Shimotsuki-san likes the mob Chapter 327

Farewell

“…Were you perhaps wanting to say goodbye?”

Watching Ryoma, who remained calm throughout, not letting his expression falter no matter what Azusa said, she somehow felt that way.

“Did you intentionally make Azusa angry so that the guilt would disappear?”

Being engulfed in anger made it hard to notice, but upon closer examination, Ryoma’s behavior seemed unnatural.

It was as if he was savoring the conversation with Azusa.

Yet, at the same time, a hint of loneliness in his expression created an atmosphere of parting.

“…That’s not it. I’m a selfish person, after all.”

Azusa doubted her ears at his self-deprecating words.

Ryoma, who had always been full of confidence, had a unique sense of specialness that no one else possessed.

But now, that essence was gone.

He appeared like an ‘ordinary boy’ that could be found anywhere.

(Was the ‘Ryoma Onii-chan’ I imagined for Azusa just an illusion?)

Even so, it didn’t mean Azusa was disappointed or disillusioned with Ryoma.

She was merely reflecting on her foolish act of overlaying ideals onto reality.

In that regard, she had also treated Ryoma poorly – Azusa felt ashamed of her own immaturity.

It wasn’t only Ryoma’s fault.

Azusa had been wrong too. That’s why she praised herself for apologizing sincerely earlier.

(You did well. So, you don’t have to… try any harder.)

Her legs were trembling.

It wasn’t due to the cold; it was a reaction to abnormal tension.

Sweat oozed from her palms, her heart throbbed audibly, and she felt mentally unstable to the point where she might cry if she let her guard down.

In front of Ryoma, Azusa couldn’t stay ‘normal’ anymore.

It was as if she had regressed to the Shimotsuki Shiho of the past.

Being timid and delicate by nature, Azusa couldn’t simply treat her first heartbreak as if it never happened. Even when Ryoma behaved like a protagonist, even with the convenient power of narrative manipulation, Azusa couldn’t return to the story – that was the truth.

Azusa Nakayama was still too young.

To truly love Ryoma Ryuzaki, she needed much more time.

But Azusa no longer had the luxury of waiting for that time.

So…, this was the end.

“…Well, I’ll be going now. It’s cold; I’ll head home.”

As he conveyed this, Ryoma took a step toward her.

“…”

However, it was a fleeting moment.

He immediately stopped himself, offering Azusa a weak smile.

“When talking with me, Azusa… you’ve been trembling like that the whole time.”

He was no longer insensitive.

He looked at Azusa properly, realizing how he had been affecting her.

Yet, if it were the Ryoma from before, driven by emotions, he might have pressed Azusa despite that. However, the current Ryoma – he kept himself grounded.

Therefore, to avoid hurting Azusa any further, he pulled away.

“I’m glad we could talk one last time. Azusa… be careful on your way home. Your body will be cold, so make sure to rest properly once you’re back. And… take care.”

With a slow wave of his hand, Azusa earnestly smiled for the last time.

And, summoning the bit of courage that remained.

“–Goodbye. Ryoma Onii-chan.”

Like before, she smiled, waved her hand, and immediately turned her back, running away.

Thus, Azusa didn’t know what expression Ryoma had.

No, she didn’t want to know.

–Now, it’s finally… finished. Onii-chan?

Whether that ‘Onii-chan’ referred to Kotaro, her deceased real brother, or Ryoma.

Azusa herself didn’t know the answer.

And so, the girl who was once a sub-heroine disappeared from the stage in the truest sense.

No longer part of the harem members, no longer a character, she would continue her life as ‘Nakayama Azusa’…

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