Hellping

I can say now that I was young and foolish, but I had an existence called a boyfriend between my second and third years of middle school.

What a wonderful time.

Yes. I won’t be stubborn and deny it anymore.

I was really happy during the time I was Mizuto Irido’s girlfriend—at least until the summer vacation of my third year..

In hindsight, the peak of that happiness—was definitely that day.

Not Christmas. Not Valentine’s Day. Not any special day.

Just an ordinary day.

It was a day when we left the classroom separately as usual, met up outside the school, and went home together.

Days passed since we started dating, and we were getting used to walking hand in hand―that was when I started to think about the next step.

“When was your first kiss?”

Popping up in my mind was the headline of an internet article I saw.

I was thinking of those untrustworthy, vague numbers like ‘●th date’ and ‘x months of dating’, and I kept glancing at my boyfriend’s face as we walked hand in hand.

Maybe…it’s about time?

All the conditions written on the internet were mostly fulfilled.

I guess…we should try it?

We were on the familiar route from school, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous.

From time to time, I was worried he would notice my thoughts through my grip or sweat, and I was jittery.

But at the same time…I too hoped that he would realize my feelings, so I took the initiative to suggest.

I knew very well.

No matter how foolish I was, after dating for so long, I should have known.

Mizuto Irido would never take the initiative to kiss.

So in other words, I had to suggest it…?

But, how do I go about doing it…?

So I panicked for dozens of minutes or so, and we arrived at the same place where we usually said goodbye.

Usually, I wouldn’t feel lonely.

I could talk to him on my phone once I got home, and I could see him the next day.

But on this day―

―See you tomorrow then.

Irido-kun gently waved his hand, and turned his back on me.

At that moment.

It happened completely instinctively.

I abruptly reached my hand out, and grabbed Irido-kun’s arm.

―Hm?

Irido-kun looked back at me in confusion.

In the end…I couldn’t say anything.

I just stared at him.

Jiiiiii―

I continued to look at his eyes, but, nothing.

Please notice.

Please notice.

Please notice.

So I prayed―and resolved myself.

I closed my eyes and raised my chin.

I would have to die if I didn’t go through with this.

My back was against the wall.

My heart was beating so fast that it felt like it was going to burst, and my body froze like stone.

I didn’t know how many more seconds passed.

I thought I made a mistake by closing my eyes.

If I had at least kept my eyes open, I could have waited while watching Irido-kun.

But I couldn’t open my eyes here.

Ahhh, what do I do, what do I do! Irido-kun, are you still here? I’m still holding your hand. Is it alright? I’m not left behind―

And then my lips touched something warm.

At that moment, the tension that bound my entire body was gone.

The frantic heartbeat became a peaceful rhythm that engulfed me.

Thack. Our teeth touched.

And naturally, we moved our lips away from each other.

I finally opened my eyes―and saw my boyfriend’s face, reddened by the evening glow.

―…Iri

I felt a pleasant warmth rise to my face, and covered my lips with my hand.

―Surprisingly…it’s difficult, right?

And then he smiled faintly at me, as though to hide his own embarrassment.

―…Let’s slowly get used to this.

This was the moment.

This was the happiest moment of my life.

From now on, I can do this with him, over and over again, forever and ever.

At that moment, I wondered if it was permissible to have such a feeling, and I felt all fluffy.

Once I returned home, I set this date as my phone password.

And so I felt that by doing so, this utmost happiest would continue forever.

…Even though it wasn’t possible.

Everything had to come to an end after all.

In a certain sense, it was a symbolic episode.

I was the kind of person who always left everything to others, even for those things I wanted to do.

And because of that,

That’s why you ended up attending the summer festival alone―Yume Ayai.

◆Yume Irido◆

“Yume-chan…that’s great!”

Madoka-san, dressed in a yukata, looked at me as if she were licking my body from bottom to top, her eyes filled with excitement.

“You’re so skinny, it’s like you’re born to wear a kimono…! That’s great! Perfect! A Yamato Nadeshiko! Hey, how about a taisho romantic style!? I can get a costume!”

“N-no need…a yukata’s fine.”

I was a little taken aback by Madoka-san’s vigor and looked at my reflection in the mirror.

My first date with Mizuto was during the summer festival. The one I wore back then was navy blue, a calm color base.

But this time, Madoka-san forced me to wear a flashy white yukata with red flowers.

“You look like fireworks blooming on earth! This year’s fireworks display will be a disaster because everyone will be looking at you, Yume-chan!”

“No, erm…you’re just making fun of me, right?”

“I’m being honest though…”

Madoka-san pouted. She was wearing a plain navy blue that seemingly blended into the darkness. “I’ll fulfill my role as Kuroko the stagehand!” so she said.

“Come on, come on, come on. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! Mizuto-kun’s waiting~.”

“Why is Mizuto here…”

“Okay okay. Whatever you say, Yume-chan. I want to see his reaction!”

I couldn’t really refuse as Madoka-san had put these clothes on me. She nudged me in the back, and we left the entrance.

The car was waiting outside.

The festival was held in the town near the station, so uncle Mineaki gave us a ride; he was going on a date with mom.

Mizuto and Chikuma-kun waited for us over there.

Madoka-san pushed me before them and looked over my shoulder, grinning away at Mizuto.

“What do you think? What do you think? Pretty right~?”

Mizuto looked at me with his usual sleepy eyes.

As though he was appraising me in the yukata―

―He’s wearing a grey yukata.

“…Now then.”

“Hm?”

I ignored the surprised Madoka-san and went towards Mizuto in the yukata, step by step.

“Eh, can we have…a photo, together!?”

ITTT SSSUUUIIIIITTTTSSSSS HHHHHHIIIIIIIIMMMMMM~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!!

What the hell? What’s with this guy? Was he born to wear kimonos? His slender frame, his caressing shoulders, his body lines, everything made that simple plain yukata look so beautiful! Kuuu~, I have to record this…save it in my phone…

Mizuto narrowed his eyes and took a step away from me.。

“…Feels disgusting. Better not.”

“Why!? It’s not disgusting at all! There’s nothing cooler than you! I guess even you can’t be underestimated in that yukata!”

“I’m talking about you! Like there’s anything that can be used to describe you other than disgusting!?”

You insolent fellow! I’m taking this then.

Madoka-san, who saw me take the phone out from my purse, showed a wry smile.

“You don’t have the right to tell me off, Yume-chan…”

“We’re going to park the car then.”

“Be careful everyone~”

We got out of the car, mom and uncle Mineaki drove the car into the almost-packed parking lots.

I took a look around.

“There’s a lot of people…

“Ah yeah. There’s a lot of people just dozens of minutes away from that village.”

I thought that the area around the station was rather urbanized to begin with.

There were a lot of commercial buildings, pedestrians, but not this many.

The sidewalks were filled with people, people, people.

There wasn’t enough room to pass through a crowd moving in the same direction.

Where did this many people come from?

“The festival here is rather famous in this area. A lot of people come here by train. Of course, it’s not as famous as the Kyoto festivals.”

“I heard there will be fireworks. Is it that great?”

“It’s amazing, you know? Besides, the blessings of the shrines hosting this festival have very accurate fortunes.”

“Fortune?”

“Nihi” Madoka-san giggled with intent.

“Match. Making♪”

“…That doesn’t have anything to do with me, right?”

“Eh~?This matchmaking doesn’t just refer to marriage, you know~? What are you thinking when you say that~?Why don’t you tell this big sister~?”

“…Ugh…”

Sh-she’s increasingly annoying…

“Hihihi! Well, that’s why it’s one of the few date spots around here,  isn’t it? It’s not like you have to pay a visit to the shrine, so why don’t you just enjoy the fair?”

“Come here Chikuma.” Madoka-san said as she reached her hand out to Chikuma-san, who obediently held that hand.

“It’ll be troublesome if you get lost, you know?”

Madoka-san smiled faintly as she glanced at Mizuto and me. Her intentions were obvious.

Mizuto gently sighed.

“I’m not a kid who’ll get lost. If I do, I can find my way—”

But before Mizuto could finish, I grabbed his left hand.

Mizuto looked at the grabbed hand, and then at my face.

“…What do you mean by this?”

“It’s the older sister’s responsibility if the little brother gets lost. Right Madoka-san?”

“That’s right!”

I looked at Madoka-san in the eyes, and we giggled away.

The time to be fussy over this little thing is over, Mizuto-kun.

Mizuto bashfully looked aside.

“…Got it. I just need to hold your hand, right?”

“It’s amazing that you’re listening to me so obediently.”

“Shut up…”

I giggled away as I walked alongside Mizuto.

After I bawled before Mizuto yesterday, I felt a lot better.

Maybe it’s because I really unburdened a lot of unnecessary things…compared to before, I felt that I didn’t have to worry about touching Mizuto.

Excluding the fact that he was my ex, he’s just someone with communication issues, except when it came to sarcasm..

To ensure that our guides Madoka-san and Chikuma-kun didn’t hear, I quietly asked Mizuto next to me.

“Why did you come along? You don’t like crowds like this.”

“Nobody likes this occasion…it’s just that every year, I get dragged here by Madoka-san. Resistance is futile now”

“Humm~…”

Didn’t you come here to see my yukata? I couldn’t say this teasing remark though.

Yukatas and summer festivals. The last memory involving these two things were too bitter for me.

During the summer vacation of my ninth grade.

Our relationship was a little bit strained because of the argument we had before then, and we didn’t make any plans for this rare opportunity of a vacation.

But even so…with an inkling of hope, I went to the summer festival in the yukata.

it so happened to be exactly one year ago where I had my first date with him.

Maybe, he came too—and maybe he would find me, just like before. That was the naive hope I had when I visited the place a year later.

And the result was obvious.

At that time, I was alone until the end of the festival.

Surely he didn’t know—this was my last memory of a yukata, and the summer festival.

Surely he didn’t know the loneliness, uneasiness, and sadness I felt that day when everything ended—the longing could fade away, but that pain alone might never heal.

We followed the crowds through what appeared to be the Sandō, and I saw an array of glittering stalls.

Takoyaki, cotton candy, pickled cucumber, chocolate bananas, okonomiyaki, pickled cucumber, yakisoba, fried chicken, pickled cucumber, pickled cucumber, pickled cucumber─

“Say, aren’t there too many stalls selling pickled cucumber?”

“Somehow~there’s a lot every year.”

Madoka-san giggled.

For some reason, I noticed a number of stores with many cucumbers on sticks piled on a Zaru. There were as many of them as there were takoyaki and yakisoba stores combined. Was there such a demand for them?

What do you two want to eat? Your grandmother has given us a lot of money, so go ahead, spend away~!”

“The night stalls are obviously very expensive…I think the prices at a convenience store might be cheaper.”

“Don’t worry! It’s the countryside here. You won’t find any convenience stores around! Nihihi!”

She didn’t deny that they were expensive…

But well, it’s like coffee types at a cafe, part of the value comes with the atmosphere. It’s different buying takoyaki from a night stall compared to a convenience store.

“If you don’t know what you want, we can go to a place my acquaintance owns. If only the shop’s opened this year.”

“Eh? Acquaintance?…don’t you only visit once a year, Madoka-san? You don’t really stay around here, right?”

“Watch and learn. This is a real extrovert.”

“Can you not make it sound like I’m a faker?”

“But that’s the truth.”

“I don’t need you to tell me that!”

“It’s pointless to cover up something that smells foul anyway.”

I’m living my high school life through such tactics, okay!?

We followed Madoka-san’s lead, and finally arrived at a stall.

“Hello~!You’re here again this year~!”

“Ooo~!Madoka-chaan~? Came back here again~!”

“Nihihi~ thank you thank you.”

…A suspicious Indian.

It’s an Indian uncle who had a goofy accent, to the point where he sounded fake.

Well, he’s a little tan, and I couldn’t conclude at first glance that he’s Indian…it’s just that he’s stirring a pot while chatting with Madoka-san, and it’s clearly curry….

“The tandoori chicken here is great. Want to try it?”

And next to Madoka-san, Chikuma-kun reached his little hands out, and handed some money to the mysterious Indian.

“Ohh~Chikuma-kun! Thankie! Our curry is better than the ones in India~!”

What’s with the appearance of this Japanese stereotype of an Indian…so I thought, but Chikuma-kun accepted the tandoori chicken in curry without any fear. He seems to be used to it.

“Well…since it’s a rare chance.”

“OK~! Uncle,  one each for them~!”

“Okay~!”

She actually ordered for Mizuto too, but he didn’t complain, so it should be fine.

Soon after, the tandoori chicken was served to us.

I made sure to avoid getting my yukata dirty as I cautiously took a bit. A spicy flavor spread in my mouth along with the texture of the chicken.

“…D-delicious…”

“Isn’t this~?This uncle’s food is great! Though he looks suspicious!”

“I am no suspicious!”

So even Madoka-san finds him suspicious too…

Next to me, Mizuto ate the tandoori chicken wordlessly. I couldn’t determine any thoughts from his face.

“Delicious?”

“…Well.”

“Be specific.”

“……………………”

Somehow he ended up silent. Did he really hate to listen to me?

“Woah, Chikuma-kun. Look, you have it all over your mouth. Don’t move. I’ll wipe it for you.”

“I-I’ll do it myself…mgu.”

Madoka-san wiped Chikuma-kun’s mouth with a tissue. He was probably embarrassed as he kept resisting. I was the one who wiped his mouth at the barbeque the last time, if I remembered correctly?

While I spaced out at the sight before me, Madoka-san suddenly gave me a look.

…Ah.

I hastily turned around, and saw Mizuto’s lips stained with curry.

“Mizuto——”

“…………”

The moment I was about to take out the tissue, Mizuto quickly wiped away the curry .

Grrr, too late! Even though I succeeded back when we were at the river!

“What are you playing at?”

“Well, if I’m doing the same thing as Madoka-san, that makes me the older sister, right?”

“Not at all.”

“I am!”

As the only child, I always played the role of an older sister through instinct.

But guess what.? Now I have Madoka-san as an example, it’s easy for me to act like one!

Now people around us will think I’m the older sister. The same can’t be said of. Fufufu…

“…Nihi. I see~…”

Once we left the suspicious Indian’s stall, we went down the Sandō.

The crowd was so packed, we couldn’t move freely, and it extended so far in front, we couldn’t see the front.

“Ah, Chikuma-kun, let’s have a look. There’s a shooting game down there. Wanna try~?”

Once Madoka-san said so, Chikuma-kun looked towards the target shooting shop. He looked at the prizes lined up on the shelves in the back, “ah” and blurted.

I guessed the biggest reason was a game console box placed as the top prize.

…Well, I would think the owner would want the players to win that.

“I-I want to play…”

“Alrighty~! Big sis will play with you and aim for the top prize then!”

Payment was made, Chikuma-kun received the gun and leaned forward, aiming at the game console box.

But that gun was shaky. It didn’t seem like his arms were strong enough.

He’s not going to make it,

“Ah, seriously. Look, you got to hold the gun like this.”

Madoka-san giggled as she hugged Chikuma-kun from behind, lifting his arms.

“S-sis…I can do it, myself…”

“Don’t be so nervous! Come on, aim properly, okay?”

…They’re siblings, but should they be this close?

Her breasts were touching his back, and she was basically blowing into his ear—ah, I see. They didn’t mind since they’re siblings—

Thud, the bullet flew out from Chikuma-kun’s gun.

But unfortunately, it wheezed to the side and rolled on the ground without hitting any prize.

“Ah, too bad~”

“…Uuu…”

“Hmm…can’t let it end like this…so, Mizuto-kun!”

Mizuto, who was suddenly nominated, suddenly raised an eyebrow.

“I’ll leave it to you to take revenge for Chikuma-kun! Yume-chan too, you need to support. As. A. Big. Sister♪”

I looked at Madoka-san’s giggling face, and realized then that I was had.

M-Madoka-san…did this on purpose knowing that I modelled myself off her…!

“…Looks like I got no choice. Just this once.”

Mizuto probably didn’t realize the intentions, glanced aside at the sad looking Chikuma-kun, and handed some money to the uncle manning the stall.

He held the gun, and leaned forward at the stall.

And right when I stood still behind him, Madoka-san crept towards me, and whispered at my ear.

“(What now~ big sister? If you aren’t going to help your little brother—)”

“(Ah, but, that’s…!)”

“(Huh? That’s weird? You’ll just~ be~ a big sister hugging her little brother from behind. What are you worried about, Yume-chan~?)”

M-Madoka-san’s…horrible!

I was cut off from my retreat, and unwillingly approached Mizuto’s back.

If he didn’t need me to help in any way, I could at least try to slip by with this excuse. We’re talking about a beansprout who completely lacked exercise though, and the gun was shaking as much as Chikuma-kun did.

He’s obviously not going to be able to avenge Chikuma-kun at this rate.

Y-yes…it’s all for Chikuma-kun’s sake….

I finally resolved myself, reached out from the back, and grabbed Mizuto’s arm.

“Eh…hey!?”

“O-okay now. Don’t look here! Just aim!”

I hastily shouted back right when Mizuto wanted to turn back.

In the meanwhile, my hand reached for the yukata sleeve, and I held his wrist.

…It’s so thin, but the muscles were so firm…they’re really different from a girl’s.

Did he not feel the same when he touched me?

Something like…it’s different from a guy’s.

“Aren’t you aiming a little too much to the right?”

“Not at all.”

“You are!”

“Shut up. This is fine, right?”

“This is way too much to the left!”

We bickered—and finally took aim.

We just needed to squeeze the trigger.

…But for some reason…

My elbows mounted on the counter started to tremble.

For a while, my arms tensed up so that my body, especially my breasts—wouldn’t touch Mizuto’s back…but it took us an unexpectedly long time to aim, so the strength in my arm was….

“Right…”

Mizuto held his breath, and exerted strength into his finger.

And it was at this moment where my arms finally gave out.

“Ah.”

—Just to preface.

It’s true that back in middle school, we were kissing away like horny monkeys. That was the truth.

But I swear, I’ve never done anything more than that–I mean, erm…touching…getting touched…I-I absolutely never did those things!

My arms relaxed, and my body fell down—

—And my breasts pressed onto Mizuto’s shoulder blade.

“!?”

Mizuto’s body then jolted.

A bullet flew out.

The bullet flew higher than where it was aimed, and went in an arc, like a hill.

“Ah~”

Right behind us, Madoka-san squealed in pity.

I-it’s a mistake…it’s all my fault.

But that thought ended in a flash.

Thud.

The bullet flew in an arch, and hit the white bunny doll right beneath the game console we were aiming at.

The doll fell down.

“Ah, you hit it!”

The uncle running the stall picked up the doll, “Okay!” and exchanged it with Mizuto’s gun.

We stared blankly at the white rabbit doll with a sporty teenage look, and spaced out for a while.

“…Did you do that on purpose?”

Mizuto muttered.

“H-how’s that possible…! My hands are just tired…”

“I see. Thank goodness my little stepsister isn’t an exhibitionist.”

“Ex…!? A-anyway, what’s with that reaction…!? A-aren’t you already used to Higashira-san’s already…!?”

“…You’re not her though.”

“Eh?”

“Higashira never thinks whenever she clings onto me. I can tell how nervous you are. Calm down already!”

“Wha…! Y-you’re making it sound like I’m familiar with touching guys compared to Higashira-san! Aren’t you being too sensitive about this, you silent pervert!?”

“Okay okay, you two, don’t interfere with business here.”

Madoka-san nudged us in the back, off the Sandō, to the slightly dim side. A few people were squatting on the ground eating takoyaki and soba noodles.”

Once again, I looked at Mizuto who was holding a rabbit doll.

“Doesn’t suit you at all…”

“You don’t have to comment about everything. Can’t you just keep some words to yourself or something?”

“Pssh. Isn’t that a good thing? We can be a little friendlier.”

“You don’t carry that around with you! It’s not like she’s some kind of loli character with a dark side!”

I didn’t understand his analogy, but in any case, the pairing of Mizuto and the doll was a little off. Even Higashira-san, if she were to see this doll in Mizuto’s room would say something like ‘Eh? What’s with this gap-moe? Isn’t this too much? This old-fashioned style isn’t exactly popular nowadays~ ‘, or something like that.

So I thought, and found Chikuma-kun staring intensely at the doll in Mizuto’s hand.

Speaking of which, didn’t we play the shooting game to avenge Chikuma-kun?

But, do boys like such cute dolls…?

Hm?

Mizuto noticed Chikuma-kun’s eyes, squinted his eyes, and looked at the doll again.

“Ahhh…that?”

While he muttered so.

“Hm.”

Mizuto shoved the doll into Chikuma-kun’s hands.

Chikuma-kun instinctively received the doll, looked up at Mizuto’s face, and his big eyes blinked incessantly.

“Ah…erm…”

“I don’t need this. Take it.”

When Mizuto said this with a stiff tone, Chikuma-kun hugged the doll firmly.

“Th-thank you very much.”

Hmm…suits him.

He’s a boy, but Chikuma-kun’s cute face and the doll were a perfect match.

Given how the corners of his mouth were raised, it seemed he really wanted this doll.

I asked Mizuto discreetly,

“(How did you know he wanted it?)”

“(Because the doll is a game character.)”

“(Eh? Really?)”

“(It’s a Pokémon. I saw Chikuma-kun play that.)”

Ahh…now that he mentioned it.

I looked away from the happy Chikuma-kun and towards my stone-faced brother.

“(I’m surprised that you’re so observant. He usually doesn’t even say a word.)”

“(…He’s like that. Must be tough on him every day)”

Mizuto wasn’t shy, but he’s never one who would blend with the crowd.

Just as I felt closer to Chikuma-kun, I think he too was always concerned about Chikuma-kun too…

If that’s the case, he could have just talked..

What would his expression be if he knew that Chikuma-kun respected him?

“(You’re really awkward as an older brother too.)”

“(What do you mean by ‘too’? When have I ever been clumsy?)”

“(Now I think I can’t let you be my older brother.)”

“(Better than you as my older sister.)”

Always dishonest as always. Look at how honest Chikuma-kun is. Learn from him already.

Mizuto grunted in annoyance, and I couldn’t help but giggle while looking at his sidelong face.

 

When are the fireworks going off?

After that incident, we were dragged around the night market by Madoka-san.

We tried our hands on takoyaki, cotton candy, and other food stores, and even tried out something suspicious sounding called an automatic fortune teller. it’s really a piece of junk.

We strolled leisurely, and slowly arrived near the main hall of the shrine. It seemed we could go in to worship—the god of marriage or something. I didn’t have anything for him, I just wanted to punch him.

But when I saw the crowd before us, I felt we wouldn’t be able to see the fireworks without having a good seat in advance. I asked Madoka-san,

“Hm~, I think it’s about 8pm or so.”

Madoka-san said while licking the lollipop in her hand,

“Don’t worry. We asked someone else to reserve seats for us.”

“Someone else?”

“Ah, uncle and aunty.”

Madoka-san suddenly said so, and I looked over at where she was looking.

I saw a building that looked like a shrine office; mom and uncle Mineaki appeared to be talking to a stranger.

I remembered mom and uncle Mineaki said that they wanted to go on a date alone.

“Who are they talking to?”

“Who’s~ that old granny? Well, our family’s rather famous here, so we’re rather well connected over here.”

So mom’s just greeting them? Or maybe they met coincidentally and just wanted to chat? Maybe I shouldn’t greet them…?

“—Ah, Yume~! Mizuto-kun~!”

Meanwhile, mom noticed us, and waved us over.

I nonchalantly let go of Mizuto’s hand. In any case, it was going to be a problem holding hands in front of mom.

We approached mom with Madoka-san and Chikuma-kun,

“You came just in time! Keidouin-san, this is my daughter Yume.”

“Ara ara, what a cute daughter. This yukata really suits you, few young people these days are wearing yukata so well …”

“Thank you for the compliments. My name is Yume Irido…”

She wasn’t introduced to me, so I never knew who she was until the very end. Given her elegant manner of speech though, I felt she was some celebrity.

“You don’t have to worry about nobody wanting her given her good looks. Our granddaughter is approaching 30 and still hanging out all day…”

“Eh~? Thirty years old isn’t old these days ~! it’s fine, it’s fine!”

Madoka-san, who was just muttering “Who is she?”, didn’t look timid at all. At best, she’s brave, but at worst, she’s hardheaded. I wished I could have some of that personality.

“Mizuto-kun too now has a family other than his father.”

The elegant granny smiled gently and looked at me.

“Even as an outsider, I was worried when I heard from Natsume. It might be a strange situation to suddenly adapt to, but please take care of Mizuto-kun.”

“…Yes.”

I nodded, but I felt some dissonance.

She seemed to imply that Mizuto was a poor child who couldn’t live without others.

The Mizuto Irido I knew was a person who could take care of everything on his own, even without associating himself with his surroundings.

I never thought he was a pitiful kid.

Are we really talking about the same person? I was a little confused…

“We’ve got a great spot for the Tanesatos to watch the fireworks. We’ll show you the way.”

“Thank you for doing so every year.”

“Yume and Madoka-chan, what do you want to do? There’s still some time until the fireworks start—”

I pondered over what I should do next, and looked back.

And just then, I realized.

Mizuto, who had been beside me all this time, had somehow pulled away from me for a short time.

He silently—disappeared, as though he melted into the moving crowds.

“…Ah…”

He didn’t flee the scene.

He wasn’t ostracized.

It’s like—he melted.

That’s how it felt to me.

Mizuto vanished from this world, as though he never existed.

“Ahh~…he’s gone again.”

Madoka-san was a tad late in realizing so, and frowned in distress.

“Why is it…that every year, he disappears alone?”

Right.

Everything that happened over the past few days flashed through my mind.

—The first day.

On the first day, when Mizuto was leaving the party, uncle Mineaki told him ‘thank you’.

At this point, I understood that he must have been telling Mizuto, “Thank you for coming to the party with us”.

I guessed Mizuto’s own father, uncle Mineaki, was the only person who knew that a party wasn’t something Mizuto was happy about.

—The second day.

Mizuto never wanted to join the barbecue at all.

He was so absorbed in his own world that he wouldn’t even raise his head.

He only said a few words after I approached him…

—The third day.

Mizuto was obviously displeased when he saw me talking with Chikuma-kun.

He looked like a kid who had his toy stolen.

But he wasn’t unhappy at Chikuma-kun. After all—

—And today.

Mizuto didn’t mean to ignore his relatives either.

In fact, he also watched over and took good care of Chikuma-kun. If he was really completely indifferent to his relatives, how could he think of giving away the doll?

And that’s not all.

—On Mother’s Day, I saw his blank expression in front of his real mother’s shrine.

—Higashira-san feared that she would lose her place in Mizuto’s heart.

—And Mizuto said ‘there’s no place’ when he dumped Higashira-san.

And then—

—Ayai.

—…Nothing…

—Actually, my phone’s running out of power.

If he had called me at a place where he couldn’t charge his phone.

I looked at my phone.

August 12, 7:26 p.m.

Yep.

Right, that’s right. No doubt about it.

I couldn’t have known. How could I have known then?

Two years ago, I,

How could I have known that he had gone back home to attend the local summer festival?

—”I really wanted you to hold me back.”

From being classmates.

To a girlfriend.

And then, we became a family.

I saw various sides of Mizuto Irido from various vantages.

They were like jigsaws pieced together―and finally combined into a three-dimensional image.

I had never seen before.

How could I have seen it just by becoming his lover?

In hindsight, a person’s way of life would surely be derived from their trajectory in life, and warped to this form.

There was nothing he could do about it.

Everything was a natural consequence.

The people around him were so certain, so eager, and said so about him.

Even he himself recognized this.

That’s what led to the creation of the person Mizuto Irido.

So, what happened back then must have been his struggle.

He must have been struggling.

After all, his bond with Yume Ayai was his only weapon.

What was he fighting against, you ask?

What else?

Of course, it was the trap laid by God.

In other words, Fate.

“…I.”

Thus,

My heartfelt voice, which had been a nemesis against him all this while, naturally came to my lips.

“I’ll look for him.”

A playful smile appeared on Madoka-san’s face once she heard that.

“Go get him. And hurry back.”

That call record log was still in my phone.

◆ Mizuto Irido ◆

For as long as I can remember, I never felt any realism.

Everything seemed unrelated to me.

Everything I saw seemed empty to me.

It felt like everything that people called life was on the other side of the monitor.

Now, I’m not self-inserting myself as the protagonist of ‘No Longer Human’.

Of course, there’s some overlap between me and him. There were times when I looked at him, and would think ‘isn’t this me’…but I was definitely a different person from Osamu Dazai.

It’s just that I couldn’t relate to anything.

Whether my classmates were happy, sad, or angry, I couldn’t resonate with them.

Maybe it was because I knew.

Thank goodness.

You’re so pitiful.

I already realized that it was pointless to add such a footnote.

Because I was told over and over again.

Thank goodness you were born safely.

You’re so pitiful to not have your mother when you’re born.

Again―and again―and again and again and again and again.

What did that have to do with me?

I really didn’t know how it involved me.

I just wanted to live normally, breathe the same air. Why did I have to be pitied or praised?

I didn’t know.

It’s because I didn’t know, the hole in my heart kept growing.

And because of that, everything I saw and heard silently passed through this large hole, and couldn’t muster a single ripple.

Amongst them…the only realism I felt was the world of books.

I couldn’t forget the shock I felt when I first read great grandfather’s ‘The Dancing Girl of Siberia’.

It was all in black and white, but there was life, emotions, and people in it, more vibrant than in any blockbuster movie.

I, who had never been able to empathize with anything I saw, felt that something filled my heart for the first time when I came into contact with the world converted into text.

‘Dancing Girl’ taught me the fragileness of humanity.

‘Rashōmon’ taught me about the human ego.

‘Sangetsuki’ taught me about human pride.

And ‘Kokoro’ brought me to the inner heart of humanity.

To me, the relationship between reality and fiction had been overturned.

For me, the fictional world was the real one, and the real world was the fake.

That’s why…my feelings with Yume Ayai initially started as a fluke.

I spoke to her on a whim.

Even when we ended up chatting away in the library, I felt like I was speaking through a monitor.

But…yes.

The decisive moment happened at the summer festival, where we had our first day.

The clumsy her got lost and cried on the phone.

I really felt.

I really felt―annoyed.

There’s actually such a weak person in this world.

It felt like she couldn’t breathe if she was left alone.

I was certain that if I abandoned her, she would continue to cry in the dark, while nobody else knew.

Ahhh—

—She’s really pitiful.

That was when…I finally realized what was before me.

Ayai’s clumsy, weak, unable to do anything without anyone else’s help. I knew that―but it’s all about what I knew.

It was the feeling I felt when reading novels―no, it’s something more intense, etched into my heart―

And that’s you, Ayai.

To me―you’re the only person who brought me a sense of realism.

I knew.

It was just in the spur of the moment.

It’s just my brain going crazy at that moment.

It was especially at this point, where everything ended, that I knew this very well.

But―

―For some reason, that feeling back then remained etched deep in this soul.

Why?

We’re just revisiting the past.

There’s nothing to be perturbed about.

So why?

The Old Flame refuses to die off―

◆Yume Irido◆

I saw a narrow path next to the Sandō.

I didn’t have any proof.

But my instincts urged me on, so I passed through the crowd and stepped onto the path.

The forest path was paved with minimal cobblestone.

I walked through the path in these unfamiliar Zōri, and found a small shrine.

It’s dark.

The brightness of the fair felt like a lie, for the narrow precinct of the shrine was in darkness. There was an old lantern, but it didn’t appear to be used.

Instead, the moonlight shone upon the place that was the size of a basketball court or so.

At the end of the Sandō that ran through the center of the temple grounds.

Mizuto Irido was sitting in the middle of the stairs leading up to the shrine.

Mizuto was staring up at the night sky in a daze, and nothing else.

So I approached him while tapping the cobblestones with my Zōri, signalling my presence.

“You really like the dark, don’t you?”

I was very sarcastic.

I acted as how I would.

“Are you reborn as a bean sprout or something? You were shaking heavily when you held the gun just now.”

Mizuto looked from the sky and towards my face, frowning slightly.

Yep, that’s right. Look at me.

It’s okay not to like me. It’s okay to hate me.

After all, I’m not your girlfriend anymore.

“…Are you here just to insult me or something? You think I’m lonely because I can’t get along with my relatives?”

“No way. I already knew that. It’s a waste of time to say so.”

“Hmph.”

One step, two steps, three steps.

I got closer, and could feel his breath, his smell, his warmth, stronger and stronger.

I didn’t think it’s a miracle that he was able to be born safely from a weak mother.

It’s just hard work. That’s just Kana Irido-san working hard, working hard, working hard to give birth. There’s no reason for him to be praised just because he was born.

I didn’t think it’s a pity that he doesn’t know what a mother is.

Indeed, I might feel sorry for myself for not having a father. I knew him. I knew a life where my family was all together, and suddenly it was gone. I knew…that sadness.

But it’s another thing to not know in the first place.

He didn’t know what a life with a mother would be like. He wasn’t deprived of that.

In that case, the idea of kids without mothers when they were born was simply a viewpoint imposed onto him.

It’s like labeling someone from high above, saying that those who never fell in love were truly pitiful.

It’s just imposing pity onto someone who didn’t know what they knew.

The idea of ‘thank goodness’ and ‘it’s a pity’ really didn’t apply to him at all.

Those were their own feelings that were derived from themselves.

If one were to say that an observer effect of quantum physics was applicable to shaping personalities—if say, his personality could be shaped by other people looking at him.

Then the character of ‘a pitiful kid who lost his mother’ imposed on him must have caused quite a large emptiness.

―I didn’t know why I persevered until the end.

―It’s the first book I finished reading on my own

A certain author once said “I think the creation and reading of a novel is a protest against the fact that we only have one life”.

That was correct, I guess it was a protest. I wasn’t very good at speaking, so I admired a great detective who could explain his reasoning in an easy and logical way. He was fascinated by a life other than his own, and to protest against the emptiness imposed by others.

Mizuto Irido had nothing.

He just kept filling in the blanks with things he borrowed from other people.

He never had anything to be pitied over.

He didn’t feel sad, nor lonely.

Since he had nothing, naturally, he didn’t have anything.

But ultimately, there was one thing he lost.

And to him, it was the one miracle, the one part he should be pitied for.

Say, that’s right isn’t it, Mizuto?

―The love you once lost is standing right before you.

“…Two years ago.”

I said as I walked over to Mizuto, who was sitting in front of the shrine.

“The summer festival was our first date, wasn’t it? I got lost, and whined to you on the phone…”

“Huh…?”

Mizuto looked puzzled, but I was no longer afraid.

“I don’t know how many days it was after that…but I received a sudden call from you in the night.”

The wind blew, and the sound of rustling leaves echoed.

“I still remember. There were some swaying trees in the background…so it’s here.”

Back then, you’re alone, seated at this empty shrine.

But that year alone…you called me.

“Say, you—”

Pfft—I let out a giggle I couldn’t have made two years ago.

“—How fond are you of me anyway?”

Until now, I thought I was the one who confessed to you.

But…that was just a misunderstanding.

After all, he was trying to bring me into a time and space that no one else had ever entered—if that wasn’t a confession, what was?

Mizuto didn’t say a word.

While he remained stone-faced, I glanced at my phone to check the time in front of him.

8pm, so I was told.

I stepped onto the stairs Mizuto was seated on, and sat down next to him.

We were two fists away from each other.

This was the appropriate distance between us at this point.

“Say, do you remember?”

I directed my gaze at the star-cluttered sky, and said,.

“The first day we went to school after we started dating. I was so embarrassed, and we had to go to school separately…would anything have changed if we went into the classroom together openly?”

“……………………”

“Say, do you remember? The first time we went on a date on our rest day, I wore a miniskirt. I thought you were strangely unreactive, but you told me to be less revealing when we said goodbye. Back then, I thought you actually had such a surprisingly cute side.”

“……………………”

“Say, do you remember? Back during gym class, soccer, you showed a shocking sense of athleticism.  I was looking forward to seeing my boyfriend in action, but you let me down so badly. Well, I felt a sense of closeness about this though.”

“……………………”

“Say, do you remember? We used to study together before midterms. We were flirting every chance we got, and I couldn’t get into it at all. It was also around this time that I kept your eraser…”

“……………………”

“And then we went to an antiquarian bookshop together, passed pieces of paper over the same table. it was fun and exciting…”

“……………………”

“Hey.”

I asked my ex, who remained silent.

“Do you remember―when our first kiss was?”

I did.

I remember that day when we were on our way to school in the sunset and I was filled with happiness.

I’d never forgotten about it, not even once.

I looked next to me.

Mizuto looked up at the sky in a daze.

His lips—opened slightly.

“……October, 27.”

He let out a long exhale, as though casting it to the skies.

“That was exactly…two months since we started dating.”

“You still remember after all.”

“You knew I remember?”

“Didn’t you unlock my phone at the river?”

“…I told you not to use dates as a password.”

“That’s rich coming from you. If you entered ‘1027’ so quickly, that means you used the same password too, right?”

Mizuto exercised his right to remain silent, but this silence was basically an admission of guilt.

“Yes, it was exactly two months. I was a little impatient because I felt that I might have to wait until the third month if I missed that opportunity.”

“I thought you read some crazy information in a magazine or on the Internet.”

“Ugh…well, I did take it as reference. Just reference.”

“But given your personality, without that manual guiding you, you probably would never have done such a bold thing.”

“Sorry for being such a person reliant on manuals! Praise your girlfriend for working hard already!”

“Yes yes. I guessed you practiced that kissing face several times already.”

“Wha…how did you know…?”

“I knew at first glance. You wouldn’t have done it so nicely if you never practiced.”

“R00d! Even I can improvise well once in a while!”

“I’m the one who’s been doing all the improvising.”

“Ahh~, how patronizing of you. A good man shouldn’t be saying such things alright!?”

“What’s the point of acting like a good man in front of you now?”

“Of course. There’s no benefit to that. My illusions of you were long destroyed.”

“Right back at you.”

Our words continued to flow effervescently.

These were words that belonged to us alone, not imposed upon by anyone else.

“I’d like to say something back. The first time you wore a miniskirt on a date.”

“Ahh, that’s when you showed your disgusting possessiveness.”

“That’s it! That was just because you didn’t look good in a miniskirt—”

“Ahh~, yes yes. So says the guy who rushed over to my house, wanting to see me in pajamas~.”

“Nope, I was just visiting you as your boyfriend.”

“Hmm? You say that, but why do I feel some gaze towards me from time to time when I’m in pajamas at home?”

“That’s just you being overly conscious!”

“Ah, you said ‘that’! You said ‘just’! You do want to see me in my pajamas after all, you silent pervert!”

“Who are you referring to…”

“Ahh, It’s tough having a lousy boyfriend. You missed out on your first chance because you’re too much of a silent pervert.”

“…Both sides were so nervous, of course we’ll fail if we tried to do it.”

“Ahh…!? What did you say!? You said something unspeakable!”

We had a pointless conversation.

The kind of conversation classmates have in the classroom.

The kind that families have in their living rooms.

And yet, how long did it take us to get to this point?

How long did it take him?

“Say.”

“What?”

“Why did you let me be your girlfriend?”

Continuing this conversation, I asked this question I couldn’t raise over the past two years.

Mizuto pondered for a moment.

“Maybe it didn’t have to be you.”

“Huh?”

“After all, it’s just a matter of coincidence, right? If I had met Higashira before you…I wouldn’t have gone out with you, would I?”

“…I guess.”

There wasn’t a need for that.

“If Higashira-san had been there first, there would have been no room for me.”

“But the fact is—I met you.”

Mizuto said with a confident voice.

“It’s just a game of musical chairs, first come first serve. If you ask me for a reason.…that’s probably it. You happy about that?”

“.…Yeah.”

Musical games, first come first serve.

I so happened to encounter him first.

Right, that suited me.

After all—it’s what people called fate.

“It’s almost time.”

“Hm?”

“Isn’t this your wish from two years ago?”

At the same time, it was my wish from a year ago.

Last summer vacation, I clung onto the little wishful thinking, and he never showed up.

So this time, I came.

That experience taught me that I shouldn’t be just waiting for him.

There’s no doubt about this.

Yume Irido has surpassed Yume Ayai.

8pm.

There was no delay in the schedule.

A flower of light bloomed in the middle of the night sky.

A dull thumping sound shook our bodies.

Both me, and Mizuto.

We were illuminated by the vibrant colors.

The fireworks popping one after another were more powerful than I had expected.

I see, this old shrine must have been a hidden place that only Mizuto knew about.

He knew this was the best place to watch the fireworks, but he never told anyone about it, and watched this magnificent sky alone every year.

But—served him right.

That’s the end of his private viewing.

“I guess—both of us saw the fireworks together then.”

I looked at the face next to me that was lit with vibrant colors, and teased him so.

He’s really inscrutable.

So troublesome, so annoying, so stubborn.

I wouldn’t know anything if I hadn’t guessed. He lacked expressions, and didn’t like to talk. Seriously, it’s unbelievable. How did he have a girlfriend?

No wonder it didn’t last long.

A year’s a rather long time.

If we hadn’t become family—how could I remain by his side?

“………Ahh………”

But thanks to that.

I got to see a side to him that I had never seen since our first encounter.

“………………Ahh………………”

The moan was drowned out by the roar of the fireworks.

At the same time, the fireworks strongly, strongly painted upon the darkness of the precinct, and his expression.

So—I wouldn’t have seen this if I wasn’t with him.

If I hadn’t been at the same place as him.

If I hadn’t been by his side, just two fists away from him.

If I hadn’t observed his sidelong face while he was within reach—

—I couldn’t have seen the tear sliding down his cheek.

Ahh, I remembered.

Again and again, I showed weakness to him, I grumbled, and I shed embarrassing tears.

But I never saw him cry, not even once.

What entered my chest this time was an unprecedented feeling.

It’s not a throbbing feeling.

It’s not a dizzying blissfulness.

My body didn’t tense up, and my face didn’t blush; I simply remained normal.

A warm heat coursed through my body, as if I was being hugged.

A desire ached within me.

Yes, it’s desire, it’s human instinct.

That’s why.

I had to be sure.

The fireworks didn’t last long.

The light that filled the night sky dispersed, and darkness filled the place once again.

The eyes that got used to the light made the darkness seem thicker. Even his silhouette that was right before me seemed so blurry.

So unlike before, I said.

“Hey…look at me.”

“Hm?”

The silhouette of his head moved.

Ahhh―come on, he’s so defenseless.

If you’re going to be so careless…you can’t complain about being eaten up, can you?

My hands held Mizuto’s head.

“!? Wai―”

I’m not letting you talk anymore.

It’s fine.

No matter how dark it is, I know very well where your lips are.

The familiar sensation awakened on my lips

The face was a little to the right.

I wouldn’t make the mistake of knocking our teeth together again.

Just this once, I didn’t need to breathe every three seconds.

Because this time, I’m not letting you go.

4 seconds — the lost time slowly awoke within me.

5 seconds — since we stopped contacting each other a year ago, until now.

6 seconds — August, September, October.

7 seconds — Birthdays, Christmas, New Year

8 seconds — Valentine’s, White Day, graduation.

9 seconds — we ended up being stepsiblings.

10 seconds — we were fooled even though we had broken up.

My lips slowly parted.

The time we could have had was filled nicely.

I finally caught up to the present—

Yet my heart felt so peaceful.

My desire was well fulfilled.

Everything I could do during this time was reclaimed.

It’d be nice to continue this relationship with him—so I thought, but that lingering feeling didn’t exist.

My eyes slowly got used to the darkness.

Mizuto’s stunned, still face appeared up close.

That’s right. Be shocked, be confused, be troubled.

Maybe it’s just a lingering regret to you.

Maybe it’s just a shameful feeling of dragging out a love that was long over.

That’s okay for now. You can play around with the past as much as you want.

But,

No matter how much you loved Yume Ayai—

—Yume Irido will definitely seduce you away.

That kiss was a declaration.

Not from Yume Ayai, but from Yume Irido.

The second ever first kiss in my life shall be a declaration of war against you.

That one seat you spoke of when you dumped Higashira-san—

—I’ll make sure to kick her off her perch.

I chuckled and got up from the stairs, leaving behind the stunned Mizuto.

I then turned my attention to the shrine that I had been facing away from.

I never thought I would fall in love with the same man twice.

Is this another of God’s traps―or is it fate?

Damn you God.

…But just this once, I’m grateful to you.

 

“Let’s go back, Mizuto.”

I held out my hand to Mizuto, who remained seated. He blinked his eyes and gently touched his lips.

“Eh? No…”

“Come on! Don’t let mom and the others worry.”

I grabbed the flustered Mizuto by the hand, and dragged him up.

Suddenly, I sensed a rustling of the grass behind me…but I didn’t mind as I was dragging the gaudy Mizuto forward.

“—Ah! You two are back~!”

We arrived back at the office where we dispersed from, and saw Madoka-san waiting for us.

Chikuma-kun was standing behind her. ……? And for some reason, there were a few leaves on his yukata.

“Ahh~ thank goodness~…I was worried you two got lost as well.”

“Eh? As well? …What do you mean?”

“Actually, Chikuma got lost as well―ow!?”

Chikuma-kun seemed to be protesting what Madoka-san just said, for he kicked her in the back.

It’s rare to see that honest-looking Chikuma-kun be violent like this. “Why? What happened, Chikuma?” Madoka-san was clearly confused.

While tilting her head, Madoka-san quickly looked back at forth between Mizuto and me, and then quickly put her mouth to my ear.

“(Did it go well?)”

“(…I guess I made the first step.)”

“(Ohhh! Nice going! Call me if there’s anything you need! I’ll support—)”

And then, Chikuma-kun kicked Madoka-san in the calf.

“Ow!? Wait, what, what’s wrong with you, Chikuma-kun!? Rebellious phase!?”

Chikuma-kun glanced at me and Mizuto, tightly pursed his lips, and lowered his head.

What’s going on…? Did something happen to make him unhappy?

And Madoka-san, looking at her brother’s behavior, “Ah” opened her mouth with a look of realization.

“Eh…? No way? Really?”

Chikuma-kun did not look up, and kept wiping his eyes with the cuffs of his yukata.

“Ah, ahh~…well, my condolences, or…”

I guess it’s expected of the older sister to understand Chikuma-kun’s unexplainable actions immediately.

Madoka-san hugged her brother’s body and patted him on the back as if she was comforting a baby.

“It’s okay, Chikuma-kun. This kind of experience is what makes a good man. That way, you won’t become a loser like my boyfriend!”

Madoka-san patiently calmed the crying Chikuma-kun.

And I secretly asked Mizuto who was next to me.

“(Hey, what’s going on? Why is Chikuma-kun crying?)”

“(Who knows…?)”

It seems we were far from real siblings.

Well, it’s better this way for me now.

Our farewell was very simple.

“Bye then~! Come back again~!! Come on, you too, Chikuma.”

“……………………”

“How long are you going to sulk? If you don’t say goodbye here, we may never get the chance to contact them again, you know?”

We were at the entrance of the Tanesatos, and right when they’re about to board the car, Chikuma-kun was nudged in the back by his older sister, and stood gingerly before me.

And then, he glanced at my face again and again.

“E-erm…?”

“Hm, what is it?”

“…C-can I, discuss some things, with you…?”

I remembered telling him that as a fellow shy person, he could come to me if he wanted to discuss anything.

Without hesitation, I smiled and said to Chikuma-kun.

“Of course. I’ll be waiting for you!”

I didn’t know if Chikuma-kun was nervous or something, but his face turned red immediately once he heard these words.

“T-thank you very much!”

After a rare loud thank you and a big bow, he returned to Madoka-san.

“Oh~, well done, well done…it’ll be tough on you when there’s no hope, you know~…?”

“…uu……”

“Ah, sorry for causing a new wound on you! I promise I won’t tease you again these days!”

The two siblings entered the car with a ruckus, and they were off towards the station.

We too would return home after visiting the graves of the Tanesatos’ ancestors.

“Thank you very much, Yume-chan. I’ll leave Mizuto to you.”

“While saying goodbye, Natsume-san smiled and said that to me.”

“He’s a strong boy. He’ll be fine without me.”

“Hmm? Really?”

“But I’ll honor your request too…he’s unexpectedly a little lonely too.”

I deliberately hushed my voice so that Mizuto couldn’t hear me, and Natsume-san smiled happily.

“Now I’m relieved.”

I went to the car, and Mizuto, waiting there, looked at me in surprise.

“What did you say to grandma?”

“What do you think?”

Hm~? I stared back at him as I asked back, and Mizuto leaned back.

“Aren’t you…acting a little weird?”

“Not at all. Isn’t your intel kinda outdated?”

“Huh?”

At that moment, uncle Mineaki’s voice rang.

“We’re about to leave!”

Yes, I answered back, and put my hand on the door.

Before I opened it, I looked back.

I stared at my ex and stepsibling—and the one I was fond of.

I tried to show a mischievous smile.

“You don’t have to worry, we are stepsiblings, Mizuto-kun.”

“…Of course, Yume-san.”

What was gone would never return.

The happiness that was once there could never be revived.

But beyond that, we could make new memories.

For example―yes.

A sequel is in the works.

Please wait for further information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

◆Isana Higashira◆

I returned to the living room, and found Mizuto-kun sleeping on the sofa.

Huh? So I thought.

It’s the day when I watched a movie at Mizuto-kun’s place—’Your Name’

If I remembered correctly, after the movie ended, Mizuto-kun fell asleep on Yume-san’s thighs.

So where did Yume-san go while I was in the toilet?

While I tilted my head, I approached the sofa, and saw the sleeping Mizuto-kun.

This situation really resembles Snow White, doesn’t it?

The poisoned Snow White was woken up from a kiss by the Prince…

Hm, in other words—

Will Mizuto-kun wake up if I kiss him now?

Yume-san managed to stop me once.

But this time, she’s not around. The brakes aren’t here.

…How can this be, Mizuto-kun? You can’t be this defenceless…

If you’re going to be so careless…you can’t complain about being eaten up, can you?

Maybe he’s tempting me? Since he dumped me, he couldn’t really say it, and indirectly wanted me to act?

Well, it’s just an excuse, just an excuse for me since I can’t hold back…

After all, who can ensure this?

Mizuto-kun’s lips are so thin and soft, pretty like a girl’s—

No matter how I tried to convince myself, I got attracted to his face—

His light breath was on my lips.

My heart beat loudly, and was about to jump out.

Maybe I might be more nervous than I was during the confession.

Please praise me, Mizuto-kun.

I’ll try my best not to stick my tongue out, so please praise me.

And, please.

Just don’t wake up, even for a few seconds―

And so I offer my first kiss.

 

“―Just joking!!”

I felt suddenly embarrassed and erased the text I had been typing on my tablet PC.

Haa, I breathed out and looked up at the ceiling of my room.

Hmmm…it’s really embarrassing to write a fantasy story based on real people, especially my friends. I thought about writing something pervy…

Maybe I was thinking of writing something like this because ‘Could Have Done It Committee’ was on my mind.

That’s all. Just laugh all you want.

It’s true that I went back to the living room that day when Yume-san was gone.

However, as soon as I tried to put my mouth close to the sleeping Mizuto-kun, I thought, “I can’t do that,” and then I backed off.

This would be the first time—and maybe last time I would get to kiss.

But I couldn’t do that to someone who’s asleep, right? That’s just a crime.

“…Haaa…”

Mizuto-kun, can’t you hurry back from the countryside soonerー

“Aitakute Aitakute Furueru.…oho, if I say anymore, people are going to say ‘you’re revealing your age’. I’m not revealing my age here. It’s because of the uncles from the last era, okay!?”

“.…Mizuto-kun.…”

I hugged the pillow and rolled about on the bed.

Mizuto-kun, my friend.

I get excited whenever I think about you. What shall we talk about tomorrow? Did you read that book? Do you like this?

I think this is definitely the feeling of love.

But I don’t know. Compared to the time when I worked hard with the help of Yume-san and Minami-san, I don’t find the title of girlfriend very attractive.

Friends and lovers aren’t so different, are they?

As friends, we can hang out, have fun, be happy.

Unlike lovers though, the only disadvantage is that we can’t do anything erotic. Well, some people do so anyway.

I realized that.

Sorry to Yume-san and Minami-san…but I enjoy this time more than when I was trying to be Mizuto-kun’s girlfriend.

Because to be a girlfriend, you have to be liked, don’t you?

You have to make up, dress up, and make yourself look good.

It’s tiring.

So compared to that, this is much easier!

I don’t get nervous with him, and I don’t have to worry about any mistakes in my makeup!

I know Mizuto-kun doesn’t care about that too, so I don’t have to worry about gender either!

Besides—it’s okay to keep liking him

I can continue to have a crush on him without the pressure of having to tell him someday.

If I can have an unrequited love forever, I’m fine with it never being fulfilled.

Because it’s really fun.

I can fantasize about things, steal glimpses at him, and get nervous when he unexpectedly approaches me.

He’ll get flustered if I joke about my failed love.

It’ll continue forever, you know? Of course it’s fun!

I’m probably not heartbroken.

I haven’t lost my love.

Maybe this unrequited love is the best form of love for me.

Ah—I’m so happy to be here.

God, please help me.

If you hear me, please let me be friends with Mizuto-kun forever.

I don’t care if Mizuto-kun has a girlfriend.

I’ll definitely treasure whoever Mizuto-kun loves.

So—God.

Please don’t let my unrequited love end forever.

8 thoughts on “[Motokano V4] Chapter 8 – The Ex-Couple returns to the hometown 4 (The declaration from the First Kiss.)

  1. Still no Bed Scene but… This is indeed very worth…

    …… but Damn boy, Isana my Boy…. Damn…..

  2. So I was imagining am stadium going Yume! Yume! Over and over all this chapter……watching a soccer tv show and this do get along well for mental memes

  3. Man, I know I’m definitely a weeb when I knew immediately what “Could have done it committee” was referring to.

    The author is really genre savvy and not shy to tie in contemporary media where appropriate.

    Anyway, thanks for translating this Volume. This series has surpassed my expectations and more. Laughter, tears and silly grins; definitely a Romcom classic but so underrated it’s a shame.

  4. SHIPPERS WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION!!!!

    HU HA HU HA!!

    I’m an Isana X Mizuto shipper but I have to admit, this chapter is fire!

  5. Y’know I feel bad for higashira lol

    Well, anyways this chapter is goated as always. Didn’t expect a kiss and time being honest with herself.

    Thanks for the chapter~

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