What do people think of when the word ‘hero’ comes to mind.
Do they imagine fanciful characters that fight against evil like on television?
Athletes that have achieved great things?
Or someone nearby they admire?
To Nakamura Shinichi, his childhood friends were heroes.
As a child, he was weak and a cry baby. And it was his two friends who would always come to save him.
One of them used his tall stature and great strength to save him.
The other used his cunning to protect him from the shadows.
They were neighbors, so as far as they could remember, they were always together. The three of them were like brothers.
To Nakamura Shinichi, who was their friend, these two, who would always come to save him, were heroes.
They were his heroes.
That hadn’t changed even today—
Shinichi had forgotten…
About his luck that worked in subtle ways against other people.
About how it would make him meet people he did not want to meet.
About how it would turn him into a busybody that found people with problems.
This time too he wanted to complain about how big of a scene he was making.
It would’ve been one thing if it were at the town he lived at in the past, but who would’ve thought that he would meet his childhood friend at another town.
“A 6 year time gap, huh… No wonder you’re so small.”
The man knew nothing of Shinichi’s complicated thoughts as he lightly patted his head and laughed.
Shinichi and his childhood went to a coffee shop near the library lounge. They sat themselves facing each other.
This man was Takamine Daigo. One of the two childhood friends Shinichi had.
He had always been bigger than him, but now he was nearly 2 meters tall.
The height difference between them had grown even bigger with their age gap.
“B-Beat it. It’s because you went and grew even bigger!”
Shinichi was flustered because Daigo had nonchalantly pointed out something that he was actually concerned about.
“Ha ha, I get that a lot. People often tell me that I’m pointlessly big.”
Shinichi felt there was also some pain hidden behind those words, but he intentionally avoided mentioning it.
“Anyway, enough of that. Look, I’m begging you. Please don’t tell anyone about me. If word of my issue were to spread, it would get really problematic.”
The reason he talked to him about his circumstance is because it wasn’t really possible to fool him given how short he was and how young he looked.
Rather than rouse his interest by hiding it, it was better to just tell the truth.
Besides, Shinichi didn’t exactly want to lie to a childhood friend he hadn’t seen in ages.
“What do you mean?”
“The countermeasure department has already taken care of it, but there are people who’ve tailed me and have even tried to kidnap me.”
This wasn’t a lie since both things have – in fact – happened, but at the same, what it wasn’t correct either.
“I-I see. Alright. I’ll make sure never to tell anyone. I promise.”
Shinichi’s was hinting at Daigo that there were even worse crimes that would be attempted against him.
Because of that Daigo strongly nodded at him with a serious expression.
Shinichi sighed in relief at that. This was a man who has never broken his promise once.
He was someone he wanted to trust.
—What a hateful man I’ve become.
Shinichi was disgusted by himself for the things he naturally thought.
Although he had no choice but to think such things, as a human, it was a terrible thing.
“You sure have leveled up in a weird way though.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“You’ve always been harsh with your tongue, but in the past, you always did it absentmindedly. Now, though, you’re doing it on purpose.”
He knew his tongue had turned into a terrible weapon, but he didn’t know that was true even back then.
As far as he remembered, whenever he was scared of something or was crying, his mother would always spoil him.
He does recall putting up a brave front whenever his siblings were around, but he doesn’t recall ever being sharp with his tongue.
Despite what his memories told him, however, this childhood friend in front of him was telling him that that was actually the case.
“It’s true. How many times do you think you got surrounded by hot-blooded guys because of that?
How many times do you think you naturally picked a fight with those guys that tried to control the class?
Takeshi and I suffered a lot, you know.”
“…Sorry for causing you so much trouble.”
Images of him being saved by the two of them flashed through his mind, so he apologetically bowed his head.
In response, Daigo said he was just joking and laughed. The reason he saved Shinichi in those days was partly because he was his childhood friend, but also partly because he was right.
But it was precisely because of that that those guys would fly into a rage.
“Ha ha, you sure haven’t changed. But I guess that’s only a given. It’s only been 2 years for you.”
Even the way Shinichi became apologetic when Daigo pointed his faults out hadn’t changed.
There was a hint of longing and loneliness in the way he spoke that led Shinichi to become curious.
“No. It’s nothing. Anyway, I’m glad you’re alive.
I’m reluctant to say it, but… I thought for sure you’d died.”
He tried to hide it, but his eyes swam apologetically.
When Shinichi saw that, he quietly shook his head and denied the guilt that Daigo shouldn’t have to carry.
“I know how it is, so you don’t have to feel guilty. I didn’t go to the library just for show, you know?
I saw you at at the association of missing people. I’m happy you went to appeal for me.”
When Shinichi was reading up on the old articles, he happened upon that one article.
A month after the revelation of the existence of the otherworld to the public, an association for the missing people was founded.
It was a group of people who’s had relatives drifted away by the dimensional drifts and appealed for their search.
He saw them and his mother participating in that association from the local newspaper.