Chapter 7: Beauty hurts

Beauty hurts

It was a weekend afternoon, I was on my way to Ueno Station because Kunimi-san had summoned me there. I was standing in front of the bar, where the menu was written on the walls, boxes of beer were piled up on the side, the TV was broadcasting the horse races and that combined with the bustle of the people passing through the place was the background music.

—Do you really think it’s wise to drink beer at this time of day?

—Why don’t you keep me company and have a drink too?

—I’m a minor, have you forgotten that already?

—That’s right, you’re a little boy~

I thought this kind of bar was more of the type for a salaryman and old people, it turned out to be very picturesque to see such an extravagant woman like Kunimi-san eating Kushiyaki with a glass of beer in her hand.

—Hey, Kirishima, what do you say we play a quiz game? 

—A quiz game?

—Yes, open your mouth and close your eyes.

As soon as I did as she asked, Kunimi-san took out a piece of meat from her skewer and put it in my mouth. The moment I felt the texture in my mouth, I already understood what the game was about, I proceeded to chew slowly trying to grasp all the flavors.

—Rumen.

—Fufu~ Wrong~

Then Kunimi-san put a variety of meats one after another into my mouth, and despite my efforts to answer correctly, she just laughed and told me that they were wrong answers.

—It’s very difficult, the taste of the meat is camouflaged by the strong flavor of the sauces. I am not an expert in this kind of thing. 

—So, let’s play one last game. Lick and guess, without chewing.

I closed my eyes again, and what Kunimi-san popped into my mouth was…

—This is Kunimi-san’s finger?

—That’s right~

Kunimi-san lets out a fake laugh and proceeds to wipe off her fingers.

—I like to play games~

From what she told me, she usually plays all kinds of games with her club members at the college she goes to. For as long as I’ve been working alongside her, I simply have limited myself to believing that she’s the type of girl who focuses on her studies and part-time job. It was refreshing to hear her talk about her college life. 

—By the way, how long have you been eating here? I came to this place because you told me your cat had escaped.

—My cat will be fine, but first you have to be fed well if you want to help me catch her, right?

—And how did you get my number?

—I took it from the emergency contact list at work.

—It’s not good for you to do that kind of thing.

—Looks like Kirishima is a very serious guy.

It seems that Kunimi-san lives alone in an apartment in this area. According to what she told me over the phone, her cat had escaped from her apartment, and she needed my help in order to find it.

—Well, I guess it’s not so bad.

—You make me sound like I’m a weird kid.

—Because you are. You need to learn to relax more… You’re worried. Are you like this because of the girl with the big boobs? Or the girl with the nice legs? — She asked as she lifted her empty beer mug and asked for another. 

Kunimi-san knows about my situation with Hayasaka-san and Tachibana-san. I usually have those kinds of conversations with her in our free time during work. It’s easy to talk to her about these kinds of things, since she’s someone outside my social circle.

—Kirishima, have you looked at your face in the mirror lately? You look terrible. You look like you’re at the end of your rope.

**********************

I am aware that I have recently been looking emaciated. I don’t usually have much of an appetite, nor do I consume the recommended amount of calories per day. This is the result of what usually happens to people when they don’t know what to do.

Tachibana-san and I won’t be spending Christmas together. And ever since I told her, she has been visibly depressed. She even started skipping classes. When I went to check on her during recess time, I found her in her seat lying on her stomach in a pensive state. Every time someone in the class talked about what they were going to do for Christmas, she would look up and give me a reproachful look. Even in her tired and pained expression I found her to be a very beautiful girl. 

But Tachibana-san has reached her limit, and the unexpected happened during lunchtime in the old music room. Tachibana-san was playing the piano, and I watched her as I sat next to her in the same chair. The tune she was playing was very comforting, but she stopped abruptly, and put her hands to her face.

—The reason I can’t be with Shirou-kun on Christmas is not because I want to spend it with Yanagi-kun.

—I know, it’s because of your piano recital.

The recital in which Tachibana-san will participate will be held over two days, December twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth. On both days she will play one assigned piece and one at her own leisure. On the evening of the twenty-fifth there will be a Christmas party with all the recital participants and their families. And of course, Yanagi-senpai will attend the party as Tachibana-san’s fiancé.

—Shirou-kun, will you come to see the recital?

But before I could answer, Tachibana-san knew what my answer would be, so she ducked her head. Going to that place would be entering a world of which is completely unknown to me. I would be like a piece of a puzzle that doesn’t fit anywhere.

—I’m going to stop playing the piano now.

—Why?

—If I stop playing the piano, I won’t need to go to the recital, I won’t need to go to the fine arts school anymore, and then I can go to an ordinary place with Shirou-kun…

—No, that’s…

—It’s settled! Let’s do it! I know I’m not a very good student, so you’ll be able to teach me, right, Shirou-kun? We can study in the library every day! It’ll be fun…

—Tachibana-san…

I’m not a very knowledgeable person about this, but Tachibana-san’s piano skills were such that she could aspire to become a concert pianist, which is probably something amazing and considering all the time she put into honing her talent, it would be unfair for me to allow such an act as having her stop playing entirely.

—It’s not a good idea, Tachibana-san, you should keep playing the piano. 

And as expected, my answer was not to her total liking. So, she grabbed the lid of the piano with her right hand, and slammed it shut while she still had her left hand on the keys. 

But, her left hand was neither crushed nor injured, as I had inserted my right hand into the piano keys without her noticing, the result of this was more than obvious. My hand was crushed and injured due to the impact. Tachibana-san looked at me in surprise and immediately grabbed my right hand with both of her hands, which was reddened and starting to swell.

—I’m sorry! Shirou-kun…! I’m so sorry, it’s my fault…

I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, as her head was down and her long long hair covered her face.

I didn’t feel much pain to be honest. It was more painful for me to see Tachibana-san in that state.

—After all… I’m the weak one, right? I feel a little affection towards Yanagi-kun, and I can’t ignore the responsibilities I have to my family…

—I never said it was a bad thing.

Tachibana-san didn’t care about her own life or the money she had to spend to go to a fine arts college. What she really cared about was her mother’s business and the people involved in it. If the company were to suffer financial problems, it would be inevitable that layoffs would start to take place, causing people to end up affected because of a bad decision.

—It sucks, doesn’t it…? I don’t want to lose you, I don’t want to lose this beautiful feeling I have for you… That’s why, I want you to make me fall more in love with you, Shirou-kun. Make me go crazy with love.

***************************

A few days after that conversation with Tachibana-san. One night Yanagi-senpai came to my house. My mother was very happy because Yanagi-senpai had not visited me for a long time. My sister, who was beginning to guess what was going on, watched me in surprise, she sensed that something bad was happening.

—I made Hikari-chan cry.

As soon as Yanagi-senpai entered my room, he sat down on a chair, and started to tell what happened. It seems they were having their usual boyfriend and girlfriend dinner, and Tachibana-san started crying without saying anything.

—I don’t understand, everything seemed like it was fine, and out of nowhere it happened. Although I could tell that those tears were not because she hated me or detested the idea of being there with me.

Indeed, Tachibana-san has realized the feelings she is developing towards Yanagi-senpai, and because of this she feels confused.

—Being a coward is much more difficult than being honest. — Yanagi-senpai said while placing a letter on the table.

—What is this?

—An invitation to the Christmas party.

I took the letter and looked at the back, the party will be held in a very luxurious hotel in Tokyo.

—Hikari-chan has a picture that she hasn’t shown you yet.

—I know. 

That is the disparity between me and Tachibana-san. It’s the way of life I’ve glimpsed recently, and the great future she has in store for her thanks to her talent with the piano. It’s clear that she’s gone to great lengths to hide it, and pretends to be a normal girl when she’s around me.

—I’m starting to like Hikari-chan, if she can accept those feelings, then this engagement will no longer be out of obligation, we could be a real couple.

When Yanagi-senpai thinks about his future with Tachibana-san, he thinks that he can be the only one to make her happy. Therefore, she should be with him. And to confirm those feelings, he wants to invite me to the Christmas party.

—Give me Tachibana Hikari. — Yanagi-senpai exclaimed as he tilted his head towards me.

*********************

—I’ve always wanted to have a male friend~ — Kunimi-san said as we looked for her cat in the park.

It was winter, but the atmosphere today was very warm and sunny. The place was full of families spending the day with their children, couples and groups of friends.

—Hey, Kunimi-san, what kind of cat are we looking for?

—A fat calico cat… You know, it’s very difficult to make male friends, everyone almost always has ulterior motives. But with you I feel different, I feel safe. 

—Thank you? I guess so.

During the time Kunimi-san and I were walking in the park, I told her about my situation with Hayasaka-san, Tachibana-san and Yanagi-senpai. I didn’t expect any advice from her, I just wanted someone who would listen to me. 

The sunlight and the laughter of the people around me was very comforting, being in such a big place with so many people made me think that my problems were small.

It was then that Kunimi-san suggested that we go see the art galleries in the museum.

—Isn’t it an environment for educated people?

—I’m getting an advanced education at the college, okay? You should be more respectful to me.

I accepted her invitation just because I wanted to switch off my brain and relax. During the time we were in that place, it was nice, I had a much better time than I could have imagined. We took a lot of fun pictures, especially of Kunimi-san in front of the artwork and sculptures. 

After we finished our walk through the museum, we resumed our search for the cat, sitting on the bench with a few cups of coffee in hand, waiting for the cat to make an appearance.

—Kirishima, what do you say we play a new game?

—Another game?

—Yes, I call it “the happiness game,” say something that makes you very happy, and if you don’t say anything, you’ll get a bump on the head.

—You just made that up.

—That’s right, well, I’ll start… Being under the comforter on a winter morning.

—Hmmm… Not having a wrinkle in my white shirt.

—The first three after a night of drinking.

—Pencils sharpened to a point.

—Garlic scallops

—An empty and silent library.

And in this way, we continued to pass the time without doing anything. During the whole time we were sitting on the bench, no cat passed by, and the only thing that passed in front of us, were families, couples, groups of kids, and pigeons. 

It was then when the sun was about to set, I turned to look at Kunimi-san, she was reading a manga on her phone.

—What kind of cat are we looking for?

—An elegant black cat with a lot of class.

—I’m beginning to doubt that there is no cat.

—I see you’re finally catching on.

—So, you brought me here to lounge around?

—Exactly. I brought you here to distract you and waste your time. You look much better now than when you arrived. 

—Were you that worried about me?

It’s true, I was feeling very exhausted and depressed. Definitely sunbathing, spending the afternoon on the park bench and eating good food made me feel better about myself. Kunimi-san had this in mind from the beginning. She saw that I was very worried and distracted, so she invited me out so I could relax and not think about anything. 

But I can’t help but wonder why she had such concern and interest in me. We’re just co-workers, and she doesn’t seem to be the type of person who cares about others.

—I just, I feel a little responsible for what you’re going through.

—Responsible…? What are you talking about?

—Well you see, it’s because of me that you’re in this situation, Kirishima.

Kunimi-san’s words made me go blank, I struggled to remember a situation where I was involved with her long before I started working. But as far as I know, I don’t have an older sister, and I haven’t had a female friend who is all fashionista who dyes her hair pink and pierces her ears either.

—Give me a hint, please…

—I guess you could say that I consider Kirishima and Hayasaka’s relationship as a loop of deep self-discovery rather than a simple relationship with carnal and depraved acts.

Talking about private matters about oneself is a good way to show security and trust towards another person. It causes a certain attachment to be generated and other kinds of feelings to be born that would otherwise not occur. 

In fact, while Hayasaka-san and I were acting secretly about being the “second one” for both of us, it helped us to explore our feelings more, we broke all the barriers that would not have been possible if we were to be public, by doing some of the things we’ve done.

With all this talk about relationships in mind and the words that Kunimi-san just said, it was at that point that all the dots connected, now it all made sense to me… Her intelligence, her charisma, her eagerness to want to make messed up games about everything… and most of all… her habit of writing notes….

—No way…

—That’s right, I’m the author of The Love Notebook, Kouhai-kun. — she said while making a peace sign with her fingers.

*****************

When I asked Kunimi-san about the college she attended, she mentioned the name of the highest academic institution known to all. Her IQ of 180 was apparently true.  I suddenly felt that Kunimi-san was an amazing person, and I felt a surge of respect for that, but this feeling of respect disappeared as soon as I saw the pile of unwashed dishes in the kitchen of her apartment.

—I like cooking, but as you could tell, cleaning up, not so much.

I had no choice but to do that job for her. I feel very uncomfortable when there is a mess in a place. I don’t like it when I’m not in control of everything, maybe that’s why I don’t like my current situation with Hayasaka-san and Tachibana-san forcing me to do things. If Kunimi-san can live with dirt in her house, she might be able to cope with a situation like mine. People like her don’t flinch at anything. I wish I were like that.

—My parents live nearby, but I live alone because I like the freedom that comes with it. 

Kunimi-san lives alone in a modest one-room apartment, pays for her studies with scholarship money and the rest with part-time work.

I tried to clear the table so I could put food on it, but there was nowhere to put it, so I just moved everything on the table to the floor. Cosmetic bottles, electric bill receipts, books on complicated subjects that she uses in her college classes… This girl is a mess.

—Yay, fried rice.

On top of that, she pulled out some rather unfamiliar bottles of beer from the fridge.

—You know I can’t drink that.

—Boring~ Relax, it’s non-alcoholic beer, come on, drink it. Nothing will happen to you~

After drinking beer and eating fried rice, Kunimi-san hurriedly took out a notebook and then quickly wrote down the titles of the two games we played outside. It was like watching magic, not only was she writing down the description of the game itself, but she was also writing down the rules, the instructions, and if something didn’t suit her, she would erase it, alter the content, and give it an attractive name. 

It’s like she was possessed by a writing demon. People with an IQ of 180 sure are amazing.

After she finished writing one of the games, she titled it “the king of taste.” 

It was a simple game where you had to guess what you put in your mouth, either by taste alone or by touch with your tongue. However, there were additional settings that made it absolutely impossible to cheat. And that was that the player had to be blindfolded and have their hands tied behind their back.

I couldn’t help but imagine Tachibana-san in a situation, sitting on the sofa in the club with flushed cheeks and her mouth open. I wished I could put anything in that little mouth with her pink tongue poking out. And urge her to lick, eat or even shove it all the way down her throat.

—People when deprived of sight, have their other senses sharpened, so it might be surprising.

Kunimi-san, stop feeding my perverse imagination.

—The intention is to have them go up a notch as time goes on, at first you can put candy in their mouth, but then it could be something else, whatever the participants desire. Or even have them lick all kinds of places. 

If the person is blindfolded, they obviously won’t know what they are licking. Making it very necessary for them to have to do it several times with the excuse that they can’t distinguish the taste or object.

However, Kunimi-san stared at the notebook for a while, and then tore the sheet at the same time, throwing it away. 

—Nah, I don’t think this game will work.

—Why? It seems to be a high quality game?

—It’s not spicy and daring enough to be included in the fourteenth book.

Not enough? Fourteenth book? How many books has this girl written? And how many games has she created? I suddenly felt the need to read everything she’s written. 

—Kirishima, there’s something I want to ask you… Why don’t you quit your part-time job? You do know that those girls want you, right? They don’t expect a gift from you. — Kunimi-san said while placing the coffee cup on the table.

I know, both of them are the kind of women who don’t expect satisfaction in material objects.

—I know why I work in that place, I know why I need the money, but do you know, Kirishima?

Kunimi-san once again continues to show what an intelligent person she is, she clearly saw right through me.

—If you work only to run away from reality and conflicts, the only thing you will provoke is that those people who are important to you, do not want to be with you anymore, especially if she is your girlfriend… Keep in mind that difficult and beautiful things are sharp.

—Sharp?

—Both Hayasaka and Tachibana have a pale, burning passion under their thin skin. That’s why they are beautiful, they are sharp. In other words, dangerous girls. Things that people find beautiful sometimes can come to harm. Are you beginning to understand, Kirishima? Anything that includes morbidity or madness is beautiful.

For some people, beauty above a certain level can be synonymous with amazing. Even in fairy tales or ghost stories, non-human beings often have beautiful appearances. What is beautiful is hideous. Paradoxically, what is terrible tends to be beautiful.

—You can’t keep torturing them like that, Kirishima. They’re still young, you must take the bull by the horns. So… Here’s to your retirement, and good luck in not getting cut! — said Kunimi-san as she raised her coffee cup.

—Thank you…

Although Kunimi-san said it in a joking tone, she was quite right. I’ve been so swept up in the situation, so completely blinded by it, that in the last few days I’ve worked harder than I should have to not want to face that cruel fate.

Therefore, I should be more sincere with both of them. But just as if the world was mocking me, my phone on the table lit up, it was an incoming call, and the person shown was “Tachibana Hikari”.

—Go ahead, answer it. From what you’ve told me, you’ve already reached your limit with Tachibana.

That’s true. I guess it’s time to face reality. I must tell you what I think about your engagement with Yanagi-senpai, and the shared relationship. But before I could say anything…

—[Shirou-kun!]

The voice I heard was Tachibana-san’s, who was so excited that I thought it was Hikari-chan.

—I talked to Hayasaka-san about Christmas Day! I’m with her right now at the amusement park. We agreed that you’ll spend the twenty-fifth with her, and New Year’s with me.

—New Year’s?

—[Yes! We’ll take a trip to Kyoto! Three days and two nights.]

—[Two nights is a long time!] — exclaimed Hayasaka-san from the phone.

—[Silence, you’ll be with him at Christmas!]

An argument between the two began to break out, and the call was cut off abruptly. I was perplexed in my seat and looked at Kunimi-san. She walks over to me and touches my shoulder saying.

—You’d better continue working for the time being… Kyoto is very expensive in the new year.

I’m fine with being the second girlfriend

I’m fine with being the second girlfriend

わたし、二番目の彼女でいいか
Score 8
Status: Ongoing Author: Artist: Released: 2021 Native Language: Japanese

Kirishima and Hayasaka are two classmates who have a secret relationship in public.

In their school life they pretend that they don't know each other, but behind the scenes there is much more to them than people can imagine. The two get into a relationship that is difficult to break and ends up being impure, unhealthy, and complicated, as the relationship between them was nothing more than an affair that simply created a love triangle before Kirishima's first love and his second love.

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