s not right.
There’s only one girl who’d call me ‘Sou-chan.’ When I looked at them, however, I didn’t recognize them.
“Hee hee, look at her, Haruoka-kun.
Amagase-san is absolutely adorable today, isn’t she? Well, she’s always cute, though.”
“Wh-What are you talking about, Suzuya-san? You’re the one who’s…”
Unlike their regular school uniforms, the two were wearing yukata, perfectly in theme for this summer festival.
Kazuhi wore a white yukata with flower patterns in pink and purple.
Suzuya’s was evidently on a different level in terms of quality, as it had a navy blue tone with goldfish on it.
They both looked great in them, really.
And they even styled their hair in typical festival fashion.
“H-Hey, Sou-chan…Suzuya-san looks totally stunning, right?”
For some reason, Kazuhi moved closer to me as she emphasized that, but I had to avert my eyes.
“Geez, that’s no good.”
Even as I turned my back toward her, I could clearly see her pouting her cheeks like a manga character.
That’s not the problem, though.
I was forced to cover my face so that nobody could sneak a glance at it.
I mean, this is just…bad.
Yeah, very bad…Kazuhi is way too friggin cute, you know?! I have only now realized that I actually love her, and yet she’s coming at me at full-force! She’s so adorable, I can’t even look directly at her, and I don’t need a mirror to tell that I must be as red as a tomato right about now! No, I can’t.
She’s too cute.
Somebody save me! My childhood friend is too cute, it’s killing me!
And with my head turned away from her, I mentally slammed my head against a wall several times to calm myself down.
But alas, Kazuhi had no idea how I felt at that very moment, as she snuck around to take a glance at my face.
“Sou-chan! This is your chance! You have to praise Suzuya-san some more! Tell her she’s cute!”
You’re the cute one, dangit! Don’t get too close, you adorable idiot! Oh lord…Now that I’ve realized how I feel, Kazuhi in her yukata is way too strong.
She’s just so cute, I literally can’t.
Until not even too long ago, I simply saw her as my childhood friend and little sister, but now, she’s just like any other girl.
I know saying stuff like this can be cheesy as hell, but love really is weird.
I feel like I’ve been just calling her cute for the past five minutes, but I lack the vocabulary to describe her in any other way.
“Hee hee…Sorry that we ended up late.
I got lost in time trying to find the best possible yukata for Amagase-san.”
“U-Ugh…I said I was fine not wearing one, but you wouldn’t listen…”
So that’s why they needed more time.
Honestly, I don’t care one bit that we had to wait.
Good job, Suzuya! This is the best!
“Hey, hey, we’re all here now, so let’s go have some fun! I wanna try the goldfish scooping!”
“That sounds wonderful.
I’d love to try my skill at that, too.”
As I was busy jumping for joy (internally), Yousuke and Suzuya already headed for the nearby stalls.
I took a few deep breaths to relax and then turned toward Kazuhi.
While praying that she couldn’t tell how much I was blushing, still.
“…Let’s go, Kazuhi.”
Around ten minutes later—
“…Where did Suzuya-san and Yousuke-kun even go…?”
“That bastard sure didn’t waste any time, huh?!”
It didn’t even take an hour until those two just vanished without a trace.
And if I had to guess, it was probably that bastard Yousuke’s doing…Though, Suzuya most definitely isn’t innocent.
She always tries to be considerate when Kazuhi and I are together, so they probably worked together to give us some alone time.
Even though they really didn’t have to do that…But anyway, it was just Kazuhi and me right now.
“My calls aren’t getting through, either.
Maybe they ran out of battery…?”
That’s probably on purpose, too.
They most likely turned off their phones…God, they sure are efficient when it doesn’t matter!
“No way…but my Lovey-Dovey Honey Acquisition Plan…Should we…go look for them?” Kazuhi panicked and was unsure of what to do.
Honestly, we won’t find them no matter what we do.
They got separated on purpose.
“I…don’t think that’ll work.
Look at all those people walking around.”
“There’s nothing we can do.
Let’s just have fun ourselves…Ah, hey?!”
Practically mid-sentence, Kazuhi got swept along by a group of people.
It wasn’t even happening purposefully.
This amount of people moved like a giant wave.
“Kazuhi!” I grabbed her hand and pulled her back toward me.
“Why are you getting swept along now, too?”
Kazuhi’s face turned red as she was clearly flustered.
But, I quickly realized why.
Oh no, I grabbed her hand in the heat of the moment?! I mean, it was a necessary act, because she would have gotten lost in return.
I didn’t do this on purpose.
It just reflexively happened…Dangit, we held hands countless times before (while running to school), so why am I getting this nervous now? I just don’t know how to act around her anymore.
“A-Anyway, let’s go! Isn’t there stuff you…wanna eat? Things you wanna do? Anything?”
“Huh? B-But, Suzuya-san and…”
“Give up on those two already.
No way we can meet up in a crowd like this.”
Since Kazuhi didn’t brush my hand away, I didn’t let go, either.
I forcefully pulled her after me, as we happened to pass by a stall offering a shooting range when the elderly man called out to us.
“Yo, you two over there! I’ve got some great prices, so how about you shoot your shot and get a present for your girlfriend?”
Hearing the word “girlfriend,” both Kazuhi and I responded in unison.
““We’re not like that!!””
I mean…I want things to go in that direction, but at least for now, that’s not the case.
I just didn’t know how else to cope with this itchy and embarrassing sensation, so I reflexively denied it.
But, do we look like that? I mean, a boy and a girl (with the girl wearing a yukata) walking around the festival while holding hands, I can’t blame him for thinking that we’re on a date.
What about Kazuhi? Does she…hate people seeing us that way?
I looked over at her.
She was blushing furiously, and awkwardly moved her other free hand like she was trying to distract herself…I don’t know if I’ll just sound like a narcissistic prick, but…Maybe Kazuhi is pretty happy, too? Granted, she’s been getting fairly desperate at pushing me and Suzuya together.
And yet, whenever Suzuya and I seem to get along, she has this lonely gaze in her eyes.
And thinking about it, she was awfully flustered when it came to that indirect kiss that day we shared our ramune…It feels like she’s conscious of me.
Maybe Kazuhi feels the same way as I do? Maybe there are some special circumstances that force her to get me and Suzuya together? Or…am I just a narcissist for thinking that? Meanwhile, the man from the stall grinned at us as he continued.
“Hahah, don’t be like that.
But, how’s it sound? The offer for a round still stands.”
“Ah, but, we’re looking for people…”
“It seems fun, right? We’re here, so we might as well enjoy ourselves.
Is there anything you’d like?”
“I-I don’t really…Ah.”
“N-Nothing! It’s nothing!” Kazuhi frantically shook her head.
However, I didn’t miss her gaze and what she stared at.
“You want that…weird plushie?”
“Waaah, it’s not weird! It’s super cute!”
“No, it’s definitely weird.
Also, isn’t that from MagiMon? You were watching that?”
MagiMon is a popular kid’s anime called Magical Mont Blanc.
To reiterate, I don’t get the idea.
Why a mont blanc? And the plush toy looked exactly like one, with brownish cream around its head as the eyes stared into the darkness.
I personally can’t fathom why this became a thing.
And seeing Kazuhi stare at it like it was the one precious ring, I didn’t even need to ask.
I was just surprised to see she was into that.
“Ah, yeah, I actually watched it all online!”
“D-Do you think it’s childish? But, it’s actually super interesting! And you better not make fun of anime just because they can be a bit childish!”
I wasn’t even going that far, to begin with, so you really don’t need to tell me.
I sometimes watch these sorts of anime on Sunday mornings when I don’t have anything better to do.
It’s honestly pretty fun.
Talking about friendship and dreams, it’s something even adults can watch thanks to its fun and passionate themes.
Children’s anime is great!
“And also, Mon-chan is so cute! That beautiful brown color, the chestnut on his face, and this spongy body…it’s the best!”
“All right, I’ll make sure to pierce that cute Mon-chan’s head with a bullet.”
“Geez! Sou-chan, phrasing!”
I paid the man and pointed the rifle I received toward Mon-chan.
Then again, it looks pretty difficult to get.
If I had to guess, it’s probably the first prize of the objects here.
And looking at the size, I could see it’s going to be a tough one to get.
However, I’m not gonna be a quitter right in front of Kazuhi, so I’ll try my best.
Even if I fail in the end.
With that determination burning inside of me, I pulled the trigger—
The cork shot from the gun hit Mon-chan right in the dome, as it fell over…which is fine and all, but it doesn’t make sense.
I hit it straight on the head, so why would it topple over this easily? Oh well, no skin off my back.
I’ll just thank my lucky stars and accept it.
“N-No way?! Just like that?! But that was supposed to be the top prize!”
Contrary to me, the old man raised a scream in disbelief.
“Oh, what’s going on? Someone got Mon-chan from that stall?”
“For real? I thought that’d be impossible.”
“Now I wanna try it, too! Hey, Uncle, I’m buying three tries!”
Seeing the Mon-chan fall down, other people around us began to gather around the stall.
“Oh…Well, it ended up as good publicity, I guess! I’ve got plenty of other plush toys to put on display, too! All right, lad, take this! Best of luck to you and your girlfriend!”
The man was close to despair for a moment, but quickly changed into a true businessman and handed me Mon-chan.
“Here you go, Kazuhi.”
“Whoaaaa…!” She tightly embraced Mon-chan, her eyes lighting up like a child’s.
“So cute! I’m so happy! I love you, Sou-chan!”
For a moment, my head turned blank.
Kazuhi also audibly gasped as she realized what she had even just said, as her face turned beet red.
“W-Wait, no! That was just… a force of habit, nothing more!”
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.
You’d say that all the time years and years ago, after all!”
It’s a thing from the past, so just now…was…Anyway, let’s talk about something else! This Mon-chan here actually dreamed of becoming a shortcake, and that dream is granted in the final episode.
But, because he realizes that he likes chestnuts the most, he returns to being a Mont Blanc.
And that scene is so emotional…!”
“That makes no sense! You’re just making stuff up as you go, right?! Especially since the final episode hasn’t even aired yet!”
She really sucks at lying.
MagiMon is still running, and it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.
She should have realized that such a blatant lie would never work.
I guess she’s still a bit flustered…Then again, I’m no better.
My head still feels hot.
“…C’mon, we got what you wanted, so let’s check elsewhere.
I can see a stall with the candied apples you like so much!”
“What?! I wanna eat one, I wanna eat one!”
When her favorite food is involved, she immediately gets about everything we just talked about.
God damn glutton.
And it’s also so friggin adorable…
“Mhm, I’m so full!”
After we enjoyed all the food the various stalls had to offer, we moved to a nearby public park.
It was a small one that only offered a sandbox and a slide, but that made it quieter with no people around.
Most of them were probably gathering near the river to watch the fireworks that’d go up soon after this.
While carrying her beloved Mon-chan, Kazuhi indulged in all the tasty memories she made, as she trotted through the park.
“Didn’t you…eat a bit too much?”
“B-But you ate a lot, too! And, it’s fine on a festival day like this! Everything goes into a separate stomach!”
“You’ll get fat.”
“Hmph! It Doesn’t matter! Unlike Suzuya-san, I don’t have that great of a body, and I’m not nearly as cute as her!”
“…Nobody said you’re not cute.”
“…Well, I guess I never properly said it…Your yukata, I mean.”
In the back of my head, I faintly remember throwing a tantrum along the lines of “No way! I could never say something as embarrassing as that!”, which made me want to punch myself, but I still had to say it now.
“It’s super cute.”
Aaaaah, my face feels so hot! It was just one sentence, so why am I this flustered? I think my voice may have been shaking, even.
I’m so lame…And yet, Kazuhi blinked at me in confusion.
“Cute…You mean Suzuya-san?”
“Why would that be your first reaction?!”
“B-Because, you and Suzuya-san are…”
“…! Suzuya has nothing to do with this! The one I’m calling cute…is you, Kazuhi!”
Embarrassment and anger mixed inside of me as they urged me to keep my mouth shut.
However, I kept on stepping on the glass, blurting out how I felt.
I’ll tell her.
Right here, right now.
Right now, we’re only childhood friends.
Brother and sister, even.
And maybe…telling her will ruin our current relationship.
But, she’s hiding something from me.
She’s worried about something.
And of course, I considered not telling her.
After all, she might just have enough on her plate.
But…I know her.
She doesn’t like relying on other people, always trying hard to solve everything herself.
So, I need to tell her.
Confess that I like her, that she’s important to me, and that I’ll always be on her side.
I don’t care if she doesn’t feel the same way.
I just want her to know that there are people who genuinely worry about her.
“I like you, Kazuhi.”
Right as I opened my mouth, the night sky lit up.
Lights formed shapes and then scattered to disappear.
The fireworks started…It’s what draws the attention of people.
And yet, Kazuhi just looked at me in a daze, blinking a few times.
“Huh? S-Sorry, I couldn’t hear what you said.”
…What is this, a romcom manga?! Really? Fireworks? They may be beautiful, but what’s the point if they completely render my confession meaningless? Okay, you asked for it.
I’m not gonna let all the courage I mustered up go to waste like this.
I’m not pulling back.
I’ll tell her as many times as it takes.
Once, twice, ten times, see if I care! It’s embarrassing as all hell, but I moved closer to Kazuhi to ensure she could hear me…But, this seriously is bad.
My heart’s racing.
I’m more worried about Kazuhi hearing that than the fireworks in the sky.
“I-I’ll say it again.”
“I’m not waiting.”
I took her hand, pulling her closer.
The fireworks continued to bloom in the sky. BANG, BANG, like explosions in the distance.
They were beautiful, no doubt.
And yet, Kazuhi and I just stared at each other.
I like you.
Not Suzuya, not anybody else…It’s you,” I declared in a strong tone so that I wouldn’t lose against the fireworks.
I won’t let them erase my feelings.
I’ll get them across, even if it’s the last thing I’ll do.
“Sure, it might sound lame, but you’re important to me.
When I see you worry about something, see you suffer, I can’t stand it.
I want to…be your strength, I guess…A-Anyway, I like you, I treasure you, so I’ll always be there if you need me.”
Everything was falling apart.
I didn’t even know what I was saying anymore.
I just kept blabbering on and on, as I could practically feel smoke rising from my head.
It’s not even a beautiful confession.
It was messy and uncoordinated.
But, they were my honest feelings, so none of that mattered.
“…I like you.
I really…love you, Kazuhi.”
In the end, that’s all I could say.
A botched confession, reeking of childish desires, and desperately awkward.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was disgusted by it.
Kazuhi looked down once, nodding.
And then, she looked up at me, showing me a smile that couldn’t be described with words.
“I’m…really, really happy.
Thank you, Sou-chan..:”
No matter how much you tried, you couldn’t attribute a single word to her smile.
It was full of joy, and happiness, but at the same time…sadness, and despair.
It shone beautifully like the ball inside the ramune bottle, only to disappear into the darkness of this summer night.
“But…You can’t, Sou-chan,” she spoke like I had given her the wrong answer to a question.
“I want you to be happy, Sou-chan.
I don’t want to see you suffer.
So for that reason…it can’t be me.”
“Kazuhi…What are you saying?”
“I…can’t make you happy, Sou-chan.”
“What’s that supposed to mean…?”
“Are you not going to tell me?”
“I’m not blaming you.
I don’t want to force it out of you…But, I want you to know one thing.
I like you, and you’re important to me.”
Kazuhi’s eyes quivered.
She hesitated, wondering if she should tell me or not, I presume.
“…Then…” She tightly grasped her fist in front of her chest.
And then, like she had made up her mind, she slowly opened her mouth.
“If I tell you…you have to promise.
Promise me that you’ll be happy.”
“I don’t… have much time left, after all…”
“What do you…”
“In three years, I won’t be able to stand by your side anymore.”
I could only remember that one time she said that she doesn’t like emotional and tragic movies anymore.
And then, there was that one time she muttered “I don’t…have much time anymore…” in her sleep.
“Are you…sick or something?”
Maybe she went to the hospital and was told that she only had three years left to live.
That’s why she wanted me to be happy and end up together with Suzuya, so that she could pass on in peace.
But…it wasn’t an answer I wanted to think about, as I reluctantly asked her.
And yet, Kazuhi shook her head.
“No, that’s not it.”
Hearing that, I sighed in relief.
However, that only lasted for an instant.
“It’s because of an accident.”
“In three years, I’ll get run over by a truck.
I won’t be able to stand anymore, let alone walk, and my eyes will remain closed—forever.”
“Wh…What? Are you joking? How would you know that?”
“I do know that…”
Fireworks shot up into the sky once more.
The light it gave off was horribly unbalanced with Kazuhi’s clouded expression.
“Because I came from the future.”
What…is she even on about?
“You know the whole time leap thing, yeah? That only your mind travels back in time, entering the body of your past self.
The Kazuhi you’re speaking to…is the one from three years into the future.
BADUMP, my heart skipped a beat, as it felt like my blood froze up.
Time…leap? That’s ridiculous.
It’s a lie.
It has to be some bad joke…or so I told myself, but deep down, I knew.
Because she’s my childhood friend.
We’ve been together since we were little brats, so I knew that much about her.
She wouldn’t joke around about something so grim.
Not at a time like this.
That’s why…this wasn’t a lie.
It wasn’t a joke.
It was just…the truth.
“Sou-chan…One month ago, the Kazuhi you spent time with was the Amagase Kazuhi from three years into the future.”
The girl standing in front of me was Kazuhi, but not the Kazuhi I knew.
“And…this is the last ace in the hole I received to use if the time comes,” she said, despite holding nothing in her hands.
Almost like…whatever it was, she had kept it in her head.
She stretched out her back, wrapped her hands around my neck, and then pushed her forehead against mine.
At such a close distance, her lips moved, as she whispered.
“I’ll prove to you that I’m speaking the truth—Using these memories of mine.”
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