Chapter 15: A Class Gathering for Just the Two of Us
“You decided to listen to my complaint……eh? Why?”
“Why you said…”
I didn’t really know why I had rushed here on a Friday of all days, breaking all the rules I had set for myself and disregarding the time that I had to spend with my family.
“About school, about personal things, about—family things, and so on.
We would complain about those things and listen to each other.
That’s the kind of alliance we had.”
This was originally proposed by Kazemiya.
Don’t tell me she already forgot.
Yet, Kazemiya remained frozen with an open-mouthed, blank expression on her face.
I don’t know what to say.”
“I didn’t think you’d come…..somehow.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to see you today…why? I’m so confused that I don’t even know what to say…”
It was rare to see Kazemiya in such a flustered state.
I didn’t think she ever showed this kind of face not only when it was cool during the daytime, but even after school at night.
“…as I said earlier.
It’s true that I wasn’t planning to come today.”
“…then why did you come?”
“…I don’t know.”
“You don’t know, huh.”
When I answered honestly, Kazemiya let out a small giggle.
I’m thinking about it too, but I don’t know.
Anyway, it’s complaining time, complaining.
I decided today I decided I’m going to listen to your complaining.
……Oh, but let me order a free refill drink for me first.”
“You don’t have to order anything.”
“Are you a demon? I’ve been running here and I’m thirsty.”
“…Hmm? You came here running.”
“…Why? Is it bad?”
“No, not really.
…I’m rather glad.”
I wonder why.
I couldn’t look at Kazemiya’s face straight now.
“Anyway, let me order it first.”
“I’m telling you, it’s fine.
Kazemiya pulled out a bill and spread it out in front of me.
On a blank paper, “Free refill drink Quantity: 2” was written in black letters.
“…I didn’t expect Narumi to come, but…I ordered two out of habit.”
I usually headed to the family restaurant after my part-time job was over, and I asked Kazemiya to order a free refill drink for me in advance as well.
“You’re lucky I came.”
“Even if you hadn’t come, I’d still drink that two.”
“It’s all-you-can-drink, so no matter how much you drink, it’s still enough if you just order one.”
“If I drink twice as much as I usually do, it’s enough for two.”
Kazemiya was waving her absurd logic at me, and at this point, our eyes finally met.
My shoulders relaxed, and all the unnecessary things fell out of my mind, and I felt as if the after-school hours had returned as usual.
It’s a bit absurd, isn’t it?”
Yes, it is.”
We both laughed.
“Thanks, Narumi, I feel a little better.”
“No need to thank me.
I didn’t come here to cheer you up.”
You’re right, Narumi just came to listen to my complaint.”
“It’s much more comfortable for you that way, isn’t it?”
It’s much more comfortable that way.”
I was allowed to take advantage of the free refill drink that Kazemiya had ordered for me and poured a melon soda with light ice in the glass until it was just about full.
Right next to me, Kazemiya, who had also left her seat to fill up a new drink, was waiting for her turn.
“You like melon soda.”
“I can’t drink it at home.”
“Ah, for sure.
Melon soda is a common drink at family restaurants.
I often see melon soda at family restaurants, but I don’t see it in plastic bottles.
I wonder why.”
“A strategy to increase scarcity?”
“And what is that?”
“…The rest is God only knows.
“You’re too random.”
Kazemiya gave a small smile and picked up a glass and lightly filled it with ice.
She set the clear glass filled with ice on the machine and pressed her index finger on the button I had just pressed.
“I’ll have a melon soda too.”
“You sure you don’t want tea?”
“It’s a special occasion.”
We both return to our seats with melon sodas.
It was almost evening.
The seats around us were gradually filling up.
There were people with their children, and students, some of them frantically tapping the keyboard attached to the cover of their tablets to compose documents or something, and others spreading out documents on the table for meetings.
The sounds of life.
They were concentrating only on themselves, paying no attention to what was going on around them.
I like this annoying silence.
It made me feel as if we were the only people in the world, even though there was so much sound reaching my ears.
“……sorry about yesterday.”
Kazemiya’s voice in front of me was heard without being interrupted by the voices around me.
“My mom, I know you must have been uncomfortable.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, so there’s no need for you to apologize.”
“But she’s my mom.
If Narumi felt uncomfortable, I think I should apologize in her stead.”
A family that is.”
She apologized on her behalf because they were family.
Because she was her parent.
Because she was her daughter.
Because they were related to each other.
It wasn’t even something Kazemiya herself did.
Family indeed was a troublesome thing.
“If anything, yesterday made me feel uncomfortable about—”
To be honest.
Yesterday, that night, at that place, I did feel uncomfortable.
More specifically, I felt discomfort.
It was a discomfort that was hard to wipe away, and it was still stuck in my chest.
“From the very beginning, everything seems to be Kazemiya’s fault, from the look in your mother’s eyes, to her face, to her words and actions.
If she’s a manager, she’d better fix her habit of expressing what’s in her mind on her face.
After letting out the discomfort, I moistened my throat with a melon soda.
Mouth freshening complete.
After the glass was half-full of the brightly colored green liquid, Kazemiya began to chuckle.
What is that? Do you usually say such things to other people’s mothers?”
“If I had to apologize, I would at least do so without any heart at all.”
…I feel a little better now.”
“How about Kazemiya?”
I couldn’t say that much.”
I’m surprised myself.
I never thought I’d say this much to another person’s mother.”
I never talk about other people’s families.
When I was with Kazemiya, I felt like I was losing myself more and more.
“……it’s your fault, Kazemiya.”
“What is it suddenly? I don’t know what you mean.”
“I don’t know either.”
“Don’t copy me.”
Laughing, Kazemiya twirled the straw in the glass, pinching it with her delicate fingers.
The dented ice block hits the glass and makes a light, refreshing sound.
“I’m not Narumi’s little sister, but…I got a scolding from my mom yesterday too.”
“I’d like my alliance partners to share that information with me.”
I brought up the same logic as Kazemiya sometime ago.
“It’s not very good stuff, but is that okay?”
“Then why did you bring it up?”
It was something we could agree on.
I thought it would not be fair to Narumi to leave it unsaid.”
“I’ll listen to you just in case.”
Kazemiya put her small, soft mouth on the straw and sipped the melon soda.
To me, it looked as if she was replenishing the energy needed for the words she was about to utter.
“She said… ‘If you let him play with you, that Narumi kid will rapidly decline.
Stop dragging others down.’”
Rapidly decline, huh…so? What part of that is ‘agreeable content’?”
Well…All of it? Even today, NARUMI was supposed to spend time with his family.
And yet I’m taking that time away for myself.”
“I made the choice.
Besides, even if what your mother said were true, it wouldn’t get through to me.”
“Because I am—”
To Kazemiya, who nodded her head, I said confidently,
“I’ve fallen far enough before I became friends with you.”
“I ran away from home, ran away from my family.
I ran away, ran away, ran away, and then I came into this store.
See? I’ve fallen far enough, haven’t I?”
I said it with pride.
“……Really, NARUMI is interesting.”
“Can I take that as a compliment?”
“I don’t know.
I think you’re an idiot.”
“Maybe that’s why I’m here.”
The light had returned to KAZEMIYA’s eyes.
Not as empty as this morning.
Not as empty as this morning.
The Kazemiya Kohaku I had known for the past five days was back.
“I don’t dislike that kind of stupidity.”
“…I’ll take that as a compliment.”
At best I could only say something like that and look away.
I didn’t know what I was doing.
But right now……only now, I couldn’t look directly at Kazemiya’s face.
“You know, today was the day of the class gathering party.”
“Did you want to go?”
…I don’t want to.
Let’s have a class reunion now, too.”
“Even though there’s only two of us?”
“Even if it’s just the two of us, a class reunion is still a class reunion, right? Besides……”
“”It’ll be an excuse for my family.””
Our words matched word for word, without coordinating our timing.
“Especially for Narumi.”
“I appreciate your concern.”
“…Same here, thank you.”
Saying so, Kazemiya held up a small glass of melon soda, the remaining portion of which was running low.
“Do you want to do something like that?”
“Let’s do it.”
I also raised my glass and lightly touched it to Kazemiya’s glass.
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