Since morning, the final day of the first school semester had a somewhat odd atmosphere.
“Heeh, he looks so plain like that, but not bad, huh…”
When I arrived at school, classmates I’ve never even talked to before were looking my way and whispering.
Is this about Shirakawa-san? But, it’s been quite a while already since the coming out of our relationship, so why now?
When I entered the classroom and was about to head towards my seat, Ichi in his seat saw me and his expression changed.
He quickly got up and came towards me, swaying his huge body.
“What the hell have you been doing!?!”
After taking me out of the classroom and arriving at a corner of the corridor, I looked at the face of my friend, without even understanding anything.
“Wh-what’s wrong, Ichi”
“You too, what the hell is wrong with you!? Kashi, are you cheating with Kurose-san!?!”
I blanked out.
Of course, I’m not… thinking of cheating. However…
“Who told you that?”
“It’s everyone! Everyone has been talking about it since I came to school. Even I was talked to by the cheery guys and asked ‘is it for real?’”
“Why would they…”
‘You have something in mind, don’t you?“
Being watched by Ichi’s thin eyes, I ended up involuntarily averting my eyes.
“No, I’m not cheating, but…”
It’s true that I was meeting Kurose-san in private in the period of two days. If some part of it were cut out and misunderstood then… But, would such questionable circumstantial evidence led them to conclude “He’s cheating”?
“Ah, Hey! Hold on, Kashi!”
Without even hearing Ichi’s voice calling out to me, I headed back to the classroom.
“Hey, did you fuck her!? Did you also fuck that kind of beauty while you have someone like Shirakawa-san!?!? Damn it!! You fucking fake-gloomy-bastard!!!”
As I entered the classroom while Ichi’s stomping echoing from the corridor, my classmates’ eyes quickly focused on me then dispersed.
Shirakawa-san was still nowhere to be found in the classroom.
I headed to my seat and placed my bag there.
“Kurose-san, do you have a minute?”
I called out to her on the seat next to me.
Kurose-san’s shoulders jolted and she looked over here. Her state looked to be ready to be talked to by me.
Her face when she answered me looked surprisingly dejected.
We went into a nearby empty classroom.
As soon as I shut the door, Kurose-san opened her mouth.
“It’s not me”
Kurose-san still had a depressed face. I could see that the area around her eyes looked slightly swollen, as if she had been crying yesterday until late at night.
“It’s only a secondary thing, my revenge on Runa is. I just.. wanted to be loved by Kashima-kun…”
As if lamenting, Kurose-san breathed out these words.
“Although that didn’t come true, I wouldn’t do such a meaningless thing… like to just spread rumors. Even I have my pride”
Judging by the state of her, I don’t think she’s lying.
“…I see, I’m sorry”
When I apologized, Kurose-san made a powerless smile.
“Me too, I’m sorry for pushing you around. And I’ll also block your LINE, okay”
In the end, I feel like there’s no choice but to be this way.
“Well then… let’s go”
It was then, when I was about to put my hand on the door in order to go back to the classroom.
I was called to a stop. When I looked back, I found Kurose-san was smiling at me. It’s different from a moment ago. That face, even though it’s dispirited, it’s colored with a tint of joy.
“In the past, if I had said OK when Kashima-kun confessed to me… Right now, I wonder if the person standing next to kashima-kun would’ve been me, instead of Runa”
When I kept silent without answering at all, once again, Kurose-san’s smile turned dark.
“…Just kidding. It’s meaningless thinking about it, isn’t it”
“Let’s go back”
Being urged, I replied back and this time, I opened the door.
That’s when it happened.
The figure of a person in front of me shouted, and pang!, something fell at my feet.
It was a phone inside a case that I knew very well, so I quickly looked up.
The one who was there was Shirakawa-san.
And behind her, I also saw Yamana-san standing with an expression that looked like a hannya mask1.
With an expression of disbelief, Shirakawa-san was slightly shaking her head.
“In the past… the girl Ryuuto confessed to and got rejected by was… Maria?”
I was asked.
About the thing I haven’t told Shirakawa-san yet…
“Why… why didn’t you tell me…?”
“I’m sorry, that was…”
“Why are you apologizing?”
With an expression of heartbreak, Shirakawa-san quivered.
“Did you.. do something you need to apologize to…?”
“No, it’s different, tha…”
“I don’t wanna hear it!!”
Hearing Shirakawa-san’s intense voice for the first time, my body froze still and I couldn’t move.
Shirakawa-san was staring at me with a devastated look, and glints started to appear from those eyes.
“Why? Ryuuto… I hate this, I can’t … take it”
After saying that, Shirakawa-san turned on her heel.
Without even turning around at my voice, she ran down the corridor.
I have to chase her!
However, before doing so I tried to pick up Shirakawa-san’s dropped phone in front of me. And as I was about to pick it up, my reached out hand froze.
There was a photo of me and Kurose-san hugging each other displayed on the screen that was cracked like a spider’s web. I think the screen was probably cracked because of the impact when it dropped.
This is the photo from yesterday at the park. The angle of this photo seems to be taken zoomed in diagonally from behind me. If it’s like this, you can’t even know that Kurose-san was crying, or that I didn’t have my hands wrapped around her body.
Coming back to my senses, I tried to pick up the phone again. However, it got picked up before I could like as if it were snatched away right in front my eyes.
It was Yamana-san. Yamana-san glared at me with a furious expression, moved the phone to her left hand, and made a big swing with her right hand.
With a pang, a sharp pain ran through my cheek.
My face turned to the side spontaneously and I understood that I had been slapped.
“….You fucking asshole…”
Yamana-san gave me a quick glare, then ran after Shirakawa-san.
“…Are you okay? Kashima-kun”
Being called out from behind, I looked back and found Kurose-san with a worrying look.
“Then I’ll be going. You don’t want any more misunderstandings, do you”
Kurose-san then slipped past my side and left the classroom.
After being left alone, I quickly ran out into the corridor. Even if I were to make chase, I couldn’t even find Shirakawa-san’s figure anywhere.
For the time being, I returned back to the classroom to check, but neither Shirakawa-san nor Yamana-san was there.
Feeling a tingling on my cheek, I touched it, then I saw a thin layer of blood on my fingertips. It must’ve been scratched by Yamana-san’s long fingernails.
Why did it turn out like this… Where, and what I should have done?
During the entire end of term ceremony, those were the only things I could think about.
From the conversations between my classmates, I’ve confirmed that the photo displayed on Shirakawa-san’s phone was taken by someone from the other class of the same year. It appeared that that student was from a different middle school in K-City, and yesterday, when that student was at a local park with friends from the same middle school, that student spotted me and Kurose-san from a distance and took a photo of us. Apparently, since that student knew my relationship with Shirakawa-san, thinking of it as a scoop, that student just sent it to friends and as a result, it spread throughout the school year in a flash.
And there’s an impact of that photo. Even without knowing what kind of relationship that I had with Kurose-san or what kind of conversation we had that led to that situation, I could imagine the feelings of thinking that that must’ve been me cheating if you saw that photo.
Shirakawa-san must’ve been hurt. When that thought came to mind, I felt guilty.
I have to quickly explain it, and clear up the misunderstanding.
Nevertheless, it’s the truth that I didn’t tell her that the one I confessed to in my first year of middle school was Kurose-san. I didn’t mean to keep it as a secret, but it doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t tell her.
Yeah, that’s right… I should’ve told her. On the day when Kurose-san transferred to our school.
But, we ended up sitting next to each other by chance, and I had a lot of chances to talk to her, too, because of class duty and whatnot… So I subconsciously thought of not wanting to cause Shirakawa-san any unnecessary worry, and ended up not telling her. To think that, that brought upon this situation.
If it’s only just a photo, Shirakawa-san might’ve still listened to me. But, because I was concealing my past with Kurose-san… She must’ve been thinking that there’s probably even more secrets.
Including meeting with Kurose-san in a public place, all of my own actions that I took in consideration of Shirakawa-san, all of it ended up backfiring.
I want to talk to her as soon as possible. Although I’m not doing any cheating or the like, I want to apologize to her for not telling about Kurose-san.
Despite my feelings, Shirakawa-san never came back.
Finally, the end of term ceremony ended. And even after school, Shirakawa-san did not come back.
The gray summer vacation has begun.
The next day, I was attending a summer short course at a prep school. It’s a prep school I wanted to attend when I became a third-year high school student, and as I also wanted to have a trial-run, I asked my parents to let me attend a two-weeks course of major subjects.
I had applied for it in May, and by no means that I’d expected that such a thing would happen with Shirakawa-san… In the first place, it’s a plan that was decided at a time when I hadn’t even imagined that I’d be dating a girl, so I had no choice but to attend it.
However, the precious content of the lesson, not even half of it entered my head, unfortunately. For the time being, I’d just copy what’s written on the blackboard to my notebook while thinking about Shirakawa-san.
Yesterday, Shirakawa-san disappeared somewhere with Yamana-san while leaving behind her bag in class, and they must’ve been together. As I wanted to talk to her, I waited in class for a while even after everyone had gone, but since there’s no sign of her coming back, I left the school to look for Shirakawa-san.
And after that, I waited in the vicinity of Shirakawa-san’s house for her to come home. Given that if I waited at the same place would’ve made the neighbors suspicious, I waited until it got dark while going back and forth on the street, or circling the house’s neighborhood. Around 8 PM, I saw a man in his forties with a well-shaped face entering Shirakawa-san’s house. He’s probably Shirakawa-san’s father, and I felt like his eyes resembled Kurose-san’s. And even after it became 9 PM, Shirakawa-san didn’t come back, so I gave up and went home. I’d thought that I might’ve missed her return, but the window of Shirakawa-san’s room on the second floor remained dark until the very end.
Even on LINE, no matter how many messages I sent, they never got a read at all. And when I tried to call her, ringback tone was the only thing I heard.
Just in case, I also tried to send a message to Yamana-san, but it was never read as well.
This was the first time we’ve not been in contact for this long since we started dating. I even started to worry about her well-being, but since Yamana-san was with her, she should not be in any kind of danger. I had no choice but to believe so.2
As for the short course, there’s a three hours class in the morning, and another in the afternoon. And this would go on non-stop for two weeks.
After the lesson was over, I did my homework in the study room3. And when I left the prep school, it’s already dark outside. In the middle of my way home using the train, I got off at A Station, and went to Shirakawa-san’s house. After confirming that there’s no light coming from Shirakawa-san’s room, I returned back to the station with slumped shoulders.
I continued to live like this every day for more than ten days.
And then, in the afternoon of the summer short course’s final day.
It was when I was getting tired, while slowly sipping the canned coffee on the desk to fight drowsiness after lunch, and copying what’s on the blackboard to my note in auto-pilot.
The phone vibrating inside my pocket surprised me. I’ve been like this for the past two weeks. Well, most of the time it’s just a notification from an app, though…
Wondering if I still had an app, which app’s notification I haven’t turned off, I took out my phone. And then, my eyes opened wide in surprise.
What displayed was a LINE message from Ichi.
Hey, your girlfriend’s cheating on you!
You’ve received a picture
What’s the meaning of this?
It appeared that I’ve received a picture, so I unlocked my phone and opened LINE.
What I saw in the picture was.
It was Shirakawa-san, without a doubt.
Shirakawa-san was in a swimsuit. Smiling happily, and taking the arm of the person next to her. That person is…
It was a good-looking man with skin like fresh wheat. And that tall, adult man wearing a leaf-patterned shirt that suited him, looked at Shirakawa-san and smiled lovingly.
I unconsciously muttered out, and the students seating next to me gave me a glance.
When was this photo taken?
Now! It’s taken just now!
Where is this?
At a beach in Sotobou4
Why is she there?
What is Shirakawa-san doing with that man?
I was full with questions I wanted to ask, but I was so confused I didn’t know where to start.
In the meantime, the class continued.
The time was half past one, and there’s still more than two hours of class left. However, now was not the time for that.
I gulped down the canned coffee clean, gathered up my notebooks and textbooks and shoved them into my bag, and stood up.
The lecturer on the platform gave me a glance as I was leaving the classroom, but didn’t say anything. It’s probably because it’s a large classroom with over a hundred people.
As I was leaving the prep school’s building, I called Ichi.
“Kashi? Aren’t you in the middle of your course?”
“Did you talk to Shirakawa-san?”
“N-no. We’ve only just happened to see them, and she doesn’t know we’re here”
When I asked.
“I’m also heere!!”
I heard Nishi’s voice from the other side of the phone.
“You guys, what are you doing in such a place?”
“Isn’t it obvious, we’re going swimming in the sea”
“Places like Shounan are scary so we came to Bousou!”5
“If it’s Chiba, I feel like even us would be accepted!!”
“So, where’s Shirakawa-san?”
At any rate, I can’t stop thinking about her.
“Yeah, she’s still here. Flirting with a good-looking guy at a beach house”
“…Could it be that.. you two are already breaking up?”
At Ichi’s slightly reserved voice, my chest ached.
“…No, we’re not breaking up”
At least, I don’t have the intention to.
But, if something like that happened and I haven’t even been able to contact her in two weeks… Perhaps, Shirakawa-san is the one who has the…
When such thought came to mind, I was unable to contain myself.
“I’m going there now, so tell me the name of the swimming area”
“Eeh!? Are you serious, Kashi!? How about the prep school!?”
Even after being told so by Ichi, I didn’t stop my feet from going to the station.
I have come.
Two hours later, I arrived at the station Ichi had told me about. I’ve only been to Chiba Bay Area, so I was surprised that the atmosphere was more rural than I expected.
As I was heading to the beach, I got a message from a LINE group.
Team KEN’s Kids (3)
Sorry, the sunburn is too painful so I’m pulling back now…
Even my skin was gloomy orz
Your Nishina Ren
Shirakawa-san is at a beach house called “LUNA MARINE”, kay
I feel something fatalistic, and I have a bad feeling about this.
Not long after walking from the station, I saw the beach they told me about. It’s already almost 4 PM, so the people on their way back from the sandy beach were noticeable. Perhaps because of this, that it didn’t feel crowded when compared to Enoshima.
The sandy beach was vast and stretching until far in the distance, and it’s a beach that gave a sense of liberation. I felt out of place because of my full-length pants and sneakers, the so called complete town getup. And my bag with the prep school textbooks was heavy.
I gently walked along the sandy beach trying not to let the sand enter my shoes while looking at the several beach houses lined up along the roadside.
“LUNA MARINE” was the very last of the beach houses, located at the end of the sandy beach.
It was then, when I was standing still between it and the beach house next to it, not being able to muster the courage to approach it right away.
I saw the figure of a person coming out from the backdoor, and my eyes went wide in surprise.
“Hey, can I go play in the sea for a bit?”
Slender hands and feet, tied up light-colored hair, a familiar bikini that adorns that glamorous cleavage… and that bright voice…
There’s no mistaking it, it was Shirakawa-san.
In the last two weeks, I’ve been wanting to meet and talk to her.
Not being able to make contact with her, I even worried about her well-being.
And she’s.. right in front of me.
When I unconsciously tried to approach her, the back door opened again.
The one who came out was the good-looking guy in the photo taken by Ichi.
Though he looked young, there’s not a single childishness in it and he’s probably in his thirties. And his light-colored dyed hair with a permed grown bangs hairstyle6 gave off a gaudy feeling. He was tall, and I envied those long muscular arms and legs, which showed his thin but muscular physique even when he was wearing clothes.
From top to bottom, everything about him was different from me.
When seeing such a man, Shirakawa-san’s eyes lit up.
“Hey, does Mao-kun wanna come too?”
Saying so, she grabbed the man’s arm.
“C’mon, let’s go!”
“No, I can’t. It’s still business hours”
“Eeh, isn’t it fine! There are no more people, you know?”
Seeing Shirakawa-san grabbing the man’s arm and making a spoiled voice, a stone-like weight piled up in my heart.
“Isn’t it fine! C’mon!”
“No~ope. Go play with Nikoru-chan”
What did he say?, and then another human figure came from the sandy beach.
“Then let’s go, Runa! And don’t trouble Mao-kun too much”
To my surprise, it was Yamana-san who was saying so with a smile. She’s wearing a black tube-type bikini that suited her slender body and tan-colored skin.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but you, you really do like Mao-kun”
Even after getting told so exasperatedly, Shirakawa-san smiled happily.
“I mean, we only see each other once in a while. Mao-kun, too, you’re always going somewhere immediately”
Shirakawa-san, who pouted her lips as she said this, looked like a lovely maiden in love no matter how you looked at it.
“Somewhere… I mean, I’ve a job”
The man called “Mao-kun” made a wry smile to those two, as if troubled.
If a third person were to see this, it’s just a pleasant scenery of a man and women on the beach, but to me, the whole scenery appeared distorted, like I was in a nightmare.
And now, to synthesize what I’ve seen and heard.
For a long time now, Shirakawa-san has had a true boyfriend. And he is “Mao-kun”. However, since they can’t meet that much because of his job, Shirakawa-san found herself another boyfriend… and started dating me. I can’t see it any other way.
And then, Yamana-san also knew this, too.
──Can you promise me that you absolutely won’t do anything that will make Runa worried?
She said such a thing to me…
She was all in on it. She knew everything. She’s just making fun of me.
This is too much…
Does.. a gloomy person like me not have what it takes to date Shirakawa-san after all…?
So the one Shirakawa-san likes is.. a good looking adult, huh…
Until now, whenever I’ve almost imagined about Shirakawa-san’s ex-boyfriend, I’ve had to kick it out of my head to avoid thinking about it. However, if a cruel scene was happening right in front of my eyes, I had no choice but to accept it as reality.
I really am.. getting ahead of myself. I can’t believe that.. I thought that a guy like me can be a true boyfriend of a girl like Shirakawa-san.
But I.. really loved Shirakawa-san.. I love her, even now.
At this very moment, she’s flirting with another man right in from my eyes.
Accepting reality is painful. It’s so painful it’s unbearable.
The midsummer sun blazing down mercilessly on me, my head was pounding, and I was even feeling nauseous.
──I.. love that part about Ryuuto.
Were those words and that smile, all lies?
Everything done with me.. all of it was just playing around, huh…
And then, as I was in daze out of too much shock and under the illusion of falling to the bottom of the earth.
“I said I can’t~! And look, we’ve got a visitor“
Saying so to Shirakawa-san, “Mao-kun” suddenly looked at me.
“Welcome! Would you be entering the sea now?”
When I was called out with a friendly voice, I froze.
Simultaneously, Shirakawa-san and Yamana-sa also looked in my direction…
And they were so surprised, as if seeing something unbelievable.
Seeing the state of the three of us, the puzzled face of “Mao-kun” eventually turned into an understanding one.
“Aah… Perhaps, is he the boyfriend Runa was talking about?”
Perhaps out of composure as being the true boyfriend, the man even smiled while speaking, and to that man, I glared in silence.
What a fearless man… He’s different from me, and I can’t believe he was able to continue dating Shirakawa-san composedly while knowing the existence of another man.
“I see I see~!”
In addition, he even had a beaming smile on his face.
“By train? It was a long way, wasn’t it? The heat was horrible, too~”
He even has the leeway to make small talk.
Don’t tell me, for this guy, is the thing with Shirakawa-san just playing around?
To think what, while being the true boyfriend he only thinks of her to that extent… Unforgivable.
What does Shirakawa-san even like about this frivolous guy?
Yeah, there might be nothing to criticize about his looks, and he may be an adult, financially capable and tolerant.
I can’t come up with anything that would help me win no matter how much I thought about it, and the more I look at the man in front of me, the more depressed I feel.
It’s already useless.
At this rate, there’s no choice but to withdraw and content myself as the second man, huh…
And if I don’t want that, I’m going to have to break up with Shirakawa-san, huh…
Those are.. the only two choices I have left.
And as I felt like crying at the thought of it.
“Since we’ve just met, I guess we should introduce ourself”
The man approached me, and pulled out what seemed to be a card case from his pocket.
“Are you fine with a business card? Nice to meet you~”
I looked at the business card handed to me, and my eyes widened.
I looked up in surprise, and the man announced with an exceptionally handsome smile.
“Hello! I’m Runa’s uncle! And it seems like my niece has been in your care~!”
….kind of… gaudy as an uncle…?
But, based on what I saw on the business card, I suppose that’s the truth.
Guessing from his name and apparent age, I guess he’s Shirakawa-san’s mother’s younger brother.
This uncle… is nothing like my uncles who get drunk on New Year’s Day swaying their pot belly while spouting dirty jokes.
“Hold on, you”
As I was dumbfounded by the turn of events, Yamana-san glared at me with a very bloodthirsty look on her face.
“I don’t know where you heard it from, but who the hell do you think you are coming all the way here?”
“Stop, Nikoru. It might be different”
Shirakawa-san tried to stop her, but was confronted by Yamana-san.
“Different? And what is different? He’s definitely guilty no matter how you look at it”
“If it’s someone else, then it might be the case… But if it’s Ryuuto, it might really be different”
Muttering as if to take it all in, Shirakawa-san looked at me… and averted her eyes once more.
“Since then I’ve been worrying about it a lot… And finally, I’ve come to think so”
Seeing us like this, Mao-san cheerfully started to talk.
“Now now, I’m sure boyfriend-kun was tired after coming all the way here in this heat, right? You should go drink yourself a cola and rest for now~!”
Forgetting to tell him my name, I hurriedly told him mine, and Mao-san replied with a good-natured smile.
“Kay! So you’re Kashima Ryuuto-kun”
That smile certainly looked a lot like Shirakawa-san’s.
I was taken into Mao-san’s beach house, and to a table seating that looked like a little raised seating area8 facing the sea. I sat down at the table facing Shirakawa-san. On top of the table were two complimentary bottles of cola from Mao-san.
As for Yamana-san, she said she had a part-time job starting at six o’clock, and just left a moment ago.
“…I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that the one who rejected me when I was in the first year of middle school was Kurose-san”
As I started to break the ice, Shirakawa-san gave a small nod.
“There’s the fact that I didn’t know the relationship between Shirakawa-san and Kurose-san, and even though it was all over, it might cause you any worry, so at first, I thought it might be unnecessary to tell you, though… then I’ve got to know you’re twins. And I lost the timing to tell you”
Shirakawa-san nodded again. Feeling just that much as a saving grace for me, I continued.
“On the day I and Shirakawa-san came back from the sea… I was confessed to by Kurose-san”
Shirakawa-san, who had been casting her eyes down, looked at me in surprise.
“Were you.. close with Maria?”
I shook my head.
“I was asked about my LINE, though, but we weren’t talking that much. It seems that previously, when I listened to her story about her spreading rumors about Shirakawa-san… I was being so kind to her, then she came to like me”
Talking about this myself felt awkward, so I’d make it brief.
“I tried to turn her down over the phone, but she told me that she couldn’t give up if I said it over the phone, so we decided to meet at a park… When we met, Kurose-san ended up crying. …’let me stay like this just for a bit’, she said. And I think that photo is from that time”
In order to not make it sound like an excuse as much as possible, I conveyed only the facts in a summary form.
“But Shirakawa-san, who didn’t know that, was surprised… and got hurt. I’m really sorry”
Shirakawa-san immediately shook her head.
“Me too, I’m sorry. …and Ryuuto’s, not in the wrong, isn’t it”
Saying so, she showed me a little smile.
“Maria’s not in the wrong either… the one in the wrong is the timing, isn’t it”
“That might be so, but… it’s the truth that Shirakawa-san was hurt. I’ve always been regretting that if I truly think about Shirakawa-san, I shouldn’t have gone to meet her, no matter what Kurose-san said”
When the morning came, while in class during the summer short course, on the train on the way home, before sleeping at night… for the past two weeks, I don’t know how many times I thought of wanting to go back in time.
“No, Ryuuto’s not doing anything wrong”
Shirakawa-san spoke gently.
“Because Ryuuto is kind, I feel like that’s what you’d do. As her elder sister, I’m happy… that Ryuuto was just as kind to Maria as you are to me”
And then, she looked at me and smiled.
“Thank you, Ryuuto”
Loads on my chest were washed away, and it became a feeling of warmth.
“B-but, wasn’t Shirakawa-san angry with me? And because of that you’re ignoring my LINE…”
“Ah, It’s different, I’m sorry!”
With a look of sudden realization, Shirakawa-san hurriedly spoke.
“At that time in the corridor I dropped my phone… and the screen was cracked to bits, and I can’t operate it to do anything at all. When I brought it to a store to repair it, I was told that if it’s cracked this bad, then the inside might be broken too, so it’s better to just replace the whole unit. But, that needs lots of money, right? It’s only about a year since I bought it, too. And I must discuss it with dad for that kind of thing, too. I couldn’t make a decision right away, and when I came here, there are no stores around here at all, so I can’t do anything anymore”
Her phone, huh. I hadn’t thought of that possibility. I mean…
“Speaking of LINE, couldn’t you open it on a computer?”
“Eh, is that so? Can I login with the same account on my phone?”
Saying it as if impressed, Shirakawa-san turned her face towards the sea.
The sun was already setting over the mountain side, so the sea was slightly dark and it’s starting to feel like evening. I attentively watched Shirakawa-san’s profile, while watching the distant shadows of surfers riding the waves then disappearing with a sideways glance.
And then, Shirakawa-san dropped her gaze from looking at the sea to her hands.
“…Actually, I was afraid to confirm it. Maybe, that’s why I felt glad that my phone broke”
Then she looked at me, and Shirakawa-san cast her eyes down again.
“I wanted to believe Ryuuto, though… I wanted to believe in you, but before I realized that there must’ve been some kind of reason and I had to ask about it, I didn’t wanna get hurt. I mean, there’s no absolute in this world, right? Even though I’m 99% sure that Ryuuto won’t cheat, then if the remaining 1% happens… and that’s with Maria, Ryuuto’s first love… when I think about it, I don’t feel like I can take it”
She, who spoke with a pained face, then smiled softly.
“Since I started dating Ryuuto, I’ve been very happy. Ryuuto is very serious, you also said you don’t have any ex-girlfriend, or female friends you frequently hang out with… That was the first for me… and from the bottom of my heart, I can believe in Ryuuto”
While I was happy she said that to me, I had mixed feelings when I thought about Shirakawa-san’s ex-boyfriends.
“That’s why, I’m not thinking about if I got betrayed… When I think about how much It’d hurt my bare heart, I became scared to confirm it”
Talking quietly, Shirakawa-san raised her face.
“But, I feel I can’t stay that way. No matter what Ryuuto was doing, I wanna keep dating Ryuuto from now on. So I thought I’d better face reality… Yesterday, I asked Mao-kun to take me to a store in the neighboring town to have my phone repaired”
“So that happened, huh…”
After two agonizing weeks of not being able to contact her, it seems that she’s been thinking a lot and had a change of mind. That’s probably why my apology was accepted so quickly.
“I’m sorry, I must’ve made Ryuuto worried”
I shook my head at Shirakawa-san’s words.
“It’s fine, we’re meeting like this now after all”
“How did you know that I’m here? Did you ask people at home?”
“No, a friend happened to come to this beach, and he told me he saw Shirakawa-san”
“Eh, really!? You friend… is he maybe, the big boy that’s always with Ryuuto? Was it Ichiji-kun?”
“Ah, yeah. It’s Ijichi-kun”
Shirakawa-san knew about Ichi, huh. Well, of course she would. The only ones I can call “friends” are like..only Ichi and Nishi… In the classroom, whenever Shirakawa-san comes to me when I’m talking with Ichi, Ichi would immediately say “go ahead” and hurriedly leave, so I’ve never been able to introduce him, though.
“Eeh, is he maybe still here?”
“No, he left already. He said the sunburn hurts”
“Ah, it sounds bad. I also got sunburnt badly”
Telling me so, Shirakawa-san then put her hand on the shoulder strap of her swimsuit.
“C’mon look, it’s this bad”
Certainly, the skin under the shoulder strap was slightly whiter than when compared to its surroundings. Even so, it still looked fair-skinned, so she must’ve been very pale originally.
“Nope, you’re not that sunburnt”
When I averted my eyes while feeling nervous, Shirakawa-san said, “Eh, really?”, and let go of the shoulder strap.
“Then that’s great! I’m aiming to be a white gal after all, so I put lots of sunscreen, but since it’s been everyday, I think I’m bound to get sunburnt”
“…Were you here all the time?”
Come to think of it, I still don’t know why Shirakawa-san is here. I understood that Mao-san, her uncle, is running a beach house, though.
“Aah, yup, that’s right”
Shirakawa-san then started to explain, as if she had forgotten about it.
“You see, ever since my parents’ divorce, I’ve been visiting my maternal great-grandma’s house every year on summer vacation. And my great-grandma lives near here. Meeting mom feels awkward because of dad, but I think I’m fine if it’s great-grandma. Sometimes mom and Mao-kun would show up, and it’s quite enjoyable”
“So, the entire summer?”
“No. There’s fireworks and a festival in mid-August, and I have that as the aim, so about a week or two. And since I heard Mao-kun was gonna run a beach house on this beach this year, I thought of giving a little hand, but as expected, doing it for the whole summer is tiring, so I thought about doing it in August, though…”
When she said that, Shirakawa-san looked down.
“…And there’s the stuff with Ryuuto. Somehow, I just didn’t know what to do… Nikoru has a part-time job, too, so it’s not like we can be together all the time, so I was like, Hmmph!!, and came here on the night of the end of term ceremony in my school uniform”9
I see. So that’s why on that day Shirakawa-san didn’t come back home no matter how much I waited, huh.
“Were you in school before that? On the day of the end of term ceremony”
When I asked.
Shirakawa-san raised her face.
“Yep. I was in the chem lab, and Nikoru was consoling me. ‘Should I take a break from work and stay with you?’, Nikoru said that to me, but as expected, I can’t be that spoiled”10
If it’s Yamana-san, I think she’d really go that far for Shirakawa-san, and as I was thinking that, Shirakawa-san put on a serious face and looked at me.
“You see, Nikoru has a dream of wanting to be a nailist”
“A nailist…? Are you talking about people who apply manicures to you?”
“Nowadays it’s gel nails. Nikoru and I are gel people. Gel for the win!!”
I wasn’t quite getting it, but Shirakawa-san seemed to be having fun looking at her nails. The nails with matching patterns to her swimsuit, had become significantly longer since the last time I saw it.
“After graduating from high school, Nikoru plans to go to a nail school to get her qualification. But since she has a single mom at home, Nikoru can’t rely on her parent for money, so she’s getting lots of part-time jobs to earn as much money as possible while in still in high school to pay for the matriculation and tuition fee”
She’s like that, but Yamana-san’s working hard, huh…
“And what Ryuuto’s doing? These past two weeks”
“Eh, aah, I went to summer short course…”
“Aah, you did say it, didn’t you”
It’s nearly the end of the last class. When I heard the story about Yamana-san, I felt guilty that I had practically skipped a whole period, even though my parents had paid for the tuition.
“Everyone.. really is thinking about their future…”
Shirakawa-san rested her cheek on her hand placed on the table, and turned her gaze towards the distant sea. Her profile looked somewhat uneasy.
“Shirakawa-san, what are you going to do after graduation?”
Last time she said she wanted to be a YouTuber, but I guess that’s just a joke.
She stopped resting her cheeks, and Shirakawa-san looked at me.
“You see, I’m a bit lost of what to do right now”
When I was wondering what she’s talking about, Shirakawa-san smiled.
“It’s because, my high school’s goal has come true”
“What kind of goal?”
When I asked, Shirakawa-san then shyly showed me what it was.
“ ‘To have mutual love, with someone I think I can be with forever’ ”
Sea breeze blew, and Shirakawa-san’s long hair gently fluttered. Against the background of the indigo blue sea in the middle of sunset, with narrowed eyes and a smile on her face, she looked more beautiful than ever.
“…These past two weeks have been painful, though”
Then Shirakawa-san dropped her gaze.
“I thought that If I managed to get through this, I’m sure, that I’ll be able to trust Ryuuto more and more, love Ryuuto more and more”
With a smile on her lips, Shirakawa-san turned her face towards me.
“Earlier, when I heard Ryuuto’s story… I.. could believe it from the start. I was like, ‘yep yep I can tell’. It’s so easy that I surprised myself, and I didn’t doubt anything. I think that’s because Ryuuto was only really, really telling the truth”
And then, she bit her lips as if to take in a slight bitterness.
“…Arguments with boyfriend, I’ve had that many times… but that was the first for me. When I thought about it, I suddenly felt like I could see the future beyond, and not just for two or three months…”
“…I’ve always.. been searching a palace where I can feel at home”
Suddenly, Shirakawa-san muttered.
“There’s nothing bad with my life now but.. I loved living together with dad, mom, and Maria. But, dad and mom got divorced, and the family’s all broken up… I noticed that. The Shirakawa household was a family created by dad and mom after all. When they broke up, it collapsed. That’s why, I have to make someone special for myself. I have to, make my own family”
As I repeated some kind of grandiose word that appeared, Shirakawa-san looked at me anxiously.
“Ah, do you think it’s heavy? It’s heavy isn’t, that kind of thing”
“No, it’s not heavy”
Seeing her reaction, I realized something. By “family”… is it perhaps that kind of meaning?
In other words… Shirakawa-san is even thinking about a future with me…?
At that thought, my face suddenly became hot, and I got on cloud nine.
I intentionally added strength to my voice, and Shirakawa-san looked at me with a surprised face.
“I was also thinking.. that I want to be together with Shirakawa-san forever”
When I conveyed it to her in an excited voice, Shirakawa-san’s cheeks also turned red.
And then, a look of realization crossed her face.
“Ah, of course, I’m not trying to get Ryuuto to provide for me right out of high school, okay!? Going to work or high school, I’ll do either of them”
“Ye-yeah, I know”
What’s this? This is not a dream, right?
A dream is much more realistic than this.
The back of my throat felt too hot, so I took the bottle of the cold cola and drank it.
“I’ll have to study for my exams properly…”
Seeing the bag lying horizontally, I grumbled.
Even from our high school, there are several students who get into difficult universities every year. I was thinking that it’d be simple if I entered an okay university though AO11, but I’ll study even from now so that I’ll be able to be good enough to enter a good place through the general exam.
If there’s a future with Shirakawa-san beyond that point, I feel like I can do my best at anything.
“Because Ryuuto is smart, I think you’ll get into a super good university”
Being told so by Shirakawa-san, I got antsy.
“Eeeh? Well, not at all as it is now… I have to study more”
“Aah, then maybe I’ll go to higher school, too. At this rate, the gap between us will get bigger and bigger, and the smart girls in university might take Ryuuto away”
Shirakawa-san making a pouty face is cute.
“That’s not going to happen”
“Eh, then, why are you smiling? Ryuuto”
“…When I think that Shirakaw-san is jealous of me… it makes me happy”
When I told her so, Shirakawa-san blushed.
“Sheesh~! I was seriously thinking about my future course here!”
“Sorry, it just happened”
It was then, when we were both laughing at each other.
“Heey, You twoo~!”
From the kitchen, Mao-san called out to us.
“I’m about to close up”
Before I knew it, the sea had completely lost its daytime radiance. It was only 5 o’clock so the sunset was still ahead, but there were only a few people left on the beach.
“Ah, wait! I’m gonna take a shower”
When Shirakawa-san hurriedly tried to stand up, Mao-san let oun an “Eh?”.
“Can’t you just change your clothes and do it at home?”
“But, I have to send Ryuuto to the station…”
“Eeh, are you going back? If you don’t have any business to do, why don’t you just drop by at grandma’s?”
“Ah, I like that! Hey Ryuuto, wanna say hello to granny Sayo?”
Being stared at with sparkling eyes by Shirakawa-san, I had no choice but to go.
“Then, if you don’t mind….”
What a day today is. I was informed of Shirakawa-san cheating on me, whom I haven’t been able to contact for quite a while, and then I rushed over here. As I was in despair seeing her flirting with a good-looking guy in front of me, that good-looking guy is actually her uncle. When we met again, Shirakawa-san even thought about a distant future with me… and now I got invited to come to her great-grandmother’s house.
It’s been a roller coaster of a day.
I had this thought while watching Shirakawa-san still in a bikini happily frolicking.
After that, I got into Mao-san’s minivan together with Shirakawa-san. After about five minutes of shaking, heading towards the mountain side, we arrived at Shirakawa-san’s great-grandmother’s house.
It was a house located on the gentle-slope mountain road, a house that gave off a somewhat nostalgic feeling. It’s two-story building with a tiled roof, and there was a large garden with thick undergrowth. Even if Mao-san’s car was parked there, there was still enough space for children to play tag.
“Granny Sayo, I’m home~!”
Wearing a large t-shirt over her bikini, Shirakawa-san walked straight into the house.
As I was standing in front of the entrance, thinking that I should get the permission of the house owner first before entering.
“It’s fine, just come on in”
Said Mao-san. And he put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me to enter the house.
As I was led into a Japanese-style room that seemed to be a living room, I saw an old lady with a surprised face sitting on a legless chair. Seeming to have just heard about it from Shirakawa-san, the “Oh my~” didn’t stop.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Kashima Ryuuto, and I’m currently dating Shirakawa… Runa-san”
As one would expect of a great-grandmother, she looked old, maybe in her eighties or nineties. There were many deep wrinkles on her face that appeared to have no make-up, and she had a tied-up gray hair, and a simple attire. When I saw how in a feverish state she was, the more I felt sorry for barging in so suddenly.
“Oh my, thank you for taking care of Ruu-chan… we don’t have much to offer, but do you want some tea?”
With that, the great-grandmother raised to a half-sitting posture, and reached for the tray on the table. There was a tea caddy, a small teapot, and a mysterious tube with a hole on the lid, which surprised me. So the reason why Shirakawa-san could make full use of the tea set at the inn to brew tea was because she knew how to use it here, huh.
“Ah, that’s fine, I’m gonna get some barley tea from the fridge”
With a light movement, Shirakawa-san opened the door of the fridge in the kitchen.
“Aah, that’s right, young people prefer cold ones…”
“Actually, granny, are you turning off the AC again?”
Mao-san fanned his neck with his hand, and picked up the remote control.
“It’s so hot again this year, you’re gonna heatstroke yourself to the other side, y’know?”
“I’m fine with just a fan. If it’s so hot for you, you can just turn it on”
When I looked over, I saw an old electric fan in the corner of the room sending a breeze that was just enough to ventilate the room. There was also a fan on top of the table with some kind of telephone number printed on it, which the great-grandmother seemed to be using to bear the heat.
When Mao-san turned on the AC, a lukewarm breeze blew into the sultry room. Around the time when the room temperature had gone down a little, Shirakawa-san brought a tray with four glasses of barley tea on it.
“Here. Granny Sayo should drink, too. To hydrate yourself”
“I’m fine, I’ve been drinking tea after all”
Even as she was saying this, great-grandmother reached for her glass. Perhaps because her great-grandchild had taken the trouble to prepare it.
“Granny Sayo, do we have any snacks?”
“Ooh, we have some peanuts lying in the fridge”
“Haha, that’s so Chiba”
“I mean, it’s given to me”
“That’s fine, I like peanuts”
While smiling, Shirakawa-san brought the peanuts in a wooden bowl.
“C’mon Ryuuto, sit sit”
Thus, me, Shirakawa-san, great-grandmother, and Mao-san had a chat for a while.
Shirakawa-san’s great-grandmother was 90 years old, and living alone at this place. With the support of the neighbors, she’s able to live a healthy life without any particular problems.
Even so, her daughters got worried by the news of heatstroke deaths among old people that was covered every year, so they… Shirakawa-san’s maternal grandmothers seemed to talk over it, and decided that Mao-san would live here this summer while running a beach house.
Mao-san’s main job was a travel writer, and he usually would travel around the world to publish his books. He said that he originally wanted to be a photographer, and that was a calling that allowed him to use his skills. He was 38 years old, single, and hadn’t had a fixed place to live for a long time, but he mentioned that he had kept his residence certificate at this house.
When Shirakawa-san was a child, there was a period of time when he was staying at Shirakawa-san’s house when he was working in Tokyo, so she seemed to look up to him like an elder brother. I had thought that they were too close to each other to be just an uncle and a niece, but after hearing their story, I could understand it.
“…So, when I woke up in the morning, my wallet, camera, and computer had been stolen, so I was like, whoah that guy’s really dangerous. It’s a small blessing that only my passport wasn’t stolen because I slept with it wrapped on my body, no?”
“Foreign countries really are scary~”
Once the introductions were done more or less, the conversation turned into Mao-san’s experiences abroad. Perhaps because she had heard the story several times already, Shirakawa-san gave a well accustomed interjection.
“Ah, hey hey Mao-kun, tell that story! The one about confrontation with a swindler in Macau!”
Said Shirakawa-san in high spirits, and my interest was piqued because it sounded really interesting.
However, for a while now I’ve been paying attention to nothing but the clock in the living room on top of the sliding door.
“Eh? That story is long y’know~? Let’s see, eight year ago…”
“U-umm, excuse me”
The time is almost half past six. My parents are probably thinking that I’m at the prep school today, too, and when I consider the time needed to get home, I have to leave now.
“I’d better get going now…”
And then, Shirakawa-san let out an “Ah” and looked at the clock.
“I see, it’s already this late, isn’t it…”
Since Shirakawa-san made an blatant downhearted expression, I, too, was reluctant to part.
“…If you’re going home, I can send you to the station, okay?”
Seeing us like this, Mao-san spoke in a slightly reserved voice.
“Ah, yes… Thank you very much”
It was then, when I was about to get up while looking at Shirakawa-san.
“You took the trouble to come here, so how about staying the night?”
Her great-grandmother, Sayo-san, looked at us and started to talk.
“If you go back now, it’d be late when you arrived in Tokyo. So how about staying the night here, and going back tomorrow when it’s bright outside?”
I wasn’t expecting to be told that, so I got bewildered. In contrast, Shirakawa-san’s face sparkled.
“Aah, I like that! So how about staying?”
“There’s lots of rooms too in granny’s house, isn’t it~. If you want, why don’t you stay until the day Runa returns?”
Hearing Mao-san’s joking words, Shirakawa-san’s face became even more delighted.
“Ah, that’s even better!!! That’s right, let’s go to the summer festival, Ryuuto! There will be fireworks too!!”
It’s still fine if it’s just for a night, but staying at the house of someone I met for the first time for more than a day?!?
“A-about the summer festival, when is it?”
“August’s Obon festival is… Err, when is it?”
“It’s gonna be in about two weeks~”
I got even more taken aback when told by Mao-san.
It’s a bothersome period even at my real grandma’s house. Besides.
“But still, if I stayed here for that long… I’d feel bad about the food expenses and stuff, too”
“Don’t worry about that. We are given stuffs all the time”
“Thanks to granny’s virtue, food expenses are practically cost-free, isn’t it~”
Sayo-san waved her hand and denied Mao-san teasing words.
“It’s because we’re in the sticks. They all say they can’t finish it on their own”
Come to think of it, I remember that there’s a cardboard box full of turnips placed at the entrance.
“Of course, I won’t force you to. You must have your own circumstances anyway. But if you stay, I think that will make Ruu-chan happy, too. And It looks like Niko-chan can’t come around that often”
Niko-chan… I think she meant Yamana-san. So Sayo-san has also met Yamana-san, huh.
“Err… let’s see…”
Shirakawa-san looked at me with teary eyes.
If I could, stay under one roof with Shirakawa-san for two weeks…
That’d make me happy, too…
“…I’m going to call my parents for a bit”
When I took out my phone and said that, Shirakawa-san was so happy like it’s been decided.
Seriously, what a day today is.
Thus, this was how I ended up staying at Shirakawa-san’s great-grandmother’s house for about two weeks.
^2. From “Yesterday, Shirakawa-san disappeared somewhere” a few paragraphs back until this line, all of it should be happening yesterday, the day Ryuuto got slapped. The writings could’ve been confusing so I wrote this TL note to clarify
^4. Located in the Southeast Part of the Bousou Peninsula, in Chiba Prefecture
^7. Travel Writer (or Ryoukou sakka is a general term used for writers who write novel or traveling piece on the theme of travel)
^9. Lemme try to say what I understood. Usually she visits the great-grandma only for a week or two, but since the stuffs that happened with Ryuuto, she went “Fuck it!!” and immediately went to her great=grandma’s place after the school semester ends.
^10. Uhuh, I feel like it’s starting to get confusing about what Runa has done even for me, so I’ll try to clarify what I think happened. On the end-of-term ceremony day -> consoled by Nikoru until dusk/evening -> going to a phone store or whatever to have it repaired without going home -> Got told it’s better to have the unit replaced -> Not sure what to do replacing it or just repairing it -> and she went “fuck it” and Going to her great-grandma’s house soon after -> two weeks have passed-> Finally decided to have it repaired in the store in the next town
^11. University admission process based on school grades, essays, and interviews etc.