In junior high school, she described me in one word.
“Ko-kun, I don’t know what you were thinking.”
“… So like…?”
“Yes. Like a robot? Like, if you talk to it, it will answer you, but if you don’t do anything, it won’t budge?”
…. Like a robot, huh?
Come to think of it, I think Azusa said something similar to me before.
As I recall, that was when Ryuzaki had not yet found out about the relationship between me and Shiho.
When I asked Azusa to keep our relationship a secret, she said to me.
“I’ve never seen Onii-chan so emotional before…… I was surprised. Onii-chan was a human being, too.”
Until that moment, Azusa had also thought that I was inhuman.
And Kirari seemed to feel the same way.
“I thought we were pretty good friends, you know? But when we became high school students, you ignored me like I was a stranger. ……I wondered if I was someone who had a relationship with you that wasn’t that big of a deal to you.”
“Is that so ……”
I see. It certainly makes sense now that it is said.
Until I met Shiho, I was a person without initiative. I was just like a robot, unable to move spontaneously.
I think I hardly ever spoke to her, let alone showed any emotion.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I had no feelings.
“But recently you have become very lively and …… easy to understand. You looked like such a jerk when you saw me just now, remember?”
What, she noticed?
Kirari seemed to know that I didn’t seem to want to talk much. But she still wanted to talk to me.
“I’ve been feeling it ever since the overnight learning program, but Ko-kun has changed so much. So, you are the same as me. …… You fell in love and changed as a human being. Right? You changed for Shiho Shimotsuki, didn’t you?”
There was no denying her words.
As I silently walk through the mall, I consider her words.
Maybe I am just like Kirari.
I changed myself for Shiho, too.
“I didn’t know that Ko-kun, who was unsociable, uncommunicative, and emotionless, would …… become such a wonderful person.”
-Why is she saying that now?
What is she trying to say now by making such a statement that hints at something?
“I’m so frustrated because I couldn’t make a difference. Once again, I think Shiho Shimotsuki is amazing. …… Ryu-kun, Ko-kun, and everyone else loves that girl.”
Saying this, she unexpectedly grabbed my arm.
As if to catch me trying to escape, she gripped it tightly …… with such force that it hurt.
“I wasn’t good enough?”
…… Or maybe those words weren’t just said to me.
She let out her emotions as if she were saying them to Ryuzaki as well.
“Am I and Shiho Shimotsuki really that different?”
What was the right answer to that question?
“So I can’t even be a substitute? Hey, Ko-kun…… I didn’t have to be the best. If I am loved, I can change myself as much as I want. If he doesn’t love me, I’ll try to be more like Shiho Shimotsuki. But why didn’t …… Ryu-kun and Ko-kun turn their heads towards me?”
The wailing unintentionally overflowed with emotion.
I shake off Kirari’s hand and glare at her.
I hated Kirari for denying herself so much.
It was like looking at the old me, …… awful and uncomfortable.
“That’s just the way it is.”
Why can’t I understand?
Why does Kirari always, always have a biased point of view on things?
“Don’t flatter me. …… Hey, Kirari, what the hell do you want? Is being loved all you want? Looking at you now, it makes me really sad. …… It’s true that I’ve changed, and so have you. But the way Kirari has changed is not right. Growth is not the only kind of change. …… Degeneration is also a change.”
I’m sorry to Kirari.
But I can say this clearly.
“You were cooler before. Now you’re just a slacker who just wants attention and doesn’t want to get it for herself. …… Where is the you, that I used to like?”
I just can’t stand to see my former best friend who has become nothing more than a flatterer.
Me and Kirari are the same?
No, no. My change is ‘growth’, but Kirari’s change is ‘degeneration’.
I don’t want us to be the same.
“Just because Ryuzaki doesn’t look at you, now you want to depend on me?”
I’m sorry, but I’m not your guardian. I am not your blood relative, nor am I your family. Of course, I am not a saint who can love people unconditionally.
For example, if Kirari were my family ……, if she were my sister.
I would have loved that part of her as well. No matter how bad she might have been, no matter what she might have done or said to me, I would have accepted it, and I would have made a firm decision to accept it.
But Kirari is a stranger.
My back is not wide enough to carry the weight of someone else’s life.
“Sorry. I’m not the same guy I was in middle school anymore. …… I can’t give, even if you ask me to.”
Because I have someone to whom I want to give my all.
I can’t save Kirari by betraying her.
“Please, don’t make me …… more disappointed.”
It was just the best I could do.
What did Kirari think of those words?
I didn’t really know what Kirari was thinking as she stared at me in silence.
Just like I used to be.