📢 Maybe you see "V2" or "V3" and so on in the NOVEL TITLE, it means what VOLUMES the NOVEL is.
📢 Maybe you see "V2" or "V3" and so on in the NOVEL TITLE, it means what VOLUMES the NOVEL is.

It Seems That Takane, the Current Girlfriend, Definitely Doesn’t Want to Lose to the Ex-girlfriend Chapter 3

The Secret Promise They Exchanged Was a Little Bitter and Sweet

KO-FIDISCORD


ACT 3: The Secret Promise They Exchanged Was a Little Bitter and Sweet

Initially, I didn’t know that Asatani-san was “Kiri Asatani Noa.”

Even hearing her stage name, the reality didn’t sink in. That she was a real celebrity, and what that entailed.

──Wasn’t that girl super cute?

──I feel like I’ve seen her somewhere before… Isn’t that Kiri Asatani Noa?

──Eh, the girl from that commercial? No way, she lived in the same area!?

That day, I had come to the summer festival with friends──but they left to talk to some girls from our class, and I ended up walking alone in the crowded streets.

It was too clear to be a mere misunderstanding.

I later learned that Asatani-san had gotten separated from her friends and was alone. In that short time, she had become so famous that she was easily recognized.

A group of high school boys approached her──she seemed confused.

By then, I was already moving. I knew her somewhat, so I told them we came together──I took Asatani-san’s hand, blending into the crowd, escaping to a place where we could talk in peace.

In the night park, the street on the other side was bustling with food stalls──we stopped here, feeling any further would defeat the purpose of coming to the festival.

“The festival is really crowded, huh? I had no idea it would be this lively.”

Asatani-san hadn’t gone to the festival when she transferred in her second year. She had no friends back then, she said.

“Maybe I should have worn sunglasses. I thought I wouldn’t stand out in casual clothes.”

I didn’t know what to say. Asatani-san did nothing wrong, but saying that wouldn’t cheer her up.

“……I’ve troubled you, Senada-kun. I thought I could handle some flirty guys on my own. But when they suddenly called out my stage name, I blanked.”

Asatani-san sat on a bench away from the streetlights, her expression hidden.

But from her gestures, I knew. She was crying.

She was always the center of attention, with a strength that seemed unfazed by expectations and pressure.

But in that moment, I realized she couldn’t always be strong.

“……It’d be nice if people were more considerate when I’m off-duty. The current Asatani-san is different from the one on TV.”

Expressing my thoughts was all I could manage. If they had pretended not to see, if they had let her be──she wouldn’t have had to run.

“But it’s frustrating to not enjoy the festival because of an accident like this.”

“……Senada-kun.”

She probably didn’t feel like returning to the crowd anymore.

“Asatani-san, do you want something to eat?”

“Eh…… Really? You’re treating?”

“Yeah, I’ll buy anything. I’ll come back right after.”

“……Thanks. Then, if you’re going on an errand, let your sister treat you.”

“Eh……”

“Believe it or not, I think I get more allowance than a normal middle schooler.”

Saying that, Asatani-san took out her wallet from her pouch and handed me the money.

“Ah……sorry. I didn’t bring much, only two thousand yen, thinking it’s dangerous to carry more.”

“Ha ha…… I have more than that.”

“Uh-oh, an allowance showdown? I usually have more, considering my work.”

“Asatani-san would outdo me if she got serious, but today, splitting seems best.”

“Ah, I tried to look cool, but ended up embarrassing myself…… You’re probably laughing at me, Senada-kun.”

“Not at all. But I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.”

──At that moment, the sound of wind slicing through the air.

White flowers of light bloomed in the night sky. Fireworks continued to launch, colorful lights scattering, sounding like rustling willow leaves.

“……I wonder if everyone else is watching somewhere?”

“Yeah…… they said they’d watch from the high ground.”

“I got separated from my friends. Sorry.”

“More like separated…… maybe they got too excited at the festival.”

“Hehe, I see.”

Another firework burst, its light illuminating Asatani-san’s profile.

She looked just like the girl I’d seen on screen, as if she’d stepped right out of a movie scene. And to think, I was her counterpart, undeserving as I felt.

“……What would fireworks look like through a telescope?”

Without answering, I just watched Asatani-san’s profile.

Time seemed to slow. The sound of fireworks, the light, felt like they’d last forever.

Asatani-san turned to me. She wiped away her blurred tears, pointed to the sky──and then, she smiled.

Something inside me changed at that moment.

I realized she was a special existence, different from anyone else.

Such a moment was a fleeting memory.

But it was one of the memories that built up until I became aware of my feelings for Asatani-san.

◆◆◆◇◇◇

When I woke up, my first thought was why I had such a dream now.

It’s not like I have any lingering feelings; I’m starting to be drawn to Takane-san. Even if Asatani-san asked me now, I could say that clearly.

──I wonder what kind of face Asatani-san made when she said she supports me and Takane-san.

Takane-san told me because she thought it was the right thing to do. That it would put me at ease.

But I can’t help thinking that if I hadn’t heard it, I wouldn’t have to ponder over this.

Maybe I should talk to Asatani-san again.

It’s a misunderstanding of overwhelming proportions, an overestimation of my own importance. Knowing about me and Takane-san hasn’t changed Asatani-san’s feelings.

On my desk lies the ticket, still face down. The live recording is at 2 PM today; after that, it’ll just be a piece of paper.

──I wanted to tell Nagi-kun too. That I support Takane-san and me.

“……If she said that…”

I thought it would fade with time. Even seeing her every day, it wouldn’t hurt anymore.

But being told “I support you” makes me think the inevitable.

Asatani-san didn’t reject me because she disliked me. As a fan, supporting her shouldn’t be a nuisance.

It’s just a polite expression. Wanting not to be clung to by an ex is natural.

I feel obligated to go to the live recording because I accepted the ticket.

I should just stay home today. Or at least, not head to the station building where the recording is.

I can just tell Nakano-san I couldn’t make it. There’s no obligation──that’s what I thought, until a message came in.

From Takadera──sent in the middle of the night while I was asleep.

“Tomorrow, Noarin is recording for the radio, right?”

“I saw on my timeline, some people are planning to wait for Noarin after the recording.”

“That guy, apparently, caused trouble at an event before. Just in case, I hope they have good security.”

“Senada, you’re close with Asatani-san, right? Just thought I should tell you.”

“Oi, are you already asleep? Stay up a bit more on your day off, it’s lonely being awake alone. Are you ignoring my messages?”

The messages went on and on, ending with “Make sure to check it.”

Reading this, I turned off my phone screen and placed it on the desk.

Since becoming famous──after that day of the summer festival, Asatani-san seemed a bit different.

Even when the boisterous boys in class spoke to Asatani-san and her group, she wasn’t as active in the conversations anymore. She just smiled politely, no longer chatting freely like before.

When she was with her club members, she seemed relaxed. Her manner with me didn’t change, and through the filter of the literature and astronomy club interactions, Asatani-san seemed unchanged, at least that’s how I saw it.

I never thought I was special. Still, I was happy that Asatani-san could talk to me without hesitation, even if the opportunities were rare.

──Then I heard that Asatani-san was chased by boys from another school when she was going home with friends.

Asatani-san, jokingly, told her friends who suggested she get a boyfriend for protection, “I can’t really see myself dating for that reason.”

“Just need to be careful not to cause trouble for everyone. Besides, I’m fast at running away.”

She said it with a laugh, trying to cheer up her worried friends.

Even after the summer festival incident, she didn’t become averse to all men. There were many men at the drama shooting sites, but there was no unnaturalness in Asatani-san’s performance.

She didn’t want to be worried about by others. I’m part of those surroundings, and that probably hasn’t changed.

(“The waiting crowd should be handled properly. That’s only natural…”)

Maybe I dreamt that because of Takadera’s late-night message.

I should go see Asatani-san on the radio as a fan. I got the ticket, I can’t just throw it away──even though I’ve started dating Takane-san, I shouldn’t do this.

Asatani-san will finish her work safely and go home. Reacting to someone’s comments online and worrying──she’s not asking for that. It’s the job of those working with her to ensure her safety.

I know I’m just making excuses not to go.

I want to believe there’s a good reason not to go. I’m just trying to convince myself that it’s the right decision.

Nakano-san went to the live recording, and Asatani-san would be happy that her friends came to support──that’s enough. I didn’t win the ticket originally, and I never planned to go.

As I made up my mind, another message came.

──From Nakano-san. I imagined its content even before seeing it.

“It’s been a while, but can I ask you a favor?”

“……Why didn’t she say it at that time?”

It seems crafty not to mention it when she gave me the ticket.

If she decided this when she gave it to me, I have to ask Nakano-san──whether she thought Asatani-san wanted me to have the ticket, or if Asatani-san actually said so.

“I was also looking forward to Noarin’s live recording, but something urgent came up.”

“Noarin’s friends are going too, but I’m not really close with them.”

“So, if Nagi-Sen could go in my place, I’d appreciate it.”

“After all, we’re in the same club, and I know you can talk to her anytime.”

“Ah, I know you’re getting close with Takane-san, so I’ll be careful.”

“Should I keep it a secret? Or is it okay to tell?”

“It should be fine, right? You’re classmates. Takane-san and Kirichan seemed close.”

“……She’s not reading the situation, is she?”

Why is Nakano-san so intent on sending me there? She must realize she’s giving me reason to doubt her intentions.

Even if she says she’s not close with Yamaguchi-san and Inagawa-san, it’s not like there’s a serious rift. It’s just that she was late joining Asatani-san’s group formed at the beginning of school.

“……She’s not reading it. Why would she go this far……”

Maybe I won’t talk to Nakano-san much in high school. It’s natural that I can’t understand her thoughts.

She’s definitely up to something. Whether it’s because of a talk with Asatani-san or Nakano-san’s own idea, I’m not sure.

It’s not just Nakano-san who thinks Takane-san and Asatani-san are close. The reality might be complex, but that in itself isn’t doubtful.

Nakano-san’s message ends with a plea, marked with a stamp. If only I had submitted the club joining form next week instead of yesterday──but it’s too late for regrets.

“Just attend without being noticed, then come back. That’s all, right?”

Whether Nakano-san tells her I came in her place, that can be communicated later. Even by Nakano-san herself.

──I’ll tell Takane-san, and if she says not to go, I won’t.

But isn’t it a kind of dependency to contact Takane-san about this?

“Going to see an ‘ex’ because my ‘current’ girlfriend allows it”──that’s not right.

“Tak-kun, let’s make breakfast together. Are you still sleeping?”

“I’m already awake.”

When I responded, there was a moment’s pause before the door opened. Ryuryu-neesan entered the room, and upon seeing my face, she smiled in a troubled way.

“What’s with that serious face so early in the morning? Did you have a nightmare about that horror movie we watched yesterday?”

“…I did dream, but it wasn’t like that.”

“Ah, you’re surprisingly honest. When Tak-kun makes that face, he usually doesn’t rely on his sister. If you’re troubled, feel free to talk to me, okay?”

“No, it’s my problem.”

“It’s not okay… You’re really worried, aren’t you?”

Ryuryu-neesan was different from usual, not making her typical teasing remarks.

──I’m about to say something unavoidable that will leave Ryuryu-neesan bewildered.

While making breakfast, I told her about the ticket I received from Nakano-san.

“…That sounds like you’ve been set up… Doesn’t it, Tak-kun?”

“That… kind of expression is…”

“You’re too kind-hearted, Tak-kun. Have you been avoiding thinking that way?”

“I don’t see why Nakano-san would do something like that, and I don’t think Asatani-san had such intentions. Whether I go or not…”

“If I were Kirichan, I’d be happy to know Tak-kun is watching. But maybe it’s not convincing coming from me, just idly imagining.”

Asatani-san would be happy to know I came. But if I were to entertain such thoughts, I’d be a fool.

“…But, there are concerns. In that case, I think it’s better if I go. Whether to tell Takane-san or keep it a secret, I think it might be better to keep it hidden… But Tak-kun, you see that as betrayal, right?”

Honestly, it shouldn’t even be a question. I should just dismiss the ticket’s validity without concern.

Yet I can’t do that. It’s as if I still have feelings for Asatani-san──the worst kind of betrayal towards Takane-san.

“If I told Takane-san I was going, she wouldn’t stop me… A kind person would surely react that way. But telling her before going would be cruel.”

“…Yeah, that’s true.”

“Still, I think it’s better to go. If Tak-kun regrets not going, it would hurt Takane-san more.”

──Why push me like this?

She could have just dismissed it, let me do as I please, yet she worries with me.

“Just tell Takane-san and go see Kirichan, then come back. It’s not like you won’t return if you go.”

“But, being indecisive at this stage is…”

“You need to properly conclude your feelings, Tak-kun. You were rejected without understanding why, but maybe you still have feelings for her…”

“…That’s not it. Absolutely not.”

“Then, this time will be proof. You’re going to see ‘Kiri Asatani Noa’, not because you still like ‘Kirichan’.”

Ryuryu-neesan said that, glancing at the clock. Just past eight in the morning──less time had passed since waking than I thought.

“Think about it a bit more, and if you decide it’s not right to go, just give the ticket to me. That way, it won’t be wasted.”

“…Ryuryu-neesan.”

“I know I’m saying terrible things, Tak-kun just wants to cherish his current girlfriend… So let’s call it shared responsibility.”

Ryuryu-neesan shouldn’t feel responsible. Even after seeking her advice, I briefly thought I shouldn’t have, feeling ungrateful.

“I’ll decide for myself. Whether to go and whether to tell Takane-san.”

“…Okay. Let’s eat then.”

Ryuryu-neesan started eating breakfast. Though I was distracted while cooking, on closer inspection, she had prepared all of my favorite dishes, rarely made in the morning.

I wanted to find an answer for my floating, directionless emotions.

There could be countless reasons why Asatani-san rejected me. Even if I fall for someone again, there’s no guarantee my feelings will reach them.

──I like Takane-san.

That’s why I can’t lie. Even if I don’t know whether she will accept my words of trust.

◆◆◆◇◇◇

At the front of the station, a commercial complex offering everything from shopping to dining. The sixth floor of the building was the venue for the live recording.

Descending from the elevator, I followed the signs and joined the queue of guests already forming. The line seemed to have a higher ratio of young men, but a significant number of female guests were present too.

Asatani-san’s drama, “Love and Blue Lyrics,” featured high school students struggling with unrequited love, with Asatani-san playing a girl with unreciprocated feelings for her stepbrother.

“This week’s ‘Blue Lyric’ was great, wasn’t it? I’ve cried so many times.”

“Noarin is so cute, it’s good that her appearances didn’t decrease even after getting rejected.”

“Last week Ryuuto-kun was here, he was so handsome. Noarin must be adorable too.”

Women in front of me mentioned an actor named Fukagawa Ryuuto, rumored to be involved with Asatani-san. Although said to be for publicity, for fans it was a sensitive topic, almost taboo to mention his name. Noarin’s agency prohibits dating, and it’s against the rules for the media to pry into the private life of a high school student──the majority defended “Kiri Asatani Noa,” but equally harsh slander was directed at her, now rumored with a popular actor.

Variety shows featuring her as a co-star questioned why the semi-lead Asatani-san was there, insinuating their relationship was suspicious, further fueled by entertainment news.

The online articles shouldn’t be believed, Asatani-san told her friends. Not the first time she had to clarify the truth of entertainment news──she was constantly under the scrutiny of public curiosity.

──I don’t mind. As long as the people around me know the truth, I’m fine.

Everyone, including me, admired her born stardom, taking her words at face value.

The fact that someone from a different world was in the same school was a fortunate coincidence for me──attracted to her, I took the opportunity to confess before her environment changed.

If I had confessed before she became famous, things might have been different. But that’s an impossible what-if, not even worth considering.

Including her fame as “Kiri Asatani Noa,” she is “Asatani-san.”

“Thank you for coming to today’s ‘Saturday Live Peaceful’ recording. We will guide you to the seats shortly. To maintain some spacing, we have limited the number of guests.”

As the staff began explaining, I thought we’d move soon, but they started addressing the lined-up guests, rearranging the queue.

“Is there a ticket A, number 10? Anyone?”

“Ah… Yes, I have A number 10.”

I, who was at the end of the line, was moved to the tenth position from the front. It seems like these tickets are usually given to associates, with general guests starting from number 11.

My seat not having gaps on either side, was it because of filling in the spaces, or did Nakano-san only receive one ticket and gave it to me? Either way, I have to talk to her later.

I told Takane-san I was going to the live recording.

──I understand. Thank you for telling me before going.

──Asatani-san probably wanted you to come. Whether she asked Nakano-san to invite you, I don’t know…

Takane-san reached the same conclusion as my guess, astonishingly quickly.

Am I too slow, overthinking, or do girls understand each other without words?

──Sorry, even though I’m dating Takane-san, I’m acting indecisive…

──I used to support Asatani-san… That feeling isn’t entirely gone now.

──But it’s not because of lingering affection. It’s enough if she doesn’t notice I’m there.

So, please let me go──but any way I put it, it sounds like lingering affection.

If this cools Takane-san’s feelings, it’d be foolish. I knew what I was doing.

🗣️
──It’s okay for you to go. Asatani-san is your important friend.

──Since I say it’s okay, please don’t apologize, Nagi-kun.

──If Asatani-san knows you came, I’d want her to notice.

──It’s too kind to support her without her knowing.
🗣

I couldn’t be sure if Asatani-san would notice me there. Even if she did, I couldn’t easily predict how she would interpret my presence.

Would she wonder why I was there? Or would she think I came for her? That’s why I said it was fine if Asatani-san didn’t notice me at all.

However, when we were rearranged according to our ticket numbers, I ended up in a position easily visible from the recording booth.

(Is this okay…? No, the seat allocation must have been known to Nakano-san when she gave me the ticket… Did Asatani-san even consider that I would end up with Nakano-san’s ticket?)

“A little time before we start, everyone, but please be back here five minutes before. We’ll need to practice some applause and cheering then,” the young male radio staff began explaining. However, the men in seats 11 and 12 beside me were talking loudly, making it hard to hear.

“Man, I can’t wait to see Noarin live. Wonder if she’ll wear something sexy for this?”

“I thought that wasn’t her style, but if she’s dating Ryuto, that changes things.”

“It’s all just a marketing strategy by the agency. In private, she must be starved for male attention. I can tell.”

I stood up abruptly, startling the young men beside me—but they just looked back at the booth, pretending nothing had happened.

“Oops, hope the staff didn’t hear that. Go Noarin, we’re your fans!”

“It’d be great if she released a photobook and did a signing event or something.”

(I’m just here to watch through the glass, they can’t hear us… But still…)

The irresponsible imaginations posted on the internet by some people. Such individuals are here as Asatani-san’s fans at the public recording.

I understood why Takadera was worried—it’s always better to be too cautious when there are people who might try to approach “Kiri Asatani Noa” so directly.

“The show will start soon, and Asatani-san will join in the next segment. She’ll be here for about thirty minutes, and there will be souvenirs distributed afterwards.”

“Will Asatani-san be part of that too?”

“We have decided not to do that this time due to recent circumstances.”

The two men next to me visibly showed their disappointment—it was better that Asatani-san wasn’t going to face the fans directly today.

Ideally, I should have just watched Asatani-san perform in the recording and supported her. Yet, witnessing the complex environment surrounding her, my heart couldn’t help but feel heavy.

The regular hosts of the radio show entered, and the program began. As mentioned, “Kiri Asatani Noa” was called in the first segment.

“──Nice to meet you, I’m Kiri Asatani Noa. Please treat me well today.”

When she was at school, even then, the realization that a celebrity was among us was inescapable.

It was because her radiance couldn’t blend in with ordinary students.

“Kiri Asatani Noa,” with her hairstyle and fashion at the forefront of her generation, transformed the ordinary recording booth into something extraordinary with her mere presence.

“……Wow, that’s unfair… She’s too cute.”

“Damn… Seriously amazing…”

Even the loud men beside me were nearly speechless. When asked to record cheers and applause, the entire audience roared, shaking the venue.

“Today we have a lot of Noarin’s fans here for the public recording. Everyone, it’s Noarin!”

“I’m sorry, the nickname Noarin is a bit embarrassing… but I’m happy.”

Asatani-san glanced around the audience, seat by seat.

Her gaze moved past the tenth seat—my seat—without any particular reaction.

That was expected.

Yet, she saw me, and for a moment, she looked surprised.

──And then, she smiled.

A smile I hadn’t seen since the graduation ceremony, and not till today. A smile that came naturally.

“……I’m relieved to see so many of you here. I was nervous until it was my turn.”

“Today’s episode of ‘Love and Blue Lyrics’ is still airing. My role might be less frequent, but the story will get even more exciting, so please keep watching.”

“As the show is ending soon for Noarin… Kiri Asatani-san, could we have your final words? Remember our show’s slogan?”

“Yes, I’ve practiced it. Always peaceful in the heart!… This is Kiri Asatani Noa.”

After forming a heart with her hands, directing it towards the audience, and bowing in all directions, Asatani-san left the booth.

After receiving the souvenirs, the audience began to disperse. The two men who talked about waiting outside were asking the staff direct questions.

“Um, I can’t disclose where she will be exiting from, it’s a rule…”

Upon being denied, they reluctantly headed outside. I followed them out just in time.

“They must be exiting through the staff entrance.”

They hid, watching the staff entrance door. If Asatani-san came out alone from there, it could lead to trouble.

Asatani-san probably knew I was in the audience. Our eyes had met, there was no doubt about that.

──Just in case, I should tell her. There are fans waiting outside, that’s all I need to convey.

Will she think I’m using this as an excuse to message her? I couldn’t afford to hesitate much longer.

◆◆◆◇◇◇

“I’m sorry for contacting you suddenly, Asatani-san.”

“I was also at the viewing, and there are people waiting outside to see you, so it might be better not to exit through the staff entrance.”

“I think it’s safe if your manager is with you, but it’s better to be extra cautious.”

“I know this is none of my business, but I had to let you know.”

I considered that my message might not be read immediately. After the recording, there might not be time to check her phone.

If that’s the case, I have no choice but to deal with those waiting outside myself — though saying that might lead to a commotion.

(I hope they just give up…)

Stealthily watching them without being noticed, like a double tail, is challenging. If a security guard comes by, I might even be the one suspected…

“…”

My phone vibrated in my pocket. It was a message from Asatani-san.

“Nagi-kun, skipping the pleasantries, can I ask something?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“The people you mentioned at the staff entrance, waiting for me?”

“I think so. Their conversation was audible from my seat.”

A pause followed before her next message. Meanwhile, the door of the staff entrance opened — a staff member came out, and I sighed in relief.

“I’m not with my manager today. She got tied up with work for someone else in the same agency.”

“Then it’s better not to go out alone. There are two men waiting. I overheard them talking, and I don’t think it’s a good idea for Asatani-san to approach them directly.”

No response for a while. I hid, letting the staff member pass — the two men were still hidden, showing no sign of leaving.

“Right, I understand. There’s another staircase here, so I’ll use that to go down.”

That eased my worries for now — I quickly typed a response.

“I’ll watch to see if they move. Let me know once you’re in a safe place.”

“Thank you.”

Avoiding the waiters by descending the stairs from the sixth floor was inconvenient, but perhaps it was better than risking confrontation with those men.

Soon, a new message from Asatani-san popped up.

“Nagi-kun, do you have a moment?”

“I’m thinking of leaving through the back door of the building. Can you come?”

At this point, there was no time for hesitation. I had to ensure Asatani-san’s safety first.

As I was about to reply, the two men, tired of waiting, began arguing.

“What the hell, she’s not coming out. Is there another way out?”

“Let’s wait outside then. We can keep watch at the front and back, stay hidden.”

(That’s bad…!)

With the building crowded up to the fourth floor, taking the elevator would take too long. It was quicker to use the stairs.

I headed towards the back of the building — there were still some people around. I looked for Asatani-san but couldn’t find her at first.

“…Nagi-kun.”

I turned around at the sound of her soft call — Asatani-san was there, dressed in casual clothes, her hair tied up, wearing a hat and glasses.

“Thanks for coming… About those men…”

“They said they’ll be watching outside, so we have to avoid running into them…”

Mid-sentence, I saw one of the two men from earlier round the back of the building. He hadn’t noticed us yet.

“He’s coming this way. Let’s leave without being noticed.”

“But we can’t go through the main entrance… There’s a huge crowd there.”

Not just those two — other fans who hadn’t won tickets were gathering, along with passersby.

“…Nagi-kun, can you do me a favor?”

“Whatever you need, Asatani-san…”

A way out — even from the less crowded back of the building, it was difficult with one of the men already there.

He hadn’t noticed us yet. Then, an idea struck me.

“…Let’s go together.”

Asatani-san took my arm, switching to acting mode — playing the role of “a girl on a date with her boyfriend.” Despite her light attire, I was acutely aware of her closeness.

“Thanks for coming today.”

“Ah, yeah…”

“Pretend we’re just out for fun, okay?”

Even in disguise, Asatani-san would normally be recognized — but her acting skills were enough to subdue even “normalcy.”

The man saw us but frowned and pulled out his phone. As he passed by, tension peaked — but then.

“He’s not coming out from the back. What about the front? If he’s not here, he must be there. Ah, never mind, it’s no good without being noticed.”

After walking away from the building, the bustling town gradually eased the tension. I glanced at Asatani-san walking beside me.

“Uh… Asatani-san, I think it’s safe now, but…”

“You’re good at acting, Nagi-kun. You seemed so natural.”

“No, I’m just an amateur… But sorry for messaging you suddenly.”

We talked as we walked — Asatani-san headed towards the station.

“Work’s gotten busier, and my manager isn’t always with me. Like today… I’m glad you told me.”

“…About the ticket, I got it from Nakano-san. I wondered if I should have come instead, but…”

Too many questions, yet not knowing how far I could ask. Words failed me.

Asatani-san, unannoyed, smiled serenely.

“Did you think I asked Yui-chan to give it to you?”

“…I don’t know.”

We continued walking towards the station, Asatani-san leading the way, lost in our own thoughts.

“…I didn’t say I wanted to give it to Nagi-kun. I gave Yui-chan two tickets, and she said she’d come, too.”

It was Nakano-san who had taken the initiative; Asatani-san hadn’t asked her to do anything.

Nakano-san did so believing I was still a fan of Asatani-san.

She didn’t know that I had confessed to Asatani-san and had already been turned down, so she thought she was doing me a favor… I believe that’s the right assumption.

“Ah… I wonder if I should have mentioned that now. It’s not Yui-chan’s fault, I probably made her worry, I guess.”

“Then… my coming here, does Asatani-san…”

How does she feel about me, who didn’t pass on the tickets, coming here? When she smiled at me during the recording, was it an act… or was it as natural as it seemed to me?

“…It’s reassuring to see an acquaintance, isn’t it? But I got nervous because Nagi-kun was watching. I can’t show any embarrassing sides, but I still have to pose.”

“Ah, yeah… but you nailed it.”

“Thanks. I don’t think it suits me, but I practiced a lot… Ah, you just imagined me being silly, didn’t you?”

“No, no… it didn’t seem like you were struggling at all. It was impressive, really…”

“…Nagi-kun, you always compliment me on everything.”

“That’s… not like everything but…”

Anything and everything sounds like I haven’t given it any thought. I’ve always tried to watch “Kiriyani Noa’s” activities without any bias.

— Asatani-san’s expression changes. Behind her inscrutable smile, something flickers.

“…Do you also praise Takane-san like that?”

I knew the conversation would turn to her eventually.

After confirming Asatani-san’s safety, I intended to leave—that was all. I hadn’t thought about what I would talk to Asatani-san about.

“…That way of talking isn’t good, I know. I guess I have a bad personality.”

“I… always appreciate Takane-san. It’s not just about praising her…”

“I see… things are going well then. Nagi-kun and Takane-san, you seem to be on the same wavelength.”

— Does that mean, then, that Asatani-san and I are not on the same wavelength?

“…Does Takane-san know about today?”

“Yeah… I told her. She said if it’s to support a ‘friend,’ I should go.”

“I see. Then… Nagi-kun, would you like to go for tea or something?”

She had never invited me like this before.

It’s normal for “friends” to go to a cafe together. I can tell she’s trying to thank me.

“As a sign of gratitude, I’ll treat you to cake. Do you like sweets? Or would you rather have a meal? Anything’s fine, I have some pocket money…”

Asatani-san seems excited, thinking I would accept the invitation—but I had to refuse.

“…After I take you to a safe place, I’ll go home. If you’re waiting for a pick-up, I’ll stay till then.”

I never felt such pain speaking words before.

Asatani-san’s expression loses color—but only for a moment.

Soon, she returns to her usual cheerful self and gently steps away from me.

“Then… I think I can come now, so I’ll ask my mom to come by car. Is it okay to go to the station’s roundabout?”

“Yeah. Can I escort you there?”

“Yes. But it’s better if my mom doesn’t see you. She misunderstands things easily.”

“Understood, I’ll be careful.”

We walk together again—Asatani-san slightly ahead to avoid drawing attention, and me following.

On the way to the roundabout, Asatani-san stops in front of a vending machine and, taking out her pass case, says:

“Nagi-kun, would you like something to drink? You must be thirsty after running here.”

“No, if it’s just a short wait…”

“Is ice coffee okay?”

“…Ah, thank you…”

I receive the cold can of coffee. Sweet drinks seem thirst-inducing at times like this, but I don’t mind.

— But, something feels off.

I hadn’t told Asatani-san that I liked coffee.

This can of coffee is sold only at the station. Without asking for alternatives, Asatani-san chose this specifically.

“…Aren’t you going to drink?”

“Ah, yeah… Thanks, Asatani-san.”

I open the coffee can and take a sip. It tastes the same as the coffee Takane-san gave me—naturally, it’s the same product.

But feeling her gaze on me, I can’t drink much. I don’t feel like finishing it all at once; I want to take my time.

— And that was a mistake.

“Wasn’t it delicious?”

“…Ah…!”

Asatani-san takes the can from my hands and brings it to her lips. Her throat moves slightly as she drinks, then hands the can back to me.

“…It’s a bit bitter. Nagi-kun, you like this kind of thing.”

She doesn’t look like she finds it bitter. Her eyes, looking at me, say…

“I know, too. About Nagi-kun’s good points.”

— How am I supposed to respond to that now?

It’s a friend’s words. But if it had been said while we were dating, I would have taken it differently.

I have to shake off such “what ifs.” I came here to erase them completely from my mind.

“…Thank you for today. I’m glad Nagi-kun came. It made me feel like I could do my best.”

What am I supposed to say to that face?

A face like she’s in love, but that’s just a misunderstanding.

“Ah… we’re almost there. She was just heading this way.”

“…Got it. Then, see you… at school.”

“Yeah. Send my regards to Takane-san and Yui-chan, too.”

Asatani-san waves her hand slightly. I leave the roundabout and start walking in the direction of my home.

A white car glides into the roundabout, Asatani-san gets in, and then it quickly drives away, disappearing from sight.

If only it had come to pick her up a little earlier… But that’s not something I should dwell on.

Asatani-san, as “Kiriyani Noa,” has gained a lot of fame. Yet, there are times when she doesn’t have someone from the agency with her.

We help each other out in times of trouble. Even so, I wonder if it’s ridiculous for me, who was so easily rejected, to still be worried about Asatani-san and be here.

— This can of coffee and Asatani-san’s expression negate that thought.

Even if it was an act, I couldn’t decipher why she looked at me that way with those eyes.

◆◆◆◇◇◇

“…Understood. Then, see you… at school.”

“Yeah. Send my regards to Takane-san and Yui-chan, too.”

I smile, wave my hand, and watch his departing back.

He surely won’t look back. Only after I’m gone and in the car, he might finally look this way.

“…He looked troubled, didn’t he?”

As I told Nagi-kun, this didn’t just start today. When my job location is known, I’ve had instances of being waited for or followed on my way home.

Usually, Manager Kohira-san or a staff member would handle these situations.

Today, a staff member was supposed to take me to the station, but just then, Nagi-kun called me.

He came to the public recording, and we made eye contact through the glass.

I should have remained “Kiriyani Noa,” but at that moment, I reverted back to “Asatani Kiri.”

— Nagi-kun surely doesn’t realize it.

Even if he does, he pretends not to know.

What I think about him coming here. What I thought when our eyes met.

“…What right do I have to say this?” I think to myself.

It would be a lie to say I had no expectations at all.

And saying I never considered it would also be a lie.

Yui-chan doesn’t know about Nagi-kun and I dating.

From the day of our graduation until the end of spring break, until I broke up with him. Since she doesn’t know, Yui-chan thinks Nagi-kun and I are just friends.

And if I gave Yui-chan tickets to the public recording—, it’s easy to guess.

Yui-chan gave the tickets to Nagi-kun.

Just as I had hoped, deep down.

“…It’s okay, right? I’m supporting them.”

I support Nagi-kun and Takane-san.

So even if Nagi-kun came to the public recording, it’s just as a friend watching another friend’s job.

I called myself an ex-girlfriend, but now conveniently use the “just friends” excuse.

“Hey, is that…?”

“Eh, looks like her, but it’s someone else, right?”

Feeling people’s gazes, I decide to leave.

I can’t stay with Nagi-kun until the car arrives. So, I have to manage on my own.

The streets are scary. I’ve been grabbed suddenly or followed before.

If only Nagi-kun could stay with me. If only I could ask him, without pretending to be strong.

— If only I had the courage to explain properly, even if it led to suspicions about Nagi-kun.

Then, a white car enters the roundabout. It’s my mother driving—she came despite being busy, and I’m grateful, but…

As I get into the car, my mother looks at me through the rearview mirror.

“Kiri-chan, how did you get here? Were you anxious alone? I’ll talk to the manager about it.”

Her voice is kind, but I can’t immediately express my gratitude.

“Did someone bring you here? If so, I should have greeted them.”

If I really introduced Nagi-kun to my mother, it would draw attention.

I absolutely don’t want her to tell Nagi-kun.

If it became known that “Kiriyani Noa,” a celebrity, was seen with a boy from the same school, it would be problematic. My mother has made that clear to me several times.

“…How was it, Kiri-chan?”

“I managed to get to the station alone. I was careful not to be noticed, so it was fine.”

“That’s good… Kiri-chan, if you ever end up alone after work, don’t hesitate to contact the agency.”

“Okay… I’ll do that. Thank you, mom.”

I couldn’t bring myself to mention that Kohira-san couldn’t come. My mother would have suggested changing managers over a minor oversight.

“Do you want to eat something before your voice training?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“Eat a little bit; it’s an important time for you now.”

— My mother is just worried about me missing work, right?

Swallowing the words I can’t say, my heart aches.

My mother isn’t at fault. She’s just thinking about me.

I want to understand, but being in this car now, I feel like running away.

— “From now on, I’m dating Chida-kun, so I’m the ‘current girlfriend.'”

When Takane-san said that, I thought she wasn’t serious.

A lie told with Nagi-kun in mind. She said it to protect Nagi-kun, who was being left out by me.

Someone like her dating, especially a boy she just met at school, doesn’t fit her character.

I wanted to believe that, out of my own selfishness.

Just by him coming today, I couldn’t keep up the act.

I was happy that Nagi-kun still wanted to do something for me.

“But it’s good that there weren’t any troublesome fans. Some people just don’t understand boundaries.”

“The fans don’t mean any harm…”

“Be careful at school, too. It’s good to have friends, but boys can be…”

“It’s okay. I have friends, but they’re just that – friends.”

My voice trembled more than I expected, despite repeating it like a mantra.

Nagi-kun is a friend. He came to see my work because we’re just friends.

He’s staying in that role because that’s how I’ve defined it.

He came to me because he cares about Takane-san. Takane-san let him come to me.

— What was Takane-san feeling when she let Nagi-kun go?

Until now, I hadn’t thought about it, always focused on myself.

I’m sure I deserve to be scolded. For taking advantage of his kindness, for almost breaking character when he came. All of it, Takane-san has every right to be upset with me.

◆◆◆◇◇◇

After attending Asatani-san’s public recording, Nagitou-san called me right away on his way home.

— Asatani-san was fine. She wasn’t bothered by any fans waiting for her.

— After that, we disbanded quickly. I’m home now.

I decided not to ask for details. But there was one thing I wanted to confirm.

— How was the public recording?

— It was as impressive as I expected.

I think that was his honest opinion. But the continuation of what Nagitou-san said lingered in my heart.

— Still, it felt like she’s from a different world, even though we’re at the same school.

I think it was a genuine compliment. Nagitou-san is just saying what he thinks – but.

If the person you’re “dating” thinks of you that way.

If Asatani-san knew how Nagitou-san saw her – what would she feel? I can only imagine.

That night, I didn’t call Nagitou-san and spent a long time thinking in the bath.

There were plenty of clues to realize it. Asatani-san hadn’t really hidden anything, when I think about it.

The reason she came to the library when Nagitou-san and I were cleaning together.

The reason she declared herself as Nagitou-san’s “ex-girlfriend” in front of me.

When a friend said something rude about Nagitou-san, Asatani-san properly refuted it.

Asatani-san’s expression when she was being taught by Nagitou-san.

— Her smile when she said she was supporting us.

“…Are the two of you… having some kind of misunderstanding…?”

I remained submerged in the tub, lost in thought.

I still only know a part of Nagitou-san and Asatani-san.

Nagitou-san is a sincere person. It’s hard for me to believe Asatani-san would reject such a man, our views on men may be completely opposite.

But I don’t think it’s true that Asatani-san has no romantic interest in Nagitou-san.

If she really wasn’t interested, she wouldn’t say she supports us.

Even during the physical fitness test, she competed with me in every event without holding back. Though confident in sports, Asatani-san kept up in every event, showing her versatility and capability.

“…It’s no wonder Nagitou-san fell for her.”

Capable in everything, yet unpretentious. She might struggle a bit with studies, but since she’s at the same school, she has the ability to learn if she studies.

But then, why was she being taught by Nagitou-san?

To think she deliberately chose to be taught by him – that’s…

“…If that’s the case…”

Asatani-san is perfect. She can control her expressions, hiding her true feelings.

If she’s hiding too much…

“That’s something… I can’t…”

If my suspicions are correct.

If Asatani-san had a reason she couldn’t date Nagitou-san and couldn’t tell him.

If she would have told him the truth if I hadn’t met him.

“Nozomi, are you okay to get out now? You’ve been soaking for quite a while.”

“Ah… Ye-Yes, I’m coming out now…”

My mother’s voice comes from outside the bathroom. But as I try to stand up, I feel dizzy and collapse back down.

“What’s wrong?”

“…I’m okay…”

“Alright, if you say so…”

It was the first time I felt so faint from soaking in the bath for too long.

I think Asatani-san is struggling just as much as I am – and so is Nagitou-san.

When I talked to Nagitou-san on the phone today, his voice sounded very strained. Because he thinks going to Asatani-san was wrong.

I was really happy about that feeling. He could have kept it a secret, but he didn’t.

But when I responded to Nagitou-san, I couldn’t stay calm. Just trying to talk normally was all I could manage.

“…I have to get it together… for him…”

I like Nagitou-san. Ever since I realized that, I’ve been thinking about what I can do for him.

This is for his sake.

But more than that – for my sake.

I step out of the bath, wrap a bath towel around me, and look in the mirror.

I wanted to talk to Asatani-san and know as her “current girlfriend.”

Why she rejected Nagitou-san.

On Monday, even while attending classes next to Nagitou-san, I was thinking about what to do after school.

Whether to tell him or not, I kept wavering – and in the end, decided not to. It would undoubtedly worry him, and that’s not what I wanted.

To hear from Asatani-san what she couldn’t tell Nagitou-san, I had to keep it a secret from him for now.

“Hey, Takane-san, do you have plans after school today?”

“I was thinking of studying in the library, want to join me?”

A message from Nagitou-san. I had to reply that I was available the next day.

I approached Asatani-san during a class change, the brief moment she was alone.

— I have a lesson today, so I can go on a date until six.

Asatani-san said this with a soft smile, as if it were nothing.

After school, in a place hidden from prying eyes of the school, the cafeteria terrace – that’s where I was to meet Asatani-san.

“…Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“Thank you for coming all this way.”

I stood up to greet Asatani-san, who placed her school bag down and sat opposite me.

“You want to talk, right? Nagi-kun must’ve told you he came to me.”

“…I’m not angry or anything like that.”

“Yeah, I know that. Takane-san isn’t the kind of girl to be narrow-minded.”

“No… You don’t understand, Asatani-san. We’ve only just met, after all.”

“Is that so? Just being together for a while doesn’t mean you’re close.”

“…Was that how it was for you and Nagitou-san? Just being together?”

Asatani-san smiled – her eyes looking somewhere far away.

“We weren’t together that much. I was in the astronomy club, and Nagi-kun was in the reading club. Our seniors from both clubs were close, often mingling. We’d make noise in the library, play board games on holidays.”

“…I’m envious.”

“…Didn’t you do things like that with everyone, Takane-san?”

“No. I’m envious that you got to spend time doing various things with Nagitou-san.”

“…Is that so?”

“Yes. That’s why I must ask. Why did you reject Nagitou-san?”

“That’s…”

Asatani-san started to speak without changing her expression, but I interrupted her.

“…No. What I want to know is why you tried to distance yourself from Nagitou-san.”

— It’s evident if you observe Asatani-san closely.

Why she keeps a non-definitive distance with Nagitou-san, whom she supposedly rejected.

The incident in the library fits this perspective.

“You came to the library knowing about me and Nagitou-san. You had other excuses, but… that was just to tell me you were his ‘ex-girlfriend.'”

Asatani-san didn’t answer, but her silence was as good as a confirmation.

Yet she maintained her usual smile – speaking so nonchalantly.

“Takane-san, did you hear everything about when I rejected Nagi-kun? I told him I would support him if he got a new girlfriend.”

“…That’s…”

“If it sounded like spite when I said ‘ex-girlfriend,’ I’m sorry. That was a bad choice of words on my part. But, Takane-san, I don’t think what you’re imagining. I told both of you I’d support you.”

There were flaws in Asatani-san’s words. Her emotions were starting to show.

— That’s why she’s trying to convince me without pausing.

Her perfect act was wavering. But if I’m overwhelmed by her now, I’ll never see her true feelings.

“…Why did you give Nakano-san the tickets?”

I spoke without sounding accusatory. Asatani-san didn’t answer – there could only be one reason why.

“I didn’t know if Nagitou-san would come to the library that day. But you were there, talking with Nakano-san. Why did you leave immediately instead of talking to Nagitou-san, as you usually would…?”

“…I didn’t have any expectations, okay? Just like Takane-san said, I didn’t think Yui-chan would give Nagi-kun the tickets, I…”

“Nagitou-san went to your public recording to help you. But seeing you perform must’ve made him happy too. Because he still…”

I couldn’t finish.

Asatani-san’s eyes changed – begging me not to say any more, not wanting to hear it.

Yet, I couldn’t back down. If I don’t hear it from Asatani-san now, she’ll never tell the truth to me or Nagitou-san, I felt.

“…Nagitou-san doesn’t dislike you. He still likes you.”

“Why do you say that? Takane-san, you’re…”

“Because I love him. That’s why… I want to know the true feelings of the person Nagitou-san loves.”

“I’m… hopeless. I called Nagi-kun out without a real reason, hurt him, and then rejected him. Pretending like we weren’t dating, and then saying I’d support him if he got a new girlfriend…”

“There’s nothing hopeless about that.”

“…I haven’t done anything to deserve your kindness…!”

Asatani-san stood up, her chair scraping loudly – this was no act.

She was venting her emotions at me. The intensity was almost frightening, shaking me – this was the real passion of the actress “Kiriyani Noa.”

But I couldn’t back down. If I did, I’d lose the right to be by Nagitou-san’s side.

“…Why aren’t you angry? If it weren’t for the ticket, Nagi-kun wouldn’t have come to me, right?”

“That’s… because I can’t blame you for it.”

“That’s not true… You, as his current girlfriend, should dislike that. Or did you think it was okay for Nagi-kun to come to me…?”

Maybe I still don’t understand anything.

I’d never fallen in love with anyone until I met Nagitou-san.

As Asatani-san said, I was as anxious as I trusted him.

He’ll definitely come back.

I won’t be hurt. I didn’t realize I might hurt Asatani-san when that happened.

“…Nagi-kun cares about you, Takane-san. He likes you. The length of time doesn’t matter. He’s much more lively than when he confessed to me.”

— I thought I was the only one feeling this way.

I couldn’t stand someone knowing Nagitou-san more than me. I wanted to be the first to experience everything as a lover.

I wanted him to look only at me. I’d do anything to make that happen.

But I was wrong.

Asatani-san felt the same, yet she let go of Nagitou-san’s hand herself.

It was clear without words. Tears trailed down Asatani-san’s cheeks.

“…Please let me support you. Let me see you both happy. Let me feel I wasn’t needed by Nagi-kun.”

Tears fell onto the table.

Even in tears, a beautiful person can capture hearts.

Maybe I shouldn’t have extended a hand to a crying rival – perhaps that’s the unnecessary kindness Asatani-san talked about.

Yet, I couldn’t just leave her alone.

I couldn’t dislike someone who had fallen for Nagitou-san as much as I did.

“I want you, Asatani-san, to tell Nagitou-san your true feelings.”

“…How can I possibly do that…”

“Nagitou-san will forgive you. If you tell him the truth, it’ll clear up the misunderstanding about being rejected.”

I couldn’t believe I was saying such things.

It wasn’t a misunderstanding, I thought. Asatani-san didn’t reject Nagitou-san because she wanted to lie.

She had to do it. She had a reason to lie – a reason she couldn’t avoid.

“…I want to know why you had to reject Nagitou-san.”

I offered Asatani-san a handkerchief.

She looked at it, smiling faintly – a bittersweet, beautiful teary smile.

Then, politely declining my handkerchief, she took out her own to wipe her tears.

“…It’s hopeless. From the first time I saw you, I didn’t think I could like you.”

“…Honestly, I felt the same way.”

Asatani-san looked surprised at me. I was saying something I couldn’t normally admit.

I felt negative emotions – jealousy – towards someone who was talking to the person I was interested in.

“But… now I don’t think that way. I want to talk with you, Asatani-san.”

“…You’re kind, Takane-san. If I were in your shoes, I might have said something really harsh. I’m not the best person.”

“I understand that.”

“Wow, you’re going on the attack. You’re tough, Takane-san.”

I smile – not intending to attack, though I might be pressing.

“…You’re not bad, just not straightforward. I understand that.”

Even if I get the truth from Asatani-san, it might take time before I can tell Nagitou-san.

— At first, I thought I couldn’t like her, but deep down, I knew.

“If we hadn’t met like this, could we have been friends?”

“We can be friends. Depending on our conversation from here on…”

“…Okay. Where should I start? How about when I first met Nagitou-san… We don’t have to finish today.”

If I can hear the rest another time, I don’t mind using up all the time today.

“Um… should I get something to drink? Maybe some slightly bitter canned coffee?”

“No. I’ll give that to Nagitou-san next time.”

“…You noticed, didn’t you?”

“Yes. It’s obvious when you look at it that way.”

Asatani-san’s expression when she looks at me has changed. Previously, she seemed to be wrapped in transparent armor – now, her smile feels like her true self.

“You’re beautiful even when acting… but Asatani-san’s true face is even more beautiful.”

“…If Takane-san were a boy, that line might make someone fall for you.”

“Asatani-san is…”

“You know, right? Oh, this is embarrassing… I’m the loser here. Let me talk about it.”

I don’t expect to hear everything. Asatani-san must have precious memories she wants to keep to herself, memories she doesn’t want to share with anyone.

I want to listen to anything. Even if it’s about how they built their bond, I’ll try not to be jealous – I won’t be hurt by such things.

Because I intend to create even more significant memories with Nagitou-san.

📢 Maybe you see "V2" or "V3" and so on in the NOVEL TITLE, it means what VOLUMES the NOVEL is.
It Seems That Takane, the Current Girlfriend, Definitely Doesn’t Want to Lose to the Ex-girlfriend

It Seems That Takane, the Current Girlfriend, Definitely Doesn’t Want to Lose to the Ex-girlfriend

Takane no Hana no Imakano wa, Zettai Motokano ni Maketakunai you desu / 高嶺の花の今カノは、絶対元カノに負けたくないようです
Score 7.8
Status: Ongoing Type: Author: , Artist: Released: 2020 Native Language: Japanese
As he graduated from junior high, Nagito Senda began dating Kiri Asatani, but he got dumped when they started high school. While recovering from his broken heart, he saw Nozomi Takane, a girl in his class, being harassed by a pushy club recruiter, and decided to help her. The two quickly grew closer as they sit together in class and go to and from school together. One day, as the two were cleaning the library, Kiri comes up to Nozomi and asks, “Can I borrow Nagi-kun?” When Nozomi asked Kiri about her relationship with Nagito… “I was Nagi-kun’s ex-girlfriend” “Well from now on I’ll be his new girlfriend.” Now that both girls have declared themselves, what will be his real intention? Sparks will fly in the game between the ex-girlfriend and the current girlfriend.

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