Such an amazing thing, can you say it as if it’s a matter of course?
In those sincere eyes and words, there is no deception.
In his presence, I feel incredibly small and insignificant.
“…I’m truly sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing? I was the one who made a mistake.”
“But…, you helped me, Mashima-kun…”
“No, my judgment was wrong. But at that time, I couldn’t think of any other way to silence Miyanoshita. It’s my own immaturity; I’ve let everyone down, the club advisor, our classmates, the club members, my sister, and you…”
“You haven’t done anything wrong, it’s not like…”
“Even Haruto Miyanoshita.”
“Maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy if I told him properly, but I resorted to violence. It’s because I’m immature. There must have been a better way.”
“Why are you defending someone like him?”
“──If you live long enough, everyone has moments when they become unlikable.”
More than any words I’ve heard before, they were kind.
“I must change too, to avoid making such mistakes again.”
…Above all, those words were self-punishing.
“Why are you so hard on yourself?”
Before I could think it through, the words were out of my mouth.
“What you did… may have been wrong in the eyes of the world, but at least you saved me.”
“I will change too, I’ll change from the timid person I am now, so isn’t it okay, at least for now?”
“──Please allow me to say ‘Thank you’ to you right now!!”
…For the first time in my life, it felt like I had put my feelings into words.
Mashima-kun looked at me for a brief moment, his eyes widened in surprise, … but then he spoke in a somewhat sad voice.
“…If, by any chance, you’re grateful to me, please, forget about me now. …If we meet again, if I’ve become a better person, then let’s talk again.”
With those parting words, he, who was kinder to others than anyone else and stricter on himself than anyone else, disappeared from my sight.
…There must have been other words I could have said to him.
Or rather, I should have been able to reprimand Ai-chan strongly, just like Mashima-kun did. I should have been able to confront Miyanoshita-kun clearly, just like Mashima-kun, and prevented Miyanoshita-kun from making that face.
—I have to change.
…Words can be confusing when there are too many of them.
I was a timid person, so when there were too many words, I used them to protect myself, to hurt, to become submissive, to become bent, to obscure, to deceive.
The more words you pile on, the further you stray from your true feelings.
If only I could express my feelings as boldly as Mashima-kun.
Using concise words, conveying only what I truly want to say…
From then on, I stopped making smiles that weren’t true, stopped saying words that weren’t true.
I decided to speak only what I truly thought.
“──Hey, is it true that Takane-san is doing compensated dating?”
So, I tried to imitate Mashima-kun by clearly expressing my feelings.
“Come on, it’s okay! We’re just genuinely interested in it!”
“If you’re embarrassed, you can tone it down a bit, right? Right?”
…It seemed like my words were permeated with insecurity.
I couldn’t do as well as Mashima-kun.
“…I’m not doing it.”
In the end, my weakness was exposed, and I peeked out from behind my facade.
… He was different.
Mashima-kun had become even stronger, more righteous, and radiated more than he did back then.
Being exposed to his brilliance,
“Nothing takes precedence over the person’s own words.”
──I fell in love with him.
■Chapter: Takane Saki■
The story of how I met Mashima-kun during our time in middle school, and everything leading up to the recent confession, I shared it all with Hirabayashi-san without hiding anything.
Hirabayashi-san listened silently, occasionally nodding.
“Mashima-kun… he’s amazing. He never backs down from what he says. Just as he promised, he’s become an even more incredible person than when we first met.”
Kamimura is a small town. The news like “Mashima-kun punched a classmate in front of a teacher and got suspended” spread like wildfire.
I’m sure he went through a lot of tough times and had to endure hurtful words.
But despite such an incident, he achieved something remarkable. Mashima-kun became the first second-year student in the history of Kamimura High School to be selected as the president of the Discipline Committee.
Mashima-kun is truly an incredible person.
“…I wanted to become that kind of person.”
My self-loathing swelled even further, almost as if it could crush me.
“…In the end, I ended up relying on Imamote. I can’t even express my feelings properly without resorting to the complexities of love psychology. As proof, I can’t do anything not written in Imamote.”
I’m the most pitiful person on Earth, and I’ve reached a point where I have no choice but to rely on someone else.
“Please, Hirabayashi-san… I mean, Mori-san! What do you think I should do from now!?”
Hirabayashi-san, who had crossed her arms, fell into a silence with a stern expression.
There was a long, long silence filled with a whirlwind of anxiety and hope.
And after this silence,
Hirabayashi-san let out a sigh and said one thing.
“…Takane-san, have you read my book properly?”
I was taken aback by the unexpected words, and I froze for a moment.
Seeing my reaction, Hirabayashi-san shrugged in a somewhat exasperated manner…
“──Love psychology is clearly nonsense.”
Hirabayashi-san’s words brought time to a halt.
Both Yuka-chan and I couldn’t comprehend the meaning of Hirabayashi-san’s words and could only gape like goldfish.
“…What was that?”
It was a phrase I could barely squeeze out.
“–So, I’m telling you, it’s all fake, it’s all a sham. I can’t speak for others, but at least for the books I’ve written, they are, or rather, if they really worked, I’d have a harem by now.”
…The holy scriptures that I have believed in until now.
I had made them my anchor, something I could rely on.
Suddenly, God had appeared before me and refuted it all with a “It’s all fake”.
My feet crumbled beneath me, and I felt myself tumbling headfirst into a bottomless abyss.
Is this really happening?
What I’ve believed in all this time…?
I protested with a trembling voice. It was the most resistance I could muster.
Could there be something so absurd?
In the face of such misery, I felt like I might start crying loudly at any moment.
But Hirabayashi-san just said…
“You know, to start with, it’s wrong from the get-go. the very premise of Love psychology is wrong, and it’s okay to lie about it.”
Love psychology is okay, even if it’s a lie?
My brain was on the verge of overheating due to the bewildering riddle.
“Alright? From here on out, it’s the advice of the Love Creator, Mori. Normally, I’d charge for this, so listen carefully.”
“First of all, I know it might sound cliché, but in this world, there is no one exactly like you. Have you ever come across anyone who is completely the same as another among all the people Takane Saki has interacted with?”
Of course not. Hirabayashi-san, I, Yuka-chan, Mashima-kun, Arakawa-kun, Iwasawa-kun, and even Miyanoshita-kun, we all have different personalities and values, and we act accordingly.
“So… unlike a computer game, there’s no one-size-fits-all perfect strategy for influencing someone’s heart, is there? And it’s presumptuous to think that you can manipulate other people’s hearts with some superficial techniques or wisdom! After all, moving someone’s heart is all about the heart itself.”
“…So it’s still fake…”
“Listen to the end! Love psychology is just a catalyst; it’s okay if it’s a lie!”
Hirabayashi-san stood up, an action that I couldn’t have imagined from her usual demeanor, and she leaned towards me with an imposing air.
“─ What did you do when you found out about the ‘Windsor Effect’ in Imamote?”
I responded, perplexed by the sudden questioning.
“Uh, uh…Yuka-chan told me that Saki Takane seems to like Mashima-kun…”
“What about the ‘Mirroring Effect’?”
“…I tried to imitate Mashima-kun and talked to him…”
“What about the ‘Luncheon Technique’ with the ‘Stinzer Effect’?”
“…I ate lunch next to Mashima-kun.”
“Then how about the ‘Door-in-the-Face’ technique?”
“…I invited Mashima-kun on a date and exchanged contact information…”
“And what about the ‘3-Month Rule for Confessions’?”
Three-month confession rule.
The pattern where confessing within three months of meeting had the highest success rate.
Upon hearing this, I realized…
“I wanted to confess to Mashima-kun…”
“──That means all of that wasn’t just your efforts!”
It was as though a tangle of conflicting emotions inside me had suddenly come unraveled.
“I’ve written nothing but lies in Imamote, but I’ve also written the truth. Do you understand?”
“…… ‘90% of the Factors for Fulfilling Love are Courage and Perseverance’.”
“That’s it. Love psychology is just the 10%, there to push you forward. Takane-san already has enough courage and patience. So, forget about Imamote and just do what you want.”
…Ah, could there be a happier moment than this?
Mori-san, the Love Creator, was truly an incredibly amazing person, and it turned out that I hadn’t been wrong at all.
“─ Thank you so much, Hirabayashi-san! I’ll go talk to Mashima-kun again!”
“Good, that’s the spirit.”
“Every year, the student discipline committee does rounds during the Kamimura Grand Festival, so maybe Mashima-kun is there.”
Yuka-chan said and gave me a thumbs up.
I was truly… blessed with friends!
“──Thank you so much!! Then I’ll go!!”
I had no more doubts.
I rushed out of the empty classroom and headed towards the Kamimura Grand Festival grounds.
“…You know, I’ve realized how wonderful love is. Maybe I should confess to Iwasawa-kun…”
“By the way, Swindler-san.”
“I’m Mori, a popular romance creator on the internet.”
“How many copies of Imamote did you sell?”
“Hehehe, it went into an immediate second printing upon release, and we’re currently on the seventh edition.”
“How much have you honestly made from this fake book?”
“…Love is Priceless by mori.”