I agreed with what I said, why should your family, whatever they are, decide how the world should view you? Anyway, I wanted to settle for myself who I hate and at least have a good reason for it.
Stubbornly, I could say that I may feel this negative emotion towards Tachibana because the girl I have a crush on likes him. However, I decided that this was too trivial for a reason, I still believed that my situation with Hamada would improve on its own, although I was aware that I would not be able to see how much we fit together.
All the time in the back of my mind was how Konya helped me, although he didn't have to, something inspired him to do so, even when he already knew the truth about my origin.
"Tatsuo?" I tried to get his attention. There was that smile again that squeezed my heart.
"Are you sure?" Konya asked, surprised by my proposal, when he recovered enough from the shock to finally catch up with me.
"Only if it's on you," I reminded him and quickened my pace since there was a free treat waiting for me.
The worst thing about Konya's words, however, was the conviction with which he uttered them, I had the impression that a moment later he said "Like everyone else". Did Her children feel that way? If you understand it that way, then suddenly everyone should start to adore me, right? Alice and I were the good guys, after all, but just thinking about how many people would be around me then made me shudder.
Since my sister could stop worrying about me, she focused on her mission of pairing people up. The school gave her full scope, and she soon became known as the oracle of love. Of course, she got me into the business, too, but I made it a condition that no one should know about it. Alice was the head of this business, and I was her lazy employee.
Konya was strangely silent, though I had the impression that he had already abandoned his kind, apologetic version of himself. I shrugged, he was thinking about something, and I wasn't going to disturb him. Maybe he was considering why I invited him. I wasn't sure myself now. The reason? Maybe because he apologized to me, or he said weird things, or he was happy when I did it. I sighed heavily, wondering if I had made a mistake.
"Your fanbase lets you move around alone?" I asked as we left school and slowly headed towards the nearest store.
"I don't even know why they keep following me around." Konya shrugged. "I'm mean to them, and they come back anyway, or pretend they don't care."
"Well, a bad boy will always attract people, girls like that type."
"Since you're hanging out with me, you obviously like this type too," he bit back.
"Sure, every other is out of the question."
He looked at me for a moment, made a face as if he realized something, and then burst out laughing. Should I be proud that I made him laugh? At least, he started walking a little more briskly, which meant getting to the store faster. I was hoping that they would have my favourite flavour, and from the moment I decided to go for ice cream, I prayed for it all the time. The first in the season would have to have this unique taste.
Finally, a shop and a long-awaited sweet surprise. I peered into the freezer, carefully searching through the assortment. I was slowly losing hope, but I saw them in the very corner, barely noticeable, being sabotaged by their strawberry enemies. Almost reverently, I pulled out my favourite delicacy.
"Is there another one?" Konya asked.
I nodded and handed him both ice creams while I decided to wait outside the store while he paid. I wondered why he made such a decision at all, this flavour was not the most popular, and Daisuke and Maiko frowned at the smell alone.
"Thanks." I smiled at my companion.
As I munched on the ice cream, I watched Konya's slightly uneasy face as he unwrapped the plastic wrap and eyed the green colour uncertainly. I didn't say anything, just waited for him to dare to try, and after the first bite, he winced so much that he shivered.
"You don't like it, do you?"
"No," Konya replied honestly. "I'm not into sweet things, so I just took what you had."
"But for cheesecake, you make an exception?" I laughed.
"Cheesecake is in a different league altogether," he grumbled, offended. "The best thing in the world."
"Well, the mint flavour is only for special people," I replied superiorly and held out my hand. Konya looked at me surprised. "You paid, you're not going to throw it away."
"I've already bitten it."
"Will it kill me? Mint ice cream is a good that should not be wasted." I was completely serious, everyone was a little obsessed with some weird thing, that was mine.
I spent the rest of the way listening since I had twice as much to eat. And I wasn't going to get dirty or fight with sticky hands afterwards. I didn't want to show my clumsiness.
I could trip over the smallest of things without even having a headache. Pouring water on myself, lowering my brushes, paint on my face, in my hair, or on my clothes, despite the apron, is the norm.
Konya told me that he lived in this area for a short time, but then he and his father moved to take care of his grandfather on the other side of the country. They came back here after his death, just before the start of this school year, which was just ending. I was surprised that he trusted me enough to talk freely about his past. Maybe I had a good feeling he was just lonely after all. I couldn't be angry with him if, by some strange twist of fate, he chose me as a friend.
We came to a crossroads where each of us had to go our own way. We said goodbye to standard formulas. There was no need for anything else since we would see each other at school anyway. A few steps away, however, I wanted to turn around just to call his name and see that smile again, but I didn't know what else to add after that. I found it too weird, though.
The end of the year went smoothly, I only regretted that Tachibana was not among the third-graders saying goodbye to school. I wasn't even surprised when Daisuke suggested I come over to play with him in the afternoon to celebrate the survival of our first year in high school. I rummaged through the cupboards for a few more snacks, I only had two flights of stairs to go and didn't feel like going to the store.
I got a hug from my friend's mom, who said, as always, that she saw me far too infrequently, and complained about my mother for not coming over for chats and cake. Of course, I promised to tell her.
"Mom got you, didn't she?" Daisuke asked when I finally got to his room.
"As always," I replied, placing the things I had brought on the table.
We browsed through his collection of console games for a while and picked up a shooter. My friend was strangely absent-minded, usually, I was far worse off and rather scrubbed the bottom of the stats table. Daisuke had great reflexes and even when he was having a bad day he was doing great. I had a feeling that a moment, he would finally tell me what was bothering him.
"We need to talk seriously," he announced putting down the pad, I did the same and reached for the drink, wondering what it could be. "I saw you with Konya yesterday. What have you been doing together?"
I had to admit that I didn't expect it and tried to quickly convince my brain to come up with a believable story.
"He finally realized that he overdid it a bit with the cheesecake situation, so he apologizes for that," I replied, slightly overwhelmed by my friend's suspicious look. He was having fun with the interrogation.
"I saw you two had a great time together. What were you talking about?"
"Why did you agree?"
"Free ice cream."
"Do you feel that you understand each other well?"
"I do not know, maybe."
"Will you leave me for him?"
"Hey, we've been friends since we were kids." I tried a different tactic and immediately asked my question. "You liked Alice from the start, didn't you?"
"Yes," replied Daisuke, getting trapped.
After a moment, he realized what had happened and buried his face in the pillow to hide the blush that had bloomed on his face. I patted him on the shoulder and told him there was nothing to be ashamed of.
"At first, I thought she liked you. As it turned out that it was not like that, I thought I was on the right track with her, but she started to pull away from me. She didn't reject me outright, but it still hurts," he summed up his feelings.
"I'll talk to her about it," I reassured him. "The problem is not you."
"What about you and Hamada? Don't you think it's time to do something about it, how long are you going to wait until school is over?"
"We are about to start our second year, let's fight for girls we like!" he announced with enthusiasm, which he did not have a moment ago, and with new energy and better humour he returned to the game.
"Yeah, let's do it," I said half-heartedly, taking a sip of my drink.