Touya and I moved to a nearby park together.
This park was where Ruri and I used to play when we were little.
Even after Ruri fell in love with games, her mother had instructed her to go outside to play.
Even though she was an indoor person, Ruri was very athletic.
And it was also a park where the three of us used to play together after Touya transferred to our school.
Inside the park, several small children were happily playing on the playground.
“The three of us used to play together in this park.”
“Yeah, I used to play soccer with Ruri in the neighborhood.
When we were playing soccer, Ruri kicked the ball into the window of a neighbor’s house and got in a lot of trouble.”
“Hahaha, that happened to us too.”
Touya laughed briskly.
…But this was not the time for such old stories.
“…So, what did you want to talk about?”
“Ahh, that’s right.”
Touya said after I reminded him
Then his face turned into a nervous one and said —
“Kinu, is there anyone you like?”
I blew up.
“What!? W-What are you talking about out of the blue!?”
“Because we are in the throes of puberty.
I thought maybe there’s someone or two you like.”
“Even if I did, this is so sudden…”
What was so important about this…
“So, Kinu, is there someone you like?”
Touya asked me again.
His eyes looked straight at me.
Why so serious? I wondered, but my best friend was so serious.
I thought I should answer seriously.
“…There is none.”
I said back, and Touya asked me in surprise.
All I like is soccer.”
When I answered properly once again, Touya mumbled something.
But that was a lie.
The truth was I have someone I like.
A girl I grew up with who was always there for me at all times.
I like Ruri.
…But if I told her how I feel, it might change the relationship between the three of us.
For example, Touya might become reserved and stop being with us…
I like Ruri, but I also liked the time the three of us spent together.
When I thought about that, I couldn’t very well say what was really going on.
“I, you know, have someone I like.”
Even though I was struggling to think of the right answer, Touya made a shocking disclosure.
We had been together since elementary school, and I had never heard that he had someone he liked.”
“But why did you ask me?”
“Eh, that’s just because I’m curious about who my best friend likes, but it’s not a good idea to force you to answer…”
“What’s with all the concern? You sound like a girl.”
“You know, I’ve been thinking about you…”
In the middle of his words, Touya pointed a finger at me.
“W-What is this…?”
“I like Kinu.”
Touya revealed it in a very casual manner.
It was so natural that for a moment I was surprised! But then I…
“That’s a lie.”
“Come on? You could have believed me at least a little bit…”
“Because, Touya, you just grabbed the thighs of your pants.
That’s your habit when you lie.”
I pointed my finger at him — just as I said, he was clutching his pants.
“Oh, no, I’ve done it again.”
Touya scratched his head as if the prank had failed.
What do you mean, “Done it again”?
You didn’t have to come all the way to the park just to play a prank.
The sun is going down and it’s getting cold, so let’s get the heck out of here.”
I stood up from the bench, a little dismayed.
“Wait, wait! It’s true that I have someone I like!”
Touya started talking like that again.
I thought it was just going to be a prank again anyway… He has got that kind of personality.
“Then tell me who you like, Touya.”
I was sure he’ll say my name again or give some other random answer.
That was what I thought.
“The person I like is Ruri.”
“W-Wait a minute! It was a lie again.
You’re trying to surprise me again, aren’t you?”
“I’m not lying.
I really like Ruri.
I’ve always liked Ruri.”
Touya made his feelings clear.
I immediately turned my attention to his hands, but he did not grab his pants.
In other words, everything he was saying now was true.
No way… I couldn’t believe that Touya liked Ruri…
And he meant for a long time, since elementary school?
I didn’t know that at all, and I didn’t even realize it…
“So here is the thing…Kinu, will you help me?”
In the midst of being completely flustered, Touya asked me to help him.
“…Eh, help you?”
“I mean it as it is.
I’ve been with the three of you, but I’d like you to give me and Ruri a little time alone.”
“Time alone with Ruri…”
You’ll cooperate with me, right?”
Touya held out his hand to me with expectant eyes.
He doesn’t seem to think in the slightest that I would refuse.
But I like Ruri, too…
“We’re best friends, right?”
Touya asked me with a smile.
There was a hint of pressure in his smile.
…T-That was right.
Touya was my precious best friend.
We have played soccer together since elementary school, and even if my opponents made fun of me, only Touya always believed in my passes.
T-That was why… I—
Of course I’ll help you.
We’re best friends.”
In the end, I promised to cooperate with him and held his hand.
I like Ruri… but that doesn’t make me selfish enough to put my own feelings first and refuse my best friend’s request.
Besides, if I were to reveal my feelings here, it would destroy the relationship between the three of us.
If I were to do that, I felt it would be much better for me to hold back.
“Thank you! I knew you would say so!”
Touya laughed, looking truly happy.
The first time I saw him like that, I realized that there was nothing I could do to take it back and I felt a terrible pain in my heart.
“Oh! I’ll do my best to help you, so hang in there!”
I shouted to cover up the pain in my heart.
My best friend was in love with someone else, and it was my childhood friend.
I needed to help him as well…
I thought and at the same time, the pain in my heart was getting worse and worse.
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