Please Tell Me How to Remember Love - Chapter 3 Part 2
T/N: Revision. I made a mistake on Aoi’s sister’s name. Her name was Renge, not Renka. Sorry about this.
Chapter 3 Part 2
After Haruka decided to rely on Takayuki, things progressed quickly.
“So, you managed to get ahold of a bunch of cryptic letters as evidence. What about the missing items list? Have you compiled them, senpai?”
“Ah, yes, here’s the image of the cryptic letters and the missing items list.”
Because he had consulted with Haruka prior to this appointment, Takayuki moved quickly. He made no awkward movements, looking completely comfortable as if doing this was a part of his daily routine.
“…Okay, I memorized everything. Also, I know you feel bad about this, but please keep the evidence in a safe place. If things were to spiral out of our control, we can just use this to rope the police in.”
“O-Okay… B-But, Baku-sa— I mean, Kouhai-kun, I, um…”
Haruka took a glance at the image of the letters before turning her gaze to Takayuki.
“I know what you’re thinking about. We’ll try our best to not involve the police for the time being. I know you have your reason. Even so, we still have to gather as much information as possible about the culprit and the reason behind her actions. So, Senpai, can you tell me who you think is the culprit? And why is she stalking you?”
“Eh? B-But, we talked about this already in our chat…”
“Yes, but Miyama is here to help us out now, so we need to share everything with her. We don’t want any discrepancies in our information. Also, she might be able to point out something that we missed or bring up a new perspective on the case. That’s why, Miyama, no matter how trivial it is, please share your opinion with us.”
“Ah, yeah, sure, but… Satou-kun, you’re getting worked up.”
“My friend is in trouble, it would be weird if I’m not worked up.”
There was no speck of hesitation in Takayuki’s reply to Aoi’s words.
Seeing his attitude, Haruka’s tense expression started to relax as she began to speak.
“Um… I have a suspicion that my stalker is one of the second years, a member of the literature club… Her handwriting looks similar to one of the letters that I received. Also, my friend said that she saw that girl carrying similar things as my stolen belongings… I don’t want to suspect her, but you know…”
“I’ll look at her handwriting later. Do you have her picture?”
“Yes. In this group photo…”
Takayuki looked at Haruka’s phone screen. After a moment, his expression froze.
“This girl, the one with the long bangs. Her name was—”
Before Haruka could say her name, Takayuki managed to mumble it out first.
He didn’t even need to look at the picture closely. It was as if he was familiar with the girl in question.
“Yes, that’s her name… Huh, wait… You know her, Kouhai-kun?”
“I won’t say that I know her personally, but I’m acquainted with her sister. Her sister is working as an office lady in the next town over. She has been telling me various things about her even though I told her to stop, seriously…”
“You know Misato’s sister?”
“Yeah, but I won’t get into details since it’s completely unrelated to our case. We’re close enough that I can contact her right away if needed, though.”
After letting out a big sigh, Takayuki tightened his expression and said,
“Seriously, I don’t know if this will help me or trouble me even more… In any case, I really can’t just let this matter slide now.”
His eyes were filled with willpower.
This appearance of him was the side that Aoi admired. The appearance of a hero. Someone who wouldn’t falter in the face of evil and wouldn’t be blinded by his own righteousness. The kind of person who’d shine whenever he was helping someone.
Of course, Aoi knew that glorifying Takayuki like this wasn’t the right thing to do. Nevertheless, she felt happy to see him acting like this. Well, she was supposed to be happy, but for some reason, a feeling of dissatisfaction rose in her heart.
“For the time being, we should focus on protecting Senpai. Yes, it’s important to solve the problem as soon as possible, but if Senpai were to get hurt because we were too focused on solving the problem, that would be counterproductive. We need to straighten our priorities.”
“…Right. I guess we should take turns on the guarding duty then, Satou-kun.”
Aoi was deep in thought when Takayuki threw those words at her. Luckily, she was used to this, so she managed to respond properly with a smile, despite her inner thoughts in turmoil.
“No. Miyama, if you make a move, it will attract too much attention. You should focus on helping out from behind the scenes to eliminate any uncertainties that might provoke the stalker.”
“I guess so, huh? It’ll be difficult for me to move out in the open…”
“Mhm. So, I’ll be the one in charge of guarding her. Of course, it’s impossible for me to be with her 24/7, so Senpai, whenever you go out without me, try to go out in a group of three. You can’t let your guard down, okay?”
At Takayuki’s words, Haruka nodded solemnly. Gone was the hostile look she gave to him just a few days ago.
“Anyway, for now, before we’re doing anything big, we should try to ascertain the identity of the culprit first. No need to be hasty though, just take it slow, we’ll get them eventually. And, Senpai, if you need my help, make sure to contact me as soon as possible. Whether it’s in the middle of the night or early in the morning, I’ll go to your side as soon as I can.”
Normally, in situations like this, Haruka would don her ‘tough’ mask and act like a strong person. But, this time, she just nodded meekly at Takayuki’s words. From the reddish hue of her cheeks, it was clear how important an existence was ‘Baku’ to her.
Seeing this, Aoi felt restless. The turmoil in her heart grew bigger, though she was still able to hide it with her iconic smile.
It was jealousy. Takayuki and Aoi made a pledge to be partners, yet she was unable to communicate with Takayuki as well as Haruka did. However, Aoi failed to recognize these feelings.
“Alright, Miyama. I’m going to ask you to play a very important role. Are you willing to?”
When Takayuki asked that question, her mood immediately improved. The poor girl didn’t even know the reason for her mood swings.
“Of course. Who do you think I am?”
She responded to Takayuki while wearing her usual smile.
“Thank you, glad to hear that.”
“Well, it’s our problem to begin with, so it’s a given that I’d offer my help. It’s for Haru-kun’s sake too. Anyway, what do I need to do?”
“Mm, okay, so, what I need you to do is observe us from a distance. If you feel that something went wrong, immediately contact me. You have good eyes, the job suits you. I can’t entrust this job to anyone else because there’s a chance that things will turn messy if they let their guard down even a little.”
“Leave it to me. I got your back.”
“I’m counting on you. Also, there’s something else. It’s a low priority on the list, but if you can afford to do it, please do it for me.”
Aoi tilted her head cutely. Then, Takayuki made a fearless grin and said,
“Make up a plausible reason for me and Senpai to walk to school together every day. Just in case, you know? I don’t want to die early, you see?”
Despite the fearless grin, there was a bead of sweat running down his cheeks. It was clear that he was trying to put up a strong face.
* * *
‘If only I didn’t pick up that keychain, I wouldn’t be in this situation.’
These days, that was the only thing that Kageyama Misato could think of. A few months ago, she found her adored senpai’s keychain sitting on the ground. It was shaped after a deformed baku. ‘If only I didn’t pick it up,’ she thought. ‘I would never turn out to be like this.’
But then, a voice rose from deep within her heart.
‘Or probably not.’ The voice scoffed at her weak thoughts.
* * *
Kageyama Misato knew that she was a useless person.
She struggled in doing things that everybody else could do with ease. Aside from having problems with her studies and athletic prowess, she was also unable to socialize well. Those problems, coupled with her mentality that refused to rely on others made her struggle even more in her daily life.
Misato thought that exchanging words with others felt suffocating and painful. So, she always tried to keep her head down and not to get involved with anyone as much as possible.
The reason why she was still able to go to school despite this was largely due to her older sister. She was a special existence to Misato. Sociable, cheerful, capable and kind, she was a goddess-like existence to her.
“Mi~ Sa~ To~! I got dumped again! Waaah!”
However, even the goddess-like sister had a weakness she couldn’t overcome. Her luck regarding her love life was awful. She was capable, but when it came to love, her bad luck was unmatched.
Most of the people she fell in love with either already had a partner of their own or rejected her advances even before she started. Thanks to this, Misato found the purpose of her existence. To comfort her sister, who seemed to be hated by Aphrodite herself.
“Hehe, Misato, recently I found a really good love counselor! Now I can finally keep my dignity around you! I won’t trouble you with my love life anymore!”
But even that purpose was lost a few years ago. At first, she treated her words as a joke and ignored them. It was only when she realized that her sister stopped clinging to her that she understood, her sister wasn’t joking. After that, came the realization that she had lost her purpose in life.
However, even when she lost her purpose, Misato’s life didn’t change drastically. She isolated herself from her surroundings in the first place, so it didn’t really affect her life that much. As usual, she kept her head down, trying to stay out of trouble. Whenever someone forced her to do trivial chores, she’d accept it without complaining. People started talking behind her back, but she ignored them completely. She was bullied, but luckily for her, her bullies were sensible as their bullying never went too far. Most of her time in school was spent listlessly staring at space, hoping that time would pass quickly.
“You guys! Aren’t you ashamed of what you guys are currently doing?!”
As she passed her mundane school days, without any warning, a special someone reached her hands out to her.
That person shone brighter than anyone else. Her name was Amamiya Haruka, an upperclassman of hers, a popular person that was adored by everyone.
In a matter of minutes, she solved Misato’s bullying problems. Ever since then, no one tried to force her to do their chores or harassed her anymore. But, instead of being thankful, a dark sense of resignation and a wave of envy rose up from the depths of Misato’s heart.
Surely, Haruka only saved her because she found her pitiful. As soon as she managed to satisfy her daily dose of hypocrisy, she’d forget that Misato ever existed.
And so, Misato gathered her courage and confronted Haruka. But the words that came out of Haruka’s mouth were incomprehensible to her.
Up until the end, she didn’t understand the words that Haruka said to her back then. What she understood though, being with Haruka filled her heart with warmth. For the first time in her life, she felt like a proper human being.
“Congratulations, you can walk on your own now, Misato! I believe that you can befriend everyone you like on your own now!”
But, her dream ended when she was finally able to socialize properly with her surroundings. As Haruka handed over a cheesy-looking certificate with a big smile on her face, Misato became aware that everything would come to an end.
It was during that time that Misato realized how important was Haruka’s existence to her. Sadly for her, her feelings weren’t reciprocal.
After that day, they no longer ate lunch together. Even when Haruka invited her, she’d always find an excuse to refuse it. Seeing Haruka surrounded by her friends pained Misato. To Haruka, Misato’s existence wasn’t any different from the other girls around her.
But, that was just her assumption. In fact, Haruka often tried to invite Misato to hang out with her, even after she handed out the certificate. Never once did Haruka try to abandon her as Misato assumed.
All along, all the negativity came from Misato’s own heart.
And then, it happened. That day, Misato was on her way to meet with Haruka. In the hallway, she found a keychain on the floor. Misato knew that the keychain was Haruka’s. Not only that she often saw it hanging on Haruka’s school bag, Haruka also told her many times about how much she adored the keychain.
The first thing that came to her mind was to give it back to Haruka, but then she heard a whisper from the depths of her heart.
‘If I keep this to myself, what kind of face will Haruka-senpai make?’
That day, Kageyama Misato turned into a stalker.
* * *
Back to the present, Misato was enjoying the fruits of her work.
“Clubtime is over, Senpai! Let’s go home already! Seriously, I really can’t take my eyes off you for a second, you immediately slack off when I do.”
“I’m not?! I’m just talking with my clubmates!”
“Your clubmates were the ones who begged me to help you with your studies! You know that if you get a red mark this time, they’ll forbid you from entering the tournament, right? I really should just tell Renge-san to teach you.”
“Not Renge-san, please!”
From the shadows, Misato was watching a certain pair making a fuss in the corridor between the gym and the school building. Burning the scene into her eyes, she clenched her fists so tightly that her fingernails dug deeply into her palms.
“F-Fine, I get it! J-Just don’t get too close to me! I’m all sweaty right now!”
Haruka made an embarrassed face as she was being pulled along by a familiar looking boy.
She was showing an expression she had never made before. The expression of a maiden in love.
“Who cares, everyone who’s passing here is at least as sweaty as you.”
Misato stared at the boy who was talking to Haruka with a blunt tone, Takayuki. For the past few days, he had been hanging around Haruka. Due to his reputation as a delinquent, Misato thought that he was there to flirt with Haruka, but according to the ongoing rumors among the first years, it didn’t seem to be the case.
Apparently, Takayuki and Haruka were relatives and they were quite close. The rumors said that Haruka’s parents asked Takayuki to monitor Haruka’s studies since the latter had bad grades. Her grades were so bad that the school almost forbade her from participating in the upcoming tournament.
Some people, including Misato, had suspicions about the rumors, but after seeing their interaction at school, they had no choice but to believe them.
Of course, the rumors weren’t true. It was just something that Aoi deliberately spread.
“Kouhai-kun, Kouhai-kun, do you know? Exercise consumes your energy, so I need to replenish it first before I can study properly.”
“I’ll give you ten minutes of break.”
“That’s not enough time to play a single game at an arcade!”
“Then, don’t go there.”
Haruka eventually resigned to her fate and let herself be dragged away by Takayuki. Seeing this scene, a sense of disgust and discomfort rose up from Misato’s heart.
If this was anyone else, Misato wouldn’t feel this way. Even when she saw the freshmen trying to flirt with Haruka, she would only feel a little ache in her heart.
But the scene that she was seeing felt different. Normally, Haruka would just brush anyone who tried to flirt with her off with composure, but with Takayuki, none of that was happening. It was clear that Takayuki was a special existence to Haruka.
“Kouhai-kun, do you know that there’s a new crepe shop a block away from the station? Why don’t we go there first?”
“As far as I’m aware, going there will take more than ten minutes.”
As if it was the most natural thing to do, Misato decided to tail them.
Misato didn’t have much presence in the first place and she was aware of this fact. That was why she was confident that even if she were to follow them, they wouldn’t notice her. It wasn’t a baseless confidence too, as she had been stalking Haruka for a while now and the latter never noticed her. She thought that as long as she was quieter than usual, things would be alright.
“What about croquettes, Kouhai-kun? You’ll be surprised to find out how good freshly fried croquettes taste!”
“Huh? You were just talking about crepes, I thought you’re craving for something sweet right now…”
“I don’t know, I just feel like eating both, I guess?”
“You’ll get fat.”
“I’ll burn the calories away anyway!”
Except that she failed to take into account the emotional damage that she would receive for tailing those two. And thanks to her clenching her fists tightly, her nails dug into her palms deeply, resulting in her receiving a physical damage on top of the emotional one.
The sight of Takayuki and Haruka walking side by side while talking would make anyone who saw them think that they were a perfect pair of couples. Even Misato shared that opinion.
To Misato, Haruka was a dependable senpai.
To her clubmates, Haruka was a reliable vice president.
Misato was aware that Haruka believed that her purpose in life was to fulfill the expectations of everyone around her. But, she made a genuine smile in front of Takayuki, a smile that she never showed even to Misato.
“Yes, this is the thing! The cold evening makes the steamed buns taste better!”
“Eat slowly, you’ll choke yourself.”
“I know! Nom nom… By the way, Kouhai-kun.”
“What? We are going straight home after this, no more side tracking.”
“Isn’t the new issue for ‘The Harem King’s Shuraba’ out today? You love that one, right, Kouhai-kun?”
“…Going to the bookstore before going home doesn’t seem bad, huh?”
“That’s what I’m talking about!”
Every time Haruka showed her smile to Takayuki, dark emotions rose in Misato’s heart.
They were the same feelings that she felt back when she first stole Haruka’s belongings. Back when she decided to keep Haruka’s keychain to herself for no particular reason.
‘Hurt him.’ Whispered the dark emotion. The words echoed in her brain endlessly.
Misato knew that she ended up in this state because she couldn’t resist those whispers. She knew that if she were to follow those whispers, Haruka would show her a pained look, a look that would pain her to the point that she’d want to kill herself.
That pain was the reason why she’d send cryptic letters like ‘Please punish me’ or ‘Don’t forgive me’ to Haruka. Little did she know that those letters would be the beginning of her own downfall.
Despite the guilt and the pain, Misato still couldn’t stop stalking Haruka. The act didn’t only bring her pain, after all. At times, she’d feel an immense amount of twisted pleasure and satisfaction comparable to scratching out the dry scabs off your skin.
With a hint of self-deprecation and malice, Misato unknowingly let out a smile.
‘Hey you, are you okay?’
However, right before she was about to be swallowed by those dark emotions, a certain memory flashed through Misato’s mind.
A memory from around a month ago. After the entrance ceremony, back when a group of boys, Haruka’s classmates to be exact, witnessed her trying to steal one of Haruka’s belongings. From a third party’s perspective, the scene might seem like the boys were bullying Misato.
Despite that, someone was actually crazy enough to barge into that scene to defend her. Granted, he was among the people who didn’t know what was going on, but the fact that someone would even attempt to do it baffled Misato.
At that time, she couldn’t say anything to the boy. Even though it was her fault that the boy ended up getting into trouble afterwards. Still, thinking back to that scene, Misato felt a sense of shame. It was because the boy who saved her back then was the same boy who was walking side by side with Haruka, Takayuki.
How shameful of a human being was she? He was her savior, yet instead of being thankful to him, she directed her jealousy toward him instead. Such thoughts began to appear in her mind.
“Satou… Takayuki… Are you a ‘special existence’ too? …Is that why you are able to stand side by side with her?”
Her words served as both a question and an answer to convince herself of the reality that was happening in front of her eyes.
Haruka was a special existence, so if Takayuki was also one of them, it would be natural for them to be attracted to each other. The strange one here was Misato herself for feeling jealous about it.
Misato tried to look toward their direction again and noticed that they had disappeared from her sight.
She tried to look around to no avail. Thinking that they might be going to a certain corner in the shopping district, Misato went there, but they were still nowhere to be seen. They might be in a store somewhere in the district, but the only stores in the vicinity were izakayas and small restaurants that would be only open at night. Flustered, she tried to poke around the area, attracting stares from the passersby. (T/N: Izakaya is a kind of Japanese bar.)
After a while, she let out a defeated sigh.
The moment Misato gave up looking for them, one of the people she was looking for came forward to meet her.
“Are you looking for us, by any chance?”
Like they were longtime friends, he embraced her shoulder from behind.
The gesture scared her. Who could blame her, though, as Takayuki suddenly appeared like a ghost and before she could react, he already restrained her movements.
There was nothing she could do to escape his grasp. Despite her being a girl, Takayuki didn’t hold back his strength, evidenced by the fact that Misato could barely move. She tried to scream, but before a sound could escape from her mouth, Takayuki spoke up.
“Actually, we’re looking for you too. We need to have a few words with you, you see? Could you come with me? Well, you could try to run and I won’t stop you from doing so, but if you were to do that, then we’ll have to report all your deeds to the school. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”
The threat was delivered perfectly with his alluring voice and smile. Misato found her heart tightened.
“I’ll ask once again. Could you come with me, Kageyama-senpai?”
At his oddly gentle tone, Misato could only nod her head while trembling.
Another new chap of my favorite series