Chapter 13:

The Foundation of Our Friendship

The Sound of Love

We observed Haru hurry after Airi, leaving us stunned. Our puzzled gazes exchanged unspoken questions. In that suspended moment, we awaited some reaction that might shed light on the reason behind Airi's perplexing behavior.

She had always exuded happiness and vivacity, a genuine source of jokes and playfulness. She seemed like the last person to be caught in such an emotional whirlwind. Confused, we grappled with understanding how something so profound could have affected her to the extent of seeing her crumble before us.

The signs of her insinuations and atypical behavior in the preceding days were now more evident, yet we couldn't connect the dots that would lead us to the distressing scenario we were witnessing. Seated there, Kurokawa and I exchanged glances filled with perplexity, attempting to decipher what might be happening.

"I think we should go after Airi too," I whispered to Kurokawa, who promptly stood up beside me.

We descended the stairs cautiously. As we approached the main school corridors, the sound of Airi and Haru's voices reverberated through the walls, reaching our restless ears. The intermingled sobs in Airi's voice and Haru's concerned tone blended into a dissonant melody of emotions.

As we neared the corridor, we discreetly hid behind a wall, our gazes fixed on the scene unfolding before us. We chose to watch from a distance, as we figured Haru might be better equipped to help Airi express herself.

A heavy silence hung over the empty school corridors, where no student dared to venture at that moment. The environment, illuminated only by the pale light filtering through the windows, added to the atmosphere of uncertainty.

Amid this backdrop of stillness and shadows, two figures remained: Airi and Haru. The corridor seemed to stretch out before us, creating a sense of isolation. Airi, her back to Haru, stood hunched over, and her shoulders trembled slightly as she tried to contain the tears welling up in her eyes.

In contrast, Haru displayed compassionate patience, cautiously moving toward Airi. His expression conveyed genuine concern, and his eyes reflected his determination to understand and assist her. Even though Airi couldn't turn to face him, Haru made it clear that he intended to stand by her side, regardless of the emotional barrier she was erecting.

"What happened, Airi? I don't understand," he said in a calm and understanding tone.

"Don't come any closer, Haru. I don't want you to see me like this," she added, wiping the tears away with her arms.

"I just want to help you…"

"I know! But, to be honest, I don't even understand my own feelings right now. Everything is so confusing!" Her voice sounded louder as if she was engaged in an internal debate.

"Airi, just take a deep breath and share with me what's going on in your mind."

After a deep sigh, Airi began to express her feelings. "Since the last rehearsal, something changed in me. I feel like I'm becoming a burden to the group," she said, hugging herself as if seeking comfort. "I always knew my voice wasn't suited for singing, but I still tried. Now, with Akane, it seems like my role isn't clear anymore. I have this feeling that, over time, she'll end up replacing me in other aspects too…"

"Kurokawa would never replace anyone, Airi," Haru assured.

He took a few cautious steps toward Airi and gently placed his hands on her shoulders. She looked up at him, and their gazes met in a moment of silent understanding.

With a soft sigh, he resumed speaking. "You see, Airi... It's not about competing or someone being better than another. We came together to play because it was fun, and it's what we love doing."

Airi listened intently, her eyes fixed on Haru's, absorbing every word as if it were a soothing balm for her troubled soul.

"When it was just Yuuji and me, we were almost giving up. We lost our enthusiasm, our enjoyment. But then we met you."

Haru's words seemed to resonate in the air, and Airi looked at him, surprised and moved by what she was hearing.

"Your joy, your way of being... You brought back passion and laughter to our group. Our get-togethers became moments of fun, sharing jokes, teasing, and laughter. You're unique, Airi. And that will never change."

Tears welled up in Airi's eyes, a mixture of emotions bubbling inside her. A faint smile appeared on Haru's lips, conveying both comfort and sorrow.

"I didn't know," Airi admitted in a whisper, her tears finally spilling over. Haru gently used his finger to wipe one away, his touch caressing her cheek.

"You couldn't have known, because we never said it. But I always imagined you knew how special you are to us. That's why seeing you like this today was a surprise."

Airi lowered her gaze, her cheeks slightly reddening. "Haru... there's something I've wanted to tell you for a while. I…"

Before she could continue, Haru gently placed a finger on her lips, exchanging a knowing glance between them. He briefly turned back, noticing our presence with a faint smile on his face.

"I knew you were there," he said, exuding a calm reassurance.

"How did you know we were here?" I asked, emerging from behind the wall alongside Kurokawa.

"I was sure you'd be as concerned about Airi as I am," he said, his genuine smile crinkling the corners of his eyes.

Kurokawa rushed toward Airi, enfolding her in a tight hug, her concern palpable.

"Promise me you'll never say something like that again!" She exclaimed beside Airi's ear, gently shaking her as if trying to bring her back to the present moment.


"You're the first person I could truly call a best friend, and I don't want anything in the world to keep us apart. Promise you'll never belittle yourself like that again."

"I'm sorry, Akane," Airi murmured. Her face, which had begun to dry, became damp once more.

"You're truly amazing, Airi," I said with a smile, expressing my relief at witnessing the situation taking a positive turn.

I approached them and joined the embrace, followed closely by Haru. In that moment, our emotions melded, tears and laughter intermingled as the sense of melancholy dissipated.

"You're hugging me so tightly I might suffocate," Airi joked.

"I'll only stop if you promise to pick out a Gari-Gari for me after school," Haru replied.

"Absolutely," she said, her sincere smile shining brightly.

The school corridor, previously heavy with tension and uncertainty, now radiated a comforting serenity. The symphony of tumultuous emotions had given way to a feeling of relief.

With steady steps and lighter hearts, we entered the classroom. I was certain that, no matter the challenges the future held, we would always be ready to face them together, fueled by the strength that bound us.

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