Volume 2, Chapter 8: Reality
Editor / Proofreader: OD Dragon
I wanted to say something, but I knew I didn’t have the answer.
I only managed to say that and then I was silent. For a minute, no, more like five minutes, Gotou-san and I were both still.
“You don’t have an answer, do you?”
Gotou-san broke the silence, smiling gently at me. Her tone was not accusatory, but rather confirming. She looked down, her eyes wandering over the desk as if choosing the right words to say.
“There’s something distinctive about middle school and high school students you know?”
I saw a hint of melancholy in Gotou-san’s eyes as she said this.
“No matter how hard you try or push yourself to the limit, it won’t change the fact that you’re a high school student. It’s frustrating, but there’s simply no way of saying that you’re anything else.”
Gotou-san, still looking down, continued to speak in hushed tones.
“It’s a “powerful” identity. Being a high school student that is.”
Then Gotou-san raised her head and looked at me.
“Even if you go to other places, even if you stop wearing your school uniform, you still won’t be anything other than a high school student.”
Those words were so sharp and accurate that they pierced my naive heart. It was something I have been thinking about for a while now. Even after leaving my old self behind and running out so far, I was still treated as a “high school girl” wherever I went. Every guy I have met so far took me in just because I was a “high school girl” who looked pretty.
However, it was inconvenient for them to have a “runaway high school girl” stay for long periods. That is why I had to frequently move from one place to another. On the contrary, it’s exactly because I am a “high school girl” that Yoshida-san sees me as a child.
“Even if Yoshida-kun condones it, society won’t.”
When I heard Gotou-san’s words, my heart ached for a moment. But at the same time, I felt as if the feeling of uncertainty within me vanished. Yoshida-san didn’t request anything of me as those other guys did, he simply helped me settle down here. As long as I did the bare minimum of housework, he never said anything to me about what I was doing at other times.
I was extremely relieved to have such a lifestyle but at the same time, it made me skeptical. Is it okay for me, who left everything behind and ran away, to be able to enjoy such a peaceful living environment? Am I allowed to do so? Gotou-san just gave me the answer to that. Of course, it’s not allowed.
“…Thank you very much.”
I found myself saying that. Gotou-san simply stared at me.
“I think… I’ve always wanted someone to tell me that.”
The words poured out of my chest.
“Even though all I want to do is run away from everything to live an easier life… I’ve also wanted someone to tell me “don’t run!”
Gotou-san listened to me without saying anything.
“I wanted someone to point out how “weird” it is for Yoshida-san to spoil me like this. Ever since I ran away from home, I’ve sought shelter in the homes of many men… using my body.”
As I said that, Gotou-san’s eyes widened for a moment then she bit her lower lip tightly.
“That sort of thing…”
“Seriously, there’s something wrong with me. I easily let them use my body in exchange for a mere few days of shelter. What’s more, I’ve started to feel a little bit of pleasure in being wanted by those men. But…”
I stopped talking for a moment, then Yoshida-san’s face came to mind. He was the only person who wouldn’t allow me to make an easy choice.
“Yoshida-san never once laid a hand on me. Instead, he told me, “I’ll knock some sense into your head.”
Gotou-san, who had been listening intently up to that point, suddenly laughed.
“I’m sorry. I know it’s a serious conversation, but… Fufu~”
Gotou-san nodded several times and funnily shook her shoulders.
“I could imagine Yoshida-kun saying those lines very clearly. It’s really— it’s so like him.”
Gotou-san then looked at me with a soft expression on her face.
“Good for you. You’ve finally found a place to settle down comfortably.”
My eyes welled up and I was about to shed tears.
“I believe that Yoshida-kun has accepted you. And that you trust him, too. I can tell that immediately from the way you talk to each other.”
Gotou-san continued to speak, tapping the desk with her index finger.
“That’s why it’s fine to let him spoil you. There’s nothing wrong if you let yourself be spoiled by someone who wants to spoil you.”
Gotou-san walked over to me and sat down next to me. Then she grasped my hand and gently squeezed it. Her hands were cold.
“But you see, no matter how much Yoshida-kun is willing to accept you, it can only last for as long as society is willing to turn a blind eye to your existence. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“That’s why you should start thinking about it, even if it’s little by little. So, what are you going to do from now on?”
Gotou-san looked me straight in the eye. I can tell it was a very important question for her as her eyes looked dead serious. Somehow, I wondered if this was her true nature.
“…I have a past that I’m trying to escape from no matter what. And that hasn’t changed at all.”
“It makes me want to throw up just thinking about it, and I don’t feel like going back.”
“But… I know I can’t go on like this. I can’t ask Yoshida-san to provide for me for the rest of my life. That’s why…”
I sighed slowly and said the following words one by one to make sure I didn’t make a mistake.
“To face my past head-on…”
The past that I really don’t want to remember. The smile on my best friend’s face came to mind and then disappeared. I want to forget, but I know I must not.
“I’ll have to… ready myself.”
I thought of my mother, who probably wasn’t waiting for me to return. And my brother, who I’m sure was terribly worried about me.
“I need to get out of here and go back to where I came from. For my own sake… and Yoshida-san’s sake as well.”
After I said that, I looked Gotou-san in the eye. She slowly put on a smile, then placed her hand firmly on my shoulder.
Gotou-san said in a low voice and then hugged me.
“As long as you have that thought, it’ll be fine.”
Gotou-san whispered those words in my ear.
“You know, high school is a special time. Though you might feel like you’re forced to stay as a high school student for a really long time, the truth is…”
I felt her tone of voice change to something nostalgic like she was talking to someone from her past.
“It’s just a very short chapter of your entire life.”
After saying that, Gotou-san moved her hand onto my head then gently stroked it.
“That’s why you must face the challenges you have in life and enjoy the times when you get to be spoiled… Make sure you live your high school life to the fullest. Because you’re still a high school student even if you’re not in school right now.”
Gotou-san’s words slowly seeped into my heart, and I found myself welling up again. This time I couldn’t hold it in. Tears were spilling out of the corners of my eyes.
My heart is so conflicted. I wanted to run away from everything, but I knew I shouldn’t. I didn’t want anyone to care, but I knew I wanted them to. While I felt that being a high school girl was an inconvenience, I was also hung up on the thought of not being one. My emotions are all over the place, but I know they are sincere.
Holding me to her chest as I cried, Gotou-san continued to stroke my head.
“Everything you’re feeling right now, it’s all yours. It’s nobody’s business but yours and people have no right to interfere. All the pain and suffering you feel, all the happiness and joy, it’s all yours and yours alone.”
Gotou-san’s soft-toned words seemed to resonate directly into my head. It’s probably because our bodies were so close, and I’m sure she knew what I wanted to hear. Everything she just said pierced me without any resistance.
“That’s why… once you’ve had enough of running away… turn back, face everything, and accept it all. Because that’s the right and responsibility you hold towards your own life.”
I let out a sob and nodded my head, then Gotou-san hugged me again. The next thing I knew, I was crying out loud. Her chest was so warm.
“Well, didn’t you have a question to ask me?”
When I finally calmed down and stopped crying, Gotou-san put her smiling face back as if she were someone else and asked me that question. That’s right, there was something I wanted to ask her no matter what.
After I cleaned myself up, I stared deeply into her eyes. It was meant to say “don’t run away.”
“Do you like Yoshida-san?”
Gotou-san’s eyes opened wide and then she laughed.
“What? You’re asking me that?”
Gotou-san is the type of person who responds to a question with a question. And she kept on throwing questions that stuck in my mind. But I definitely wasn’t going to back down.
“For me and Yoshida-san…”
I answered honestly. I looked Gotou-san in the eye and she laughed as if she had seen something amusing. But she didn’t speak at all.
“S-so, what’s your answer?”
I got impatient so I asked Gotou-san again, but she just smiled broadly and tilted her head. I was frustrated so I spoke again.
“Since Yoshida-san… seems to like you a lot…”
“You are still incomprehensible to me,” that’s what I meant to say. Gotou-san sighed and then asked me back.
“Is it frustrating?”
“That’s not what I’m talking about!”
“Haha, don’t be mad. It’s just that you’re so cute.”
Gotou-san laughed strangely and then shook her head as if she had resigned herself to something.
“I like him. I don’t care about anyone but him.”
“Why would I lie about it?”
“Because it’s hard to figure out what you’re really thinking, Gotou-san.”
I muttered and Gotou-san smiled politely then nodded.
“A mysterious woman, huh?”
“I really hate that kind of thing.”
“Haha, I got told off.”
Gotou-san laughed like a child and let out a sigh.
“I really like him. I’ve been watching him since he joined the company. He’s extremely upright and stubborn yet he’s flexible enough to adapt to the ways of others. It’s not often you meet someone who’s “kind” in every sense of the word.”
Gotou-san said with an expression of someone who’s truly in love. I’m not capable of making a face like that, I thought.
“What a relief…”
I found myself muttering that. Gotou-san looked at me sideways and tilted her head.
“What was that?”
I answered Gotou-san’s question without hesitation.
“I thought it would make me very happy if Yoshida-san’s love came true.”
When I said that, Gotou-san had an expression on her face that I have never seen before. Then she laughed at me for a second, trying to cover it up.
I wondered why she made that expression. It was kind of complicated and I can’t tell whether she was sad, nervous, or annoyed.
“Yeah. It would be nice if we could get together without any problems.”
“That would be really nice.”
When I nodded, Gotou-san showed her fake smile again and then tilted her head to look into my eyes.
“Sayu-chan… will you cheer us on?”
As I was about to answer, a scene appeared in my head. Yoshida-san and Gotou-san were kissing each other. And then Yoshida-san, blushing as if embarrassed, embraced Gotou-san again.
“…O-of course, I will!”
When I answered, Gotou-san smiled and said “Thank you.” For some reason, my chest felt tight. But I acted as if everything was fine and words came out of my mouth one after the other.
“Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help! I don’t know what I can do… but I’ll help in any way I can! So…”
As I said those words in quick succession, Gotou-san looked at me with such an expression that had me confused whether she was laughing or not.
Suddenly, my phone rang, interrupting what I was saying. When I looked at the bright screen, I realized it was a call from the store manager.
“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s a call from the store manager of my part-time job… What could he possibly want at this time?”
“It’s fine, go ahead and pick it up.”
I bowed to Gotou-san and rushed out of the door with my phone in hand. There was no way I would have taken the store manager’s call in front of Gotou-san. I felt like complaining to the manager just for today.
When Sayu-chan walked out of the door, I felt my shoulders loosen up.
I sighed. Maybe I was nervous. Having an honest talk with someone really makes me very nervous.
When Yoshida-kun told me that a high school girl was staying at his home, I thought that she might be a shameless girl, but unexpectedly, she turned out to be a humble and polite girl.
That expression on her face, thosegloomy eyes, I remember seeing it in the mirror many times when I was in high school.
“I’m getting old…”
Obviously, what I did was a lecture. How would it have felt to have an unknown woman come in and suddenly be lectured to? Although in the end, I felt like she was listening to me, she was clearly wary at first, and I’m sure she was uncomfortable.
Unlike Yoshida-kun, I can’t guide someone with straightforward methods since my personality is a bit twisted. Everything I had said was shallow. I had been objectifying myself the whole time while talking to Sayu-chan.
I’ve never known how difficult it is to convey something. And I realized that I’m old enough to have known that already. In a company, no one needs to tell someone how they really feel. I felt like I was having an open conversation for the first time in a long time.
“Face the challenges you have in life and enjoy the times when you get to be spoiled… What was that?”
I remembered what I had said to Sayu-chan and let out a scornful smile. I think I have a really wicked personality. I used to tell that to other people when I was still a high school student, but it was something I could not do at all.
She is so pure, so I’m sure she sees me as “a really kind person.” But that is not the case at all. I just saw myself in the past through her. No more than that. I felt like my past could be cleared up a bit by having Sayu-chan put her life in order.
I’m sure Yoshida-kun is the same. Although Sayu-chan speaks of Yoshida-kun’s kindness as unconditional, I’m sure that somewhere in the back of his mind, Yoshida-kun is asking for something from Sayu-chan.
“Adults are really selfish…”
I muttered to myself and let out a sigh again. You are free to live your life as you wish and you should learn to clear yourself from what bothers you. I’m sure that’s what I really wanted to say to her. I don’t know why I can’t put into words what I really want to say.
But if it’s Yoshida-kun, I’m almost convinced that he can lead her in a good direction. And I wonder how the feelings for Yoshida-kun that have grown in Sayu-chan’s heart will manifest themselves. Until I see it happen, I will have to refrain from wanting Yoshida-kun.
At that time, the intuition which told me “not now” was right. I don’t want to experience not being able to get what I really want ever again.
“You’re taking too long, Yoshida-kun.”
Absorbed in my thoughts, I wanted to see his face.
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