"Hello?" a familiar girl's voice answered.
"Hey, is this Kou?" (Name) asked, making sure.
"Oh~ (Last Name)-san! My friend and I have been looking for you!"
"Ha-ha, me too," (Name) lied. "Where are you guys?"
"We just got done buying squid ink spaghetti. So we'll be waiting in front of the booth."
"Alright. See you then," (Name) said, before hanging up. She sighed. This was completely new to her, since she never really went on a "girls' night out". The closest she's ever gotten to girl bondage was with her sister and her friends, but that wasn't much. She was always left out anyway.
(Name) finally reached the booth and saw Kou and another girl with brown hair and pale blue eyes.
"(Last Name)-san!" Kou said, rushing up to (Name). "That yukata looks good on you!"
"D-does it?" (Name) said, feeling her face grow red again. She really needed to get used to the compliments if she was going to continue hanging out with nice people.
"It does~" the other girl agreed.
Kou peered over (Name)'s shoulder. "HM!" she said, seeing something.
"W-what is it?" (Name) asked, about to turn around.
"DON'T!" Kou said, stopping (Name). Then she sighed in relief. "Okay, (Name)-chan, (I'm gonna call you by your first name, okay?), I need to have a little chat with you."
"You ran?!" Kou exclaimed after (Name) told her the story of her and Makoto's accidental meeting earlier that evening. Kou had dragged (Name) and the other girl on the deck that Makoto and (Name) were on previously. "You're supposed to apologize and act cute, not run away!"
"I had to," (Name) said, kind of regretting telling her the whole story. She didn't even know how she started to tell her, she just did. "I would have exploded on the spot--"
"You like him, huh?" the other girl said ((Name) still didn't know what her name was). "I don't blame you, he is pretty cute."
(Name) couldn't say no to that. Makoto was pretty adorable looking out into the ocean all dramatically. "I like him... I suppose."
"There's no 'suppose' in love, (Name)-chan!" Kou said dramatically. "Before you confront him with your feelings, you must confront yourself!"
"You've been hanging out with Hazuki-san too much," (Name) muttered. However, what she said was true. If (Name) didn't accept her own feelings, then how could she tell Makoto about them? "Wait a second," (Name) said. "I'm not even going to tell him, so why would I be so worried about it?"
"You're not going to tell him?!" Kou exclaimed again. "You have to!!"
"Why?" (Name) said, confused all of a sudden.
"He probably likes you, that's why," Kou said, smiling devilishly.
(Name) felt her face get warm. "H-how can he like me for what I did?"
"You just pretended to be someone else. So what?" Kou said, rolling her eyes.
"I only pretended to be someone because I was bullying him," (Name) said, furiously. "And I hate myself for that. I was bored with my life so that's why I decided to mess with a stupid guy's brain. But it turns out he's actually a really good person, and I just did something terrible to him. What person falls in love with a person like that?"
Kou thought about it for a while, that answered. "Stupid people. And Makoto fits that description perfectly."
(Name) gulped. Kou did have a point. "I don't think I can confront Makoto. He's way too good for me, he deserves better."
Kou smiled. "You say that, but you don't realize that you've changed."
(Name) blinked. She was confused.
Kou rolled her eyes. "What I mean is that sure, you were a really mean bully for doing what you did, but you learned your lesson because of Makoto's kindness. You learned that when you really care about someone, you only want what's good for them, not for you. Get it?"
(Name) nodded. Kou did seem a little girly and maybe a little too obsessed with male anatomy structures, but she was pretty wise for a freshman.
"And you know," Kou added. "Maybe Makoto might like bad girls. Who knows?" She winked.
(Name) felt her heart skip a beat. She felt touched. She finally found out what it was like to be in a friendship.
"Okay," Kou said. "You need to talk to Makoto again." They were close to the entrance of the shrine that had a beautiful view of the festival and ocean.
(Name) blinked. "W-- No! I can't, I can't do it..."
"You can!" the other girl said, looking excited. "We'll even go up there with you!" She pointed towards the shrine.
"H-he's up there?" (Name) blushed, thinking about the "romantic" view.
"C'mon!" Kou said seriously, grabbing the sleeve of (Name)'s yukata. They walked up the dirt steps and finally reached to the top. They went under the torii gate and saw the four boys excitedly talking about swimming the relay. Haruka, surprisingly, looked happy and satisfied. Nagisa realized the three girls were there.
"Ah! Gou-chan!" Nagisa said. "And (Name)-chan as well!" He added, kind of nervously.
"Makoto!" Kou said, almost demanding. "(Name)-chan has something to say to you!"
This was too sudden for (Name). In fact, she imagined Makoto and her being alone. Instead, with everybody else watching, this just made her even more nervous. Her hands shook, almost violently. Her heart felt like it was going to rip out of her chest.
"U-um..." (Name) said, as everyone stared at her in silence. Her face felt like it was going to explode since it was so warm. "Um...!" She swallowed all her nervousness. She closed her eyes, imagining everything she was going to say. Then, she said, "Look. I know this is really weird, since everyone is watching. And I didn't really want everyone watching either. But I suppose this is what Kou wanted. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I only pretended I was someone else because I thought it would be fun messing with a less intelligent person, but it back fired. I didn't notice how caring and nice you are, and how much you care for others. And how sweet you are to everyone, not trying to offend them even if it's the truth. I didn't notice how beautiful your eyes were, or how kind you've been to me. I didn't notice how adorable you are, and I didn't notice how you touch everyone's heart. Including mine. You've changed my twisted brain, the mind that used to think that life is boring. Because it's not anymore. I have a reason to live, because you're in my life."
Everyone stared surprisingly, like it was some miracle for a cold person like (Name) to say such things.
Now for the finale.
(Name) felt a lump in her throat. Was it really okay to say this? Her vision became fuzzy. She looked directly at Makoto's eyes. "And..." she said, her voice cracking, "And because you gave me a reason to live...!" A tear trickled down her cheek. "Because you gave me a reason to live, I love you so much for that, Makoto."
Makoto looked stunned. He blinked once. Twice.
Mean while, Nagisa and Kou were crying their eyes out. Nagisa used Rei's yukata as a handkerchief. They said something like "That was the sweetest thing I've ever heard!" or "So cute! Oh my gosh!"
(Name) hurriedly wiped her tears, but new ones kept forming. "Um..." she said, feeling nervous again. "That's it. Thank you for listening." She turned, about to leave the shrine. She couldn't take the attention any longer. It was too overwhelming. After she stepped down about two steps, something caught her yukata sleeve. She turned to see Makoto, his face still looking stunned. His cheeks were brushed with a pink color.
"(Last Name)-san... no, (Name)-chan," Makoto said, stepping on the same level as (Name). "You're really pretty."
(Name) wiped her continuous tears, but she also felt herself blush. "Y-y-you really think so?"
Makoto lifted (Name)'s face. "I would know so if you'd stopped crying." Then, he smiled. "You promised, remember?"
Then, it hit (Name): Of course. The boy from that day at the beach. The boy was Makoto. "It was you." Tears kept on flowing. She sobbed. Then, she started to bawl. Makoto took (Name) in his arms.
"It's good to cry once in a while," Makoto said gently.
(Name) could not reply. She was too happy thinking about being in Makoto's arms, crying for the first time in eleven years.