What a shameful sight I showed her yesterday. How am I supposed to meet Aotsuki-san today? What face should I make? I laid in my bed, agonizing over yesterday’s events, and while suffering through the embarrassment, I couldn’t get a wink of sleep, so I woke earlier than usual. Of course, there’s a lot of shame in there…but more than that.
How am I even supposed to interpret her actions? After pouring out everything bottled up inside of me, enwrapped by her warmth, it truly felt like I was forgiven. But, she didn’t say ‘I like you’ or anything. Neither did she say ‘I don’t hate you’ or ‘I think of us as friends’ either. Just what exactly is she thinking? How does she feel about me?
I always try to guess other people’s feelings, but that doesn’t go much beyond their expression and attitude. After pouring out everything bottled up inside of me, reaching a level where it wouldn’t be weird for her to reject me. I have no right to wish for any more than that. And yet—I can’t help but want to know more about her heart.
As I was making my way towards the train station, I spotted Aotsuki-san in the usual park we met up at. This was the first time we met this early in the morning though.
“Good morning, Yafune-kun.”
“Did you get some proper rest yesterday?”
Something’s off. I can’t properly look at her face. I felt my own face burning up, with my heart racing loudly.
“..:Yafune-kun? Is something wrong?”
“No, i-it’s nothing. Also, it’s rare for you to be here this early in the morning.”
“Yes…Well, you were acting off yesterday, so…”
“…Were you worried?”
“O-Of course not. Just, if something happened to you, it’d be troublesome for the stage play…and, there’s something I wanted you to see.”
“Something you wanted me to see?”
“That’s right. I was working on the costumes last night…and the costume for the Little Mermaid is done…Look.” She took out the contents of the plastic bag she was holding, opening it up.
“Woah, that’s amazing.”
It was an icey-blue, sparkling camisole. Adding to that, she had a mermaid-lined skirt colored in a deep royal blue with added lamé. Both of them had pearls added to it, definitely standing out on stage. If Aotsuki-san wore this, she’d definitely look great—Wait, what am I thinking.
I didn’t mean that in a weird way. She’s just that much of a beauty, so it’s a given, you know?
“That is some crazy quality. You really were good at sewing.”
“…What, you think I was lying?” She stared at me.
Urk, that face of hers is so cute. I wanted to look at it even more, but that would probably make me have a heart attack, so I averted my gaze.
“N-Not really. It’s just, you have to make the clothes for the magician, the prince, and the little mermaid after the transformation, right? Isn’t that still a lot to do?”
“Urk…” Aotsuki-san’s words got stuck in her throat.
“So…it’s looking bad?”
“I-I should make it in time…At least until the day of the play!”
“Then, let me help you. I’m not really good at sewing and all that, but if you teach me, I should be able to handle myself.”
“Eh, but…Yafune-kun, aren’t you tired…? Practice must be a large burden for you already.”
“Aren’t you even more booked than me? Also, I’m feeling great, so don’t worry.”
“But, you’d need a sewing machine for that…Do you have that at your place?”
“Ah…I don’t think so. Mom used one before, but she gave that to a relative for her new child…What about the sewing machines at school?”
“They’re always used by the handicrafts or theatre club, or even by the teachers. At this time, everyone is busy making costumes.”
“I see…But, I can’t just let you do it all on your own after all.”
“Mm, so then…” Aotsuki-san thought about it for a second, and gave an idea. “Do you want to come to my place?”
“We should have an old sewing machine in our storage room. If you use that, we both can work at the same time.”
“N-No, if you could just bring it to school, I can take it home myself.”
“A sewing machine is pretty heavy. I’m not carrying that to our school.”
“That might be true, but…”
“Ah, we don’t have time to talk about that right now. If we head to school together, the others would give us weird eyes, so I’ll be going on ahead.” Aotsuki-san walked away, only to turn around one last time with an innocent expression. “Anyway, if you have time this Saturday, then stop by.”
—My heart wouldn’t stop racing. Even at school, I couldn’t properly look at Aotsuki-san’s face. It’s only Tuesday…is this going to continue all the way until the weekend…?
I wonder what the trigger is for people to fall in love with others? Falling in love at first glance because of their attractive face? Is it just happening normally because you talk about your hobbies? Because of the gap to their normal behaviour you just happened to catch? I’m sure that there’s as many reasons as there are people in this world. The same could be said about a trigger for people to suddenly hate the other person, despite having liked them before. Human feelings are just odd.
…A bit ago, because of something bad that happened in Yafune-kun’s past, or something that resulted in this self-loathing towards himself, he said all of these things in order for me to hate him. However…
I was happy. I always thought that Yafune-kun was just acting a fake persona in the classroom. That’s why, when you told me of your past, it finally felt like I was talking with the real you. You were trying to show off all your faults, but…even after hearing about it all, I still don’t think that your heart is rotten or whatever you want me to believe.
Everybody has things they don’t want to be wrapped up in, and try to avoid it. Treasuring yourself, protecting yourself, that’s not a bad thing. But, you blame yourself because you are kind after all. Despite me not being able to say that I truly want, you never once blamed me. That’s why I don’t hate you either. I want to be by your side.
I…I like you, Yafune-kun. I’ve finally realized it, become aware of it. In reality, I might have been attracted to him quite some time ago. But, under my assumption that I didn’t have the right to like you, telling myself that this wasn’t love but friendship or gratitude, I tried to shove my feelings aside.
…But, that’s enough. Unable to tell you of my feelings is too much, it’s agonizing. I want to tell you. I need to tell you. When you revealed everything about yourself, I couldn’t tell you anything with words alone. Completely unrelated to acting or honest feelings, you are a kind person, and someone very precious…an irreplaceable existence. That’s what I wanted to tell you. I wanted to let out everything stored up inside of my chest, speaking it out loud.
Of course, I couldn’t. After all, everything I could have said would be turned into >Hate<. Because you were already blaming yourself for everything, I could not bring myself to say such a thing to your face. That’s why I swallowed down everything I had wanted to say. I tried my best to convey it in a different way, by embracing you, and gently caressing your head, but…
Maybe that was a fatal mistake. Ever since then…Yafune-kun was acting a bit distant. He wouldn’t look me in the eyes, always flustered, and he’d stutter a lot when we were talking. Maybe…maybe he wanted to hear something else back then? Maybe he really wanted more affectionate words instead? It must have been an important moment for Yafune-kun, and yet I couldn’t say anything, couldn’t entangle the mess inside of his heart.
They say that there’s ways to communicate without using words. But, some things can only be conveyed with words. Especially what I want to tell Yafune-kun.
…I can’t take this anymore. I thought that it was my punishment. I was fine with the curse being gone for only a brief moment, so that I could give Yafune-kun my gratitude. But…I’m at my limit. Yafune-kun, I—
Saturday arrived, and just as promised, I came to Aotsuki-san’s place.
“Yes, right here.”
Since this was my first time actually visiting her at home, we met up at the usual park, and walked here together, but…What is this? It’s huge. And so charming? Is Aotsuki-san some rich lady?
“Come on in. My family isn’t home today.”
Why would she say such a thing? I was already nervous beyond belief, so now I’m just even more conscious of her. She’s not doing this on purpose, is she? My heart was already racing at a painful speed, but I tried to keep up my smile.
“Huh, for work?”
“No, they went on a trip to the amusement park.”
“Eh, are you sure not going with them?”
“I wasn’t invited after all.”
…Hm? That comment made me feel a bit curious as to how her family operated, but I didn’t want to just stick my head in her business, so I didn’t go any further than that.
“That’ll just make it easier for us to focus on our work, right. More importantly, come to my room.”
With nobody else present, it was just me and Aotsuki-san. I honestly didn’t even know what to talk about. If anything, after what happened yesterday, I tried to make a ‘What to talk about’ list before going to bed, in order to desperately avoid any awkward atmosphere, but…Now that I was actually in her room, working on the costumes with the sewing machine, I couldn’t think of anything to say. Right, that makes sense. We came here to work after all. I’m sorry.
“…Phew, I’m done over here.”
“Eh, that’s amazing. It’ll still take some time over here.”
“Hmm…But, you must be running out of steam, right. Let’s take a quick break.”
Aotsuki-san momentarily left the room, only to return with a tray, some black tea and cookies on it. Aotsuki-san’s room seemed like it wasn’t built at all with the idea that a friend might stop by. There was a single sofa in the room with no chair for guests to use, so we both sat on it.
With us being this close, I was constantly conscious of her being right next to me, not allowing me to relax in the slightest. To avoid this awkward atmosphere, I reached out for a cookie, and with a satisfying crunching sound, I felt its taste fill my mouth.
“Wah, these cookies are delicious.”
Hm? What’s that reaction for? Why is she so restless now?
“No, they really are. Where did you buy them?”
A secret? She could just tell me about that……….Wait, are they homemade? I wonder, did she make them for me? Despite everything I said before? Despite all of that, she’s still fine being with me…No, this is just for the sake of the costumes, there’s no other reason behind all of this.
“…Well, they are delicious, so…”
“I-I get it already. You don’t need to repeat it over and over…” Aotsuki-san averted her face.
Does she just think of me as annoying now? Or, is she just trying to hide her embarrassment? I’d love an answer for that. What is the reason for her gesture, the name for my feelings. My heart was racing, my head spinning, I couldn’t get a clear thought at all. If there is one thing that I understood, then it’s the fact that I thought of her as cute.
Despite all my efforts to prepare myself, no topics popped up in my head. I was just munching on the cookies, filling my cheeks like a hamster. Silence followed. Only the sound of the crunching cookies and ticking clock could be heard. How long did this time continue for, I wonder? Suddenly, I felt something gently fall against my shoulder.
She had her head on my shoulder, her eyes closed.
“D-Did she fall asleep…?”
You really can’t blame her for that. Practicing for the stage play, making the costumes, and all the other preparations. On top of that, she has to study…So she must be exceptionally busy. I tried to help her out, but I guess I still didn’t do enough.
…Also. Her sleeping face is adorable. Normally, she always shows this serious and almost strained expression, but now she’s like a child sleeping peacefully. Not to mention her skin, it’s so beautiful…Her lips look soft like cherry blossom petals…I want to touch her.
—No no no no no. Doing that kind of thing with a sleeping girl, I’d be the worst. In order to calm myself down, I just constantly repeated my phrases from the stage play…But, I wonder how much time has passed?
“A-Aotsuki-san, did you wake up?”
Despite her calling out my name, no response came. Don’t tell me…was she talking in her dream? Does such a cliche actually happen in real life? Ah crap, my heart is racing dangerously fast. I can’t anymore! I’m going crazy!
“A-Aotsuki-san, wake up!”
I gently shook her body, to which Aotsuki-san rubbed her eyes. She seemed to be half asleep still, as she looked at me with drowsy eyes.
However, her eyes closed again right away, and she rubbed her cheek on my shoulder. Ooooooh…t-this is the first time I’ve seen her like this. She’s so defenseless…and like a baby almost. Isn’t this… a bit odd?
—That reminds me, everybody from her family except Aotsuki-san went to the amusement park, right. Aotsuki-san said that she wasn’t invited…So basically, she’s being treated like an outcast? I can guess that there must be some circumstances going on there, and as long as she doesn’t tell me, I don’t plan on poking my head into this mess.
“Aotsuki-san…could it be that you were lonely?”
Inside of this large home, she was all alone…Maybe that’s why she invited me today?
“…That’s…right…so…” She said, while her eyes were still closed.
Her words ended there, and I couldn’t hear the rest of her sentence. That’s why, what comes after that is just my wild imagination. It felt like this is what she wanted to say.
—I’m really happy that you are here.
“…!” I shot up from the sofa.
Because Aotsuki-san lost her shoulder to lean on, she almost fell over, and woke up.
“Fueh…H-Huh? Did I…fall asleep?”
“L-Let’s go back to work, okay? If we don’t work on the costumes, we won’t make it in time for the culture festival.”
I honestly wanted to stay like that a bit longer, and if possible, I wanted her to get a bit more sleep. But, I still forced myself to face the sewing machine again…If we had stayed like that, I might have done something irreversible. Ahh, I can’t take it anymore. My face is scorching hot, and my heart is racing. I was able to talk with her just fine, so what is going on?
I didn’t want to accept it. But, I think I have to accept the truth. When we first talked, I was shocked to know that she was so straightforward, unfazed by the people around her. After that, we ended up talking more in that public park, we decided on that stage play, and I saw her kindness, and hardworking spirit.
—I want to help her. I want to see her smile. I want to hear her true feelings. I’m happy when she relies on me. I want to be with her even after all of this is done. Just because she calls me by my name, and seeing that gentle expression her face makes me want to cry. I’ve been bottling up these feelings inside of me but I can’t resist it anymore.
Towards Aotsuki-san, I—
On Monday, after practice for the stage play ended, Namiki-senpai called out to me in the hallway, and clung to my back.
“Senpai, what are you doing?”
“I’m tired, you know~ When I saw you, I just thought I might as well, you know. I’m a member of the culture festival execution committee, right? I’ve been staying behind this late to get work done, so praise me.”
“That’s amazing~ And I really mean that. You’re even working part-time, I admire that.”
“Well, I am tired, but being busy is fun as well, you know? It’s fulfilling, I guess.” Senpai finally freed me, and showed a joyful smile.
There, I realized that he was carrying some sort of notebook.
“What are these notes for, Senpai?”
“Ah, these? I was tired, so I needed some motivation. These are the comments and impressions from last year’s culture festival visitors. At the entrance gate, they could write something if they felt like it. I was in the executive committee last year as well, so I get energy back by reading that. Wanna take a look?”
Since Senpai handed me the notes, I thought I might as well check through it. I saw comments like ‘It was the best!’ or ‘This will be a great memory’, and I could see how this could help in motivating you.
“Reading these gives me energy. Not to mention that Sae’s stopping by with friends, so I want her to have fun.”
Sae is the name of Senpai’s girlfriend. Seems like they’re still on good terms.
“You are lovey-dovey. Glad to see your love hasn’t died out.” I tried my best to not make it sound cynical.
“Well, we’re not always happy. We do fight a lot, and since we’re at different schools, it kind of feels like a long-distance relationship? Then again, our houses are pretty close, so I can meet her whenever I want.”
“Oh, right. But, don’t you get worried not being able to meet her for a few days?”
“Rather than worried, it’s just lonely. But, it can’t be helped. She’s got her own plans for the future, which is why she chose a different school. Not to mention that our bonds can’t get ruined just because we end up at different schools…or something like that.” He must have felt a bit embarrassed blurting out such a cheesy line, as he scratched his cheek.
“That’s amazing…When you decided to confess back then, were you never worried that she might reject…or even hate you?”
Thinking that this kind of question wouldn’t be too out of place in this context, I wanted to ask the question that was always on my mind, especially now.
“What, you got the hots for a girl, Yafune? Gonna confess?” The corners of Namiki-senpai’s mouth moved up to form a grin.
Crap, I was trying to play it off cool, but sometimes he can be really sharp.
“No no no, I just felt like asking that question right now. I don’t have someone like that.”
I am thankful that he helped me become the culture festival hero, but this and that are different. I can’t tell anybody that I actually have feelings for Aotsuki-san. I myself am unsure of how to handle my feelings after all.
“Wait, aren’t you preparing for the culture festival with that girl? Is that possibly…”
“Not at all, not at all. I just couldn’t watch her do it all on her own. Not to mention that, since we’re in the same class, it’d be really awkward if we broke up, right. If anything, I want her to hate me.”
This ain’t good, I was too desperate in denying it that it might sound suspicious now. But, back when we first really talked, it was like that. Not to mention that I told her not to act affectionate towards me.
“So you wanting to be hated basically means that you don’t want to be hated, right?”
“I mean, you’re a good guy, Yafune. But, you’re really conscious of other people’s evaluations of you. It’s like you’re afraid that people will think badly of you.”
……I didn’t even say anything like that, and yet he saw right through me? Well, I doubt he knows that I’m a closet otaku.
“Since you’re scared of being disillusioned when it comes to being liked, you just don’t want to be liked in the first place, right? In the end, it just means that you like the other person.”
To keep up my appearance, I had to deny Senpai’s words, but…it felt like he was right.
“Well, telling someone about your feelings is a scary thing. But, if it’s someone really important to you, I suggest you don’t hesitate…I can’t even describe how blissful it is to have the person you like accept your feelings.”
I was always afraid of getting my hopes up only to be betrayed in the end, so I put up a defense wall around myself. But in reality, I want Aotsuki-san to like me. And, I want to tell her of my feelings. In order to break apart this relationship we have, which can’t even be called friendship.
“What are you getting all silent for? Did I hit bullseye?”
Senpai’s comment pulled me back into reality.
“Ah, I’m sorry. I was just organizing my thoughts…Um…thank you very much.”
“Hm? Oh, sure! Well, this is youth, so do your best~”
Oh crap, I basically didn’t edny anything. His beaming smile just makes me feel embarrassed.
“M-More importantly, these notes are amazing. There’s even those with illustrations…”
I might not have been blushing, but I still felt flustered, so I dropped my gaze on the notes again, going through some more pages when—
I stopped at a certain page, and stared at it in disbelief.
“Oh? Something wrong?”
“No, um…I just found some familiar handwriting…”
“Huh, someone you know?”
Written on one page of the guest book was a small passage with the exact handwriting of the owner of that diary.
The culture festival this year was enjoyable as always. The theme this year around was ‘Let’s all grant our wishes and become happy!’, and it really felt like the execution committee tried its best to grant the students’ wishes, which made watching it very interesting.
Seeing the students stand on stage, saying ‘Please grant my love’, and confess to the people they like had me tear up many times. I want to meet the person I love as well. I want to tell them of my feelings. These are the thoughts I got.
This turned out pretty long, but I will definitely come back next year to enjoy the culture festival again.
It said that they would come by next year—which means this year, so I guess they really held true to their word. Although it wasn’t anything groundbreaking, it at least told me that the chances of the person seeing our play and understanding what we’re trying to do isn’t zero, and it made my heart race with excitement. With this, we might really be able to grant Aotsuki-san’s wish of finding the owner of those notes.
Just by envisioning her delighted face, I felt my face grow hot, and I couldn’t even put down the notes. Ah, crap. My chest is full of Aotsuki-san, I can’t bear it.
“Alright, then let’s do this.”
“You sure are motivated, Aotsuki-san.”
“Of course I am! Now that we know that the owner of the diary definitely comes to the culture festival every year…!”
I told her about what I had learned this morning, which had Aotsuki-san really motivated. Today’s classes already ended, and most people had already left the classroom which should have allowed us to practice…However.
Gami suddenly walked in, and called out to me. Not to mention that her mood seemed not the greatest, which gave me a really bad premonition.
“Gami? Weren’t you supposed to have gone home already?”
“Was talking with some friends from another class. So, we’re all going for some karaoke right now. Since you’re not giving me any attention, you’re coming with me. This is an order.”
Honestly speaking, since Aotsuki-san is this motivated, I’d rather not. But, if I prioritize Aotsuki-san, Gami will just get angry at me. That anger will eventually be directed towards Aotsuki-san, and it’ll just trouble her more. And, I don’t want that.
“Well, yeah. But, the preparations for the culture festival are also really important, so could you just go ahead? I’ll join you later.”
There’s not many days left for the culture festival, so we need to do some final checks, and basically everything else as well.
“…You better be coming. I won’t forgive you if you lie to me.”
“Come on now, of course I’ll join you later~ I wanna have some fun with you as well once in a while. Let’s have a great party, Gami~”
A rush of self-loathing filled my head as I was saying these words in front of Aotsuki-san, but even so, my smile did not break apart. Is this really the right thing to do? But, if I say no here, it’ll only harm Aotsuki-san…Even though I don’t want to say this. Aotsuki-san is much more important, and I want to be with her.
“Hmpf. Alright then, I’ll be going ahead, so you don’t take too long.” Gami didn’t seem too satisfied, but at least left without much complaining.
“…Sorry, Aotsuki-san, but I think that not making Gami angry would be a better choice here…”
“……” Aotsuki-san stayed silent, grasping her hand in front of her chest.
If I wasn’t completely off-mark, it seemed like she was troubled by something.
“Well, you know, we both remember our phrases, so it’s only a small few details that we have to…”
I moved to the front of the classroom, where we had set up the stage like it would be on the day of the stage play…Only to feel like something is pulling at me from behind.
Aotsuki-san was grabbing a part of my uniform.
Only now did she realize what she had been doing, and frantically pulled back her hand.
“Y-You’re wrong…! I didn’t do it on purpose…!” She started blushing furiously, which was as cute as always.
It almost felt like she was telling me not to leave. Even though she didn’t say that out loud, I keep getting my hopes up.
“So, um…I’m sorry, I must be… a bother, right…”
“Eh, no, not at all…”
I don’t want to go either. I want to always prioritize Aotsuki-san. Since—
“I like Aotsuki-san after all…”
…………Hm? What did I just say? I feel like I just blurted out something incredibly bad. Did I just use the word ‘like’…!? I frantically covered my mouth, but it was already too late. What am I doing? It’s true that I wanted to tell her, but not in such a way. Not such a boring and misplaced confession…
Panic and shame had me sweat buckets. My heart was beating loud enough I was worried it would explode. What should I do? I need to say something quickly. ‘Just joking’, maybe? But, isn’t that just rude? The urge to run away grew stronger, leaving me unable to directly look at Aotsuki-san’s face.
Oh no, what is she going to say?
“I >despise< you. >Don’t ever get close to me again<.”
—For a second, everything in front of my eyes turned black. But, that makes sense. What was I hoping for just because she was acting like a decent human being towards me. Not once did Aotsuki-san show any signs of positive affection towards me. I just got my hopes up like the creep I was.
“I was just joking, so forget about it.”
I can’t even look at her face. But, I still tried my best to smile. I’m not keeping up a face like I always do. I know that I messed up, and that we can’t go back to how we were before, but I at least don’t want to bother her any more than this.
“Gami’s waiting for me, so I’ll be going.” I rushed out of the classroom.
Aotsuki-san seemed to follow me, but bumped into a student on the way out, scattering all the pamphlets they carried in the process. I used that chance to dash to the shoe lockers…Still, I wonder what Aotsuki-san was about to say there. Maybe she wanted me to quit helping her for the play?
I don’t even know the reason why Aotsuki-san is so desperate to get this play to work. Maybe she just put up with my presence all in order to find the owner of that diary? Before, she said something like ‘I’d be bad if you couldn’t participate in the play’, but maybe she was just being considerate as always.
…I really am useless.
On the way to the train station, I felt exhausted from all the running, so I stopped my feet. Of course, I was still feeling as crappy as before, despite letting out all my frustration while running…I really messed up. Subconsciously blurting out these words was the worst I could have done.
—But, I really like her. I did say them on accident, but they were my honest feelings. I know it’s pathetic of me, but this urge to cry grew stronger and stronger, when—
Someone screamed my name with a loud voice.
When I turned around, I saw Aotsuki-san dashing towards me, completely out of breath. Eh…she chased me all the way out here? Why? I don’t get it.
This surprised left me bewildered even more, and I reflexively ran away again. My feelings of embarrassment grew even stronger, and since I didn’t want her to see my shameful expression, I sped up even further.
“…Don’t you…dare run…away…!”
Despite frantically gasping for air, Aotsuki-san raised her speed even further. That’s why I sped up myself. I mean, should I really be running away? She clearly came after me with a proper reason…With a moment’s hesitation, I turned around while dropping my speed—-And Aotsuki-san didn’t miss out on that, tackling me.
We both fell to the ground. I hit my back on the ground, feeling a sharp pain assault me.
“Ouch…Aotsuki-san, what are you…” I opened my eyes, only to gasp.
We ended up in a position where Aotsuki-san looked like she was pushing me down. And, large drops of tears ran down her eyes.
“I >hate< you…”
—Is that something you would say while crying? Would you really say that after chasing me all the way here?
“>Hate< >hate< >hate< >hate<…I >absolutely hate< you!”
I was the one who said that she shouldn’t act affectionate towards me. Yet, ironically enough, I fell in love with her. Despite wanting her to hate me, I also want her to like me. I must be a real pain in the ass of a man with how much of a contradicting mess this is. So, why is she crying for my sake now?
“You’re wrong…This isn’t what I…!” Her tears sparkled like jewels.
They aren’t tears that were meant as an appeal to forgive her, nor that she can use it as a means of escaping something. Instead, it looked like a child was simply crying out of pure sadness, shedding innocent tears.
“…What am I wrong about?”
While she was sobbing, I gently embraced her.
“…I…I don’t want to say this…I don’t…and yet…”
“What do you mean?”
Because she was running, and possibly crying even, her breathing was still out of control, not allowing her to continue talking for long. Even so, she was desperately trying to line up her words.
“Since…I didn’t think anyone would believe me…I never told anybody. So, you might think of me as a liar. But, I want you to hear me out…You especially…” She rubbed the tears away from her drenched eyes, and looked at me. “…Will you hear me out?”
Ahh…this ain’t fair. How could I reject the request of the girl I like? So, I nodded, and she opened her quivering lips.
When I was still a child, my parents were fighting a lot. To be more accurate, they were pretty much on the verge of getting a divorce. They were fighting over who would take me in. It’s not like they particularly liked me that much. But, they only had me.
Both Mom and Dad were well-established and didn’t have to worry about money, but they wanted someone they could give their inheritance to, someone that would look after them when they are older. They would give me sweets, toys, and everything I could have wanted in order to win me over.
“Hey, Mifuyuu. You must XXXX your father more than your mother, right?”
“Mifuyuu, your mother really XXXXX you, so you must XXXX her back, right?”
They are words of kindness and affection that I can’t say right now. But, this is how I answered. To Dad it was ‘I XXXX Dad more than Mom!’, and to Mom it was ‘I XXXX Mom more than Dad!’. After all, I XXXX them both. I just ran my mouth since the innocent me back then didn’t know any better. At the same time as their relationship grew worse, and with this attitude, their attempts to win me over grew even more intense. I just tried my best to keep them together.
That’s when I heard a rumour about a witch living on top of a hill at a nearby town. I took the train all alone, and made my way there. It was a simple rumour, but as I was weak and innocent, I pretty much believed everything…Not to mention that the rumour turned out to be true.
I tried my best to climb up that hill, and finally reached the summit. Nobody was waiting for me there, but I believed that somebody would hear my wish, and answer it.
“Please, I beg you. I XXXX both Mom and Dad. That’s why…Them fighting for me…hurting each other…Please make it so that they stop.”
A few seconds after I whispered that wish…I heard a voice. It was a beautiful voice, one that sounded wasted on this world.
“…What a luxurious problem to have.”
I did believe in the Witch, and I came here in order to meet her. But—the second I saw her for myself, I couldn’t utter any words.
“My name is Shell, and the Witch you were hoping to meet. Though, there aren’t many people who can actually see me in the first place…And, it seems like you are one of those. I can’t tell if you’re lucky or unfortunate though.”
Although she looked like a witch I’d often see in picture books, she wore a triangular hat with a long robe, and had beautiful long blonde hair. She looked pretty young because of her small body, but she gave off the aura like she had been living for a hundred years and more.
“My wish is…luxurious?”
“That’s right. You are very lavish, and gluttonous.”
Because of the night breeze, her hat and robe swayed left and right. As she looked at me, her eyes were filled with a black flame resembling hatred.
“…There are people in this world who can’t convey feelings like XXXX, you know. Just like me.”
“You have a person you XXXX, Witch-san?”
“…I had one. Someone I XXXXX very much.”
“And you don’t live together in happiness with them?”
Even in stories and fairy tales, the appearing characters all become happy in the end. The princess lives happy-ever-after with the prince, and even the witch will…After all, if she’s not a bad witch and grants everybody’s wishes, she has the right to be happy.
“Don’t think everybody is the same as you.”
A cold atmosphere filling the air around me had my shoulders freeze.
“I still remember it vividly…Just a short while ago, like you, there was a girl who could see me. But unlike you, she didn’t wish for anything despite knowing that I was a witch. She just wanted to be friends with me.”
As I was left bewildered, the witch continued.
“And after that, she came to visit me every day. Always smiling, always next to me. I…always wished that we would be able to stay together, but…” The Witch-san tightly grasped the wand she was holding. “A witch…isn’t allowed to hold feelings such as XXXX towards humans, as this would be selfish. If one did, you’d just be used by that human, and treated like an endless vessel for magic. Granting a human’s wish with the power of magic is one thing, but you can’t become their tool. That is the law of us witches. It’s forbidden for us to hold feelings of XXXX towards humans. That’s why, unless it’s a particular exception, if a human touches a witch, their skin starts to grow hot, and burn. It’s dangerous to have a human around me. And yet, right when I was losing against my loneliness, that girl spent her entire summer with me…and made me hesitate. But, I knew that staying together with her is a bad idea, and that this can’t continue. The more time I spent with her, the more I wanted us to separate. That’s why, summer would be the end of it all, that’s what I had decided.”
A strong breeze hit us, which had the levees of the tree dancing through the air.
“I…couldn’t tell my feelings of XXXX to that girl.” Her faintly quivering voice was cold as ice, and sharp. “That’s why, I’m honestly envious of people like you who can easily say XXXX just like that.”
There, I realized what careless wish I uttered before. I just selfishly wished, and hurt that witch.
“U-Um, I’m sorry, I…”
“—Fine, I’ll grant your wish.”
Suddenly, I was enveloped in a strong breeze. Instinctively, I knew. I relied on a power completely out of my comprehension. I relied on magic, something that is far out of my reach. There shouldn’t be any reason why that witch was forced to grant my wish. But, just like in fairy tales, there’s always a catch. Something you have to pay for to have your wish granted. Just like the Little Mermaid who lost her voice in return for being given legs.
“Let me grant your wish. In return—I will put a curse on you. You will never be able to say XXXX ever again…”
That’s right, for my wish to be granted, I was forced to give something in return.
As for what happened after that…
“Mom, Dad! I met a witch, and…Huh?”
When I came back home, my parents were smiling happily, like all their previous fighting had been a lie. It was as if magic happened—Not just as if. The witch really granted my wish.
“Ahh, Mifuyuu, today is a wonderful day. Listen to this.” Mom smiled, showing an expression I hadn’t seen on her for a long time. “I was feeling a bit under the weather, so when I went to the hospital for a medical check-up, they said I was pregnant.”
Dad embraced Mom’s shoulders, and said with a happy tone.
“That’s right. That’s why we decided against the divorce.”
Mom and Dad won’t break up. Basically, we can be together as a family, and I even get a younger sibling. I was a bit scared when I was talking to that witch, but…She really granted my wish! Filled with happiness and joy, I tried to tell my parents how much I XXXX them, like I always would.
“Mom, I >hate< you!”
Momentarily, the air froze up.
“…Mifuyuu? Why would you say something so cruel to me?”
No. I didn’t say that. And neither did I want to. I just wanted to tell her of my XXXX for her.
“Dad, I >hate< you!”
Almost like a broken keyboard, different words that I meant to say came out of my mouth.
“Hey, what’s your problem?”
“I >hate< you…>Hate< >hate< >hate< >hate< you…!”
“What the hell is wrong with you? Gross.”
“Maybe she’s jealous because of the baby?”
“My…The baby isn’t even born yet, what a cruel child she is.” Mom gently caressed her stomach, as if to protect what was inside of it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the baby. Maybe this time we finally get the boy we always wanted.”
Mom and Dad both smiled with faces I hadn’t seen before. I wonder why…this is exactly what I wanted…and yet, it felt like they were leaving me behind—So I spoke up. Don’t go, I said.
“>Leave me alone<.”
“That’s what I was planning on doing.”
I continued. Hug me, I said.
“>Don’t touch me<.”
“What a cheeky brat.”
You’re wrong, I actually—
“<I can’t stand the both of you>!”
After that, I realized that whenever I tried to voice any positive affection, the exact opposite would come out of my mouth. Because of this, both Mom and Dad distanced themselves from me even further. Finally, my younger brother was born, and they became a happy family of three. Nobody is hurt by me anymore. Because I wished for this.
—’Them fighting for me…hurting each other…Please make it so that they stop.’
This definitely is the world that I wished for. XXXX, hate, XXXX, hate, XXXX, hate…No matter how much I tried to convey my feelings to my family and friends, I would just end up hurting them instead, so they left me behind. Eventually, I will probably just forget what my real feelings are anyway.
But, this is something I earned myself. Back when they were fighting for me, and I couldn’t resolve anything with my own strength, I had to rely on the power of magic. That’s why, this is my punishment. This is all because I was foolish, and yet—
“—Yo, Aotsuki-san, what are you doing here at such a ti—”
When I was crying all on my own, you called out to me. And, you even talked with me. When I was just in a dark room, all alone, you opened up the window and let in a warm and comfortable light. I was always on the receiving end. So, I wanted to give you something back. Tell you of my gratitude. And…show you my real self. This led to me coming to XXXX you. I don’t want to keep these feelings bottled up inside of me. I want to tell you of my feelings, and get rid of this curse. Because…there are words that I want you to hear, Yafune-kun. The words you probably needed to hear more than anything else in this world.
“…I >hate< you.”
After Aotsuki-san finished explaining everything, she yet again repeated those words.
“I >hate you<. I absolutely <despise> you, Yafune-kun.”
“I really >hate< you…”
“…Say it again.”
“…Are you stupid?”
“Yes, I am.” In order to rub away her tears, I put my hand on her cheek. “…If only I would have looked at your eyes more than your superficial words.”
She was always trying to tell me. Say the word XXXX that is more kind and warm than anything else in this world.
“—You were saying ‘like’ so much.”
Her wet eyes slightly narrowed, and her ears turned red.
“Thank you, Aotsuki-san.”
Not only her ears, her eyes, and cheeks, everything turned into a reddish color, as her long eyelashes were quivering. That told more than every word she could have said.
“Y-You’re wrong…Actually, not really, but…” More tears came streaming from her eyes, making my fingers wet.
And yet, those tears felt warm.
“I’m cursed. That’s why I can only say these words. Say that I hate you…But, in reality, there’s another word I want to use instead…”
Despite her words being sealed like this, Aotsuki-san still tried her best to express herself.
“…You know, I’m a really helpless bastard.” Yet again, my honest feelings came out of my mouth. “Before, when I said all these cruel things to you, you might have already figured it out, but…It’s not just that. In reality, I’m just creating a fake character in front of everyone. The real me thinks that this is all just a pain, and I feel forced to go with the happy-go-lucky flow. I don’t even think of these guys as my friends. If anything, I absolutely love anime and games. When I first got to know you, I thought that you were a template tsundere…It’s not my interest that’s the problem though, it’s my personality. At the root of it all, I’m rotten. If I were acting the real me from the very beginning, you wouldn’t have come to like me.”
“I feel bad for you. Your honest feelings are howling inside of you, but you can’t tell anybody. I just happened to treat you kindly, which is why you fell for me. Without the curse…just like the magic vanished, those feelings were cooled down.”
I know myself just how rotten of a human being I was. I can’t take being liked for a fake self.
“I didn’t want you to act affectionate towards me…I really did, and yet…” I smiled.
It wasn’t a fake smile, but one from the bottom of my heart.
“Right now, learning of your feelings, I’m pretty sure that I am the happiest I could have ever been in my life.” Tears fell down from my eyes, and they wouldn’t stop. “You are allowed to hate me. It’s really fine. But, even so…”
I’m sure that my face right now must be a mess. Her fingers touched my tears. Why is she ready to accept everything? All of my ugliness? I guess that’s what ‘liking someone’ means. So maybe…I’m allowed to get the wrong idea?
“If…if your feelings still don’t change after learning about the real me…”
This is an impossible fantasy. But, it’s my own freedom as to what I’m thinking. Then, I should be allowed to live in a dream, and hope for my wish to be granted.
“…Then, I want you to properly say it. The words you truly want to say before they are changed.”