“You like a guy called …… Kokonoe?”

Yamamoto Ryuji asks me this when we take a break from lecture.

“…… why are you coming out with Kokonoe-kun?”

I looked at Ryuji with a dumbfounded look, trying not to let him realize how flustered I was.

Ryuji snorted, not seeming amused by that.

“Hmph, you seem to like him quite a bit.”

“It has nothing to do with you …….”

Maybe Kokonoe-kun will get noticed because of me.

That feeling manifested itself in the way he looked

We silently glanced at each other ……

“If so……, then leave me alone too.”

“Hey, Ryuji! …… Mouu!”

Ryuji looks annoyed and turns his back to me and quickly walks away.

I thought he wasn’t like that in the past… but since I know the cause of it, all I can do is stop Ryuji from going too far.

However, lately he seems to have been fighting with students from other schools, and I was starting to get tired of being around Ryuji.

Ryuji and I were close friends because our mothers were in the same class, so to speak.

We had many friends of the same gender, and we often spent time together, either in groups or alone, until about the fourth grade.

That changed after Ryuji’s father died in an accident …….

Ryuji seemed hurt by it, and when he came to school after the funeral and other events, he was not in good spirits.

But even with a smile that you could tell he was forcing it, he was acting strong, trying not to worry me or his friends.

So we, including my mother, tried to leave him alone for a while and watched him from a distance, although we were concerned about him.

But perhaps because of this slight distance, we didn’t immediately notice that Ryuji had a new stepfather.

This was the beginning of Ryuji’s gradual breakdown.

“Ryuji ……! What’s wrong with that scar!?”

“Rio ……”

On the day Ryuji came to school, he had been taking a lot of time off.

I Asked Ryuji about the burn marks left on his arm.

If I look closely, fine scratches were also left all over his body.

I panicked lightly, but Ryuji’s eyes and voice were completely devoid of emotion, and he said

“Just leave me alone.”

“There is no way I can leave you alone!”


I forcibly dragged Ryuji to the infirmary and doused him with disinfectant.

At that time, I felt bad about my mistake, but at the same time I laughed at Ryuji’s pain, and he laughed too, while he was angry at me.

After that, Ryuji went deeper and deeper into his shell, but he talked with me, even though he didn’t want to.

“…… Rio, watch over Ryuji-kun carefully.”

“Yes, I will! Ryuji, he talks to me, it’s okay.”

Ryuji’s mother said this to me one day after I came to see her.

-I had no idea at the time that I would be bound by these words.

After his mother told me this story, Ryuji’s stepfather was captured.

It was summer vacation in the sixth grade.

After graduating from elementary school and entering junior high school, Ryuji’s behavior became worse and worse.

His clothes were always in disarray, he was a bully, and he kept his classmates away with his overbearing attitude.

He was always dressed in a disheveled manner, he was a bully, and he had an intimidating attitude that put off his classmates.

I’m sure there were a few people who were looked down upon and taken in …….

By this time, it was very hard for me to be in this group.

When I stopped a boy who was trying to shoplift and almost got hit (though Ryuji stopped me), I did my best to hold it together, but I went home and cried.

…… I was at the end of my rope.

But I didn’t know how to get away from it.

And I didn’t even know why I had to watch Ryuji.

It was then that I met Kokonoe-kun.

He and I were on the executive committee together for our sophomore year’s cultural festival.

At first, I thought he was an unreliable boy.

–But he wasn’t like that at all. ……

[Tachibana, you must be tired, right? Sit down for a minute.]

[Oh, leave that to me. …… Eh? It’s okay, Tachibana is helping me, and we’re both here for each other.]

He cares about me and talks to me.

He recognizes my hard work

He gives me a warm smile.

Up until now, I have acted stoutly, suppressing my fear that one day I might be touched.

Even so, no one has ever given me recognition. No one has ever praised me.

However, Kokonoe-kun acknowledges me, praises me in general, apologizes for his own mistakes, and laughs and encourages me when I make mistakes. ……

I felt comfortable and comforted next to Kokonoe-kun, a place that reminded me of ” normality”.

“Hey, Rio. You’ve been hanging out with that shadowy guy a lot lately, haven’t you?”

“It’s because we were on the executive committee…… He’s smart, so he’s teaching me how to study.”

“Ha! You’re still a boring girl.”

“Stop it, Rio can’t be serious about that guy, can she? Right?”

“……, I guess so.”

When Ryuji teased me in front of him, his mood would deteriorate, so it was already routine for him to make petty sarcastic remarks when he wasn’t around.

(…… He hasn’t laid a hand on Kokonoe-kun yet.)

If he is going to be harmed, I must stop him.

My clenched fist was trembling.

Even though I was in the third grade, I was still in the same class as Kokonoe-kun.

Ryuji also seems to have started to care about Kokonoe-kun, but what does it mean if I like him?

Yes, I already liked Kokonoe-kun.

I asked him to be the chairperson of the executive committee out of trust, and as I expected, he organized the people around him very well and smoothly finished the preparation, the performance, and the cleanup of the festival.

I also supported him, albeit in a very small way.

(After the festival, I told Ryuji that I would leave the group ……! Then, no one should say anything about me being with Kokonoe-kun……)

I had decided to do so and was delighted by his call.

I waited for him, hoping that we would end up going out first.

He said he was going to be late because he had to work as the chairperson of the committee, but I was going to wait for him the whole time, and I stayed in the classroom as long as I was available.

Everyone else should have been at the launch by now.

And then that moment comes.

[Hahaha! You’re laughing so fast, you idiot!]

I hadn’t seen Ryuji laugh like this in a long time, but I was horrified by the way he laughed, which was much more chilling than in the past.

[Rio would never go out with a guy like this!]

[Look, Rio. You said she would do anything for you if you flirted with her!]

Certainly, I said those words

But it’s also a way to divert attention away from Kokonoe-kun,……!

I looked at Kokonoe-kun.

–He looked as if he was about to cry, but I could see that he still believed in me.

…… Then, if I could fool around with the situation, can’t I and Kokonoe-kun quietly go out with each other?

“O-of course!”

I made the biggest mistake of all.

“Phew. ……”

Kokonoe-kun’s school festival starts tomorrow.

I finished everything I could and let out a big breath.

I still can’t forget the look on his face when I abandoned him.

I was a fool.

I have to save Kokonoe-kun.

I am sure that his time has stopped since then.

Just like me.

I went to the trouble of waiting until the festival.

I was worried about giving him time, but there was no problem.

Sakurae Sana doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal as I thought she would be. ……

(At that moment, the same as in junior high school, I get Kokonoe-kun back ……!)

In my head, I hugged him tightly, as if he was about to cry at that moment.

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3 months ago

Too late.