice got a little louder…so loud that I could hear clearly without the microphone.
“You make it sound disgusting…ah whatever, I agreed on this anyway.”
“It’s summer vacation. You got lots of stories, right!”
“Like hell that is. Aren’t you quite the disgusting one? It’s been four months since we started living together. How’s it possible to have accidents so easily.”
“It doesn’t have to be anything big. I just want to hear those worthless daily stories. Like, say…how do you spend noon? I remember you bringing bentos to school.”
“Ahh yeah. That happened before. I didn’t know what brain cells she lost or something, but she said she wanted to cook.”
Yume-chan’s homecooked food!?
“She nearly added her own finger into the ingredients. I ended up cutting the ingredients anyway.”
And…eh? Wait, in other words …
“……Wait, Irido…you two cook together in the same kitchen…?”
Creak creak creak creak!!
I left harsh nail marks on the wall, and the sliding nails rang through the concrete microphone, into my ears, causing unexpected Aoe damage to me.
“J-just to ask, how’s the taste?”
“It’s bad, of course? It’s a little charred.”
That guy doesn’t know the joy he’s in!!!!!!
In that case, I should—
“……But it’s a lot better compared to the last time.”
The voice seemed a little stiff, and somewhat displeased.
I immediately understood after hearing.
—It’s actually delicious, right!!?
“Irido…let me ask first.”
“When you said, ‘it’s a lot better than before’, did you tell Irido-san that?”
“Huh? How could I? I couldn’t let her get giddy by that alone.”
”Say something already!!” “Say something already!!””
The voice beyond the wall resounded with mine. I really couldn’t contain my own voice.
I was glad to see that Yume-chan’s opinion of Irido-kun went down the gutter, Yume-chan’s really pitiful though!
“……Hm? Was there a voice just now…?”
“Ah, huh~, maybe a video noise was loud or something? More importantly, do you have something else? Anything!?”
“Anything else, huh…I found out that her air conditioning broke in July, so she evacuated to the living room until it got repaired. Then there was once when I saw her fall asleep on the sofa—”
Whenever Irido-kun said a story, the gnashing of teeth echoed in my room.
If only it was me! I could spend the next month happily if I were in that situation!
I was on the verge of shedding tears of blood, but thanks to my Yume-chan addiction, I really couldn’t give up the opportunity to hear stories of Yume-chan living at home.
I was suffocated by jealousy, and my heart was about to pop out of my chest. My thoughts just rumbled about inside me, and I felt dizzy, as though I got drunk.
“Yep~, that’s the way! Anything else? “
“……I’m tired. Don’t let me do all the talking, Kawanami, say something about yourself.”
“Isn’t Minami-san living next door? There’s always a story or two, right? I don’t have interest in her, but she’s quite the enigma. I don’t know what she’ll do, so I want to guess how she’ll try to act.”
Wha…so just as he mentioned about Yume-chan, he wants Kawanami to talk about me?
I quickly cooled down, my heart stifled by jealousy and happiness.
“Ahh—…for Irido-san’s sake? You’re rather doting as an older stepbrother.”
“Don’t try to laugh it off.”
S…stopppp—! Refuse right here, right now! You should know what’ll happen if you dare say it now, right!?
“Well, I do…but I’ll say this first, our stories aren’t as cute as Irido-san’s there. To be honest, she did some things that’s completely illegal.”
“I know. That’s why I’m asking. I won’t say anything you won’t say—that’s enough ‘rest fee’ right?”
“……Ehh, you’re rather pragmatic.”
I really wanted to hit the wall then, but it’d reveal that I was eavesdropping, and there’ll be another dark history to my story collection. But, I couldn’t pretend not to know at this point…uuu!
“I guess…that happened in elementary school.”
Before I could act, Kawanami started talking.
“We bought our cellphones together.”
“In elementary school? That’s early.”
“Our parents always weren’t at home. They allowed us to buy so that we could contact each other. Well, since we bought them together, we exchanged phone numbers, LINE IDs, and the like.”
“And that that was the start of the message bombardments.”
“I guessed so. She’s been bombarding me with them recently, though I didn’t read them.”
Th-that was because I was so excited to receive a phone. It’s not because I wanted to chat with him every day, not because I fell for his voice, how it would echo in my ear. I just felt like I bought a new toy. Nothing else!!
“I too was happy to receive a phone, and I was glad to play along at the start…but I slowly started to get sick of it. The LINE messages and calls stopped coming that frequently thereafter…and then it started.”
“I thought all the landmines exploded. There’s still more?”
“Yeah. One day, our parents returned home late, so I called her out for dinner—guess what happened?”
Wait…you’re mentioning that too!?
“Hmm? She didn’t pick up the call?”
“She didn’t. After all—she hid her phone under my pillow”
Irido-kun blurted, obviously not understanding the situation, and my ears hurt.
“The notification vibration came from under my pillow. In other words, she hid her phone over there without me knowing it.”
“Did she forget it though…doesn’t seem so.”
“That’s what I thought, so I returned it to her. She’s still a kid then—I never would dream that my childhood friend would eavesdrop on me.”
P-please…please allow me to explain …….
It was, really, it was just in the spur of the moment…it’s convenient for me, so I couldn’t stop my hands, and uh…well, as long as I recorded the voice, we didn’t have to call each other… (TN: Again, a reminder that the author writes “Do You Think You Can Run After Reincarnating, Nii-san?)
Uuuu! Doesn’t this mean that I haven’t grown at all! It’s no different from my thought process when I intruded Yume-chan’s house!
“I never noticed until the very end. Only when I got into middle school, after everything else happened, did I realize and go all ‘ahh, that’s how it is’. I had radiowave detectors at home to counter the eavesdropping. Even now, I have a habit of checking regularly.”
“…How do I put this?”
Irido-kun cautiously chose his words. It spoke lots instead.
“I can’t believe…you can handle such a neighbour so calmly …”
“I’m a guy who experienced the depths of Hell. This place is already heaven in hell.”
“Just to ask, is today fine?”
“Of course. I’d say that nothing much happened ever since I entered high school…but well, there are some spying devices that can’t be detected by radiowave detectors. Like—”
Kawanami lectured pretentiously.
“—Like a concrete microphone or something.”
My heart jolted.
…Did he realize? That’s why he wanted me to hear this?
So he told me Irido-kun’s dropping by…just to rub it in on me!?
I-I was had…! Why did he spend so much thought into doing this!? Did he hate me that much!?……No, I knew he definitely hated me . He could have ignored me. It’s one thing that I annoyed him, so why did he …
Anyway, since he knew of this, there’s no need for me to continue playing along.
Right when I was about to move the microphone away.
The microphone caught his voice that was a little gentler in tone.
“I don’t think there’s a need to be that wary. She’s just…someone who got lonely a little easily compared to others.”
“I don’t think it’s a case of a little after hearing that story …”
“She may act like this, but she’s a lot better than before. She actually regrets barging into your house illegally. She should be fine if she doesn’t go crazy again.”
“Then, if she goes crazy again, what should we do?”
“If that happens—”
Kawanami said somewhat jokingly.
“—I just have to stop her, right?”
I gently moved the microphone away from the wall.
…He never intended for me to hear those words, right? He thought I would put down the microphone the moment I realized I was eavesdropping—
— I just have to stop her, right?
It’s true that I was someone who got lonely easily.
It’s true that I was a weak human who would freeze without the warmth of others.
“…At this point, I don’t need you.”
“Yo, I’m here. Why call me here early in the morning?”
The next morning, I called Kawanami to my place.
There’s only one reason why I called him over.
“Clean up for me.”
“Again with this? You never cleaned up yourself since then? Obviously you angered Aunty—”
So Kawanami said as he entered the living room, and frowned in surprise.
“—Aren’t you done already? I don’t need to clean up then …”
The kitchen was once in a mess, and the floor was once covered in the change of clothes and trash was all cleaned up by me. The old me didn’t have the motivation to do so, and I could do it if I wanted to.
The room’s not what I wanted to clean up.
“This is what I want to clean up.”
I said as I tapped the microphone with a stethoscope, and a box device with an earphone.
It’s a concrete microphone.
“Mind throwing this for me?”
Once I said it calmly, Kawanami turned from my eyes to the microphone.
“…Of course not. I’ll like that. But really?”
“Of course. I can’t hear Yume-chan’s with this after all.”
“Anyway, throw that away yourself. I don’t know how and where to discard this.”
“…I’m the type who’s bad at giving up things. I’ll find all kinds of excuses…to keep things.”
The things I should have thrown. The things I discarded.
Either way, they still remained in my hands.
“I investigated how to discard them then…please do.”
For the time being, I thought I should ask him honestly.
I looked up at Kawanami, and after a while, he let out a deep sigh, and scratched his head.
“Got it…but there’s a condition.”
“You’ll make tonight’s dinner. I’m getting sick of the food at the family restaurant.”
Kawanami gently lifted the microphone.
I looked up at that face, and suddenly giggled stupidly.
“And you said I get lonely easily.”
Kawanami turned around abruptly.
He reacted a tad later,
“Wait, did you hear—”
The microphone then dropped onto the floor with a thud.
I turned my back on him.
I successfully dumped this troublesome matter to someone else, so let’s give Yume-chan a call ~♪
“Hello~? Yume-chan? Are you done with homework ~?”
“No, hear me out! Yo-you heard that, didn’t you!?”
I’m not listening.
At this point, I wouldn’t be amused to see you blush anyway.