It was a clear, winter day following Miura’s visit to our club.
I listlessly walked outside for PE and the sky was bright. Judging from this weather, it looked like tonight was going to be a radiative cooled night.
But I was definitely grateful for this cloudless weather since I was going to be training for the marathon very soon. I was probably just going to laze around at home when it becomes night, so the temperatures dropping didn’t really matter to me…
Three entire classes all came out onto the schoolyard. Similar to other activities during PE, the marathon training wouldn’t be divided between the boys and girls. We would only be running, though the course that the boys and girls ran would be separate.
We formed an assembly at the fields and I caught sight of Miura in a group amongst the girls.
Since the morning, Miura seemed like she had been trying to keep me out of her sight. Be it during class or break, she’d always look away from me with her cheeks in hand. And during break, Yuigahama and Ebina-san would go up to her and chat about various things.
Although I did feel a little guilty for watching her so closely, she was much calmer than she was yesterday, though I wasn’t exactly sure why.
After what happened, I went home first which was also meant to ease Miura. If a barely involved boy like me stayed the entire time, I doubt Miura would’ve found that comfortable.
So what they discussed afterwards were things I didn’t know. Considering that Miura was breaking down in tears, I was skeptical of whether they were even able to hold a proper conversation.
In any case, isn’t Miura-san just a little too weak to pressure…? Didn’t she cry when Yukinoshita completely won their spat over summer…?
But while she may be weak, I thought she was strong-hearted as well.
“I want to know.” Those few words continued to linger in my ears.
As I went to line up, I looked ahead.
Hayama Hayato was there.
Hayama was engaged in pleasantries with Tobe and the others, not aware that I was looking at them.
Or maybe he did notice, but was acting as if he didn’t, just like how he did with other things.
In the first place, why was he refusing to tell people about his career path? It might be quicker to just dig out the reason why he was being so stubborn and make it meaningless than getting him to spit it out his choice.
As I stood there idly in thought, the PE teacher, Atsugi, finished his roll-call.
“Alrighty. Pair up with whoever you like and do some warm ups,” said Atsugi, overbearingly.
Everyone then transitioned into forming pairs and beginning their warm ups.
Should I try pairing up with someone close to Hayama and probe him with some questions?
Was there anyone in this school who knew Hayama more than Miura? As for those who were closest, that would be Miura’s group. Miura was also watching him very closely. People that were much closer than them were considerably limited in number, if any at all.
I needed to adjust my thinking. A paradigm shift, so to speak. What if I tried asking someone with a similar attribute and was also friendly with Hayama and trace his thoughts from there? For example, Totsuka who was also the president of a sports club or our classmate Totsuka. How about Totsuka that went to our school or a boy like… okay, I wasn’t sure about that, but anyway, Totsuka. I couldn’t think of a reason in particular, so let’s go with Totsuka.
Mmkay, it’s time for some warm-up exercises with Totsuka! I made eager looks around until I was called by someone.
I spontaneously turned around. And then, our eyes met.
Lumbering his way in my direction over the surface of the field with a wave was Zaimokuza. Why does he look so happy…?
“Hachimaaan, let’s get cracking on the warm ups!”
“Right… You make it sound like we’re playing baseball here… Also, I’m pairing with someone else, so…”
I thought I’d voice my complaint to Zaimokuza, but he wasn’t listening to me at all. As a matter of fact, he started off on a tangent.
“Hold it. The instructor most certainly did say to form a pair with someone you like, but that is not the reason why I came to the likes of you… S-So, don’t misunderstand me, you hear?”
“Man, don’t blush and look away, that’s really creepy…”
I removed my gaze from Zaimokuza and made surveying looks around. Hayama, Tobe, Oooka, and Yamato had formed their respective pairs and were starting their warm ups. Damn it! Even Totsuka’s in a pair, too! I was hoping to use this as an excuse to give Totsuka’s joints a real smoothing, too…
I gave up and settled for forming a pair with Zaimokuza. I stretched my body, or rather, relaxed it. After finishing that up, I had Zaimokuza sit and I pressed down on his back.
But there wasn’t any meaning in doing these warm ups mindlessly. While I was at it, I decided to utilize my special skill of human observation.
I glanced to the side in Hayama’s direction. But since his group was some distance away, I couldn’t get a good view of them. I could only make out that he was wearing a refreshing smile, talking about something pleasant.
From my spot, I couldn’t really hear what it was they were talking about. I need to move closer…
I leaned further forward with my weight and I completely pressed Zaimokuza down.
“Ow, ow, owowowow! Eeggk!”
When I heard his scream, I realized I had him in a forced posture and quickly got off of him. As a result, Zaimokuza collapsed to the floor on his back and convulsed in spasms.
There was a world of difference between us and them. I made comparing glances, but our side didn’t have the slightest hint of a fun and talkative atmosphere. I ended up making a bitter smile.
Zaimokuza found that offensive. “Stop that, Hachiman. Do not go comparing us to the likes of them.”
“Mm? Ahh. My bad.”
“You will only be met with misery if you stack yourself against them, you know? They excel in their appearances, athleticism, and they are kind people who even remember my name. There is no need for self-abasement, Hachiman.”
“Ehh, this was about me?”
I totally thought we were comparing Zaimokuza and Hayama here though?
With this considerable of a gap between us, of course you’d want to try comparing.
“Oh yeah, what’re you doing for your career path?”
“It’s exactly because you’re his antithesis that it can serve as a reference” was what Yukinoshita said, I think? The thought crossed my mind and I tried asking.
“Humu?” Zaimokuza tilted his head and answered, still lying on the floor. “Me, you say? I am choosing the sciences.”
“…What is with that look? Do you wish to lodge a complaint?”
“Nah, I thought for sure you were going to go with the liberal arts. Since you’re aiming to be a light novel writer, wouldn’t that be more convenient?”
“Naïve, you’re a naïve one!” Zaimokuza wagged his finger while purposely clicking his tongue.
How annoying… Could he go through a giant explosion1 or something…?
“I tend to absorb information from the liberal arts within the scope of my interests. The problems are the fields which I have absolutely no interest in. Unless I drive myself to confront them, I will be unable to learn them…”
“…R-Right. You actually looked respectable for the first time ever.”
He had such an extremely, proper opinion that I was impressed for just an instant.
But a Zaimokuza that wasn’t trash just wasn’t Zaimokuza. Zaimokuza was Zaimokuza exactly because he relied on excuses, always turned his eyes away from reality, and eventually keeled over with his ideals in hand…
I’ll treasure that Zaimokuza from now on within my heart. Farewell, Zaimokuza. I quietly bid my goodbyes to the present Zaimokuza.
Zaimokuza started up his body and lightly brushed off the dirt. “Well, that is not to say I am a scholar in math and science…”
“You’re going to have trouble with the exams, won’t you?”
“Indeed. However… I, myself, am much worse with girls than I am with math and science…” Zaimokuza’s eyes turned distant and stated with a calm tone.
There was a tinge of enlightenment in his voice and it felt as if he had treaded upon the stage of self-effacement making me unable to interject.
Zaimokuza continued further. “I can feel at ease in the science classes. The fewer the girls, the more peaceful the room of academia is. Furthermore, the girls who choose the sciences are much nicer, no?”
“I’m not so sure about nicer, but… that’s true… you can think like that too, huh…?”
He opened my eyes to some possibilities. Certainly, the science classes were comprised of eighty percent boys. Fewer girls were likely to avoid that option.
As I processed that, Zaimokuza’s eyes lit up with violence.
“Hah! Those idiotic, liberal arts women from private institutions have such a glaring discrepancy between their standardized scores and IQ that they are not worth the time! They should just spend their entire life pondering over the feelings of a writer on tests!” Zaimokuza spat out.
Just conversing with this authoritarian upholding his old-fashioned policies full of discrimination and prejudice made me feel at ease… What’s with this sore loser…!? Zaimokuza, you were definitely better off this way!
But Hachiman thinks you should be wary because there’s a tendency for girls in the sciences to become otaku princesses2! To be constantly stuck in an environment with countless numbers of boys, it most certainly wouldn’t be strange for a girl to start being thought of as a princess. Normal girls would be elevated to science princesses just like how princess cells3 were awakened from the kiss of a prince…
There was just something deplorable about Zaimokuza’s reason for choosing the sciences, but well, I’m sure the first reason he gave was real. He, too, was unexpectedly giving it a lot of thought.
“The sciences seem pretty rough, but do your best.”
“Indeedy, I don’t need you to tell me twice. A wanderer, I will not become from failing my exams, nin-nin.”
“You’re going overboard with your speech there.”
We quickly finished our remaining stretches, stood up, and went towards the starting point of the marathon. The other boys were already gathered there and we were considerably lined up far in the back.
Zaimokuza shot up his index finger and then pointed at me. “Hachiman… Accompany me!”
You’re not even a girl. Why exactly do I need to run with you?
Atsugi blew the whistle with a stopwatch in his hand. The front started off sequentially and we sluggishly began running after them.
I looked to the front and around, but everyone was lightly treading on. This was just training, so there shouldn’t be anyone taking it seriously.
It was currently fourth period with lunch right after. If I used my energy here and ate, I was confirmed for sleeping through fifth period. Anyone would fall asleep in a heated classroom with a full stomach and exhausted from labor. I already sleep enough as it is in class even when I wasn’t tired.
We apathetically jogged at the tail of the line and after a few minutes, Zaimokuza was already starting to slow down. Really? Weren’t you just going “—Do you think you can keep up with me!?” from behind moments ago…?
“U-Ugh… The phenomena of Heavy Acceleration4… Th-The Heaviness is…”
“I’m going on ahead.”
I shouted to Zaimokuza, left him there, and went ahead. Whenever someone told you to run together with him, it was proper etiquette to betray him midway. And in this way, children came to learn that they shouldn’t trust people so easily…
× × ×
As I continued running by myself, I had cleared half of the assigned distance. Heke!5 Er, that was Hamtaro, wasn’t it…?
The assigned distance for training in class was four kilometers. We ran around the circumference of the school. Blehhh… if we keep running around and around like this, I’m going to turn into butter…6
These insanely worthless thoughts filled my head until I eventually caught up to the middle group. It looked like commuting to school by bike everyday helped because I still had about half of my stamina left.
Although, this “middle” group was actually the people who had no motivation, comprising of everyone outside of the top group who wanted to finish as soon as they could to rest.
It was in this group that I spotted Tobe and the others.
This training probably wasn’t the time for the people from the sports clubs to run normally. I didn’t need to bother checking that they were running along with the group as well.
They’d chat with each other while occasionally hitting each other in the shoulders, poking each other’s heads, and pointlessly compete by sprinting, engaging in delightful fun. If I was a class president with pigtails, I would’ve reprimanded them with “Hey boys, be serious and run!” They’d then tell me, “Shut it, ugly!” and I’d be in tears afterwards, leading me to denouncing them during the end-of-day meeting. Heck, I wanted them to thank me for not being a beautiful, pigtailed class president girl.
But the ones messing around were just the usual idiot trio, Tobe, Oooka, and Yamato. I couldn’t see Hayama anywhere.
There were some things I wanted to ask these guys.
As I stalked the three Samba Carnival7 idiots that continued to play around, I ran along right behind them. But it was fairly difficult finding the timing to speak to them as we were running. That’s a lie! Hachiman, you lied to yourself just now! You wouldn’t be able to grab onto that timing even if we had stopped running!
This is pretty hard since there isn’t a signal of the sort to watch for… And as I was intently watching them like a rockbomb8, Tobe stopped running.
“Go on without me.”
Tobe squatted after shouting to Oooka and Yamato. It looked like he was tying his shoes.
That’s good, the easiest guy to talk to stayed behind.
I stood behind Tobe and greeted him. Tobe fell over as if he was trying to perform a falling technique and turned towards me.
“God danggit, Hikitani-kun. Ya gotta let me know before ya jump on me like that. Freaked me the hell out there.”
Uh, you’re being a bit too aggressive for how freaked out you are… Well, let’s just ignore Tobe’s mumbling complaints and quickly ask him what I needed.
“Hayama isn’t with you?”
“Ahh. Hayato-kun’s runnin’ seriously. Everyone’s totally rootin’ for him to win this year since he won last year.”
“You don’t say…”
So that’s how it is. Our school’s marathon was only separated by boys and girls, so that meant Hayama had won last year against the upperclassmen as well. That would explain why he’d be the obvious favorite to win this year too. By the way, I didn’t even get placed as I was just a part of the finishing masses.
Well, that didn’t matter.
I indicated ahead with my chin and moved my legs urging Tobe to run along. It’d be kind of odd to continue standing around here and there’s no telling when a teacher would make his rounds around here. Going along with that, Tobe stood next to me and we began running.
After running for some time, Tobe tilted his head in puzzlement. He was probably finding it strange why I was running together with him. I wanted to get down to business as well.
But before I could, Tobe opened his mouth. He let out a sigh resembling a yawn of relief and showed me a miserable looking smile. “Yo, for real, when I heard that rumor, I totally freaked out. It’s not like we can go sayin’ it to people, ya know?”
“Huh?” I glanced at him with half-opened eyes wondering what he suddenly started off on.
Tobe wiped the sweat at his brow. “C’mon, Hayato-kun said the initial “Y”, ya know? There ain’t too many who know about it.”
The abrupt mention of that caused me to react a moment late. But after gradually connecting the dots, a clear image came to mind.
It was on that night of summer.
In that dark room, the initial that he forced out, unable to endure the noisy and constant questioning of everybody’s voices.
I recalled the event with Hayama and the others when we were at Chiba Village. And surely enough, at the time, Hayama had stated that the initial letter of the person he liked was “Y”.
For just a brief moment of time, I thoughtlessly carried my legs forward and Tobe peered into my face in examination.
“We can’t talk about somethin’ like that right now, yeah?”
Aren’t you the one who brought it up? Are you one of those guys? Are you the personal barber of a king or something? I’m not some kind of scream whatever you want hole, you know…
“I mean, you get that there’s no way, but when you actually hear it, ya freak out normally, yeah?”
I found myself understanding what it was that Tobe wanted to say.
“…Well, there’s no way.”
Although it looked like I was agreeing with Tobe, I became worried I might’ve been actually saying something entirely different.
No, I didn’t care about that. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
Tobe, however, tried to continue on. To stop him, I brought up something light so I could control the direction of the conversation.
“Did you already turn in your questionnaire?”
“Nah, not yet. I’ve been thinkin’ of the sciences, but Oooka and Yamato keep sayin’ the liberal arts.”
“You don’t say…… Did you ask Hayama what he’s going to pick?”
Luckily, he brought up the names of other people, so it made it easier for me to get to the point.
From what I could see, Tobe was the closest to Hayama amongst the guys. Hayama was relatively close with Oooka and Yamato too, but Tobe being in the same club should’ve given him a bigger advantage. Of course, that’s my side of the story based on what I knew of them… I mean, I didn’t know a single thing about Hayama’s friendships.
When I asked Tobe, he brushed up his nape hair. “Nah, he’s, like, think for yourself and wouldn’t tell me anythin’.”
Well, that was something I should’ve expected. In which case, I needed to take a different approach to collect information. Times like these were when Tobe’s happy-go-lucky attitude saved a lot of trouble. I asked him another question with the expectations he’d drop information like a villager from a RPG.
“Have you tried consulting with Hayama about your career path?”
“I did, yeah. I asked him about the good stuff in either of them, and like, he told me it’d get in my way of choosin’ or somethin’?” Tobe profoundly sighed, surprisingly seeming to be truly worried over what he should do.
Our running pace dropped for just an instant. Still, Hayama offered his usual advice like always… I can’t tell if he’s just being extremely reasonable or being harmless…
“Well, they both have their good and bad points. Did you ask him for a recommendation?”
“He said that would mess with my judgment or somethin’.”
He was thorough.
In reality, people who were easily influenced by the opinions of others also tended to take the words of individuals possessing imposing and charismatic character at face value. Those who ended up as the heart of people similarly to Hayama needed to be wary of the potential impact their remarks could have on others. Matters concerning interests, tastes, and fashion were trivial problems, but career paths and relationships could affect a person’s life now or later. All was well if everything went without a hitch. But once things turned sour, even the charismatic people would be the target of resentment. Those who let the opinions and words of others dictate their own choices were people who easily faulted others.
But regarding the guy named Tobe, there wasn’t any need to worry about him harboring a grudge against others.
Tobe had a contemplative face as we were running and he made a deep sigh, a long trail of white breath leaving his mouth.
“…But, it’s like what Hayato-kun said.”
His words were kind of abstract. But there was sincerity in his lack of words and his tone that wasn’t for anyone’s ears. He must’ve understood what it was that Hayama’s words were telling him.
“…You trust him, huh?” I blurted out.
Tobe stared at me in amazement. “Nah, say what, that ain’t it, I think? Well, ya know, Hayato-kun is a pretty reliable fellow or somethin’?”
Seemingly embarrassed from the word “trust”, Tobe’s face turned red from the cold or his shyness while trying to rephrase his words. Hey, stop acting like that! I’m the one who’s getting embarrassed since I’m the one that brought it up!
Tobe hit his chest as if to get over his embarrassment and continued. “Nah, seriously, Hayato-kun’s totally helped me a ton of times. I’m totally sure about that.”
“That’s not something to be proud of…” I said.
Regardless, Tobe didn’t look ashamed. He groaned and repeatedly pulled at his nape hair. “Beeh, seriously, I’m indebted to the guy. Like totally.”
“Better pay him back eventually.”
“That’s totally it! Yeah… Well, I’m not so sure about that.”
His tone at first was frivolous, but the energy in it withered away as he continued speaking. Curious about his overly somber expression, I urged Tobe to go on with a look. Tobe then lightly scratched his cheeks.
“I talk to him about a lotta stuff… but Hayato-kun never really talks to me about anythin’ and even if he did, I probably wouldn’t get it,” said Tobe, grinning.
That grin of his was similar to the cold, dry wind that blew by from earlier. It was dry and somehow, lonely.
Since the silence afterwards was so awkward, I searched for words that I could possibly say and then suggested an idea. “…Yeah, think about this. He doesn’t have any problems, so that’s why he’s not consulting with you.”
“Totally that! Hayato-kun’s a total hotty, after all!”
“That’s kind of irrelevant here… Besides, you looked out for him at Destinyland, right? I’m sure that was pretty helpful for him back then, not that I’d know.”
“Totally that! Hayato-kun’s a total hotty, after all!”
This time his face had some relevance there… Must be tough having a pretty face.
It looked like talking had lightened Tobe up and his running pace increased. He’d mumble “cold, cold” to himself whenever the freezing wind blew by us.
Eventually, we could see Oooka and Yamato ahead of us. Apparently they lowered their pace, finding it strange that Tobe didn’t chase after them.
“A’ight, I gotta chase those guys, so I’ll be goin’ on ahead.”
“Yeah,” I said, briefly.
Tobe made a chopping motion with his hand and made a wild sprint forward. He yelled out to Oooka and Yamato as he ran after them while waving. When the two of them saw him coming, they ran further ahead while going “Crap, here he comes!”, “Let’s get outta here!”
As long as Tobe was having fun chasing those two running away, that’s fine, I suppose…
But originally, there should’ve been one more person in that group. If he didn’t have to carry the luggage of expectations, I think he would’ve been laughing along with them.
After that thought went by in my head, I suddenly regretted the words I carelessly uttered earlier.
Because he didn’t consult with anyone, he didn’t have any problems; there’s no way that’d be true.
× × ×
The chime for lunch sounded.
When marathon training occupied PE, we were allowed to go straight to lunch after we were done. I could take my time to change and I could still easily be the first one to the school store.
I carefully picked my choice of bread among the many that were available and went directly to my usual lunch spot. Eating outside during this season meant dealing with the painful cold, but in the classroom with heating and full of people, I had no place. As a matter of fact, I recently had a gander at my seat during lunch the other day and my desk had a grocery bag on top of it and was being utilized as a trash dump. Remaining at my seat meant obstructing the public!
With that consideration in mind, I went to my designated spot located on the first floor of the special building. I took a seat on the stairs diagonally behind the school store, next to the school infirmary. From here, I could get a view of the tennis courts.
The steady rhythm of popping filled the transparent air of winter. The tennis club was using their lunch to practice. To this day, it was usually Totsuka who’d be practicing during lunch, but there must’ve been an upcoming tournament because the number of people had increased.
I chewed the bread I carried to my mouth all the while observing their practice. Totsuka, who had been looking after his club members the whole time, noticed me, shouted to them, and came over here with something in his hands.
“Yo,” I said.
“Yeah, yo!” Totsuka answered, raised his hand similarly, and felt embarrassed.
“You sure about practice?”
“Oh, sure. I thought now’s a good time as any to eat lunch,” said Totsuka, and he showed me his lunchbox bag.
I felt a bit awkward since it felt like I had interrupted his practice… And to think he’d actually go out of his way just to eat with me… Crap, I’m blowing through the stages like they’re nothing… At this rate, reaching the LOVESTAGE!9 was only a matter of time…
I scooted over to the side and made some space. Totsuka gave me a polite “Thank you” and took a seat as my neighbor… Fuahaha! Just look at this high level technique! By making space for a person preemptively, you could control where he would sit!
At the corner of my eyes, Totsuka began to unload his small lunchbox. I made a glance towards the tennis courts and the other members were also taking a break for lunch.
“Other members are practicing during lunch now, huh?”
“Yep, there’s going to be a newcomer tournament soon, so I invited everyone… Oh, how about it, Hachiman? Want to practice with us? If you start now, you’ll be able to make it in time for the summer tournament!” Totsuka asked in jest, pumping his fists up and down.
Oh gosh, what is this? So cute. I’m sorry, please give me this child named Totsuka. In fact, I’m on the verge of becoming his.
“Let’s see, it depends on how many days a week practice is…”
“Hey, you’re not being serious, are you?” Totsuka leaned forward and looked into my face.
Totsuka’s hair gently rustled. His eyes that peeked out from between the cuts of his bangs had a mischievous glitter and his smile was strangely alluring.
“Yeah, it’s a joke.”
“I knew it.” Totsuka displayed a deliberate show of dropped shoulders and disappointment.
A smile spilled on our faces. We both knew that was out of the question, allowing us to poke some fun at it… W-Well, I was actually pretty darn serious the first time he invited me though!
“…But, yeah. You’re doing pretty well as the president, huh?”
“I feel like I’m still totally far from being called one though.” Totsuka smiled anxiously with a chuckle.
I suppose it was a mixture of the truth and his modesty. But in his long time service as the president, he had proactively engaged in practice by himself. I’m sure that was much more telling to the members than words could ever be.
This was how a club president should be. I felt a certain club president out there could learn a thing or two from this… Though I guess it wasn’t a big deal since she could usually strike a balance…
Suddenly, the phrase “club president” hit me.
My initial thought of finding a way to pry into Hayama’s thoughts was to ask Totsuka about it. But due to my impure motive of wanting to talk to Totsuka and Zaimokuza hampering me, I totally forgot about it…
Besides, I was interested in Totsuka—I mean, in Totsuka’s career path anyway.
“Totsuka. Which are you doing? Liberal arts or the sciences?” I asked.
Totsuka made a blank expression that Bambi would make upon jumping out from the meadows. “It’s kind of rare for you to ask something like that, Hachiman.”
“Really?” I asked back, finding that surprising.
Totsuka asserted without hesitation or confusion. “Uh huh. It feels like the things you’re interested in are set or something.”
Ahh, right, when he put it like that, that’s true.
For many years, there were many times where I had reasons and excuses prepared since I’d never proactively try to communicate with people. Actually, if I didn’t make a reason to talk to people, I wouldn’t be able to say the things I wanted to say as freely as I’d like. In other words, ironically, loners could be said to be people with a strong sense of purpose, indeed.
As I sat there convinced, Totsuka, without answering my question, asked, “How about you, Hachiman?”
“Liberal arts for me.”
Normally, I would’ve sentenced him a trip to the Lecture Room10 for answering a question with a question, but I had no choice but to answer instantly with how he was bending his head to the side and gazing at me with his big eyes. Had this been Komachi or Isshiki, I would’ve taught them only after the lecture. Dang it! In the end, I was just teaching them! I’m super sweet!
Totsuka placed his chopsticks down and looked up at the sky. In the time he appeared to be thinking, the cold wind blew by and rustled Totsuka’s bangs.
“Oh okay… Maybe I’ll do that too…”
“Ohh, yeah…! Then again, are you sure you should be choosing like that?”
In that instant, the phrase “we’re matching, huh?” voiced by Totsuka (shy gesture included) played itself in my head, and my heart was just about to dance with an encore just about to heat up11, but somehow, I managed to keep myself at bay.
“You should probably think about it more… If we end up together though, that’d be nice too.” I added, lightly coughing.
Totsuka placed his index fingers together and peeked at my face. Um, see here, if you look at me like that, I might just want to say “heck, let’s not stop at the liberal arts, let’s go to the grave together!”…
“For the most part, I did give it some thought… It’s just the place I want to go to allows us to take exams for subjects in the liberal arts, too.”
“Ahh. Well, there are a lot of subjects to choose from, after all.”
If there were evaluation standards like that in place, then it may not matter what you decided to choose. Picking between the liberal arts and the sciences through subject tests instead of the traditional process of your desired department was certainly an option.
For the liberal arts at private schools, the subjects were English, Modern Japanese, and social studies. For the sciences, the most standardized were English, mathematics, and science subjects.
But in recent years, you were given free rein to take subject tests of system A or system B depending on the university and department. There were many cases where you could even take math and science subjects at liberal arts departments depending on the selection process. Furthermore for public schools, many colleges imposed a curriculum beyond the five subjects and seven courses taught at study centers, so it’s necessary to study every subject.
It’s a simple matter of picking the liberal arts or the sciences if you just followed the custom of the schools you were interested in. On the other hand, there were a variety of school combinations to choose from. Anticipating Hayama’s choice from this angle would be too complicated.
“Where’s the school you want to apply to, Totsuka?”
“Um… I was thinking of either Tokorozawa’s School of Human Sciences or Sports Sciences12.”
“Ahh, that place, huh?”
The school Totsuka said he was interested in going to was one that I knew. It’s a considerably famous college, but if you enrolled there, you’re stuck listening to the wind and eating Jumangoku Manju13 for four years… Saitama Prefecture, talk about scary…
Nevertheless, it’s impressive that he’d go to a remote place like Saitama with things he wanted to do. In my case, if possible, I didn’t want to leave Chiba at all and I was set on riding only the Sobu Line local service.
“Did you consider the sports one because you’re in tennis?”
If the subject exams were necessary, then the reason for applying to a school should be related to the things you wanted to do. In that case, I should try examining things from that side.
When I asked Totsuka, he bashfully scratched his cheeks. “Mmm, that’s not it. I figured since I’ve been doing tennis for so long, I’d try for something related to it or something…”
“I see… Aren’t there recommendations for that?”
He’s been doing tennis for a long time, so he should at least be rewarded for it. Striving in your clubs and properly studying at the same time seemed like quite the ordeal. Also, since the school Totsuka was interested in was rather popular, even if he retired from club now and began earnestly studying, there’d still be an immeasurable gap between him and those who had done so since the beginning. From the standpoint of a person like me, if you’re going to the same place, then you might as well just opt for somewhere else that took less effort.
Already considering the pros and cons of the recommendations, Totsuka cheerfully smiled. “Ahaha, there aren’t very many of those. I don’t think it’s possible with our school. Even if I did get a recommendation, I don’t think it’ll be for a very well-known university.”
“Is that how it works…?”
It’s true that I don’t recall any strong clubs at our school. If there’s one thing that came to mind, it’d be that senpai from Judo club I met during the summer. Supposedly he went to university on a recommendation, but I had no recollection of ever asking which university it was. While I was at it, I had no recollection of ever asking for his name either. Putting that aside, that senpai looked like he was having a lot of trouble, so it wasn’t necessarily greener on the other side with recommendations.
I guess the best way is to just take exams normally and pass it on the first attempt, I concluded.
Totsuka chewed his steamed shrimp dumpling and hit his knees. “Ah. But amazing people might try going through a selection process for a famous school. You could also apply directly.”
“Selection process… That rings a bell.”
I recall that if you won three times at a card game, your wishes would be granted and you would become an Eternal Girl… oh wait, that’s Selector14. Basically, the selection process was where you took a special selection test.
Totsuka nodded, but his expression grew gradually complex. “Right, right. But people who normally do that tend to be people aiming to be pros or Olympic athletes… The only person at our school who could pass would probably be just Hayama-kun.”
“…Really, is he that amazing?”
“It’s just an example. I’m sure it’s actually much harder than that.” Totsuka played it off by sticking out his tongue. He shifted his gaze towards the school grounds, the direction where the soccer club practiced after school
“In Hayama-kun’s case, he’d be more likely to pass by applying directly than with a sports recommendation, right? He’s the one who’s coordinating the club president meetings, too.”
Direct application. In other words, the AO entrance exams15… I believe the formal name was AO “Airheads are OK” entrance exams, I think? No? That was an option too and so at that point, the relationship between the subject exams and choosing between the liberal arts and sciences was even weaker.
“Hayama’s pretty amazing…” I expressed an obvious and natural impression of him.
“Yeah. He can do everything and he’s nice, too.”
I thought I had a fairly good grasp of Hayama’s qualities, but I had never looked at him from the perspective of clubs. For Totsuka who also served as the president of a sports club, there’s a side of Hayama that he could see. Totsuka abruptly clamped his chopsticks and made a troubled smile.
“Speaking of amazing… so is that rumor.”
It should’ve been expected, but the rumor had made it to Totsuka as well.
“I was totally surprised when I heard it. I was under the impression Hayama-kun liked Miura-san. We did talk about it during over summer that one time…”
As Totsuka mentioned, when we were at Chiba Village over summer, Totsuka was also present when Hayama uttered that initial. Miura’s first name certainly did start with the initial “Y”.
But during PE, Tobe never touched on that possibility at all. As someone who was part of Hayama’s group and watched them very closely, he must’ve saw it for what it was; that is, it wasn’t likely.
—-If so, whose initial did it belong to?
“Hachiman? Is something wrong?”
When he called me, I noticed I was wrinkling my brow quite a bit. I forcibly moved my brows up and down, loosening my cheeks while I was at it.
“No, I was just wondering whose initial it was. There’s a lot of people with ‘Y’ initials here…”
Isn’t Yoshiteru Zaimokuza a prime example? How about the dark horse, Yamato? Heck, we should just change Isshiki’s name by adding the “Y” sound and make it “Isshiki ‘Bribe’ Wairoha”. It sounded like she could be suspected of bribing or something… Actually, the initial in this case is W, not Y. I had these idiotic thoughts and purposely drove them out of my head.
While we were talking, the chime marking the end of lunch sounded. I needed to make it back to class before the first warning bell. Crap, I didn’t even finish my food. I hastily ate up my bread and washed it down with MAX COFFEE. Totsuka seemed to have been a light eater as he already finished his lunch and slowly got to his feet.
He turned towards the tennis courts and yelled. “Hey guys, it’s time to go! I’ll see you again after school!”
When the tennis club members responded back with the wave of their rackets, Totsuka did so with his hand. I gazed at him in a stupor. How should I put it? It wasn’t very often you got to see Totsuka look so energetic and proactive.
“…Doesn’t suit me?” Totsuka glanced at me in embarrassment, remembering that I was still here.
“Ah, no, that’s not it, er…”
I stumbled over my words, surprise not being the only reason. The sight of him like that was just simply captivating. Unlike what Totsuka had done to this day, I felt this moment was when my heart was moved the most.
“It’s just, I didn’t know, uh, how president-ish you were, so I was just a bit surprised,” I said in shambles, unable to properly put what I was feeling into words.
Finding that funny, Totsuka laughed. “There sure are a bunch of things you don’t know, Hachiman.”
“Yeah, there really is too many.”
When Totsuka smiled, a smile broke onto my face as well. He then abruptly looked up to the sky and folded his fingers, counting something. “Like about the tennis club or about the sports recommendation…”
“Yeah, thanks for telling me about them,” I said.
Totsuka nodded back and folded two more fingers. “And… about Hayama-kun’s career path, or about that rumor.”
When he brought those two up, I didn’t have anything to say. In reality, I really didn’t know a single thing about Hayama’s career path. I couldn’t gather much information even after indirectly asking Tobe and Zaimokuza about theirs. As for the rumor, I pretended as if it didn’t exist.
A silence hung over us as I sat there unable to answer. The only audible noises were the blowing of the cold draft and the audible commotion coming from the school building.
Totsuka inhaled in the winter air and folded his remaining pinky, clenching his hand into a fist. “And also… about me, too.”
Somehow, I was strangely satisfied with that.
Totsuka adjusted his hair that swayed from the wind with his fingertips and then puffed his chest out. This was the first time I had seen Totsuka like this, a Totsuka that I didn’t know.
“I’m doing pretty well, see…? I might not be as reliable though.” Totsuka added while making a bashful smile.
That was a gesture of the Totsuka Saika that I thought I knew.
That’s why, perhaps, I think this was the first time I was able to properly look at the boy named Totsuka Saika; nothing more, nothing less. But by no means did that mean I knew him fully.
But that’s exactly why I felt I wanted to know more.
“…No, that’s not true. Even I’m relying on you. I still don’t really get it, but… but, uh, I’ll probably rely on you,” I said.
I rose to my feet and took a step towards Totsuka.
Regardless of his embarrassment, Totsuka strongly nodded.
I think Totsuka had always been waiting for me for all this time, waiting for me to approach him just like I was now.
In this way, we’d gradually pull off our masks, whittle down our flesh, and be able to face each other for the very first time.
If there are times where we at first didn’t take notice of each other and thus making us completely indifferent, allowing us to relentlessly throw out insults, then there, too, is a relationship that dwindles away little by little as if you were peacefully and leisurely chipping away and nibbling at the cuticles of your fingers.
Totsuka wasn’t an angel… but more like a devil? Or an archangel… No, maybe a fallen angel?
Whatever he was, Totsuka was Totsuka.
|Chapter 4||Top||Chapter 6|
- Giant Explosion – A Pokemon move. ↩
- Otaku princesses – A girl who gets treated like a princess (regardless of appearance) when she’s the only girl amongst an overwhelming ratio of girls to boy in favor of the boys in typical cultural clubs (clubs where otakus would typically gather). ↩
- Princess cells – STAP is an alleged way to stimulate cells which turned out to be a scientifically unsupported. The stimulation of the cells could supposedly be done by submerging the cellls in some weak acid (kiss of the prince) and some other chemicals. ↩
- Heavy Acceleration – Kamen Rider’s move. ↩
- Hamtaro – Cute sound Hamtaro makes. ↩
- The Story of Little Black Sambo ↩
- Brazillian Carnival – Three idiots (sanbaka) and Samba Carnival (Sanbakaanibaru). ↩
- Rockbomb – Dragon Quest monsters also known as bombcrags. ↩
- Love Stage!! – Yaoi manga. ↩
- AKB48 Takamina’s Lecture Room ↩
- nobodyknows+ – Lyrics from Kokoro Odoru. ↩
- Waseda University’s undergraduate programs ↩
- Jumangoku Manju – Literally “100,000 Stone Manjus” is a pastry store for manjus located in Saitama. “The wind is telling you” is a slogan used in their CMs. ↩
- Selector-Wixoss ↩
- AO Entrance Exams – Admissions Office. My understanding is applying directly via a college’s website instead of through your high school or the sort. ↩