Chapter 17:

Well, Shiori Yokoyama is... Strong.


Miyake sprinted off with obvious glee, giggling and saying “Yaaay!” as she disappeared from our eyes. Both of her hands were in the air, holding the outfit I had picked out for her, swaying left to right each step she so cordially took. Eventually, she’d be gone from our line of sight, but we could still make out her effervescent laughs throughout the store.Bookmark here

I looked over to Okumori, and immediately spotted the wild, dumbstruck expression across his face.Bookmark here

I gulped with uneasiness.Bookmark here

Crap, crap, crap! Okay! You got it, Shiori! Just try to start a conversation! It’s not that hard!Bookmark here

“U-Um, O-O-Okumori-senpai…?"Bookmark here

Stop stuttering, dummy! Talk properly! Geez, I just look like a fool now! Why am I so nervous?! It’s just some guy, anyways! It’s not like he hates me!Bookmark here

He paused, then looking over at me with glowered eyes. Bookmark here

He definitely hates me! There’s no question about it! What is that glare?! It’s too horrifying! Miyake! Come back! Please! He scares me!Bookmark here

“H-Hi.” I quaked, while forcing a grin.Bookmark here

He closed his eyes, and respired.Bookmark here

Seeing his disgruntled look, my heart felt rather rough.Bookmark here

“I’ll get an outfit now! You won’t have to talk to me! It’s fine! U-Um, goodbye!” I blurted out.Bookmark here

I’d turn my whole body around almost instantly, and started dashing forwards. Bookmark here

“Stay.” A grumpy, irritated voice spoke.Bookmark here

I instantly froze and shuddered at the voice.Bookmark here

Did he just talk?! Was that his voice?! It’s so menacing! He’s definitely mad at me, isn’t he?! Oh no, what do I even do anymore?! Is he going to yell at me?!Bookmark here

With my quivering legs, I’d slowly and gradually force my body to face Okumori. Once I had been finally been turned towards him, I’d look up and spot his violet-colored, narrowed, wearied eyes, which only made me even more panicky than earlier. His eyes had been meeting with mine, as he stood in complete silence.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to buy or get me anything...” He said, then starting to avoid my gaze in what seemed to be discomfiture.Bookmark here

“A-Are you sure…? I nervously asked.Bookmark here

He nodded, then going back to his usual silent-self. He didn’t stop avoiding my eyes, but started to get even more uncomfortable as I didn’t move my gawking sight either. He’d clear his throat, then moved his head slightly more to the left, seeming to hide his face away from me.Bookmark here

I’d soon realize that I was causing his awkwardness. My face instantly felt warm, as I quickly looked down at the floor and connected my hands together in apprehension.Bookmark here

… What do I do?! Do I talk? What would I even say? Okumori is a silent person, so I don’t think he’d even respond! Think! Think!Bookmark here

As dread started to overwhelm me, a sigh would leave from Okumori’s mouth.Bookmark here

“I have to talk now, don’t I...?” He silently muttered under his breath.Bookmark here

He probably didn’t mean it for me to hear him, but I could hear him clearly. His words only made me feel even more overwrought, and it made me believe that he probably didn’t want to converse with someone like me.Bookmark here

I inhaled, then exhaled, proceeding to look back up to Okumori. He now had been looking at me, with his uninterested, stiff look still present. His arms were now crossed together; his right finger tapping his arm every few seconds.Bookmark here

He cleared his throat, before finally speaking once more.Bookmark here

“How’s school?” He questioned.Bookmark here

Once I had perceived his odd inquiry, my anxiousness all disappeared in a split second. I froze, staring at Okumori in shock. Bookmark here

I’d shake off my astonished face and took a deep breath, then forcing a smile towards him.Bookmark here

“It’s goo—”Bookmark here

“Liar.”Bookmark here

I stopped again, my fake smile vanishing away, with only blankness filling my body.Bookmark here

He shook his head in displeasure.Bookmark here

“Lying only makes it worse, idiot.” He said, annoyed. “I’ve seen what’s happening, and it’s definitely not ‘good.’”Bookmark here

The flashback instantly hit me like a truck. I remembered the slap that my face had been marked with by those girls, as well as the sight of Okumori on all fours watching me in bewilderment.Bookmark here

“... Oh.”Bookmark here

He’d swallow, then looked away again, avoiding my gaze at him.Bookmark here

“... Well, not that I was planning to help, anyways. I’m just saying, don’t keep it in. You’ll only regret it.” Bookmark here

He’d pause for a second, then opening his mouth again.Bookmark here

“And, for the record, I don’t like you, but seeing you in such a sad, glum state makes me feel rather…” Bookmark here

His mouth was open, but no words came out of it. He appeared to be reluctant, only to wipe it off his face and go back to his original, tired expression.Bookmark here

“Any who, That monkey wants to help you, though, so tell her your problems and keep me out of it. But, keep in mind that she probably has a lot of sympathy, but little empathy.”Bookmark here

He’d finally look at me, noticing my confused, yet intrigued look. He’d stare at me in perplexity as well, then relieving another sigh right after.Bookmark here

“What I’m saying is, plenty of people have a lot of sympathy, but very little empathy. Very few people put in the actual draining, and grueling mental effort to actually stand inside someone else's shoes and comprehend the gravity or complexity of a problem they might be experiencing. The chances are, you’ll meet many people like that. They’ll just do the equivalent of saying ‘This thing is bad, sorry. That sucks...’ It’s the grim reality when some people ‘help’ others.”Bookmark here

He would then groan.Bookmark here

“... With that said, the monkey might not be able to help you, because she doesn’t want to burden herself. But, who knows? We’re unpredictable. Maybe she’s different from others. She might give some empathy to someone like you.”Bookmark here

He then took a deep breath after talking.Bookmark here

“Okumori-senpai?” Bookmark here

He looked over to me.Bookmark here

“Is the monkey perhaps… Miyake-senpai?”Bookmark here

His expression turned into irritation and confusion. It was just if as he was saying ‘That’s your question?’Bookmark here

I’d then quickly look back down to the floor, and clenched my handbag tightly after realizing what I had just asked. Bookmark here

“Sorry… That was a dumb question of mine… U-Um, instead of that, rather, why did you choose to talk to me now? I mean, when we were with Miyake-senpai, you were super quiet…”Bookmark here

He pondered about it for a second, then looked away.Bookmark here

“... You look weak, that’s why. I’m not afraid of you.”Bookmark here

My heart dropped, just like a ship anchor hitting the bottom floor. His words slapped me across the face aggressively. But, who am I to even argue against it? That’s just an abominable, hypocritical, and an obnoxious thing to do. Why would I even fight the truth? It’d just be fighting a losing battle.Bookmark here

“I am weak, huh…?” I looked back up and smiled.Bookmark here

He’d nod reassuringly.Bookmark here

The grip on my handbag only got tighter after seeing his certain reply.Bookmark here

“Okumori-senpai, you know what I do, right?” I questioned.Bookmark here

Okumori nodded once more to my question with his eyes closed, then opening them again and continuing to look away.Bookmark here

“Well, I hate it.” I said with self-assurance.Bookmark here

Slowly, he’d look back at me once more, with curiosity in his spiritless eyes. Bookmark here

“I hate something I love. That probably doesn’t make sense to you, but to me, it does.”Bookmark here

I closed my eyes, and didn’t give up my artificial smile directed to him.Bookmark here

“I want to continue dancing, modelling, all that fancy stuff. But at the same time, I hate being targeted. I hate being the person who has the most attention, and I especially hate how some people treat me.”Bookmark here

I swallowed.Bookmark here

“I never thought about the stress, or the terrible things that were going to happen to me if I continued this job. But, now that it’s here, I can’t really go back.”Bookmark here

And, finally, my forced, sad attempt of a smile started to tremble. I’d take another breath to keep my composure, but it failed terribly, as I could hear and sense my shaky breath.Bookmark here

“People most likely think that I’m just some popular, cute, and happy idol who can dance well. And, I want to keep it that way. I want to be known as someone who’s happy.”Bookmark here

As I finished my sentence, I could feel my eyes start to prickle, and a lump forming in my throat. I’d try to blink to get rid of whatever was leaving my eyes, but I didn’t know whether they were even successful. Bookmark here

“I know I’m weak. I’ve known it ever since, and I desperately try to hide that frail side of me. But, I’m so scared that it’s going to spill out all of a sudden. I know that someone is going to be disappointed in one way or another. Even if I do want to say it, I know that it’s just some insensitive, and immature thing of me to do…”Bookmark here

I was now struggling. I had been choking on my breath, with my smile now turning into quivering lips.Bookmark here

“And, I…”Bookmark here

My jaw trembled, my eyesight started to get blurry, and my breath stopped every few seconds. Realizing this, I’d slowly direct my head back to the floor, only to spot a watery substance by my shoes in my blurry eyesight.Bookmark here

“I…” Bookmark here

I took a deep breath and sniveled.Bookmark here

“I don’t want people to think I’m weak…” I stammered in a scared, quaky voice.Bookmark here

Then, I’d soon also realize that I, had now completely broken down. The floor was met with my tears, dropping and piling up into a small, miniature pond, getting bigger and bigger by the second.Bookmark here

I dropped the handbag in my hands and started to wipe my eyelids, trying to get rid of the tears that kept coming out of me, combined with sniffling and quiet sobs that exited my body.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” I frequently repeated to Okumori. “I’m sorry for being so weak...”Bookmark here

Instead of trying to wipe my eyes, I’d eventually give up and just simply just cover my face with my wet palms that were tainted with my tears, as I silently continued to cry and weep.Bookmark here

I’d then hear footsteps approaching me, then a feeling of a hand connecting with the top of my head. They rubbed it in a slow, consoling, and reassuring manner. Bookmark here

“Stop crying already, idiot. It’s making me feel guilty.” Okumori said.Bookmark here

I’d lower my hands, and saw him in front of me, with his arm reaching out towards me. It was then, that I realized that he was the one head patting me. He had a dissatisfied look on his face now as he continued to stroke my head.Bookmark here

“I told you not to vent to me, yet here you are.” He grumbled.Bookmark here

I looked away from him and sniffled. “Sorry…”Bookmark here

“Just, save your desolate ranting to the monkey. I’m not someone you should trust, nor even associate with.”Bookmark here

“Mm...” I nodded.Bookmark here

I knew it. He hates me.Bookmark here

“Sorry…” I said once more, then finally wiped the tears from my face. “I guess crying really wasn’t a good thing for me to do, huh, Okumori-senpai?” I said, followed with a forced laugh.Bookmark here

He’d remove his hand and retract his arm away almost instantly, setting it to his side as he nodded firmly to my question.Bookmark here

Then, I felt a hug that wrapped around me. I looked down to my chest in bafflement and saw blue sleeves, and delicate, soft hands.Bookmark here

“Jeez, crying while I was gone… I feel left out.” A voice said with a giggle.Bookmark here

I looked above me and saw Miyake, who was behind me, wearing the outfit I had picked out for her.Bookmark here

“You’re fine, Shiori-chan… Completely fine.” She said with a smooth, elegant voice.Bookmark here

Then, she looked over at Okumori with a sullen pout.Bookmark here

“Also, I didn’t know you liked to call me monkey! That’s so rude of you! What part of me even resembles a monkey to you?!”Bookmark here

Okumori had his usual bored look again, simply staring at Miyake. Even if he was completely expressionless, I felt like what he was saying in his head wasn’t a very good thing to hear.Bookmark here

Miyake gasped in realization, probably figuring out what he was thinking. She’d then point at him aggressively.Bookmark here

“I-I’ll let you off the hook this time! You consoled Shiori-chan while I was gone, so I’ll give you that!”Bookmark here

Okumori rolled his eyes, and looked away in irritation.Bookmark here

Miyake moaned in vexation, and rested her chin on top of my head tiredly.Bookmark here

“He’s so troublesome sometimes… It’s like talking to a wall…”Bookmark here

I could feel her chin press onto my head as she spoke, and it made me somewhat uncomfortable, but yet relieved.Bookmark here

“Y-Yes…” I said with an awkward smile.Bookmark here

“Oh, also!” She then sparked. Bookmark here

Miyake would then let go of me and step back. I’d face her, and watched her twirl around in the new clothes she wore with delight. She’d then stop, and placed her hands on her hips, giving me an appealing smile. Bookmark here

“The clothes you picked out fit perfectly! They’re so cute, too, don’t cha’ think?” She laughed with exhilaration.Bookmark here

I paused, shocked by hear sudden spark of enthusiaism. Then, I nodded happily. Bookmark here

“Yes! It looks beautiful, Miyake-senpai!”Bookmark here

“Right?!” She twittered.Bookmark here

She’d lean forwards to me and place her hands on my shoulders.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, Shiori-chan, I’ll pay for it! It’ll be my gratitude!” She said with a thumbs-up.Bookmark here

“Um, yes!” I nodded again.Bookmark here

She giggled after hearing my response, then instantly launching towards Okumori. She’d start circling around him, smiling and tilting her head to the left.Bookmark here

“Ya’ like it? It’s cute, huh? Don’t be embarrassed about it, Ki-kun! Say it’s cute! You think so too, don’t you? Don’t yoouuu? Spit it out! Come on! I want to hear you say it!” Saaaayy iiit!” She optimistically taunted, poking all around his body using her fingers simultaneously.Bookmark here

“Will you… Shut up…?” He silently muttered, clearly sheepish and uncomfortable by Miyake. Bookmark here

“Fiiiineee!” She groaned. “You’re so boring, Ki-kun…” Bookmark here

… Are these two really not close with each other?Bookmark here

“Well, anyways! I’m going to have to take this off in order to pay for it!”Bookmark here

She’d then lean in close to Okumori’s ear, cupping her hands around her mouth and speaking in an elegant, seductive voice.Bookmark here

“But, it’d be very lewd for me to take it all off right now, huuuuh…?” She teased.Bookmark here

Okumori instantly reddened, and moved back to try to avoid her close distance.Bookmark here

“Hahaha! Kidding! I’m just kidding, Ki-kun! Your reactions are so priceless!” She laughed while slapping his back.Bookmark here

He choked and grunted each time Miyake’s hand hit his back, with a clear, exasperated look on his face, indicating that he was obviously not enjoying it. Bookmark here

Then, Miyake would back off, and start running away from us.Bookmark here

“See you later, guys! Don’t do anything while I’m gone! I’ll be back in thirty-seecooonds!” She waved.Bookmark here

I sighed and closed my eyes.Bookmark here

I’m so envious of her… She’s so happy, and contented, while I’m here crying… Jeez, I’m such an idiot.Bookmark here

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