What is it that you keep doing and doing, but never goes away?
I stared at my PC with vacant eyes while I had quiz time in my head.
Exactly when did I become in charge of recording the minutes? The one that should’ve been responsible was, as I recall, supposed to be some third year that was the head of the assistant historians.
“Assistant historians. We haven’t received your minutes from last week.”
Just those few words from the great vice-chairwoman started it all.
Who’s responsible? Absent, huh? How about the next person? Also absent? Okay, next one. Next. Next…
And then it was me.
When I stated I’d take care of it, I actually snorted a “fuhi”1.
I didn’t remember a single thing from all the meetings last week. As the minutes became partly made up along the way, using ridiculously vague terms like “earnestly under way”, “refer to supplement sheets for progress”, “managing accordingly”, “various arrangements planned”, and so forth, I filled in the rest. Not a big deal, since the person in charge would take responsibility. That’s what he’s for after all.
I ad-libbed where appropriate and sipped the tea I poured myself.
I’m actually making some progress since it’s a lot quieter than usual… I thought, and made a sweeping look around the conference room.
People engaged in similar tasks numbered less than twenty. Keeping in mind that five of them belonged to the student council, half of the many of which were sent from every class that made up the planning committee, two each from thirty classes, weren’t here.
In that group, undertaking the work with the greatest commitment was Yukinoshita. Due to Haruno-san’s absence today, she was calmly making strides in her progress.
Yukinoshita had been working much more frequently and longer than before, likely due to her hostile disposition towards Haruno-san.
There were also simple things that added to our workload.
Haruno-san’s participation as a volunteer with her acquaintences must’ve served as trigger of some sort because there was an increase in other organizations as well. Accompanying that in excess was the need to regulate them.
Given the lack of personnel, on a normal basis, the work would’ve been beyond our capacity, but through the efforts of the student council member executives and Yukinoshita’s high specs, and occasionally, casually appearing as a side to her volunteer practice to finish up some work, Haruno-san’s ability, we were somehow able to manage.
While taking a breather, I looked around to see how the others were doing, and there was another individual doing the same thing as me.
It was Meguri-senpai. When our eyes met, she attempted to make small talk. “Ah, umm…”
It looked like she was trying to recall my name, but I decided to initiate instead, since having her ask me comfortably, “I’m sorry, what’s your name again?” would lead me to a state of depression.
“Thank you for your hard work.”
“Uh huh. Right, you as well,” Meguri-senpai smiled. There was a trace of fatigue visible in her expression. But with the trending increase of workload for every member here, it wasn’t something she could avoid.
“Is it just me, or are there less people here?”
“…Yeah, it seems like everyone’s busy with other things.”
The conference room, now deserted, felt considerably wider than it had been before.
“B-But I’m sure more people will show up tomorrow!” Meguri-senpai said, but that was unlikely.
If anything, there’d be less and less people. Once people realized that there weren’t any consequences for skipping, the attendance rate would take a nosedive.
There was a thinking called the broken windows theory.
Suppose that a particular building in a city had a broken window. When left alone, it would invoke apathy, which subsequently would contribute to lowering morality and then encourage crime, or so was the established theory.
Instinctively, people were easy on themselves.
Every member of the planning committee weren’t going out of their way to participate. Individuals who were forced against their will as I was were probably present as well.
But what instilled them to work was because of the cognizance that “everyone was doing it” and that they had pangs of conscience. If you removed that common understanding or even the compelling force that prevented motivation from hitting rock bottom, eventual ruin was self-evident.
It’s because it’s much easier to search for a reason not to try than for a reason to try.
Everyone had to have experienced that at some point. Studying or dieting; it didn’t matter. It’s the weather, it’s the temperature, it’s the mood; anything could pass as an excuse to skip.
At some point, measures needed to be taken.
That was something Meguri-senpai should have been well aware of.
But no one was sure of what the appropriate action that should be taken. After all, the chairwoman herself wasn’t present and the vice-chairwoman was proving to be more than excellent in compensating for all those who were absent.
Meguri-senpai and I were quiet, just sipping our tea.
Though I was enjoying my relaxing teatime (of course, in silence) with Meguri-senpai, I couldn’t keep resting like this forever.
With activity at an all-time high towards the Cultural Festival, the workload continued to pile and pile.
The door to the conference room was knocked on again even now.
Speaking of which, in Beethoven’s “Fate”, I heard that the dadada—n was the sound of fate knocking at your door, but if that’s true, it must’ve been something very straightforward.
Right now, the knocks at the door were likely from a person who came here with more work.
In other words, destiny = work, and for someone like me who had been trying to live life without working, I was the hero who defied fate, so by all means, I believe my life should be turned into a game under the genre, “Fighting Against the Destiny of Working – The RPG”. I want to live the rest of my life on those royalties without having to work.
“Come in!” Meguri-senpai went ahead and answered since no one else did.
With an “excuse me”, a figure came into the room.
The identity of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was Hayama Hayato.
× × ×
“I’d like to submit a volunteer form…” Hayama asked after noticing Yukinoshita.
“The forms go further in to the right.”
Continuing to type while dealing with the customer would’ve net her zero points in the service industry, but it was Yukinoshita, so that’s to be expected. Fully understanding of that, Hayama left her with a clear “thank you” and went towards the forms.
Hayama should’ve finished his business here, but he was still present, strangely enough. As a matter of fact, he was approaching me. “…Aren’t there less people here?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Oh…” Hayama brushed the hair at his nape in contemplation. What, if it’s bothering you, cut it. Then again, like always, whenever he’s nearby, I’d get unusually annoyed…
“…So, do you need something?” I asked him, unable to put up with him any longer.
He broadly smiled. “Nah, nothing much. Just waiting for the documents to get checked. They’re looking them over for any errors.”
You don’t say…
So why are you near me…? I thought, but then it hit me that this was one of their tendencies. I had no idea why, but his kind tended to gravitate towards forming groups, especially when they had nothing better to do. They probably couldn’t refrain from approaching anyone they knew. If I likened them to puppies, then it stopped bothering me as much.
Along the way, one visitor after the other stopped by.
Volunteer organizations weren’t the only ones that needed applications; exhibitions in classes and in clubs also required one as well. The volunteer side of things was under the jurisdiction of the volunteer management group including issues with stage timeslots and equipment, but for the rest, food-related commodities were passed to the health division while reviewing and accepting applications were left to the group of executives
Today saw an influx of visitors, what with the formal deadline around the corner. Due to the bad timing, there was insufficient reception for them all and the situation turned in a state of chaos.
Eventually, a lost applicant came out from amongst them.
With the appearance of a first year and a distraught face, she couldn’t keep herself from coming over here to talk. With Hayama… With Hayama.
“Um… for the volunteers…”
“Applications for volunteer organizations go over there.”
He responded naturally as though he was a part of the planning committee. That invited misunderstandings and the other people who came to fill the forms settled for asking Hayama about the things they needed.
“I don’t really understand how to fill this out… Could you tell me how?”
“Sure, if you’re okay with me.”
I’m pretty sure this girl was asking only because it was Hayama.
While Hayama courteously filled her in, a line started to form behind them.
“Help me out for a bit.”
He forced me into helping before I could even react… Jeez, even the girl, who was passed over in that instant, had quite the face.
Both Hayama and I were pressed to deal with those in front of us and we devoted ourselves to processing the rest of the line. Meguri-senpai rushed over to help and with the three of us handling the reception, the application rush eventually died out.
“I’m sorry about that. Thanks so much!”
Once the situation had finally calmed down, Meguri-senpai poured tea. For Hayama… For Hayama.
Well, she was probably feeling guilty from having an outsider help us out. It’s just, um, I also happened to be part of that effort though… sniff.
Hayama thanked Meguri-senpai, and after a sip, he opened his mouth, “Do you have enough people working here?”
“I don’t have a total grasp on the entire situation. We grunts are already busy enough with our sections.”
“I’m an assistant historian,” I answered.
“Ahh,” Hayama let out a convinced voice. “That fits you…”
You lookin’ for a fight?
Digesting the situation so far, Hayama nodded with a know-it-all face. “I see. Must be a lot of trouble, huh?”
“…No, not really.”
Not really, it wasn’t a problem. Conversely, you could say there was a problem because there wasn’t any.
As of now, Yukinoshita alone was handling a majority of the work. Not only was she capable, she held the authority of the vice-chairwoman position, and given that she wasn’t participating with club or class, she had a surplus of time. She was covering for the absent members, even if that meant half of the committee.
“But from what I can see, it looks like Yukinoshita-san’s doing most of the work,” Hayama turned around and brought Yukinoshita up.
Yukinoshita stayed quiet for a moment, but Hayama’s gentle stare that waited for her to answer caused her to open her mouth, “…Yes, it’s more efficient that way.”
“But it’s going to all come down soon.”
For the man named Hayama Hayato, it was rare for him to sound so forceful. Meguri-senpai grew tense in reaction to the atmosphere turning delicate.
Only the mechanical sound of the keyboard going clack clack clack filled the room.
That’s true, sure. Yukinoshita didn’t refute that notion either.
“So before that happens, it’d be better to rely on other people.”
“Really? I don’t think so,” I said, and Hayama looked into my eyes, waiting for me to continue. “It’s a fact that Yukinoshita doing everything by herself is much faster. The small amount of losses we’ve had is one of the merits. On top of that, believing and entrusting things to others is pretty bothersome. All the more so when there’s a distinctive difference in their abilities.”
We, at the very least, I couldn’t believe and entrust things to others.
Even if things didn’t turn out for the better, then it was fine to blame me, it shouldn’t be directed towards anyone else. If you resented someone, then there was no end to it.
That wasn’t kindness or responsibility. If it was about yourself, then you could give up, but with other people? You wouldn’t be able to.
If only that guy did it this way that time, if only this guy did it properly that time; having to live with these thoughts was too heavy, painful, and miserable.
If that’s how it’s going to be, then it was better to do things alone.
If it’s something you regret yourself, it’s just a simple matter of crying over it to let it pass.
Hayama narrowed his eyes slightly, and let out a sigh as if with sliglht sympathy. “…Will it really go well that way?”
“If things turn out for the better that way, that’s fine. But, right now, it’s not, and soon enough, everything’s going to fall apart. And it’s not like you’re allowed to fail, right? That means you need to change how you approach things.”
This guy, what a sound argument. What, were you some kind of famous tea production site2? He assamly, I mean, easily refuted my argument. As I groaned in frustration, there was a small voice.
“…I suppose, so.”
It looked like Yukinoshita was also hit where it hurt. At some point, her hands had stopped typing away on the keyboard.
But Yukinoshita didn’t have anyone she could rely on. It would’ve been a different story had Yuigahama been here, however.
“…That’s why, I’ll help out,” Hayama said.
“But leaving it to an outsider is…”
Hayama answered Meguri-senpai’s concern with a smile, “No, I’ll coordinate the volunteer organizations, and nothing more. Basically, I’ll act as their representative.”
It was an attractive proposal. Unlike defined organizations, the volunteers had classes and clubs as the representatives and a different chain of command. Since each group varied in hierarchy and what they planned to exhibit, having to deal with every one of them accordingly would undoubtedly become too convoluted.
If all of that could be handled on the volunteer side of things, then that would reduce the burden on volunteer management, which at the present moment, would mean removing a considerable amount of weight off of Yukinoshita’s shoulders.
And further, if the volunteers could coordinate themselves independently, then that was reasonable as well.
Meguri-senpai worried about it for a little bit, but lifted her face and smiled. “In that case, okay. I’ll be happy if we could leave that to you…”
“How about it?” asked Hayama.
Yukinoshita placed her hand on her chin and thought briefly. “……”
“Yukinoshita-san, it’s also important to rely on others,” said Meguri-senpai, kindly admonishing her.
What Hayama and Meguri-senpai had said was undoubtedly and absolutely correct. It was the best, it was inspiring, it was a beautiful showmanship of comradery.
People used to being helped by others were fine.
Without hesitation, they could rely on others.
Cooperating and combining your strengths. In the deepest meaning of those words, it surely was a wonderful thing.
But I had no desire to blindly praise those things.
I mean, just think about it.
If everyone doing things together was a wonderful and good thing, did that mean doing everything alone was a bad thing?
Why should people who fought tooth and nail alone all their life need to be rejected like this?
That was something I couldn’t allow.
“…Relying is important and all, but there’re only people who do just that. It’s fine if they actually needed help, but there’re also people who were simply just taking advantage of you.”
I had taken a much more aggressive tone than I had imagined. Realizing that Meguri-senpai’s complexion had changed, I played it off as a joke. Frightening a beautiful, comfy person was a bit too much.
“More specifically, uh… umm, ah. Right, like the guys who keep giving me more work. Really, I just can’t forgive those guys. I can’t exactly take it easy right now since it’s out of my control… but I can’t forgive anyone else who can!”
“You’re horrible, aren’t you!? Meguri-senpai responded brightly back, interpreting what I had said as a joke.
“I’ll help you out too,” Hayama made a strained smile.
Yukinoshita gently exhaled a short breath. “Certainly, it looks like the workload is starting to affect even the historians, so I’ll rethink over the assignments. Also, since Shiromeguri-senpai believes so as well, I’ll gladly accept that proposal… I’m sorry.”
Her gaze was still directed towards her PC. It wasn’t clear who that apology was meant for.
I could’ve easily passed it off as her form of consideration for me, but it’s not like I was trying to cover for Yukinoshita. She had no reason to apologize. I just couldn’t forgive anyone who had it better off than I did. It was as simple as that.
I couldn’t tolerate how people who were doing things honestly were affected by those around them. I couldn’t turn a blind eye to how people striving earnestly were given all the blame.
That’s all there was to it.
Then again, it’s not like I was completely helping either. On the contrary, there was the new task of redistributing the workload. I was useless here and that was that.
“Okay, let’s work hard.”
“I’ll try getting in touch with the people I can tomorrow.”
Hayama smiled while Meguri-senpai vigorously nodded.
× × ×
“It looks like there’s even less people now…”
It was the planning committee the following week. Even less people were present. A comparison from before wasn’t even necessary. Only Yukinoshita and several individuals from the executives could be seen.
Meguri-senpai groaned worryingly, “I tried to contact people too. I really should’ve rejected Sagami-san’s proposal after all…” She must’ve been referring to Sagami’s opinion that “class was important too”.
After Meguri-senpai said apologetically, Yukinoshita stopped her hands that were flipping through documents. “It’s not a problem. I’ll handle looking over and accepting the applications from every department. Until we get them approved, I believe we should be able to proceed without issue.”
From a glance, the work was moving forward smoothly, possibly an effect from having the work redistributed in the committee.
This was an excerpt from some anime or manga, but supposedly only twenty percent of ants actually worked seriously. Another twenty percent didn’t do squat. The remaining sixty percent was on the fence between working and not working. And this apparently could be applied to people.
In other words, the people part of that sixty percent contemplated between going on one side or the other after judging the mood. It was also possible they leaned towards one side or the other to the point where they wouldn’t cause any troubles and it was enough for them to make an excuse.
With how the planning committee was going now, the working ants had slightly poor prospects.
Specifically, it wasn’t that people weren’t coming, but that the mindset “it should be fine even if I didn’t go” that was spreading in the committee.
Bigger numbers caused anyone to be relieved. The feeling that it was okay to do something if everyone else was doing it was definitely real.
Putting it in a different way, then “the trend right now wasn’t to work at the planning committee”.
Whenever and wherever, I was always a part of the minority. It felt like it was decreed by heaven at this point.
But there were still people amongst us that were truly expending the effort. The student council members were, as you’d expect, unified and dutiful. They were performing their usual administrative jobs alongside their responsibilities as the planning committee executives.
And that very well may be due to the charisma of the head, Meguri-senpai. Today like every other day, the members were working together to support Meguri-senpai who was a comfy, but somewhat ditzy person.
Meguri-senpai responded in kind and assisted them as much as she could. She made her rounds, speaking to the executives and people present here.
“The turnout’s kind of bad, but since there are people making sure to come, we definitely have to work hard. We’re totally depending on you, okay?”
“Hahaha, thank you for that…”
She didn’t forget to talk to me. Thank goodness… Had I been the only one she hadn’t bothered to talk to, I definitely would’ve said goodbye to this place tomorrow.
I put my bag down and checked over the work for today. Since I had been getting things done little by little for some time now, I was making some considerable progress. If I kept at it, everything would be over relatively soon.
As I was slugging around, my shoulders were tapped.
I turned around to find Hayama holding numerous files. Though the other members hadn’t showed up, Hayama would come by occasionally, even so far as to proactively dabble in committee work. Coming everyday would’ve been pushing it, but whenever there was an opening in his schedule, he’d take the time to come.
Hayama sure was one great guy.
“Sorry for interrupting you while you’re in the middle of work. I need thirty minutes of your time with the equipment applications.”
He had specified the time and objective, so I had no real reason to refuse. It wasn’t a bad way to pass work around.
Truly the epitome of a boss.
And now, I was Hayama’s wonderful subordinate. Ergh, I want to die.
As we were working in silence, there was a loud clattering sound coming from door being opened. In the conference room barren of people, it reverberated awfully well.
With everyone’s gazes directed at her, Hiratsuka-sensei motioned her hands and called out at the front of the door, “Yukinoshita, do you have a moment?”
Yukinoshita poked out her face above the display of her PC on the desk. “Hiratsuka-sensei… My hands are a bit tied right now… If it’s okay with you, I can listen here.”
Hiratsuka-sensei took a moment to think. “Fumu… Well, it’s not something that needs to be pushed to another day…” She walked into the conference room and stood next to Yukinoshita. “It looks like you haven’t chosen whether to go with the humanities or sciences yet,” said Hiratsuka-sensei.
“…I’m sorry. Right now isn’t a good time.” Yukinoshita hung her head in shame. She removed her hands from the keyboard and softly placed them on her knees.
“I see… I know the planning committee is taking up a lot of your time, but don’t go overboard.”
“I understand,” Yukinoshita succinctly replied.
Hiratsuka-sensei then smiled at her as if gently admonishing her. “Umu… Well, we can wait until after the Cultural Festival is over. Since you’re enrolled in the international cultivation class, it shouldn’t affect your class change. There’s still time. Heck, it’s just a survey of the sort. It’s not something you need to think too deeply about.”
Hiratsuka-sensei lightly patted Yukinoshita’s head as if caressing her, lifted one hand and left the conference room. Yukinoshita fixed her hair as she watched her off with a sullen look.
It was a bit of a shock for that Yukinoshita to overlook turning in something like that. I wasn’t the only one who felt that since Hayama was looking at Yukinoshita with a doubtful gaze.
Because of that, both of us had stopped working.
“…Hey, isn’t it about time?”
It’s hard to speak up when the other person was working quietly, but now that we weren’t doing anything, I could! Hurry up and liberate me from this work!
When I spoke up, Hayama snapped back to reality and smiled. “Yeah, sorry. Let’s do this again.”
I didn’t mean that… “Isn’t it about time I’m done?” was what I wanted to say… not, “Isn’t it about time we got started?”
I elegantly explained my words, but with Hayama’s smile, I couldn’t really tell him I meant something else. There was still some time left until the thirty minute promise was up… Okay, maybe I couldn’t be freed yet.
While I was building a list by inputting the details from the applications into an excel sheet, Meguri-senpai who was working nearby struck up a conversation with Yukinoshita. “Yukinoshita-san, are you going to go with the humanities or the sciences?”
“I’m still a little undecided…”
“Oh, I see, right, right. I know how you feel when you get stuck. I worried about it too. Then, which subjects are you good at in? The sciences?”
“…That’s, not exactly it,” Yukinoshita wasn’t particularly upset, but her response was somewhat cold.
When Meguri-senpai wasn’t sure how to continue the conversation, Hayama stopped working and lifted his head from the screen of his PC. “Yukinoshita-san. She’s also good with subjects in the humanities too.”
“Ah, so that’s how it is,” Meguri-senpai looked relieved when Hayama interjected.
…Right, I had a vague idea of it, but Yukinoshita should’ve been proficient in the humanities subjects as well.
I was third in our year at Japanese, followed by the second Hayama, and then Yukinoshita, the first. We were the immovable top three, and we would continue to be placed amongst the top if we decided to elect a humanities course.
In addition to that, she was always reading books and her image alone suggested she belonged on the humanities side.
“See, I picked the humanities. If you’re worried about which one to go with, feel free to ask me anything!”
“Haa… Thank you very much. I appreciate your consideration.”
So polite or so I had thought, but she was being incredibly indirect with her refusal.
Meguri-senpai, however, didn’t realize that and continued talking in high spirits, “Yep, yep. Oh, but I don’t really get some things in the sciences, so I might not be able to answer. But maybe you can ask Haru-san? She chose the sciences.”
“…That’s, true.” A shadow loomed over Yukinoshita’s expression. Even so, Yukinoshita asking Haruno-san anything was an unlikely prospect in itself.
The taciturn Yukinoshita didn’t let out a single word after that. Meguri-senpai naturally became quiet with the atmosphere that pushed for silence.
What remained were the rebounding sounds of the click click tak tak of the keyboard and the flipping of documents like a poorly construed Morse code.
Within the still room, the coughs of people weighed on my mind. Even the light cough as though checking on the condition of their voice caused my eyes to move on their own, searching for the owner of it.
“…Class 2-F leader. You haven’t submitted a written application for your exhibition yet,” Yukinoshita sighed briefly with documents in hand.
Someone still hadn’t turned in their application yet this late in the game? Good grief. Who the heck was it…? Oh, it was meeee! I didn’t feel the slightest attachment to my class so it had completely slipped my mind…
Actually, I heard Sagami was supposed to write one and turn it in though… Well, not that I could confirm that since she hadn’t been showing up here recently.
“…Sorry, I’ll write it.”
I doubt waiting for it to be turned in would do me any good, so let’s just write one up.
“I see… Submit it before the end of today.”
I took the documents from Yukinoshita and promptly began writing.
Number of people, name of the class representative, registered name, necessary equipment, name of the homeroom teacher… What the, they wanted some sort of picture too? You sure you wanted to challenge a second-rate artist like myself?
I skimmed through the other entry fields.
I see, I don’t have a clue.
I wasn’t abstaining from class events for nothing. That, of course, meant I couldn’t possibly have an idea of what name the class was registered under, let alone the number of people participating.
But that’s exactly what this guy was here for. Actually, he should only be here for this moment alone.
“Hayama, give me the details for these,” I said.
Hayama slightly thought over it. “Sorry, I don’t really know all of it myself.”
“That’s good enough. I’ll just write random stuff for the rest.”
“You definitely can’t do that.”
“…I can hear you,” Yukinoshita responded with only her voice, not lifting her face from the screen of her PC.
Hayama made a strained smile. “I think it’d be faster if you checked with the girls still at class.”
I sorted the papers together, left the conference room, and headed for my class.
× × ×
The classroom after school before the Cultural Festival was in a clamor. The loudness of the voices during times of labor like these and the plentiful number of participants went as far as to exhibit a degree of completion for the classes.
In a conversation between boys and girls, the boys would make the number of their popularity into one youth hit (yH) and represent another youth hit (yH) from their time spent engaging in work, and then compete over their protagonist levels using the value from multiplying the above two together. Having all the units the same made it really hard to understand.
Class 2-F in particular was demonstrating quite the amount of yH. There was the play, a stage built from combined desks, outfits that were being tailored at one corner, and practice at another.
“Jeez guys, do it right!”
A number of boys including Oooka were being scolded by Sagami.
So she was around here.
Well, it’s not her showing at the committee would contribute to getting any of the work done anyway. Sometimes, the difference in ability tended to be quiet cruel.
Should I tell her to make the effort to show up at the committee, I wonder? I considered it, but a single word from me would likely lead to her saying behind my back, “Uhhh, Hikitani’s, like, tooootally complaining to me. Gross. Power harassment? More like sexual harassment considering how gross he is (lol). I’m gonna sue (lol). Then again, he’s not even my boss (lol). Like seriously, who is he (lol)…? Eh, really, who is he?” That scenario vividly played itself in my head as though a battle of the supernatural was going to unfold after I was awakened to the ability to see into the future.
I examined the entire room and noticed that my classmates weren’t wearing the standard school uniform.
Could they have finally completed it…?
The terrifying soul-crushing weapon of destruction, the class T-shirt…
The class T-shirt. To put it simply, it was a T-shirt that every class made during the Cultural Festival. A rather pointless explanation since this should be self-explanatory.
Perhaps, the shirt was intended to illustrate the level of unity in a class, intimacy, and to incite hype for the Cultural Festival, and also to serve as a physical memento of memories and proof of one’s youth.
But regarding these class T-shirts, nicknames of all the members were printed on the back. Based on my experiences as well, this was clearly the case.
Amongst all the nicknames written, only I had been entered to play with just my regular real name, “Hikigaya-KUN”. A majority of the nicknames were written with a mix of hiragana and katakana, so the use of kanji specifically for my name only showed how out of place it was and made it totally conspicuous. Especially the “KUN” part which was written in katakana, it concealed the pains of the other party trying to squeeze it in somehow, and that misplaced kindness ended up making me feel apologetic instead.
I definitely took some considerable damage during my first year, but this time, bring it. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind having my entire name written in kanji at this point. Hahaha, as soon as this Cultural Festival’s over, it’s going to be my personal dust cloth. It wouldn’t even be useful as pajamas since it’s not made from very quality material.
I looked around the class for Yuigahama.
Uhhh, Gahama, Gahama, er.
Er, jumping into my field of vision was a beautiful figure.
It was a being that exuded an androgynous, fleeting glamor.
The baggy sleeves of his coat were excessively long with only his fingertips peeking out. It was Totsuka dressed in an outfit for “The Little Prince”. He was just about in the middle of having his trousers hemmed up, the folded hems pieced together with marking pins.
When Totsuka noticed me as he was standing idly, he stretched his hand out of his sleeves and waved. “Oh, Hachiman. Welcome back.”
Embarrassing as it is, I’m home and safe! I almost bowed out of instinct there too. If Totsuka could recite that to me every time he came to greet me, then I’d happily go home every day.
“Ah, that’s right,” said Totsuka, and he lightly jogged away with something in mind. He quickly took something out from his bag and hurried back. Along the way, for an instant, I held the expectation things would develop to where “he’d dive straight into my chest due to stepping on the hems of his coat!”, but life just wasn’t so easy. Reality was cruel no matter when and where.
“Here, thanks for letting me borrow this.”
Presented to me was a single book.
It was the novel that I lent to Totsuka the other day, “The Little Prince”. Because I had read it so many times, the edges of the cover were worn out and the entire book was somewhat dirty. I reflected a little on the fact that it wasn’t exactly in the condition to be lending out to other people.
“So I was thinking I’d return the favor…” Totsuka made a big nod as if slightly psyching himself up and looked directly at me as if in admiration. “Um… Hachiman, is there anything you like?”
He almost got an instant response from me there. Heck, I even voiced the “y” part of the word.
“Y…Yeah, nothing in particular, I guess,” I answered, managing to gloss it over.
Totsuka slightly crossed his arms and began worrying in earnest. “Oh okay… T-Then, how about any favorite food or books, or… any snacks you’d want? It’d be nice if you could tell me.”
Once again, he almost got an instantaneous response out of me. In fact, I even voiced the “yo” part of the word.
“Yo… You’re putting me on the spot telling me so suddenly… Well, if I had to say something, I guess I like sweet stuff.”
MAX COFFEE for example. Also, miso peanuts, or malt jelly, or Mother Farm’s soft cream, or even Orandaya’s peanut pie.
“Sweet things… Okay, I’ll bring something next time!” said Totsuka, with a smile, and then a voice called him. It looked like they finished hemming up his trousers. Totsuka answered them and turned back around to me. “Okay, I’ll be going.”
“Have a nice trip,” I answered Totsuka who raised his hand and watched him go… This kind of stuff was nice too. If possible, I’d like to see Totsuka off every morning from home. Still, why was it so painful for Totsuka to be taken away even though the chances were nigh on impossible?
Now that I was left alone, I looked around the classroom again.
Totsuka’s cuteness was just too much that it blanked out my original objective.
Oh, there she is.
Yuigahama, who was nibbling at her ice cream which she apparently went out to buy somewhere, was in the middle of slapping scraps of paper together of something. She raised her face and walked over. “Huh? Hikki, are you done with work?”
“Quitting work doesn’t necessarily mean it will end.”
“What the heck are you saying?” said Yuigahama with eyes that were looking at an idiot.
Tch, this was the problem with people belonging to labor-centric environments… Why don’t I teach this girl the true horrors and woes of being a corporate slave? But I didn’t really have the luxury to do so. With my hatred towards work tucked away in my heart, let’s hurry and get the bothersome things out of the way.
“I’m still working. Sorry, but can tell me what I need to fill out on here? I need to turn this in by the end of the day.”
“This is urgent? Ah, isn’t Hayato-kun over there too?”
By “there”, she must’ve meant the planning committee.
“Okay, let’s do it over there then. It’s too noisy here. I was just about to go call him back so we can discuss the play anyway.”
As we had that conversation, Sagami spoke up from the back, “Ah, I need to go the committee too. Sorry, everyoneee. I’m gonna finish this and then head over.”
× × ×
We returned to the conference room and Yuigahama subjected me to a lecture on the exhibition.
The standard requirements like the needed equipment, the number of people, how the allotted budget was used and considerably abstract things like the purpose of the exhibition and a synopsis were all jotted down. Moreover, we were even required to map out a blueprint, something I could’ve glossed over had the entire thing required text only.
Talk about incredibly bothersome.
“I said that’s wrong! Make it, you know, more booooom! The props are going to be really flashy, okay!”
“I don’t get it…”
It wasn’t that drawing the diagram was incredibly bothersome, but trying to make sense of Yuigahama was.
Why were her explanations always so melodramatic…? It’s incomprehensible to the point scary.
“Also, you also assigned the wrong number of people there.”
“How humiliating… To be taught by Yuigahama of all people…”
“What was that? Whatever, hurry up and fix it!”
As I was guided under an unexpected strictness, I scribbled my pencil against the paper and we somehow made some progress.
The very sight of students diligently working, to the executives, was some form of stimulus as Meguri-senpai was amicably smiling as she did her work. Normally delicate, the conference peacefully saw the passage of time.
As if tearing apart that space was the sound of a screeching mechanical noise.
“Sooorry for being late! Oh, Hayama-kun, you were here!”
Following right behind Sagami were her usual two friends. It was her once in a blue moon arrival to work. She called out to Hayama and attempted to approach him, but before she could, Yukinoshita got to her feet. Though Sagami was startled from Yukinoshita abruptly blocking her path, without even a moment to be surprised, Yukinoshita held out a seal and documents.
“Sagami-san, I need you to stamp these. I believe there aren’t any problems with the inspection of the documents. I revised any possible errors as well.”
It was business right out the door with no small talk.
Whether it was because she was obstructed from talking to Hayama or it was because of the displeasure from being shoved work first thing upon her entrance, Sagami had a dead expression, but she promptly smoothed it over with a smile and accepted the documents.
Sagami stamped the documents one by one without so much of a proper look at them while Yukinoshita, the recipient from the onset, checked them over once again and filed them away in the file of approved documents. This wasn’t anything new, but this composition of people had quite the number of problems, huh?
Since I had been working in the committee, I had a grasp of what was going on, but how did this appear to outsiders? With that thought, I glanced at Yuigahama and her lips were sucked in and her gaze lowered. Well, she probably had her thoughts on the matter. With no club activities and the odd feeling of distance that formed between her and Yukinoshita, reflected before her eyes was the interaction between Yukinoshita and Sagami. Watching it wasn’t a good feeling at all.
On the other hand, the other outsider, Hayama, was still maintaining his smile. Moreover, he even responded to her.
“Good work, Sagami-san. Were you at class?”
Sagami twisted her body like a stoat and faced Hayama. “Uh huh, that’s right.”
“I see… So how are things going?”
“I guess things are going prettyyy well,” Sagami answered.
Hayama paused a few seconds. That transparent void made his following words more prominent. “Oh, I didn’t mean that, but the committee. I mean, the class is doing pretty well since Yumiko’s handling it.”
Mixed in with those words, whether consciously or unconsciously, was a scant amount of poison. If Hayama had intentionally chosen to express his words that way, there was something behind them. The actual meaning would be something along the lines of “you sure it’s okay to be skipping out on committee work?”
But Sagami continued the conversation unaffected, the poison not having much of an affect at all. “Aah… Miura-san, she’s toootally a lot peppier than usual, like sooo reliable.” (Translation: That damn Miura, not only is she more grating, she sure is annoooying trying to butt in.)
“Hahaha, I mean she’s helping us out and all. It’s not a bad thing at all.” (Translation: You’d better stop saying any more, okay?)
I must’ve eaten some kind of Translation Jelly3 because I was starting to read into their words…
It wasn’t like I was paying any it any particular attention, but Sagami’s speech was really bad that I oddly got into the mood. Even I was sensing something underneath the words from a good guy like Hayama.
I followed the subtitles that were processed in my brain in my field of vision and there was a clap in front of my eyes.
“C’mon, hurry up and finish. I want to go back.”
“Wait, in the first place, this isn’t my…”
As a matter of fact, I recall this being something Sagami was supposed to handle. Why was I stuck doing it? I just don’t get it. I just don’t… I jus’ dunna’ gettit Niyander Mask4…
“…So noisy,” Yukinoshita softly muttered to the yap yap yap’ing at various areas in the room.
Yuigahama and I reflexively shut our mouths, but Sagami continued her enjoyable time chatting with Hayama, that mutter seemingly not reaching her.
“Oh no, I toootally want to be like Miura-san, see. I really admire being able to lead everyone!” (Translation: I toootally want to crush her and take her place.)
“Sagami-san, you have your strong points too, so isn’t that good enough?” (Translation: Didn’t I say to stop saying any more? You should know your place since it’s for your own good, okay?)
“Ehhh? But there’s like nothing good about me!” (Translation: C’mon, I was making fun of myself there! Praise me! Praise me! Hayama-kun, praise me!)
“Everyone’s different. You might think so, but to other people, there are things that only they can see.” (Translation: No, sorry, I’m not too familiar with praising people, so I’ll just give you an accepted opinion instead.)
Literal subtitles you’d see jump onto the screen in Western movies had been appearing at the bottom since earlier and it was incredibly distracting. Western movies were definitely better off being dubbed.
Those thoughts were interrupted by a clap from a cellphone being folded.
“Hikki, you stopped moving your hands. We rescheduled the meeting for the play to tonight, so we’re going to get this done properly, okay?”
“Just twenty more minutes until it’s time to go home…”
All the pressure was stockpiled on top of me…
“Well, seeing that we couldn’t make it to class, there’s not much we can do from having things delayed, right?” Not ignoring our conversation, Hayama followed up.
What a good guy. Though, I wouldn’t have been put in this mess had you just given me a summary from the start. But since this was committee work, then that was that. With that in mind, I just had to endure…
“I’m the chairman see, so there are a few parts you’ll have to do for me, thanks.” (Translation: You had better do it right, slave. Spit.)
Just endure it… I’ll pay her back twofold after the second turn. Won’t I just lose my patience by then?
Anyway, after taking a considerable amount of time, we somehow managed to write up the documents.
“We sure are,” Yuigahama answered in exhaustion.
“Sorry about this. You were a big help. Thanks.”
“Eh? Oh, that’s okay. No problem at all. It’s actually rare for Hikki to ask for something too.”
“I guess so. Even I didn’t think a day like this would ever come.”
“Just how much of an idiot do you take me for!?”
I ignored Yuigahama’s indignant voice and went to submit the documents and Yukinoshita accepted it wordlessly. She checked over the first page, then the second page, and after she was done reading, she straightened the edges together, tapping the papers together on the desk.
“It looks good, thank you for your hard work.” Without a single glance to me, she organized the approved documents and filed them.
“What about the stamp?”
“That’s true,” Yukinoshita replied briefly and took out the documents again.
It was such a trivial, yet careless mistake.
That’s why it felt so out of place.
“Sagami-san. I need you to stamp this,” said Yukinoshita.
Sagami then stopped her conversation and took the documents. “Oh, sure. Actually, I’ll just give you the stamp and you can do it yourself, okay?”
“Sagami-san, you’re going just a little too far there,” Meguri-senpai didn’t let that slip by and advised her.
Sagami didn’t show any signs of shyness. “Ehhhh? But isn’t it more efficient this way? I think what’s important are the things we do and not these stiff formalities, riiight? You know, trust or something like that?”
Listening to her vocabulary alone made it sound like she was spouting a wonderful theory. But for convenience’s sake, it was certainly much more efficient if Yukinoshita had been in charge of the seal instead of Sagami. Meguri-senpai with the same thoughts on the matter groaned, at a loss for words.
“If Yukinoshita-san’s okay with it, then it’s fine…” Meguri-senpai glanced in Yukinoshita’s direction to check her thoughts on the matter.
Yukinoshita appeared unperturbed and nodded, “I don’t mind. In that case, I will approve everything from now on.” As soon as she was entrusted with the seal, she quickly stamped the papers.
With this, today’s business hours were over. The bell had just rung at that moment as well.
“Okay, I’d say that wraps up today. I’m going to go lock up the facilities, so everyone can leave first. As for the rest of the executives, please check up on everyone leaving,” Meguri-senpai handed out her instructions and the student council members quickly scattered. For the planning committee that dictated the times to go home, they could absolutely not go past it themselves.
We promptly got ready to go home and left the conference room.
On the way to the entrance, Sagami who was talking with her friends went along with the flow and came to talk to us.
“Oh, does everyone want to go grab something to eat after this? Yeah?”
This person was only looking at Hayama when she asked that…
Hayama and Yuigahama moved their eyes. It looked like they were checking what everyone else’s plans were. Yuigahama directed her gaze towards Yukinoshita.
She answered indifferently, looking like she had an idea what that meant, “I still have some work to do.”
It wasn’t an excuse for her to refuse because she really did have work to do. Factor in that she was also given considerable discretion for the sake of trust from Sagami.
Her responsibilities and workload had magnified simultaneously.
“Oh, I seeee, sure, not much we can do there.” (Translation: No, I didn’t even invite you in the first place.)
The subtitles had yet to disappear even now and I could easily see through her transparent intentions. You had better not look down on the power of the Wicked Eye…
Following Yukinoshita, I also refused. “I’ll be going home.”
“Okay, got it.” (Translation: You ain’t got a seat!)
I knew I wasn’t the one getting invited, but I think it’s one of my admirable points where I made sure to refuse anyway. I mean, c’mon, being told, “Eh, umm, what are you going to do? You don’t have to go, okay?” would make me cringe. No one would be happy anyway. Besides, why did I need to get restricted after work too, huh?
The ones Sagami were inviting weren’t Yukinoshita nor me, but the other two.
Yuigahama let out a reserved voice, seemingly already having her answer beforehand. “T-Today’s not going to work for me… I have to go to the meeting for the play.”
“Ehhh? Yui-chan’s not gonna go, huuh? C’mooon!” (Translation: Hey, hey, if you’re not going, then Hayama-kun’s not going to go, you know? Are you kidding me?)
Whoa, the response was quite different this time. Very open, weren’t you? You were just a little too open like a certain skull head out there you know.
“Yeah, the play meeting, right? I’ll go too.” (Translation: I’ll follow through with this conversation here.) Hayama dauntlessly took advantage of this opportunity and declined the offer.
Sagami reluctantly took back her proposal. “Oh okay, I see. Everyone has plans after all. Maybe next time then.” (Translation: If Hayama-kun’s not going, then whatever!)
Although I knew it wasn’t any fun reading into people’s words, I couldn’t keep myself from following the subtitles.
With my terrible personality coming this far, it was quite the special ability.
Until we went our separate ways at the entrance, the subtitles for Sagami just wouldn’t disappear. It looked like Sagami and the others were going to head home together with Hayama midway as they went outside, continuing their endless chatter.
I put on my shoes and went outside after them.
The evening was already long past and the shades of night began to expand.
“I’ll be off then,” Yukinoshita replied with a few words and went home urgently. She readjusted the bag firmly to her shoulders, as if the bag was heavy from all the documents she jammed in there to process at home.
“‘kay, Hikki, see you tomorrow,” Yuigahama tapped my shoulders and ran off. She had a meeting now, huh? She had it rough too.
I pushed my bike from the empty parking bike area.
The street lights were unpleasantly dazzling. I had used my eyes way too much today. Those subtitles were actually pretty exhausting.
With worthless thoughts filling my head, one more came to mind.
Speaking of which, I didn’t see those weird subtitles for some people, huh?
- Eroge-like Idol Master (エロゲーッぽいアイマス) – Fuhiho (フヒ歩) is a character of the game that goes “fuhi” whenever he gets excited or horny, essentially, a pervert. ↩
- Ceylon – Japanese hononym joke. Sound argument (正論, seiron) and Ceylon (セイロン, Ceylon) ↩
- Doraemon – A piece of konjac jelly which enables a person to understand and speak any known language in the universe. ↩
- Mighty Cat Masked Niyander ↩