Chapter 7: For me, a childhood friend is ……
I had a childhood friend since I was very young.
His name was Shu Sasaki, and he was the kind of boy who always followed me around.
It didn’t take long for us to become friends, as our mothers were good friends.
[Ayana-san! Come play with me!]
At the time, I thought Shu-kun was cute as he followed behind me, and I felt like an older sister watching over my little brother.
I didn’t mind taking care of Shu-kun myself, and I didn’t think anything of filling up my unscheduled daily life in this way.
…….If only it didn’t go on for so long.
One day, I had an appointment to play with a friend I had befriended at school.
As I was getting ready to go out to play with her and the other girls, my mother said to me.
[Where are you going? No, you can’t.
I told Shu-kun’s mother that you are going to play with him.]
[…… eh? But I promised to play with my friends.]
[That can wait until another time.
You’re his childhood friend, so take care of Shu-kun.]
[Do you understand?]
I canceled my appointment with my friend and headed to Shu-kun’s house.
Fortunately, my friend said it was okay if I had to go, but I was filled with apologies.
And it was around this time …… that I began to question the existence of my childhood friend.
Every day I would head to Shu-kun’s house to do whatever he wanted, spend time with him and his sister, and go home to finish the day.
On days when I had school, I would head over to wake him up in the morning and we would head off to school side by side.
On second thought, this was not my intention, but something my mother told me to do.
[I am so glad you are here, Ayana-chan.
I hope you will become Shu’s wife.]
[Ayana-chan, let’s do that! I’d like you to be my brother’s wife!]
[Hey, you two, don’t say weird things!]
The family reunion was unfolding in front of my eyes, and my mother was joining us to talk about the future.
I watched it with a somewhat cold feeling.
I was disgusted with my mother, who always said “Shu-kun” this “Shu-kun” that, in everything she did.
I feel depressed about Shu-kun, who I thought was cute until a little while ago.
His mother and sister praise me for caring about Shu-kun in a way that I don’t understand and lift me up.
…… I began to think that all of this was weird to me.
I am told that I should stay with him because we have known each other since childhood, and that it is natural for me to be by his side.
“……What is a childhood friend?”
Childhood friend, a term used to refer to someone who has been with you for a long time.
I am always by Shu-kun’s side, and if I say I don’t like it, I am told not to say such terrible things.
If I say even the slightest negative thing, she slaps me on the cheek.
…… Hey, enlighten me.
What am I? Do I exist only to adorn the existence of Shu-kun, or am I just a symbol to be next to him ……
I have always been able to paste a masked smile on my face.
[It’s fun being with Ayana!]
I’m having fun with you too.]
[Hey, hey, Ayana-chan.
Play with me too!]
What shall we do?]
[Ayana, are you already learning how to cook? That’s great.]
[Thank you very much.]
Even though it was my way of life, I could be indifferent if I tried to look at it objectively with a cold heart like a stranger.
No matter what I did, if I just nodded my head, nothing would be said.
Only I would know if I meant what I said or not, so as long as I stuck on this mask, that was all that was needed to protect my world.
Even though I was young, I was also a girl, so I sometimes longed for things like shoujo manga.
Love between a man and a woman who have known each other since childhood, sweet and sour, exciting and sometimes painful experiences, but in the end they are united.
My friends would cackle and tell me about it at school, but I never thought anything of it.
Maybe I’m just peculiar, but the mere sight of the opposite sex serving my childhood friend seems to me to be nothing more than a doll performing a predetermined action without a will.
The love between childhood friends is often depicted in manga and novels that everyone likes, and the figure of the opposite sex devoting oneself to the opposite sex that one likes must be very popular.
For me, there is nothing to feel, and I sometimes wonder if you were brainwashed at an early age to like your childhood friend, or some such twisted thing.
[What is a childhood friend?]
That has always been my proposition.
But one thing I will say is that …… the word “childhood friend” has been a curse to me.
It was a curse itself.
Once the space of school is over, I spend the rest of my life in the binding world of childhood friends.
The light shone on that world all of a sudden.
You …… Towa-kun appeared in front of me.
[What are you doing alone? Your eyes are red……]
It was the first time I rebelled against my mother and ran away to a remote place instead of heading for Shu-kun’s house.
Although I ran away, it was not that far away, and I was in a position where I could return home immediately because I was a little scared.
When I was lying on the ground in the park where no one was around, Towa-kun, who was an elementary school student at that time, started talking to me.
When I saw Towa-kun rolling a soccer ball around with his foot and saying that, I didn’t run away …… and told him everything that had happened.
It probably could have been anyone.
I just wanted him to listen to me, and that’s all I thought at the time …… Towa-kun was the one who showed up at that time.
[…… This is difficult, a little.]
Towa crossed his arms and said so.
It is true that he was still in elementary school at the time.
It would be cruel to make him go through this kind of trouble.
Seeing me lying on my face again, Towa-kun looked at me hurriedly and busily scanned the scene for something.
Then, he looked at the soccer ball at his feet.
[Hey, look at this.
Look at it for a second.]
Saying that, Towa-kun started lifting the ball.
I also watch TV, so I knew how to use my legs and body to control the ball so that it would not drop to the ground.
But it was only on TV, which I sometimes watch, and I had never seen it this close up.
I don’t know much about soccer, but I just knew it was awesome.
And the way Towa-kun was trying so hard to cheer me up was also very dazzling to me.
Some people may say that it is nothing compared to what high school students or adults do.
But I really thought it was great, and when Towa-kun finished his pose, I couldn’t help but applaud.
Thinking back, it was the first time I had ever talked like this with a boy other than Shu-kun.
It was so fresh and new that it filled my heart with a freshness, as if a different world had opened up to me.
[I’ve got a place to go now, do you want to go with me?]
I immediately nodded at the suggestion.
At that time, I was no longer thinking about Shu-kun or my mother.
Towa-kun took me around in various places, but the most memorable was when we went to the arcade.
[O-chan, I’m interrupting you!] [TL: O-chan = uncle]
[E-excuse me for disturbing you: ……!]
[Hey Towa kid, is that your girlfriend?]
The old man who came out seemed to be an acquaintance of Towa’s, and the two were chatting amiably.
They seemed to be talking to each other in a friendly manner, as if they were father and son.
[She is not my girlfriend.….Well, she’s just a girl who’s a friend, so maybe she’s a girlfriend?] [TL: Girlfriend is said in English]
[O-oh? Is that what it’s going to be?]
I didn’t understand English at the time, but the atmosphere was funny and I laughed.
Then I realized something.
It had been a long time since I had laughed so hard.
[She laughed because you are an idiot]
[I don’t want to be called an idiot by Towa kid, you know?]
[My mother called you an idiot too.]
[Akemi, you’re terrible!]
It was really fun, an exchange I had never seen before.
When I laughed, not only Towa-kun but also the old man scratched his head and got embarrassed, which was also amusing.
Normally, elementary school students don’t come to places like this ……, and girls may be even more reluctant to come.
But I was taken by Towa-kun and played with him for about an hour.
I played with all my might.
I felt refreshed more than ever, but when I thought about it calmly, I realized that I had to go home as soon as possible.
Towa-kun must have sensed this, for he said he would walk me home and held my hand as we walked down the street to my house.
I was a little nervous at the feel of warm, big, boyish hands.
And on the way there, Towa-kun turned to me and took out one of his key rings.
He said it was a prize he took in a game when I wasn’t looking.
A key chain with an ugly stuffed bear on it.
It’s a present.
You can throw it away if you don’t want it.]
[I would never do that!]
I thanked him by holding the key chain he gave me to my chest.
I remember that Towa-kun’s embarrassed face was so cute, but I was also thrilled by his expression and wondered what this feeling was about at the time…….
When my house came into view, everyone was in a panic in front of the house.
Towa-kun stood in front of my mothers with his back to me with such fear that they would get angry with me more than ever before.
I took her around.
I was having so much fun with Ayana that I couldn’t help it.]
I had originally run out of the house, but the mothers seemed to think that even my disappearance from the house was due to Towa-kun, and their stares at him turned stern.
I tried to tell them that it wasn’t true, but Towa-kun looked back into my mothers’ eyes, defending me, saying that it was okay.
My mothers didn’t want to yell at another elementary school student, and the conversation ended there, but when I got home, they nagged me not to play with him anymore.
Towa-kun, huh? You were so cool.
When I was sheltered by his back, Towa-kun was really cool.
I muttered quietly as I stroked the ugly bear head that Towa-kun had given me.
Shu-kun and Kotone-chan also said something to me, but my heart didn’t cool down like it usually does.
On the contrary, my heart was filled with the feeling of wondering when we would meet again.
Perhaps my feelings were reciprocated, because the next day we met again.
The world was a small place.
Because we were in the same elementary school.
Corner them …… corner them ……
Make them suffer…… make them suffer…….
And then, I will take away the most important thing… If that happens, there will be nothing but despair, right?”
I will never forget the words that you have unleashed.
I will never forget the tears he shed.
So I will [rob you of everything].
“…… What the hell was that?”
The man who tried to play the fan disc that arrived immediately tilted his head and muttered.
The moment he installed the game and double-clicked to start the game, the above text appeared and disappeared like the opening movie.
Now it was already on the title screen, a slightly lonely but fantastic song was playing, and Ayana was shown wearing a black hood.
“This is a totally different beginning from the last one”
The previous installment had music that was almost too noisy, and the heroines would randomly recite the title, but this time their voices were not included in the recording.
The man changed his mind and chose to start the game from the beginning.
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