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 Ever since Takumi started dating Totsuka-chan, our daily life has changed to an amazing degree.

 Takumi is only in the classroom during class, and when he is free to move around, he comes to the hallway to talk with Totsuka-chan all the time.

 Even after school was an important date time for both of them. The three of us, without Takumi, naturally spent more and more time together, and the last summer vacation of high school came to an end.

"The last summer vacation of high school is finally here. It's really early."

"Hey Rizakura, let's go home after eating ice cream!"

 After the school closing ceremony, the three of us were walking along the usual seaside route side by side. Of course, Takumi was not here. It was Totsuka's birthday and she was going to eat a huge parfait today at her dream restaurant.

 Takumi, who used to have fun with all kinds of girls, had now completely calmed down. On the contrary, he was now at Totsuka's mercy.

"Leaf, are you all right?"

 Kurumi looked into my face. In response, I smiled and answered, "It's nothing," which is what I've been doing recently.

 The next day, Rizakura apologized to us with a very clear expression on her face, saying, "Sorry about yesterday!" 

After that, she seemed to be spending her time as usual. However, Takumi's absence had taken a greater toll on me than I had imagined.

"Are you really that lonely without Takumi? Even though you have two flowers in your hands, Walnut and I?"

 Rizakura shrugged her head in a frightened manner, but all she could do was return a dry laugh at the joke.

 We were always 'the four of us'. The balance between the four of us was always exquisite, but the absence of just one of us shook the balance so much that we could barely manage to keep it from collapsing. At least in my mind. Read only at https://royaltywrites.com.ng/

"You'll get used to it in a little while."

Even when Walnut consoled me, I was tempted to rebel, saying, "I'll never get used to being alone with three people." I knew I didn't mean it that way.

 But I was more concerned about Rizakura than anything else. The fading expression on her face that day and her words; the unnatural way she seemed to be blowing off steam recently. I couldn't help but wonder if she might be overworking herself.

"Risakura, is there anything you want to talk to us about?"

"What, all of a sudden?"

 On the way home, Rizakura raised her eyebrows and asked, "Do you want to win 100 million yen in the lottery?" I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not, but It's always the same these days. She was always doing and saying things that were out of character for her typical self. It seemed to me that she was trying to hide her true feelings.

"Actually, I think you miss Takumi…"

At my words, Rizakura burst out laughing, clutching her stomach. It was unnaturally cheerful.

 I was so happy to hear her laugh. 

"I'm thinking about what to say. I don't think so. Takumi is happy now, and that's fine. Even the three of us are having fun."

"But the other day, you said you couldn't honestly say congratulations."

"Oh, that's because I got too sentimental about it. I was used to being around him, so it just felt strange."

 I don't know why, but I couldn't help but feel that Rizakura's smile and all of her words were lies. Read only at https://royaltywrites.com.ng/

 Rizakura is a very important friend of mine. I am happy that Takumi is happy, but that does not mean I can overlook the fact that Rizakura is struggling to keep her thoughts and feelings to herself.

 At the very least, I want her to know that it's okay to show her true feelings to me and Walnut.

"...Ha, you're saying that Rio is different," Kurumi intervened.

 I passed Walnut, who was shorter, and looked straight at Rizakura. She was smiling but once she caught my gaze, she turned her head away.

"...Your eyes, don't look at me."

 The voice was like a pleading refusal.

Just a little more. In just a few more minutes, Rizakura will tell us her true feelings, which she has been trying to suppress. I am so close to the point where I can be honest with myself.

"Rio, it's okay to tell us your true feelings."

"…Honest feelings? I don't know what that is."

"It's okay to admit that you miss Takumi. The truth is, about Takumi…"

"I don't like him...!"

     Just as Risakura raised her voice, there was a clattering sound right behind her. Slowly turning around, she saw Takumi and Totsuka-chan there, holding hands.

 The heels of Totsuka's dark-brown loafers scuffled against the sand.

"...I'm sorry, Totsuka. I'm really not, so don't worry about it."

 Rizakura, trying to withstand the oncoming wave of emotions, left only those words for Totsuka-chan, then turned her body and started running. Takumi took a step forward to follow her, but Totsuka held his hand tightly. The two then walked in the opposite direction of Rizakura.

 Takumi looked back from time to time, while Totsuka-chan continuously pulled his arm.


Walnut, who was left, softly called my name. I took in a small breath and laughed dryly, "I guess it's none of my business, huh?"

 I tried to say this to myself in a self-mocking manner, but my heart was just covered with a black rain cloud.

Takumi and Risakura were both really important to me. So even if these two didn't end up going out with each other, I wanted them to cherish their feelings for each other. I didn't want them to do anything that would stifle their irreplaceable feelings.

"You once told me that I was watching everyone and thinking about everything, but the real me was blind. The real me didn't see anything."

 I was so smug about being a friend, about being important, and so on. I was probably conceited about such things.

I was thinking, 'Because we are friends, it's okay to say whatever we want.

'Because it's us, I'm sure they'll tell me what they really think.

'Because it's us, I'm sure we can understand each other.

 I have always been spoiled by the words "because it's us". That's why I didn't realize it. I never realized that everyone had feelings that they didn't want to be seen.

"I really can't help it…"

 I clutched my bangs and smelled rain from somewhere. Perhaps, there was going to be a downpour.

  In front of Walnut, I no longer felt like mending myself anymore. So I just went ahead and said the words that came into my mind. I interrupted her when she opened her mouth to say something.

"I'm not sure I'm capable of being honest with people," I started. "I wish I hadn't met them in the first place. Takumi, Rizakura, and… even you, Walnut."

 She bit her lip at my words, turned away and started to run. I guessed she was chasing after Risakura.

 An old wind chime tinkled in the eaves of a small store. It sounded to me like a signal that our relationship was falling apart. 

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