It’s the Real Thing
Has enough time passed?
I don’t know the exact time.
Time would certainly have passed, but the circumstances of what had just happened had thrown my time interval out of whack.
The room was quiet, not a sound could be heard.
All I could hear was Rin’s breath and the rustling of fabric as she moved her body.
Rin had already stopped crying, but she apparently had no intention of moving.
She is still in the same position as before, with her chin on my shoulder and her arms behind her back.
I sometimes exchange glances with Rin and we both look away from each other…
Since a while ago, I’ve just been repeating the same thing.
Every time we repeat this exchange, I feel such a fever … that makes me hot from the core of my body.
The air conditioner installed in the room is certainly working, but it doesn’t make me feel any cooler because of this heat.
I don’t like heat by nature, but this heat felt strangely comfortable to me.
I respond to Rin’s voice and look at her.
The two of us met eyes, and Rin brought her face close to mine with a greedy look in her eyes.
“Or are you too close to my face?”
“I’m not close.”
She said a short refusal.
I felt the strong will from Rin’s eyes, and I closed my eyes.
For some reason in my head, ‘Did I put on lipstick?’ comes to mind, caring like a woman.
… No, that seems too early.
My body must have reacted to such an emotional upheaval.
I naturally braced myself, and my mouth was very tight.
But nothing hit me in the mouth, and instead I heard the sound of her head hitting my forehead with a bump.
“… I guess what I was doing wasn’t a mistake.”
I muttered to myself, and at the same time, her breath hit my face.
The sweet, haunting smell of her …
I felt it up close and I swallowed hard.
“I was really … happy.”
“Heh. When you say it honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing for me, too.”
“I was rather embarrassed a lot, though.”
“I was embarrassed too, so I’m your partner.”
Rin’s face moved away and the heat receded from the contact area.
I open my eyes after confirming with my dim eyes that Rin has moved away.
Then our eyes met again and she turned to me with a flushed face and a bashful smile.
I think… that expression is foul.
Combined with her original charm, her smile seemed to shine brighter than usual.
I could not look directly at Rin like that, I looked away from her and scratched my cheeks to fool her.
“I’m sorry I seem to have caused you a lot of trouble…”
“I don’t mind. Worrying and pondering is new to me and not at all painful.”
“Rin is strong…”
“I am strong because of Towa-kun.”
“I see… But I guess I have trouble with it. I thought you were always straight forward and just keep going.”
“I have my problems too. Everything is new to me, and I know that what I think is the right thing to do may not always be what is really required of me.”
Rin smiled sadly and laid her head on my shoulder again.
I patted him gently on the head.
Rin is always straight.
That hasn’t changed since we met.
Even when she was worried about her parents, like the other day, she always seemed to be direct with me and had no hesitation.
But – it was different.
The truth is that she was also worried.
I hadn’t thought about that…
…No, that’s not it.
I just turned away from it and tried to be insensitive so as not to notice it… but the truth is that I felt it.
It’s easy to imagine that when you look at her occasional pampering.
Rin was confirming me with her behavior.
–Are you really rejected?
–Am I responding to you with my own actions?
I was making sure of that by spoiling myself.
Because I’m insecure, because I want assurance, because I can’t understand it in words…
By touching my skin, she was trying to know how I felt.
Because I was trying to hide it from her.
Because I had closed my heart and put up a defensive line.
–Rin wanted to know my deepest thoughts.
“I’m sorry for making you feel uneasy.”
“Uh-huh. No, it’s okay. No problem. I’m still in the middle of it, but I’m honestly happy. Towa-kun, you have moved forward… So please don’t worry about the past.”
Shaking her head from side to side, Rin smiled.
‘Don’t worry about it.’ she says, but I shouldn’t let… that convince me.
I’m a … terrible person.
I have to admit that.
I’ve been putting up walls for the past few months since I met her…
“I must not get involved with people like Rin” and “I must not misunderstand her actions” as “I am acting out of consideration for Rin”. I had been telling myself that.
But the nature of this behavior is different.
I told myself that, but in the end I was only trying to protect myself.
–I didn’t want to get hurt.
–I didn’t want to go through that again.
I was just running away for my sake and shifting the blame…
I couldn’t believe that I had rejected her, who was doing her best despite her insecurities… and that was inexcusably cowardly and despicable.
When I became aware of it, I was angry at my attitude up until now, and at the same time, I felt bitter in my heart.
“You don’t need to worry about a past that doesn’t exist anymore.”
Rin said to me as if she knew what I was going through.
I moved my body slightly so that I could see her face.
“Though Rin did say, ‘You don’t have to worry about it.’ I think I should be concerned about it… You don’t know what kind of impact what happened in the past will have on you in the future…”
I said that as if to deny Rin’s words.
The regret for the actions I took at that time, and the way I showed such an attitude, it’s impossible not to be concerned.
It’s an unchangeable fact that I was acting in such a way that I have nothing but anxiety about the future…
I sighed and cowered my shoulders, and Rin looked at me sharply.
“I still don’t think you need to worry about it.”
“The past is only a memory and a record. We may dwell on the memories, but we needn’t bother with the ones that are gone. “
“All we can do is live in the present based on the past. We don’t need to suffer from the past or the future. The past doesn’t exist anymore, and the future doesn’t exist yet, so the only time to worry about… is right now.”
I listened to Rin’s words in silence.
Usually, I would say something like a quibble, but I have no words to say.
Rin’s words really hit me hard.
Do we live in the present based on the past? …
So much to think about, so much to get over.
I looked down at the floor and exhaled with a huff.
Rin gently stroked my head.
“So, if you want to do your best, Towa-kun, all you have to do is to take action.”
“Haha, that’s so like Rin. However, it’s thanks to Rin that I want to do my best.”
“I don’t think so. It’s not. The one who chose to change and move forward… is you.”
“So I want you to be confident, not despondent. Instead of being sad and regretful about your past, … rejoice in the changes you have made in your present and hope for the future.”
Rin supported my prone face with both hands and smiled gently.
It’s a gentle smile, like the goddess of compassion, all-embracing.
“Towa-kun is never alone.”
Suddenly, I felt a sudden release of the tightness in my chest.
At the same time, I feel my darkened feeling gradually clear up.
It is always the same.
I am saved by her words and inspired by her presence.
I have to do my best.
It can’t be done with half-hearted efforts, but I want to make an effort without running away from it.
Because I want to be able to stand next to such a wonderful woman…
I nodded and looked straight into her face without looking away.
“Hey Rin. About what I said earlier…”
“When you said what happened earlier, did you mean ‘I want you to wait for me’?”
“What do you want me to wait for? If possible, I want you to say it firmly and without misrepresentation.”
We stared at each other in silence.
I tried to say something, but it didn’t come out right.
I was just getting more and more agitated.
Seeing me like this, Rin chuckled and poked me on the nose.
“I’m sorry. I got a little greedy and was mean to you.”
“…You’re the one who got greedy?”
“Fufu. I think I understand now what it’s like to make fun of someone you like.”
She smiled innocently like a child plotting a prank.
“I know, Towa-kun. I know… People are not made so easily that they can step over everything. It’s not going to change immediately from yesterday to today, and I don’t want to force Towa-kun, who finally got to the starting line, to do anything.”
“… I’m glad you’re … so thoughtful, though. But to not be able to say anything, as a man, … well, that’s just pathetic, isn’t it? It’s cowardly, and it’s … not clear.”
My feelings are set.
I’m still uncertain about what I’m going to do, but I have to … do it.
Because I decided to do so, I think it is no good for me as a person and as a man if I don’t give Rin a chance to make up her mind to go this far.
Rin must be looking for those words, too…
However, Rin said the opposite of what I thought she was going to say, “It’s okay to be a chicken.” contrary to what I had in mind.
I thought she was going to say something like, “I want you to tell me how you really feel like a man…”
I tilted my head and asked Rin back.
“Chicken, you sound like Fuji-san, … Well, that’s right, but that doesn’t work, does it?”
“It’s very satisfying to know how Towa-kun feels, in my opinion, right?”
“I’d say so, but…”
“I don’t want to be influenced by the atmosphere, or to feel obligated to be a part of the process, or to be a part of some kind of “duty” … I’m waiting with bated breath for Towa-kun’s confident words and feelings.”
“Waiting, is Rin okay with that…?”
“Of course. I don’t want to force the relationship, and I will wait until Towa-kun has sorted out his feelings. But please promise me this.”
“Don’t worry about it alone anymore. I will not run away.”
The first time I saw her, she looked straight at me and said that with a serious face.
I gasped at the atmosphere.
“I promise … that, I promise.”
After a few seconds of silence, she nodded slowly and responded.
Rin muttered, “I’m glad…” as if relieved. Then, smiling, Rin let out a breath of relief.
Perhaps because the feeling was mutual, the room felt enveloped in a peculiarly somber atmosphere.
My palpitations became more intense, itchy, fidgety, and restless.
But Rin didn’t seem to be in such a state. She was rather lively and seemed to be in high spirits.
“That’s right, Towa-kun.”
“I said I would wait, but I’m not going to stop what I’m doing now, am I?”
“Huh? No, no, the way things are going now, it means ‘wait’, so Rin will calm down and be quiet at school…”
“Do you think I will?”
Ah, that’s …, right…?”
I chuckled at Rin’s smug look on her face.
Rin’s heartbreaking appeals and actions.
I thought she would refrain from such behavior since she said she would “wait”…
Well, I guess I was naive.
“This is a game won at the earliest opportunity. I can’t let up in order to solidify it.”
“How long have you been in the game?”
“Love is a game. In other words, it’s a contest, and we can’t afford to lose.”
“You hate to lose, don’t you?”
“Fufu. That’s who I am.”
Rin is persevering and hardworking in all things.
I’m worried that she’s a little … or even quite bold.
But it energized me when she turned to me with such a confident smile.
“I have my own ideas, too. This is something only I can do.”
“What kind … is that?”
“It’s a secret.”
“I’ve told you everything, but aren’t you impatient?”
“I don’t want to be told that by the secretive Towa-kun.”
“…Is that so?”
“So, please look forward to that time, okay?”
Rin smiled bewitchingly as if inviting me to join her.
She reached out her hand and stroked my cheek.
The gesture, which was unnecessarily suggestive, made me anxious.
“Wow. It’s really scary, but…”
“That’s what I’m afraid of, too.”
For some reason, she blushed and turned away pouting.
What is … it?
I don’t know what she is thinking.
That’s a little unsettling.
But more than that, her movements and gestures are cute and make my anxiety disappear.
Perhaps it is because I know that what she is trying to do is for me.
Maybe that’s why she is so irresistibly lovely to me.
I put my hand on Rin’s head and gently stroked her head.
–The feeling of “love” that drove my parents crazy.
I had only hated it and refused to acknowledge it.
In fact, I still hate it.
I still hate the ugly image of my parents, who changed their minds from time to time…
But there is one thing I learned from them.
That is – to love people.
It is the feeling of liking people that my parents kept pursuing.
I think I understood that feeling through Rin.
But this is not the same as my parents.
I will not drown in the same way as someone who falls in love.
— I can be sure of that.
There is a fear that one day it may be gone.
But more than that…
A feeling of being able to trust Rin enough to dispel such fears is certainly beginning to grow inside me.
That’s why … I won’t be like them.
No, I won’t be like them!!
I vowed to myself to do so and continued to stroke her head as she cuddled up to me.
As I looked at Rin, who was leaning closer to me with her eyes narrowed, those last words she said to me at the summer festival and the scene came back to me as if it were only yesterday.
At that time, I just covered myself with the futon and ran away.
And today is the same.
Rin told me she would be waiting for me.
Out of kindness, she is preparing an escape route for me…
But I can’t take advantage of that forever.
No matter how embarrassed I am, no matter how nervous I am, no matter how crushingly tense I feel… I have to say back what I said at that time.
I’m not going to be able to move forward unless I say it.
“… Because my feelings are ‘real’ too.”
I thought my voice was muffled.
Maybe it was so faint that she couldn’t hear me.
But suddenly her hug became stronger … and I felt like that.
That’s why I …
In response, I gently hugged Rin.