(Interlude 1) After Kirari Asakura
<“…Watch me now.”>
With that one word, she was finally able to blow it out of the water.
（I’ll definitely make you look back at me!)
She swore firmly to herself.
She promised herself that she would show Kotaro Nakayama, who had denied her everything, that she could be happy again.
It was the end of October. The festival was over and she was back to her normal life… she changed her hairstyle.
(I’ve had enough of blonde hair… but if I go back to black, I’ll look like I’m in middle school, so maybe I’ll go brown?)
At the hairdresser’s, she changed her impression of herself completely.
She wanted to forget Kotaro Nakayama’s words, “Who are you?” She wanted to shape her new self firmly in order to forget the one phrase.
She changed her hair color from blonde to brown. She also stopped wearing colored contacts and started wearing red-framed glasses. In her mind, it was a fusion of her middle school and high school years.
“I am me!”
As she told Kotaro Nakayama, Kirari Asakura is Kirari Asakura.
Both her middle school self and her high school self are Kirari Asakura. That is why she dared to mix the two. She liked her appearance.
(I’m not a gal, not serious, not halfway there, but … not bad, right?)
And there was one more thing that had changed.
She started reading books again. Not that she wanted to go back to her middle school days, of course, but simply remembered that she liked stories.
(It’s been a while since I read one, but … it’s still interesting.)
The works she was once passionate about still greeted Kirari warmly over time. Chewing the fun of it, she immersed herself in the catharsis after reading it.
Ryoma Ryuzaki has not been coming to school since the cultural festival, which gave her time to do so, and it was just the right hobby for her.
She would be lying if she said that she doesn’t care about him.
But she decided to stop living her life just to be tied to Ryoma Ryuzaki.
So she started by getting her feet on the ground. Once Ryoma Ryuzaki returned to school, the competition would begin again. Until then, she decided to consider it a break.
(Hmmm … like this?)
Lunch break. I used to eat with Ryoma Ryuzaki before, but today I ate alone. I read a book while silently eating a pastry, enjoying my time alone.
It is the same life as when she was in middle school.
But something is missing, and she tilted her head.
She felt like she was enjoying herself a little more back then. As she ponders, looking for the reason, … she is unexpectedly tapped on the shoulder.
“Surprisingly, Asakura-san, you’re reading a book, aren’t you?”
When she turned around, there was a girl with black-framed glasses.
It was Niou Futako, the class president with her trademark braided pigtails.
“It’s Niko-chan, isn’t it? It’s unusual for you to talk to me.”
“No, it is you who is unusual. I was surprised to see you reading a novel for the first time in spite of your flashy appearance.”
Niou Futako is smiling slightly.
The friendly attitude was so much more puzzling to Kirari.
Until a short time ago, Niou had been cold toward Kirari. When she called out “Niko-chan”, she looked absolutely disgusted…, but today she seems to be in a better mood.
“What are you reading? Please tell me if you don’t mind.”
Apparently, she seemed to be interested in books.
(Come to think of it, Niko-chan likes stories too?)
She reminded herself that she liked stories so much that she even wrote scripts for plays.
She knew the feeling, so Kirari returned the smile.
“It’s a light novel, you know? Maybe not quite the genre you like, Niko-chan.”
“Light novels… light novels. I usually read only pure literature and original fairy tales, but I have been thinking about trying my hand at it for a while. But I was hesitant because I didn’t know where to start.”
“Heh, … do you want me to lend it to you? I have a lot of them. I have a lot of recommendations.”
As for her, she didn’t think much of it.
She was just casually suggesting the idea, but Niko looked very happy, loosened her cheeks, and grabbed Kirari’s hand.
“Are you sure? I’m so happy! Actually, the reason was that I don’t have much money in allowance and I can’t afford to spend much on books. You see, light novels can easily exceed ten books when they become a series, so I thought it would be tough…Thank you very much!”
Niou Futako was seriously pleased.
Seeing her happy attitude, Kirari suddenly realized that she too was happy.
(… Huh? This feeling … might be the same as when I was in middle school.)
It was not enough just to read the work.
But thanks to Niou Futako talking to her, she remembered how much fun she had at that time.
The reason was obvious.
(I see… I remember that time I had Ko-kun next to me.)
She recalls the time when she was in middle school.
At that time, he was next to her.
Kirari had always thought that she had lived alone, but the truth is that she was not alone…
(Ah, so that’s how it is…, I lost something important when I became a high school student.)
She remembered it after all this time.
Remembering that time, she unexpectedly burst into tears…