On The Night Of The Fireworks
The days passed, as the real summer began.
The sunlight grew stronger, and so did the color of the blue sky, like you kept on adding another layer.
Each time a breeze blew, I could hear the wind chimes of my neighbor, the Amagase Household, ringing.
This entire time, Kazuhi continued to try and push me and Suzuya together.
It was almost like she was panicking—Like something was rushing her.
A regular Monday, but because it was Marine Day, we didn’t have any school day.
Since I didn’t have anything to do, I helped at my parents’ restaurant to earn some more cash.
The restaurant was located at a different place than our home, and although it wasn’t a stylish sight for sore eyes, it possessed a welcoming atmosphere, keeping its doors open.
Thanks to that, we had a lot of regulars.
And once summer break would roll around, it was time to think about my promised summer festival with Kazuhi.
I wasn’t trying to act cool or anything, but I wanted to at least treat her to some stuff.
Like a candied apple, or a chocolate banana.
Anything sweet, really.
Imagining her stuffing her cheeks while saying ‘It’s so delicious! But I’m gonna get fat! But it’s delicious!’ really helped motivate me.
“Hm? Ah, yeah?”
I was busy washing dishes in the kitchen when Mom called out to me.
“I got this from a customer right now.
They said they’d share some with us because they got them from relatives.”
And so many.”
And since we don’t have that many customers today, you can head out early.
Could you just bring some of these to our neighbors?”
“To Kazuhi’s family?”
We’ve got so many, and Kazuhi-chan loves peaches, right? I’m sure she’d be happy.”
Well, she loves all fruits in general.
More specifically, anything that is delicious.
I could already see her stuff her cheeks like a hamster while saying ‘It’s so delicious! But I’m gonna get fat! But it’s so delicious!’ All she does is eat, after all.
Anyway, I agreed to Mom’s request and made my way over to Kazuhi’s place.
Then again, there wasn’t much walking involved, because her house was right next to mine.
I was used to walking this path since I was young, and I knew her parents as well as her, so I wasn’t nervous in any way.
“Oh my, Sou-kun.”
When I arrived, I was greeted by Kazuhi’s mother.
Each time I look at her, I’m baffled at how she could look so young and beautiful despite having a child in high school.
Will Kazuhi look like this when she becomes an adult, I wonder.
Are you heading out somewhere?”
I’m going to a friend’s house.
Do you need something from Kazuhi?”
I just brought these.
Mom got them from a customer,” I said and showed her the plastic bag filled with peaches, to which her face lit up.
“Oh my! Thank you so much.
Ah, I know! Why don’t you eat some with Kazuhi?”
I can’t really explain it, but something’s been off about her lately.
I figure she’d cheer up if you’re with her.”
Well, we’re always together at school, anyway.”
“My, that is also true.
But, you’re here already, so I’d like you to go see her.
It’s a shame, but I have to go now.” She checked her wristwatch and shook my hand with a smile, quickly walking away while saying.
“Kazuhi’s in her room right now.
See you later.”
Since I received permission to enter, I swiftly went inside.
Despite it being a holiday, Kazuhi’s father seemed out, too, leaving only herself present.
We’re also used to being in each other’s rooms, but knocking once is at least proper etiquette.
After a brief silence, I entered.
Immediately, I looked around Kazuhi’s clean room.
The room was decorated with pleasant furniture to create a welcoming feeling, filled with teddy bears.
Yet again, I was baffled at how contradictorily cute her room was.
The window was wide open, probably to keep the air fresh inside.
Same with the door, too.
Because of a breeze, the laced curtains swayed left and right, with Kazuhi sleeping below them on the bed.
She had pushed away her blanket completely, probably because of the heat, allowing me to see her room wear.
Her white stomach came into sight, which made my heart skip a beat, but I quickly relaxed because “It’s Kazuhi, after all.” No, that’s not it.
We slept a lot together when we were younger.
Even if I see her now, there’s…nothing, yeah.
Nothing at all.
I’m just feeling hot because of the heat outside.
That’s the only reason.
After looking at her sleeping face for a while, Kazuhi’s back twitched and she stretched.
Finally awake? I brought some peaches, so let’s eat them.”
She kept her eyes closed, only mumbling to herself.
Ah, she’s talking in her sleep.
“What are you apologizing for? And what dream are you having? You didn’t do anything you’d have to apologize for!”
I knew she was asleep, but I still spoke to her.
Did she eat my snacks in her dream?
“More importantly, I have beaches, so wake up alr—” I wanted to poke her cheek to wake her up, but with the sight unfolding in front of me, I was silenced quickly.
From Kazuhi’s closed eye, I could see something rolling down.
I often see it when it’s raining—It’s Kazuhi’s tear.
“I don’t…have much time anymore…”
Don’t have time? What does that mean?
“That’s why…you have to be happy…with someone else…”
…I was feeling hot a moment ago, and yet a cold shiver ran down my spine.
And at the same time, a conversation popped up in the back of my head.
I thought it was just a hypothetical story, but…
—If you were in their position, what would you do? Your girlfriend only has a few months to live or something like that.
She said that she liked movies that made her think about this stuff, and yet…
—Huh? Uh…Well, I don’t…really like them so much, no.
In such a short time, she’s completely changed her view.
It’s weird, right? You wouldn’t change this drastically this abruptly.
And yet, something was off.
What made her change her opinion this much? That day…when she looked close to breaking out in tears.
That morning…I asked her what was wrong.
And if we should go to the hospital.
What did she say then?
—It’s already too…
…What if? What if it was too late to go to the hospital…and what if she doesn’t have much more time left?
I didn’t even mean to call her name.
It just happened naturally.
Before I realized it, I couldn’t stop.
My heart was utterly shaken by seeing her cry in her sleep.
Kazuhi blinked once, as she looked at me, unsure if it was a dream or reality.
“Are you going to die?”
“……” Kazuhi’s eyes shot wide open.
However, she quickly shook her head.
“…No, I won’t die.”
“Then why were you crying?”
“I…I was? What are you talking about? I don’t remember crying…”
“Then what’s this?” I ran my finger along her cheek, showing her the liquid that I scooped up.
Was it raining?”
“…No, it wasn’t.
It’s been clear all day.”
The window was wide open, and it was a bright sight outside.
It’s so beautiful outside, and yet…it feels like a large cloud was slowly moving to cover up the sun.
What’s this uncertainty and impatience…?
I’m weird, right?” Kazuhi tried to calm my worries as she showed a smile without strength.
I don’t like this.
Don’t smile like that.
You try to laugh even though you aren’t…I don’t want you to make that kind of face.
“W-Well, I just…had another scary dream.”
I don’t get it.
Why is she hiding this from me? I want her to tell me everything that’s going on.
I want to help her.
But if I don’t know, then I can’t…
“I’ve been having nightmares lately.”
“I…I’m not lying, okay? It’s just…I’ve been a bit scared of sleeping lately.
I feel so restless closing my eyes when it’s dark around me…Well, it’s weird that I would be taking a nap despite not sleeping at night, right?”
“Ugh…I’m not lying, I swear…”
Even if she isn’t lying, I can tell she’s hiding something.
She’s keeping a secret from me.
And I’m not angry.
It just…annoyed me.
I don’t want to brag or anything, but I felt sad when she didn’t rely on me.
It makes me worried that I have nothing to give her.
Even though she’s always been with me.
So close, yet so far…
“You’re scared of sleeping, right?”
“Then should we sleep together?”
“Yeah…” Kazuhi nodded, only to quickly grasp the meaning behind my words, her eyes shooting open.
“I’ll stay with you so you don’t have to worry about some nightmare.”
It was just me being stubborn.
I wanted to help.
I felt frustrated that my childhood friend didn’t rely on me.
And I hate myself for being this childish.
I don’t want to push her into a corner, either.
“Huh…Huh?! Wh-What are you talking about, Sou-chan?”
“What’s the big deal? We’d often sleep together when we were children, right?”
“M-Maybe, but…That’s not what I mean!”
“Don’t worry about it.
I’ll even hold your hand so you won’t have a nightmare.
I could even sing you a lullaby.”
“Or, what? You’d rather not? You can tell me.”
Tell me what’s on your mind.
Tell me just what is making you suffer like this.
And yet, Kazuhi remained quiet for a moment, tightly gripping her bed sheet.
And after looking away from me, she raised her head.
“I don’t…hate it.”
Even though she had just shed a tear, I could see her eyes already becoming damp again.
“It’s true that I’m scared of sleeping.
That I won’t open my eyes again once I close them.
I’m scared of closing my eyes inside the darkness of night.
I’m sleepy, but I can’t sleep.
And even if I finally drift away, it remains a shallow sleep with a nightmare.
I don’t…want to be alone…”
I could see myself reflected in her eyes.
Almost like I was being tested.
“That’s why…will you sleep next to me, Sou-chan?”
How did things end up like this? We were both lying on the same bed, which honestly didn’t offer much space.
We may be childhood friends, and yet we’re still two adolescent teenagers, so this definitely was off-limits…Then again, I was the one who brought it up.
I offered it under the assumption she disagreed.
And yet, she did a complete turn-around and asked me for it.
Sure, I could have said no, but how could I? I’m such an idiot, really.
I couldn’t bear sleeping face-to-face, so I had my back turned toward Kazuhi.
When she called my name, I rolled over to face her.
“…What? Just go to sleep already.”
But…Looking at your face just relaxes me.”
She probably wasn’t trying to praise me, but I could feel my chest flutter.
I’m the one who can’t relax.
My heart is racing like crazy.
My whole body felt like it was itching, and my heart was in disarray.
Am I the only one who feels this way? Why…am I feeling this way because of Kazuhi? She’s my childhood friend.
She’s my little sister.
There’s no need to be conscious of her.
We slept a lot together when we were younger, right? Remember it.
Remember all those summer days.
At home…lying next to each other on the tatami mat…together.
The sky outside was clear, as the wind chimes jingled.
I had Kazuhi’s sleeping face right next to me, faintly breathing as she had finally fallen asleep.
I woke up before her, but I couldn’t rob her of her precious sleep…But I also couldn’t take a second nap, either.
I was simply looking at her sleeping face.
Seeing her relaxed and softened-up cheeks, I couldn’t help but wonder what dream she had.
This time felt pointless, as we just kept on wasting away during this summer heat.
But looking at Kazuhi’s face, I felt relaxed, and at peace.
And yet, something deep inside me began to change.
It wasn’t anything painful.
Instead, it was like an inviting heartbeat.
But…I didn’t know what to make of that.
Because we—Because I’m a child.
When she called my name, my heart jumped.
Her long eyelashes moved up and down, as she looked at me with barely any distance between us.
Kazuhi and I aren’t kids anymore.
We’re in high school.
Before, when we talked on the phone without windows open, we couldn’t reach each other no matter how much we tried.
But now, even the slightest movement would allow me to confirm her existence.
…Ah, I see.
I felt something inside of me piece it together.
We are childhood friends.
But she’s not like my little sister.
What I had lying next to me—was just another girl.
The moment I realized this, my body jumped up from the bed.
“What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?”
Kazuhi stared up at me.
And yet, I couldn’t look her in the eyes.
“W-Well…This is just weird.
Sleeping next to each other…isn’t something we should be doing.
You’re not my Mom or a friend.
You’re…a girl, after all!”
The reason I emphasized this so adhesively is that I definitely did not want Kazuhi to do this with any other man.
But then I felt embarrassed, knowing Kazuhi would never do that even if she had other male friends.
I’m just so…flustered.
I thought Kazuhi didn’t feel anything in particular at us sleeping next to each other, but looking closer at her—I could see she was blushing, too.
I think she got embarrassed only now because she hid her body with her blanket.
And that gesture alone was enough to make my heart race faster.
An eerie silence followed.
Neither of us knew what to say.
I think I should go home for today.”
Sorry to…force you through this.”
“No need to apologize…Anyway, I’ll leave the peaches here, so eat them when you like.
You’re a fan of peaches, right?”
“…Anyway, see you tomorrow.”
Usually, I would never say such a thing to Kazuhi.
I didn’t have to, as we would see each other pretty much every single day.
And yet…now, I wanted a promise.
Because her saying ‘I don’t have much time left’ still stuck with me.
I wanted to see her again tomorrow.
That’s what I packed into my statement.
“Yeah,” Kazuhi smiled, but as before, it was void of any vigor.
“See you tomorrow, Sou-chan.”
Another morning arrived.
And we were once again greeted by the summer heat.
Stepping outside my house, Kazuhi was waiting for me, as she always would.
Despite what happened yesterday, when we went through that awkward silence and realization that maybe we weren’t just regular childhood friends, it felt like everything was back to normal.
But…I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing.
“You’re up early today.
I feel like you’re actually getting up on time lately.”
“Well…It’s summer, after all.
My desire to just keep snuggling up under my blanket isn’t as strong as it is during the cold winter mornings.
It’s just so hot, right?”
Works for me, though.
Saves us from ending up late.”
We walked next to each other as we went on our way to school.
Today, the sky was clear yet again.
“…It’s almost the end-of-term ceremony, right? And starting next week, we have summer break.
It still feels a bit fast.”
“And then, the summer festival’s right around the corner.
You were looking forward to that, right?”
And Suzuya-san seemed excited about it, too.
Hehe…I’ll do my best so that your Lovey-Dovey Honey Acquisition Plan works out perfectly…” Kazuhi said as she formed two fists in front of her chest.
—But, the one I like isn’t Suzuya.
I won’t deny that Suzuya’s a beauty, is rich, and excels at both her studies and sports, and even her personality is hella fun.
You could basically describe her as a living cheat code, and I really enjoy being friends with her.
However, the girl I really like is a bit of a glutton, a bit of a dunce at times, but kind and gentle from the bottom of her heart, and absolutely adorable whenever she smiles at me…It’s you, who’s always been by my side.
Surely, I just tried to keep my feelings bottled up under the lid of calling her my childhood friend or like a little sister.
It’s idiotic, but I finally realized it.
I don’t know what’s making Kazuhi suffer, but I want to help her.
I want to be her strength.
That’s why…I’ve decided.
On the day we promised, the day of the summer festival, I’ll tell Kazuhi of my feelings.
That I treasure her from the bottom of my heart.
That she’s more important to me than anything else.
That I’ll be there when she needs my strength.
I don’t care if she just sees me as a childhood friend.
I still want to tell her.
To reassure her that I’ll be the person who remains her ally no matter what may happen.
And that—she’s not alone at all.
I heard the whistles and drums creating noise as if they tried to battle the oppressive heat.
The lamps lit up the darkness of night in a bright red.
The iron plates placed on the various stalls created sizzling sounds, as a delicious scent filled the air.
The town I was so familiar with had changed completely.
The people coming and going wore yukata, as the girls had a wide range of oriental hairpins in their hair.
The stalls around us offered goldfish scooping and sweet candy.
Just the look of them could get your heart racing.
“Nice, nice! Very nice! A summer festival makes me feel so pumped! Like the Demon Lord’s gonna descend any second now!”
“Honestly, that one statement makes me feel like I wanna go home already.”
Today is August 3rd…the promised day.
The night I had waited for so long.
Standing next to me right now was Yousuke.
Kazuhi and Suzuya said they’d come, too, but we were told to go ahead without them.
I just got a message on my phone, saying “We’ll be there soon,” so we waited in front of the train station, at the statue of our town’s mascot.
“Also, how does this bristling but peaceful atmosphere connect to the descent of the demon lord? You got a screw loose or something?”
“What are you on about? Look at how great all this looks.
No way the demon lord would wanna miss out on that! Also, are you sure I should be tagging along? I thought this was supposed to be for your harem only, Sou.”
“It’s not a harem.
You’re just being rude towards those other two if you keep saying that.”
Originally, it was just supposed to be the two girls and me.
However, that scenario would’ve been a bit too much for me to handle (and I was afraid of being seen by the guys from our school), so I asked Yousuke to tag along.
“Well, don’t you worry about your little bones, Sou! I’m a magician who can read the room! I’ll make sure to ‘accidentally’ get separated while having one of the girls with me so that you can then walk around as just the two of you!”
“Nobody asked you for that! You’re just enjoying this, aren’t you?!”
“Now, now, now.
But more importantly, who would you like to be with? Kazuhi-chan? Suzuya-san?”
“Just kidding! I know exactly who you’re gunning for, so you just leave it to me!”
“Wh-What? What are you…”
I actually didn’t call him here just to do any of that.
I mean, I made up my mind to confess to Kazuhi today, but I can still do that after we said goodbye to Yousuke and Suzuya.
Kazuhi and I have to head home in the same direction, so there’s no rush to do it here.
“Sorry for the wait, Sou-chan, Yousuke-kun.”
But at that moment, I heard a familiar voice, so I turned around—Only to be greeted by two random girls.
No…that’s not right.
There’s only one girl who’d call me ‘Sou-chan.’ When I looked at them, however, I didn’t recognize them.
“Hee hee, look at her, Haruoka-kun.
Amagase-san is absolutely adorable today, isn’t she? Well, she’s always cute, though.”
“Wh-What are you talking about, Suzuya-san? You’re the one who’s…”
Unlike their regular school uniforms, the two were wearing yukata, perfectly in theme for this summer festival.
Kazuhi wore a white yukata with flower patterns in pink and purple.
Suzuya’s was evidently on a different level in terms of quality, as it had a navy blue tone with goldfish on it.
They both looked great in them, really.
And they even styled their hair in typical festival fashion.
“H-Hey, Sou-chan…Suzuya-san looks totally stunning, right?”
For some reason, Kazuhi moved closer to me as she emphasized that, but I had to avert my eyes.
“Geez, that’s no good.”
Even as I turned my back toward her, I could clearly see her pouting her cheeks like a manga character.
That’s not the problem, though.
I was forced to cover my face so that nobody could sneak a glance at it.
I mean, this is just…bad.
Yeah, very bad…Kazuhi is way too friggin cute, you know?! I have only now realized that I actually love her, and yet she’s coming at me at full-force! She’s so adorable, I can’t even look directly at her, and I don’t need a mirror to tell that I must be as red as a tomato right about now! No, I can’t.
She’s too cute.
Somebody save me! My childhood friend is too cute, it’s killing me!
And with my head turned away from her, I mentally slammed my head against a wall several times to calm myself down.
But alas, Kazuhi had no idea how I felt at that very moment, as she snuck around to take a glance at my face.
“Sou-chan! This is your chance! You have to praise Suzuya-san some more! Tell her she’s cute!”
You’re the cute one, dangit! Don’t get too close, you adorable idiot! Oh lord…Now that I’ve realized how I feel, Kazuhi in her yukata is way too strong.
She’s just so cute, I literally can’t.
Until not even too long ago, I simply saw her as my childhood friend and little sister, but now, she’s just like any other girl.
I know saying stuff like this can be cheesy as hell, but love really is weird.
I feel like I’ve been just calling her cute for the past five minutes, but I lack the vocabulary to describe her in any other way.
“Hee hee…Sorry that we ended up late.
I got lost in time trying to find the best possible yukata for Amagase-san.”
“U-Ugh…I said I was fine not wearing one, but you wouldn’t listen…”
So that’s why they needed more time.
Honestly, I don’t care one bit that we had to wait.
Good job, Suzuya! This is the best!
“Hey, hey, we’re all here now, so let’s go have some fun! I wanna try the goldfish scooping!”
“That sounds wonderful.
I’d love to try my skill at that, too.”
As I was busy jumping for joy (internally), Yousuke and Suzuya already headed for the nearby stalls.
I took a few deep breaths to relax and then turned toward Kazuhi.
While praying that she couldn’t tell how much I was blushing, still.
“…Let’s go, Kazuhi.”
Around ten minutes later—
“…Where did Suzuya-san and Yousuke-kun even go…?”
“That bastard sure didn’t waste any time, huh?!”
It didn’t even take an hour until those two just vanished without a trace.
And if I had to guess, it was probably that bastard Yousuke’s doing…Though, Suzuya most definitely isn’t innocent.
She always tries to be considerate when Kazuhi and I are together, so they probably worked together to give us some alone time.
Even though they really didn’t have to do that…But anyway, it was just Kazuhi and me right now.
“My calls aren’t getting through, either.
Maybe they ran out of battery…?”
That’s probably on purpose, too.
They most likely turned off their phones…God, they sure are efficient when it doesn’t matter!
“No way…but my Lovey-Dovey Honey Acquisition Plan…Should we…go look for them?” Kazuhi panicked and was unsure of what to do.
Honestly, we won’t find them no matter what we do.
They got separated on purpose.
“I…don’t think that’ll work.
Look at all those people walking around.”
“There’s nothing we can do.
Let’s just have fun ourselves…Ah, hey?!”
Practically mid-sentence, Kazuhi got swept along by a group of people.
It wasn’t even happening purposefully.
This amount of people moved like a giant wave.
“Kazuhi!” I grabbed her hand and pulled her back toward me.
“Why are you getting swept along now, too?”
Kazuhi’s face turned red as she was clearly flustered.
But, I quickly realized why.
Oh no, I grabbed her hand in the heat of the moment?! I mean, it was a necessary act, because she would have gotten lost in return.
I didn’t do this on purpose.
It just reflexively happened…Dangit, we held hands countless times before (while running to school), so why am I getting this nervous now? I just don’t know how to act around her anymore.
“A-Anyway, let’s go! Isn’t there stuff you…wanna eat? Things you wanna do? Anything?”
“Huh? B-But, Suzuya-san and…”
“Give up on those two already.
No way we can meet up in a crowd like this.”
Since Kazuhi didn’t brush my hand away, I didn’t let go, either.
I forcefully pulled her after me, as we happened to pass by a stall offering a shooting range when the elderly man called out to us.
“Yo, you two over there! I’ve got some great prices, so how about you shoot your shot and get a present for your girlfriend?”
Hearing the word “girlfriend,” both Kazuhi and I responded in unison.
““We’re not like that!!””
I mean…I want things to go in that direction, but at least for now, that’s not the case.
I just didn’t know how else to cope with this itchy and embarrassing sensation, so I reflexively denied it.
But, do we look like that? I mean, a boy and a girl (with the girl wearing a yukata) walking around the festival while holding hands, I can’t blame him for thinking that we’re on a date.
What about Kazuhi? Does she…hate people seeing us that way?
I looked over at her.
She was blushing furiously, and awkwardly moved her other free hand like she was trying to distract herself…I don’t know if I’ll just sound like a narcissistic prick, but…Maybe Kazuhi is pretty happy, too? Granted, she’s been getting fairly desperate at pushing me and Suzuya together.
And yet, whenever Suzuya and I seem to get along, she has this lonely gaze in her eyes.
And thinking about it, she was awfully flustered when it came to that indirect kiss that day we shared our ramune…It feels like she’s conscious of me.
Maybe Kazuhi feels the same way as I do? Maybe there are some special circumstances that force her to get me and Suzuya together? Or…am I just a narcissist for thinking that? Meanwhile, the man from the stall grinned at us as he continued.
“Hahah, don’t be like that.
But, how’s it sound? The offer for a round still stands.”
“Ah, but, we’re looking for people…”
“It seems fun, right? We’re here, so we might as well enjoy ourselves.
Is there anything you’d like?”
“I-I don’t really…Ah.”
“N-Nothing! It’s nothing!” Kazuhi frantically shook her head.
However, I didn’t miss her gaze and what she stared at.
“You want that…weird plushie?”
“Waaah, it’s not weird! It’s super cute!”
“No, it’s definitely weird.
Also, isn’t that from MagiMon? You were watching that?”
MagiMon is a popular kid’s anime called Magical Mont Blanc.
To reiterate, I don’t get the idea.
Why a mont blanc? And the plush toy looked exactly like one, with brownish cream around its head as the eyes stared into the darkness.
I personally can’t fathom why this became a thing.
And seeing Kazuhi stare at it like it was the one precious ring, I didn’t even need to ask.
I was just surprised to see she was into that.
“Ah, yeah, I actually watched it all online!”
“D-Do you think it’s childish? But, it’s actually super interesting! And you better not make fun of anime just because they can be a bit childish!”
I wasn’t even going that far, to begin with, so you really don’t need to tell me.
I sometimes watch these sorts of anime on Sunday mornings when I don’t have anything better to do.
It’s honestly pretty fun.
Talking about friendship and dreams, it’s something even adults can watch thanks to its fun and passionate themes.
Children’s anime is great!
“And also, Mon-chan is so cute! That beautiful brown color, the chestnut on his face, and this spongy body…it’s the best!”
“All right, I’ll make sure to pierce that cute Mon-chan’s head with a bullet.”
“Geez! Sou-chan, phrasing!”
I paid the man and pointed the rifle I received toward Mon-chan.
Then again, it looks pretty difficult to get.
If I had to guess, it’s probably the first prize of the objects here.
And looking at the size, I could see it’s going to be a tough one to get.
However, I’m not gonna be a quitter right in front of Kazuhi, so I’ll try my best.
Even if I fail in the end.
With that determination burning inside of me, I pulled the trigger—
The cork shot from the gun hit Mon-chan right in the dome, as it fell over…which is fine and all, but it doesn’t make sense.
I hit it straight on the head, so why would it topple over this easily? Oh well, no skin off my back.
I’ll just thank my lucky stars and accept it.
“N-No way?! Just like that?! But that was supposed to be the top prize!”
Contrary to me, the old man raised a scream in disbelief.
“Oh, what’s going on? Someone got Mon-chan from that stall?”
“For real? I thought that’d be impossible.”
“Now I wanna try it, too! Hey, Uncle, I’m buying three tries!”
Seeing the Mon-chan fall down, other people around us began to gather around the stall.
“Oh…Well, it ended up as good publicity, I guess! I’ve got plenty of other plush toys to put on display, too! All right, lad, take this! Best of luck to you and your girlfriend!”
The man was close to despair for a moment, but quickly changed into a true businessman and handed me Mon-chan.
“Here you go, Kazuhi.”
“Whoaaaa…!” She tightly embraced Mon-chan, her eyes lighting up like a child’s.
“So cute! I’m so happy! I love you, Sou-chan!”
For a moment, my head turned blank.
Kazuhi also audibly gasped as she realized what she had even just said, as her face turned beet red.
“W-Wait, no! That was just… a force of habit, nothing more!”
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.
You’d say that all the time years and years ago, after all!”
It’s a thing from the past, so just now…was…Anyway, let’s talk about something else! This Mon-chan here actually dreamed of becoming a shortcake, and that dream is granted in the final episode.
But, because he realizes that he likes chestnuts the most, he returns to being a Mont Blanc.
And that scene is so emotional…!”
“That makes no sense! You’re just making stuff up as you go, right?! Especially since the final episode hasn’t even aired yet!”
She really sucks at lying.
MagiMon is still running, and it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.
She should have realized that such a blatant lie would never work.
I guess she’s still a bit flustered…Then again, I’m no better.
My head still feels hot.
“…C’mon, we got what you wanted, so let’s check elsewhere.
I can see a stall with the candied apples you like so much!”
“What?! I wanna eat one, I wanna eat one!”
When her favorite food is involved, she immediately gets about everything we just talked about.
God damn glutton.
And it’s also so friggin adorable…
“Mhm, I’m so full!”
After we enjoyed all the food the various stalls had to offer, we moved to a nearby public park.
It was a small one that only offered a sandbox and a slide, but that made it quieter with no people around.
Most of them were probably gathering near the river to watch the fireworks that’d go up soon after this.
While carrying her beloved Mon-chan, Kazuhi indulged in all the tasty memories she made, as she trotted through the park.
“Didn’t you…eat a bit too much?”
“B-But you ate a lot, too! And, it’s fine on a festival day like this! Everything goes into a separate stomach!”
“You’ll get fat.”
“Hmph! It Doesn’t matter! Unlike Suzuya-san, I don’t have that great of a body, and I’m not nearly as cute as her!”
“…Nobody said you’re not cute.”
“…Well, I guess I never properly said it…Your yukata, I mean.”
In the back of my head, I faintly remember throwing a tantrum along the lines of “No way! I could never say something as embarrassing as that!”, which made me want to punch myself, but I still had to say it now.
“It’s super cute.”
Aaaaah, my face feels so hot! It was just one sentence, so why am I this flustered? I think my voice may have been shaking, even.
I’m so lame…And yet, Kazuhi blinked at me in confusion.
“Cute…You mean Suzuya-san?”
“Why would that be your first reaction?!”
“B-Because, you and Suzuya-san are…”
“…! Suzuya has nothing to do with this! The one I’m calling cute…is you, Kazuhi!”
Embarrassment and anger mixed inside of me as they urged me to keep my mouth shut.
However, I kept on stepping on the glass, blurting out how I felt.
I’ll tell her.
Right here, right now.
Right now, we’re only childhood friends.
Brother and sister, even.
And maybe…telling her will ruin our current relationship.
But, she’s hiding something from me.
She’s worried about something.
And of course, I considered not telling her.
After all, she might just have enough on her plate.
But…I know her.
She doesn’t like relying on other people, always trying hard to solve everything herself.
So, I need to tell her.
Confess that I like her, that she’s important to me, and that I’ll always be on her side.
I don’t care if she doesn’t feel the same way.
I just want her to know that there are people who genuinely worry about her.
“I like you, Kazuhi.”
Right as I opened my mouth, the night sky lit up.
Lights formed shapes and then scattered to disappear.
The fireworks started…It’s what draws the attention of people.
And yet, Kazuhi just looked at me in a daze, blinking a few times.
“Huh? S-Sorry, I couldn’t hear what you said.”
…What is this, a romcom manga?! Really? Fireworks? They may be beautiful, but what’s the point if they completely render my confession meaningless? Okay, you asked for it.
I’m not gonna let all the courage I mustered up go to waste like this.
I’m not pulling back.
I’ll tell her as many times as it takes.
Once, twice, ten times, see if I care! It’s embarrassing as all hell, but I moved closer to Kazuhi to ensure she could hear me…But, this seriously is bad.
My heart’s racing.
I’m more worried about Kazuhi hearing that than the fireworks in the sky.
“I-I’ll say it again.”
“I’m not waiting.”
I took her hand, pulling her closer.
The fireworks continued to bloom in the sky. BANG, BANG, like explosions in the distance.
They were beautiful, no doubt.
And yet, Kazuhi and I just stared at each other.
I like you.
Not Suzuya, not anybody else…It’s you,” I declared in a strong tone so that I wouldn’t lose against the fireworks.
I won’t let them erase my feelings.
I’ll get them across, even if it’s the last thing I’ll do.
“Sure, it might sound lame, but you’re important to me.
When I see you worry about something, see you suffer, I can’t stand it.
I want to…be your strength, I guess…A-Anyway, I like you, I treasure you, so I’ll always be there if you need me.”
Everything was falling apart.
I didn’t even know what I was saying anymore.
I just kept blabbering on and on, as I could practically feel smoke rising from my head.
It’s not even a beautiful confession.
It was messy and uncoordinated.
But, they were my honest feelings, so none of that mattered.
“…I like you.
I really…love you, Kazuhi.”
In the end, that’s all I could say.
A botched confession, reeking of childish desires, and desperately awkward.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was disgusted by it.
Kazuhi looked down once, nodding.
And then, she looked up at me, showing me a smile that couldn’t be described with words.
“I’m…really, really happy.
Thank you, Sou-chan..:”
No matter how much you tried, you couldn’t attribute a single word to her smile.
It was full of joy, and happiness, but at the same time…sadness, and despair.
It shone beautifully like the ball inside the ramune bottle, only to disappear into the darkness of this summer night.
“But…You can’t, Sou-chan,” she spoke like I had given her the wrong answer to a question.
“I want you to be happy, Sou-chan.
I don’t want to see you suffer.
So for that reason…it can’t be me.”
“Kazuhi…What are you saying?”
“I…can’t make you happy, Sou-chan.”
“What’s that supposed to mean…?”
“Are you not going to tell me?”
“I’m not blaming you.
I don’t want to force it out of you…But, I want you to know one thing.
I like you, and you’re important to me.”
Kazuhi’s eyes quivered.
She hesitated, wondering if she should tell me or not, I presume.
“…Then…” She tightly grasped her fist in front of her chest.
And then, like she had made up her mind, she slowly opened her mouth.
“If I tell you…you have to promise.
Promise me that you’ll be happy.”
“I don’t… have much time left, after all…”
“What do you…”
“In three years, I won’t be able to stand by your side anymore.”
I could only remember that one time she said that she doesn’t like emotional and tragic movies anymore.
And then, there was that one time she muttered “I don’t…have much time anymore…” in her sleep.
“Are you…sick or something?”
Maybe she went to the hospital and was told that she only had three years left to live.
That’s why she wanted me to be happy and end up together with Suzuya, so that she could pass on in peace.
But…it wasn’t an answer I wanted to think about, as I reluctantly asked her.
And yet, Kazuhi shook her head.
“No, that’s not it.”
Hearing that, I sighed in relief.
However, that only lasted for an instant.
“It’s because of an accident.”
“In three years, I’ll get run over by a truck.
I won’t be able to stand anymore, let alone walk, and my eyes will remain closed—forever.”
“Wh…What? Are you joking? How would you know that?”
“I do know that…”
Fireworks shot up into the sky once more.
The light it gave off was horribly unbalanced with Kazuhi’s clouded expression.
“Because I came from the future.”
What…is she even on about?
“You know the whole time leap thing, yeah? That only your mind travels back in time, entering the body of your past self.
The Kazuhi you’re speaking to…is the one from three years into the future.
BADUMP, my heart skipped a beat, as it felt like my blood froze up.
Time…leap? That’s ridiculous.
It’s a lie.
It has to be some bad joke…or so I told myself, but deep down, I knew.
Because she’s my childhood friend.
We’ve been together since we were little brats, so I knew that much about her.
She wouldn’t joke around about something so grim.
Not at a time like this.
That’s why…this wasn’t a lie.
It wasn’t a joke.
It was just…the truth.
“Sou-chan…One month ago, the Kazuhi you spent time with was the Amagase Kazuhi from three years into the future.”
The girl standing in front of me was Kazuhi, but not the Kazuhi I knew.
“And…this is the last ace in the hole I received to use if the time comes,” she said, despite holding nothing in her hands.
Almost like…whatever it was, she had kept it in her head.
She stretched out her back, wrapped her hands around my neck, and then pushed her forehead against mine.
At such a close distance, her lips moved, as she whispered.
“I’ll prove to you that I’m speaking the truth—Using these memories of mine.”
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