90% of the Factors for Fulfilling Love are Courage and Perseverance
■Chapter: Kengo Mashima■
There is a jinx among the citizens of Kamimura that the Kamimura Grand Festival always turns out to be a rainy festival.
First, let me explain about the Kamimura Grand Festival.
The Kamimura Grand Festival is a traditional festival that has been going on for nearly 400 years since the Kan’ei era, when Kamimura was a castle town.
The festival lasts for three days from July 6 to 8.
Countless stalls line the streets, and the sight of the many “Oshagiri” carts parading through the town is truly a sight to behold.
Today is July 7, the main day of the festival.
This is the most lively day of the year in the rural town of Kamimura.
… However, at this time of year, Kamimura is in the middle of the rainy season.
The Kamimura Grand Festival is usually held in the midst of dampness and long rains, which is why it is called a “Rain Festival” …
Today, however, the weather was clear and sunny, which was truly unusual.
So unusual, in fact, that the citizens of Kamimura mentioned today’s weather as if it were a dust storm, and even the main topic of the students was “Today’s Weather”.
However, despite the pleasant blue sky, I was …
“Oh ──────, Kengo ────!”
I was sitting at my desk with my cheek resting when I was startled by the sound of Arakawa’s voice coming near my ears. I looked and saw Iwasawa next to him.
“Oh, ah … you guys, what’s up with the classes? Why are you here?”
“What are you talking about, Mashima-kun, homeroom is over.”
I was surprised and looked around.
There were only a few … people around. The hands of the clock pointed to 15:30.
“Oh, I see, it’s after school already…”
I said, and Arakawa and Iwasawa looked at each other suspiciously.
“…Kengo’s been in a daze for the past month or so.”
“It’s been since the day he went shopping with Takane-san and such…, hasn’t it? Even at the gymnastics festival, I felt like your mind wasn’t in the right place, so what’s going on?”
When he mentioned Takane Saki’s name, I felt as if my heart had been directly touched.
“It’s … nothing.”
“Well, this is the fifth time you’ve said that.”
“Today we have the big task of making the rounds at the main festival.”
…The main festival of the Kamimura Grand Festival usually attracts a large number of people every year. The event attracts not only students from Kamimura High School, but also from other high schools in the prefecture and beyond, such as Nakayama High School and Shimokawa High School…
As such a large scale event, there is always some kind of trouble every year.
It was also the important task of the Public Discipline Committee members to make sure that our Kamimura High School students were not involved in any problems.
“It’s a beautiful day and there’s a lot of people here, and I don’t like the way you’re acting.”
“You’re gonna have to give up and talk to us, okay?”
There is no way I would be willing to talk about such a thing to others, for her own reputation’s sake.
Besides, this is a matter for me to solve alone…
“I know what Kengo’s thinking.”
“How do you know!?”
“Kengo’s too easy to understand.”
“…I mean, you can’t solve your problems by yourself, which is why you’re in this situation right now, right?”
It was painful to hear him say that.
“There’s a difference between telling everyone and asking for help, so trust us and ask for help.”
“Oh, yeah, trust us, we won’t tell anyone.”
“If Tatsuki tells anyone about this, I’ll beat him up for you, okay?”
Trust and consultation, huh?
Sorry, Saki Takamine, I apologize for any number of things.
“…Let’s go somewhere else.”
So let me borrow their help this one time…
In the darkest recesses of the bicycle parking lot.
As a chorus of cicadas and the clouds watched over us, I finished telling them as accurately as I could how I came to have lunch with Takane Saki on the stairs in front of the rooftop, what happened at ‘Leo’ a month ago, and what happened on the way home from there.
“Are you serious…?”
The first words of Iwasawa and Arakawa were exactly the same.
They were holding their heads in their hands, starting to say something and then stopping, and letting out a sigh.
“Wow──Seriously──…, it’s getting really complicated…”
“Saki is amazing… how did she manage to do that much against Kengo?”
“… Just to make sure I’m not mistaken, this is all my fault, right?”
“U…h… What do you think … Arakawa?”
“Personally, I’d give Saki-chan the benefit of the doubt, but … Kengo is Kengo, you know.”
I don’t know what he meant by that, and it didn’t answer my question, but Iwasawa seemed convinced.
“Well, whatever it was, in the end it was Kengo’s fault for making a girl cry.”
Even I knew that much.
“So? Did you respond to her confession?”
“Eh!? It’s been almost a month if I remember correctly! You haven’t spoken to her since then!?”
“I … know, too, that I have to say something to her. … But since that day, she’s been avoiding me. Saki Takane runs away at the mere sight of my face.”
“Well, I know how you feel, Saki-chan.”
“…And even if I were able to talk to her, I wouldn’t know what to say to her.”
I don’t think it’s typical of me.
“… I’m more immature than anyone else, so I can only stay on the straight and narrow.”
But once I start talking, the weak self that I have been suppressing in my chest inevitably peeks out.
“I am an imperfect human being who cannot make any decisions without dividing myself into right and left, white and black, good and evil. …That is why I thought I had chosen to do only what was right.”
But the truth is, I knew.
This is not a digital world of 0s and 1s, but a more analog world of ambiguity and vagueness.
There is an overabundance of the in-between, the near-black, the gray, and the hypocritical.
I knew that there were more of them than anything else.
I knew that, and I thought it would be an act of arrogance for me, an inexperienced person, to judge for myself.
“…It seems I’ve made a mistake again, I’ve hurt Takane Saki deeply.”
Arakawa andIwasawa looked at each other.
And … Arakawa looked at me and said,
“… Well, let’s put that nitty-gritty stuff aside, shall we?”
“Put it aside!?”
I couldn’t help but raise my voice.
I thought I was talking seriously, but I wasn’t.
“Let’s put that aside.”
“What’s important right now is what Kengo wants to do, not what’s right or wrong, okay?”
The two of them let out a sigh at the same time and continued in a very theatrical manner.
“Hmm? If I remember correctly, Mashimaa-kun also likes Takane-san… Oh, my gosh, Arakawa, I think I know the solution to this problem.”
“What a coincidence, I think I know the solution too…”
“Ah… I had no idea that there was a magic phrase that could repair your relationship with Takana-san with just that…”
“What should we do? Tatsuki, can I say it? Can I say it?”
“…I’m sorry, but we can’t help you.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do anything about it. Please tell me.”
After I raised the white flag and there was a short play in which Iwasawa gave up the right to answer to Arakawa, Arakawa pointed his index finger at me and said,
“Kengo hasn’t said anything to Saki-chan yet, it hasn’t even started yet.”
I haven’t said anything to Saki Takane yet…?
Those were the very words, the magic words.
“… Well, that’s certainly true…”
I repeat it over and over again, as if chewing on it.
…Yes, that’s right.
What should I say to her?
Saki Takane had conveyed herself so clearly and with so many words.
I have not conveyed a single word of my own to Saki Takane.
“Should I have just told her… how I feel?”
If I was going to worry, I would have to start first.
It was as if a ray of light had shone into the darkness with no way out.
Arakawa and Iwasawa are smiling with satisfaction at me.
… Well, trust and consultation are good!
“Arakawa! Iwasawa! Thank you! When I’m done making the rounds today, I’ll do whatever it takes to let Takane Saki know how I feel!”
“Ah…thank goodness, Mashima-kun is finally back to his usual self.”
“All right, let’s just do a quick patrol today, and then we’ll go to the stalls and think about how we can create a place for Kengo and Saki to talk.”
“Arakawa, you’re right. I’ll have a candy apple.”
While Arakawa and Iwasawa were enjoying laying out their favorite street foods, I was still trembling with the lingering emotion of the event.
…It was so easy.
I just tell her how I feel without any strings attached.
“Such a simple … thing, I can’t believe I had a crush on someone for three years and didn’t realize it …”
“Baby castella… hmm?”
Both of them responded to my casual mutterings.
What is it?
“… 3 Years? You’re talking about Saki-chan?”
“… No! I have a lot of questions I want to ask you! First of all, did you two know each other for that long?”
I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows.
“What are you talking nonsense? Me, Arakawa, Iwasawa, and Saki Takane were all students at the same middle school.”
“You really don’t remember … do you? We were together for three years and you’re a bunch of heartless people, remember the summer of our third year when I got suspended from school, that girl was Saki Takane.”
The two people, whose faces looked like pigeons that had been shot by a peashooter, froze for a moment in silence.
They both screamed in unison.
“Takane-san was that girl!? No way!? I don’t know, but if you ask me, she certainly had a name like that…!?”
“I don’t know, the impression I got was so different! I thought she came from some other middle school…”
“… You really are a bunch of heartless people, you should at least remember the students in the same school, even if they’re in different classes.”
“No, but we were… back then, huh?”
“Back then, we didn’t care about …, you know, we didn’t care about school…? We were kind of a bunch of hotheads…?”
“What’s the matter with you? Don’t act cool.”
“No, but…! When I heard this story, it all made sense to me! The reasons why Takane-san likes Mashima-kun and everything else…!”
“Whatever, it’s time to make the rounds, so let’s cut the idle chatter and get to the event.”
“”You’re being too serious───!””
Iwasawa and Arakawa looked as if they were about to have a heart attack.
As I think I have mentioned before, they are an uneven duo, but they are always in sync with each other at times like this.