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https://kakuyomu.jp/works/16816700427224608463/episodes/16816927860814502720

Punching Machine. Literally, it’s a game in which the power of a punch is converted into kilograms, and the contestants compete to see how powerful their punches are. At least, it’s not a game that girls would want to take the initiative to play.

But still, she has come up with a very physical game. I’m surprised that such a game still exists in shopping malls these days.

“Are you good at punching?”

“Fufufu, I don’t have much strength in my arms, but I still have at least a secret plan. I mean, I can’t bring Senpai to the arcade myself and then go home after losing so many games in a row !”

It’s true that Nanase has lost miserably to me in every game. In the first place, the person named Nanase has no skill for a game. Not to mention the rhythm game, even in the crane game we were playing on a whim, she was moving the arm in the wrong direction. As a result, she failed to win any of the prizes.

Nanase is proud to say that it’s a secret strategy, but the level of trust in her words has gone down. The secret plan was probably just a child’s trick.

“At least, I can definitely beat Senpai ! Senpai, attack first. Please use what you think is the best method and give it your maximum strength !”

Saying this, Nanase handed me a pair of gloves. I guessed that I would be punching with this glove, but it was a very bulky glove. I could not exert maximum power with these gloves. I could still exert a fair amount of force, though.

(Well, I don’t intend to put all my energy into this game from the start.)

I overwork my brain with rhythm games and other things, and I’m actually plain tired. Fortunately, Nanase doesn’t seem to be aware of it, but if she finds out, I will be forced to play along with even more incomprehensible games, so I would like to end this now.

Losing is one of the ways, but if you’re going to go to all the trouble, let’s finish with a clean sweep. And so I swing my arm in the air. My goal is to finish in second place in this game’s ranking.

(The angle and distance are good. Then…..this much !)

I swing my fist as hard as I can at the padded part of the machine. With the impact, I felt a dull pain in my shoulder. It had been a long time since I had used a strong force, so the recoil was tougher than I expected. However, I’m sure that I got a reasonable record. I raise my head and look at the screen.

Record: 220kg.

I don’t know who set this record, but my record is just below it. I skipped the option to register my name and just took off my gloves.

“Y-you’re so amazing, Senpai !”

Nanase looked at my record with her eyes wide open. It’s not as good as professional wrestlers and martial artists who fight on the front line, but it’s a difficult record for ordinary people to set. That being said, I didn’t maintain my body properly, so it’s somewhat disappointing that I couldn’t bring out the power I was supposed to.

“So, Nanase, can you top this with your secret plan?”

I asked Nanase, who was still upset. I had played the game well enough, and I didn’t care if it ended without a win or a loss. I don’t know what Nanase’s secret plan is, but there is no way she can be more powerful than me right now…….

“I’ll do it! “

Although I had thought so, it seems that Nanase has not given up at all, but rather, she’s smiling at me. Apparently, she’s very confident. What kind of secret plan has she prepared?

“Then, Senpai, please stay away from me a little bit. Ah, and can you keep an eye on the surroundings to make sure no one comes near?”

I wonder if she’s going to do something that shouldn’t be seen by others. I was getting anxious and decided to keep an eye on the surroundings as Nanase said. At the same time, Nanase started to move.

For some reason, Nanase took off her gloves and jumped vigorously…..a jump?

“Sooriaaaa ! ! !”

She kicked the pad of the punching machine with all her might. This is what they called a spinning kick in the air.

Just like that, Nanase landed gracefully and hurriedly checked the surroundings. Fortunately, no one saw her and no surveillance cameras. However, it was still a terrible thing to do. Nanase also realized after landing that she had overdone it, and gave me a wry smile.

“Ah, the record.”

But she seemed to be more concerned about the record than what she said to me. The screen was already displaying the result numbers. My record was 220 kg, the first-place record was 252 kg, and Nanase’s record was

Record: 247kg.

Although she lost by 5kg to the first place record, she won by 27 kg more than me. This was the first time Nanase had beaten me. What a cheating technique…..she uses her legs in this case.

“I-it’s my win.”

A lot of things happened, but Nanase seems to be happy. I don’t know what kind of face I should make, but for now I’ll take a breath and adjust my emotions.

(Well, anyway, this punching machine match is my loss……hm?)

Come to think of it, have I ever been defeated in my life? What happened in middle school wasn’t a matter of winning or losing or anything like that, but I feel like I’ve basically never lost in a game or a bet. Now, this was an alleged win in many ways, but Nanase definitely beat me by a number. That means

(For the first time, I lost……to someone like her?)

Is that what it comes down to? To this woman, I, Shiina Kanata……no, Tachibana Kanata was defeated by someone for the first time.

I don’t know why, but when I put it into words, it feels somewhat heartbreaking. Even though I’ve never been emotionally shaken by games or competitions. Even with Shinkai, when I was with her, I never lost.

As I was confused about my feelings, Nanase grabbed me by the arm and brought me back to reality. Nanase pulled me toward the exit.

“Senpai, let’s run away while we still can. I don’t think they saw me, but just in case.”

“If anyone gets mad, it’s your fault.”

“Well, um…..I’m sorry about that.”

As a senior, no, as a public moral committee member, I will tell Nanase what she needs to hear. As expected, that was unbecoming behavior for a high school student. If I’m not careful, I might end up getting caught up in trouble. If it had been me up until now, I would have ignored Nanase and gone home.

After leaving the arcade, we came to a nearby food court. Nanase offered me a crepe as an apology for what I had said earlier. The reason for this is because I had no money in my wallet, and Nanase was the one who had caused all of this.

“Well, I’m really sorry.”

“If you understand, that’s all right.”

“Still, I’m really sorry.”

Nanase apologized many times while I’m enjoying the crepe. It’s not like I’m taking the activities of the public morals committee seriously either, and since the previous act probably wasn’t discovered, there was no actual harm done. In other words, it would be extremely annoying if she kept apologizing.

Besides, if she keeps apologizing, the crepe will taste bad. By the way, I chose the cheap strawberry one. I felt uncomfortable asking for an expensive crepe from someone who had treated me many times at the arcade.

Even though I wonder why, I quieted Nanase down and managed to end the hell of apology. Nanase then began to eat the crepe she had ordered with all her heart. The fresh cream on her mouth was a cute sight to behold.

By the way, Nanase ordered a gorgeous crepe with strawberries, bananas, blueberries, and chocolate syrup on top. I think she resembles my step sister in the way she takes a picture before eating.

After eating half of the crepe, I talked to Nanase again. I thought about it a lot, but I just couldn’t come up with an answer.

“Nanase, let me ask you again. What was the purpose of this trip? Why did you take the trouble to take me around with you?”

If you wanted to enjoy your time off, why did you go to the trouble of choosing me as your partner? I don’t know if this girl has friends in her class, but ifs he does, she should’ve chose them. There’s no need to go to the trouble of taking a senior of the opposite sex around like this.

I wondered many times if there was more to it, but I could never figure it out. This may be the first time. I’m confident in my knowledge of psychology and my ability to perceive the subtleties of emotions. But until the very end, I could not understand Nanase Natsume.

When I asked her the question, Nanase looked at me with a vacant stare and a wry smile. Then she slowly began to answer my question.

“I genuinely wanted to know what kind of person Senpai was. Then, Senpai, aren’t you suppressing yourself somehow?”

“I don’t understand.”

“No, no, no, you’re suppressing yourself. I used to spend a lot of time lying to myself, so I can understand it. Ah, this person is the same as me, I thought.”

I don’t know anything about Nanase Natsume’s past. Or rather, we should have never met. Even so, Nanase has a face that looks like someone I knew a long time ago, and a smile that makes me feel at ease.

“That’s why I thought I’d teach Senpai what a high school student’s youth is like. How should I put it, the current Senpai is very uncomfortable.”

“Youth. I’m not that type of person….”

“I don’t think so. Because Senpai, when you won a game, you were smiling a little happily.”

“……I was smiling?

“Even just now, you were eating a crepe while lifting the corner of your mouth. I thought maybe you had a sweet tooth, so I bought you a crepe, but I was relieved to see that you looked just like your sister.”

“……”

I couldn’t reply to Nanase’s words. It’s because my heart is so messed up that I don’t even know myself. Or rather, for some reason it’s just a little hard to breathe.

Did I look like I was having fun? Just like my step sister? That’s impossible. Because I’m a person who cannot enjoy such things. That’s why I don’t know myself.

[Right. Because I’m not like you.]

(!?.)

[Masks are things that you’re forced to put on. You see, it makes it hard to breathe, and it narrows the scene in front of you, doesn’t it?]

As soon as I heard that voice, I managed to calm my mind by bringing my consciousness back to reality. Nanase in front of me looked at me with a curious expression, but I pretend to be at peace and eat the crepe again so that she does not realize how upset I am.

But I couldn’t taste the crepe anymore.

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ICZephyr
ICZephyr
8 months ago

Wow. This author is quite good. I didn’t think it’d be Nanase who’d make him really change and start accepting who he really is.
Imo, in cases like this, he actually separated himself into 2 separate personalities and sealed his initial personality. But, by doing so, he’s actually lying to himself. And whoever that continues ti lie to themselves will never be truly at peace internally.

However, since he’s adapted the gloomy persona for so long, it’s become a part of him as well. So the only way for him to move forward and get over his trauma is to merge both personalities and only then can he be the true him