The periodic tests ended, followed by the start of the rainy season.
Extended rains had ceased, but even so, the bursts of sudden downpours that seemingly targeted the period when it was time to head home were frequent. It was because of this humidity that filled everything below the sky that this and that clung to your body.
Especially with Sobu High being positioned along the coast, the humidity from the sea was brought over in its entirety. The assimilated salty sea breeze was discoloring the paints and bikes, rusting the exposed iron fences.
As damp as the atmosphere was, it oddly gave rise to a feeling of invigoration.
That was because this time of the year which awaited the onset of summer vacation was the season where not only the normalfags would rustle about making plans for their frivolity, but also the loners who would be freed from the hell called school and become animated.
Would it be fine to call this the “charm of summer”?
Incidentally, the heat would make people go mad.
Because of that, even I was behaving strangely against my better judgment. It was the kind of behavior that wasn’t typical of me, that even I couldn’t help, but find odd.
The area wedged between the back of the school building and the annex was cooler than anywhere else due to it being under the shade. In contrast to the school building which was enclosed at all four corners like a square if you looked from above, this annex which abundantly stuck out was a place that the average student wasn’t familiar with. For the martial arts dojo below the gym, only if the sports club had a room there that people would pass by, but with it being lunch, no one came.
That being the case, there was no one else other than me and one more person.
The students who were exhilarated for the start of summer during lunch.
The faint, smell of salt that rode along the wind.
And the backside of the school building with no human presence.
It was a secret moment that only the two of us would spend together.
If I recited these kinds of things, it was as if I was listening to one tale of a summer’s youth.
But reality was not so.
“Ku, ku, ku, I praise you for coming. My longtime enemy. Hachiman!”
That theatrical, to the point idiotic, annoying way of speaking was answered back with a voice that lacked motivation.
“I’ve finallyyyyy cornered youuuu, Master Swordsman Shoooogun.”
When I monotonously responded in a way that would warrant talent and movie directors to complain about saying it to do it better, directly facing me, Zaimokuza quietly took his stance. Barf Spark annoying1.
This was what reality was.
In this reality, it was just the two of us, Zaimokuza and I, taking refuge here in the shadows behind the school building where no one was at so no one could see us. Also, I was positive this smell of salt was actually the stink of sweat. Trick descriptions sure were scary!
I was just eating my lunch at my usual place by myself while watching from afar Totsuka doing his noon practice until Zaimokuza caught me.
I was then forced to read the plot of Zaimokuza’s novel and before I realized it, in this blistering heat, I was engaging in chuunibyou antics with him.
This was my reality and the summer of my second year in high school. The summer of Japan, it was not the summer of Kincho.2
“Fumuu… Hachiman. Dare I say something is amiss with your dispirited attitude!? Why do you not take your stance!? You will not be able to stimulate my image like that!”
Zaimokuza voiced his complaints as he noisily stamped on the floor.
No, even if you told me that… When I blurted out I didn’t understand the setting of the plot he wrote, Zaimokuza started a live performance. Before I knew it, things had turned out like this.
But even if I gave him a sound argument, it wouldn’t get through to Zaimokuza. This was the Zaimokuza QUALITY. It would prove more advantageous to retaliate with emotions instead of logic.
I displayed a smile that mocked him.
“…This stance, huh…? This is the Formless Stance. By sheathing my power, I can counter any and all attacks.”
“What the heck is that? That’s cool!”
Given how I blurted out random knowledge I gained from RuroKen, the fact that Zaimokuza ate it up was good. Accepting it, he began pressing away on his smart phone. He worried whether he wanted to go with that stance or the Universe Stance, but if that turned out to be a reference, then that was plenty.
“Nufu, after avoiding an attack and nullifying it, you follow up with a sermon punch3. This could get popular…”
I ignored Zaimokuza who was blubbering about something and leaned against the wall. Since it looked like I solved Zaimokuza’s problem, I should be released now.
Forcing me into this stupid act made me sweat unpleasantly. The wind that blew past my red hot cheeks felt good.
I bathed in the wind that blew much further ahead of me and when I twisted my body, trying my hand at pretending to be T.M.Revolution, a strange spectacle flew into my sight.
A number of boys sporting a judo appearance were walking in stuttered steps with downfallen shoulders this way. Their judo outfits alone were enough to give them an overbearing appearance, yet they looked fragile somehow.
I thought only MY ANGEL Totsuka was the only one who went through the trouble of practicing during lunch, but was our judo club the same? Ah, MY ANGEL Totsuka. I want to answer this quiz correctly and raise him.
In Totsuka’s case, he refreshingly, moreover, cutely, looked like he was having fun while cutely doing his noon practice, but that didn’t seem to be the case for the passing judo folks..
Well, there’s nothing they could do. Totsuka’s special after all. Special Totsuka, in short, Totspecialka. “Special Totsuka is cute” was like a tongue twister.
On the other hand, the walking of the not special, not cute, and not Totsuka judo guys were like that of a zombie’s and their expressions looked considerably exhausted… Were you guys all company employees or something!?
Still leaning against the wall, I slid down into a sitting position.
As I was watching the orderly judo club with a side glance, Zaimokuza who also seemed to have seen them was tilting his head in contemplation with a “fumuu”.
“A rather suspicious group, were they not?”
“Uh, compared to you, not really…”
Perverts that wore coats during the summer were only people like Black Jack-sensei, you know…
“Rufun. Well, once you are on the same class as I, then you are already a Master Swordsman…”
Apparently taking those words as compliment, Zaimokuza snorted with pride. If you translated positive thinking in Japanese, didn’t that mean “shitty, misunderstanding bastard”?
But pointing out Zaimokuza’s misunderstanding didn’t have any benefits at this point. That was probably the case for him internally and I mean only for him internally.
I removed my gaze from Zaimokuza and when I watched the guys in judo outfits turn the corner, a thought came to mind.
“Oh yeah, didn’t you choose kendo for your martial arts?”
This time of the year for us second years was when gym would start doing martial arts. You had to choose between kendo and judo.
But you had to buy equipment for either of them. Since kendo equipment came in a complete set and was expensive, I opted for judo. I told my parents “I’m not sure what I’ll do, but gimme money for kendo”. This was what they called the Full Metal Jacket, the Small Change Alchemist.
I chose judo and since Zaimokuza wasn’t there, through the process of elimination, that meant he went with kendo instead. Though, there was also the possibility that Zaimokuza’s existence got eliminated as well.
“Homu, indeed. I most certainly did choose kendo. It was most natural. Is there something the matter?”
“No… I was just thinking how pitiful it’d be for the guys who’d have to pair up with you.”
In reality, by virtue of it being gym, it was already quite the pain already. With kendo being in his field as well, then he’d probably be even more annoying.
“Worry not. It is preposterous I would use my power against the likes of common disciples. I will keep myself in check.”
“Aah, is that so…”
So if I translated that to modern speak, then, “I-It’s too embarrassing to expose that kind of setting in front of other people… That’s why I’m going to stay put. H-Hachiman, you’re the only person I can show this to, okay!” or something like that.
What the heck was that? That’s disgusting.
Well, it was fine as long Zaimokuza wasn’t a bother to other people. The reason why loners were allowed to exist was so they didn’t harm other people. The pheasant would not be shot, but for its cries. But a pheasant that didn’t cry was less than a pheasant. As an existence that served no value in beating, it could be thrown away. Could it be treated as if it didn’t exist or could it be avoided as something that was hated? Either way, it was dead if it was Another.
“Hachiman, what did the likes of you decide upon?”
As if he was displeased at my attitude, Zaimokuza pouted and asked. But my answer was exceedingly simple. There wasn’t a speck of surprise in it.
“The guys in the judo club partnered with me. The rest was just practicing ukemi4.”
“Homuu… You surely mean care-taking, not partnering, correct…?”
While wiping the sweat at his brow, Zaimokuza said.
But it wasn’t something to be surprised about. Whenever a particular competition was held, it was the fate of the club members related to get the short end of the stick. They’d be told to show a demonstration and they had to prepare as well as clean up the equipment. Calmly overlooking this overtime labor was the darkness of the sports oriented world. Rumor had it that the sports clubs were to rear future corporate slaves; inside of me that is.
That’s why the people of the judo club could not cease taking care of me… Was that the reason for their dark expressions? Sorry, okay?
But it weighing on mind wouldn’t change this tradition. As if I could go out of my way to skip class just for them. There was no one to help the loners, so they had to make sure to attend all their classes.
Sorry to the judo guys, but for now, I’ll be a nuisance to you all.
After solidifying my defiance, the chime indicating the end of lunch rang. I stood up and wiped off the sand stuck to my behind.
“Okay, I’m heading back to class.”
Saying that, I turned my back and the sound of footsteps followed me as if it was natural.
“Hamon. Indeed, let us go.”
Eh? We’re going back together? I was pretty sure I meant, “I’ll be going back by myself”. I sent him a doubtful stare, but Zaimokuza paid no heed and instead made an oppressive “fufun” laugh.
“What are you dawdling about for? With haste, with haste! Eey, slow! I will head out first!”
He snappily turned towards the school building and pointed. To put the words Zaimokuza spoke just now in modern speak, “What’s wrong? Let’s hurry and go back okay…? Ah, but, if rumors of us going back together spread… It’d be kind of embarrassing…”
It didn’t even make me angry if I thought about it like that. It just disgusted me.
× × ×
I finished up the afternoon classes and headed for the club room.
Due to the nature of today’s era, our high school was equipped with air conditioning, enabling us to take classes comfortably during the summer. But outside of class was a different story. The same could be said for after school.
Even on a hot day like this, while heading for the Service Club room located in the inner depths of the special building, I could feel a cooling sensation either because the club room was situated in a spot under the shade or that the ventilation was splendid. Or possibly, it could’ve been because of the leaking aura of the club room’s master. I was sure that this coolness that made your spine shiver was from the latter. Aah, also, her breasts were also cool too!
While engrossing myself in pointless thoughts regarding the coolness of the special building, I opened the door and a slightly, exceedingly so, cold stare was thrust at me.
After receiving the shooting glint in her eyes from Yukinoshita Yukino, I couldn’t help but falter. What, why was this person so angry? Did my thoughts from earlier get across to her somehow? With Yukinoshita as the esper, I as the satorare5, the second big controversy would happen again.
“…Oh, it was Hikigaya-kun. You were making a rather damp looking face that I thought an amphibian had entered the room.”
“Well, youth consequently made me feel wet, so there’s not much I can do there. Make sure not to tell Hiratsuka-sensei that. Because she would totally be bothered by it.”
Once we exchanged our usual greeting, I sat at my designated seat that was directly opposite from Yukinoshita.
While looking like her typical displeased self, Yukinoshita didn’t say anything more in particular. Shen then dropped her eyes back to the book at her hands.
I could see that she wasn’t in the greatest of moods, though it didn’t seem to have been from her enmity, hatred, and dislike of me. The proof of that lied with how she would normally add a few more words of sarcasm, but today she was rather docile. Then again, she would normally say a bit too much though.
If I wasn’t the reason for her discontent, then why was she in such a bad mood? You’ll just make the mood of the place worse so stop it. Was she one of those OLs that were harshly treated like tumors depending on the difference between their good and bad moods?
Since I didn’t have anything particular to do, I pulled a book out from my bag as well. I flipped and skimmed through the pages randomly, making occasional glances at Yukinoshita.
The only thing she was doing was reading yet she was sighing. In the meantime, it almost looked like her stress was gradually building up. What, was the book really that boring? You know you could just stop reading…
Well, it was pointless to say something to people who were privately generating their own stress, intoxicating themselves even. Only the person himself could clear away their pent up stress.
Leaving her to her own devices, I lowered my gaze to my book once again and just as I was about to engross myself in reading, the noisy sounding of creaking filled the room.
Barging into the room with a midsummer, sultry greeting was Yuigahama Yui. As she noisily made stepping sounds, she sat at her usual seat.
As of late, Yuigahama’s skirt had been much shorter than before. In addition to that, she stopped wearing navy blue socks, more often using ankle socks. The short sleeves of her blouse were rolled up too. It was totally an appearance meant for summer. With a relative look, you could even say that the exposure of her arms and legs had increased. Well, it’s not like I was scrutinizing her in detail or anything, it’s just something you end up noticing, what with having to see her every day. It’d be a problem if you underestimated the observing eyes of a loner.
“It sure is hot!”
Having arrived at her seat, Yuigahama grabbed the blouse at her bosom and flapped it. Stop doing those things. You can’t expect me not to look, really.
Speaking of which, although she was blabbering about it being really hot, she wasn’t wearing a polo shirt or an open-necked shirt, huh? It was a little unexpected. Maybe she was slightly obsessed with the ribbon or something?
Hoping to avert my stare from Yuigahama, I focused my attention on the book in my hands. After that, I used an extra amount of strength to pull the pages that were normally stuck together already from the humidity and it wrinkled nosily.
Aah, I better rest something on the page later… It was a sad thing to do to the books you loved. It was also one of the many unpleasant things of this season.
It’s not like it was Yuigahama’s fault, in fact, it was completely mine. But really, um, I even felt kind of bad for looking at her, but as long Yuigahama was one of the reasons for this, as unfair as it was, I couldn’t help, but send a slightly reproachful look to Yuigahama. No, it’s not because she was flapping her blouse at her chest that bothered me, or that it was strange how surprisingly long her legs were; it was just an unjustified, resenting stare. Whatever it was, it was the most despicable reason.
But that was seemingly a needless concern as Yuigahama didn’t pay any heed to my stare and instead was being considerate with Yukinoshita.
“Yukinon, is something wrong?”
Had it been anyone else, they wouldn’t think to call out to Yukinoshita who was in a bad mood. If anything, even Yukinoshita’s regular attitude was a high enough hurdle already.
However, the current Yuigahama could do it.
If it was like before, she certainly wouldn’t have overstepped her boundaries and would’ve asked about something harmless. For her to ask so directly was proof that the distance between the two had shortened.
Ever since Yuigahama’s birthday, I got the feeling that the needless consideration and reservation between the two had decreased.
Yukinoshita stopped her movements as well, wondering whether she should talk now that she was spoken to. But when it came to Yuigahama, she would try to answer sincerely.
“It’s just the humidity’s so awful that it curls…”
“Aah, the humidity, huh? I get that too and it makes it hard to fix up my hair. It’s so annoying.”
In contrast to Yukinoshita who let out a sigh as she rubbed her book, Yuigahama roughly fiddled with her hair.
“Fix up? I’m the opposite. The humidity causes it to warp, so it sticks together… It’s really stressful.”
“Eeh? That’s not true at all.”
When she said that, Yuigahama stood up and went around behind Yukinoshita. In disregard to Yukinoshita’s puzzled face, she gently caressed Yukinoshita’s hair.
“It’s super silky. Aah, but, it’s probably a little hot, huh?”
“…Yuigahama-san? What are you doing?”
“Mmm. Got it.”
Yuigahama was rummaging around in her pockets, but took something out. She then wrapped it around her fingers and spun it around. It looked like a hair band.
Furthermore, after reaching out to her bag and taking out a brush, she slowly, but carefully brushed Yukinoshita’s hair. When she bundled her long, smooth, black hair together, she lifted her hair up and tied it.
“Having long hair during summer traps heat, so keeping your hair this way’s a lot better, right?”
“Y-Yes. That’s true…”
Hearing her thoughts, Yukinoshita was confused as she answered. She was slightly hesitant, not used to having people fiddling with her hair. It was a rather rare sight to see.
“Um… So, Yuigahama-san? Why my hair… Um, were you listening to me?”
Of course, Yuigahama wasn’t listening.
As she consolidated Yukinoshita’s hair while humming, she fixed her hair to give the finishing touches. Even so, her long black hair looked like it was going to spill out and turn into a mess. When she fastened it with the hairpin she took from her breast pocket, she completed the bobtail.
“All done…! We might match a little.”
When she examined the completed makeover, she made a satisfied smile going “heehee”. If you compared their hairstyles, certainly, they looked rather similar.
“More like fake than match.”
“Your mouth! Watch it!”
Yuigahama snapped at me. It looked like she was very proud of her work.
“…Does knockoff work?”
“That’s no different!”
For the most part, I was being considerate when I chose these words that had clearer intentions… Still, in reality, I wasn’t sure what to say. It wasn’t anything like 2P9 characters or anything, in truth, the fact that it didn’t look similar, but was trying to made it even more of a fake…
“Speaking of which, doesn’t the clashing hairstyle bother you?”
When it came to high school students, they tended to blabber on about individuality, individuality and especially when it came to fashion, the girls definitely had their say, but how was it really? Or could it be that if you lived your life reading the mood like Yuigahama, would Kaneko MIsuzu Exceptional People: “Everyone is Together and Everyone is Wonderful”10 happen instead?
Yuigahama raised her face going “mmm” and thought, but her answer was simple given how long she took.
“Well, if we get along, then it wouldn’t matter, right?”
Aah, I see… Both of you get along pretty well, huh…
I mistook her happy answer for poison. I let out a short sigh mixed with shock and returned to my reading.
When I did, Yukinoshita who was left behind the entire time opened her mouth.
“Um… Exactly how does it look?”
The person in question, Yukinoshita, wasn’t aware of how her head was. Yuigahama grabbed a rectangular hand mirror and passed it to her.
“Here you go!”
Yukinoshita placed her book on the desk and took the hand mirror.
She then flipped it open, reflecting herself. Her eyes gently narrowed with her expression turning into a puzzled one. She then clamped the mirror and she directed a doubtful stare to Yuigahama.
“…Yuigahama-san, why my hair?”
When asked, Yuigahhama blinked in confusion.
“Eh? Weren’t you saying how your hair was bothersome and annoying?”
“What I was talking about was this.”
Yukinoshita pointed at the book on the desk and continued.
“The humidity damages the book and having to wring it out takes time… So that’s why.”
“Ah, so that’s what you were talking about… I thought for sure…”
Yuigahama let out a “tahaha” while scratching her head.
Hair and paper just didn’t mingle for you, huh? I understand… God, why would you make me have these stupid thoughts?
Well, Yuigahama didn’t read books, so when she heard “kami”11, the first that would come to mind would be hairstyles. The scope of her interests was different.
On the other hand, Yukinoshita although not totally indifferent to fashion, probably liked books more. But true enough, for readers, the summer humidity was quite the obstacle. Also, hand sweat. Definitely this. Sweat from your hand would cause the pages to stick together. And when the dripping sweat gets on the paper, you’d go,“Fa!?”12, and even get depressed too .
Yuigahama tried to brush it off with a laugh and abruptly rose from her seat going as if suddenly realizing.
“Ah, I-I’m sorry! I’ll fix your hair!”
“It’s not a big deal.”
Yukinoshita quickly averted her gaze. Although she said that, she looked interested in her own hair as she opened the mirror again, checking both the left and right sides of her head and rubbed the bobtail.
Although she added that at the end, that didn’t look like the case with her flushed red cheeks. It seemed like Yukinoshita-san had taken a liking to her hair, hm…?
Seeing that, Yuigahama made a happy smile and flew at Yukinoshita.
Yukinoshita tried to look upset, but it only looked like she was trying to hide her embarrassment. Though on the other hand, it was making my heart completely cold…
Since it looked like Yukinoshita’s in a better mood, I’ll leave the rest to the two youngsters and go home, maybe! Alright, let’s go home.
When I placed my book in my bag, I quietly stood up so I wouldn’t be noticed. I took a step towards the door. It was exactly when I took that step the sounds of banging came from the door.
Judging that as a knock, Yukinoshita immediately answered.
Along with a completely incomprehensible greeting that resembled the cutting noise of the came in solemn looking guys. There were three guys who resembled a potato, a sweet potato, and a taro.
This season was hot enough already, yet they were making it feel unnecessarily even more so. It was that precise moment when the temperature of my body tripled.
× × ×
The three young men stood at attention, enveloped in the same, homogeneous atmosphere. Although their appearances were different respectively, the impact they gave off were similar.
Amongst the three, one person looked familiar. He sported an appearance like a potato and he looked like he had recognized my face as well and spoke to me.
“Ah. Err, during gym…”
I gave a short reply and raised my hand. That’s right. He was the good person that always took care of me in judo during gym. He didn’t work his self to the bone, but he was a good person. Not that I remembered his name or anything.
So did that mean the other two were from the judo club? As my gaze was wandering around, Yuigahama and Yukinoshita looked into my face.
There was a questionable difference in how they asked just now. Just why would Yukinoshita-san ask me under the assumption I was friendless, huh…? It’s not like she was wrong or anything.
“No, I don’t know his name. We were paired up in gym.”
“You were together, yet you don’t know…”
Yuigahama was astounded. No, there were actually people who’d get weirdly cozy with you if you somehow remembered their names… Then again, I actively didn’t try to remember people’s names. During middle school, I was called creepy just because I remembered everybody’s name in my class. That was the first time having a good memory was actually harmful instead. Since then, I would commit names to memory vaguely. Like Kawasomething-san.
For the most part, I was trying to be considerate by talking in a small voice, but it looked like I was heard. The potato made a bitter smile. But since he didn’t seem to have recalled my name either, we were even.
The potato spoke with a resounding voice, deeper than you’d expect.
“I’m Shiroyama from the judo club. These guys are my juniors…”
We truly thank you for your sultry, instrumental trio self-introduction. But their lack of distinguishing characteristics made them hard to remember. It was a pain so let’s go with potato, sweet potato, and taro; I hereby dub them the three potato brothers.
“I’m the club president, Yukinoshita. She’s one of our club members, Yuigahama-san.”
Yukinoshita directed her hand at Yuigahama and introduced her. Uh huh, I do believe there was one more person here though.
But not touching on that at all, Yukinoshita advanced the conversation. “Now then”, with a fresh start, she questioned the three potato brothers.
“Can I assume that you understand what kind of club this is?”
“Yeah. I heard from Hiratsuka-sensei that you guys handled annoying problems regarding school…”
The potato Shiroyama, the Potayama said.
Hiratsuka-sensei again, huh…? Then again, the explanation she gave was sloppy. Somehow, we were starting to sound like trouble contractors13, in short, TROCON. Were we slaughtering coconut crabs or something?
Potayama’s answer made Yukinoshita press against her temple.
“Strictly speaking, that’s a little off…”
“I think it’s mostly accurate though.”
Yuigahama said with a blank look.
Well, when it came to how Yuigahama understood it, that’s probably how she saw it. Yukinoshita had an odd idealization of it so if you looked at it from the side, then it was seen as a place for problem consultation and handymen.
As such, the three potato brothers who found themselves here visited with some kind of problem.
“So, what business do you have here?”
When I inquired, the sweet potato and the taro were going to open their mouths, but were stopped by Potayama. It looked like their senpai was going to give us the explanation himself. A good senpai, I’d say.
“Yeah, er, it’s a little hard to say, but… Recently, there have been a lot of members claiming they were going to quit. I also happen to have their resignation letters with me here too.”
Judging from his tone, Potayama must’ve been the club president.
Must be nice being able to resign from club activities… I wanted to quit mine too, but I wasn’t allowed to, see. Were they an evil club14” or something?
The president of the evil club placed his hand on his chin going “fumu” and made a thinking gesture.
“Members that’ll replace those who want to leave… Do you have people in mind?”
Shiroyama mumbled. But honestly, it wasn’t something that needed to be asked.
“Well, that’s just how the judo club is. It’s hard, it’s painful, and since it’s a smelly 3K15 club with sound effects all over the place, there wasn’t much you could do, right?”
When I stated that, the sweet potato and the taro fiercely argued back.
“I-It doesn’t smell, yeah!”
“But it’s true that it’s hard and painful, yeah!”
Tsukui and Fujino. I couldn’t tell the two apart, but for now, I could see that the sweet potato was sensitive to smell while the taro was lacking in guts.
“You guys shut up for a bit.”
When Potayama rebuked them, the two retreated. As expected of the sports minded, they were incredibly well trained.
“Hikigaya-kun, you be quiet for a moment as well.”
Yukinoshita glared at me with cold eyes and I obediently withdrew. I was incredibly well trained.
Having noticed that the conversation was at a standstill, Shiroyama tried to continue on.
“So, people in mind, you said?”
Yuigahama gestured, urging him to go on.
“It’s about our senpai that graduated last year… He’s currently a college student right now, but recently, he’s been coming to watch our practice. And the thing is, he’s just a bit out there, you see…”
As if he was having trouble trying to say his words, they gradually grew more mumbled. But to compensate for that, relatively powerful voices were raised in succession.
“It’s terrible, yeah!”
“It’s gruesome, yeah!”
Compared to how they were earlier, their voices were filled with a tinge of tragedy and even Shiroyama couldn’t keep them in check this time.
Following that, the words of the two passionately continued further.
“He tells us how cruel the world is and makes us go through gruesome training, yeah! He totally throws us hard too!”
“The very first person that loses in the randori16 gets forced into shopping! He would then eat stuff like beef bowls in front of ten people, yeah!”
“He gets upset when we use our techniques on him, yeah!”
“It’s unfair to the point terrible!”
They continued to alternate between each other. By using loud voices and on top of trying to speak quickly, they grew short of breath and Tsukui and Fujino both went “haa, haa” in exhaustion.
Just as they were about to say some more, Yukinoshita faced them with a cold gaze which caused them to lose their energy and become quiet. Yukinoshita waited and then opened her mouth.
“I understand the situation. Basically, you want us to do something about that senpai, correct?”
Just as Yukinoshita said, I could only think that the source of all the problems was that senpai. At the very least, the sweet potato and the taro weren’t awfully too fond of him. So those who were looking to quit the club were probably doing so for a similar reason like that.
In that case, amputating the affected part was the quickest way to go about things.
But Shiroyama shook his head. He then opened his mouth solemnly.
“…No, that’s impossible.”
Yuigahama tilted her head in confusion.
“If he was someone that would listen after talking to him, then things wouldn’t have become like this… Besides, outsiders saying something didn’t really mean anything, right?”
It looked like Shiroyama may have tried talking to him several times. Though, I could only imagine feebly. Since earlier, he gave off the impression that he was trying to avoid mentioning anything that would directly allude to his senpai, carefully choosing his words in regard to him as well. It was either his discretion or he was keeping him at arm’s length out of respect.
Clubs weren’t the only place where outsiders had trouble getting their thoughts in. Thinking someone needed to shut up whenever they blabbered on about things they had no idea of the circumstances was what they’d call empathy. Though in cases where it was a sound argument, then they wouldn’t try to listen out of stubbornness.
If so, it would be best to hear directly from the related parties.
“The problem is?”
When I asked, Shiroyama’s shoulders dropped.
“Our advisor is inexperienced at judo. That’s why we end up welcoming our senpai to teach us instead.”
“Ah, then, then, how about a third year?”
“They all retired at the last tournament.”
Shiroyama immediately answered Yuigahama’s question as well. It’s likely that Shiroyama had given it some consideration up until now. Once he realized it was impossible, he gave up.
Shiroyama had already arrived at his conclusion.
“I don’t think he would listen regardless of who spoke to him. Our senpai’s strong after all. Even if we didn’t win the team tournaments, he would always win the singles tournaments. He even got into college on a judo recommendation too.”
Casually, Shiryoama’s directed his gaze to the distance. As if he was remembering the past.
“Oooh… College on a sports recommendation, huh? Ain’t that something.”
I see. From my calculations, that meant he was a third year while we were first years. Even for Shiroyama who was acquainted with his senpai, he’d have trouble talking back.
Not to mention his ability was more than enough. In that case, the current third years wouldn’t be able to oppose him, let alone the amateur advisor.
I see. So they had no choice but to put up with it quietly. In the face of long service and ability, the hierarchical relationship wasn’t something that could be overturned so easily.
Not having interjected a single word up until that point and processing the conversation, Yukinoshita removed her hand from her chin.
“If this isn’t in regards to your senpai, then I take it the problem would be acquiring new members?”
When Yukinoshita asked, Shiroyama slightly moved his head and answered.
“Yeah. I doubt the club will be abolished, but at this rate, we won’t be able to participate in team tournaments.”
“New members, huh… It’s not like we’re dealing with cellphones here, so I don’t think we’ll be able to gather people that easily…”
Especially since we’re talking about the judo club here.
People who liked the judo club; in the first place, if they didn’t have any sort of interest, then it probably wouldn’t come up as a potential extracurricular activity. It may be odd coming from me, but for high school students, it wasn’t a very popular club.
“How about getting the people who want to quit to come back?”
When Yuigahama suggested, Yukinoshita nodded while crossing her arms with a “hm”.
“I suppose so. At the very least, compared to the average student, there’s a higher chance of having them rejoin the club since they were interested in judo from the start.”
Happy that Yukinoshita agreed with her opinion, Yuigahama suddenly jumped at her.
“Yeah, yeah! Besides, like, if they somehow overcome this danger, then they just might end up getting along better, or something!”
Although she was a bit annoying, Yukinoshita didn’t harshly push her away. At the most, she would try to maintain just a little distance by thrusting her hand out. From just sporting a similar hairstyle, their exchange made you think how close they were.
Well, I really did think these two had gotten really close. Ever since Yuigahama left and came back to the club, you could certainly say their relationship had made some progress.
But that was just a unique precedent. It was because the Service Club was a relaxing club or possibility because of Yukinoshita and Yuigahama’s personalities that they were able to make it happen. That was how I saw it.
“Fundamentally, people who run away don’t come back.”
As she said that, Yuigahama gave up on hugging Yukinoshita and instead compromised with rubbing her shoulders. Even so, Yukinoshita looked a little displeased.
Let’s stop doing that when customers were present, okay, you two?
To avert the attention of the members of the judo club away, I started a conversation with Shiroyama.
“So how is it? Can you expect the leavers to come back?”
“…That’s might be difficult.”
Shiroyama for a moment explored that possibility, but he lightly shook his head.
I thought so. Having someone return after quitting the first time from club activities was rather difficult. Compared to a relaxed club like our Service Club, other worked on different logic.
The so called sports-minded folks all followed their own set of ethics. For example, consider the hierarchical relationship or camaraderie. Those had their virtues, but were also bad practices.
Bonds could also be interpreted as bindings.
It’s because they were once friends that the oppression against those who stopped being friends became harsher. The feeling that those who left and came back were traitors might’ve existed as well.
If in particular the reason they quit was due to the senpai’s grueling training, then unless he was eliminated, then expecting their return to the club was pointless.
“…In any case, we won’t fully grasp the situation unless we see it for ourselves.”
“Sounds about right. Guts differ from person to person after all. Anyway, why don’t we have a look at your practice then?”
Just maybe there was the possibility that the senior’s grueling training wasn’t anything that difficult and that the people who quit were just good-for-nothings with no spine. In reality, there were people who endured through it and remained even now.
When I moved my gaze to the trio who stayed behind after enduring it all, the head, Shiroyama, nodded.
“Got it. Senpai didn’t come today, so does tomorrow work?”
Whatever the case, I didn’t have any plans, so I left the judgment to Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. When I looked at the two wondering what we should do, Yuigahama who also didn’t seem to have any objections, looked at Yukinoshita as did I.
Taking our gazes, Yukinoshita replied.
“Yes. We don’t mind.”
“Okay, tomorrow it is then.”
Yuigahama continued after her and raised her hand indicating “it’s nice to work with you”.
“Thank you for your help.”
Potayama politely expressed his gratitude as did the two potatoes and they left the room.
After watching the three left, I looked outside the window.
Summer had only just started, yet the sun was still high up despite the encroaching evening. The sun that dazzled brilliantly in the sky made me think how the hot the judo dojo was right now.
× × ×
It was the following day after the judo club, Shiroyama with the other two, came to the Service Club.
The three of us decided to take a peek at the judo club’s practice.
The judo dojo was located on the first floor of the gymnastics building. There were windows situated at our feet seemingly to increase the ventilation for the gym. We maneuvered our way from outside and secretly watched through it.
When you thought of high school club activities, you’d be filled with refreshing images.
Scattering sweat. Shrilling cheers. And emotional tears.
You would imagine that kind of wonderful, Youth Graffiti17.
But reality was different.
Wrung out sweat, gloomy screams. And just tears.
The few members of the judo club were fervently working hard at their club activities to the point that I could vomit.
It didn’t look fun at all…
The primary reason being for that was the aforementioned senpai.
There was a man with a conspicuously, stern appearance, clad in the judo uniform. His physique was evidently different from the other members.
He was watching the club members’ practice, standing imposingly at the kamiza18.
Though I said practice, all they were doing for their practice was just running around.
Including Shiroyama as well as the two that accompanied him yesterday, the numerous other members were running endlessly around in the judo dojo. Was there something in judo that had to do with running around inside a building? I didn’t know the details, but having to run inside this sweltering judo dojo on the level of a heat wave looked difficult.
After the senior or whatever glanced at the clock, he slowly got up.
“That’s enough. Those who were late will run for the amount of time they were late. As for the rest, we’ll start randori.”
“Uwah, that looks freaking hard…”
Yuigahama took a quick peek from behind and said.
“I suppose. On the surface it does look difficult, but considering it looks wholesome and safe, I’m not so sure…”
Furthermore, sticking from behind Yuigahama was Yukinoshita who continued.
True enough, it was like Yukinoshita said. While there were still some concerns left, so far, the practice looked unexpectedly wholesome. Not that I’d want to be a part of it. Just the words “relentless sports club” made me want to pack up and leave.
We watched for a little longer, the practice being slightly different from what we had thought, but once they started practice, the atmosphere clearly changed.
“Hopeless! You, go run until you’re dead!”
They were words spat out with a violent voice.
“Just having it done once to you won’t mean much for your studies, am I right? Even I was taught like that by my senpai. If your body doesn’t remember, then it won’t stick after all.”
It was a one-sided ongoing demonstration of his techniques.
“Crying from something at this level won’t get you anywhere in society. Things like high school clubs are completely easy. The world is a much crueler place.”
It was an unending lecture.
Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, and I went silent.
Honestly speaking, these were events from another dimension. There was no doubt that there were probably clubs out there in the world that were harder and more painful than this judo club.
But the most abnormal thing here might’ve been those club members who were controlled by the senpai, without ever having voiced a single complaint.
Having to look at one or the other wasn’t a very pleasant feeling.
I believed that as people and as living creatures, avoiding things that were unpleasant was instinctive and the things that couldn’t acknowledge that were questionable.
That’s why you couldn’t blame those who ran away from this situation. What should be criticized was the tendency that blamed those who ran away.
With this, the plan to call back the members who left had disappeared.
“This should be enough.”
When I said that, I moved away from the window and confirmed with the other two. After the two nodded their heads, they turned around and started off for the club.
Just one last time, I turned around.
From the window, I could see a small glimpse of Shiroyama practicing in silence. When I turned my back on that with a feeling of reluctance, I began heading for the club as well.
In any case, we had grasped the current situation with the judo club.
Now what was left was to think up a plan.
× × ×
Once we made it back to the club room, we could finally relax. Since we were also outside, entering this cool room made it feel as if this room was a comfortable place to be.
Whenever the salary men who worked outside returned to their company, they probably felt it was like heaven. If that happened, then that was proof you were whipped into shape as a corporate slave. Please be urgent and take the interview for the Occupational Health Physicians.
As I drank my cold MAX COFFEE that I bought on the way back to the room, the first thing on the menu was to organize our impressions of the judo club.
“To put things bluntly, what do you guys think?”
“Even if you ask that… I’ve never watched other judo clubs before so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but disregarding that, it didn’t feel very wholesome.”
After Yukinoshita thought for a brief moment, she spoke while carefully choosing her words. Certainly, that was important when comparing things, but I felt just because it was being elsewhere didn’t mean it’d be a theory. It should be fine to take that opinion as encompassing up to that point.
On the other hand, Yuigahama’s answer was simple.
“Stuff like that is totally impossible for me…”
While her words were brief, they were also packed considerable implications. It could’ve been about the image in regards to the competition, the members, the senpai, or even the sight of the practice. There wasn’t likely a way to generalize all those with just one word, but it was probably an opinion that encompassed all of them.
“How about you, Hikki?”
“Can’t say I like it.”
My answer was similar to Yuigahama’s as well.
In the first place, I had been living my life that didn’t tie in with sports. I mean, they required teamwork and stuff, you know? Because of that, my experience with sports wasn’t very much and my understanding of them was shallow.
That’s why I didn’t have a particularly worthwhile viewpoint on the subject, but at the very least, the present situation of the judo club at Sobu High was incompatible with my sense of values.
“Rather rare for our opinions to be in agreement.”
As Yukinoshita said, all three of our opinions in regards to that spectacle were negative.
In that case, we should’ve been able to move the conversation along.
“I think the request was to recruit more members, but…”
Yuigahama confirmed one more time. The request we had undertaken was interpreted to be just that one objective alone and nothing else. In other words, that was the matter we had to prioritize.
“Well, we’ll have to find a way to solicit people somehow.”
“If that’s the case, we’ll have to improve their image.”
If we couldn’t get across to people that there were a lot of good things to judo as well as merits, not limited to just Sobu High’s judo club, then we would be hard-pressed to gather new members from this point on.
Even if we went through the process sequentially, raising the image was required.
As the three of us were thinking with our heads tilted in contemplation, Yuigahama clapped her hands together.
“Ah, what if we announce that doing judo will make you popular or something?”
Somehow, Yuigahama’s eyes were sparkling as she was saying that, but that was ludicrously simplistic.
“Would you believe that if you were told that?”
“…Pretend I didn’t say that.”
The instant I shot her down, Yuigahama immediately retracted her opinion and readjusted her sitting dejectedly.
Whenever you started something, the very first reason that would come to mind was “I might get popular”. But think about it rationally. Getting popular while doing some sort of sport or getting popular from playing in a band; those things just weren’t true.
Those who were popular would be popular regardless of what they did. In fact, they’d still be popular if they didn’t do anything. Since the boys who weren’t popular were enlightened to that truth, resorting to that wouldn’t have an effect.
As I was considering other hooks, Yukinoshita took a short breath.
“How about a diet of the sort?”
“Those guys are athletes that work really hard, you know. Stuff like how food is part of their training or something…”
Your body was an important asset in sports that came with strenuous activities. Since they had to build a sturdy body along with satisfying their calorie intake, they consumed quite a lot of food. In the world of sports, being able to eat a lot was supposedly a talent in itself.
Again, Yuigahama made a bitter expression going “bleh”.
“Then again, it seems rough on your muscles…”
With this reaction, it didn’t look like muscles would work as attractive lures either…
In fact, if we were just trying to fish in those who wanted to build muscles, then weren’t they just better off gulping as much protein as they could instead?
As we continued to groan with our arms crossed, unable to think of any worthwhile ideas, only the time ticked by.
When the long hand of the clock shifted to a 90 degree angle, Yukinoshita undid her crossed arms and performed a little stretch. It was a gesture that resembled a cat who was tired despite having slept all day. Apparently she was trying to change her thoughts.
“Rather than improve their image, it’s no good if we don’t start at their core first.”
She stated her reasoning. In other words, she gave up. That was inevitable. Between the important people related to judo who gave it their all into pondering what to do as opposed to what we could think up of in the small timeframe we had, it was impossible for us.
Even if we came up with something innovative, there was nothing to support it and with our power, it’d be difficult to try to propagate the idea as well.
“Established notions aren’t things that can be changed so easily after all.”
“Hmm… Then I guess we’ll have to invite people straightforwardly.”
Yuigahama groaned to my words.
Well, that’s probably the correct way to go. But just because it was the correct way didn’t mean it would always lead to the correct answer.
“We won’t get anyone if we just try to recruit normally. If it was that simple, then there’d be a flood of new recruits already.”
By all means, I didn’t think there was a lack of guys interested in judo, but when it boiled down to it, if there wasn’t a reason that pushed them along or they were in an environment to do so, they’d have trouble stepping forward.
“To add, jumping into an ongoing club is a high hurdle as well.”
“…I guess so.”
As if that was an understandable point, Yuigahama returned a small nod and looked convinced.
That’s just how it was for everything.
That applied to part time jobs too. Nothing but fear was associated with already established relationships. While they may go the extra mile by holding a welcome party for the newcomers, it was ultimately just for them. I mean, what’s that about? “You ain’t got a seat!” Did they want to say this indirectly or something? Thanks to that, reading the mood led me to quitting the job, damn it!
The fear of joining midway wasn’t just limited to relationships. There were others.
“Also, there’s that. When it comes to sports, your actual skill comes to light, so there’re a lot of people who hesitate to take the step forward.”
When I said that, Yukinoshita went “hm” and crossed her arms once again.
“So in other words, you want to emphasize the point that they’ll get stronger from this point forth.”
“Well not that, but I want to emphasize that there isn’t anything to be embarrassed about joining a club halfway through.”
“Ah, that might work. The people around would end up feeling depressed too….”
Thank you for your endorsement. Because Yuigahama disliked being overly sensitive with the reactions around her, she was savvy to this truth and that was helpful.
Compared to her, when it came to Yukinoshita, she was incredibly impressed to the point that it might’ve been the first time I’ve seen her like this.
“I see. That’s Hikigaya-kun for you. When it comes to falling behind people, you won’t lose to anyone in that regard either. Quite insightful.”
“Hey now? Please watch your words, okay? Because I’m unexpectedly proficient at this, you know?”
I was proficient to the point that it would come back to bite me, like at my part time job where I remembered how to do things so quickly that it caused people to say “that guy ain’t cute at all—“, okay?
But not lending an ear to what I had to say, Yukinoshita began organizing the main points together.
“That being the case, it seems we’ll need to think of a way to solicit people such that it stands out even in this off-season. We want to emphasis that the judo’s strength is nothing to be amazed about and that they’re completely untrained and undisciplined.”
For the most part, she was hitting all the right notes, but the way she put it was really harsh…
Still, we managed to distinguish the matters at hand, but the actual solution was still far away. After we dug out the main points, the conditions to succeed became complicated.
To satisfy all of those conditions meant we may have to do so by unordinary means. Would it better to solve each one as an individual problem instead?
Whatever the case, the problem was how to appeal to the students. Still, I had the feeling being completely untrained and having charm were things that wouldn’t ever meet eye to eye.
While running through various thoughts in my head, Yuigahama suddenly shot up her hand.
“Here! Here, here, here!”
Yukinoshita recited her name aloud with astonishment, finding her repetition fussy.
When she did, Yuigahama stood up for some reason with a smile plastered on her entire face.
“How about something like an event? Like, they usually have those In-Col type club stuff, see. So if we do something along those lines with an event or something, it would gather a lot of people or so.”
Unable to hold in her excitement from her own suggestion, Yuigahama spoke rapidly. I had no problems in understanding what she was saying, but words I weren’t used to caught my attention.
That seemed to be the case for Yukinoshita as well.
“In, Col…? Curry?”
Yukinoshita tilted her head with a “what are you talking about?” That word bothered me as well.
“Is that an abbreviation for curry or something?”
Coco-Ichi, In-Col, Cur-Kichi19. Putting these words next each other didn’t really seem out of place. Hey hey, this was totally a subject a particular, curry loving voice actor would like; In-Col, that is.
Yuigahama shook her head to our reactions.
“That’s not it! It’s an abbreviation of in… inter? college! I think.”
When she said with an odd lack of confidence, Yukinoshita went “aah” and spoke with a look of understanding.
“Intercollegiate; it means between colleges. I believe it was a word that indicated the interaction between numerous colleges…”
As expected of Yukipedia-san. The word was properly documented in your pages, huh? So you abbreviate intercollegiate to In-Col.
“Right, right. So, like, the clubs in college get together with the clubs from other colleges. But if that’s just limited to only college students, it’d be pretty hard to gather a lot of people, see. So what they do is they end up holding different kinds of events. I even hear they call out to a lot of high school students too.”
Yuigahama nonchalantly talked on and on, but she was actually talking about some scary stuff right now… What, did college students only gather at those kind of things? Far from trying to have fun as much as they could, they even went through the trouble of inviting high school students. Oh gosh, that’s so scary. These In-Col clubs seemed like they’d be full of scummy men and sluts (prejudice). Did Yuigahama go to one of those too?
A retreating, disgusted look may have shown on my face. Heck, my “ugh” voice probably slipped out too.
When she noticed, Yuigahama’s face turned red and she tried to make an excuse in a panic.
“I-I’ve never gone to one before, okay! I only heard about it from girls at other schools!”
When I directed a doubtful gaze at Yuigahama, unable to believe in her outburst, Yuigahama gently looked away. She then added to her words with a very thin voice.
“It’s kind of scary, going to a place like that anyway…”
Well, it’s not like you didn’t have to go, really. There were probably people who needlessly worried if they heard things like that anyway. Thanks to venting out my hatred for the things related to the In-Col clubs, my mood felt just a little better. Well, if what they did there was just to gather people, then they might be useful as references.
“What kind of things did they do at those events?”
When I asked her, Yuigahama went “umm”, thinking and thinking as she answered.
“For example, if it was the tennis club, then they’d hold a reaaaaally easy tennis tournament to welcome the beginners, or a bowling tournament, or even a barbeque.”
“Bowling… Eh? What club was this again?”
“Um, tennis like I said.”
Why did the tennis club need to go bowling too…? Were they required to train their wrists so they could make magic shots or something…?
It’s just like I thought, these in-Col clubs were really scary.
Ignoring my shuddering, Yuigahama continued her explanation.
“So see, we could hold a judo tournament for fun. We can have the judo club members participate in it too, but in a reaaaaally easy way.”
I see, for fun, huh?
If it’s judo for fun, then it might actually attract the guys who’d find it interesting. Furthermore, by having the judo members ease up, then we could avoid the disparity of strength from showing too.
Surprisingly, it could work.
At the same time I was convinced, Yukinoshita was settling on it with simulations. She was nodding her head up and down. But those head movements stopped.
“Would the school give us permission…?”
It looked like she didn’t have any qualms regarding the suggestion itself. Instead, she was worried about the means. But that was probably an unnecessary concern.
“It shouldn’t be a problem, right? This school’s pretty lax with the clubs.”
This of course applies to the Service Club since we were always involved in incomprehensible, mysterious, game-like activities.
Besides, the proper clubs had those kinds of activities approved as well. Like the tea ceremony club for example. They often hosted small events where they invited outsiders to participate.
Yukinoshita showed that she understood what I was getting at, but her strict expression didn’t loosen up.
“I’m sure soliciting new members won’t be a problem… It’s just the people who come out to have fun would ultimately end up quitting, right?”
Yuigahama showed a stunned face to my simple answer.
However, even so, it was still simple. The very reason for that was because that answer was already anticipating what followed. If it was a club where even the members who joined as early as the entrance ceremony had left, then it was all the easier for those who were new to do so as well. We had to think up measures to prevent that.
“That’s why we’ll have to simultaneously change their environment as well.”
What exactly that alluded to, without mentioning any further, Yukinoshita understood.
“So we’ll have to remove that senpai.”
Correct. I responded with my agreement.
As long the source of everything wasn’t removed, this problem would continue to loop. Worse, if the club’s infamy swept throughout the school, there wouldn’t be a single person who’d want to approach the judo club.
The answer was as clear as day. But Yuigahama looked troubled as if there was a particular issue that bothered her.
“But the judo members, rather, the president didn’t seem like he’d cooperate with us…”
“Certainly, he did seem to come off as admiring him…”
“That’s not what you call admiration, but blind fath.”
To Shiroyama, that blind faith was likely not directed towards his senpai as an individual. It appeared to be more towards the concepts of the hierarchical relationship and camaraderie. He was acknowledging the fact that unfairness was a part of life.
We learned in history class just how difficult it was to toss aside your beliefs. Therefore, it’d be better to assume that he wouldn’t be able to cooperate with us. In truth, Shiroyama himself didn’t present us the option of choosing to eliminate that senpai.
“A way to get rid of him without the help of the judo club…”
When I murmured, Yukinoshita slowly closed her eyes.
In contrast, Yuigahama leaned against her chair, rocking back and forth while gazing at the ceiling.
From there, her neck returned to her original position. She then flicked a finger up and opened her mouth.
“Maybe we can talk to the other teachers or even people from the Board of Education!”
“The school probably won’t want the problems getting out to the public.”
As far as our school was concerned, it was a college prep school. If a problem sprung up with the way the clubs were led, then it was a serious matter. Even if the problem was reported to those at the top, at most they’d conduct an official investigation. But through enough persistence that there weren’t any problems, it would be announced that the issues were external and it would be postponed indefinitely.
Yukinoshita was finding it difficult to agree with the plan as well and made a slightly sour face.
“I suppose. It’s likely they’ll go as far as giving the advisor a verbal warning.”
“At worst, the judo club will be at fault and their activities will be suspended.”
Also, there was the possibility that it wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. If they decreed that it was within the acceptable bounds of general leadership, then it would have the opposite effect. It could be as bad as them giving the official approval.
As long these were activities involved in martial arts, there was the assumption that some dangers were existed. On top of that, with leadership that worked to keep things as safe as possible, there were cases where that ruling would oddly have clashing guidelines in regards to us amateurs and the experts.
In that case, it would be better to avoid playing with dangerous gambles.
“The only thing we can do is to have the senpai leave willfully, huh…”
Without considering the uncertain factors, if you were to choose the best method, then there was nothing else but this.
There wasn’t, but Yuigahama and Yukinoshita together made questionable faces.
“But he won’t listen to outsiders, right?”
“Our only choice is to bring along someone with a higher position than both the senpai and the advisor. That is, if we can.”
Yuigahama made a slightly baffled smile while Yukinoshita made one mingled with resignation. Yukinoshita probably added a hint of irony when she said that, but in reality, that was probably the only thing we could do.
“In that case, guess we better get someone…”
Yuigahama’s eyes widened. On the other hand, Yukinoshita looking like she took a step back sent me a dubious stare.
“For someone who has absolutely no friends, let alone acquaintances, you have something in mind?”
You only needed to say the last part just now. Why does this girl always have to include weird prefaces like that? Well, it’s not like she was wrong though.
I spoke my words while gradually getting my thoughts in order.
“If it’s something in mind, then I do. Rather, I’ll make one now. In fact, for that to happen, we need to do the event.”
“Are you planning on calling someone to the event? Then again, like who?”
Yuigahama asked me with a lot of interest while leaning forward. When an unpleasant smile floated on my face, I voiced the answer I had finished adjusting.
“In the world, he was the one and most established outsider, the fellow called society.”
When I finished speaking, Yuigahama let out a “hoee” voice that I had no clue whether she had understood or not. Was that a bit too hard for her…?
But Yukinoshita made a smile looking satisfied.
“So in the end, he’s not an acquaintance of yours.”
…That’s right. It was just a one-sided relationship on my end as the other party didn’t know a thing about me.
× × ×
Starting the next day, we began working towards holding the event.
The first thing was an explanation to Shiroyama and the others regarding everything about the judo club. This part wasn’t particularly difficult. “To attract new applicants, we’ll be doing something flashy that’ll garner attention”. Using this as a preface to plan, they took it in rather easily.
But the underlying plan beneath it wasn’t touched upon in the least. It would’ve been a hassle if they went up in arms against it. Regardless of what our intentions were, what we were ultimately aiming for was for the senpai to leave willfully. So there wasn’t a need to go through the trouble and explain.
After the explanation to the judo club were the negotiations on the school side.
In regards to the judo tournament, it would be held publicly on campus, accepting entries for participation. That being the case, we should expect to be asked about one or two of the circumstances. Having the school interrupt the event halfway through would be irritating, so it’d be easier to relay the story to them beforehand.
The negotiations started off with the judo club advisor. Or so I said, but we weren’t the ones that would be doing it. The explanation that this was just a demonstration to attract new members was left to Shiroyama.
Though he may have been an advisor in name, he was seemingly aware of the recent departure of members and we were able to get permission without issue. For the time being, we were requested to hold the event with utmost safety, but that was cleared as well with the entire judo club being present.
We already had the venue and the dojo so we didn’t have to worry about those.
So far, so good.
What’s left was to gather participants.
Since I had to participate myself, I had to find members as well, but first and foremost, I had to secure enough participants that would allow us to at least hold the event.
For now, Yukinoshita created the printouts outlining the details of the tournament and after printing those out, with the help of the judo club, we posted them at various places.
But using this to inform people wasn’t something you could expect a lot from. Even the orchestra club or the tea ceremony club didn’t see much of a turnout from students despite using flyers and notices.
Those events typically saw a gathering of people who were brought in from personal connections more often than not.
And speaking of connections, Yukinoshita and I were pretty much out of the question and it didn’t look like we could expect anything from the already weakened community of the judo club. There was Yuigahama, but her personal connections alone probably weren’t enough to hold the tournament.
If that’s how it was, then we needed to grope for a much more effective, efficient means of soliciting people.
It was the one component that would attract the most attention.
The answer was the casting.
Of course, plenty of the details were questionable, but in this case in particular, as long nothing was asked about the novelty of the judo tournament, then we needed to attract attention with something else.
As luck would have it, we happened to have some knowledge of someone who had the greatest ability to attraction attention in this school.
Yuigahama and I, well, Yuigahama would be handling those negotiations.
As usual, the class of 2-F during lunch was noisy. It was because summer vacation was right at our doorsteps that lunch was buoyant.
Even I had found myself remaining in the class, not bothering to go outside as of late.
The reason was all so we could book the new challenger, Hayama Hayato, for Sobu High’s judo tournament, the “S1 Grand Prix”. By the way, I was the one who made arbitrarily made that name up.
Hayama was a man whose unexpected participation would cause the gathering of a gallery; evident in the case a while back when we had a simple mock tennis match. If we announced things beforehand of his participation, then we could expect a bigger gathering of people than before. He was an essential casting that must be secured.
Or so I said, but the one who was handling the negotiations was Yuigahama and not me.
“Mmkay, I’ll try talking about it to him.”
After buying some lunch bread and a brief meeting with Yuigahama, she went back to the group she belonged to in high spirits.
As I watched her go off, I sat at my seat.
Now then, from this point on, I’ll watch them as attentively as possible and eavesdrop while having my lunchtime.
I had to make sure I could follow up on Yuigahama if she was at a loss at how to explain things. That too was a high hurdle in itself, but still.
As I was straining my ears, Yuigahama didn’t waste a second and brought up the topic.
“Ah, that reminds me. I hear the judo club’s going to host a tournament soon.”
Eating bread without the slightest hint of interest was Miura. Despite having zero interest on the subject, she was still responding for the most part, so she might’ve been just a slightly nice person.
Still, how she was holding bread in one hand and her cellphone in the other, it put me on edge as to whether she would mistake her bread eating hand and bite her cellphone instead. Let’s stop playing with our phones during lunch, okay? Not to mention you’re doing it while eating with others. Only loners fiddle with their phones during lunch, okay?
Unperturbed by Miura’s attitude, Yuigahama continued the conversation further.
“Like, like, they’ll decide on who’s the strongest at school, or something?”
“Aah, speaking of which, I did see that on the flyer.”
Immediately jumping into the conversation was Hayama. As you’d expect, Hayama made sure to listen to what other people were saying and behave accordingly so he could regulate his surroundings. Yuigahama may have been aiming for this. She quickly redirected the conversation towards Hayama.
“Hayato-kun, you look like you’d be into that, why not try participating?”
What the, talk about a careless way to invite him… Hayama didn’t look anything like that all…
“Eh? I-Is that how you see me?”
Oh, see. I totally knew it. He’s sort of confused now. Hayama was established as someone who was refreshing and judo’s image was completely opposite. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who had thought that.
“Doesn’t suit ya at aaall, Hayato-kun, like judo, no waaay!”
Tobe was laughing out loud. Laughing along with him was Yamato and Oooka.
There, Yuigahama made her move.
“Ah, how about Tobecchi too? You seem like you’d be strong, not that I’d know. Why don’t you try doing it together with Hayato-kun? It’s a team tournament of threes anyway.”
“Eh… Naaah, judo’s just a bit…”
Fumu. So it was a strategy to remove the obstacles around Hayama, huh? Seemingly, it wasn’t that Yuigahama started the conversation without a plan; instead, she was being daring by mentioning absurd things in a way that would easily sweep Tobe into participating… Probably. No, that might be wrong. I get the feeling she’d say that kind of stuff regardless.
Just how far did she plan, I wasn’t sure. It was then a person who couldn’t be calculated reacted with a twitch.
“…Doing it, together? D-Doing judo…? That sounds great!”
Ebina-san reacted slowly in time, as if the words from earlier were weighing on her mind.
“Ebina. Here, tissues.”
Miura threw tissues at Ebina-san whose nose was dripping at this moment. While thanking her, Ebina-san placed the issue against her nose, but still fervently continued on.
“Great! Judo’s great!”
“Naah, judo’s just a bit… Something I’m a little confident in, ya know…”
When Ebina-san gave a thumbs up, for some reason, Tobe suddenly began to vouch for judo. The nuance in his words was oddly different from earlier… Japanese sure was difficult, huh…
“A-Are the boys going to be grappling each other when they fall? Who will!? Which Hikitani-kun will be doing the falling!?”
Stop calling my name please… Because I felt a sharp stare, I averted my eyes in a panic. In the time my eyes were averted, the negotiations regarding their participation continued steadily.
When I turned back towards them with shivers, Tobe began to overflow with motivation and tapped Hayama’s back.
“Let’s do this, Hayato-kun!”
“Mm. Well, we don’t get too many opportunities like this after all.”
With Yuigahama and Tobe encouraging him in succession to participate, Hayama couldn’t refuse them as you’d expect and was gradually leaning towards entering.
Was this also the fate of those who were in possession of THE ZONE? If they were asked to build the atmosphere, then this time, he was requested to act without destroying it.
There, the final push was added.
“If Hayato’s going to enter, I guess I’ll go and watch?”
When Miura who had absolute no interest up until that point spoke, Hayama seemingly made his decision.
“Okay, I guess I’ll participate.”
Hayama made a refreshing smile and answered.
With this, our objective was achieved. Now once we made Hayama’s participation known through word of mouth, then the gallery of people would increase and if we increased the scale, then we’d also see a rise in participants who’d want to enter.
“Alright, we should enter too…”
As if the ripple effect began to take place, Yamato and Oooka declared their entry as well.
It was standard for boys to like martial arts.
No, not like, but to have an interest in. The title of strongest attracting a boy’s attention at least once was certain.
That’s why, as long you had the trigger, it probably wasn’t difficult to have them call forth those felings.
So at this point in time, the Hayama group, Hayama, Tobe, Yamato, and Ooka, was confirmed to be participating in the tournament. Adding to that, since Miura was going to be in the gallery, as far as Sobu High was concerned, that was plenty.
It was then Hayama suddenly realized something.
“But it’s only three people per group huh…”
When he murmured in a small voice, he quietly stood up. From there, he started walking. Somehow, when I trailed the direction in which Hayama’s gaze was facing, oddly enough, my eyes had stopped moving. Huh, he’s coming my way, wasn’t he…?
In the several seconds I was thinking whether there was someone in my vicinity that Hayama had business with, Hayama made it up to me.
Once he stopped his legs, he made a smile that displayed his white teeth.
“Hikitani-kun, do you want to enter the judo tournament with me?”
This guy, what was he blabbering about out of nowhere…?
I could understand his words, but my heart couldn’t. Still, since I was invited, I had to respond back somehow.
“Eh, no, I mean, it wouldn’t work for me. That stuff is just a little out of reach for me.”
If I get invited, for now, I’ll say no. This was the correct response to lip service.
“I see. Well, since Tobe and the other two are in a group of three, I’m kind of the odd one out.”
“Ah, right. Well, I guess so…”
Because he sent me a gaze that was strangely straightforward, I replied back with vague words and Hayama drew back his shoulders.
“So, how about it…? You’re the one who suggested doing things this way, right?”
Haa, so that’s what you’re playing at. So he came over here so he could bring up that time when we broke up in to groups for the workplace tour.
But he was right. I was the one who suggested how to divide Hayama and Tobe into different groups. If he was going to be consistent with that, then that meant he wouldn’t group up with those guys this time as well. That being the case, just like last time, speaking of it being obvious, then it was natural that it would be my turn.
I had no choice, but to accept his proposal. Above all else, losing Hayama’s participation just because of this would inflict a fair amount of damage to us.
“…Though we’ll still need one more person.”
I gave my consent with those words and Hayama made a sudden smile.
“In that case, could you invite one more person?”
“No, I don’t have a single friend to invite.”
No matter how you thought about it, it would be quicker to have Hayama invite someone. I looked at him telling him to do it, but he avoided that as well.
“You have one right? That guy, I mean.”
That guy… I wonder, was there someone like that? I went into thought. I-I see. Totsuka, right!?
Having been convinced, I also spoke up.
“Aah… Him, huh?”
“Right, right, Zaimokuza-kun. He seems pretty strong and this seems like a good opportunity.”
Ah, you meant that…
If that was Hayama’s one and only nomination, then I had to talk to Zaimokuza. Right now, Hayama was an important factor. I needed to follow through with whatever demands he had in order for his wholesome participation in the event. Not much I could do…
When my shoulders dropped in despair, Hayama nodded back as if he saw that as a form of nodding.
“Okay, I’ll leave it to you.”
He left with those words and Hayama went back to his own seat.
Having to team up with Zaimokuza was a real bummer, but as part of the Service Club activities, it was actually convenient. I didn’t factor Hayama as being just a simple attraction mascot, but if he was going to be usable as part of our forces, then that made it better for us.
So far, things had more or less gone according to plan.
Now it was just a matter of how much of the details we could settle on and how the big gamble on the day of the event would go.
× × ×
Just a little sport open to some fun.
The judo tournament began officially with a non-serious preface and surprisingly, the participants and the galleries were gathering.
This period that was right before summer, on the contrary, might’ve been better for us.
After this, we would be spending short of a month away from school life.
Before that, the students seemed to have seen this as moderate sized extracurricular that they could go wild in for the last time.
The judo dojo wasn’t a very big facility. Because of that, people were standing to watch, but it turned out to be a success.
Shiroyama, on standby near the kamiza, gave a sweeping look of the entire room. He looked like the type who wouldn’t show much on his expression, but just this time, he displayed some emotion.
“I didn’t think this much people would come by. You really helped us out, thanks.”
He gave his gratitude, but we had yet to do anything or help anyone.
What we were going to do was from this point on. After we’re done, I had the feeling he wouldn’t want to give us his thanks anymore.
That’s why I didn’t touch on it and talked about something different.
“Putting that aside, the senpai’s going to stop by today, right?”
“Yeah. As you asked, we made sure to call him. I think he’ll be here soon.”
We were good if he was going to come. This was the one thing that we had no say in the matter, so we could only rely on Shiroyama. The meager chances of him making his appearance, or in fact, whether he decided to show up or not was the most important point.
It was thanks to Shiroyama that the senpai would be watching the entirety of the tournament from the top. So with that, just what kind of reaction would the senpai have? Just what kind of values he had in regards to judo done for fun, I didn’t know.
“Did you mention anything about this?”
“…No. He didn’t seem too particularly angry either.”
While remembering his exchange with his senpai, Shiroyama spoke word by word in confirmation. So far, it didn’t look like his attitude was in opposition to this event.
He was someone who went out of his way to visit the club he had retired from. I had my suspicions that he might’ve been someone who preferred exclusive groups, but it didn’t seem to be at that level.
Well, regardless, the goal of acquiring new members was still present. At the very least, that should’ve been the thing that was most visible.
“I see. That’s fine then. We need to show your senpai just how hard working and how exciting the club is.”
“…I guess so.”
Shiroyama seemed just a little bashful. But with his face resembling a potato from the start, it was hard to discern that.
“Well, it’d be nice if they can heat things up. I’ll see you later.”
After stating that to Shiroyama and leaving the kamiza, I headed for the vicinity of the entrance.
A long table was placed there with the purpose of accepting entries for participating teams. Yuigahama happened to be sitting there at that moment as well.
In the back was Yukinoshita writing the tournament brackets on vellum paper.
The total number of participating teams was eight.
There was my team with Hayama and Zaimokuza. Another team was from the judo club. The rest of the teams would be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis until the cutoff.
If there were too many teams, then we’d lose control of the tournament and worse of all, it’d get boring.
For the time you had fun, the shorter it started to feel for you physically. If so, by making things brief and rich in substance, then they might be able to feel like they’re having fun. It was a paradoxical play.
Also, well, you know, since it’d get super cold too, the earlier we could finish was quite blissful in its own way…
“Looks like we’re getting closer to starting time, huh?”
I started a conversation with Yuigahama who was fiddling with her cellphone looking bored and without raising her face, she answered.
“Uh huh. I think once Hayato-kun comes, everyone else should too, right?”
I recalled Hayama saying that he was going to get out of his soccer club for a moment. As for Hayama, since we were on the same team, there wasn’t an issue with our entry and we covered Tobe’s team as well. It was just a matter of waiting for them to arrive.
I glimpsed at the tournament brackets.
Yukinoshita was filling them in with the team names. Our team was on the opposite end of the judo club.
With this, we wouldn’t have to face them until the finals.
Noticing that I was behind her, Yukinoshita spoke to me without turning around.
“For now, I put both of you on opposite ends just like you said, but if you guys don’t advance all the way, it won’t go as planned in the end, right?”
“…Well, I imagine so.”
“Once again with another careless plan…”
Yukinoshita went “haa” as she sighed with astonishment. But it wasn’t like I was doing this without anything in mind.
“If we lose, then we can just group up during the exhibition. Even so, we’ll make it succeed. Just because how we go about it changes doesn’t mean what we need to do does.”
“I suppose… Regardless of how it goes, the aftertaste will still be bad.”
After the last squeak of the marker, Yukinoshita finally turned around. She then made a pleasant smile.
“However, while it may not be me personally, I wouldn’t be too pleased if my team were to lose pathetically. If you’re going to lose, I want you to at least do so gracefully.”
“Quit talking under the assumption that we’re going to lose…”
My motivation just before the match went up into smokes. Why was it that whenever she says these kinds of things, she’d smile?
Well, but still, it’s true that it was fine to lose.
More than that, starting this event with the senpai coming made eighty percent of the plan.
While it was certain this event was public relations for acquiring new members, that was just one part of the plan.
The other part of the plan was the removal of the senpai.
What was necessary was the destruction of the senpai’s authority. If we could damage him to the point that it would be hard for him to show up at school, then that was sufficient.
There were numerous ways to get that done. It’s just that it’s highly probably the judo club wouldn’t go entirely unaffected after the job was done, so we had to put that into consideration as well.
The smartest choice in this situation was to have the senpai participate in the tournament and beat him at his own game.
But that wasn’t a very realistic option.
After all, the senpai entered college on a sports recommendation. It’s better to assume an amateur wouldn’t be able to win against him. If that’s the case, then it came down to settling for the second best option.
“It’s almost time it seems…”
Yukinoshita checked the clock and spoke. Lured by her, I looked at the clock as well and it was time.
As if trying to match that, the entrance grew noisy.
It looked like Hayama and company had arrived.
“I’m totally hyped up for this!”
I could hear Tobe’s loud voice. When I looked, Miura and Ebina-san and company along with other groups of people were there.
In that group was Hayama looking for me as he quickly jogged in my direction.
“Sorry. Got here late.”
“Nah, just on time.”
I pointed at the clock and Hayama let out a relieved breath.
“Is that so? That’s good then. Also, he arrived as well.”
Ahead where Hayama turned to was a fellow with the appearance of a bear who came down from the mountains into a city making furtive glances.
“Nuun… What is this noisiness?”
With his hand at his jaw, he would occasionally let out suspicious sighs.
“You sure are late.”
When I went to call out to Zaimokuza who refused to take a step inside, he displayed a weary reaction as that of a small animal. But when he realized I was the owner of the voice, his stance gradually loosened.
“Nu, Hachiman, I see… I rushed over here upon your calling and now that I look, what in the name is this?”
“Yeah, tournament. You, athlete, my team.”
“Eh? Wait a second!? Mister Hachiman!?”
He was screaming about not knowing what the heck was going on, but, huh? I never explained it to him? Well, whatever.
“Anyway, let’s get going because the matches are going to start.”
Zaimokuza checked left and right while going “nuun, nuun” and placed his eyes on the tournament brackets ahead.
“Fumuu… At the very least, if I could know what kind of match it pertains to… Should it be a duel, then I may be able to do something about it, but…”
“It’s something like that. A Japanese styled duel in fact.”
“No, you’re definitely lying, sushi.
Upon looking, I was pushing Zaimokuza who was beginning to sweat profusely from the back, going into the judo dojo.
On the way, Hayama joined us, helping with pushing Zaimokuza along. This guy’s a good guy. It’s just well, actual good guys wouldn’t be pushing Zaimokuza right now though.
“Let’s get along, Zaimokuza-kun.”
Never forgetting to be refreshing no matter the occasion, Hayama pushed Zaimokuza along while giving him a refreshing greeting.
In contrast, Zaimokuza was always an sultry, human tropical rainforest. Not giving him a worthwhile answer, Zaimokuza was mumbling “Somethinggashi? Hayama Somethinggashi is here…”
Well, however the situation, our team was gathered.
When I placed my gaze at the reception, Yuigahama was forming a huge circle with her arms. It looked like all the other teams had arrived as well.
From there, I looked at the tournament brackets and Yukinoshita nodded her head and pointed at the wristwratch.
Though it was just a little forced, our preparations were all done.
Lastly, I looked in the direction of the kamiza where Shiroyama was.
Shiroyama didn’t notice I was looking at him. Or so was the case, but it was because Shiroyama was accompanying his senpai from moments ago. In his place, the first year potato duo, Tsukui and Fujino greeted back with a small “osu”.
With this, all the actors were present.
At last, we could determine who was the strongest at Sobu High, the opening of the S1 Grand Prix…
× × ×
The official host of the event, Shiroyama, opened off with an extremely, simple speech.
He spoke with his usual rugged tone, but with a gathered audience that was in high spirits, they applauded with hoorays and cheers.
And then, it was moments before the start of the first match.
It was between the judo club and a bunch of incomprehensible guys.
The judo club safely secured their victory and with their casualness seemingly affecting the following two matches, both the second and third matches reached an outcome in good spirit.
Tobe’s team that was in the second match smoothly advanced to the best of 4. Then again, there were only 8 teams, so we were already the best of 8.
The match schedule proceeded as scheduled and it was finally time for the fourth match.
It was our very first campaign.
After we finished changing into the borrowed judo uniforms, we advanced onwards to the square battlefield.
Along the way, Zaimokuza was groaning the entire time.
“Hachiman… Hear me, what exactly is this…?”
“You’re so insistent. This is judo, damn it.”
When I replied back, Zaimokuza sent me a bitter stare.
“You said earlier that this was a Japanese styled duel…”
“It’s more or less the same. Well, think of it like this. I figured it’d serve as a reference for your novel.”
I ended up blurting out the words that just happened to cross my mind, but surprisingly, Zaimokuza looked convinced, nodding while going “fununu”. Uh, people normally didn’t have that kind of voice when they nodded, you know.
But skillfully, it looked like Zaimokuza would be able to switch into his conspicuous chuunibyou self. Either that, being in front of so many people caused him to get too nervous that he went off the deep end. Looking like he switched gears, he was entered into his Master Swordsman Shogun mode. If he’s like this, then he wouldn’t be bothered by the public’s attention. Once again, another page was added to his black history…
We lined up on top of the tatami floors.
The role of judge was filled by one member of the potatoes, Tsukui? Or was it Fujino? I think they were alternating between the two. I wasn’t too confident on that, but that was probably the case.
When we bowed to each other in accordance with the instructions of the judge, everyone except for the first person to compete moved back. It looked like they had already decided on their team order.
“What should we do about the order?”
This order was tied in with strategy. The rules for this tournament in particular weren’t to defeat everyone one by one, but to secure two wins through round robin.
My question was intended to be for Hayama, but for some reason, Zaimokuza answered instead.
“Fumuu, I shall serve as the vanguard. I will not hand over the honor of being the spearhead.”
“I think that sounds good.”
The humane Hayama settled on Zaimokuza’s abrupt suggestion, connecting with him humanely.
“Okay, I’ll go second. We’ll entrust the general position to Hikitani-kun.”
“Are you sure?”
I wasn’t exactly wearing a hard hat though? I wonder if I should end my sentences with “da je” or something?
“I’m more suited to doing things in a comfortable position. Do your best, Zaimokuza-kun.”
When Hayama smiled and said, he lightly tapped Zaimokuza’s back.
“Oh, right, sure.”
Just being in contact with Hayama was enough to cause Zaimokuza to be at his wit’s end. Streams of sweat were beginning to flow down. What, just how nervous were you? Or could it be that you liked Hayama?
“Sorry, making you guys do this all of a sudden. I’ll leave it up to you guys.”
“What’s this, rather cold of you. Leave it to me.”
As I thought how reliable Zaimokuza seemed not knowing why when he gallantly responded, I copied Hayama and lightly tapped Zaimokuza’s back. When I did, it was slippery.
…Eh? What the, was this guy an amphibian? Was this sweat? I thought for a second there he was covered in Vaseline or something. Despite all this and still not showing a disgusted face, it made me realize how amazing Hayama-kun was.
When he went out to the tatami, the first match quickly began.
As we watched, Zaimokuza moved unexpectedly fast. Still, his opponent was fairly fast himself as he grabbed ahold of Zaimokuza’s sleeve in no time.
But in that instant, the opponent’s face distorted into fear and repugnance. He suddenly let go of the sleeve he managed to grab and looked at his hand in fear.
It looked like he had fallen into it… The Zaimokuza swampland…
That opening wasn’t missed by Zaimokuza.
He seized the opponent’s collar and pulled him over with all his strength.
For their difference in weight, the opponent was easily blown away.
The judge announced with a question for some reason.
Even the audience went “o-oooh”, sounding fairly mild-mannered. The clapping was weak too.
But even so, a win was a win.
Zaimokuza calmly returned to our side.
“Your thoughts, Hachiman?”
“Yeah, pretty amazing.”
Your sweat, that is… Had the times stayed the same, you would’ve been executed for illegal production of salt. Look, like now, the judo club guys were having a hell of a time wiping away your sweat. Now I was starting to feel sorry for them…
“Okay, next is my time, huh?”
When he said that, Hayama gallantly walked out to the center of the tatami.
In that instant, a burst of fervent clapping occurred. What followed was the Hayama call.
HA-YA-TO (FU!) HA-YA-TO (SOIYA!) The rest being repeated.
Who knows when they revised it, but they even had interjected pauses in there. What, did everyone practice this together?
Standing out in particular amongst the high pitched cheering voices was Miura. She was waving a fan as she was cheering. Surprisingly, she was one of those follower types, huh? Because earlier, she looked absolutely disinterested in the other matches, waving her fan back and forth while complaining about the heat… Also, this didn’t matter, but Tobe’s interjections were annoying.
Hayama wasn’t timid in the face of those cheering voices at all and he lightly raised his hand in response. He was so composed to the point of being hateful. On the other hand, the opponents were completely taken in by the atmosphere.
The outcome of the match was already decided well before the start of the match.
In reality, the match really did end with an unexpected swiftness.
As soon as the match started, Hayama took the opponent’s hand and beautifully did a shoulder thrown.
The loud cheering voices that scattered throughout the judo dojo were directed at Hayama’s back as he nonchalantly returned back.
“With this, it’s our win.”
“I-I guess so…”
To be honest, I felt a bit awkward being included since I didn’t do anything, but for the time being, I was glad that we won.
Regardless, Hayama’s specs were ridiculously off the charts… Speaking of which, a certain somebody from somewhere beat him in a tennis match, you know? Well, we may have won the match, but we did lose the fight… No, wait a second? I did say match, but that time, I pretty much didn’t do anything either. I was able to win without putting in any effort. As I thought, I shouldn’t be working in the future.
But even if I didn’t plan on working where the future was concerned, right now, there was something I had to do.
“There’s still some time before the next match. Kill some time or something.”
After telling Hayama and Zaimokuza that, I left the area.
From there, I headed for the kamiza.
Other matches were still in progress as of now. Right now, the semifinal with Tobe’s group and the judo club should be taking place. Hayama would probably watch Tobe’s match with Miura and the others while Zaimokuza would have no place to be, ultimately becoming a Ksitigarbha.
There, an individual at the kamiza was watching that match. Except with just a look of boredom.
It was the judo club’s senpai. I didn’t know his name. Nor did I have any interest in knowing. We didn’t a firsthand relationship nor did I consider him my senpai, but regardless, I would still call him one.
Making it up the kamiza, I stood next to him and sparked up a conversation.
When I did, the senpai turned my way annoyingly. Because it was a face he wasn’t familiar with, he looked momentarily confused, but he quickly covered that up and replied with crude words.
After confirming that he had a response, I continued talking.
“How is it? The judo club’s new effort.”
“…Let’s see. Doesn’t seem bad, eh? Being able to goof around like this is during high school after all.”
The senpai spoke while flapping his fan back and forth as if trying to fill up the space. I could hear him muddling those words one by one.
I see, so he was this kind of person who talked like this, huh? When I finished affirming that the impression from when I saw him during that practice didn’t change from the other day, I opened my mouth.
“I suppose so… We consulted with Shiroyama about this, but we thought this kind of playing around was important, so that’s why we gathered people.”
When I said that, the senpai stared at me and made two, three blinks.
“…Aah, so you went through the trouble of gathering people? But if all you do is play around, it won’t register with your body, so don’t go spoiling Shiroyama, you hear? It’s because the world is much harsher than you guys believe it to be. If you don’t practice and study properly now, you won’t get anywhere.”
The words the senpai spoke as he closed his fan with a smack made me want to blow them off to which I refrained. Instead, I said something in place of that.
“Yes. Ah, that’s right. Senpai, would you like to have one match?”
“…Eh? Y-Yeah… I’ll think about it.”
“Whenever you feel like it, I’ll be up for it.”
I left the kamiza with those words. I could feel a sticky, puzzled glare as if there was something irritating about my response, but I shook that off and walked on.
It was almost time for our match. Though, there really wasn’t a meaning in me being there since those two were going to win anyway.
“…What did you talk to senpai about?”
Apparently I was seen. Since he was at the kamiza too, Shiroyama was concerned about the senpai.
“Nothing much. I was just arranging a little act, that’s all.”
Shiroyama’s slightly stuffed potato face rotated to the side.
“Yeah, that’s right. Also, I’ll let you know as well. This is regarding the finals, but I’ll be fighting against the senpai, so act as the judge for me.”
“I don’t mind, but…”
“Okay, the act. Counting on you.”
Shiroyama had a puzzled face and titled his head.
× × ×
In the end, I didn’t get my turn in the semifinal. If there was one thing I did, then it was giving a mop to the judo club after the match to wipe up Zaimokuza’s sweat.
We advanced to the finals with Zaimokuza and Hayama securing two wins. Zaimokuza’s slippery defense and Hayama’s shoulder throw were once again the winning moves. Ultimately, we had made it up to the finals without me ever having done a thing.
Our opponent in the final was the team that destroyed Tobe’s team. Just when did they lose anyway?
By the way, since Shiroyama was the president, as a handicap, it was decided he wouldn’t be participating in the tournament. The one who appeared in the tournament was Tsukui, Fujio, and one more person I had no idea who he was or his name so I went ahead and called him Yam.
As I watched the new three potato brothers warming up, we began to get ready for the finals as well.
When I did, having only watched from afar until now was Yuigahama and Yukinoshita briskly walking our way.
“Do you guys need something? You normally try not to talk to someone before a match out of consideration.”
When I said that, Yukinoshita spoke with a cool voice, unaffected by the enthusiasm of the judo club.
“In that case, you must be in a match all year round.”
“More or less. So, what’s up?”
I joked with Yukinoshita’s sarcasm and Yuigahama eventually raised her hand and answered.
“We just thought we’d cheer you on for the last match.”
“Aah. Thanks for that. That is, if I even get a turn.”
Saying that, I looked at Zaimokuza and Hayama. Surprisingly, with those two, we just might end up winning.
“You should. Otherwise, nothing will be solved.”
As if seeing through me, Yukinoshita spoke. In actuality, I was a little suspicious of how far Yukinoshita read into it, but when she said something, it was oddly persuasive so it was hard to respond. True enough, things wouldn’t end with just this.
“…I guess so.”
“Right, right! For the sake of the judo club, do your best!”
Yuigahama optimistically pushed her arms out. I wasn’t feeling in the mood to accompany her festive mood.
“It’s not like I’m doing it for their sake or anything.”
Her surprised expression was asking nothing but “then whose sake is it for?” but before I could answer, it was time for the match.
× × ×The finals were brewed a storm starting from the first match.
It was five seconds following the start of the match after their mutual bows.
Along the sound of a violent thump was a subdued voice that resembled hitting a wall in Dragon Quest that could be heard.
When I focused again on trying to determine what had happened, someone resembling a sea lion that was launched in the air was on the floor. It looked like Zaimokuza was thrown. He wasn’t moving an inch.
The point was loudly announced.
“For that Zaimokuza, to lose…”
Unbelievable. For that Zaimokuza who was proud of his unparalleled strength to lose so easily… So he was in the Yamcha position all along.
“I imagine the judo club is used to that kind of competition.”
At some point, Yukinoshita had already been sitting next to me in seiza and she explained for me.
“Kuh, the gooeyness backfired, huh!?”
Yuigahama who was hugging her knees as she was sitting provided an additional mental attack. It’s not good to kick a dead body.
Zaimokuza, collapsed and defeated on the floor, was sluggishly pulled away. After they moved Zaimokuza who completely damp like a wet sponge, it was like the wake of a crawling slug. He was thrown outside the premises.
In that time, the interior of the dojo was growing noisy. Zaimokuza getting destroyed instantly in gaudy fashion appeared to be sensational. But when the next match was ready to go, the burst of unknown cheering voices and the commotion began to die down.
The impact of the first match was overshadowed by the Hayama call as well.
These were the finals and also a battle that we definitely couldn’t lose. The reason why was because unlike the battles where you definitely couldn’t lose with the scoreless draws that were typically losses, we really couldn’t afford to lose here. Losing the second match here would make us the losers.
All the more so when the audience was livening things up. Ebina-san was grinning the entire time from start to finish, cheering with a loud voice. If Hayama won, then Miura just might strip… It was that kind of excitement that the boys were made to anticipate. Also, Tobe was annoying.
After he stood up, Hayama’s speaking voice could still be heard even in this torrent of cheering voices.
“You should probably warm up.”
By the time he finished his words, Hayama was already walking forward. How he stayed humble while haughtily declaring his win to the point of being detestable truly fit him. Although it made me a little irritated, since he was going to win, I couldn’t say much.
From there, the Hayama commotion that threw the audience into a whirlpool of chaos reached its apex when Hayama stepped into the ring.
Despite that, just when I thought how Ebina-san was quiet all of a sudden, it turned out she was sleeping on Miura’s lap covered with a wet handkerchief. What, what did she see? What came to mind…?
At last, Hayama and his opponent faced each other.
At that moment, the doors to the judo burst open.
“Aah~! I finally found yooou~. Hayama-senpaaai~, please come to cluuub~.”
It was an idiotic voice that wasn’t perturbed in the least by tension in the judo dojo. When I looked, it was a girl student wearing a pink jersey with flaxen hair that was shoulder length. She completely ignored the mood around her and walked directly up to Hayama.
In spite of everyone being dumbfounded, she didn’t pay any attention.
After seeing that girl, Hayama actually shook for once.
“Because Hayama-senpai isn’t there, the first years don’t have a clue what to do, you knooow.”
“Ah, right. No, right now’s a bit.”
Hayama tried to argue back with her, but that Iroha-chan or whatever wasn’t listening at all and gripped the sleeve of Hayama’s uniform.
Eh, who’s this girl…?
Or so I thought until Tobe in the audience stood up and called out.
“My baaad, Irohasu. I’ll go back, so spare Hayato-kun will ya?”
“Ah, you’re fine where you are, Tobe-senpai.”
With a smiling, graceful rejection, Tobe could only say “r-right…” and sat back down.
“Hayama and Tobe’s acquaintance?”
I looked at Yukinoshita and Yuigahama and asked. Yukinoshita didn’t seem to know and shook her head, but Yuigahama seemed to have an idea.
“Aah, it’s Iroha-chan. She’s the first year manager for the soccer club.”
Hoh, Isshiki Iroha. Tch, I remembered her. As a dangerous creature, that is.
…That’s bad. That girl was undoubtedly bad. My ghost was whispering to me to be careful of those beautiful, airy and fluffy type of girls.
When that cute soccer manager who reeked of danger called Isshiki grabbed Hayama, she tried to pull him along.
It was as if this was the selfishness of a princess that no one could interrupt it.
“Would it be better to stop them for now?”
Amongst all of us, the only person seemingly capable of acting was just Yukinoshita. But she checked with me first, unsure of how to proceed.
“No, it should be fine if we just leave them alone.”
“Is that so?”
Though Yukinoshita stated dubiously, but you know missy, you clearly looked like you weren’t going to get up from your seiza, were you…?
But, well, it wasn’t an issue if the ice queen didn’t move from the princess’s tomfoolery. That’s because there was one more other that was going to.
“Hey, seriously, you…”
Miura stood up like the hot heat waves of midsummer.
“Hayato’s like really busy right now, can’t you see?”
It was a tone that burned the earlobes of those who listened, but, to the zephyr princess, it didn’t seem to have an effect.
“Eeeh~? Buuut, club’s a real mess right nooow…”
When Isshiki made a rebuttal with a breezy voice, it made Miura even hotter.
Hayama interjected knowing that it was really bad and tried to calm Miura down. When he did, Isshiki was twitching while snugly gripping the hems of her skirt behind Hayama’s back.
That small animal like gesture made Miura even more upset. When she faced downwards, she let out a deep breath like the pumping of a pair of pillows.
“…Hayato, you can go ahead on to the club. I have a little talking to do with this girl.”
Hayama let out a nervous voice and stiffened up.
What his stare was directed at was Miura’s raised face.
“Try your best at club, okay?♪”
She was grinning with a smile, very likely the first and best smile I had seen Miura make.
From there, Miura dragged Isshiki along with her. Isshiki screamed “Hayama-senpaaai” that resembled a shriek of the sort to which Miura completely ignored and continued on.
Hayama chased after them, understanding that wasn’t something he could leave alone.
“Sorry! Hikitani-kun! I’ll be back in a bit!”
As he said that while clapping his hands together, Hayama ran off.
Uh, I was absolutely sure you wouldn’t be able to come back right away… That outside scuffle probably was going to attract everyone’s attention at this rate…
Everyone was wondering what the commotion was about.
He was a man that was absolutely unreliable when we needed him… But, well, let’s just say good on him for taking us all the way to finals.
So the remaining problem was how we were going to get past this second match.
“W-What’s going to happen now?”
Still sitting as she was earlier, Yuigahama scooted over to me.
“Lose by default? Er, if we move up, then it’d be my turn…”
“If that happens, then won’t the last match be lost by default too?”
Certainly, it was as Yuigahama said. What’s supposed to happen in this kind of situation? I tilted my neck and a calm voice sprung up from nearby.
“Losing by default won’t happen.”
Oh, that’s Yukipedia-san for you. She knew the rules of judo in detail.
“It’s not a problem if I go out instead.”
Having said that, Yukinoshita quietly stood up. No, you’re trying to do things your own way too much…
“No, that doesn’t seem like it would fly.”
“That’s right! A girl can’t be participating in that.”
We both tried to stop her, but Yukinoshita wasn’t listening.
“I don’t recall there being any restrictions on who could participate. It’s not an official tournament either. No one should mind, right?”
“That’s not it! You can’t! Absolutely not!”
Opposing her logic head-on was Yuigahama with an emotional outburst and Yukinoshita, as expected, was hesitating.
Well, it wasn’t necessary to have Yukinoshita force herself to participate.
The opponents may be members of the judo club, but they looked like first years, whether it be the Chinese yam or the Japanese yam, even I might be able to manage something. When I took a confirming glance, the three potatoes were whispering sneakily to each other secretly. When they looked at Yukinoshita, their cheers were slightly blushed.
Hoho, a bit cheeky for a bunch of potatoes, eh?
“I’ll go first. Hayama might come back by then.”
The possibility wasn’t high, but that was probably the best plan for now.
After saying that, the moment I stood up, Yukinoshita pulled down on my sleeve with utmost force. My neck whipped backwards.
“Fueh, ouch… W-What might be the matter?”
When I asked her while coughing violently from the unexpected whiplash, Yukinoshita looked at me with calm, rather, straightforward eyes.
“Is there any meaning in that?”
On the contrary, I wanted to ask that of her question. When I inquired with an irritated expression, Yukinoshita persuaded me with a matter-of-fact tone.
“The plan you thought up may be full of holes, but didn’t you prepare a lot of things to lure out that senpai after this?”
True enough, she was right. These past few days, this event, this place, and this stage were all planned to bring out that senpai and make him fall. To toss aside all that effort up until now would be a very foolish decision.
It’s because it was the ultimate stage that the plan would have the greatest effect. Amongst the numerous available methods, opting for the plan with the greatest possibilities of success would mean having Yukinoshita participate here.
In addition to the chilly stare that woke up my mind, Yukinoshita added further, as if she was dumping cold water on top of me.
“Besides, your concerns aren’t necessary.”
She sized up the opponent that would face her with a determined smile.
“In short, all I need to do is avoid letting him get in contact with me, right?”
“That’s the problem…!? At the very least, at least change your clothes, okay?”
Having already given up on persuading Yukinoshita, Yuigahama spoke in tears. When she did, Yukinoshita nodded her head as if the thought crossed her mind.
“Okay, let’s go!”
Once that was decided, Yuigahama acted quickly. The moment she grabbed Yukinoshita’s hand, they scuttled off, and within ten minutes, they came back.
Yuigahama was panting in exhaustion with her clothes in a mess for some reason. On the other hand, Yukinoshita was looking crisp.
Yukinoshita was wearing a navy blue hakama over her padded undershirt. Her hair was up and tied together. On top of that, she had the same bobtail from the other day.
“What’s with the getup…?”
“We borrowed it from the girls’ kendo club!”
Yuigahama’s voice was rather energetic despite her heavy breathing.
Yukinoshita twisted her body, stretched, and straightened her collar as she checked her appearance.
“Now, shall we get started?”
When she said that, she walked out to the center of the ring.
The audience who watched the development gave applause to Yukinoshita’s dignified still appearance.
The judge Shiroyama tilted his head not understanding what was going on. It was after our eyes met that he thought for a little bit before nodding his head.
Apparently, he interpreted this to be the “act”. No, this was something else…
Starting from the top, it was the second match, Yukinoshita against the purple yam or was it the sweet potato? Both contenders stood at their positions and looked at each other. Yukinoshita was already winning from just the glints in their eyes.
Simultaneously, the flag was flung along with “begin” yelled out by the voice.
In that instant, the opponent moved with a snap. The opponent was a girl. If he could at least grab a hold of her, then he could throw her with all of his strength and win. That was probably his contrived strategy.
But that was only if we were talking about any normal girl.
Just who did you think you’re making enemies with? It was Yukinoshita Yukino. If it was just her specs alone, then she was at the top of the entire prefecture. She excelled in her resourcefulness, her strategies, her bravery, and her features with her personality collected and viciously unjust. To add to that, she was invincible and peerless as well as the ultimate sore loser. When it came to matches, she was the provisional strongest.
The small fry wouldn’t be allowed to even come in contact with her.
As reality had it, Yukinoshita didn’t even give him the chance to touch the sleeve of her uniform.
She would read her opponents exhalation, anticipate his inhalation of air, and anticipate the movement of his legs. What remained was to insert the most optimal move in relation to her conforming to the movements she had predicted. With dancing footwork and cutting agility, she controlled her opponent’s actions like that of a matador.
The designated location was the empty space.
By the time I had confirmed with my eyes, the outcome had already been decided.
There was a loud thumping noise and after that, even Yukinoshita’s exhaled breath had reached my ears.
Not a single person from the audience could make a sound. It was an abnormal space.
The sounds that were born in that space were the waving of a flag and the voice that declared the winner.
The audience that witnessed a rare display of fine skill broke into cheers and applause. Those cheering voices arranged a flowery path that Yukinoshita passed through back to the place where we were sitting.
Yuigahama jumped at her.
“Wow, that was amazing! You were so cool!”
“Hey… So stuffy.”
While she was complaining, she didn’t pull away from her. Even Yukinoshita couldn’t get out of this one. The way she looked was pleasant, but in fact, what she managed to pull off wasn’t.
She threw a person from just defensive body movements alone… What the heck was that? Was she Kenichi’s master?
She really did go and win without letting him lay a single finger on her.
“You’re really unbelievable.”
When I said that, Yukinoshita made a teasing smile.
“Yes, I suppose so. For an opening performance, might I have heated it up just a tad too much?”
“I don’t think that kind of teasing’s very good, you know.”
Before heading to the ring, I did one last big stretch.
“Alright, time to go…”
They were supposed to have been words for myself, but voices responded to them.
“Go get him!”
“Keep yourself together.”
Were you guys my mothers or something?
× × ×
It was the long awaited final match. This festival, ridiculously dubbed as the S1 Grand Prix, would end with this match.
The audience was already becoming small.
Well, quite frankly, they were redundant. It was like the extra story that came with the original. Having borne witness to Hayama’s participation and his scene of carnage along with Yukinoshita’s acrobatics, the audience should’ve been mostly satisfied.
That’s why from this point on, I’d be doing things my way. I had prepared a lot of things for this. So they should allow me to be at least this selfish.
When I went directly to the center of the ring, my opponent was just about to come my way. I forgot whether it was Tsukui or Fujino, but I faced him, extended my hand out, and stopped him.
I then turned towards the kamiza and called out.
“Senpai, how about it?”
Thinking that he really wouldn’t be called out, the senpai looked at me twice. The laws were already broken from the change in members from the earlier match. The limitations of the rules no longer existed.
That’s why the only thing stopping him was shame.
This entertainment was to the school, originally, something that belonged to the outsiders which also pulled the current judo athletes. He should have the feelings of shame towards that.
But if you directed the pointer in the opposite direction, then he had no choice but to step forward.
On this stage of the finals and in front of the excited audience, even if he was called out, he didn’t have the courage to respond. He should have the feelings of shame towards that.
What outweighed the other; only the person in question could know.
But I was confident. The senpai would definitely choose to protect the shame of the latter.
As the audience was watching with bated breath, the senpai sluggishly stood up. He then grabbed his judo uniform and began to change into it.
His motions caused the audience to go “ooh!” with raised voices filled with anticipation.
On the other hand, the judge performed by Shiroyama was expressionless.
“…Senpai’s strong, you know.”
“I bet he is. That’s why I was getting this match hyped up.”
While checking over my sash, collars, and sleeves, I answered and Shiroyama tilted his head in confusion.
Contrary to how Shiroyama looked, he wasn’t clueless. By not being clueless, he should’ve been thinking about the meaning of my words. In reality, before approaching us for a consultation, he had searched for possibilities himself leading him to settle for a prudent and proper judgment.
That’s why in regards to that point, I could expect that much.
Then again, since he only stopped short of not being clueless as well, though he may be able to read what’s behind the scenes, he wouldn’t go any further than that.
Just one strategic move was prepared. Well, it’s something like insurance. If I settled things without having to use it, that was fine.
As you’d expect, the senpai was used to it and promptly changed into his unform and entered the ring. He motioned the first years away with his hand and arrived at the position in the direct center that faced me.
The senpai sized me up with a stare that was lit by anger and shame. But, when it came to insight, I wouldn’t lose. I could see the things that deprecated no matter how brilliant it was.
It was because of that that I could see the senpai quite a bit.
“Both opponents, bow… Begin!”
Shiroyama’s gave his command with a deep tone.
From the onset, both the senpai and I took gradual steps to measure our distance, repeatedly closing in and retreating back. He didn’t do anything like jumping in hotheadedly. Of course, I didn’t as well. When you say judo, you think ukemi. Even in class, I practiced nothing but ukemi by myself the entire time.
Each and every day, ukemi.
I was so adamant on ukemi that even my life was ukemi.
Even if I went at the senpai with honesty, I was aware that I wouldn’t be able to win. I wasn’t that arrogant. That’s why I would try to maintain this fixed distance, waiting for the point that had always been prepared.
Still, in the face of technique that was mastered, naïve thoughts of an amateur were easily seen through. When the senpai realized I had no intention of engaging, he haughtily stepped forward and destroyed the equilibrium of our maintained distance.
Whoa. By the time I thought that, I had already been caught and my pivot leg was tripped by a leg that was dispatched from the outside.
The sensation of the floor bursting ran almost simultaneously with the impact against my back.
I instinctively let out my voice. What was that speed just now…? That wasn’t at the level you could take with ukemi…
Confident in his win, the senpai was already heading back to the starting line.
The audience expressed sighs as well, looking ready to get up and leave.
That’s why this prepared point was left nowhere but here.
“Oh boy, what a toughie. Sweat can get you to slip quite a bit, huh?”
I spat out those few words with absolutely no shame.
Everyone looked at me with the expressions, “what’s this guy saying?” The senpai, the audience, Yukinoshita, and Yuigahama; they all looked at me. No, even I thought I was doing it too. There was no way an excuse like that would fly.
But as long it did with just one person, then that was good enough.
The judge, Shiroyama, even now hadn’t raised the flag or yelled out.
Confirming, I added further.
“I want to check, but does falling over count?”
Shiroyama was quiet. He then looked fixedly at my face and only nodded.
“Both participants, return to the starting line.”
That was what he announced. After all, this was an “act”.
The audience and of course, the senpai, were outraged. He turned towards Shiroyama and drew closer.
“Hey, no matter how you looked at it, that was a point! Falling, are you kidding me…?”
As he was speaking, the senpai looked at his feet. When he did, the remnants that were left behind when Zaimokuza was dragged away were still there. The commotion with Hayama and Yukinoshita caused them to forget about wiping it up. That was despite them having done so in every match up until now.
“But that had to be a point!”
The senpai flared up even more. However, a decision couldn’t be overturned. No, was it something you could overturn? Shiryoama was pondering on that.
This was something I knew from my half-baked knowledge in sports, but it was rare for a misjudgment to be recognized. It applied to student sports, professional sports, or even international tournaments.
There was then a guaranteed rule common to all of them.
“If you go against the judge, that’s a foul.”
The senpai shifted his eyes from Shiroyama to me. They were like those of a beast. Honestly speaking, he was freaking scary. I was about to let out a shivering voice, but I played it off with the shrug of my shoulders.
“That’s just how the world is, right? The world’s rather darn harsh.”
Hearing that, the senpai made a loathsome face. It looked like he was aware of what came out of his mouth after all. It didn’t need to be said that this time, he had completely yielded.
“Both participants, move back to the starting line.”
When Shiroyama started from the top, the senpai reluctantly went back. It’s just that compared to earlier, he was glaring at me with bloodshot eyes.
This was bad. This was utterly bad.
The earlier fraud called an “act” was insurance with a single use. Any more was out of the question. That was because the senpai definitely wouldn’t allow it nor would the audience. Furthermore, Shiroyama didn’t look like he would either. As proof of that, Shiroyama’s face was even more pale than usual. It looked like he was undertaking a high-load of stress.
Shiroyama’s voice lacked the strength it had earlier.
If anything, even the voices of the audience were shriveling up. There were even people who stood up and left. Because of that, my panting voice and the senpai’s howl easily reached my ears.
That’s why my voice that talked to the senpai should easily reach him as well.
“It’s a strange thing, isn’t it?”
As if he didn’t have the experience of someone talking to him in the middle of a match, the senpai looked at me with a puzzled face. The audience should have noticed that I was talking to him. I could feel the attention concentrating on us.
“Senpai. Even though you made it in with a sports recommendation, you sure have the free time to come watch our judo club, huh?”
It was a sudden stop. I definitely was able to confirm that the senpai had stopped his feet.
“…Shut your damn mouth, stop blabbering.”
The fist that grabbed my collars was given even more strength.
But his gaze didn’t perceive me at all in the least.
What it was looking at was my rear and then to the left and to the right. In other words, he was looking at the gallery.
The audience was noisy. It was likely they were suspicious of how we were suddenly in a deadlock. Or those suspicious could have been regarding what the two of us were talking about.
Even so, from the point of view of the senpai, when this conversation was heard and made a commotion, that’s probably how he felt.
That’s why I continued. In a way that could correspond with the senpai’s movements all the while being utterly composed as I observed him.
“Compared to circles in college, they truly practice in earnest, right? Only in high school do you get to play around, I believe.”
Offensively, the senpai took a step closer. It was as if he wanted to end the match as soon as possible so he could cut my words off.
I matched his step in with a step out and maintain our fixed distance. I then lightly chuckled.
“Truly, the world really is harsh.”
Just how much of my voice reached the audience?
The amount of people in the gallery was clearly less than before the match started. But this amount was plenty.
Though, if I had to say, it really didn’t matter if any of this was heard by anyone. Butif they held the suspicious that they might’ve heard it, then that was sufficient.
“Really, it’s just like senpai said. Isn’t that why you came back here?”
The senpai choked on those words. The very words that he spat out himself.
With this, my objective was achieved.
Condemnation in the presence of the public. The fall of his dignity as a senpai and his pride.
It was to make the senpai believe that many students had heard everything. In reality, who heard or who didn’t wasn’t a problem.
As long we could make the senpai think whether he could show his fate to the world or not, then that was enough.
Whoever won or lost afterwards didn’t matter at all.
In reality, the senpai’s eyes were darting all over. The only thing he could keep his mind on was what everyone had thought of him. In the first place, there were already signs of that from the start. When I asked him that one time, I could feel it intuitively.
Glorifying the past was evidence that your heart became weak.
Reciting your past achievements was proof that your heart was old.
Wanting to feel relieved by putting someone below you was a sign that you became weak.
It’s likely that the senpai had a setback at college. He lost his confidence, his pride, and everything else. That’s exactly why he took refuge here.
It’s possible he might’ve not been aware of his actions. He just happened to stop by on a whim and found it to be surprisingly comfortable and then, he grew attached.
But nevertheless, that didn’t mean staying here was a good thing. Looking at it from someone who was at the bottom, those who gave from the top were just nuisances.
The world wasn’t kind enough to take care of those who ran back with their tails in between their lags.
That’s why we brought them down. Evicted them. Ostracized them.
Aah, it’s exactly as you said; the world was harsh.
The senpai was biting on his lips. The strength in his arms that grabbed me was no longer there.
It’s likely that he wouldn’t come by anymore. Those who ran would only continue to do so.
That just had to be confirmed.
To do that, I had to win here.
To lose to an amateur like myself before the eyes of the audience was the best form of humiliation, something that needed to be done to completely destroy his mind.
That’s why I smashed the final stake into him.
“You didn’t come back here, but ran away here.”
It looked like I was able to pull the final trigger.
The senpai made an expression that looked like he was abruptly hit.
I grabbed his sleeve as if inviting him. When I did, he easily gave way. Up until that moment, the strength I held back was definitely used. Did my provocation get to him?
With no retaliation.
I became aware of the beginning point, the strength point, and the functioning point.
Thanks to being thrown from class and from earlier, I had already understood the form. It looked like being thrown for practice wasn’t a mistake after all.
I covered my crude technique with the strength of my arms.
I just needed to somehow carry him up into a position where I could throw him. Just to do that, I would use my arm strength. After that, I wouldn’t go against it. All I had to do was leave it to earth’s gravity, the laws of inertia, and my fighting instinct.
When I was positioned to shoulder throw him, a tone that sounded like it was spat out yet somehow composed descended from that back.
“Shut your mouth. I’m already aware of all that.”
It was then just a drop from there.
Instantly, the flag was raised.
The rounds of applause from the audience could be heard for the winner. The judo dojo reverberated loudly.
“Point! That’s it!”
Amongst all the types of voices Shiroyama had up until this moment, this was the most clear and clean.
In contrast, the voice of the individual collapsed on the floor at the end was considerably muddy and pathetic.
× × ×
It’s been a few days since the passing of the hysterical period right before summer vacation. I was finally going to direct my eyes and nose towards summer vacation with excitement.
It was because of that I was able to attend the Service Club that I didn’t really ever want to go, all while humming no less.
Just how many more nights until it was time for summer vacation? Everyday was waiting for the days of everyday.
When I opened the door to the club room, as always, Yukinoshita was reading a book near the window and Yuigahama was collapsed on the table like a lazy dog, fiddling with her cellphone. I wouldn’t be seeing this scenery for a while as well.
I greeted them as I usually did and took my seat at the chair that was furthest away, directly opposite of where Yukinoshita was.
When I did, Yukinoshita raised her face from her book.
“Oh, is your injured waist feeling better now?”
“Nope, but I got to skip P.E. because of it.”
After I answered, this time Yuigahama raised her face.
“Judo, I think it was? That’s admirable of you, keeping the promise and stuff.”
“Not really. It was just a lucky break of the sort.”
On the day of the judo tournament, at the very end, while conspicuously rubbing the waist that was injured from the ura-nage20 throw done by the senpai, I was forced to make a promise as the loser.
That promise was to never get involved with the judo club. It looked like my attitude rubbed him the wrong way quite a bit. How I was a bad influence to the club members and how I was a curse to judo and stuff; well, let’s just say I was told off in a lot of ways.
Thanks to that, my dream of becoming a judo medalist at the Olympics was stolen from me. Thank goodness; for not having interest in judo that is.
Well, with this waist of mine, I could aim all I wanted, but it wouldn’t do me any good. It hurt so much to the point I was blabbering throughout the night, “my hips, it hurts, my hip hurts, ow, it hurts, hurts”.
There was still some plain left, but still, since I’ll be observing gym for a while, my plusses and minuses canceled out to zero… I got the feeling I definitely had a lot more minuses, but was I really this bad at arithmetic?
“Well, you should be glad things didn’t go any further than that. You should thank Shiroyama-kun.”
“Right, right. That senpai really wanted to kill you the way he was glaring at you, Hikki.”
The two unanimously said to me and it came to mind.
“Mm, Shiroyama, huh?”
Ever since then, I hadn’t talked to Potayama, or Shiroyama.
There was the promise I was forced to make by the senpai too, but well, we were probably just showing our consideration to each other. For me to do something like that which I normally wouldn’t ever bother, this was quite the incident. What could I say? I definitely did feel bad for pushing a terrible role on him like that. Since that’s how it was going to be, I’d at least avoid causing him any more unpleasant memories by not getting involved with him anymore. It was the greatest kindness I could offer.
“So, how’s the judo club been after that?”
Of course, since I was ordered by the Geass to never involve myself ever again, there’s no way I could know.
When I asked, Yuigahama, as you’d expect, knew quite a bit from her connections. She was pressing away on her cellphone as if she was mailing someone about that incident.
“Ummm, there hasn’t been an increase in new members, but the people who quit came back it looks like.”
Well, if demonstrations like that were enough to get new members, the clubs wouldn’t be having so much trouble. Factor in that the ones who had actively participated were Hayama, Zaimokuza and Yukinoshita. Other than that, there wasn’t anything else to admire in the organization called the judo club.
“Not everyone came back, but for the people who did, it looks like their reason was because that senpai stopped coming.”
Yukinoshita added as she turned the page of her book.
“Ah, right. That’s surprising, huh? He was the one who won at the end, so I was totally expecting him to go ‘I’m the strongest! Yeaaaaaaaah!’”
“No way, like that’d happen.”
Yuigahama’s body and hand motions were so stupid that I answered back with a slightly amused voice. When I did, Yukinoshita who found what I said odd slipped a bookmark in her book and closed it.
“I don’t think it’s likely, but could it be you lost because you knew things would turn out this way?”
“No, I was actually pretty serious about winning, you know…”
In fact, I thought “ah, I totally won” at the end.
Yuigahama-san, you’re being a little too honest, okay?
“Is that so… It looked like you were only just trying to provoke him to me. I was sure you were going to hand over the victory and contrive something from there.”
So for Yukinoshita-san, she was showing signs of thinking harder than she should’ve that made her beyond saving. But it’s understandable for her to think that way.
“Well, it didn’t matter either way, win or lose. It’s just winning meant a higher chance of the senpai not coming to school anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
Yuigahama’s eyebrows formed an upside “v”, groaning while thinking. But it was nothing complicated.
“Nothing much. ‘You ain’t got a seat!’ If you just got that across, then that was good enough.”
When I said that, Yuigahama’s eyebrows bunched in closer. It looked like it didn’t get across to her
But Yukinoshita made an abrupt smile.
When she said just those two words as if she understood, she resumed her reading. That suggestive behavior bothered Yuigahama who started to shake Yukinoshita’s body.
“Eh, what is it? What did it mean?”
Getting shook back and forth, Yukinoshita looked extremely irritated, but she continued to read seemingly out of stubbornness. The two’s amusing antics looked like they’d continue for a little longer.
I copied Yukinoshita as well and pulled out a book, opening to the page where my bookmark was placed.
But even as I followed along the words in the book, the content wasn’t getting processed at all, so I gave up and closed the book.
To the senpai, this school was surely “a place I want to return to”. It was nostalgic, comfortable, and pleasant. It was to the point that he wanted to take refuge out of instinct.
Still, the truth that you ran away would further corner you. That’s why you ended up wanting to run away even further, taking along all your stress. It was reality’s infinite loop of escapism.
Just like how you would look at a mirror, as long you didn’t think that society and the gods were watching you, you wouldn’t ever realize that truth.
At the end of the day, the stress you brought forth yourself was something you had to take care of by yourself.
Did he continue running away or did he go back to face it? Just which decision did that senpai choose?
Well, it didn’t matter which. The senpai’s voice at the end of the match still remained in my ears.
I looked outside the window.
In the far horizon where the gigantic columns of clouds drifted. The shouts of the sports clubs with the timbre of the brass band as well as the gently reverberating playful voices of two in the room.
It dawned on me that one day.
That one day, would I ever be able to make such a place? A place where I think I would want to return to.
That’s what I truly thought.
- A Touhou meme, yukkuri in particular. Basically a bunch of Touhou heads and this skill in particular is feared for knowing to kill other yukkuris brutally. ↩
- A Japanese commercial, Kincho. ↩
- Are you living your life correctly? ↩
- The art of falling safely in judo. ↩
- Satorare. ↩
- Tamagotchi. ↩
- A rip off of the former. Spelled in katakana in Japanese as opposed to hiragana. ↩
- Gyaoppi. ↩
- Refers to “two players” so concepts like Mario and Luigi, Ryu and Ken, etc. ↩
- Kaneko Misuzu was a poet and songwriter. This is a joke on the movie called Kaneko Misuzu Monogatari ~Everyone is different, every is wonderful~ ↩
- Hair and paper is said the same way in Japanese. 紙 （かみ）, 髪 （かみ） ↩
- This comes from a story called “A lewd dream on a night of midsummer” and a particular character makes this sound when gets surprised. ↩
- Lost Universe reference. There’s an episode where they kill coconut crabs. ↩
- In Japan, they have something called “Black/Evil Companies (ブラック企業)” which are companies that exploit their employees. ↩
- Real estate term in Japan. 3 rooms, 1 kitchen typically. ↩
- Free style practice in judo. ↩
- A reference to American Graffiti. ↩
- Kamiza is literally known as the “top seat”. It’s one of the most important spots in a dojo of the sort. ↩
- Curry restaurants. ↩
- A type of judo throw. ↩