It was a weekday evening.
School had already ended.
My parents were away for work, and for some reason I was in my room playing games with Kiritani-sensei.
“Hmm? What’s wrong?”
“Sensei, aren’t you way too good!?”
I said to Kiritani-sensei who was sitting on my bed while playing the game.
The game was “Zomabrawl,” a well-known fighting game.
It was a simple yet profound game in which the winner was the one who can knock the enemy off the field.
And I was playing against Kiritani-sensei, and to my disbelief, I had lost ten games in a row.
This was one of my favorite games other than battle royale games… As a stay-at-home gamer, I was shocked at this.
“Well, I’ve been playing this game for a bit.”
“No, no, that’s definitely more than a little bit!”
I had lost all ten of my matches to Kiritani-sensei.
“So, is Kiritani-sensei just going to play games again today?”
Since his first visit, Kiritani-sensei has always come to my house whenever his work schedule allows it.
…As he told me the first time, he never really forced me to go to school with him.
On the contrary, he came over to my house and we played games together and talked about the latest youtube video recommendations.
“Well, for today, I guess I’ll leave it at that.”
“That’s what you always say.”
When I pointed this out, Kiritani-sensei gave a wry laugh.
Others might wonder what he was doing even though he was a teacher… but I had an idea of what he was trying to do.
“It’s already this late.
Maybe I should go home soon.”
Kiritani-sensei checked the time on his phone and stood up, bag in hand.
After that, we both went to the front door.
“I’ll see if I can come back in two days this time.”
As I just said, Kiritani-sensei would probably come to my house again.
When we talk, I could tell that he chose his words carefully so as not to hurt me.
I think he was really trying to help me, unlike the teachers I’ve had in the past.
If that was the case—shouldn’t I respond to his actions?
I thought to myself as I watched Kiritani-sensei’s back as he put his hand on the doorknob.
“Sensei, wait a minute.”
I stopped Kiritani-sensei who was about to go outside.
He looked back at me with a puzzled expression on his face.
Then I began to tell him the story he probably wanted to hear.
“I haven’t actually been to school since middle school.”
“! Why so sudden?”
“It’s not sudden.
Sensei must have been waiting for me.
So I have to tell you why I stopped going to school.”
We always played games and talked without a care in the world, but Kiritani-sensei never pried into my affairs.
I never talked about myself either.
…But I knew.
He was probably waiting for me to tell him about myself.
I have been to your house so many times, so you probably figured it out.”
“Well, it was obvious.”
But he was a good teacher as he didn’t forcefully ask me about it.
It was because of his actions that I decided to tell my story now.
“So, I want to talk to you about how I got this way…”
“Yes, let’s hear it.”
Kiritani-sensei took off his shoes and went up the doorway again.
Then we went to the living room so that we could talk.
After we both moved to the living room, I told him about the reason why I had stopped going to school.
That I had confessed my love to my childhood friend, Ruri, and that my best friend, Touya, liked her.
Because of this, I was bullied by my classmates, especially by Touya.
The fact was that Touya has always hated me.
That Ruri might have used me to be with Touya since we were little.
I revealed everything that happened when I was in the third year of middle school.
After listening to my story, Kiritani-sensei muttered nothing more than that.
The reason he didn’t say anything like, “I’m sorry you had a hard time,” or “must have been rough,” was probably because the reason I stopped going to school was my own fault.
I confessed my feelings to my best friend’s crush.
“I know it was my fault too.”
Still, I was shocked that Touya, who had been with me all along, never liked me, and that Ruri might have taken advantage of me as well.
So to be honest, selfishly, I still have some feelings of hatred for the two of them.
…But I still want to be best friends with Touya again, and my feelings for Ruri haven’t disappeared at all.
I hated myself because of that…
“I don’t know what to do anymore.”
I muttered in a quiet voice that sounded like it was about to disappear right after I spoke.
Unlike in middle school, this time, words came right back to me.
“I don’t think there is any life without mistakes.”
Kiritani-sensei continued in a calm tone of voice.
“But, if you have lived your whole life without making a single mistake, that means you have never had a single quarrel with anyone, and you have never told even the smallest lie.
Do you think there is such a person?”
When I replied, Kiritani-sensei smiled warmly, “Isn’t that right?”
“I think that everyone that lives makes mistakes from time to time.”
But, that was why I confessed my love to Touya’s crush.
That I have hated both Touya and Ruri.
I still want to be best friends with Touya, and I still have feelings for Ruri.
“All of this may be wrong, but I don’t want you to hate yourself for it.”
At the end of our conversation, Kiritani-sensei told me this in a gentle tone of voice.
There was no way I could not hate myself.
I thought so even after listening to Kiritani-sensei.
Kiritani-sensei, seeing me like that, suddenly started talking.
“When I first talked to Kenji-kun, I told you that we would work together to find what it means to be yourself.”
Indeed, that was what Kiritani-sensei said.
At this moment, it is important to be able to do what you want to do and live your life the way you want to live it… But when I replied that I didn’t really know what it meant to be myself, he said he would work with me to find it.
“I think to be yourself, you have to like yourself first.”
“To like myself…”
“Yeah, that’s right.
If you don’t like yourself, I don’t think you can be yourself.”
I think what Kiritani-sensei said was right.
I was already having a hard time hating myself.
It was painful.
But ever since that incident, no matter what I do or how much fun I have, I always feel guilty about Touya and Ruri somewhere in my heart, and I can’t even laugh from the bottom of my heart.
“How am I supposed to like myself like this?”
I found myself pathetically asking for help.
Right after I said it, I thought to myself that I really was a helpless guy.
But Kiritani-sensei didn’t dismiss me with disappointment or abandon me; he gave serious consideration to what I was going through, and he said.
“Maybe you should just accept the mistake you had made.”
I was a little puzzled, not understanding the meaning of Kiritani-sensei’s words.
Perhaps sensing this, he explained carefully.
“Acceptance means that you admit to yourself that you’ve done something wrong.”
I confessed to the person whom Touya likes.
I hated both Touya and Ruri.
I still want to be best friends with Touya again.
I still love Ruri.
I have to admit to myself that I was full of mistakes.
“Kenji-kun, who has made mistakes, is still Kenji-kun.
So you have to reflect on that, but there is no need to deny your mistakes.”
“No need to deny it…”
I understood what Kiritani-sensei was trying to convey.
But I’m sorry to Sensei, but I…
“I think this will speak louder than my words.”
When I was at a loss of what to say, Kiritani-san took something out of his business bag.
Then, he held it out to me.
“…A movie ticket?
“Yes, it is.
A ticket for a Hollywood movie.”
“A Hollywood movie?”
Why at a time like this? I wondered.
“If Kenji-kun sees this, you might be able to like yourself.”
When I asked, Kiritani-sensei nodded his head.
He had a confident look on his face.
I replied and accepted the ticket.
“Ah, but Kenji, I don’t know if you can go to the movies by yourself right now.
Do you want to go with me?”
“No, I can go to the movies by myself.
Even though I say I’m a shut-in, it doesn’t mean I can’t go outside at all.”
Then your level of withdrawal was about the same as mine in high school.”
“That doesn’t make me happy…”
“Well, we’re both at the same level of withdrawal, but I’m a much better gamer than you are.”
“That is the worst thing you can say to a stay-at-home gamer! I’ll win next time, I promise.”
I said with enthusiasm, and Kiritani-sensei chuckled.
“I’ve told you everything I wanted to tell you, so I’m going to go now.”
Umm…Thank you, sensei.”
“I’m a teacher, so it’s only natural.”
Kiritani-sensei said it as if it was really a matter of course.
He was an amazing person, I honestly thought so.
He went to the front door, put on his shoes and placed his hand on the doorknob.
“I’d like to come back after Kenji-kun sees that movie, so I’ll visit again in a week or so.”
I’ll make sure I watch the movie by then.”
Kiritani-sensei nodded at my words, then opened the door and left.
“What a kind teacher…”
I thought that from the bottom of my heart, including from the first time I met him until today.
Kiritani-sensei was by far the best teacher I have ever met.
“…But what’s this movie about?”
I looked at the movie ticket.
Kiritani-sensei said that if I saw this movie, I might be able to like myself.
But even after looking at the title and description, it looked like a normal movie, but I wonder what kind of movie it was…
I muttered and gripped the ticket a little tighter in anticipation.
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