In order to take my mind off Kasumi, I started to dedicate myself to shooting for the filming process.
Every time Kasumi's shadow comes into my mind, I forcefully stack it with a movie.
I'm still learning how to edit the video, but I think I'm getting good at it.
It's the only thing I can think of. Things I can do to help Kasumi.
For the sake of the success of the festival later, for the sake of our class, and for the sacrifice of Kasumi, who is willing to force herself to be a 'normal girl'.
In the end, all I could do was finish this movie.
For a while, the participation rate in the filming was quite low due to Kasumi's change in attitude, but fortunately, the motivation of everyone in the class was high again thanks to unexpected guests who came, such as the homeroom teacher who came with gifts, and Tadokoro who came every day after his club activities and invited his club members to help us.
Besides that, I'm sure everyone knows that.
What made Kasumi change and why.
Even so, there were still some uninvited guests who came.
Like students from other classes staring at us, or seniors making comments in our ears.
At first, I thought there was a problem with their attitude, but in the end there was nothing I could do.
They might still not like the fact that Kasumi is in this class.
Even so, 'Kasumi being in that class' is something we can't handle, so we're concentrating more on making our festival preparations a success by assuming that everything will go 'normally'. It's our common understanding that Kasumi is more important than the bad opinions out there.
In fact, in the Class LIME group (which Kotono just started, and of course Kasumi is in it), I think the people who talk about Kasumi are starting to look like they are proud to be in the 'Miru Kasumi's Class'.
They are no longer disappointed by the malice directed at them. Instead, they are now very eager to win this competition by a large margin to prove to the malicious parties ────.
"Ah, Kashiwagi. You sacrificed your day off again, huh, isn't Class 3 too ambitious?"
Well, if someone who's jealous is really approaching, it's a different story.
The atmosphere suddenly became awkward with the arrival of these cold comments.
It was Shimizu, the festival committee member of my class and Tadokoro last year.
"...Hmm, well, that's it."
He tried to call my name, but I was concentrating on composing the movie scenes.
So I just answered as it is, nodding... and maybe it was because of that answer that he got angry with me.
"Isn't it great, huh, Class 3? Using Mirufy is cheating, right? That's why I thought, why are you so serious when you can beat us with her without any effort?"
Wrong. Maybe he not only wanted to provoke me, but his real target was Kasumi.
"Well, that's not important anyway. We just want to enjoy the festival."
"Huh? You're not the kind of person who would get excited about something like a festival. You always look bored because you can do anything. I have never seen you serious about anything."
"You just want to show off to Mirufy, right?"
I always look bored. And I always do everything half-heartedly.
Well, that might be true.
I always thought that everything was enough for me, but the truth is that I always felt that something was missing. I also thought that if I died later in this state, I would have nothing to leave behind. I feel frustrated, but I don't know how to go on, and I don't have anyone to tell you about it. Even Fuyu-nee and Kotono moved on and felt more and more distant from me.
But now everything is different, there is Kasumi, there is this movie, and there are my classmates.
I'm very 'enthusiastic' about doing something with everyone else, and I'm willing to give it my all.
If I had been as reckless as I was last year, I might have been involved in a fight at this time.
"Sorry, we're busy right now, can we talk again later?"
I just smiled normally in return.
Now I've found 'something' in me, so I don't care if he doesn't understand and thinks what I'm doing is out of character. Besides, as I said here, all I'm thinking about is how to take better pictures, and honestly, nothing else can get into my head right now.
I'm concentrating so hard right now that it's making me nauseous.
I don't want to waste my time with Shimizu, who is only my acquaintance, not my friend.
"Kashiwagi, you are too serious. It's so embarrassing to see."
"Really? I really enjoyed it."
"Really. You're not doing well."
"Is that so?"
I just smiled at him and went on with my work.
I thought that if I just ignored him, he would get bored and go somewhere else.
But actually, Shimizu is not satisfied with just provoking me.
"You know, Kashiwagi forced me to do this thing, but didn't you force yourself too much? You are using your precious free time. Weren't you trying too hard just for an ordinary school festival?"
I looked up and saw Shimizu with a contemptuous smile on his face.
"I mean, in the end, you only depend on Mirufy's popularity, right? Ah, that's right? Or do you really want to show off in front of her? Our class has nothing to show off like you do. And the other classes think the same way, so it's time for you to realize that. Isn't that why one of you was bullied? Well, I don't know anyway."
Kotono said, not wanting to say it to anyone, even though she had been bullied by such a bastard.
I was so emotional that I almost let it out reflexively, but when I saw Kotono just staring ahead without saying anything, I finally managed to suppress my anger.
"Don't be so casual, okay, just because we were in the same class before. Mirufy must be annoyed as well!"
No matter how much I, Kotono, and other classmates talk to her, no matter how many times she says she is not hurt, in the end she will blame herself again.
Even though she was hurt, she always pretended to be okay so as not to worry others.
So please don't mind people like this ──────.
"What's wrong with trying so hard!?"
For a moment, I didn't recognize the sharp voice.
It's because she's been acting like a normal girl these days.
She was already trying not to stand out.
Kasumi, who doesn't seem to be normal, didn't react to my voice and walked towards Shimizu.
"... Do you know? Ren-kun always thought about the composition of his shots until he didn't have time to sleep. That's why he always looks sleepy in class these days."
My name suddenly came out of Kasumi's mouth and an unpleasant tension ran down my spine.
"It was Kotono-chan who added important scenes for me. She was bullied because of me, but she spoke as if nothing had happened, and even she was still worried about me."
"So, she noticed", Kotono, who was standing next to me, muttered to herself with a face that looked like she was about to cry.
"Sakamoto-san was making equipment for me. I saw that he had a cast on his hand, and he still laughed with me to cover his injury while making it at home. Asamiya-san, even though she doesn't like me, admits that I've been doing my best lately."
After that, Kasumi mentioned the names of her classmates one by one, sometimes choking up as she said them.
"I feel like a stupid person. Why are they trying so hard? Why did they help me? They don't want to give up on me. They're all protecting me, aren't they!?"
She said it hastily, feeling guilty, and took a deep breath to catch her breath.
"I've made so many mistakes..."
She smiled with an expression that showed either happiness or sadness.
I'm sure she's over her limit.
Because her voice sounded very soft and it was as if she was biting her finger to hold it back.
Her eyes were already very moist and it seemed as if her tears could flow freely if she blinked once, her mouth trembling as if she was trying hard to keep her smile.
The figure standing in front of me was very slender and fragile, as if she could fall down at any moment, but I'm sure she would try to hold on to it because she was Kasumi.
"I'm the one who always causes trouble around here, and now you say they only rely on my name? And the accident? Don't joke with me!!"
I was so surprised to see Kasumi raise her voice.
For the past two months, this was the first time I had seen her angry with anyone.
"I hate people who make fun of others who have tried so hard...! So what? Do you think it's better if we don't try? Why? What's wrong with that? You are just jealous, you can only talk. People who can't appreciate other people's efforts are even more disgusting!"
Shimizu can only freeze when he is confronted with the most beautiful girl in front of him.
Then Kasumi, while holding back her tears, gave her a smile that people had never seen before.
"I don't want you, who don't know anything about my precious classmates, who don't know their struggles and their virtues, to put them down again! I don't want you to blame them anymore...!!"
It was her idol's smile like when she was on stage.
I can imagine Kasumi saying, "Even though you're hurting, you have to keep smiling".
I'm not the only one who can't take my eyes off her. I'm sure everyone's eyes are on her as well.
It's as if we were called to see and experience it.
When in reality Kasumi was already completely within her limits, like a mille-feuille being forcibly stoned from above with a fork, she looked very overwhelmed.
What the hell is this, really.
I almost stopped breathing.
This was it, the real figure of Miru Kasumi.
I saw cherry blossoms. Behind Kasumi, the cherry blossoms were blooming beautifully.
I deliberately formed a frame with my hands and lowered my arms, thinking that I couldn't just look at them, the cherry blossoms.
I want to capture them, I thought. I want to take a picture of Kasumi's current form.
"Wow, what the... now..."
It was frightening and exciting.
The real Miru Kasumi made me hold my breath and be stunned by her, really.
──────Gosh, she's so cool.
I always thought that she was too patient.
I also think she should have accepted that she didn't have to blame herself for everything that happened.
I was even annoyed with her, wondering why she took it so hard without shedding a single tear.
But eventually, for the first time, I realized that she was doing it to preserve something so important to her.
"It's for everyone's sake, for Ren-kun's sake! That's why I tried so hard to control my feelings, even if you don't care!───"
Kasumi's words suddenly came back to me.
I heard it, but I didn't know it.
I didn't know that she cared so much about her classmates.
I'm the one who didn't understand anything.
'Miru Kasumi' is indeed distorted.
However, this is not normal.
For the sake of the people she cares about, she is willing to be hurt no matter what the circumstances. She resisted, she endured, and even when she was beaten and injured, she continued to smile for the sake of the people around her without shedding the slightest tear.
But that is why she is Miru Kasumi.
"...So, of course."
I've always run away, always believed in the advantage of people who have talent, always run away, never willing to change, and this is where I am now.
Even though it looks really bad from the outside, I'm absolutely sure that I want to change.
That's why I'm so angry with Shimizu.
I will never forgive him. I whispered it with my mouth so that no one would hear me and then I stood in front of Kasumi who looked like she was about to fall.
"I'm not in a good mood and I'm not trying to win or anything. I don't want to compete with you for something so boring, and honestly, yes, it's very annoying."
Shimizu's face turned pale when he saw Kasumi who was already fighting him and me who was already in a different state than before. Still, I had never intended to forgive him.
He'd crossed the line ever since he dared to touch Kotono with the pocari incident.
... Ah, I don't want to deal with that man anymore, and I think it's useless.
Maybe there will be rumors that Kashiwagi has changed, or that he suddenly lost his temper, or something like that. But I don't care how many relationships I would break with such rumors.
I won't be able to make friends with everyone like a kindergartner.
I don't care about the others anymore because now I already have 'something' I'm looking for.
I won't be able to stop those bad words from coming out of their mouths.
"... You know, trying to be serious like this is more fun than you think. It's worth it because you can do it with all your heart... Yeah, I don't know if you can understand what I'm saying".
Ah, Kasumi really is amazing.
I was so weak that my legs were shaking just from saying the things I wasn't used to saying.
"I mean, hmm. If you want to continue living such a boring life every day, I guess I prefer this way."
Shimizu's face also turned very red, and he still tried to say a few words to deny it.
"... I see, okay. Why don't you just enjoy this race the way you want?"
"Yes, enjoy your loss in this race as well. And never touch Class 3 again!"
"Well, it's clear that our class will win this year whether Kasumi is here or not!!"
For a moment, Shimizu dared to fight back, thinking that I had missed my words as well, but it was Kotono's cold voice that said, "I'm going to call the teacher and complain about you interrupting our work", that made him immediately surrender and run away.
When she turned around, her classmates cheered as well.
And as soon as Shimizu was gone, Kasumi collapsed on the spot. Her classmates surrounded her and said that she was very cool. She tried hard to cover her face, which looked like it was about to cry.
"It was so cool, Mirufy."
Kotono, who was next to me, also looked at Kasumi with pleasure.
"Mn. Thanks for your help too, Kotono."
"...No, I didn't do anything. Kashiwagi-kun, I am happy for you as well. You've changed a lot since you met Mirufy."
"Hmm, that's right, yup."
I said shyly and put my hand on Kotono's shoulder.
"...It's impossible for me not to change."
It's not because she's an idol.
It's because she's Miru Kasumi, and that's what makes her so attractive.
But without knowing it, I had already hurt Kasumi.
"I want to borrow Ren-kun now!!"
She pulled at the sleeve of my uniform.
The bright color of cherry blossoms flashed across the tip of my eye.
"I'll cry if you don't come with me."
"... Although you are almost crying now."
Kasumi pulled me very weakly, which I could have easily resisted.
"Where are we going..."
"What the hell is this?"
Still, I was happy to see the happiness in Kasumi's eyes again, and I was also happy to be able to talk to her again, so I just let her pull me along.
"Kotono!! Please put my stuff and Kasumi's stuff in the locker in the classroom, okay!"
Kotono also said, "Huh!? How are you going to clean up after this!", but I covered my ears and continued to follow Kasumi. Then she let go of my sleeves and grabbed my hands.
"I'll be mad if you let go of my hand."
Her big eyes were already filled with tears, and she looked at me.
Kasumi pressed her trembling fingers into mine as if she would never let go.
──────In this situation, it is very strange for me not to take care of her.
So, following Kasumi, we left the school and went out and finally arrived in front of a big apartment.
"This is where Miru lives."
While I was still surprised by the size of the building, Kasumi escorted me through the entrance, emphasizing the card-shaped key and pressing the elevator button with a relaxed gesture.
"Um... so you really live here alone?"
"Of course. I am a former Top Idol, right?"
So, she could pay the rent.
And then the elevator took us to the top floor.
Ordinary people like me will obviously be overwhelmed at this point.
"By the way, has anyone been here before?"
"Obviously not, right? You see, Miru has no other friends to invite here. I invited you because you are."
I wondered if she meant to mock me with every word she said, this former idol.
While I was still nervous about this feeling I hadn't felt in a long time, the elevator showed that we had arrived.
"We arrived. Take your shoes off there and let's go in."
No, no, no, no, I'm so nervous!
I took off my shoes and walked into the living room, feeling very sick from my nervousness.
The room feels surprisingly empty, and most of it is filled with monotonous furniture.
The emptiness of this room made my nervousness a little less, but I still felt nervous. Then, after looking at the various corners of the room, I looked out through the large window and saw the sunset on the horizon.
"It's beautiful here, isn't it?"
"...Eh? Yup, right, it's so beautiful."
Kasumi said, "I only realized that after living here for two months", and then opens the entrance to the balcony.
"Since we're here, let's talk outside."
I calmed down and agreed, then borrowed a pair of slippers and went out to the balcony. As I expected, the balcony in an apartment of this size is obviously different from the balcony in an ordinary person's house, the size is very spacious.
A cool breeze blew across my cheek.
Under the afternoon sun, Kasumi asked me to sit on a randomly placed white stool.
She had deliberately invited me here to talk to her personally, not just by chance, and just the two of us.
So it would be better if I talked to her right away.
"...You know, I'm sorry for what happened that day. I made my own assumptions and said inappropriate things to you."
"I want to apologize as well."
Kasumi said it so easily, and I almost lost my composure.
"It's impossible for me to assume that this has nothing to do with me now."
Sitting on the stool, she suddenly opened her mouth.
"I heard that Fuyuka-san told you about me."
"Fuyuka-san is innocent, okay? She heard it from me. Ren-kun, I had a feeling you would do this."
I clasped my hands together and looked down.
"For asking about your past without your consent."
"You're too serious. I'm not mad at you anyway. After all, most of the information about Miru's life is in Sukipedia."
Kasumi smiled weakly and pressed her index finger against mine.
"Well, I'll tell you what's not in Sukipedia, okay?"
My throat tightened with nervousness.
"You heard about Miru's haircut incident, right? The person who cut my hair said that his life went wrong after that incident."
"If you think about it, it must be true. Even though they didn't tell the press and only the management knew about it, Miru was their best product, so they reported it to the authorities."
Before I can say, "Right, of course",
"Then I was surprised to find out that he already had a wife and a newborn child. Well, that's the story."
Those extremely sharp words flew to my ears.
Heavy. The story was so heavy that I didn't want to know what happened next.
Nevertheless, Kasumi smiled all the time, as if she had carried this wound all her life.
"Then he asked them to forgive him. When the company refused his apology, he shouted that things had gone wrong because of Miru Kasumi. But that's just a rumor, so I don't know the full truth."
I think she also kept this secret from Fuyu-nee because she knew that Fuyu-nee would be even more worried if she knew.
Kasumi took a deep breath before she continued.
"Of course, many people around me are protecting me, right? But it's also true that Fuyuka-san is no longer supported by the agency after the incident, and I can't help but wonder if it's better if Miru doesn't become an idol at all, or if there's someone else whose life has become chaotic because of Miru... So..."
In contrast to her serious words, Kasumi just smiled resignedly.
"I'm devastated too. I can't go back on stage."
"In the end, I put myself in front of the fans. I was saved many times... but since I was saved... I was afraid that they would hate me more than my ability to make them smile. So I thought that I had reached my limit to continue being an idol."
Kasumi is very close to me, but she feels very far away.
"There are people who like Mirufy, but no one accepts Miru Kasumi. Because the real Miru is so confused. She couldn't get along with the people around her, she made trouble and people hated her. So I try not to look at it by concentrating on my idol routine."
"That's not true..."
"It is true. I would do the same thing this time if you weren't here. I'm not normal. That's why everyone gets hurt."
Just as she was about to continue, Kasumi's face distorted for the first time.
"Every time I realize that there is no one around me..."
Her slender shoulders, which seemed ready to break at any moment, gasped.
She wanted to be normal, and she thought she should not fail this time.
In her desperation, she covered up the distorted parts of herself, corrected them, endured them, and tried to put the pain of others in front of her own.
"That's because I'm not an idol anymore. And from the beginning, there were many other girls who deserved to be idols more than me. It doesn't have to be me, not at all".
I'm sure Kasumi is the kindest person who can love people more than anything else.
That's why I can't stop admiring her even now.
To put it simply, at first I just thought something in me would change if I was with her.
I was attracted to her sparkling eyes. I admire her and want to be friends with her and get to know her better. But Kasumi is more than that.
She has always been energetic and given her all. She is sensitive and emotional.
She is sensitive to everything and always holds back and blames herself.
However, she never gave up. She was always determined to go forward. And the more she suffers, the more she shines.
Seeing that, why didn't she ever admit to herself.
Kasumi is so amazing. She was so far away that sometimes I wanted to give up on her and say I couldn't reach her.
And why she's in denial.
Something was rising inside me and I couldn't stop it.
It seems I'm quite upset now.
"So you still don't like being an idol? Do you regret being an idol, coating up yourself, and not being a normal girl?"
"...It's not like that!"
The words poured out. A cry came from Kasumi's throat.
"Of course, I don't regret it or force myself to do it! There are people out there who spend their lives for me and live for me. So, no matter how hard it is, no matter how strange I am, I never feel unhappy, and not even once do I feel sorry!"
I'm relieved. This is the Kasumi I know, the Kasumi I admire, and the Kasumi who feels very distant to me.
"Then everything is fine!!"
I don't care about anything else, so focus on me.
Instead of saying that, I cupped her cheek between my hands.
"Maybe you didn't want to be an idol at first, maybe you thought you lost your feelings for others, but Kasumi has learned to love them in your own way, right. For your fans and for your idol's life."
Otherwise, she wouldn't care about such things at all.
"But you stopped being an idol because you were afraid to continue. Then it's okay, you're a normal girl now. So why not just enjoy your life as a normal girl. And if you feel like coming back, you can be an idol again."
Kasumi looked at me and removed my hand from her face.
Then she stood up and cried with sobs.
"...That's so selfish."
"It's not selfish. This is your life, so why not change it?"
"It's true. You were an idol before. But being an idol isn't the only thing for you, right, Kasumi?"
So. No more and no less.
"If you find something you want to do... I'll be your first fan! If you feel depressed, I'll tell you 100 good things about Kasumi, and that's easy for me!"
Because, you know, you can drive someone crazy, you can keep doing things even if it hurts.
I don't know anyone better than you, but I was inspired by you, and I became like this because of you.
"It's no use to me, no matter how much you hate yourself! I always thought you were a great person! I admire you! So, I won't stop praising you until you admit it!"
Ah, gosh, I don't know what I'm talking about anymore, but I'll keep saying it!
"I'm... Because I'm with Kasumi! I'm trying to change!!"
There was no answer from Kasumi.
She just became silent. I fell and sat down on a bench.
I looked at her face, which was looking down, and finally realized.
"Hiks... Ugh... uuu"
Kasumi cried softly.
She tried to hush her voice.
The tears that filled her big eyes flowed down with an indescribable force. Then the tears filled her eyes again and overflowed.
The color of the setting sun seemed to merge with the traces of tears running down her white skin.
I could only stare at her, unable to do anything.
I didn't expect her to cry.
Because she always held back her tears at the last moment, no matter what, closing her lips tightly to keep them from spilling out and keeping her eyes forward.
She always forced herself to smile, fought through her scars, and thought she could still stand up.
Stupidly, I assumed that Kasumi would never cry.
Slowly, I rubbed the cherry blossoms that had been absorbed by the darkness of the night.
"...I don't believe it."
"I won't believe it until you say it now!"
Kasumi looked up slightly and said it softly.
I rubbed her sobbing back and continued counting.
"...Your smile is so cute."
"Your personality is very bright."
"You always try hard."
"You are stubborn and selfish."
"That's not a compliment...!"
"I am complimenting you. I like your nature."
It seems a little disgusting.
When I smiled to cover it up, she pulled my cheek.
"Oi, it hurts! It hurts, you know!"
Ignoring my protests, she wiped away her tears with her other hand and smiled with a distorted face as if she was holding back her tears.
"...Indeed, Ren-kun. Even if you don't know anything, you still say things like that. But when you made me aware of my feelings... I hate it."
"...But thank you for making me realize that I love my fans and I deserve to love them."
Still, I thought that was the most beautiful smile I'd seen from her in all those years.
The sun was finally fading into the night, and the sky was getting darker and darker.
The moonlight, which appeared faintly, filled Kasumi's eyes.
Side: Miru Kasumi
At first, I hated being an idol.
Dancing and singing are fun, but the more I get into it and enjoy it, the more I feel alone.
I was so focused on it that I ignored everything else, thinking only of shining so as not to have to look around, and without realizing it, I was already at the center of the stage as 'Mirufy', the irreplaceable center of the group.
After these years, I can't say that I'm not a special girl.
If I make the slightest mistake, I will be beaten up and told, 'This is not Mirufy'.
Miru Kasumi is not needed. To be able to stand here, it is much more important to be the person who is favored by everyone, and I must not let my guard down.
This is not the time to be selfish and spoiled.
Because in reality there are many people who want to be in this position, who are more desperate than me, who have stronger feelings than me.
That's why I train hard, day after day, until late at night. I sacrificed all my humanity until I looked like a machine.
Because I don't know if the people who like me today will like me tomorrow.
If they don't like me tomorrow... It's useless for me to be an idol.
If even my fans don't love me, then I don't deserve to be here.
At that time, there was nothing left of me such as family, friends, school, colleagues, hobbies, likes and dislikes. There is nothing left but my fans.
I'm weak and selfish and I'm coated.
Every time I felt like I was about to break down, I strengthened myself by working hard and staying up all night.
In the process, I became 'Mirufy', the strongest and invincible center.
When I stood on the stage and saw the light sticks in the audience row, I felt like crying.
Ah, it's like a starry sky.
There are people who shout my name even though I am an empty person.
There are people who spend money on me.
There are people who admire me. There are people who say they like me.
These people, I have a fan base.
When someone says they like me, I know I'm not the one making fun of them. When the light from the lightstick blurred my vision and I burst into tears, I felt like for the first time someone was telling me that it was okay for me to live.
I finally realized I wasn't alone.
────────I am ready to die for such a scene.
It was the first time I felt wanted by someone, so I decided to spend my whole empty life for them. I'm happy even though I sacrificed everything.
I can smile today because they support me. I can be Mirufy.
The work of an idol is only fun when we are on stage.
After that, everything feels hard, dark, and cold all the time.
I can't eat properly, I'm always dizzy during dance classes, I can't relax for a moment when I leave the room, and my head is too foggy to think about anything.
But I can't stop. Since I want to be Mirufy, I don't know what price I have to pay.
"Thank you for loving me!"
I know. I remember.
"Thank you for making me Mirufy!"
I'm the one desperately shouting these things at my graduation concert.
I lied about that feeling.
Because now, just remembering it makes me cry.
"I chose to live because Mirufy was there!"
"Mirufy's video encouraged me, and I finally decided to have the surgery. I love you so much."
"I love you more than anything in the world. Thank you for being my idol.”
I'm sure it's because of those letters for me.
More than anything, it's because I really, really, really love all my fans!
Why does it make me remember those things?
"It's no use to me, no matter how much you hate yourself! I always thought you were a great person! I admire you! So, I won't stop praising you until you admit it!"
Instead of being able to answer, I cried.
I have never been treated well by anyone, so I don't know what to say.
I know exactly what I've done.
No one will love me as I am.
I had to be Mirufy, fully armed and covered in sweet icing to be loved.
I don't mind that, but I couldn't bear it if he cared about me, even if I was torn to pieces like this.
Because compared to being insulted and criticized, something important in me seemed to have fallen apart.
Anxiety, happiness, and sadness swirled in my head.
"Why are you like this, Ren-kun?
I found myself saying these words.
I had to cover it up.
With a thought in my head, I squeezed out my words.
"Why are you so kind to me?"
"Because, you know... Because we are friends."
I see, yeah. You, who are so special and yet painful to me, are just ────── friends.
Why does my heart hurt? I finally know the answer.
When he was near me, I couldn't breathe deeply.
When he laughed, my heart softened, and I felt pain even though I was happy.
When I saw him talking to everyone around him, I felt proud of him, and more than that, I felt sad.
Just hearing you say that everything is fine makes me want to cry.
It hurts for no reason. It's not mine. It's just that...
It was in this moment, I realized,
────────I have fallen in love with Ren-kun.
I really fell in love with him.
It goes beyond the limits of a fan or someone important.
I want to hug him, kiss him, and spoil him no matter what.
I don't want to be hated, it feels so painful, and I really want to be liked even though I'm not an idol anymore.
I couldn't help but fall in love with Ren-kun, who was worried that I was getting too close to him without even realizing my feelings.
I stared at the palm of my right hand.
"Can I be selfish now?"
"I don't think I'll be able to bear it just by being a friend."
After saying that, I took his right palm.
Then I sucked his palm with a squeaking sound.
I've decided. I'm going to make him mine.
This time, he is mine!
"Oi, ugh, what's wrong!?"
"Sakura mark, I made it to match me. Remember me every time you see it, okay?"
"You don't have to."
A faint pink flower bloomed on Ren's palm.
"No, no, no. You have to promise me. I don't want you to forget me."
"...This kind of idol communication is really bad for my heart."
I would never do such a bold thing with anyone else. Only with you.
I swallowed those words and smiled at him.
"It's getting cold, right. Let's go inside."
"...But can I ask you again, one more time?"
I stopped him as he stood up.
That's right. There's one more thing I really want to talk to him about.
"... I. Maybe I don't want to be a normal girl, maybe I want to be myself."
I've been thinking about this for a long time.
What should I become if I can't be an idol and can't even be a normal girl?
But that's not the problem.
I want to hear the true voice of myself, a voice that I've been forced to ignore.
It's not 'Mirufy' who keeps running around as an idol, not the abnormal and only protected 'Kasumi', but the real 'me' I've been hiding.
I don't want to pretend and suffer and sacrifice anything else.
I want to be myself, and I want to be loved by someone.
"I want to respect myself. I want to be 'me' that you can like."
I want to change. I'm going to change.
Because I'm not 'Mirufy' anymore.
Such a wish, even for a high school sophomore, will surely make some people laugh.
But Ren-kun didn't back down and opened his mouth with a serious face.
"That's good. Better to be yourself than a normal girl, Kasumi."
"... Right, right?"
That's why I like him so much.
"Well, let's renew our alliance."
"Ah, yeah, it's nice to cooperate with you."
Ah. I don't think this is enough.
This natural, uncoated, dirty, and annoying me is a selfish person.
I saw Ren-kun nod his head, and my words came out of my mouth.
I extended my right hand as if I wanted to shake his hand.
"I'm going to show you more from now on, something you've never seen before. I will give you my whole life!"
I took a deep breath and gave him a big smile.
"So, Ren-kun, give me all of your future for me, too!" [TN: Actually, in the raw source, it's written as 'これから', which means Ren's life 'after this'. Well, it's the same as 'future', right?]
Ren-kun said that, and he squeezing my hand tighter than before when we first made this alliance.
But, it still wasn't enough.
So I hugged Ren-kun tightly.
I beg you, my feelings. Let him figure it out.
But Ren-kun didn't hug me back.
Ah. I love this part of him as well.
"If Miru is going to squeeze you, you have to squeeze me back. That's all there is to it."
"Oh God, where did that come from!?"
"Well, it's only natural for me, so be careful from now on."
"There will be more in the future!?"
Of course there will.
Ren-kun muttered to me as if he was surprised when I laughed mischievously.
"Of course, right?"
I'll be even more selfish. Because of you.
I moved away from Ren-kun and looked directly into his eyes.
"Ah, umm. Thanks for everything... I really like──"
I was about to say, "I really like you", but then I retracted those words.
"I really like you" is the furthest thing from my mind right now.
Because it hurts. To be stuck with someone, to feel special.
No one likes my true self, so I don't have to like anyone. I am like this and even though I am like this, what can I do. This is driving me crazy, my heart is beating so hard.
If he denies this feeling of mine, I will be so dizzy that I will probably die.
"Uh, no-no! ... It's already getting colder, let's go inside!"
I put my hand on my cheek, which immediately heated up.
────I never knew before.
That the more we like someone, the scarier it is for us to tell them.
Side: Ren Kashiwagi
"I got hungry after finally crying for the first time in a long time", she said.
Kasumi complained and mumbled to me.
We decided to have dinner together and everything was fine until Kasumi said there was nothing in her fridge. So, we finally contacted the food delivery service.
"Ren-kun, how much can you eat?"
"Well, the food... Miru was too excited that I ordered too much."
My premonition was not good when I heard her words and asked her to show me the order list.
That's when the doorbell rang, signaling that our order had arrived.
"Yes. Please leave it at the door."
Kasumi answered the intercom cheerfully, and I got up with my heavy back and went to get the plate.
"The deliveryman seems to have left, may I open the door?"
Kasumi gave me permission, and when I opened the door, there was a line of food that was too much for the two of us to eat.
From left to right: Chinese, Japanese, Western, Korean, and various desserts.
It's not just a matter of getting too excited and ordering too much, is it?
"Ah, Miru will bring it too, since you can't seem to do it yourself, right~"
"Kasumi, are you sure we're going to eat it together?"
Stop making gestures with that arrogant face.
"I don't know if it's safe to eat so much. You always have a strict diet yourself, right?"
"It's okay for today! Instead of always abstaining from chocolate and so on, once every two weeks I can eat whatever I want for one day. This is called a 'cheating day'. Have you never heard of it?"
"Ah, the day when we can occasionally eat well to keep our basal metabolism high... that one, right?"
"Yup, that's right. That's why today is a good day to eat a lot~!"
Kasumi said happily and started to carry her plate to the dining room with a smile on her face. I followed her and brought plates and other utensils.
I was a little worried about the food until a few minutes ago, but when I looked closely, I realized that the dishes were all from high-end restaurants and looked very delicious.
"Let's just start. Itadakimasu~"
Even though I had already said 'Itadakimasu', Kasumi looked at me and didn't move her chopsticks to her food.
"Ah, no. This is the first time someone is eating with me in my house."
Then Kasumi continued.
"... I'm very, very happy."
What's wrong with this cute creature?
"... I don't mind, I'll come to dinner with you again if it's okay with you."
"In that case, Miru will order the delivery food I recommend."
"Well, delivery food as usual."
Don't be too quick to take advantage of your wealth like that. You're lucky to eat well. When I had lunch in class before, I ate only supplements and jelly until someone reprimanded me.
"Miru can't cook for you... But if you really want to try it, I will make it special for you."
"No, no, no. I'll stick to the delivery food."
"You really don't hold back, huh... Thanks."
"Huh, what?... Ah, this fried chicken is so delicious."
"Why did you eat first!? There is a better way to eat it, you know!"
Kasumi said with a smile and a little laugh, as if she was surprised.
But I wondered if she couldn't even hear 'Itadakimasu' in her house, although it was understandable if she lived alone in the dormitory while living as an idol.
"Fufufu. This Golden Mapo Tofu is a limited item and can only be purchased if we order it in advance."
"Thank you, Itadakimasu~."
"Ah~~!? Who said you could eat it!!"
"Wow, it's really delicious."
"Yeah, right! Uwaa!! Ren-kun, don't be greedy!"
It's good to learn these things slowly.
This semester has just started in June. Even though the school festival is just around the corner, there is still plenty of time before the class changes.
After that, thanks to the taste of this food that was beyond my imagination and Kasumi's gluttony, we managed to eat enough food for about five people in no time.
It seems that the two of us are not far from making our debut as food fighters.
"So full, huh?"
"Yup. So what do we do after this?"
"...Ah, no, forget it."
"No, forget it."
When I asked if I had promised to do something with her, she said it and her face gradually turned red.
After this.... After this?
I thought about it seriously, but I don't really remember making any promises with her.
"Excuse me, can I use your toilet for a while? My hands were dirty from eating the chicken wings earlier."
"Ah, yes. Please~ The door is on the right of that corridor."
I went to the corridor, buying myself time to remember, and also because I really wanted to wash my hands.
As expected, this really is a luxurious apartment.
Looking at the right side of the corridor, there are three doors and I don't know which one is right.
"Which door is it, Kasumi?"
...No answer. Was she still cleaning up after our dinner?
I don't want to bother her cleaning up just to ask.
Well, I'll follow my hunch and just take the door in front of me...!
"I guessed you would get lost... Uh, wait!?"
Kasumi ran into the corridor in a hurry, and I had already opened the door. Then Kasumi fell down with a faint voice.
"...I was just about to tell you not to go in there..."
"Uh, sorry. I didn't hear your answer. So... what is this?"
The keyboard and mouse glowed dimly in the dark room. The panel lights on the wall only illuminated the area around the gaming PC on the table.
The lights are cherry red, like Kasumi's hair color, and shine in neon light.
Countless game titles are lined up on the wall.
As it turned out, the room I opened by mistake was her gaming room.
"I don't want you to know..."
The other side of the wall is decorated with a large monitor, like in a movie theater, and posters of video game characters so large that I can't see the true colors of the walls.
The only cute element here is a pair of cat-ear shaped headphones sitting on the table, standing out among all the black stripes and figures of the surrounding video game characters.
I looked around the room and took a deep breath.
Usually, no matter how complicated a person tries to decorate their room, it is difficult to find a room with such density.
When I first looked at the living room, I had the strange feeling that Kasumi had a house with a normal room, so I was relieved and happy to see this.
"This room is so cool, I want to live here."
"Uuuu! Why are you being so nice to me, Ren-kun?"
"I envy you for having something you're so fond of! You should be more proud of yourself for being so great."
If I had a room like this, I would definitely invite my friends over 5 times a week to show it off. Uh, no, if I were obsessed with something like that, I would treat that room as sacred to me and wouldn't let anyone in.
"I see. You're that kind of guy..."
Kasumi said after taking a breath and then turned on the light in the game room.
Then she looked at me with a blank expression.
"Miru is a gamer. I can't live without this room. My apex rank is diamond, and I play solo all the time because I don't have any friends. Do you find me strange?"
"No. But as always, I am very jealous of you."
Giving everything as an idol, even taking your hobbies so seriously, how idealistic your life has always been.
Share that little bit of your way of life with me.
"...Ah, Mouu. I hope you will withdraw from seeing me like this. It makes me like you even more, and it's a problem for me."
"No, no. I just said that I chose the wrong person to interact with."
Kasumi, who looked happy despite saying that, quickly went to her game room.
"Hee, no one is more suitable for this job than me. I was hurt by your words~"
"You're not really hurt if you can say it like that. Well, you always say that I make mistakes, but you never say that you don't like it, right? Actually, I'm happy because my partner is Ren-kun."
"... Ah, I see."
Something like that makes me feel that Kasumi is so unfair.
Before I misunderstood the meaning of her words, I changed the subject.
With Kasumi like that, there must be no room for misunderstanding.
"Oh, I remember. Did you mean to play games with me 'after that' before?"
That's right. I think she was so excited about the arrival of her classmates that she didn't expect her friend to go home right away.
Even for dinner, I could have gone straight home to eat instead of her having to order it for me as well.
When I looked at Kasumi's face, I saw that she was blushing with shame and flushed like a poached egg.
Is this a sign → My guess was right.
"I told you to forget that! Oh, yeah! I was going to pretend to be a light gamer by asking you to play Mario Kart and so on! How!? You don't like it!?"
"I didn't say I didn't like it. And so, let's just play Apex. But I'm a newbie, so carry me, please~"
"I have no choice. Miru will carry you to your death."
Kasumi said it with a big smile on her face and didn't hide her doubts anymore.
Then we played the game together for two hours before it was finally over.
"Ah~~! The defense is already broken! We need to attack now! Are you stupid!?"
"Kasumi, shut up!"
"You can't do it! Okay, I have a good position... argh! Ah... your aim is garbage! Stay within range!"
"Gosh, that's really rude of you. You didn't turn on the voice chat, so I was the only one listening to you, but how could you keep yelling?"
It turns out that Kasumi is the kind of person who changes her personality when she holds the mouse.
If she did that all the time, her throat would be dry.
"Yosh, nice Ren-kun! I really thought I was going to die when I was discovered, but it's really fun to play games while talking! I always turn off my voice chat to avoid being recognized, so this is the first time I have done this!"
However, compared to her 'idol-like' and always smiling self, she now looks more like a 'normal girl' with various curses that she has said several times.
"I'm so happy now that I'm scared."
"Don't use sentences like lovers who are just starting to go out. Well... But it's still fun."
In the process of making films for the school festivals, in our alliances, even though we have different values.
"Yeay. Fufufu, that's true, right?"
"Nah, that's wrong."
I immediately examined my loosened cheeks.
I also noticed that my face was smiling so much.