Please Tell Me How to Remember Love - Chapter 1 Part 5
Chapter 1 Part 5
Ukai Tomoe loved sprinting.
The thrill she felt when she gave it her all to dash under the sound of the signal pistol.
The feelings when she moved her legs and stopped thinking about anything else but to move forward.
The sensation of moving as fast as she could as she aimed for the finish line.
All those feelings were something that Tomoe couldn’t help but fall in love with. During that short amount of time, she could take her mind off her worries and the sense of freedom she felt when running was something that she enjoyed.
But the current Tomoe wasn’t able to feel that way.
“Ukai, you should clean up and take a break today. You don’t look good today. You’ll only hurt yourself if you keep this up for a moment longer.”
Tomoe obeyed the harsh words of the captain of the track club.
She understood where they came from. They didn’t chase her off because she became worse at running. Rather, it was because she couldn’t stay focused when she was running.
More than anything else, she felt embarrassed.
She felt like her action was insulting the sports itself.
Tomoe’s steps were heavy. Each step was filled with her anguish and regret.
If there were people around, she’d always try to make it as if she was okay, but whenever there was no one around, she’d always find herself sighing and doing nothing all day long.
“Even so, I still have to do it…”
It felt painful, yet Tomoe reminded herself over and over that this was something that she must do. No matter how much she was hurting, no matter what she had to sacrifice, she told herself that this was her duty.
“That idiot over there, why do you look so down? I can see why the captain sent you home early.”
After hearing someone calling up to her, Tomoe was finally able to register her surroundings.
It was then that she realized that Aoi was waiting for her in front of the school gate and she was currently forcefully grabbing her collar.
“Jeez, you’re so out of it. At least pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll get into an accident if you walk around listlessly like that.”
“Uu… T-There’s no way that’ll happen! I-I’m perfectly fine!”
“Sure you are. You know that I can tell you’re forcing yourself to act cheerful, right? Seriously, if you keep this up, nothing good will happen.”
Aoi released her hands from Tomoe’s coller and firmly grabbed her shoulders before pulling her closer.
“In any case, follow me. There’s someone that can solve your problem.”
Those words were like finding an oasis in the middle of a desert. Tomoe, who was nearly at her limit, had no reason to turn her best friend down, so she nodded her head.
* * *
“Hello, I’m Satou Takayuki, a love counselor. Nice to meet you.”
The moment she sat down in front of her notorious classmate, Tomoe regained her vigor out of fear.
Takayuki’s irreverent smile somehow triggered her survival instinct.
“Um, Aoi? You’re making me doubt our three years-long friendship…”
Aoi dragged her to a restaurant that hadn’t even opened yet without giving her a chance to resist. Then she dragged her to the corner of the restaurant only to find Takayuki there, waiting for her with his usual irreverent smile. Considering how many bad rumors were circling around about the boy, Tomoe’s reaction was justified.
“It’s fine, Tomoe, just trust me. I hold one of his weaknesses, so you don’t need to be wary of him.”
“Aoi, while I’m thankful to you, your words just made me scared of you instead of him…”
“…See, Satou-kun? I told you going to a cafe will be better.”
“Cafes are no good, too many people there. This is as good as we get because it isn’t like we can rent a room in a hotel somewhere. I had a lot of trouble trying to get permission from the owner’s wife to borrow this place, you know? Give me a break.”
“Ah, so that’s why you were playing with the children the other day. It was to gain her trust.”
“Yes. Though I could only use this place for specifically high school students’ clients.”
When Tomoe saw them talking normally in front of her, she let her guard down a little.
The boy was here to help her, she understood that much at least.
“First of all, let me apologize, Tomoe. I told him about your situation without asking for your permission. Even if I’m your best friend, I did something inappropriate.”
The counseling began with Aoi bowing her head to Tomoe.
“D-Don’t be! Y-You were only thinking about me, you don’t need to apologize!”
“Still, I shoulda asked for your permission first. Sorry.”
“…Seriously, you don’t need to act like this, it isn’t a big deal.”
Tomoe responded to Aoi’s apology with a wry smile.
Even though she knew that she didn’t do anything wrong, Aoi still apologized. Tomoe began to appreciate the loyalty of her best friend.
“Ah, let me tell you this, Miyama didn’t mean to tell me that she was talking about you. It’s just, I managed to guess it thanks to me knowing roughly about our classmates’ love lives.”
Takayuki gave Aoi, who was still bowing her head, a follow up. Then, he continued,
“Besides, no matter how hard you’re trying to keep your situation a secret, it will leak sooner or later. I know that you guys are spreading rumors to keep everyone from going after Naotsugu’s a**. But you know, what? That won’t stop people from finding out about the truth. Also, Ukai, if you keep this up, you’ll reach the limit eventually and when that happens, even that awfully dense childhood friend of yours will notice that there’s something wrong with you.”
Takayuki’s words made Tomoe’s shoulders jolted in surprise.
Of course, it wasn’t like she hadn’t thought about that outcome. It was just, she had been busy trying to prevent that outcome from happening,
“I heard that you had to take a leave early from your club today. Sure, you can get by for a few days if you tell people that you aren’t feeling well, but if the situation doesn’t change, eventually, people will connect the dots and find out about your situation with Naotsugu. That will be enough for people to make up absurd rumors about your childhood friend.”
The calm remarks from a third party had enough of an effect to make Tomoe’s face turn pale.
What little energy that she had was starting to fade away at a rapid pace. She began to worry that all of her efforts had been in vain or maybe even counterproductive. Tomoe hung her head down and clutched her chest tightly. ‘If only I could erase these feelings, everything would be easier for me,’ she thought.
“And so, let’s finish it all before it’s too late, Ukai. I’m going to take those feelings away from you.”
She failed to understand his words. Her head that had been hanging down was involuntarily raised up.
Until just now, his words had been filled with things that made her feel despair. The sudden lifeline that he gave her threw Tomoe’s heart into turmoil.
“Just trust him for now. It isn’t like we have a lot of choice here. Don’t worry, if he were to try something strange, I’ll break his fingers.”
Puzzled, Tomoe turned her gaze toward her best friend. But, Aoi’s reply didn’t clear her confusion at all.
“Buzz off! Hands off my fingers, I won’t do anything to her!”
“Oh my? You should be happy, a beautiful girl is holding your hand willingly.”
“If anything I’m going to cry because you’re gripping it so tightly… Anyway…”
Takayuki tried to pry Tomoe’s hand away from him before turning his gaze back to Tomoe. His pathetic look was gone, replaced by a calm and serious look.
“Ukai. Tell me everything about your circumstances. If you don’t do this, I won’t be able to do anything.”
“Eh? Could it be…”
Tomoe took a glance at Aoi, but before Aoi could open her mouth, Takayuki already cut her off.
“Miyama hasn’t told me anything. This is a sensitive matter for you, isn’t it? She knows better.”
Tomoe nodded weakly. She felt ashamed for suspecting her best friend even after everything that she had done for her.
“But still, we won’t get anywhere if you were to keep your mouth shut like this.”
Tomoe nodded and looked up. Her gaze met Takayuki’s.
His eyes, normally looked gloomy and stagnant, similar to that of a dead animal’s, perfectly reflected Tomoe’s figure.
However, Tomoe was still hesitant to tell Takayuki about this.
“Well, I understand your feelings. Speaking your heart out is hard, everyone also feels the same way, but you know what? Your silence won’t fix anything, Ukai. I know that it’s hard for you to trust me, but know that it was Miyama who brought you to me. She’s genuinely concerned about you, so just trust her instead. And so…”
Takayuki stared at Tomoe’s eyes and asked her a question, as if trying to probe her heart.
“Ukai Tomoe, what was it that made you willingly throw yourself into this path ridden with thorns?”
Before long, Tomoe’s mouth began to move.
* * *
It happened back when Tomoe was a fourth grader. During a picnic in the middle of autumn.
The reason why Tomoe fell in love was because she actually fell down.
Yes, her love began when she fell off a cliff.
It wasn’t hard to figure out the cause. As a kid, Tomoe was a tomboy who loved to run around. She was the kind of kid who’d let her feet lead her everywhere. During that time, Tomoe was running on a mountain road that looked more like a mountain trail than anything. Her parents warned her to not go too far but to no avail.
Even back then, she was already the fastest kid in her age range. The bumpy mountain road, filled with thick tree roots, rough rocks and rough paths were only fueling her determination to run faster rather than making her wary.
When she was running around and came across a thick patch of grass, her world flipped upside down. But Tomoe, clueless as she was, didn’t even notice her situation until the moment her body was about to hit the ground.
“Ouchie… Hehe, that was a failure! But at least the cliff wasn’t as high as I thought.”
Tomoe found out that she had messed up when she noticed Naotsugu, who managed to break her fall spectacularly.
Naotsugu himself had been chasing after her out of worry. The moment he saw Tomoe was about to fall into the cliff, he jumped in to save her without hesitating. In the end, he ended up falling right under Tomoe’s body.
“N-Nao! Your leg! Your leg!”
“I’m… Fine! I-I can take this much… T-This barely hurts me, instead i-it’s making me yawn. B-But, can you call my parents here? I-I’m a little tired…”
As it turned out, neither of them were seriously injured.
Like Naotsugu mentioned, the cliff wasn’t that high. Naotsugu’s body was strong enough to endure the fall and break Tomoe’s fall on top of that. Aside from that, there was actually a clinic just near their picnic spot, so they could receive treatment almost immediately. The fall wouldn’t hinder their normal lives.
Or at least that would be the case if they lived in a perfect world. Sadly, Naotsugu’s leg had to be sacrificed for their well being.
* * *
“Sorry… I’m sorry, Nao!…”
“It’s fine, it’s fine! I love milk anyway! I’ll drink enough of them to get better in no time!”
Naotsugu’s words somehow came true when school started, though he still had to wear a cast on his left leg. Both his overall health and broken leg was healed a week ahead of schedule with no aftereffects. In fact, as soon as he wore off his cast, he could immediately play baseball again.
However, he was unable to participate in the baseball tournament he wanted to be in. No matter how fit he was, it was impossible to participate in a tournament with a broken leg.
Tomoe’s first love began from this point. The fact that Naotsugu risked his life to save her from a tough situation was enough to make those feelings appear in her heart.
But, she never confessed her feelings to him.
Because starting from this time onward, their relationship had become slightly distorted.
“Tomo is in danger! I have to save her!”
Having almost lost his childhood friend right in front of his eyes, Naotsugu grew to be overprotective of her. As long as Tomoe didn’t reject his presence, he’d always try to find a way to stick by her side.
The accident had distorted the nature of their relationship.
Seeing her childhood friend caring for her made Tomoe happy. Alongside that happiness though, there was a slight pain. Over time, the pain that she felt became stronger and stronger to the point that it became unbearable for her.
And now, that pain was ready to tear Tomoe’s heart apart.