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"It's Summer!"

 Early July. This year it seems to be getting hotter than usual. The season has come when the cicadas are chirping loudly. This is my favorite summer season.

 These days, one popsicle is not enough for me, and I have mastered the art of holding one in each hand and eating them alternately, finishing them before they melt. By the way, the other three ate only one popsicle at a time, the same as before. I wonder how they can get enough.

"We're going to a summer festival this year, aren't we?"

 Summer means festivals. The lights of the lanterns amidst the cheerful sounds of the festival music. The cheerful expressions on everyone's faces and the fragrant smell of the food stalls. Finally, at the end of the festival, the fireworks that explode into the night sky are just so beautiful. It was a dream come true for the four of us to be able to participate in this wonderful event this year.

 I wonder if Walnut and Rio will be wearing yukata[1]. If so, it will be nice if we can wear yukata together. I just got some money from my part-time job, so we can go shopping this weekend.

 It was when I put a popsicle in my mouth, I heard,

"I'll pass."

 I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought I had misheard him.

Walnut and Rio both looked at Takumi who said those words with a dumbfounded expression.

"...Eh, why?"

"I've got a girlfriend."

 Soda-flavored ice cream fell on my sneaker.

Takumi usually does not talk much about himself. He has played with many different girls, but he has never had a specific girlfriend. For some reason, I thought it was because he had Rizakura, who was a special person around him.

 Rizakura just recently broke up with her older boyfriend. Just when I thought the two of them would finally be able to take the first step toward a new relationship, this happened. Read only at https://royaltywrites.com.ng/

"No way, Totsuka-chan is the other party..."

 As I was lamenting, Kurumi and Rizakura were staring at me with a look of dismay on their faces.

 Takumi's partner was Totsuka-chan whom Takumi had refused to look at at all at the convenience store.

 What in the world had happened? As far as I could tell, Totsuka-chan did not seem to have feelings for Takumi, although she did put a heart at the end of her words. But who could trust my eyes, which, according to Kurumi, are not very good at love affairs? The result was obvious. Totsuka-chan must have had her heart set on Takumi from the very beginning.

"Rio, you knew that girl, didn't you?"

 After that, Takumi went back to school after receiving a call from his girlfriend, Totsuka-chan. The three of us were just sitting on the embankment looking out at the ocean.

When a strong wind blew in from the sea, Rio was annoyed and brushed a strand of her hair behind her face with her hands.

"...Yeah. Totsuka is a junior in the art club."

 At our high school, third-year students are supposed to retire from club activities before summer. Of the four of us, Rizakura was the only one who belonged to the club, but she didn't show up much to the art club, in which she participated almost freely. 

"What's she like? When I met her, she seemed to have another boyfriend."

 I guess I didn't want to believe it. Takumi likes us very much, trusts us from the bottom of his heart, and feels that our time together is more important than anything else. But I couldn't accept the fact that Takumi put her before everything else.

"Totsuka didn't have a specific boyfriend or much of one. I don't think what Leaf saw was a boyfriend."

Rizakura's words again brought up a question mark in my mind. In other words, does this mean that Totsuka-chan is like a female version of Takumi?

 As Takumi's friend, I know it's a contradiction in terms, but I dare to say that I want my friend's lover to be a single-minded and serious girl. I know that Takumi is not a single-minded person either, but still, he's a really sweet guy and not someone to be trifled with.

"Something like I was forced to go out with him,"

Rizakura gently slightly raised her head to my words. There seemed to be some shade in it, and I unconsciously gazed at her face.

 By any chance, is Rizakura...

 Rizakura smiled as she said that. But that smile looks as if it was forced.

 Walnut, who was sitting behind Rio, was also staring at her with a worried look on her face. Maybe Walnut felt it too. Read only at https://royaltywrites.com.ng/


 Walnut squeezed Rizakura's hand. Rizakura's eyes were shimmering. But Rizakura didn't shed a tear. Instead, she just smiled clumsily.

"I didn't feel like this when I broke up with my boyfriend… I know that Takumi and I will never have that kind of relationship. It's not like I like him or anything, but even though it's not like that... I can't honestly say congratulations to him, that disqualifies me as a friend."

 The profile of Rizakura looking up at the sky and smiling looked so sad and yet so beautiful.

   Love makes people beautiful, so even if they are sad, does it seem to shine?

"Let's go to the summer festival together."

 The clear voice of Walnut passes through the gap for the one person who is not here now.

"The three of us will wear yukata, eat lots of delicious food, and take lots of pictures. Let's make this the best summer ever!"

 I am so glad that we have her in our group. At times like this, it is always Walnut who can casually lean in. She doesn't force feelings out of you, she doesn't force her opinion on you, and yet she lets the air flow through you naturally.

"Let's make this an unforgettable summer!"

 When I raised my fist above my head, Rizakura finally smiled at me, saying, "It's so hot and humid."

T/N: [1]Yukata (浴衣) translates as  "bathrobe"; it is an unlined cotton summer kimono, worn in casual settings such as summer festivals or after bath.

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