Chapter 12:


Third and Final Time

Half and half.

That’s how I’d describe the rough response to our class’s coming out’s yesterday.

Half didn’t mind, spoke to us normally or praised us for our courage.

Half didn’t look at us, didn’t speak to us, or cursed at us behind our backs.

It was uncomfortable and I thought I’d crumble beneath the pressure for sure, but Rei ended up being the one to support all four of us in the end.

He was popular throughout the entire school, not just our year group.

In fact, a number of his senpai supported him and made some speeches to their clubs about not discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation.

A few, however, cut ties with Rei completely, calling him ‘gross’ among other things.

Still, I was able to endure it.

I had Hinata, Inori, Kana, Rei and his friends supporting me.

Ami had a good support bubble around her too and most of our class treated us much the same, save for those idiots who made those lewd comments about me.

This morning, when I sat down at my desk, I found a note inside with a single word written on it.


I shredded it into a million pieces and put the remnants in the bin.

Perhaps the idiot who left it there wanted me to give a big reaction to it, but I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

Instead, I had a normal day at school, save for a few awkward conversations with Inori.

I feared that my outburst the day before would’ve broken our friendship forever, until.

“Hey, Akane, do you have any plans for the weekend?”


“Then, want to go on a date with me?”


Saturday came and Inori looked disappointed with me.

She had dressed up in really cute clothes and put a lot of effort into coordinating her entire outfit.

I had thrown on some baggy trousers, a t-shirt slightly too big for me and a hoody.

“Akane - do you get an allowance from your parents?”

I nodded, and carefully avoided mentioning an exact amount. After all, I had helped my parents win a lottery not too long ago, and I didn’t want to draw any negative attention to myself as a result of it.

In my wallet, I had about 30,000 yen in cash and I had a debit card with a monthly allowance of 100,000 yen on it.

“Come with me.”

Without waiting for my response, Inori took my hand and dragged me into a designer clothes store.

Then, she started choosing lots of items and handing them to me.

After thirty minutes, my arms were overflowing with fabric and Inori took me to a changing room.

Strangely, she came into the room with me and started handing me clothes to put on.

Apparently, she didn’t trust me to choose my own outfit.

I don’t blame her.

I’d only ever dressed up once for one person and that was the last time I went to Hinata’s house.

I giggled quietly when I remembered her reaction.

As I tried on the clothes, Inori didn’t watch me change, probably out of consideration about my scar.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever shown anyone but my parents and doctors the scar. Even during PE and our physical health examinations, I’ve always been allowed to wear a jumper over my shirt; the principal even said I could change in a private room before and after class too.

After Inori made me try on the fourth outfit she’d picked out, I started wondering why I hadn’t just worn that one-piece dress again.

Or - was it that I didn’t want to wear it for anyone but Hinata?

“You okay, Akane? Your face is a little red.”

“I-I’m fine.”


Our date ended up consisting entirely of shopping, walking and checking out a few accessories and pieces of jewellery.

Aside from the outfit Inori chose for me earlier, we didn’t end up buying much.

We were currently resting on a bench, resting whilst sipping on some drinks we’d bought at a vending machine.

I’d never gone on a date with friends before like this, so I was really happy, but…

The more I looked at Inori, the more it felt like she was forcing herself to act normal.

There were a few times I thought I saw her cheery demeanour fall apart, then quickly recover once she realised what she was doing.

It made me more uncomfortable than I ever thought it could.

There was something just deeply upsetting about seeing a friend trying to act like they were okay when they-


I bit my lip.

Inori - is this how it felt for you guys?

I felt awful.

I’d lashed out at her like that when she felt like this…I’m a horrible person.



Inori sighed a little and looked away from me. “I’m really sorry about the other day. I…I didn’t mean for-”

“I know.”

“That doesn’t make it right. If-if I’d just talked to you about it in private, or if I’d just texted or called you, or-”

“I was ignoring everyone’s messages.”

“Then, what if I’d asked to talk to you after school or in the corridor during lunch?!”

“I…would’ve run…away.”


“Inori, I’m…sorry…for yelling at you.”

“Don’t be, don’t be!” She forced a smile and waved her hands in front of her. “I went over a line that I shouldn’t have, and you have every right-”

“I should’ve told you guys. I should’ve…spoken up, said something, anything, to let you guys know how I felt about guys, but.” My fingers gripped my skirt’s hem tightly. “I was too scared to.”

“I don’t blame you for being scared, especially after what people said.” Inori clicked her tongue. “I should’ve recorded those bastards and sent it to the whole school.”

“You could’ve gotten in trouble for that.”

“It’d have been worth it if it made you feel a bit better.” Inori looked into my eyes. “Would it?”

“…Probably not.”

“Right.” She looked away again. “If I hadn’t made that dumb joke, you’d never have had to come out publicly like that and then you wouldn’t have had these rumours about you, and-”

“Inori, I know people talk about me behind my back. All this does…is give them one more thing to say. However.” I took her hands in mine and smiled. “I accept your apology.”

Relief washed over Inori’s face as she gripped my hands back a little. “Thank you, Akane. And…” She sniffed a little as a few tears formed in her eyes. “I’m really glad you’re my friend.”

We held hands until Inori finally calmed down, and almost used an entire packet of tissues.

Once she let go, I decided to do something I never thought I’d do.

I’d tell her about him.

“My ex…was a great guy when I met him, or, at least I think he was. He was smart, funny, kind, really sweet, and he was always there for me when I needed him. I was so happy when I was with him and I really, really loved him from the bottom of my heart.” I smiled thinly as I recalled my second life. “Honestly, I thought that we would be together forever.

“When we started…middle school, he became really jealous of me. He’d always hear people telling him about how amazing his girlfriend is, how smart she is, how lucky he was to be my hus-boyfriend and…he couldn’t take that.

“He, uh…” I bit my lip. “Started saying things, bad things, about me to other people. Saying I wasn’t that smart, that I cheated, that I was struggling mentally and hiding it from other people. He…he even said that…he hated me because I was too perfect. That’s why we broke up and he never spoke to me again.”

I hadn’t once glanced at Inori since I started my story, but I could just about see her blurry expression out of the corner of my eye.

“…Akane, where’s this guy? I’ll beat him up for you! Actually, scratch that.” She whipped out her phone. “I’ll call Rei and everyone else and they’ll-”

“Wait, wait, wait!”

“What?! Surely you aren’t going to-?!”

“He moved to Korea a few weeks after we broke up!”


I nodded furiously.

“He-his father ended up transferring over there during our second year.”

It wasn’t a good lie and it was one that could easily be disproved, though I had to stick with it.

“And only a few close friends knew we were dating, so…so.”

“So that’s why some people say you cheat on your exams?”


Inori seemed to accept my excuses, calmed herself down and slowly went back to being her normal self.

“God, if I’d known some guy had done that, I would’ve dragged Rei and the others away from you myself. Actually.” Inori leant over and whispered into my ear. “Do you want to tell Hinata or Kana about this, or just keep it between ourselves?”

“…I don’t mind telling them, but I don’t want to tell Rei or anyone else. Maybe at our next sleepover together I can tell the girls.”

“Hey, if it’s too hard for you, I can help you. I mean, I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for you to tell me all this, so I’d like to help you however I can from now on.”

“Thank you, Inori. That means a lot.”

“Of course.” She showed me the brightest smile I’ve seen her make in a long time. “So, what do you want to do now? We could call it a day, do some window shopping, pick out some swimsuits or-”

“I could help you find a cute outfit for your next date with your boyfriend.”

“H-huh?!” Inori’s whole face turned bright pink. “Y-y-y-you don’t have to do that!”

Ah, I felt relieved.

Inori was back to her usual self, as was our relationship.

My chest was enveloped by a gentle, pleasant warmth as we continued our date.