Source

https://kakuyomu.jp/works/16818093076684326416/episodes/16818093076688804090

The next morning, after seeing my sister and father off as usual, Akari and I were killing time watching TV as usual.

Akari tilted her head when she saw two bento boxes laid out on the table.

“Hm? I’m having lunch with Senpai again today, so I don’t need a bento. Didn’t I say that?”

After all, she had been eating lunch with her senpai recently. Takeru is shocked by Akari’s casual remark, but tries not to let it show on his face as he replies, 

“No, this is for my friend. I’m gonna make lunch for a while from today.”

Somehow, he didn’t want Akari to know that he was making lunch for a girl, so he answered vaguely.

“Your friend? Sako kun?”

“No…it’s a new friend I made recently. Someone Akari doesn’t know.”

Akari looked uninterested, [[..Hmmm?] and turned her attention to the TV again. Takeru, relieved that he was not pursued too deeply, turned his attention back to the TV.

After a few minutes, Akari opened her mouth in a blunt tone.

“Is it a guy?”

I had no idea what she was talking about when she suddenly asked if it was a guy

When Takeru asked what she was talking about, Akari’s tone became a little irritated

“Ken’s new friend. Is it a guy?”

Was the topic still alive? I thought it was over after a few minutes of silence.

Takeru thought for a moment before answering.

“…Well, about that.”

Please forgive me for lying. I didn’t want to tell the girl I liked until just the other day that I was making lunch for another girl.

Well, since he’s telling such a lie, it’s not just the past tense, but it’s probably because he hasn’t made up his mind yet.

Akari continued to speak without looking away from the TV.

“The bento box, it looks small? It looks as if it’s for a girl.”

“…..Seems to be a small eater.”

I answered, feeling guilty about lying to Akari’s face.

Someday, when my feelings for her disappear, I’ll tell her about how I became friends with Takatsuki. …In the first place, it is questionable whether my relationship with Takatsuki is just friends.

Akari didn’t say anything more and seemed to be in a bad mood.

Perhaps she suspected that I was hiding something from her.

When it was time for lunch, I went to the bench behind the old school building where Takatsuki san had already sat down.

Her back straightened and she looked so elegant as she read her book that even the old wooden bench looked like a fashionable antique.

When Takeru approached, Takatsuki noticed and closed the book, shifting to the side significantly to make space for him. She seems to have taken care of where Takeru could sit down.

“Ah, I’m just here to give you your lunch, that’s all right.”

“Oh, you think there are any seats available in the cafeteria if you go there now?”

It was after 12:00, just when the cafeteria was packed with students who had just finished their second period. Even if I went back now, I wouldn’t be able to sit down like she said. When Takeru was at a loss for words, Takatsuki continued speaking.

“If you collapse during afternoon class, it’ll leave a bad taste for me.”

Perhaps, in her own way, she was inviting him to eat with her.

After a little bit of consideration, Takeru decided to take Takatsuki’s word for it.

He sat down as far away from her as possible and handed her the bento he had taken out of his bag.

“I made a Salisbury steak today. Can you make sure there’s nothing in it that you don’t like?”

Since I didn’t know what Takatsuki san liked, I decided to go with something safe. Salisbury steak seems like a safe choice.

“Yeah, don’t worry about that. I don’t have a preference.”

How could it be? If you didn’t have likes and dislikes, you wouldn’t be eating ginger-meal sets in the school cafeteria, complaining that it tasted so bad.

I was afraid to ask questions about it.

Takeru was nervous to watch Takatsuki’s every move as there was a big risk that he would be criticized for his lunch box too.

Takatsuki spread a handkerchief on her lap and opened her lunch box on it. Her expression does not change at all as she looks at the contents of the lunch box. Takatsuki used chopsticks to cut a salisbury steak into bite-sized pieces and brought it to her mouth.

Instantly, her expression relaxed. The wrinkles between her eyebrows disappeared, the corners of her mouth turned up, and she let out a [Mm〜] sound.

Takeru couldn’t help but be taken aback by the expression on Takatsuki’s face, which he had never seen before. Her smile was quite attractive.

After a while, Takatsuki notices Takeru staring at her and goes back to her usual Buddha face. 

“What is it? It’s hard for me to eat when you’re watching.”

“Ah…I-I’m sorry.”

Takeru hurriedly shifted his gaze to his own lunch box.

Although he was scolded, judging from her reaction earlier, it seems that he liked the taste of the bento. Takeru pats his chest in relief.

Takeru also takes a bite of the salsbury steak. The meaty texture is so thick that juices overflow when he bites into it, and the fresh aroma of black pepper, which he added a little more of, spreads through his mouth at once.

As Takeru was eating the hamburger patting himself on the back, Takatsuki called out to him.

“There are two steaks, what’s the difference?”

“I changed the sauce on the other one, and it has tomato sauce on it. I made it a little more adventurous, what do you think?”

The sauce is poured on the back of the salsbury steak to prevent it from getting on the lid of the lunch box, so it is hard to notice the difference at a glance. Takatsuki turned the salsbury steak over and frowned when she saw that the sauce was red.

“I’m not very adventurous. If it’s a salisbury steak, I always only eat demi-glace.”

“S-sorry, I was trying to make it interesting so you wouldn’t get bored…..but it was unnecessary, wasn’t it? If you can’t eat it, you can leave it…”

Takeru lowered his tone of voice and said so, Takatsuki replied, [O-okay, okay, I just have to eat it, right? I won’t leave it behind] she said and fearfully put it in her mouth.

Takatsuki’s eyes widened with a start as she put it in her mouth, and she looked at Takeru excitedly.

“This tomato sauce, with just a hint of basil, and inside the salisbury…cheese ! There’s cheese in it ! They match so well !”

Takeru responds with a slight shrug to this more-than-imagined reaction.

“T-that’s right. I got a little excited and added mozzarella cheese.”

“Fufu, I never thought I’d discover something like this.”

Takatsuki then proceeded to put one salisbury steak after another into her mouth while smiling.

Since he spent a little more time and effort than usual to make this dish, there is no substitute for the fact that he can eat it with relish. Takeru continued to eat his own lunch, glancing at Takatsuki from the corner of his eye as he continued to eat with a smile on his face.

Fourth period, the last class of the day, is over, and we are on our way home. Takeru is the only one who takes the fourth period on Fridays, so he always ends up going home alone.

However, just as I was leaving the university gate, someone stopped me.

“Yahoo, Ken. You’re on your way home now?”

It was Akari who called out to me as she leaned my back against the university gate.

I usually don’t see her here because she is either gone home first or going to her clubs.

“Eh, were you waiting for me? What’s the matter? We always go home separately on Fridays…”

Perhaps because Takeru made a sour face, Akari puffed out her cheeks.

“Did I bother you? The circle just ended, so I thought you might go home by yourself, so I was just waiting for a while.”

“Ah, no, it’s okay. I was just a little surprised…it’s not a nuisance at all.”

“Really? Then, let’s go home.”

Akari lined up next to Takeru and started walking briskly. Takeru is stunned for a moment, then follows behind.

Akari was walking in a strangely good mood, waving her arms wildly, and her voice was speaking to me in a higher tone than usual.

“Today, Yasaka senpai decided to play my game !”

The mere mention of the name [Yasaka senpai] made Takeru’s mood sink.

“I-I see.. Is Yasaka senpai really amazing?”

“Not only amazing ! I’m no match for him at all ! He taught me well, too. He taught me that my form was a little weird, and he did it from behind like this…”

Akari happily rambles on about things that Takeru has not even asked her about.

She talks about how Yasaka senpai corrected her form so that she would be hugged from behind, about how she’s going to his house again to teach her, about how beautiful and cool his profile is, and so on.  Even if it is not so trivial for Akari, it is not considerate or merciful for Takeru.

Halfway through, they were just exchanging words, but Akari didn’t stop talking, and the hellish time was moving more slowly than usual, and even when Takeru’s house came into view, she couldn’t stop talking.

[Akari! !] Akari spun around and looked surprised. [I’ve already arrived home. See you tomorrow.]

Without waiting for Akari’s reply, Takeru turned his back on her and started to walk away.

If he were a true friend, he would have listened to her love story with a smile, but he was disgusted with himself for not being able to do so.

“Hey…wait !”

Akari grabbed Takeru’s back and held him back. Takeru turns his face toward her and waits for her to speak.

Akari mumbles something difficult to say, then opens her mouth with her eyes downcast.

“Where did you….eat lunch today?”

“Eh? At the school cafeteria…”

“You weren’t in the cafeteria, were you? I looked for you, but I couldn’t find you.”

Akari repeats her words in a biting manner. 

Akari had gone to the trouble of showing up at the cafeteria to check on Takeru.

“…Ah, the [girl] I’m eating with today doesn’t seem to like crowds, so we had to move the place from the cafeteria.”

Takeru, whose blood was rushing to his head after being told a story he didn’t want to hear, said this, emphasizing the “girl” part, as if he was trying to get back at her.

Akari narrowed her eyes for a moment, then shook her shoulders and laughed.

“Oh, so that’s how it is. It’s true that it’s very crowded during lunch time. I mean, was the friend you’re having lunch with a girl? Didn’t you say you were a guy this morning?”

“…..Sorry I was a little embarrassed this morning, so I faked it.”

Then Akari smiles pleasantly as she pats Takeru on the back with a bashing motion.

“I see, spring has finally come for Ken, is it? You did it!”

“That’s not how….it is, though…..”

There was no sign of jealousy on Akari’s face.

Takeru knew this ever since he heard that she started dating Yasaka-senpai, but now he realized that he was really just a childhood friend to her.

Takeru turns his back to her to leave as tears well up again, but he cannot move because Akariis still holding his back.

After a few seconds of silence, Akari looks into Takeru’s eyes as if to gauge his expression, and continues to speak.

“So where did you end up eating?”

I could feel the undeniable power in Akari’s eyes.

“I was eating outside. It was a beautiful day…….”

“Where on the outside?”

Akari’s voice overlaps without missing a beat.

The particulars of the place were vague because Takeru had a bad feeling about it and didn’t want to tell Akari about the old school building, but Akari insisted on asking.

Takeru sighs and gives off an air of wanting to leave as soon as possible, and continues speaking.

“I mean, is this really the kind of talk you want to keep me in like this? What’re you gonna do if you know where we’re having lunch?”

“Eh? She’s Ken’s friend, so I just thought I’d stop by and say hello.”

Akari said as if it was a matter of course. Takeru’s bad premonition came true.

Looking back on it now, Akari tends to want to get along with Takeru’s friends, just like when he became friends with Sako and Miyano. Not only in Sako and Miyano, but also in junior high and high school, Akari always intervened in the communities that Takeru belonged to.

A friend of a friend is a friend, right?  Or was she supposed to be Takeru’s protector or something? Now that I think about it, I even feel like she was controlling my friendships.

“You don’t need to say hello. She’s my friend, so it’s none of your business.”

Takeru dared to say it in a dismissive way.

He had decided to give up on Akari once and for all and move on. I don’t want Akari to be a part of my community any longer.

Then, Akari’s eyebrows lowered and her mouth tightened. This is the expression of a person who is really angry.

“Why are you saying that? Are you hiding something from me?”

“I’m not hiding anything. I’m just saying that you don’t need to be involved in all the friendships I’ve made.”

Akari, furious at Takeru’s refusal to answer, quickly turned on her heel and turned her back on Takeru.

“I get it, if you’re going to say that much then that’s enough ! I’m going home now ! I don’t even know Ken anymore !”

“Ah……”

Akari’s slightly muffled voice makes me hesitate for a moment, but then I stop. Even if I keep her back, I have no intention of talking to her about Takatsuki san. It just makes things even more complicated.

“Yeah….I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I called out to Akari as she started to walk quickly.

The way she walked with her exaggeratedly big step, it looked as if she was trying to show that she was angry. In the past, whenever he and Akari had a fight, Takeru would always apologize to her, and she might be waiting for him to apologize to her.

This time, however, Takeru has no intention of apologizing.

He has realized since Akari got a boyfriend, the relationship between childhood friends who talk openly about everything does not last forever.

Takeru felt that their relationship should change after this.

Takeru turned his back to Akari and started walking, pretending not to notice how she occasionally slowed her steps and glanced behind her.

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Baitware
Baitware
1 day ago

Feels like this is gonna be a ”I was just having an adventure but you’re the one I always wanted to marry” situation from Akari, shes really giving me the ick