The Line That Separates Them. — Line 3

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Journey to the Present.

After the realization of my feelings for him, unbeknownst to me, they just kept getting stronger and stronger.

I would find myself looking for him while walking to and from school. During our breaks, I would deliberately exit our class so I could catch just a glimpse of him. I would start thinking about what he was doing at that exact moment. I would start imagining scenarios where we would coincidentally run into each other and have a long and pleasant conversation.

My distance with Minami-san decreased as well, and with Chiaki, we three became inseparable. She became very precious to me, and at the same time, very useful. I would use her as an excuse to wander in the second floor corridor.

I would sometimes catch the sight of his side profile, or his back. I started treasuring them more and more. I would smile when Minami-san would tell me stories about him.

How he was sleeping in class and still managed to answer the teacher’s question, how he was so annoyed with Aoki-kun that he started ignoring him and Aoki-kun started crying in the class, how he was surrounded by girls asking him about Aoki-kun, how he would get angry when the bread he bought wasn’t good enough, how he would treat every girl who talked to him gently, how he would sometimes abruptly start a conversation with Minami-san and she would get embarrassed, how he would always be good at everything he does.

These stories which flowed from the mouth of a happy Minami-san became the stories which helped me fall asleep at night. They became the things which I thought about while I took a bath.

His calm and composed face would keep popping up in my head every time I would relax even a little bit.

He became a distraction for me, which I wouldn’t mind getting distracted by.

Those rare ‘good mornings’ and ‘see yous’ became my reason for giggling to myself like a lunatic, my friends would ask me the reason behind my increasing incidents of spacing out, “I am just thinking about my future… or something”, I would say.

But then, one day in the middle of the month of June, when I was looking for Minami-san(him), in the class ‘1-E’. My shoulder was lightly tapped by someone from behind.

“Takumi isn’t here.”

He said. I was petrified. I couldn’t move, or even speak. However, that voice continued.

“I won’t tell anyone. He’s my best friend after all.”

After hearing this, I turned around and found the same handsome boy, Aoki-kun, with whom he always hung out.

“H-H-How d-did y-you?”

My voice was very low, but it seemed as if it amused him.

“Fufufu. Let me tell you frankly, he doesn’t like you.”

My eyes widen, it was as if my breath was taken away from me.

“I’m sorry. That’s not the best way to phrase it. I meant to say that he doesn’t prefer people like you. People who are in the limelight, people who are looked upon by everybody else, people who receive extreme attention, and people who only stare from afar.”

“…”

“To be honest. I’ve known that you were in love with Takumi since that day at the field, but I stayed quiet and observed. If I had deemed you unworthy of him, I would’ve squashed you like a bug. However, it seems like you have some spirit. If you want Takumi, you have to appeal head on, rather than look at him from afar. I’ll help you, but if I find even a single quality about you that would inconvenience him, I’ll make sure that you don’t get a chance to see him all your life.”

Listening to his words, I realized my own mistake. It had been more than a month since I came to know about my own feelings, but I had done nothing about them.

He was right, I knew that Minami-san liked him too, but so did I.

If Aoki-kun’s words were the truth, then both of us were the kind of people that he didn’t like, but I won’t let that fact stop me. I would at least try. I’ve been confessed by countless number of boys, but this is the first time that it was me who was in love with someone.

“I-I will do my best!”

He smiled and turned away on his heels, and while walking away, he uttered a single sentence.

“Your rival has many advantages over you. If you want to win, you will have to work hard.”

There were many questions I wanted to ask him, many speculations I wanted to confirm, but I pushed all of them into one corner of my mind and just said what I needed to.

“Please take care of me!”

He smiled and took off in the opposite direction.

From that day onwards, I started to better myself in all aspects. Be it sports, studies, looks, or even housework.

I wanted to be perfect.

I knew that the path to getting acknowledged by him would be a long one. I have to get Aoki-kun’s approval first, if he can help me, then I’ll at least have hope that I can beat Minami-san.

I pushed myself. I searched for him more and more, whenever we would meet, I would try to keep him from rushing away with idle chit-chat. He would call me ‘Princess’, ‘it’s Kobayashi Mina’ I would retort.

These small exchanges made me feel like I was getting closer to him, but they would also make me realize that I am getting nowhere.

I worked hard and managed to achieve overall first rank in our final exams of the first term. ‘I just wanted to be praised by him’, would be the reason why I worked so hard.

I received the praises of more than a thousand people on that day. “As expected of Miya-san”, they would say. Those weren’t the words of praise I wanted to hear, those were the words which made me feel like I was just living up to their ‘expectations’, and nothing more.

My hard work, my dedication, my dilligence, and my unwavering determination. They were all discarded and were shoved away. The words ‘as expected’ took their position.

I wanted to cry, I was so afraid that I didn’t even have the courage to face the one I loved.

If he were to say ‘as expected’, I knew I would break.

My fears came true as I was faced with him while I was moving to the rooftop of our building to cry, there he was, just sitting there staring into the sky.

The side profile which was so precious to me was the one I was so afraid of seeing that day, but I had to face him nonetheless.

He noticed my presence, and turned his head in my direction.

I gasped, barely managing to keep the whirling typhoon of emotions in my heart from spilling out.

“H-Hi, Kawashima-kun.”

I said with a grim voice. He spoke up as if he was confused.

“Hello Princess. What is it? You seem sad somehow. Did you get a low rank or something?”

My tears were on the verge of spilling out, but I couldn’t make him wait for my reply.

“N-No, I ranked first.”

“Oo~ That’s freaking amazing! I didn’t expect that from you Princess. Congratulations! You must’ve worked really hard with a lot of dedication to be able to get the first place out of 500 students. I don’t think I have any right to say this, but I am proud of you.”

He had a gentle and affectionate expression on his face. It seemed like he was praising me from the bottom of his heart.

“T-Thanks!”

That was the only thing I could say before running away from the rooftop while holding my mouth. I ran, I ran as far as I could. I ran and hid in a storeroom which only had a broom and a bucket in it.

After that, I cried. I cried, and I didn’t stop until my eyes were dry. I washed away all my previous emotions with those tears.

The only emotion left in my heart at that point was love. Intense love. Love which made my chest ache. Love which made my heart beat so fast that it seemed like it would jump out of my mouth.

The look of his face while saying those words was etched in my brain and heart. I knew that if I were to stay at the rooftop for even one more second, I might’ve ran into his chest with all my might and would’ve cried for the rest of the day.

No! I would never show him such a disgraceful appearance. I would never let him see a bad side of me.

He said he was proud of me, he complimented my hard work and dedication.

These few words… they’re going to be my pride, and they are going to form my ego.

I don’t want to live to fulfil other people’s expectations, I want to live for his sake. I will work hard, not just in studies, bit in every aspect that makes me who I am. I will become a woman who is truly worthy of him, just as Aoki-kun said.

And with these feelings in my heart, my summer vacation started, and with the same feelings it came to an end as well…


I don’t know why, but after that ‘encounter’ with the Princess.

I could spot her sometimes, hanging around our class with Minami.

It was actually amusing, watching the whole first-year flip out over the two goddesses hanging out together.

Minami started to talk to me more often, she would ask about my life, my tastes, my interests, and my preferences.

I could give her answers about everything else, but information about my life was a different matter. I managed to vague-answer my way through it, but it was honestly a little annoying, so I told her to stop it, and she happily stopped. She said.

“Ehehe~ Takumi-kun asked me to do something for him.”

Aaah~ Fumiya. Why are you always right about these things?

I had a discussion with Fumiya a week after the field incident, where I mentioned that it may be a possibility that Minami had a crush on me.

He just said.

“You’re way too slow, Takumi. She’s not the only one, you know?”

I understood what his words meant, but I asked either way.

“…Princess?”

“Yes…”

Well… I did have my suspicions. Since that day, she had been stealing glances at me way more than was natural.

After confirming this, I kept my distance from both of them.

Just the greetings persisted, I managed to avoid long confrontations until that day at the rooftop.

The results were out that day, I couldn’t care less. I knew I did above-average, so I sat on the rooftop, glancing at the clouds which slowly moved with the summer wind.

I noticed someone approaching with shaky footsteps as if they were drunk.

The one who appeared was the Princess herself.

“H-Hi, Kawashima-kun.”

She said while on the verge of tears. I had to comfort her somehow, I knew that, but I also knew that if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to make her fall out.

“Hello Princess. What is it? You seem sad somehow. Did you get a low rank or something?”

I knew that she was first, and I knew why she was sad.

When the tag of ‘expectation’ attaches itself to a human, their individuality vanishes. Their effort, dedication, determination, it is all for naught, the only compliment which comes from the other side is ‘as expected’.

“N-No, I came first.”

She said while trembling. I knew exactly how she was feeling at that moment. She was afraid, afraid to hear her beloved’s words. Afraid that even I would put a label of ‘as expected’ on her.

I thought about saying those words which she didn’t want to hear, the words which would break her.

However, looking at that despair filled face, which was a piece of art in its own way, somehow made me say the words of comfort that she absolutely needed.

“Oo~ That’s freaking amazing! I didn’t expect that from you Princess. Congratulations! You must’ve worked really hard with a lot of dedication to be able to get the first place out of 500 students. I don’t think I have any right to say this, but I am proud of you.”

“T-Thanks!”

She just said that and ran away, I knew why she ran, I knew that I didn’t have to follow her, so I just remained on the rooftop.

“I’ve got myself into some crazy shit.”

I said aloud.

With these kinds of thoughts, I entered my summer vacation. I just wanted to cut myself off from the world, and that’s exactly what I did, but one person just couldn’t stay away from me, and it was Fumiya.

“This is so unlike you, Takumi. The old you would’ve just left her to wallow in despair.”

“I think so too, Fumiya.”

We discussed so while sitting under the parasols near a beach.

While spending time lazing around and waking up late, my summer vacation came to an end.


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