Shamer - Chapter 4 Part 4
“The winner is Tanaka-kun!”
When Sasaki-kun announced the winner of the Zomabrawl tournament, the boys applauded in unison.
It was kind of embarrassing…
“Tanaka-kun was really strong. If you like, I’ll invite you to come next time.”
“Eh, I can come next time, too?”
When Sasaki answered, the other boys said, “Let’s play one more time,” or “I’ll win this time,” and so on.
I had only played properly with Ruri and Touya in the past, so when they said this to me, I felt a joy I had never felt before.
I felt like I had achieved my goal of becoming friends with my classmates, which I had set when I went to school. I hoped I could make friends with more people like this in the future.
“Well then, it’s late, so let’s go home.”
Sasaki-kun said to everyone, and everyone who had come to play got ready to leave and headed out of the house.
I went outside as well and saw Ruri outside as well.
I had not been able to talk to her once since our earlier encounter, due to the effects of winning the tournament and playing a lot of games in a row.
Recently, I’ve been doing well in club activities, and today was the first time I hung out with people other than Ruri and Touya and became friends with them.
So, maybe I can get back the relationship I used to have with Ruri.
I had such faint hopes.
I wanted to talk to her one last time. This was my last chance today.
“Ruri, can I—”
As soon as I spoke to her, Ruri turned her back and tried to run away, as usual.
But I thought I might be able to make up with Ruri, and after hearing what Kudo-san said. I knew it wouldn’t be good to spend any more time without talking to her, so I reached out my hand as quickly as I could.
I grabbed Ruri’s arm and she turned around in surprise.
I let go of her arm and apologized.
“No, it’s okay… Bye then.”
Ruri said that and tried to leave again.
What should I do? At this point, I’ll fail once again…
“The two of you over there.”
I hear a girl’s voice from behind me. When I turned my head, I saw Kudo-san there.
“I’ll walk you two until the halfway point.”
“Maki-chan, why are you suddenly…”
“Why… Well, it’s for whatever. Besides, you’ve known each other since childhood, right? You probably live in the same direction, so why don’t you two go home together?”
As Ruri was lost in thought, Kudo-san then turned to me.
“Tanaka-kun, you’re good too, right?”
“Then, it’s settled!”
Kudo-san clapped her hands.
This girl doesn’t listen to other people’s opinions at all!
“Wait a minute. I haven’t said anything going home—”
“I don’t care about that kind of thing. I’m going home with you.”
Kudo-san pushed Ruri’s back and forcefully walked with her.
While doing that, she turned around and looked at me, signaling me to come quickly.
If we were going home together, I might have a chance to talk to Ruri.
As I followed them, I began to plan out my approach.
“Shunsuke, you know, has always been a crybaby, and the bad kids in the neighborhood used to pick on him and make him cry.”
As the three of us walked down a quiet residential street, Kudo-san shared her childhood stories.
“Well, I beat those bad boys up myself in the end.”
Kudo-san must have been quite the martial kid.
“But you know, even though Shunsuke is a weakling, he has always remained kind ever since he was a little boy. He always helps me out when I’m in trouble.”
Kudo-san had gentle eyes as she said this.
Perhaps she really cared about Sasaki-kun.
I somehow felt that way when I saw Kudo-san talking about Sasaki.
“I think childhood friends are different from ordinary friends in that they know each other deeply, and because of that, they fight and help each other out.”
Suddenly, Kudo-san started talking about what childhood friends are like.
Why is she saying this…? I was a little puzzled.
“I don’t know what happened between you two, but you should at least talk about it! Right?”
Kudo-san said, looking in the direction of Ruri, who had been silent ever since a moment ago.
“Maki-chan… but I…”
“You can’t solve anything by running away forever. Isn’t that right?”
Kudo-san asked with a gentle smile.
And Ruri fell silent, as if conflicted.
“Well, it’s almost time to go home, so I think I’ll say goodbye now.”
Kudo-san said in a tone as if she had done her part.
“You two are free to go.”
With a final “bye-bye” to Ruri and me, she walked off in the direction where her house would be.
Now, it was just the two of us.
…I see. So the reason Kudo-san asked me and Ruri to go home together was to give us a chance to talk properly.
If that was the case, I needed to have a proper talk with Ruri for her sake.
“Ruri, can I talk to you for a minute?”
When I asked her, she looked as if she was unsure of what to say.
Thanks to Kudo-san, she won’t be able to escape as quickly as she did before.
After a few moments, Ruri answered in a subdued voice.
I’m glad. At last, I could finally have a proper talk with her.
“We can talk as we walk.”
Then we started to walk next to each other.
It had been a long time since I walked with Ruri like this… Honestly, I was happy.
At the same time, I also had another thought.
I wanted to feel the same way when I walk with Ruri in the future.
“Ever since we were little, we always walked side by side like this.”
“Yes. Because we’ve known each other since we were kids.”
Ruri and I talked about the old days as we walked next to each other on our way home.
I would have liked to get right to the point, but unfortunately I didn’t have the courage to do so.
Maybe I just wanted to continue the conversation with her as much as possible.
“Do you remember? When we were in elementary school, I fell down hard in a soccer game and got a deep cut on my knee, and you saw it and cried that I was going to die.”
“! W-Why are you talking about that all of a sudden? Kinu no baka!
Ruri was angry, but she also looked a little bit happy.
It had been a long time since I had been able to talk to her like I used to.
If I could talk to her like this all the time—
…But that was never going to happen.
“You know… I have a lot of questions I want to ask Ruri.”
“…Yes, I suppose so.”
Ruri returned the words apologetically.
She didn’t avoid me like she had in the past, and she talked to me properly.
She’ll be able to answer my questions now.
I took a deep breath.
Depending on Ruri’s response to the questions I was about to ask, there is a possibility that I may be severely hurt.
However, no matter what she says, I’ll accept it.
I don’t want to run away from the reality of who I am, as I did when I was in a depression.
“Have you always hated me, Ruri?”
As soon as I asked this question, my heart started to beat faster and faster.
There are a lot of other questions I want to ask… but this is the one I’ve been wondering the most.
When I was in middle school, Touya told me. Ruri never liked me.
She has been with me since we were little, and now, I really don’t know if she doesn’t like me or not.
I really wanted to know the truth.
Then, Ruri smiled at me.
At that moment, I was convinced.
I knew that Ruri did not hate me after all.
If I had remained at home, I would never have known this.
I’m glad that I accepted that I was full of mistakes.
I’m glad I made the decision to be myself.
I’m really glad—
“I hate you.”
I was taken aback by Ruri’s answer.
Did she say she hated me…?
N-No way. She had just smiled.
“Were you expecting something? That I would answer that I don’t hate you?”
Ruri said with a smile on her face.
Was she smiling on purpose to trick me?
So she really hated me for all this time…?
Hey, relax. It may be a little early to judge yet.
“I heard…from the Kudo siblings. They told me that you told Sasaki-kun that I was good at Zomabrawl for me and that you asked Kudo-senpai to let me participate in the practice match.”
“That’s…Just a little help, since we’ve known each other for a long time.”
Ruri responded in that way, but I felt that it was off.
“Do you really hate me?”
I asked her again, just to be sure.
If she still said she doesn’t like me, then I have no choice but to admit it.
I was ready to admit it—
“I told Touya-kun that Kinu confessed to me when we were in middle school.”
Ruri told me the second thing that had been bothering me.
I was shaken when I heard this, but she continued on regardless.
“I didn’t help Kinu when you were being bullied by the others, and I didn’t even visit you at home when you stopped going to school.
Ruri revealed what has happened up to now.
As she revealed one by one, my agitation grew.
And finally, she said again.
“It was all because I hated Kinu.”
The second time I heard her say it, I couldn’t say anything else.
This time she had her eyes down and I couldn’t see her expression clearly.
To be honest, I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t feel uncomfortable.
Perhaps she was lying to me.
But whatever the case may be, if Ruri said hated me this much, I probably shouldn’t get involved with her anymore.
“I see… I understand.”
I said a few words back and that was where the conversation stopped.
We were walking in silence when we arrived at Ruri’s house.
“…See you tomorrow, Kinu.”
“Oh. See you tomorrow.”
After exchanging a final farewell, Ruri went inside her house.
Tomorrow, I will not be able to talk to her at all.
I felt sad thinking about it, even though she told me to my face that she hated me.
“I guess I still like Ruri.”
I realized I still had feelings for her.
…It’s too late now. I can’t tell her how I feel.
“It’s okay, it’s okay.”
I muttered to myself.
I’ve started going to school, I’m playing soccer to the best of my ability, I’ve gained the trust of the club members, I’m getting along well with my classmates, and I’m living my life my way, as myself.
So I’m okay.
“…I should head home.”
I started walking alone.
Now that I’ve made friends with Sasaki-kun and his friends today, I think I’ll invite them to lunch tomorrow.
I’ve been selected for the starting lineup in club activities, so also I needed to work harder.
That was how I thought about the future. I was full of motivation.
—But for some reason, I felt a lingering pain in my chest.