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The Triangle of Rejection
I thought I wanted to go back. But it was not home I wanted to go back to.
There wasn’t anyone there. My mom had passed away, and my dad’s work had him running around the country. I didn’t think I would be able to stand the loneliness of being alone at home right now.
There was no way I could. But still I wanted to return somewhere.
Before I realised it, I was alone by the river bank watching the river.
The setting sun was tear-jerkingly beautiful. So I cried for a while.
“What the hell am I doing…”
Someone once said that falling in love for the first time was a curse. Right now I thought that was probably the truth.
Knowing that it was impossible but still continuing to harbour feelings of love anyway. Still thinking you could get together if you confessed now. Not giving up the slightest amount of hope.
Most first loves probably ended this way. Dragging along slowly, and ultimately unrequited.
“Abe is the one who’s dad is an actor and recently made his own acting debut too, right? Well I personally hate that kind of nepotism, but he’s popular and also an appropriate partner for Shirokusa, I guess.”
Words that spun around in my head.
“So the handsome and popular guys get it all, huh? What the hell…”
I could feel the tears coming again.
My mind was in a daze. I didn’t know if I wanted to get mad or cry.
I was hurting a lot more than I thought.
Has everyone really overcome these feelings? Or have they never experienced true love before? Because this, this is far too painful…
“Sob, sob… ugh… sob…”
My corners of my eyes began to sting. I buried my face in my knees so that no one could see, as this time my emotions came pouring out after I could hold them in no longer.
“Damn it… damn it…”
Shirokusa was despicable.
She was getting along well with her boyfriend while I was plagued by all these agonising thoughts.
The blissful Shirokusa and wretched me.
Was there any good reason for the abrupt difference? Was it not all just a bit unfair?
Don’t handsome guys and beautiful girls really have it good? Being able to go through life without knowing such suffering?
How could there be such great inequality in the world? It was strange. It was wrong. I was not at fault. The world was at fault. If I had the power to change the world right now I would.
“…Haru, you poor thing.”
From above my head came words that rained like glitter upon me.
A smell sweet like spring flowers gently tickled my nostrils. A familiar kind voice permeated my wounds, stinging yet soothing.
“…Kuro, is it?”
I asked with my face still buried in my knees, not wanting to show my tear-soaked face.
“That’s right. It’s Haru’s cute and loving older sister.” Kuroha said in a whimsical tone fishing for a comeback. But at present I was in no state to play along.
“…Please, go somewhere else.”
I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. Especially not Kuroha.
I had rejected her, even if it had been a joke. What could she be thinking as she looked at me now?
It would still be alright if she laughed and made fun of me.
If she told me “Serves you right!”… I didn’t think I would be able to get back on my feet.
But if she treated me nicely… I feared that I would indulge myself further.
“Haru… got rejected, didn’t he.”
“No I didn’t!”
That was probably true in a technical sense… but so was the fact that I had my heart broken.
“Ooh, I see.”
She used the same tone Tetsuhiko probably would have in response to my bluffling, but as expected of a childhood friend the effect was completely different.
There was neither anger nor any disparaging words, just the vague impression that she understood everything as Kuroha dropped her bag at her feet and proceeded to sit with her back leaning against mine.
Her lingering back felt warm, so much so that I wanted to hug her.
I slid my butt in order to escape, but Kuroha simply followed while sticking to me like glue saying how she wouldn’t let me run away.
“What? Got a problem? If you do, why not tell it to my face? It’s not like you got rejected, right?”
It was impossible. Kuroha already knew everything.
From the fact that I liked Shirokusa, to how I had my heart broken earlier listening to her conversation with Mine. Kuroha knew all of that, and yet still treated me this way.
Her affection was not something that I could freely accept.
Kuroha had invalidated her own confession with those words.
But it could not be. Her nullifying her confession was the real lie.
“Haru… let’s date each other.”
About a month ago on the day of the closing ceremony for the first semester, Kuroha confessed to me.
When I think of the expression she had then, the way she said it – I knew. Clearly, that it was the real thing.
When she said that she had lied earlier I had just accepted it, but on later reflection I was now certain that that was the lie itself. It was unmistakable that in order to protect me, and to lessen the burden on my heavy heart, Kuroha had declared her confession to be a forgery in front of everyone else.
“You can’t do this, Kuro. Please, just leave me be.”
“Why should I?”
“Because if I talk to you now, I’ll only want to be coddled. And right now you’re probably still–”
Kuroha was a good girl. A cute, good-natured girl whose kindness was easily wasted on me.
I didn’t want to hurt her any more than I already had.
Kuroha placed her head on the back of my neck and leaned her entire weight onto me.
“Well, this is just an ‘if’, but…”
“If I said I could make things the way they were between us one month ago, what would you do?”
“The way things were? …You mean before you confessed to me or… well, I guess not…”
Kuroha remained silent.
So not before the confession then. Which meant–
“You want to go back to right after you confessed to me? You’re going to give me the chance to answer you again?”
My past self from one month ago had been in love with Shirokusa. That’s why I had rejected Kuroha.
But now my present self had been rejected by Shirokusa. It would not be strange if I thus chose a different option.
Kuroha said yes, and bumped me lightly with her head while still leaning on my back. She whispered:
“In five seconds, I’m going to rewind time, okay? Here goes. Five…”
If Kuroha confessed to me again after her countdown ended, I would accept it without a doubt.
It was an incredibly enticing proposition.
To be honest, I had never once regarded Kuroha as a possible love interest until now. Perhaps this was only to be expected after having a sibling-like relationship for more than a decade.
However, that was not to say that I thought she lacked feminine charm. I had always found her large round eyes cute, and looking at her trying to act all tall and older sister-like in spite of her short stature aroused protective feelings in me and made me want to keep her safe from harm.
I was sure it would be fun dating Kuroha. Already having a relationship where no secrets were kept between us, we were unlikely to become disillusioned with each other after starting our new one. Of course there was always the risk of a breakup, but that was something only to be thought about in and after the rare case that we fought.
A blissful future awaited me if I dated Kuroha. That much was certain.
But this– was my first love.
“–Please stop, Kuro.”
I stopped the countdown at the last possible instant.
“Thanks, Kuro. For being so kind to me after I rejected you…”
I had been rejected and made vulnerable. I wanted to be coddled by Kuroha.
But within me still remained feelings for Shirokusa. A part of me refused to give up.
Falling in love for the first time was truly a curse. Try as hard as you might to be rid of them, your feelings would still cling to you like glue.
To choose the easy option in this situation and let myself be spoilt by Kuroha would be reprehensible.
“Kuro, you’re a very important friend to me. That’s why I–”
I blinked. I couldn’t understand what Kuroha had said.
“You know, Haru, I do think sincerity is a virtue, but too much really is a burden.”
“It’s true that I confessed to you a month ago, but, I mean, aren’t you taking this just a bit too seriously?”
“Well, summer vacation was coming up, and I didn’t have a boyfriend, so things just lined up, you know? I always have fun when you’re around, Haru, so I just thought, why not? I’ve heard that guys think that if a girl confesses to them once it means she’ll always be in love with him, so is that what this is about?”
My head couldn’t follow. I knew very well how laid-back my childhood friend could be about certain things, but I never expected that attitude to apply to matters of love as well…
–Wait a minute.
Was that truly the case? The fact that Kuroha’s breeziness extended to her romantic affairs as well? If she truly had no feelings left for me, would she have been able to rewind time in just five seconds?
“Kuro… aren’t you pushing yourself too hard?”
Kuroha blinked a few times, her expression frozen. It was her habit to do so when hiding something.
“What is it, Haru? You regret rejecting me again?”
I felt the phoniness behind her mocking tone.
Looking closely I could see the tip of her finger trembling.
“No, that’s not it… For example, you know how you always pretend like you’re my older sister? I mean, I know you might be used to doing so because you have three younger sisters, but it’s still a ‘duty’ you choose to give yourself even though I know there are plenty of times when the real you just wants to be spoiled as well. Your strong sense of self-control won’t let you though, and so you forcefully assert yourself as an older sister to keep your own desires in check – or am I wrong to say so?”
Kuroha covered her reddening cheeks with her hands.
“I- If I were… what then?”
“Well, all I’m saying is that it’s similar to how sometimes your actions don’t match your true emotions. I’m an idiot, so I don’t think I would be able to understand how you’re feeling, but I still feel horrible that you had to lie for me even though you still like me. But… I’m just not sure what I could say to make things better.”
Having held these feelings for so long, it was impossible that Kuroha would have willingly sought to get hurt or lied.
Honestly, things were hard when it came to childhood friends.
Just as I felt Kuroha’s warmth recede from my back, a pair of arms reached around and wrapped themselves around my head. As a result I could feel something soft pressing to the rear.
“H- Hey, Kuro… Y- your b- boobs!”
“It’s alright. You made me happy so I’m giving you a treat.”
Holy shit, a girl’s boobs are amazing! Could they possibly be any softer?! My mind is going crazy!
“You know, Haru, you’re an idiot, but you’re also kind of a decent guy. Even when you’re hurting you still worry about other people who are in trouble, and you always pick up on the important things. You’re always so kind, that’s why…”
Caressing my head, Kuroha pushed aside my unruly hair with her elegant fingers. On the now exposed top of my head, I felt a different delicate sensation. I did not need to be told to know that those were her lips.
“That’s why… I love you.”
Her unambiguous words resonated within my chest. It was incredibly embarrassing, even without being able to see her face.
“I’m upset that I wasn’t chosen, but my feelings for you haven’t changed. At this moment and from now on I’ll still always be on your side. So go ahead, Haru.”
“Who was it who decided that we shouldn’t cry in front of other people? I think you should just go ahead and let it all out, Haru.”
“But I rejected y–”
I managed to say that much before Kuroha squeezed harder.
Her chest pressed even harder against the back of my head. As a result I could feel her body trembling.
“Even if you did, so what? Does it mean that I can’t be by your side anymore? If I didn’t want to be here, I would have already left. So I don’t mean anything else by it, but I think we should both let it all out as much as we like.”
“… You’re amazing, you know that?”
It was Kuroha’s ability to transcend different things with overwhelming nonchalance. She was an amazing person whose social prowess gave way to reveal a deeper strength and grace still underneath.
Next to her brilliance, I could not help but feel pathetic about how narrow-minded I was with all my vanity and insecurity. I resolved to throw it all away and lay everything bare.
“Well, to you I can I say that… I was in love with Kachi.”
With Kuroha I was safe from ridicule. She definitely wouldn’t tell anyone else. I could tell her because I trusted her that much.
“But then she said that she had a boyfriend, and then I also thought we had something good going, but it turned out to all be my imagination… I mean, this just sucks…”
“… I see.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. But as I struggled disgracefully with all my might to hold it in, Kuroha came around and hugged my head to her chest.
“You should let yourself cry a little, Haru. It’ll make you feel better.”
I felt horrible being consoled by someone I had rejected, but her tenderness was so reassuring my weary heart could no longer resist.
“There there, it’s just all too bad, isn’t it.”
“Damn it… My first love…”
“Mmhmm, Kachi-san just doesn’t have a good eye, does she. Even though Haru’s such a good guy.”
Her every word affected me.
I was thankful from the bottom of my heart that when I was drowning in sorrow, my childhood friend Kuroha was there.
By the time I had regained my composure, dusk had fallen upon the streets.
As we sat side by side watching the sun’s afterglow, I finally spoke.
“So Kuro, what do you think I should do from now on?”
“What do you want to do, Haru?”
“Well, to be honest, I still have feelings for Kachi.”
Kuroha listened to what I had to say with a serious expression.
“I know should give up, but I can’t stop myself from thinking about if I could somehow make things work, if I could somehow make her come around.”
“Do you not feel frustrated, Haru?”
I rose a little at her provocative choice of words.
“I know I could put this in a nicer way, but Haru, your current way of thinking sounds to me like you’re planning to ask Kachi-san to take pity on you.”
“Ugh… Couldn’t you have said that a little differently?”
“But I mean, it’s true, isn’t it?”
“Err, no, but maybe yes…”
It was true and it was humiliating.
“You know, Haru, I’m really angry with Kachi-san. Did you say that you would meet her on the way home from school sometimes and have fun conversations?”
“Err, oh, I guess I did.”
“When I heard that, I thought you might have had a chance as well, Haru. I mean, Kachi-san really hates boys, doesn’t she? I honestly find it a little hard to imagine her being chummy with you when the two of you were alone.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying! That’s why I got the wrong idea and–”
“So what, Kachi-san was hitting on you, but when she got her first choice she couldn’t be bothered to anymore? You’re such a nice guy, Haru, I can’t forgive her for making a fool out of you.”
I thought Kuroha’s anger could be described as a “righteous indignation”. Anger towards injustice, or something of the sort.
But I was wrong.
“Haru… let’s get our revenge.”
For a moment, my heart skipped a beat. I thought she had found the feelings I kept hidden in the darkest depths of my soul.
“It hurts, doesn’t it? That’s why we have to get our revenge.”
“Kuro… you’ve changed a little.”
I had never thought a word like “revenge” could come out of Kuroha’s mouth.
Kuroha was fundamentally mild-mannered at heart, and if given a choice between being dry or wet she would pick the former every time. A passion-filled word like “revenge” did not suit her.
“It’s like you’ve become more antagonistic, which isn’t like you, and also more gloomy and sordid…”
Kuroha allowed herself a rare self-deprecating smile.
“To be honest, I’ve always hated Kachi-san. Since a long time ago.”
It was the first time I had ever heard Kuroha empathically say she hated another person.
“Which part of her don’t you like?”
“Hmm, probably everything ✩”
“Everything?! Wow, I would have never expected you to go that far, Kuro!”
“I mean, it’s not like we have anything to hide between each other anymore, right Haru? We’ve both laid out all our cards, even talked about who we like… There weren’t many walls between us to begin with, but now I can feel at ease knowing that they’re completely gone. That’s why I’m letting everything, including my anger out. Because I know that you’ll accept it all, Haru.
“I understand, Kuro… I understand.”
In this moment, I felt the connection between my heart and Kuroha’s.
By having even told each other who we liked, in a certain sense we had already surpassed the threshold of being childhood friends.
It was a common sight in dramas to see a childhood friend being rejected after his or her confession then saying that they could no longer bear to be near with that being the end of the adventure.
But reality was not so simplistic. This was only the beginning of our story.
The truth was that I had rejected Kuroha, but we were now closer than ever before, and mutually recognised each other as someone to whom we could confide even more in because of it.
“What do you think, Haru? About getting revenge?”
“… Revenge, huh? Well I was a little surprised and honestly wondered where you were going with it.”
“Man, I really can’t hide anything from you, can I? From an ethical standpoint I thought for a moment against it, but the truth is I’m angry enough to want vengeance too. I want to make her suffer as much as she made me suffer – that’s how I really feel.”
That was something I could tell only Kuroha and no one else.
“Right? So why not then? Let’s get our revenge. But not just any kind of revenge. The best kind of revenge.” Kuroha spoke excitedly.
“What do you mean, the best kind of revenge?”
“Well, it depends on the person, doesn’t it? I was thinking we could talk about it now.”
“Hold on, Kuro. I haven’t said anything yet about actually getting reve–”
That’s right, I hadn’t yet agreed to getting revenge. I was angry enough to want to, but there was a big difference between that and actually carrying it out.
“Haru, I want you to picture an image of Kachi-san and Abe-senpai together.” Kuroha suddenly said after watching my reaction.
“Come on, just do it.”
I didn’t want to at all, but left with no choice in the matter I forcibly constructed the both of them in my head. A good-looking guy and a beautiful girl, together they were a detestably fitting couple.
“The two of them started dating a week ago, right? They’ll probably go on their first official date next week then. If everything goes well, they should end up in the cinema.”
The girl I liked going to the cinema with a handsome guy. It was an image that made me want to commit murder.
“It gets dark, and the guy begins to feel a little courageous. Abe-senpai casually reaches for Kachi-san’s hand, and then–”
“Ok, hold up, hold up! You’re moving way too quickly! That doesn’t happen until at least the third date!”
I could imagine myself moping around at home while it happened, still trying my best to recover from the shock of being rejected. If their relationship progressed in secret to that point, it would be a total debacle equivalent to having my dead body teabagged.
“Haru, your way of thinking is so outdated. You really sound a bit like a dad.”
“We’re talking about a guy who’s made his acting debut, I think he’ll be quicker than most to make a move.”
“I mean, that’s true but… But I won’t stand for it!”
Shirokusa hated men. She smiled only for me – or at least, she was supposed to.
Did she smile for Abe-senpai all the time as well? Since the beginning? Or perhaps… with eyes filled with even more innocence and a slightly embarrassed smile?
“Then they go out for food and tea, maybe do a little shopping as well. Perhaps they go up to a viewing platform or two.”
“Damn you, Abe! Thinking you’re hot stuff!”
“Personally, when it comes to these things, I think the first time is the most important. The first time you do something, it feels kind of fresh, right? When you do it a second time, you’re bound to compare it to the first.”
Is that how it’s going to be? If Shirokusa breaks up with Abe-senpai and then goes out with me, I’ll still always be her second man. If I try to bring her anywhere on a date, would she go “Oh, I’ve already been here before with Abe-senpai,” or “Hmm, I think Abe-senpai did a much better job of showing me around…”?!
Arrrgggh, I can’t take this! Please, anything but this!
But Kuroha continued her assault even as I cradled my head in agony.
“He then walks her home because it’s already dark outside, but as Kachi-san turns for an instant to wave goodbye before entering her house, Abe-senpai suddenly stops her by asking her to wait as his lips begin searching for hers–”
Shirokusa and Abe-senpai’s shadows gently coalesce.
Shirokusa’s face reddens, and she says while her eyes look downwards slightly: “I only let Abe-senpai do these perverted things to me…”
I tore up the weeds growing by the river.
“You fucking slut! It’s alright if other people suffer so long as you’re having fun, huh?!”
I did it! I imagined it! Imagined the dignified Shirokusa, completely wrapped around Abe-senpai’s finger!
I imagined how the size of her bust would feel to him, as Shirokusa, who wouldn’t lose to a gravure idol, lay in his embrace. Pretty soft, I would think. I also pictured how Shirokusa’s arms and breasts would press against him, how sweet she would smell to him, and of course how those lips would look, imbued with a tinge of red as they leaned in to kiss–
“I can’t! I can’t let this happen! I won’t forgive them!”
To not only not choose me, and then… and then do all these things too…!!
“Haru… which won’t you forgive?” Kuroha asked me calculatedly.
“…Hmm? What do you mean, which?”
“Is it Abe-senpai who you won’t forgive? Or is it Kachi-san who you can’t? Which one?”
I see. So that was what Kuroha was asking.
To not forgive Abe-senpai would be to admit that I still held Shirokusa in my heart. On the other hand, to not forgive Shirokusa would be to accept that she had betrayed my trust, and that my love had transformed into hate.
My answer was…
“I hate them both!”
I still had feelings for Shirokusa, and I also felt her treachery. Those two emotions contradicted, but undoubtedly coexisted.
Heheheh… that’s right, that’s right. Of course I hated them both. How could I not?
“Kachi Shirokusa, that slut who rejected me and found her own happiness! I won’t forgive her!”
“Haru, Kachi-san never two-timed on you, so I don’t think you can call her a slut.”
“And Abe Mitsuru! A good-looking guy who’s never worked hard a day in his life and yet has had all the good fortune in the world… should he be any more deserving of forgiveness? Even if heaven forgives him I sure as hell won’t!”
“Well, I don’t think you can say that Abe-senpai hasn’t worked hard at all in his entire life, either.”
“Kuro! Whose side are you on here?!”
“I’m not disagreeing with you, Haru, just giving you a reality check. So anyway, what are you gonna do about it? Or should I ask you in a different way?”
Kuroha stood up and extended her hand towards me.
“Guilty or not guilty?”
I laughed maliciously while taking her hand.
“Guilty as charged!”
I declared forcefully, tightly squeezing my fist.
“It’s exactly as you said, Kuro! Only the best kind of revenge will do! Hahaha, who cares if they think I’m despicable? I’m going to repay the humiliation I suffered many times over!”
“… I’ve been waiting for you to say that.”
Kuroha pulled my arm up and helped me onto my feet.
“I’ll help you out, Haru. No matter how low I’ll have to stoop. They’re the ones who did those awful things to you first. We’re only returning the favour.”
“Heheh, I expected no less from you, Kuro! Everything is exactly as you say!”
At my sleazy grin, Kuroha broke out into a conspiratory smile as well.
I was reminded of something Kuroha’s parents had said once before.
Many thought the name “Kuroha” referred to “black wings”, evoking images of a fallen angel. The truth was that her parents had drawn inspiration for her name from the “clover”. In floriography, clovers could mean “good fortune”, “think of me”, “promise” and also “revenge” – just as there were positive and negative interpretations in the language of flowers, Kuroha, beloved by society at large, had her light and dark sides as well.
“This is revenge for my first love!”
Falling in love for the first time was a precious once in a lifetime experience. That was precisely what made it beautiful, pure and meaningful.
To trample over those emotions and then turn tail and run was an unforgivable offence!
Don’t you all think so too?