After being told that the recommendation was off the table, I sat on a park bench, drooping.
The park was where Ruri, Touya and I used to play together, and where Touya had recently told me that he liked Ruri.
It was already late in the evening and a bit cold, so there were no children around.
“I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t a burden to my dad and mom…”
Was it my fault for being so slow in making the decision?
Was I supposed to accept the offer of a general recommendation even if it inconvenienced my parents?
Damn, I don’t want to regret it, but I was regretting it right now…
And what a joke that Touya was getting into “Teijo High School” with a special recommendation.
…but I know.
It wasn’t his fault.
I didn’t tell him about my recommendation, and even if I had, it didn’t matter.
He just chose the best high school in his opinion.
It was wrong to hold a grudge against him.
“But honestly, it’s too hard…”
The only chance to get a recommendation was the one that came to me.
I couldn’t believe I let it slip away like this… I wonder if I could really become a professional like this.
As I was feeling uneasy, I suddenly heard a lively voice.
I turned around and to my surprise, Ruri was standing right in front of me.
“What’s your reaction? You should be more surprised.”
Ruri pouted in dissatisfaction.
“I was so surprised that I couldn’t speak.
…Why are you here anyway?”
Ruri told me that after the match was over, she stopped by a coffee shop with Takanashi’s girlfriend – Asahi-san, who was watching the match with her, and they talked about today’s match.
They talked about how close it was, how that play was amazing, and so on.
After talking until she was satisfied, Ruri was going home by herself—
“To my surprise, I found my childhood friend, who was apparently depressed, on a park bench!”
“…You called out to me because of that?”
Ruri winked at me and pointed a finger at me.
Normally, I would return even one of her light-hearted remarks…but I was not in the mood for that right now.
“…Sorry, but can you leave me alone?”
“Yeah, got it.”
Ruri nodded vigorously and sat down next to me.
You didn’t get it at all!
“Kinu is such a dummy.
How can I leave a depressed childhood friend alone?”
Ruri said in a slightly angry tone.
Apparently, she didn’t intend to let me be alone.
…Well, she has always been there for me in times like this before.
“Are you depressed about today’s game?”
“No, but that’s part of it…”
“No? What’s wrong…?”
Ruri asked in a concerned tone of voice.
I wondered if I should tell her about what just happened.
To be honest, I would like to talk to Ruri and feel a little better.
…But at the same time, I didn’t want her to see me looking pathetic.
“Kinu, we promised when we were little.
If you are in trouble, I will help you! If I’m in trouble, you help me!””
Ruri smiled as she finished.
We had indeed made such a promise when we were little.
And just as we promised, we have always helped each other out, even in the smallest of things.
So, was it okay if I asked Ruri to help me this time too…?
“Ruri, actually, I…”
First of all, I told Ruri that I had received an offer of recommendation.
I didn’t tell Ruri about the recommendation before.
I also explained that the recommendation was no longer available.
However, I didn’t mention the part about Touya’s admission to Teijo High School.
“I see, that’s what happened…”
Ruri turned her head slightly down with a sad expression on her face.
I was ashamed to admit that just having her grieve with me like that made me feel a little better.
“Well, now that the recommendations are gone, I guess I’ll just apply to some high school and join the soccer team.”
“Yeah! I’ll definitely be there to cheer for the games when we go to high school!
Ruri smiled cutely as she said this.
Her words honestly made me happy.
That was why I had to tell her something.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve been saying I’m going to be a professional soccer player…but if I enter a normal high school, it might be a little difficult.”
It doesn’t mean that you have to join a strong school to become a pro.
But it was also true that it was easier to become a pro if you joined a strong school.
Besides, my best skill was passing, and I hated to say this, but the better the people around me were, the better I could pass and the more appealing I could be.
If I could appeal to the right people, I might be able to catch the eye of a coach or manager at a college where I could play professionally, or maybe even a pro scout.
But if it were a normal high school, I—
“It’ll be fine!”
A moment later, Ruri squeezed both my hands.
I was so surprised that I tried to quickly break free, but Ruri would not let go.
I asked her, flustered, and she began to speak with a serious expression.
“That Kinu loves soccer more than anyone else! I know that you work harder than anyone else! I know all that!”
“So even if you lost the recommendation, you can still become a pro at a regular high school!”
Ruri was desperately trying to encourage me.
All the while, my hands remained clenched.
I think she was trying to reassure me.
I was very happy to hear that, but there was one thing that surprised me more.
Ruri was crying.
She was shedding tears the whole time she was encouraging me.
She was encouraging me with her tears.
Not many people could cry for someone else, even a childhood friend.
But I, who has been with her for a long time, know that Ruri was that kind of person.
At that moment, my heartbeat became extremely fast.
The next time I saw Ruri’s face, I felt an urge that I can’t describe.
And then, I realized helplessly that I had to do something about it.
I knew it… that I really like her.
“Thank you, Ruri.
You’ve cheered me up a lot.”
“Really! That’s good!”
Ruri smiled reassuringly.
She was sweet and lovely and has always understood me.
I called her name.
At this moment, I had something in my mind that I must not do.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Ruri was still worried about me.
Seeing her like that, I cooled down for a moment.
What was I going to do now…?
…Was I going to confess my feelings to Ruri?
I must have lost my mind.
Ruri wass the one whom Touya liked.
And I’ve made up my mind.
I decided to give up your feelings for her and work hard at soccer.
I was going to work hard at soccer and become a professional soccer player…
—But the recommendation was gone.
Meanwhile, Touya has been admitted to “Teijo High School” with a special recommendation.
Besides, he has an admirable sporting talent.
His academic ability was also outstanding.
He was well-liked and trusted by everyone around him.
He has everything I don’t.
When I thought about that, some dark feeling swirled inside me—
I could at least confess to Ruri.
That was what I thought.
Touya was kind, and I think he would at least allow me to confess my feelings.
Even if I succeeded in confessing, he would understand if I talked to him properly.
Perhaps he would even give me his blessing.
Yes, I’m sure it will be fine.
…It’s going to be okay.
“I’ve got something to say to you, Ruri.”
The sound of my heartbeat intensified all at once.
The reason for this surge, however, was not only because I’m going to tell the person I love how I feel about her.
“What is it? What do you want to say?”
Ruri asked me with a gentle smile.
I’m sure they still think I’m going to be weak or something.
The words stop in mid-sentence.
It was not too late.
It was not too late to turn back.
That was what was pulling me back.
…But on the other hand, I also thought that now was the time to make a confession.
If Touya and Ruri got together, I would never be able to confess my feelings to her.
If that was the case, then it’s now or never—
My hands were shaking and my heartbeat was even more intense than before.
Normally, I would have taken a deep breath to calm myself down.
But I didn’t care and told her.
“I like Ruri!”
The moment I confessed, I felt a throbbing pain in my chest.
My heart was still beating, but probably not because of that.
But this was the right thing to do…was it?
“…Are you serious?”
Ruri asked in surprise after a few moments of silence.
It was a natural reaction.
I’ve been with her all this time, but I’ve never acted like I had feelings for her.
I really like you.”
Ruri muttered with a puzzled expression.
Perhaps she was confused.
Would I be able to go out with her by any chance?
The worst thought came to my mind.
—But the next words that Ruri uttered destroyed all my stupid thoughts.
“I’m going out with Touya-kun.”
…Eh? Ruri was dating Touya?
“Just three days ago.
Touya-kun confessed to me then.”
After Ruri answered, she turned her face down a little as if she was uncomfortable.
I had not heard anything from Touya.
I wondered if he was going to tell me after the tournament was over since it was so close.
“S-So that’s what happened…”
In short, it was too late for me.
On the contrary, my confession to my best friend’s target of love turned into a confession to my best friend’s girlfriend.
It was the worst act in any case, but the latter meant that I might not be forgiven by Touya.
“Hey, Kinu, I thought you didn’t like anyone?”
Ruri asked abruptly as I was feeling uneasy.
“…Eh, why are you asking me that all of a sudden?”
“Because umm…that’s what I heard from Touya-kun…”
Ruri revealed in a slightly lost tone.
I did tell that to Touya…And he told Ruri…
“I can’t go out with Kinu, but we’ll always be childhood friends and we’ll always be friends! And I’ll be there to cheer for the game I just told you about!”
And… sorry about it.”
“No, Kinu’s feelings were…yes, I was happy.
I was happy…”
Ruri would say that, but she had a complicated expression on her face.
Then she got up from the bench.
“Umm… I’m going to go now.
See you later, Kinu!”
After exchanging parting words, Ruri left the park by herself.
The way she looked seemed to be running away from this place.
“…I’ve been rejected so spectacularly.”
It was a confession that I had made by stepping on my best friend’s feelings.
Moreover, Ruri was clearly in trouble.
Betraying my best friend and causing trouble for my childhood friend…
“…I really am the worst.”
My mutterings were not heard by anyone and disappeared into the chilly air.
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