“You are precious”
I noticed that the sky was enveloped in darkness.
The sun had set and it was just before 7:00 pm.
As we leisurely head to the station, I stretch lightly and relaxed my body.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a this much fun…”
I almost subconsciously muttered and looked at Tennoji-san.
“How was it today?”
“I feel terrible!”
Tennoji-san shouted loudly.
“I didn’t win a single game, and I lost at bowling, too!”
“But you did have a good karaoke game.”
“I can’t be satisfied with a high score in nursery rhymes!”
Since I won the games and bowling so overwhelmingly, I thought karaoke would be a piece of cake, but in fact, that was not the case. Tennoji-san had undergone voice training, and her singing ability was remarkable.
However, her singing repertoire was limited. She seemed to be familiar with classical music, but she did not know any of the popular bands that I usually listen to. So, in the end, Tennoji-san had no choice but to sing nursery rhymes that everyone knew. The humiliated look on Tennoji-san’s face at that moment is clearly etched in my memory.
“Tennoji-san seems to like competition, so I made plans in that style for today… I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Yes…, thanks to you, my blood hasn’t been boiling this hard in a long time.”
Tennoji-san clenched her fists in frustration.
“What do we do now? You still want to go somewhere?”
“As much as I’d like to, … it’s a bit late.”
“… I suppose so.”
Tennoji-san looks up at the darkening sky.
“Well then, let’s call it a day.”
Hearing that casual remark, Tennoji-san reacted with a twitch.
“…You talk so rudely.”
Tennoji-san stopped and stared at her feet.
After all, it seems that Tennoji-san was thinking of today as if it was the last time she would make memories before leaving the academy.
But whether or not today was the last time was something that could change at any time depending on Tennoji-san’s will.
“If you refuse the marriage proposal, you can always continue where you left off today again.”
“… Even if you say that …, my intention will not change.”
Tennoji-san said in a trembling voice.
“I had a very enjoyable time together today. However, if you ask me if it was for the good of the Tennoji family…”
“Can’t it just be fun?”
I interrupted Tennoji-san’s words and told her.
“Isn’t that enough reason to turn down an offer of marriage?”
Tennoji-san’s eyes widened in bewilderment, as if she had not expected to be told such a thing.
“Well, there’s no way … What happened today is a personal matter for me. On the other hand, the marriage proposal is a matter of the Tennoji family. The scales of the two are so different.”
We stopped suddenly, and the people passing by looked at us curiously.
I told Tennoji-san, who was biting her lip, in no uncertain terms.
“Then, Tennoji-san… would you throw away anything for the sake of the Tennoji family?”
Tennoji-san kept her mouth shut.
“I can’t even imagine how much pressure Tennoji-san is under. But one thing I am sure of after actually meeting Tennoji-san’s parents… those people must be wishing for Tennoji-san’s happiness. They care about Tennoji Mirei, not the Tennoji family.”
When I visited Tennoji-san’s house, her mother, Hanami-san, asked me, “Is Mirei having a good time at the academy?”
From the beginning, she was not interested in Tennoji-san’s reputation. She just thought that if her daughter was having a good time at the academy, that would be … enough.
“It’s …… all in your mind.”
Tennoji-san said with her face down.
“Both father and mother are kind, they just don’t force themselves on me. I’m sure they really want me to work for the family.”
“No, of course not!”
I just couldn’t let those words go by.
I was a little angry.
Why doesn’t she realize it?
“You dye your hair blonde! Always speaking in a strange tone of voice! Do you really think that’s good for the Tennoji family!”
“What!? Wh- what …!?”
Tennoji-san’s face flushed red.
When she was a child, Tennoji-san truly believed that doing so would be for the good of the family. Now that she has grown up, she is committed to that belief of her own decision.
“But Masatsugu-san and Hanami-san haven’t complained about anything, have they?”
Tennoji-san gasps. I may have let my emotions get the better of me. However, I still had no intention of retracting my previous statement.
The situation is different from that of Hinako.
Hinako was suffering unreasonably due to the pressure of the Konohana family and Kagen-san’s decision. However, in the case of Tennoji-san, it is not unreasonable. Tennoji-san is just in a self-imposed situation.
I just can’t stand it.
“Those people put Tennoji-san before the … family.”
I reiterate a fact that is obvious from my perspective.
“Is Tennoji-san properly facing those feelings?”
Unlike me, Tennoji-san can still talk to her parents properly.
Hiding this thought in my heart, I told her.
The serious eyes of the boy standing in front of her pierced her heart strongly.
Tennoji Mirei recalled an incident from her childhood in response to Itsuki’s words.
“Mirei must be happy.”
Mirei was taken in as an adopted child, and her current parents said this to her several times. They declared that they would confront Mirei as her parents. However, they never wanted to tie Mirei down. She could feel that from a very young age.
That is why Mirei has always wanted to repay such a kind-hearted father and mother.
After learning of the fame of the Tennoji family, the family that took her in, Mirei realized how she could repay them.
“Mother. If I study hard, will it benefit the Tennoji family?”
When she was a child. Mirei asked her mother.
Her mother answered happily, “Yes.”
“Father. If I become famous, will it be good for the Tennoji family?”
When she was a little girl. Mirei asked her father.
He answered, “Yes.” with a loud laugh.
After that, Mirei studied hard, dyed her hair, changed her tone of voice, and began her life as the daughter of the Tennoji family. At first, there were many failures. Originally, her test scores were in the middle of the class, and she was not particularly popular. Nevertheless, as a result of her desperate efforts, Mirei became famous as an outstanding student. She worked so hard that her past self disappeared in a haze of pain and anguish.
“Mirei. I know you are always studying until late at night, but … you can live more freely, you know?”
One day, her mother said something like that to her.
“Don’t worry. This is the path I have chosen for myself.”
Mirei answered with a smile. Her mother agreed with her, but her face showed her concern.
It is true that she may be trying a little too hard, but she will understand eventually. Mirei was just trying to repay her parents for taking her in.
“Mirei. It’s good to have good manners, but it’s okay to let your guard down once in a while.”
“No problem. As a daughter of the Tennoji family, I will do this much.”
She found herself shaking her head without a moment’s hesitation at her parents’ inquiries.
(Oh … I see.)
The boy in front of her, Itsuki’s words echoed in her brain.
Is she properly facing her parents’ feelings – the words shook Mirei’s sense of values violently.
(I was running away …, wasn’t I?)
She didn’t have the confidence to become their daughter.
She chose to become the daughter of the Tennoji family.
Because it was easier to understand. It is much easier to get a good score on a test and behave gracefully than it is to respond to the wishes of her parents.
The boy in front of her made her realize that she had been running away from such feelings.
Unintentionally, such words spill from her lips.
“Why …… does Itsuki-san say that much to me…?”
Why did this person, who is not even a family member, take her so seriously?
In response to Mirei’s question, Itsuki answered with a serious expression.
“Because I, too… want Tennoji-san to live as happily as possible.”
Without embarrassment, Itsuki tells her proudly.
“If you think today’s experience is valuable,… please don’t throw it away.”
Remember what you experienced today.
Game arcades, bowling, karaoke,…… all of which may be unnecessary experiences for the daughter of the Tennoji family. But for Mirei Tennoji, they were not.
Today, she truly enjoyed it.
Mirei muttered in a trembling voice.
It was not only her parents.
There was one person – even here – who would take a person like Tennoji Mirei so seriously, not the daughter of the Tennoji family, but Mirei Tennoji herself.
So it made her realize.
“A fraud, a fraud, a fraud,….. you really are a wellspoken man…”
She struggled to hold back the tears that were pooling in the corners of her eyes, trying not to let them flow.
Her emotions are a mess. At the moment, she was probably behaving in a way that was unbecoming of a daughter of the Tennoji family.
But that’s okay.
This person doesn’t see her that way.
“… I’m deceived by you.”
Wiping tears from the corners of her eyes with her fingers, Mirei laughed.
“I refuse the marriage proposal. I can’t give up …… something so valuable.”
“… I see.”
Itsuki is visibly relieved.
Just to be able to see that might have been worth turning down the marriage proposal.
“Well, to be honest, if you’re asking me if today’s experience was valuable, I’m not sure…”
“No, it wasn’t.”
She didn’t mean to say only that today was valuable.
He’s totally …… sharp or dull, she doesn’t know.
“You are precious.”