Suki Kirai - Volume 1 - Chapter 6

Finishing the double encore, Haniwa’s concert came to an end with great success.
I only intended to sing the new song, but I got introduced as a member by the MC……
In the end, I stood on stage until the very end as the keyboard-player and part of the chorus.

“Oh, the after-festival started.” {the bonfire and dancing event after the last night of the festival}
Looking down at the courtyard while leaning on the railing, Len-kun speaks in a happy voice.
Standing beside him, I just mumble “yeah” in a slightly hoarse voice.

There’s no one else on the roof.
No wonder, this place is usually locked and entry is forbidden.
This time, as a student council member, Chika secretly lent us the key and specially let us up. Apparently as a services prize for livening up the cultural festival.

In contrast to the lively stage, silence flows on the roof. 
There’s a lot to talk about that I can’t put into words, but I could only let my gaze roam.
Len-kun too, he held his breath as if it’s unbelievable that he had been inciting the crowd until just now.

“For the new song, I decided on a title……”
It was a quiet voice that seemed to melt into the dusk. 
From my dry throat, I somehow squeeze out a reply.
“What is it?”
“……How does ‘Like Hate’ sound?”
“Just as it is, huh.”
“Rin likes curve balls better?”
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Len-kun mischievously smile, it cheers me up a little.
Wanting to cover up that tears welled up in my eyes,  I shook my head after I pretended to think for a bit.

“I guess I like straight ball games better.”
Just by saying ‘like’, my heart trembled.
(I have even more incredible things to say after this, will my heart last?)
Taking a breath and filling my lungs with the air that had considerably cooled down, I turn towards Len-kun.

“Uhm, hey”
“ “Ehh?” ”
Our voices overlapping, we both blinked.
In the next moment, Len-kun continued without hesitation.

“Sorry for not showing up for club activities all this time.”
“Th-the same goes for me! Sorry.”
“……Why is Rin apologizing? I’m the one who troubled you.”
“No. Well, originally, I misunderstood and……”
To cut off the rest, Len-kun exaggeratedly shakes his head.
“I, that day…… Rin told me that she really hated it, I thought that I can’t keep trying my best anymore…… I thought I shouldn’t try my best.”
“But it’s about that! Len-kun, there’s something I want to say–“
Once again, Len-kun stole away my words.
This time, with a gaze brimming with an intense light.

“But hearing the message from Kanata, I thought I’d bet on the last possibility.”

That I’ll definitely deliver the new song’s lyrics, Len-kun believed in those words.
That’s why they prolonged the new song’s intro until I appeared.

“Len-kun, why are you so……”
“–– Hey Rin, the day we first talked to each other, do you remember it?”
“Eh? The after-festival when we were first years, right…….?”
“Aaah, so that’s how you perceived it after all……”
Saying that, Len-kun laughed as if he were troubled.
“We talked even before that. To be frank, at the high school entrance ceremony.”
“Eehh? Why, that much earlier……? We weren’t even in the same class.”
It doesn’t look like he’s lying, I think it’s probably the truth.
But I, really don’t have the slightest memory of it, not even a bit.

“After the ceremony ended, you were making a phone call beneath the row of cherry trees, right? Then, you suddenly broke down crying.”

To Len-kun’s words, I realized that the doors of my memory are being thrown open.

For me, that day was a time of ‘departure’ in a double meaning. 
The day before the ceremony, my pet dog Suzu, who was struggling against a disease for a long time, suddenly fell into a coma.
We were always together ever since I was little, I brought her up like we were sisters, and not wanting to leave her side even for a short time, I planned on being absent from the entrance ceremony until right before it. 
(But, Suzu miraculously woke up……)
As I was heading to Aisaka Academy, and then after the ceremony ended, I got a call from the hospital.
“Just now, she breathed her last.”
What I heard was the cruel truth, I ended up breaking down crying right there. 
Where I was, the gazes of the people around me, all of it flew away.
That’s why I completely relegated the person who lent me their handkerchief far off into my memories.

(……That, was Len-kun……)
I wonder why I forgot?
Why didn’t he name himself until now?
When I vacantly stared at Len-kun, he looked back with a kind gaze.

“Ever since then, I was always curious, the next time was when I came across you playing the piano after school in the music room, right? Then, you were crying again and singing ‘Crybaby Boyfriend’ all alone.”
(Tsurumaki-kun told me already, but he really did see me……)
Because of embarrassment and feeling like running away, I couldn’t say a word.
And Len-kun too, his voice trembled.

“That there was another kid who cried just like me over the same song, it burned into my memory, you know?”

I didn’t even need to ask the reason for it.
Remembering being with Miku-san, and singing, he cried.

“After that, I ended up following you with my gaze before I knew it…… Rin, you call yourself plain, you smile even when the people around you force troublesome stuff on you, seeing it had me on pins and needles.”
“But, you don’t ever let up, you calmly look around you and help out, that’s the kind of girl you are…. You showed a super cute smile to the kids who had let their guards down. I learned those kinds of things about you.”

What the heck is he saying, throwing around words like cute.
Stop the empty flatter. I’ve had enough of that. 
The things I want to say keep floating into my mind one after the other, but I can’t speak with just my breath escaping.
(Oh no, what should I do, my cheeks are getting hotter……)

My heart already keeps throbbing, Len-kun says something that makes it beat even faster.

“When you heard my song at the cultural festival and cried, I could shake off a needle inside me, you know? Then before I knew it, I confessed at the after-festival.”

“Rin was the first person that I felt like I wanted to protect. Thanks to Rin, I could graduate from Miku, who I was always dragging along.”

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

The same question as before made my breath stop.
But, the eyes that reflected me in them and the voice that asked, they both wavered slightly.
Since I understood that Len-kun was just as nervous as me, the unnecessary strain left me.

“Even hate has two sides
Now we are       In love”

A capella, I sang my most favourite part from ‘Like Hate’.
Staring in round-eyed wonder from this sudden turn, Len-kun is at a loss for words.
This time, it’s my turn.

“……I don’t like being in front of people, modestly and without standing out, I wished to live in peace and quiet. That’s why even though I like singing and playing the piano very much, if it weren’t for Len-kun, I don’t think the day would’ve come in my life where I performed in front of people like that.”

“But that’s not all……I really enjoy the time I spend together with Len-kun, it’s the first time I realized that I can laugh like that.”

What I consistently tried not to look at were my true feelings. 
Afraid to leave the safe world with no discord in it, I turned my eyes away from my changing self. 
Even Len-kun’s existence that brought forth the change, I tried to avoid it.

“Rin, don’t cry anymore, okay?”
“…..This is the kind of feeling ‘like’ is, huh.”
“I like you, Len-kun.”

“……………………Eh? Eeh? Eeehhh!?”

“Len-kun, your face is turning bright red.”
“W-well of course it would! My dearest wish of becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, I’m joining the people who’re satisfied with their life!”
Len-kun’s desperate shouting reminds of that thing’s existence.
When I put my hand in my uniform’s pocket, my fingertips bump against the strap that has been waiting for its turn all along.

“……Here, accept this. It’s to thank you for the rainbow quartz.”
Abruptly becoming embarrassed, I said it in just a little bit blunt manner.
But Len-kun is far from not minding it, he stares in round-eyed wonder like in a manga. 
“Th-tha-that! The Sukikirai Riajuu Strap……!”

After placing the blue strap in Len-kun’s hand, I take out my cell. 
The Kyunkyun Strap, aka the pink omamori, gently sways in the breeze that has lost its heat.

“If you have the two as a set, it’ll make your love come true. That legend was true, huh?”

As the evening sun sets, the moon rises in the eastern sky. 
Neither coming before the other, we held hands wrapped in that pale light.


A year later, I became an official member of Honey Works. 
The last cultural festival of our high school life ahead of us, Len-kun is more enthusiastic than usual.

“For some reason or other, we didn’t get the MVP spot last year either, right–?”
“I didn’t think I’d possibly cry over a one vote difference……. Actually Rin, don’t say it like it’s someone else’s problem!”
After school in the AV room, I was sitting in front of the keyboard that had completely become my reserved seat. 
Neglecting the mike stand, Len-kun is standing in front of me.
This slightly noisy atmosphere is a part of our current daily life.

“Huge news! Something incredible came……!” 
Opening the door with a vigour that could’ve broken it, Tsurumaki-kun rushed inside in an unusually excited state. 
Looking like he was taken aback by it, too, Len-kun blinks his eyes.

“What’s the huge news? What’s coming, where?”
“It’s Hatsune Miku! As a special guest for the cultural festival, that diva is coming!”
“Hmm…..  hey, that Miku? Seriously? Isn’t that incredible!”
“Right? No matter how much being an alumna of the school counts, it’d normally be impossible, right?”
“Good for you, Rin! You’ll meet Miku!!”

Somewhat excited, Len-kun smacks my shoulder, but strangely, it didn’t hurt. 
I mean, I don’t have the slightest sense of reality.
Repeating it in my head over and over again, my heartbeat gradually sped up.

“……Wh-what should I do…… my heart can’t take……”
“Eh? Hold on, what’s with that reaction!? Hey Rin, get excited over me, too~”
As Len-kun half-cries, Tsurumaki-kun and I look at each other by accident.
Exploding with laughter in the next moment, Len-kun’s protesting voice echoes in the AV room.

The first summer that Len-kun and I welcome as boyfriend and girlfriend was just around the corner.
Along with a violent storm that’s a specialty of this season.

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