Episode 60

Shadow Of The Past
3 weeks ago
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It had been two days since I began exercising with Koto.

Today, as usual, Koto, who had jogged with me early in the morning, was doing lunges in the public park and shared his thoughts about the first day.

“Yesterday was fun! It’s been quite a while since I’ve used my body like that; I sweated a lot!”

While doing sit-ups on a wooden bench next to him, I said to Koto,

“Looking at yesterday, it seems your cardiovascular endurance isn’t as good as your strength. Do you smoke?”

Koto then scratched his cheek as if I had touched a sore spot,

“I was actually scolded by the manager for that yesterday, so I decided to quit smoking today! In the past, I could run much longer than that without any trouble!”

“Good decision. Cigarettes are deadly for those who exercise.”

It was about gradually changing lifestyle habits, regardless of the past.

That way, one could return to their original, healthy state.

After completing 200, I got up from the bench.

Seeing this, Koto spoke urgently,

“Just one more set to go! Please wait a moment!”

I replied with a wry smile,

“Take your time. No one’s rushing you.”

“Yes!”

After spending two days together, I was sure that he wasn’t just all talk.


“Welcome! Koto has already been here working out for 30 minutes!”

After school, unlike yesterday when we met in front of my house because Koto didn’t know the way, today we agreed to meet directly at the gym.

For me, it was faster to come straight from the station than to stop by home.

“Hurry up and change. I’ll take a look at your workout today, too.”

“Yes.”

As the manager had said, I quickly changed in the changing room, grabbed my duffel bag for exercise, and headed out.

Approaching the manager, I saw Koto working hard on the chest press machine.

“Manager.”

“Oh, you’re here.”

Even as he spoke, the manager did not take his eyes off Koto’s movements.

“Koto, controlling your breath is important during anaerobic exercise. So, consciously keep your stomach tensed.”

“Yes, Manager!”

It had only been two days, but he was already deep into the workout.

The manager stood by Koto like a tiger instructor, continuously pointing out his flaws.

“Koto, don’t underestimate machine exercises! They are scientifically designed by people much smarter than you!”

“Koto! I told you to breathe properly!”

“Koto, it’s the last set! The end is in sight!”

“Just one more! Let’s do one more and then take a break!”

“Kotooo!”

The continuous commands made me feel like blood would come out of my ears.

I had also gone through this intense grilling at first.

Today, to avoid the overly enthusiastic manager, I stealthily headed to the treadmills, where I found Fuma-senpai already exercising.

“Hello.”

“Oh, hi.”

Honestly, I hadn’t expected this person to be so diligent in coming to the gym.

Initially, I thought she had joined just to follow me, but she was more serious about exercising than I had imagined.

Still mysterious, Fuma-senpai, sensing my gaze, slowed down on the treadmill and asked, tilting her head,

“Do you have something to say?”

“No, just that you seem to be really diligent.”

“Well, it would be a waste not to come every day after paying so much.”

Ah.

I then remembered that Fuma-senpai, who lived alone, worked part-time at a convenience store to earn her living expenses.

If she were financially strained but still forced herself to get a gym membership, I would definitely be diligent, too.

While running on the treadmill next to her, I casually asked,

“So, when do you plan to tell me about what you mentioned before?”

Huma-senpai looked around cautiously and then answered in a low voice,

“If it’s about that, the preparations are almost done. It’s in the final stage, so I’ll tell you next week. I still haven’t obtained a necessary item.”

“…Understood.”

This was about the hidden side of this world.

In the context of living in the world of ‘Scramble Love,’ this could be a very important story, so I wanted to hear it as soon as possible.

It would help me decide how to act in the future.

I didn’t know exactly how, but it was certain that the protagonist, Sakamoto Ryuji, had powered up significantly. It was confirmed that the battle element would intensify in the future.

I had to prepare for that.

Not just for myself but also to protect those around me.

After about 20 minutes of warm-up jogging, I stepped off and saw Koto, who was doing his nth machine exercise, following the manager. He said, with a sly look,

“Brother, you’re clever, exercising, and dating at the same time.”

“It’s not the kind of relationship you’re thinking of.”

“Eh, you two seem really close for that. Usually, girls are quite standoffish unless they like someone.”

Saying this and trying to link me and Huma-senpai, I immediately grabbed a weight plate.

“It seems like the workout is too easy for you. You even have time for jokes?”

“What? No, my muscles are already squeezed to their limits… Aaah! Don’t increase the weight!”

Ignoring his protest, I increased the weight of the plate and said,

“Koto, you know this, right?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Muscles need to tear to get stronger.”

After I said that and gestured for him to hurry up, Koto reluctantly grunted and pulled the handle.

“Gruuugh!”

Perhaps because he was a beginner, the weight increased steadily.

Watching and guiding him, I started to understand why the manager and other veterans got so excited when a new person joined.


Today marked the eagerly awaited third day of exercising with Koto.

Since it was Saturday and there was no school, we would be together all day.

Unlike on weekdays, there was no need to pack a lunch, so I warmed up with dumbbell curls, pull-ups, and bench presses in my room before meeting Koto for a morning jog.

Koto complained of muscle soreness everywhere, probably because of the intense upper body workout from the previous day.

So, when I told him we’d focus on the lower body today, he seemed almost too excited.

“Good morning, Ma’am!”

“Yes, good morning to you too, Koto.”

By the fourth day of his attendance, my mother had memorized his name.

The impact he made on the first day was quite significant.

As I ate breakfast, Koto, who was also eating, made a slightly different request today.

“Brother, if it’s okay, could you pack just the tastiest dish? I want to let my mother try it. Of course, I’ll pay.”

I looked at Koto with new eyes.

He hadn’t forgotten my words about being filial to his parents.

“If that’s the case, wait a moment. I’ll make it quickly.”

I went into the kitchen and put my skills to use.

There was a difference in the care put into food made for oneself versus for others.

I made my best Chinese cuisine, hoping Koto’s mother would enjoy the food I prepared.

The main dish was crab fried rice, accompanied by Nanja Wan’s Eight Treasures, sweet and sour pork, kkanpunggi1, and chili shrimp.

I filled a three-tiered lunch box, similar to the one I carried when tailing Karen’s date.

When I came out with the well-packed lunch box, Koto, who was waiting outside, was visibly surprised.

“Isn’t this too much?!”

“I made extra so you can eat with your mother. Have it for lunch.”

“But the money…”

“It’s not a menu item from the store, so just take it and enjoy.”

After saying this, I patted Koto on the shoulder.

“Let’s meet again around 2 o’clock. Is that time good for you?”

Koto looked at me, touched, and then loudly responded.

“Yes!”

I told him to go ahead, then went back into the kitchen to finish cleaning up from the rushed cooking.

As my mother was busy preparing for business, she remarked.

“He seems like a good-hearted kid. But why does he dress like a delinquent?”

Hearing this, I gave an ambiguous smile.

“These days, that’s considered a personality.”

Honestly, I never imagined I’d say something like that.

I might have developed a fondness for him as I spent a lot of time with him.


That day at lunch, Koto Kazuya was moved by the Chinese-style lunchbox I had prepared, which he ate with his mother.

In fact, he knew he had been quite reckless.

All he had known was riding bikes and pretending to be tough—a fool who suddenly wanted to become a real man.

From my perspective, it must have seemed absurd.

But I embraced him as he was.

And I taught him generously.

What a wonderful man I am.

The real man he had dreamed of and admired since he was young was undoubtedly me.

As he reaffirmed his respect for me, preparing to go out for the afternoon workout, a knock came at his house door.

“Who is it?”

Koto Kazuya, opening the door for his mother, who was busy with the dishes, unconsciously hardened his expression.

“Brother, Mito has betrayed us! Please help us!”

It was his subordinates, whom he had left behind for his dream, standing in the apartment hallway, injured.

  1. ED/N: Spicy garlic fried chicken ↩️

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