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Suki Kirai - Volume 1 - Chapter 3


I made several discoveries about Kagami-kun since it was decided that I’ll help him with making a new song. 
For example, that he truly loves singing. 
He’s a sore loser, he doesn’t skip practice even if no one’s watching, he doesn’t cut corners.

Then, this was the most shocking thing, but……
Why! Kagami-kun composed by humming.

“How in the world can you make such wonderful songs by humming!?”
“After recording it, I had Kanata and the others copy it down by ear.”
Kagami-kun says casually, after school in the AV room that I’ve become completely familiar with. 
As I’m amazed by that, he further continues.

 “Rin, you have perfect pitch, right? Transcribing my humming to sheet music, if we record you playing the keyboard on the spot, I figured it might be easier for them to practice, too.”
“…… You’re seriously aiming for the MVP spot.”
“O–f course! To obtain the guardians’ votes, I really understood that it’s tough to do on spirit alone.”
“Oh I see, ‘cause the guardians’ votes are added twice.” 
“That’s why the classes that put on a show have an advantage.  After that are the regulars, such as the Wind Instrument Club and the Drama Club.”
“But Kagami-kun and the others were nominated last year, weren’t you?”
“We got the special award, you know–. Since we had the most votes from the current students.”

I get it now. That’s why he’s excessively frustrated and became so desperate about it.   
But it seemed like it wasn’t just that for Kagami-kun.

“Besides, Miku…… The only time the Light Music Club got the MVP spot was during that age.”
“Huh? Kagami-kun calls Miku-san by just her first name.”

Those were unintentionally mumbled words. 
But the moment I voiced them, my heartbeat jumped with a heavy thump.
On the other hand, Kagami-kun had ended up falling unusually silent.

“Erm, that is, I didn’t mean to say that calling her by her first name is bad. It’s just that, I got curious that maybe Kagami-kun had met Miku-san before.”
“……Of course I’ve met her.”
“O-ohhh…… It must’ve been at the cultural festival or something? ‘Cause Miku-san had already made her Tokyo debut by the time we entered the school.”
“Actually, Miku’s an acquaintance of mine. Since she lived in my neighborhood.”

The puzzle pieces fell perfectly into place in my mind. 
The two of them knowing each other, Kagami-kun was entrusted with ‘Crybaby Boyfriend’. 
Then to follow in her footsteps, he wants to get the MVP spot at the cultural festival, too.

(In that case, why…….)

Why did he make someone like me join the club? 
Why am I helping with composing a song for the sake of taking the MVP spot?
Am I really the right one for this?

“…….Will it be okay, with me? Wouldn’t someone else be better?”
“Hm? Wait a sec. By someone else, you mean for making the song?”
“Actually, I’m Miku-san’s fan. That’s why I know that she’s made a lot of wonderful songs other than ‘Crybaby Boyfriend’, and I think it’s natural that she took the MVP spot.”
“That’s why, so I won’t lose to that……”
“I think that Kagami-kun’s songs and singing voice are just as wonderful. But you’re aiming even higher than where you’re at now, aren’t you? If that’s the case, you should search for someone who can give advice more actively on making a song.”

(It’s impossible after all…… For me……)
Firmly holding back the feeling of wanting to get away from here right away, I silently waited for Kagami-kun’s words.
Only the sound of the wall clock’s second hand frightfully reaches my ears.

After who knows how long had passed, Kagami-kun finally started to speak, little by little.

“There’s something lacking in my songs…… I realized that Rin has that something.”

“Besides, I like Rin’s singing voice. When you sang along to my humming, I started to think that I want to stand on stage together.”

That serious look resounded way more than the flirty ‘confessions’ until now. 
If I could agree, I want to do it.
But I understand that someone like me can’t live up to Kagami-kun.

“Since I’ve already told you my feelings, Rin, will you tell me yours next?”

“……I, …….”
“Len, are you here?”

The door suddenly opening, the bass player Tsurumaki-kun stuck his head in.
Maybe instantly sensing the atmosphere in the room, he tilts his neck and raises one eyebrow with a ‘Hm?’.

“Sorry, did I interrupt?”
“You sure did–. Kanata, you can’t possibly be aiming for Rin……”
“Don’t lump me together with you, idiot. I forgot something here.”
“Eeeh? Kanata-kun did, whose selling point is being a cool beauty?”
“What’s with that? ……Well, forgetting something was just by coincidence.”
“See, didn’t I say so! Certainly, Rin’s the world’s, no, the universe’s cutest, though.”
“Different coincidence. I dunno why, but Meiko-sensei’s calling for you in the hallway.”

Hearing Meiko-sensei’s name, Kagami-kun’s face literally changed color. 
With a sigh, Tsurumaki-kun watches him leave the AV room in a hurry.

“Sheesh, that boy…… sorry for being noisy.”
“As it was to be expected, maybe I’ve already gotten used to it.”
“Ohhh…… I’m relieved, Otosaki sure can speak her mind, too. Then, I’ll take the plunge and ask……. how’s he doing? Since he gets incredibly nervous while composing, I got a little worried.”
“……So that’s how it is.”

That was kind of unexpected. It’s like a completely different person, compared to the Kagami-kun I know. 
(Maybe I’ll try asking about it more……)
As I was hesitating, I heard the sound of shoes dashing through the hallway at full speed. 
In a blink, the door opened with great force and Kagami-kun shouted, his shoulders heaving with his breathing.

“Okay, that’s enough! Rin is mine! As if I could let her be all alone with Glum Glasses!”
 “The only thing correct about what you said just now is that I wear glasses.”
“Kagami-kun, you’ve mastered the art of creating fantasies, huh.”
“That’s way too cruel! Even Rin being like thaaaaat.”

After Tsurumaki-kun went home, we continued working on the song.
A lot of things were left unsettled, but none of that mattered once he started playing the melody. My head becoming empty, I could no longer think of anything else but the song. 
In the end, that only lasted until Meiko-sensei came to take a look.

(What should I do, he’s there again today……)
I came to get my bicycle from the parking area, but Kagami-kun is waiting for me without riding his.
Actually, from the day that I joined the club, no matter how much I declined, he accompanied me to the station. 
Even though his station is in the opposite direction.

“Rin, aren’t you hungry? Shall we stop by somewhere?”
“…….I have somewhere else to go. See you tomorrow.”
“Wait a bit! Hey, did something happen? Or, did I do something?”
Putting on an indifferent expression, I shake my head without saying anything.
“Then, let me accompany you to the station. I’ll wait until you’re finished with your errand.”

Perhaps because he thought that just saying so was useless, Kagami-kun resorted to using force.
Grabbing my wrist, he pulls me along like that when I try to come to a stop.
“I can’t let a girl go home alone so late.”
Keeping my gaze cast down, I shake my head again.
“Could it be that you’re holding back? Rin doesn’t have to worry about it, since I’m doing it because I want to.”
When I don’t give him the slightest response, Kagami-kun continues speaking.

“……Then, how ‘bout we do this? In exchange, call me by my first name?”
“Excuse me!?”
“Good, you finally opened your mouth……”

It was an awfully relieved voice, like I’ve never heard before.
I raised my head in surprise, but I couldn’t see his expression well because of the backlight.

“Hey, won’t you call me like that?”
As if he were trying to say that he won’t forgive the silence, Kagami-kun puts a little force into his grip.
(……Wow, his hand is big……)
I know it’s not the time for that.
But that was the honest impression that floated into my mind.
Feeling the warmth spreading from where he’s touching me, my voice comes out high-pitched.

“L-let me go after I call you that!”
“Alright, go ahead.”

(Eh? So he’s not going to let me go in advance……)
It’s possible that he thinks I’ll run away if he releases me in advance.

“Hey, Rin. Still?”
“……Le-Len……Len-kun……”

I said it. I ended up saying it.

This is the worst: my heart beating so hard that it seems like it’ll jump out, it hurts and I’m having trouble breathing.

(After this, what sort of expression should I make when I’m talking to him……)
When I looked at how he was doing, Len-kun had already covered his face with one of his hands.

“Len-kun? What happened?”
“……Nah, um…… or rather, that had more destructive power than I imagined……” 
“Destructive power?”
“Oh, sorry! I kept gripping your hand…..”

Though it subtly didn’t become a conversation, Len-kun let go of my hand as promised.
Then, while staggering as if he had caught a cold, he starts pulling his bicycle down the hill road.

(Oh well, we ended up going home together until the station after all.)
That said, it felt awkward to leave Len-kun alone who was acting weird.
Though I’m used to walking to and from school on this road, over and over again it feels like I’m about to trip over invisible bumps. 
Plus, we’re not talking at all.
He sometimes says a word or two intermittently and that’s it.

“……Speaking of which, the place you wanted to drop by?”
(Uh-oh, so he remembered. It’d be hard to say an excuse by now……)
Avoiding meeting his gaze to an extent that’s not unnatural, I pointed at a certain store.

“Over there…… Yes, the newly-opened general store!”
“Eeh, since when……. they’re starting to put away the sign! Let’s hurry.”
“Wa-wait, Len-kun! Don’t pull my hand…..”

Fortunately, it didn’t even take 5 minutes to reach the shop.
It feels like a narrow escape from death, really.

“Rin? Aren’t you going inside?”
“It looks like they’re busy with preparations for closing up, I’ll pass on it today……”

Even during the time I was answering, I couldn’t tear away my gaze from the pendant hanging in the window. 
Maybe it’s a quartz. Though the entirety of it is whitish, depending on the angle, it looks like it shines with the colors of the rainbow.

“It’s a rainbow quartz, huh.”
“Awesome! Len-kun, you know it?”
“Well, I did just now. Look, the description is written on the card.”
“Oh, I missed that as I was admiring it…… I mean! Why are you looking at it……”
“That’s because Rin, you’ve been intently staring at it. Want it?”
“I don’t!”

Feeling like my face is about to burst into flames, I passed by in front of the store with quick steps. 
Coming after me in no particular hurry, Len-kun starts talking in a slow voice.

“Be more honest–. You were really staring at, weren’t you?”
“……Did you see the price tag?  As a natural thing that quartz costs ten thousand, even such a small one, you know.”
“Ugh! Actually, you sure know a lot about it. Is it true that you like that sort of thing?”
“You don’t need to tell me, I know that it doesn’t suit me.”
“What the heck? ……Rin, you’re a little mean to yourself, aren’t you?”
“That’s not true.”
“I can say the same words right back to you–. It definitely suits Rin, I can guarantee it.”

I wonder why Len-kun is full of confidence.
I wonder why I feel happy.
Holding down my restless heartbeat from above my dress shirt, I speak while praying that my voice won’t tremble unnaturally.

“……But it’s Len-kun guaranteeing it.”
“Awful!! It may not seem like it, but I’ve got a sense for beauty in its own way, alright?”
“Aah, in its own way, huh……”
“Rin-chan, that’s not the part you need to pick out, you know.”

When I made fun of him like I would with the club president or Chika, Len-kun went along with it. 
(……Why, I should’ve done it like this all along.)
After noticing that it seemed like just the right sense of distance, the conversation became more enjoyable, too.
So much that the way to the station felt short because of it.

*****

Changing from the long-sleeved uniforms to the short-sleeved ones, the nights become shorter and the days become longer. 
Around the time I had found where I belong at the Light Music Club where I showed my face at once a week, school rushed into summer break.

“Eh! Len-kun, you started working!?”

In the donut shop we stopped at on our way home from club activities, I accidentally let out a loud voice.
Sitting in the seat opposite of me, Len-kun shushed me, putting a finger to his lips.
“Sorry, but that surprised me…… Won’t it be a problem, doing it alongside club activities?”
“It’s fi–ne, it’s fi–ne. It’s only during summer break. Anyways, wanna go on a date tomorrow?”
“Whoa!”
Startled, the straw makes a weird noise. No, I was the one who made it.
That Len-kun, his expression is so nonchalant that it’s obnoxious.

“Rude. Didn’t you take being startled too far?”
“A date, that’s…… If you ask that so suddenly……” 
“It puts you on the spot, huh, I bet girls have all sorts of preparations.  But, it’s okay! Meiko-sensei and the others asked me, tomorrow we’d just be running errands.”
“…..Excuse me?”
“In short, for me it’d be a date, but the rest of the world would call it ‘shopping’, I gu–ess.”

Is he picking a fight with this? Yeah, he’s definitely picking a fight.
Seeing me flustered, there’s no doubt that his goal was to smirk.

“What if you went alone?”
“Sorry, sorry. You were unable to stomach that I said shopping?”
“If you meant to say that you can’t carry things with those slender arms, I guess I could help out?”
“It’s because I thought I’d get turned down if Rin was aware that it’d be just the two of us–.” 
“Huuh!? Of course not! When and where are we meeting tomorrow?”
“As expected of Rin, you get what I’m saying~. Then, at 10 am in front of the station, thanks.”

*****

(If I could, I want to go home just as I am, turning back the way I came…..)
The next day, the moment I saw Len-kun wearing plain clothes in the crowd of people in front of the station, I intensely thought that.

“Rin, that one-piece is cute, it really suits you.”
“……thank-you-very-much.”
“Ahaha! Why the broken words? Could it be that you’re embarrassed?”

Feeling as reproachful as can be, I stare at Len-kun who’s laughing in high spirits. 
It might not be an empty compliment, but for me, it isn’t anything other than unpleasant.

If I’m to give a live coverage of the situation, the surrounding gazes were focused on Len-kun. 
Casually wearing a three-quarter length jacket over his jacquard-patterned cutsaw {dress shirt made from jersey}, men and women of all ages look at him twice.
(It looks like that sort of thing doesn’t bother Len-kun……)
Maybe he’s already gotten used to catching people’s attention, he’s walking extremely normally.
Or perhaps I should say, he seemed to be in such a good mood that it seemed like he was about to start humming even now.

“The two of us walking like this, aren’t we like newlyweds?”
“Leave the sleep-talking for when you’re sleeping.”
 “It would be nice to live near Shouto in Shibuya. And with three kids!”
“Alright, I’ll bear it with clenched teeth.”
“Eeh? Why is it that you only smile like crazy at times like these?”

With the drive to leave behind Len-kun who’s speaking in a pathetic voice, I turn my back to the station and brusquely walk away.
But unfortunately, I didn’t know our destinations for the day.

“……For the errands, what do we have to pick up and where?”
“At the music store, a baton for Meiko-sensei, guitar picks for Kanata…… what was it, they did entrust me with the order slip… Huh? Where is it?”

Len-kun is fumbling in his jacket, but I can see a paper in the back pocket of his sarouel pants. I wonder if this is a gag for the sake of softening the situation.
After hesitating for a moment, I reached my hand out towards the paper.

“Not there, look in the back.”
“Eh? Th-thanks…… Then, let’s pull ourselves together and go.”
“Where to?”
“To our new home!”

You’re still saying that?
I thought of retorting with that, but Len-kun’s bright red face drew back my words. 
Taking a better look, his ears are red, too, to the bottom of his neck.

“……Before that, how about we get some tea somewhere? Wouldn’t it be better to cool off a little?”
“Eh, you mean cool off my head? Rin, you’re awful~”
“Now listen here, I’m seriously worried!”
“Rin is! Worried about me! What should I do, I’m about to cry for real……”

It’s hopeless. More than usual, it’s not possible to hold a conversation.
(Even if I say that, I can’t think that he’s intentionally dodging the conversation, can I?)
How should I say it, I’m feeling fluffy?
Absent-mindedly, a preoccupied air, ready to run away?

“For the time being, shouldn’t we get the errands done first? Then, let’s go and get tea somewhere afterwards.”
As if he had pulled himself together, Len-kun started walking in a gallant manner.
Is he merely playing the fool again, or could he be waiting for me to make a quip at him this time? 
On the standing signboard of the music store that’s our destination, the arrow is drawn pointing in the completely opposite direction in which Len-kun’s headed.

“Umm, Len-kun……. It looks like the store’s the opposite way, though.”
“Huh? No way, how come?”
“……Look.”
“Of course, it moved, huh–.”
Though I tried to suggest that we go some other day, I ended up getting a smack in the eye.
Len-kun forcibly tried to brush me aside by the shoulder and move over to the right-hand side.

“Why?”
“Just because–.”
Though there was no way he didn’t notice that I was in a huff, Len-kun looks as if it’s no concern of his. 
But, I found out the reason for that right away. 
(I was walking on the roadway side……)

Even after that, Len-kun alternately showed suspicious behaviour and consideration.
I thought that he invited me because he wanted me to help him with carrying the stuff, but ultimately Len-kun ended up carrying it all by himself. On top of that, he didn’t even let me open and close the door of the shops.

(At this rate, it really is like we’re on a date……) 
Without a sense of reality, the memories of what we talked about are unreliable, too. 
When we made it back to in front of the station, I ended up feeling relieved at the bottom of my heart.

“Good job. Thanks for coming along with me today.”
“Same here, sorry for making you carry most of the stuff.”
“Didn’t you promise not to say it? Kidding, I like this honest side of Rin, too.”
“……!”

(Oh no, I was supposed to accept it with a laugh and let it slide……)
As for Len-kun to whom I had just provided material to tease me with, he’s wearing a serious expression for some reason.
As I was bewildered by the atmosphere suddenly changing, I heard a small cough.

“……There’s something I, want to give…… to Rin.”
From the pocket of Len-kun’s jacket, a small box tied with a ribbon appeared.
Holding it out to me, his gaze encourages me to accept it. 
I only keep standing still, in the end Len-kun placed it on my palm.

“Open it.”

I’ve seen this kind of exchange in dramas. 
But there’s no way it could possibly be happening to me. Not to mention, it’s with Len-kun. 
(Be still, my heart……!)
I’m sure that there has to be a punch line waiting again.

Telling that to my heart that’s making an impossible misunderstanding, I slowly untie the ribbon.
But seeing what’s inside, my heartbeat ended up getting increasingly faster.

“This is……”
“Rainbow quartz. I figured that if it’s a pendant, Student Counseling won’t have a problem with it either.”
Len-kun smiles inconspicuously, as if he’s revealing a secret.

(Perhaps, why he started working……. what Len-kun wanted was……)

I’m happy. I honestly felt that way.
At the same time, I feel like I can’t stay a second longer.

“Thanks. I truly feel happy.”
“……How you feel?”
“For something I’m getting from a friend, how should I say it……. I think it’s too extravagant.”
“Aah, that’s how……”
Without any notice, Len-kun’s voice suddenly became low.
(Did I end up saying something horrible……?)

“Rin, do you like me? Or do you hate me?”

With this timing, that question?
Taken aback, I end up staring back at Len-kun without saying anything.

A serious voice in that instant earlier, now he’s wearing the friendly smile that I’m familiar with.
Then, a flirty confession like business as usual.

It’s the same as always, isn’t it……?
It is, isn’t it……?

(If this had been before I joined the club, I would’ve said I hate him without hesitating…….)
While we faced each other and devoted ourselves to composing, I saw a side of him that’s not just a playboy. 
If it’s as friends, I also found out that we get along pretty well.

Then, what about now?
I wonder what the difference is between          like         and       hate?
To begin with, I wonder what sort of feeling love is?

“––Sorry, for troubling you.”

Hearing Len-kun’s voice startles me. How much time had passed?
It seems that I had completely frozen up.

“Well, that is…… um……”
“You don’t need to strain yourself to answer now, really, don’t worry about it. It’s fine, if I can stay by Rin’s side.”

*****

I don’t remember how I got home that day. 
Before I knew it, without even eating dinner, I was just simply lying down in bed in the dark room.

(The whole thing is kind of like a dream……)
But the rainbow quartz shining in my hands affirms that it isn’t a dream.

(Like and hate……It’s hopeless, I don’t get it at all……)

But, I at least understand that the inside of my chest is getting hotter.
As if it were complaining about something, I can hear the sound of my heartbeat more clearly than usual. 
Sweet, yet painful…….

I wonder, what is this feeling?


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