The school building, the Cultural Festival nearing in under barely a month, was in a state of hysteria.
As of today, permission to remain after school for the Cultural Festival preparations was given. In the other classes, people were carrying cardboard back and forth, preparing art equipment and the like while the impatient guys started their merrymaking, running around with snacks and drinks in arm, barking “snacks!”
In the same way, class 2-F was making strides towards the Cultural Festival.
Hayama stood at the teacher’s lectern and called everyone to attention. “Okay, let’s pick out the staff and cast… For the screenwriter, we’ll go with Hina, and the others…” He wrote down the jobs that might be deemed necessary on the blackboard.
Director – Ebina Hina
Producer – Ebina Hina
Screenwriter – Ebina Hina
And so, the dream staff had been assembled. Not to say there was anyone else who could do those jobs… whether it was an executive producer or a super producer…
Supplementing this creative front was:
Production Assistant – Yuigahama Yui
Advertising – Miura Yumiko
Important staff members were nominated along the way. With the lack of female roles in the production, it was very reasonable to expect these types of jobs to be handled by the girls.
But, the real problem was what came after.
A play meant actors, and on top of that, they had to be mostly males. In fact, it was essentially an all-male cast. It was “The Little Prince” ~Thump! Boys All Over~1.
At first, they were open-minded, checking for individuals who were willing to take part in the play, but that was met with no responses. Well, that wasn’t surprising since there was no way anyone would want to volunteer in a play like that.
“Uhhh, everyone, you don’t need to worry too much about the character sheets from last time, alright? We’re obviously not going to go with that.” Though Hayama tried to gloss it over, he wasn’t able to erase the image associated with the play, and a bizarre silence hung over the boys.
“Guess we’ll have to do this then…” The girl said, polishing her glasses with a rotten boldness, and she climbed onto the platform.
The one in possession of the casting ballot of Hell was Ebina Hina.
Ignoring the commotion in the class, she jotted down the official names of the roles. It looked like she was taking full advantage of her authority as the head of the production.
First, she filled in the roles for the minor characters.
Under the rose, the king, and the vain man, Ebina-san scraped the chalk against the board, writing down names.
“Noooooo!” “Anything but the geographer!” “My Matterhorn is!”
Every name she wrote, an agonizing death scream erupted accordingly. The drawing of Hell depicting pandemonium was being produced before us.
Next, it was time for the announcement of the main cast.
The Little Prince: Hayama
Hayama froze. His face was somewhat pale as well. The girls, however, were heard shrieking in arousal from all over the class. Well, it was the main role after all, so utilizing an individual who could attract customers was the proper choice.
With that, one main role remained…
I looked at Ebina-san’s hands and the white lines formed into letters that I was all too familiar with.
The Narrator: Hikigaya
“…No, not happening.” My words slipped out the moment those letters were imprinted in my eyes.
The sharp-eared Ebina-san made a dumbfounded look. “Eh!? But Hayama x Hikitani fanzines are totally must-buy, you know!? Like, must-gay even!”
What in the world is this person saying…?
“The little prince cunningly dominates the sulking pilot with his words filled with pure warmth, and that is the charm of this work!”
Not from what I’ve heard. You’re going to piss off a Frenchman, you know.
“No… I am in the planning committee, so…”
“Y-Yeah, that’s true. Hikitani-kun’s already acting as our representative for the planning committee. Since we’ll need to do rehearsals and the like, it’s not very reasonable.”
Nice follow-up, Hayama.
“Oh… That’s a bummer.”
“Right, so, why don’t we think over the entire thing again…? Like the role of the little prince for example.”
So that’s what he was aiming for, huh? But before Hayama could finish, Ebina-san rewrote what was on the board.
The Little Prince: Totsuka
The Narrator: Hayama
“The sulky feeling might not be as strong, but I guess this works…”
“So I’m stuck doing the play regardless, huh…” said Hayama, his shoulders going limp.
“Oh, that sulkiness, that’s sooo good~” Ebina sent him a thumbs-up with her index finger telling him “good job!”
I didn’t really give a damn about Hayama, but Totsuka starring as the little prince was an excellent casting. He’s also very close to the image of “The Little Prince”. It’s just that the person in question looked confused. He probably wasn’t expecting to get chosen for the role.
“This seems pretty hard… Am I really good enough?”
“Yeah, I think it fits you.”
Ebina-san had quite the eye to choose him, though my eyes had turned rotten for another reason altogether…
“I see… There’s a bunch of stuff I don’t really get, so I need to look them up…”
“I think you’ll be fine without having to. Heck, it’s probably easier to understand if you just read the original instead. That plot she wrote is a really bad misinterpretation”
While it’s good to be earnest, there were a plethora of things in the world that you were better off not knowing. If, in the likelihood Totsuka was enlightened to that path after doing his research, I, too, would be unable to discard the possibility that I would be awakened to something as well, so by any means, I wanted to stop that from happening.
“Have you read it before, Hachiman?”
It wasn’t a story I had particularly disliked. If I had to say, it was the kind I liked. But there were just some incomprehensible points in it that I couldn’t find myself to openly praise it. It was a piece that I had trouble putting my finger on.
“I can lend it to you if you want a go at it.”
“Really? Thanks!” Totsuka expressed a smile like the sudden blossoming of flowers. I’m so glad my hobby is reading… It was the first time I had thought this since I was born.
As we conversed, Totsuka was summoned to a meeting with the cast.
“Okay, I’ll be going over there, Hachiman.”
“Right on.” I saw him off and looked around the class.
In the vicinity, aside from the cast meeting, there were also other ones already involving the costumes, discussions regarding the advertising plans, as well as the funeral ceremony for the casts being initiated all over.
I left the class while watching with a sidelong glance. Noisy footsteps chased after me from behind. I knew who they belonged to even if I didn’t turn around. The only two people you could identify from just footsteps alone were basically Tara-chan2 and Yuigahama.
“Hikki, are you going to club?” She called me from behind.
I relaxed my pace and answered. “Yeah, there’s still some time before the committee meeting. I also wanted to give her notice that I won’t be able to attend club for a while.”
“I see, that makes sense… I’ll go too.” Yuigahama said, standing next to me.
I glanced at her with a side look. “What about your work?”
“It’s okay. I think I’ll get busy once we actually get started on the play.”
That so, I answered briefly and walked down the hallway to the clubroom.
× × ×
Since the planning committee meeting was regularly scheduled at four in the afternoon, there was some spare time until then.
For someone like me who had not been entrusted with any kind of responsibility, I would only serve as a nuisance had I remained in class. Add to the fact that since I had been appointed to the planning committee, I could only offer haphazard assistance at best. If that happened, in the event where I had to leave and pass on the remaining workload to someone else, that would take effort and problems would happen. That’s why it was better to not just stick my hands in anything from the start. In this world, there were many things where not working led to profits.
…If they had forced me into the planning committee because they anticipated that, then the only thing I could say was “that makes sense”. In a contrary sense, the people who understood me the most might’ve been my classmates.
An untouchable existence. Thinking about it like that made it sound kind of cool.
At Sobu High, clubs could only exhibit one activity. For example, the orchestra club would perform a concert, or the tea ceremony club would hold a tea party.
People fundamentally participated in the festival for class credit. Otherwise, it was under the guise of “volunteering”.
The bang bong noises since earlier were likely coming from the practice the volunteer band was engaged in. Guitars, which were only cool at this moment, were rocked with gusto, blaring with the energy of the Pocasukajan3, and the bass was plucked with the noises going pom poko pom poko as if there was an imminent Tanuki War4 upon us.
But that continued only in between the main building and the annex.
The corridor which stretched to the special building was the only location sustaining its silence in this commotion.
I could feel the temperatures drop one or two degrees, possibly due to the hallway being in the shade.
The club room was already unlocked. I could sense a chill coming from inside as if it was a hallucination crawling out.
When I slid the door open, Yukinoshita was there, no different from the norm.
“Yahallo!” greeted Yuigahama.
Yukinoshita slowly lifted her face, looked at the door as if it was bright, and reluctantly opened her mouth. “…Hello.”
We exchanged our typical greetings, and went to our seats after answering appropriately.
“So you’re in the planning committee too, huh?”
“Yes…” Yukinoshita replied succinctly without removing her eyes from her book that she was holding.
“It’s kind of surprising to see Yukinon doing something like that.”
“Is that so…? Well, I suppose so…”
She wasn’t the type to stand in front of people. The Yukinoshita that I knew wasn’t someone who didn’t have the assertiveness, but rather, she was someone who didn’t like to stand out.
“If anything, I find it more surprising to see you on the planning committee.”
“Ah, I know, right? It totally doesn’t fit him.”
“Hey… I was forced into it in the middle… Well, if it means not having to participate in that musical, then doing some grunt work isn’t all that bad in comparison. All is well in the end.”
“That reason is very like you.”
“I can’t say the same for you though.”
Embedded in those words were prickling thorns.
They weren’t directed at Yukinoshita. They were thorns directed at myself. Again, I became aware of how I was forcing my image on other people, making me feel disgusted.
Yukinoshita completely ignored my words and her gaze didn’t move from her book at all. It was a silence where even time had coagulated.
Only the antiquated clock hung on wall cut through time and the sound of the ticking hands were aggravating to the ears.
Yuigahama let out a deep breath and looked at the clock. “Umm… you have a committee meeting today too, right? The thing is, I actually need to show up to class discussions…”
I picked up the words that she was likely going to continue with. “Yeah, that’s right. I’ll be busy with the committee too, so I won’t be able to show up to club for a while.”
Or possibly, “I won’t show up” might be more accurate.
Yukinoshita closed her eyes as if reflecting on that and shut her book. Afterwards, for the first time today, she looked this way. “…Good timing. I wanted to talk about that today too. For now, I was thinking of suspending the club until the end of the Cultural Festival.”
“Well, sounds about right.”
“…Mmm, okay, that makes sense. It’s the Cultural Festival and all, so it might be better that way.” Yuigahama contemplated for just a little, but she spoke, looking convinced.
“Alright, guess we’re done for today then.”
“…Right. Hikki, make sure to help out with class whenever you have free time too.” Yuigahama said.
I thought for a moment. On top of my duties as a committee member, if I had to do spend effort on what my class was exhibiting as well, it was definitely going to be a hassle. Unlimited Double Works…
“…Only if I get the time… Alright, I need to head out.” I gave a response synonymous with “I definitely won’t” to Yuigahama, and stood up with my bag in hand. Even my incredibly light bag felt totally heavy to me.
…Noo, I don’t want to go.
Just what was this feeling? Was it really this painful having to go to work? My stomach was somehow starting to churn inside out. Was it because of that? Now that my mind had surpassed my physical body’s limitations, my convictions were affecting reality itself. What a frightening Marble Phantasm5.
Well, you know, it was work, so I was still going to do it though.
But a sigh came out. I mean, I don’t want to work after all.6
Just as I was about to grab the door, there were knocks on it. When I strained my ears to the noise, I could hear the sound of giggling on the other side.
“Come in.” Yukinoshita answered and the door meekly slid open. The laughter that sounded like the rustling of leaves grew even louder.
The one who had entered the room was a female student that I knew.
Sagami Minami. She was in the same class, a member of the same Cultural Festival planning committee as me, and also its chairman.
Waiting behind her were two other girls. They were all wearing similar thin smiles.
Sagami’s eyes narrowed after looking at us. “Oh, it’s Yukinoshita-san and Yui-chan.”
Whoa there, I don’t suppose you’re forgetting one more individual here? You know, the guy that’s in your class and also in the same planning committee?
“Sagamin? What’s wrong?” Yuigahama looked at that female student with an inquisitive face.
Without answering her question, Sagami spun around, surveying the rest of interior of the room. “Oooh~ so the Service Club is Yukinoshita-san’s and you two’s club huh?” Her eyes swam around the room, alternating between me and Yuigahama.
I felt a slight sense of dread. Her eyes concealed a slyness of a snake. It gave rise to a strange and unpleasant feeling like how your pupils would contract to a vertical slit.
“What business do you have here?” Yukinoshita asked, using her typical harsh tone, even though it was with people she didn’t know very well. But somehow, it seemed much colder than it usually seemed.
“Ah… I’m sorry, for suddenly showing up here,” said Sagami, adjusting her etiquette while slightly fidgeting. “I’m, actually here for a consultation…” Without directly meeting Yukinoshita’s gaze, Sagami exchanged glances with her friends to the side and continued further. “Like, I’m kinda the committee chairman now, but I’m not super confident about it, you see… So, I’d like your help.”
I wonder if this was what she was talking to Hiratsuka-sensei about after the meeting yesterday. So that’s why, again, she referred someone who looked like he or she would have problems to this Service Club.
Well, I had an idea of what she was trying to say. Anyone would feel intimidated in the face of a job entrusted with a lot of responsibility, especially if it was their first time. And from what I had seen of Sagami in class, she wasn’t the type to assertively try for a job like that.
But it begged the question as to whether Sagami was really someone who needed help.
Yukinoshita shifted her gaze towards Sagami, taking a moment to think in silence. Because Yukinoshita was watching her quietly, Sagami averted her eyes out of discomfort.
“…I believe this goes against your goal of wanting to grow, no?”
As Yukinoshita stated, Sagami was the one who willingly ran for candidate, stating she would accept the hardships for the sake of her own growth, and in turn, was named as the committee chairman.
Sagami stammered for an instant, but the complexion on her face persevered, displaying the same thin smile again. “Suuure, but, like, I really don’t want to be a bother to everyone, and failing isn’t exactly good either, right? And besides, I think cooperation with others is a part of my own growth too, so that stuff is important.”
Yukinoshita just sat there, wordlessly listening to the voice that went on and on without pause.
“And like, I’m also a part of my class, so I totally want to help out there too. I’ll feel suuuper sorry if I have to say I can’t at all. Riiight?” said Sagami, and she faced Yuigahama.
“…Yeah, I guess so.” Though Yuigahama had paused for just a tiny bit as if she was thinking about something, she agreed with Sagami.
“Oh, me too. I’m the type that likes to work with others anyway…”
“I knoow~ Like, I definitely want to get on better terms with people through this event, so we have to make this a success, right!”
The other two girls nodded their heads with “I know, right?” to Sagami’s words.
But, Yuigahama had a slightly sullen face.
Her feelings were understandable. When all was said and done, what Sagami was doing was requesting Yukinoshita to clean up her mess for getting carried away.
This wasn’t any more different than the time when Zaimokuza wished curses upon a group of folks called the game club after going berserk on the internet.
What Sagami was deeming important wasn’t the experience and knowledge gained as the “Cultural Festival planning committee chairman”, but the title itself. If she had truly wanted to act as a proper chairman, then what she should be doing was requesting help from insiders, not outsiders. For example, Meguri-senpai was proficient at getting the cooperation of everyone in that inner circle. She may appear somewhat unreliable, but she was able to solidify the student council and its members, possibly due to her personality, and even appeared as a competent student organization. Though, there was also the possibility that her unreliable and feeble conduct might’ve been the reason for that unity to come about.
But Sagami was different. It was because she was ashamed of showing her shortcomings, no, it was because she wanted to pretend to be brave that she sought the assistance of outsiders; that’s how I saw it.
That was something that didn’t vary too much from Zaimokuza some time ago.
Unfortunately for her, that kind of clean-up work was something we would refuse. It was about time for everyone to come to grips with the fact that getting carried away and bringing out your courage usually never turned into anything worthwhile.
It was only when you made wretched memories, regretted it, and admonished yourselves to never repeat that same mistake again that you could call it growth.
With that in mind, it would do us some good to refuse Sagami’s request here.
In fact, considering it’s her we’re talking about, then we shouldn’t be extending helping hands so easily. I’d rather not have my workload increase either.
Concerned about Yukinoshita who had been silent since earlier, Sagami glanced at her with a downcast look.
Noticing she was waiting for her to answer, Yukinoshita slowly opened her mouth as if she was putting together her thoughts and confirming them. “…So if I sum things up, it should be fine as long you have an aide, correct?”
“Yep, right, right.”
Sagami brightly nodded, having finally been understood, but Yukinoshita’s expression continued to stay cold.
“I see… I don’t mind then. I’m in the planning committee as well so as long it doesn’t go farther than that, I can assist you.”
“Really!? Thank yoooooou!” Sagami clapped her apparent happiness together in her hands and took two to three steps closer to Yukinoshita.
In contrast to her was Yuigahama. She looked at Yukinoshita with a gaze with slight surprise.
Honestly, it was unexpected to me too. I had completely thought these kinds of requests were the types we should avoid.
“Okay, thanks for the help!” Sagami said, looking somewhat excited, and left the room with her two accompanying friends. Only the three of us remained in the room and the mood became slightly heavier.
When I tried to leave the room again, it was that moment.
Yuigahama stood before Yukinoshita, looking resolved. “…Weren’t you going to stop the club?”
Her tone was much more severe than normal. Having noticed that, Yukinoshita’s shoulders twitched, and though she lifted her face for just an instant, she quickly looked away.
“…It’s something I’m doing personally. It’s not something you two need to worry about.”
“But if it’s like before—”
“It is like before… It’s not all that much different.”
Tenaciously taking her ground, Yuigahama’s words were cut off by Yukinoshita. Realizing that her will wasn’t going to budge, Yuigahama let out a thin sigh as if she had given up.
“…We should at least do it together—”
“That’s fine. If it’s regarding like the Cultural Festival planning committee meetings, then I have a decent understanding of it. It’s more efficient if I do it by myself.”
“’Efficient’… Maybe, but even so…” Yuigahama mumbled her words.
Yukinoshita sent her cold gaze to the front cover of her book. She was indicating that she wasn’t going to speak any further about this matter.
For the two of us who had saw first-hand Yukinoshita Yukino’s excellence, we knew all too well. In reality, she could probably work something out even if she had been alone.
“…But I still think it’s weird,” said Yuigahama, and she turned her back. No voice called to that back of hers. “…I’m going back to class.”
Yuigahama walked off. I was standing dumbfounded as I watched their series of exchanges, but once I came to, I readjusted my bag, and left the club room after Yuigahama.
When I closed the door, I turned around.
The only person sitting in the club room was just Yukinoshita herself.
It was a sight so frighteningly beautiful, yet extremely melancholic, as if it pictured the light of the sun shining upon the ruins from the aftermath of a destroyed world.
× × ×
The loafers walloped against the linoleum floor.
Contrary to their sluggish appearance, those legs rigidly shot out.
“It’s like! It’s like! It’s like, really!!”
“Hey, wait up, calm down.” I said and stopped Yuigahama who was walking ahead of me.
The stomping noises of the floor stopped and she turned around along with the sound of squeaking. “What?”
She was clearly upset evident by her sulking and pouting expression. As I thought about how rare it was for her to make this kind of look, “What’s with you so suddenly?”
“I don’t know! It’s just like… Uuurgh.”
Stop with the moaning. Are you a dog or something?
Yuigahama pounded the floor with her feet in frustration. After sorting out her feelings, she uttered her words little by little. “It’s like… it’s different how it usually is…I mean, the usual Yukinon, isn’t like that at all.”
“Well, I guess so…”
“Hikki too.” Yuigahama said with a voice as if struck with a dagger.
I understood that myself. I was trying as much as I could do conduct myself in the same way as always. But it was always different just from the fact I was conscious of it. When I became aware of that, I would try to adjust myself which only served to make me even clumsier. I was completely entrapped in a spiral.
I guess that’s something you can understand just from looking, huh?
Either taking my silence as a confirmation of her words or that I was reflecting on it, Yuigahama didn’t hound me any further. I was slightly grateful for that.
As I waited for her to continue her words, Yuigahama distorted her body looking reluctant to speak. “…Hey. I want to talk about something unpleasant, do you mind?”
“Huh?” I responded with a lukewarm reply, confused as to what she had wanted to say.
Yuigahama looked up from the floor uneasily and asked again. “…You won’t hate me, right?”
“Can’t promise you that.”
“Eh, what to do…” Yuigahama stopped her movements and froze in place.
She was either an idiot in the first place or something else, but it’s not like she was someone who only showed her pretty side. Suddenly displaying the calculative nature of girls here wasn’t something I could deal with.
That being said, at this rate, the conversation wasn’t going to head anywhere. I had the feeling nothing would change regardless of what she brought up here anyway. I scratched my head in an attempt to fill up the silence that came about.
“…Haa, it’s fine. I’ve already come this far hating most people, so one thing here and there won’t make me hate you so easily.”
“Your reason’s kind of sad…”
I took a gaze of serious sympathy…
“Whatever, it’s fine. So, what’s this unpleasant talk about?” I urged her on.
Yuigahama took a deep breath and opened her mouth. “Right… Um, you see, I’m not very good, with Sagamin.”
“Really. So, what’s the unpleasant talk about?”
“Th-That was the unpleasant talk just now…”
“Haa?” I blinked out of reflex like a Furby7. Pet me, pet meeee!
“Eh, what? So what’s unpleasant about it?”
“Um, you know, like how you can’t get along with people, or how there are problems between girls, I don’t think those things are very good…”
So it’s something like that, huh? Well, normally speaking, I guess so. A positive image didn’t come to mind anyway.
I wasn’t sure what kind of impression she took from me while was thinking in silence, but Yuigahama joined her fingers together in front of her chest, and fidgeted as she made inverted triangles.
“…I didn’t want to show you this nasty side of me too.” She said, chasing the corners of the hallways with her gaze.
“Don’t be dumb.” It was so idiotic, I let out a snicker. Nothing’s going to change just from seeing that, idiot.
“It’s not like I’m any good with her either.”
“Uh huh, I guess it’s a little different. It’s not so much that I’m not good with her, but I think, I don’t like Sagamin very much. But we’re still friends, so.”
“R-Right… So you still think you’re friends, huh …?”
“Uh huh, for the most part, that’s my intention.”
As usual, I still don’t get what makes friendship between girls.
“But I think she might not feel the same way. It feels like she hates me.”
“Yeah, probably. Just looking is enough to tell.”
It’s a little off from “hate”, but it could be seen as antagonistic and hostility. I looked at Yuigahama in attempt to talk about this issue a little more.
Yuigahama was locked into a bizarre pose. “…Eh, y-you were looking?”
“Stop, just kidding, I wasn’t looking. I wasn’t looking at anything at all. It just kind of came to me.”
“Well, it’s not like, looking, is a bad thing or anything…” Yuigahama answered while rustling her hair.
Um, I’m sorry, I was looking quite a bit, like frequently and attentively. I’m sorry for lying.
As I was apologizing and confessing internally, Yuigahama had a sudden distant look in her eyes. “I was in the same class as Sagamin during our first year, see.”
“Huh, did you guys get along?”
“Well, for the most part.” Yuigahama showed an unusual expression that sat on the fence between worrying and thinking.
“…So you didn’t get along then.”
“Hey, where did you get that from!?”
“Then, you got along?”
“Uh huh, pretty much.”
Again with that weird expression…
“In other words, you weren’t getting along.”
Yuigahama sighed in resignation. “…Gosh whatever, that’s good enough.”
Good enough or not, that was exactly what it was. Girl circumstances truly were a mystery.
“That time, see, Sagamin and I were in a group that stood out a lot. And like, Sagamin looked pretty proud about it too”
Sagami and Yuigahama. Well, there were probably others beside those two, but those two at the heart of class wasn’t difficult to imagine.
Yuigahama had the looks, but aside from that, she was a girl who went along with people, proficient at complying with others. That’s why she could conform to gaudy and outlandish atmospheres as well.
On the other hand, I felt Sagami was someone who, depending on the group combination, was content with aiming for that kind of position. Even in the planning committee, she promptly found friends, people that would stay with her, and established a group. Her inter-personal skills and her self-appeal ability were strong.
But once they became second years, their positions had changed. Just how did this gap form between Yuigahama and Sagami? Conceit, their varied environments…
The biggest factor was likely Miura.
The moment she became a part of class 2-F, she was already associated as the top caste. Through the process of selecting members, Miura used the cruel criterion of “cuteness” to choose who she thought she would want to get along with.
…She really was something else. She completely brushed off the relationship between girls and decided on the people who she wanted to be with. For better or worse, she truly was a Queen.
And then, there was the incompatibility between Miura and Sagami. I wasn’t sure if this was the right way to put it, but her belonging to the group second to the top made it simple to understand.
That fact was undoubtedly humiliating to Sagami who thought strongly of group standings. Even if her placement in that top caste wasn’t something she had no say in, the fact Yuigahama, who was in a similar position, was present there wasn’t something she could accept positively.
Naturally, I had started to slightly comprehend Sagami’s actions.
“That’s why, I don’t really like what Sagami’s doing… Also, how Yukinon is listening to her request, and how Sagami is trying to get along with her…” said Yuigahama, and she then tilted her head from her own words. After looking convinced of something, she made a small nod. “…Actually, I think I might like Yukinon a lot more than I thought.”
“What the heck are you saying?”
Yuru Yuri might get a pass, but actual yuri wasn’t something I could cover for, you know.
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that…! I guess I just don’t like it when other girls try to get along with Yukinon… I’m kind of like a kid, huh?” Yuigahama blushed from embarrassment and rubbed her bun hair as if it bothered her.
It certainly was a petty desire to monopolize. This kind of selfishness wasn’t all that rare even at a community center of girls in their childhood. My little sister Komachi had that kind of period at some point as well. The true nature of humans was something that wouldn’t vary that significantly. Depending on how we were trained, it was simply just a matter of restraining those kinds of emotions. It was only occasionally that they would end up surfacing on our faces.
“Girls are a real pain, see. There’s so much to deal with.”
The sincerity she displayed when she stated that was so amusing, I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Hey, hey, guys are on the same boat. We have things like little cliques where we get along with each other too. Girls aren’t the only special ones around here.”
“Oh, I see… People are a real pain, huh?” Yuigahama laughed. “Tahaha.”
You got that right. They really were a pain.
And it’s because I found that unpleasant that I left things alone all this time. Striving to keep up appearances was, surely, something not genuine.
“Promise me,” said Yuigahama, and unable to make any sense of her sudden words, I tilted my head wordlessly in response. Yuigahama stood still, and gazed right back at me. “That you’ll help Yukinon whenever she’s in trouble.”
Speaking of which, on our way home from the fireworks display, we did talk about something like that.
Similar to that time, her forceful sincerity overwhelmed me. That’s why I answered, to my greatest ability, honestly and authentically.
“Only if it’s something I can do.”
“Okay, that’s a relief then.” Yuigahama said, and smiled.
You’re putting me on the spot by placing your unconditional trust in me.
It looked like her brief words had a stronger persuasive effect. If she had included one reason or another, then I could’ve dug up the calculative nature and contradictions behind them, but just finishing it with one smile, I was unable to look any further.
“Okay then, I’ll be going back to class. Do your best at the committee.” Yuigahama lightly waved her hand and dashed off.
I lifted my hand in response and began walking again.
× × ×
I parted ways with Yuigahama and walked down the hallway that led to the conference room. It was located on the corner of the L-shaped hallway that turned left. Going beyond that were the stairs that climbed to the third floor where our second year classes were held.
In front of those stairs, ahead in the shaded hallway, was a figure obstructing my path.
Wearing a coat despite this sultry weather and fingerless gloves with his arms crossed was an appearance I was familiar with, so I ignored it and went past.
The figure then slowly took out his cellphone and began calling someone.
Within moments, my cellphone vibrated.
The fact that he went through the trouble of calling me even though we both acknowledged each other’s existences started to get on my nerves. Even more, the figure proceeded to perform a little act that expedited that irritation even further.
“Fuumu, not getting through, it seems. I don’t suppose he could be busy…? Ha, ha, ha, if it’s Hachiman we speak of, then that is impossible. Do you not agree, Hachiman?”
“I don’t want to hear that from you…” That remark was something I couldn’t stay silent to. Had this been anyone else, I could’ve just ignored them with a scornful laugh, but my cheap pride wouldn’t allow this man, Zaimokuza Yoshiteru, to say whatever he pleased. “So? What exactly are you doing here? Climbing up and down these stairs for a diet?”
“Hmph, how nostalgic. I most certainly had engaged in that once before. But long ago, my knees were afflicted with effusion. Moreover… my old scar throbs. Indeed, my sore crotch that is.”
R-Really… I think you should watch your health more.
Disregarding my worries, Zaimokuza handed me a stack of papers he pulled out from somewhere. “In any case, Hachiman, have a look at this. What are your thoughts on this?”
“What? I’m not bothering if it’s about your light novel.”
If this was any other normal occasion, I would’ve been nicer, but I didn’t have the time. The conference meeting was coming up and I just didn’t have the luxury, time, interest, and good will to accompany him.
“Nay! It is not about the light novel!”
His pointlessly assertive denial sprouted some interest in me. If it’s not about his light novel, then what was it? I looked at the papers that occupied my gaze.
Zaimokuza showed a grin and dramatically posed. “Listen and be surprised! Feast your eyes and prostrate! And then… die and apologize… Were you aware that my class will be doing a play?”
“No I wasn’t… Besides, why is it necessary to die and apologi— hey, wait, wait, stop, you better not say anything more…”
“Do you know what is required when doing a play? That is, a script is needed…”
“No, stop it, don’t get ahead of yourself.” I said, but Zaimomkuza wasn’t listening to my warning in the least. He threw his fist up to the heavens, and as if singing a sonorous lullaby, continued to blabber about himself. Quite frankly, he was really annoying.
“Do not give me that. Those fools blabbered on about not wanting to do a normal play, you see. They suggested an original script, to say the least.”
“Hey, please, stop it already.”
I knew what he was going to say. I knew exactly where this was heading. It’s because I had treaded down that path once before during middle school.
It was only up until elementary school when original scripts like that, scenarios for fun, were allowed.
No, actually, it’s possible in elementary school as well. If it was during arts exhibitions and farewell parties, then writing scripts for comedic plays like that would be allowed. Heck, it’s even possible to get a commendation for it. But the moment you entered middle school, it would distort into a target of contempt.
“Phew.” I slipped out a dry laugh.
“Nu? What is the matter, Hachiman?” Zaimokuza asked.
I looked up at the sky from the window. “Nah… I was just thinking how fast everyone becomes adults.”
“Fu, a strange man you are… Like really, I didn’t understand a single thing you just said. Like seriously, are you nuts? Well, your matters are worthless. For now, my original script…”
I had the feeling he had just uttered something really irritating in the middle of the confusion there. I had yet to even give him my permission either…
But unfortunately, he was someone I knew. Quietly sending him to his grave would give me nightmares. With the kindness of my heart, I decided to give him a warning. “OK, I understand your story. Anyway, avoid making the heroine a girl that you like. That hurts a lot. Oh, also, don’t make yourself the main star.”
“Gegeh!? Hachiman, could you perhaps be an esper!?”
“No. Got it? I warned you.”
I wasn’t an esper, just someone with experience. Ever since then, I firmly resolved in my heart to never show things like that to anyone ever again.
“Hapon, indeed, indeed. So what you are saying is this?” said Zaimokuza, and he cleared his throat seriously. “Recently, it is more favorable to have villain and rival type characters than the orthodox protagonist, say, by making it cooler, it will be more popular?”
“You don’t understand at all…”
“Mu? What did I get wrong exactly?”
“No, your logic itself isn’t what’s wrong. The first generation of Precure starred the black one after all. They were probably aiming for color codes for their characters or something. What’s wrong is your existence.”
I wanted to emphasize that last bit, but Zaimokuza, with his highly efficient ears in dismissing things that were inconvenient to him, returned bizarre responses with “rufun, rufun”.
“I see, you certainly have a point. Your proposal, “The Cure Black Law”… This might just be, this might just be. Fumuu, as you would expect from the authority of Precure…”
“Hey, stop that. Don’t go calling me an authority as you please, that’s too much for someone like me. Besides, I’m part of the Cure White faction anyway.”
Indeed, “authority” was just too amazing. I was just someone who only watched what I liked, and it was at a trivial level where I had no idea who wrote the original script even with a quick glance, heck, I was even waiting for BDs for past DVD-BOX productions too, and in fact, I was at the point I’d be too apologetic to even remotely call myself an otaku and want to die instead.
“Homu, this reaction, could this guy be the real thing…?” Zaimokuza was retreating away.
“Whatever, forget I even said anything. Suffer and regret for all I care.”
It was pointless no matter what I said. In that case, the only thing left for him was to engrave a deep scar into his heart so that it wouldn’t ever be forgotten. Human growth was exactly what that was. Once you were hurt, looked down upon, and discriminated against, that was when you saw growth for the first time. People didn’t change from love, friendship, or courage.
I pray that the fine folks from class 2-C deal Zaimokuza the greatest injury he could ever receive.
“By the way, are you going to watch the movie in October?”
“Don’t be stupid. If someone like me went and the families and the little girls freak out, I’d end up feeling bad instead… I’ll buy it, the blu-ray I mean.”
“Kuh, you constrain yourself despite your overwhelming desire to watch it… A man among men!”
For some reason, he started weeping like a man.
I’m the one who wants to cry here. Why did I have to deal and talk with this guy at a place like this when I had work coming up?
I shook Zaimokuza’s gaze off and my feet that headed for the conference room felt heavier than normal.