I thought that she was like XXX.
“Yafune~ We’re going for some karaoke after classes, you’re coming with us, right?”
During recess, I was called out while talking with some other guys in my class. Another girl added a comment along the lines of ‘I’m sure you’ll join, but just to make sure’.
“Of course I’m coming. With the usual guys?”
“Yup~ Though it’s the group that I’m already tired of~” The girl said, while playing around with her phone.
She’s Minagami Masuzu, and her nickname is Gami. She’s in the same class as me, and the other existence reigning the top of the school caste together with me. That’s why the other guys weren’t bothered by being interrupted by her. If anything, they got to enjoy her beauty every single day in this classroom. She had her brown hair styled-up in a charming way, wearing a short skirt almost as if to play with your heart. Of course, her makeup was on point as well. No matter how you looked it at, from whatever angle imaginable, her outer appearance was absolutely flawless.
Also, it’s only been one month, and you’re already tired of them?
“Not like there’s anything else to do~ Yafune, let me listen to that thing from before. That was so cool.” Gami raised the corners of her mouth into a faint grin, showing off her delicate and beautiful lips in the process.
She possessed the looks of a model, and a presence to completely overwhelm the people around her. She’s the exact opposite from my true self, and the type of person I would never try to approach no matter what.
“Seriously? Hearing that from you makes me super happy, Gami.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean I can show it on the outside. That’s not clever in the slightest. Instead, I created a natural and calm smile, showing not a shred of my true thoughts. After all, on top of her possessing beauty and presence, there’s even rumours of her being rich going around (brought forth by her always possessing expensive brand objects). Adding all of this together, nobody in this class dared to go against her.
This time, namely a month after one’s high school life began, was far too crucial to make her your enemy. It’d be like challenging the Demon Lord with only a branch, no resets or saves available. An action like that would lead to an instant game over, so risking it was not very clever, as it would destroy this current daily life I have. In this enclosed space and society called class, human relationships are the most important.
This I can guarantee after I went through hell in my first year of middle school. For the next year, and even after our classes change, we will still be part of the same school. There’s a level of stupidity you can reach by making enemies in this situation.
I don’t want to ever go through that again. That’s why, even if I have to kill who I truly am, I will stay at the top of the caste—
“Hey, Aotsuki-san~ Sorry to bother you, but do you mind showing me your homework?”
“We were busy with the club all day yesterday~ Aotsuki-san, since you’re in the go-home club, so you must have done it, right? Lend me your notes, will you~”
What are you, some mob characters that’ll get done in soon enough?—is the kind of reaction I had towards the conversation happening in the front of the classroom. A bit further away from us, girls of our same class were talking to this single girl called Aotsuki-san…Or rather, they were asking for her notes.
That being said, they weren’t asking for money or anything like that, so as long as she just politely hands over those notes, nothing bad should happen—
However, Aotsuki-san didn’t move a muscle, completely ignoring the girls.
“Is she doing that again~?” Gami let out a sigh, and continued. “She’s ignoring them like she always does. Kinda gross~”
That’s right. I do believe that people who ask for your notes deserved to be ignored, but even if other classmates try to talk to her normally, she still gives no response.
—This is Aotsuki Mifuyuu, a fellow classmate, and a girl exceptionally distinct from everybody else. This distinction refers to her attitude of not talking to anybody, but her physical appearance still draws a lot of attention to her. She possessed transparent wihte skin, with a slender and fragile body. Her face was decorated with beautiful eyes resembling glass marbles, a well-formed nose, and slim lips like a blooming flower. Her long and glossy hair swayed with every motion of the wind, making you think that you walked into a photoshoot or advertisement recording.
To skip all this character description entirely, she’s a beauty. A super beauty, you might even say. If she walked down the street, 20 people out of 10 would turn to look at her.
“Hey, are those girls serious about this? Or, is it the Aotsuki-san Challenge? Lol.”
Enjoying the sight of the girls talking with Aotsuki-san, the boys next to me started grinning to themselves. The Aotsuki-san Challenge: It’s a popular game in our class right now. It’s pretty simple to explain. Just talk to Aotsuki Mifuyuu about anything, and if you get any kind of response, you win. It even reached the level where people start taking videos of the attempts. Naturally, not a single person has succeeded so far, everyone just gets ignored relentlessly. Everyone just gets ignored into oblivion.
“Oh yeah, did you ever challenge Aotsuki-san yourself, Yafune?”
Before I could even answer Gami’s question, another boy next to me, Sakana, answered for me.
“Hmm? No, he didn’t.”
“Seriously!? Then, why not try it right now. If you help her now, she might just fall for you!”
“I seriously doubt that. Didn’t she ignore you as well when you talked to her?”
Sakana is famous in our school year as the biggest hottie. He is a bit of a player, but he doesn’t enjoy annoying girls by any means, so he gave up after being ignored by Aotsuki-san once.
“Who cares, who cares~ We all tried it before. Challenge her, challenge her!”
Ahh, this one’s done for. With this kind of flow, there’s no way I could say no. If I did, it’d just ruin the mood, and they’d complain. I want to avoid that. Seeing no other option, I showed a smile with a ‘Alright, guess it’s my turn~!’, and approached Aotsuki-san.
“Hey hey, let me join in~! What are you folks doing~?” With a gentle but energetic voice, I joined the group of girls.
At first, the girls seemed a bit flustered at my arrival, but…
“Also, let me catch a glance of your notes as well, Aotsuki-san~!”
“Ah, he’s an ally of ours! Lol.”
“What, you didn’t do your homework either, Yafune-kun?”
With a joking tone, I joined in with the girls, to which they expected me much more easily.
“Nah nah, I’m a good boy, so I tried to do it, you know? I just didn’t get anything, so I gave up! Was way too hard~”
“What’s up with that~”
The girls and our surroundings all started laughing. That’s the first hurdle cleared. I actually did my homework, but suddenly playing ally of justice with a ‘Stop that, Aotsuki-san clearly doesn’t like that’ would just make me seem cold, and spoil the mood in the classroom right now. By joking around and acting like an idiot, I can keep a comfortable atmosphere going.
“Actually, I’m not even asking for your notes, Aotsuki-san~ Just hoping that maybe you could teach us? That makes it much more efficient and comfortable, and you profit from it as well, right~”
I don’t know the reason why Aotsuki-san doesn’t talk with anybody. Maybe she’s just a bad talker, or shy with others…However, whatever you do, you’ll get no reaction whatsoever. In order to end this stupid Aotsuki-san Challenge once and for all, I just need her to say anything. Then, I wouldn’t have to worry about others growing to dislike her, and this heating up to actual bullying.
Being made the enemy of the class, treated like trash is pure hell. I’m well aware of that hell. That’s why I won’t pick a fight with anybody, and play along with whatever stupidity necessary so that I stay where I am right now. Reading the atmosphere is crucial so that I don’t return to that hell I was rattle.
Rattle was the sound of Aotsuki-san standing up from her desk. From her mouth, a clear voice resounded.
“Asking for my notes, only to blabber on about how it’s more fun with everyone, how self-righteous can you be.”
It was a voice as clear as a bell ringing—but, I was left baffled. She actually talked!? The person who never talked so far, that Aotsuki-san did!?
“Also while I’m at it, as long as I’m no teacher, studying on your own is much more efficient….More than anything, teaching other people who only ask for someone else’s notes won’t ever be fun, and I don’t want to waste my time with that. Don’t you want to work hard yourself?”
Alright, did her inner dam break or something? She’s just rambling at this point. And, I do get that I’m basically being insulted here, but with her being this upfront, it doesn’t even hurt that much. If anything, I’m just amazed. She’s not holding back at all, but in a good way, if that makes sense.
…Not to mention that she’s directing her eyes only at me. This is the first time we’ve ever faced each other, and yet her eyes seemed clear and straightforward. Like a bottomless lake, swallowing me up…They’re just beautiful. Despite the current situation I was in, I was entranced by her eyes.
“Hey, are you even listening? Are your ears rotten as well?”
Well, even if her eyes are alluring, the words coming out of her mouth completely ruin any of that.
“The same goes for you over there!”
She must have said everything she wanted, and instead directed her attention towards the girls who asked for her notes in the very beginning.
“Even though you’re clearly at fault for being lazy and not doing your homework, you don’t even reflect on it, and instead try to use me, who you’re not even close with, for convenience. I can’t believe it.”
The girls were taken by surprise themselves, their mouths opening and closing like a goldfish’s.
“Right after starting high school, you don’t do your homework, only rely on others…Are you that intent on turning into good-for-nothing people? How do you think your future is going to work out for you?”
It was a harsh storm of words…but, she was perfectly right about everything.
“Asking strangers for help in your first year of high school, how is the rest of your lives going to work out? I don’t care if you regret all of this once exams roll around. You’ll be the only ones having trouble.”
…Is it just me, or is she hiding kind intentions behind her harsh words? It seriously sounds like she’s worried about our futures. Would you really be this worried about people who tried to use you? However, the girls didn’t catch on to Aotsuki-san’s kindness (?), and just shook like slimes terrified in an encounter. They must have been perplexed to suddenly get showered by this machine gun onslaught of words after thinking they could get some entertainment out of this.
“W-What’s your problem! You never talked before!”
“You could have just said no! There was no need to say that much!”
Wah, now they’re angry at her. At this rate, the situation will just escalate, huh.
“Now now! We were at fault as well, so let’s leave it at that, okay?” I broke between them with a smile, only for Aotsuki-san to direct her gaze at me yet again.
“Same for you. You should just say what you feel. Just fooling around like that is idiotic. I will say what I want, just you remember that.” She approached me with her face, which left me confused. “So far, I ignored everyone because I didn’t want to bother with anybody. However, there’s annoying folks like you around, so I need to be clear this time around. I hate being talked to like this, so could you not bother with me ever again?” With these words, Aotsuki-san glared at the rest of the class, as she raised her chin. “You’re all listening, right? There’s no use in trying to hide it. Since this is a great chance, let me be straight. This is the type of personality I have. I hate strangers, and I don’t want to talk with people not worth my time.”
Just as Aotsuki-san said, all the guys in class were trying their hardest to hide the fact that they were clearly listening in on this conversation. After all, her voice passed all too well inside this classroom.
“That’s why, don’t ever bother with me. I won’t show any restraint to those who still need to annoy me despite my kind warning.”
—And thus, the room grew quiet. Hey hey hey, this atmosphere is mighty dangerous! What am I supposed to do about this? I can’t just ignore this now. Even just a bit, I need to brighten the mood…
“Aotsuki-san, I apologize for bothering you like that. But, you don’t need to be so tense! Smile some more, will you! You’re so cute, it’s just a waste.”
“—Do you think you’d win me over just by saying these things with a smile?” She raised her glass marble eyes, directly looking at me.
She opened her beautiful lips, charming like a blooming flower, and threw these next words at me.
“Don’t get the wrong idea, okay. I definitely don’t like people such as you!”
—This was my fateful encounter with the tsundere girl that definitely won’t go dere with me.
My name is Yafune Shibuki, and I’m a closet otaku. Up to my first year in middle school, I wasn’t hiding my otaku interests. As a result of that, I was constantly insulted and called ‘gross’ by my classmates, spending hellish days to no end. After this one year ended, it was decided that my Dad’s workplace would change—and that we’d move.
I thought that this was a perfect chance. Until my new student life would start, I dieted as best as I could, and took perfect care of my skin, changing my hairstyle at an actual stylist, practiced on my voice and way of speaking, and rammed as much knowledge about popular topics and sports into my head. Every single thing about this was hard for an otaku like me, but using my beloved light novels as a reference, I tried my best. I really did.
After a lot of setbacks, a lot of effort, doing it in a frenzy, I reached this self that nobody would be able to ridicule. Basically, let alone high school debut, it was a transfer debut. My hard work seemed to have paid out, because I reached the top of the school caste at the school I transferred to. Ever since this school year began, I’ve been respected and treated kindly by everyone.
Honestly speaking, there are times where I feel the urge to talk about manga or anime. More than that, I really don’t get why talking about something popular right now is funny or interesting, and talking with normies like these is fairly exhausting as well. But even so, I don’t want to return to those hellish days I suffered through. That’s why I try my best to read the atmosphere around me, and kill off my inner thoughts so that I don’t get kicked out of my friend’s ring, and don’t stand out negatively in class.
With that in mind, Aotsuki Mifuyuu is an inexplicable existence, and one that I don’t want to get in touch with. Despite possessing the looks to immediately end up at the center of an idol group if she just tried it, she doesn’t use this at all, and instead lives along the lines of making enemies at any given moment.
Every student in this class, maybe even the entire student year, is giving her an odd eye, almost as if she’s a landmine ready to blow. Not to mention that whole ‘“Don’t get the wrong idea, okay. I definitely don’t like people such as you!’…What are you, a tsundere? Of course, there’s actually no affection in her words at all, and there’s only pure hate to find.
A beauty like her on top of being a tsundere, that’s something that only happens in 2D media. As this is reality, she’s not going dere at all, nor is she a tsundere. As a result of that incident, I was treated as the hero who succeeded in the Aotsuki-san Challenge, but I’d rather not get involved with her again. Not to mention that she even said it herself. Even if you get lured in by the sweet scent of honey, you wouldn’t just shove your hand into a bee nest, right.
Classes ended for the day, and as I sat in my classroom, doing some stuff on my phone, Gami approached me and interrupted my thoughts.
“Yafune~ class 2’s Ayu just said they’re heading to the game center now. You got time?”
I put away my phone, and showed an energetic smile.
“Hell yeah. I’m coming!”
“Sakana, you’ll be there as well, right? Shimizu and Suzuki are coming as well.”
“Yeah~ I’ll show them how I got I am at the crane games~”
Without ever bothering with Aotsuki Mifuyuu again, I created a perfectly fake smile and played the idiot in this class. The fact that I don’t look forward to it at all, and that this isn’t who I truly am, I stuff away these thoughts deep inside of me. What I truly like, what I truly am—these kinds of precious things are best hidden from others. Because there’s a lot of people in this world who are ready to hurt you for what you like.
Soon enough, the season moved on to the rainy season. Although I had decided to not pay her any more mind, my eyes just naturally started tracing her. Ever since that incident, Aotsuki Mifuyuu had been standing out in class. Always alone, never talking with anybody, and when she opens her mouth, it results in a blizzard of words. It’s honestly baffling how she hasn’t become the target of bullying yet…Maybe there’s just nothing there to bully her for.
The only worthwhile way to properly show their distaste for her was for the girls to exclude her from the group, and make her stay alone. That being said, she was never part of any group, so ‘kicking her out’ was not an option. Not to mention that Aotsuki-san excelled in both her studies and athletic abilities, so besides her cold way of speaking, she’s a perfect human being. There’s no opening to use against her.
As a girl, if you were to attack her carelessly, you’d just be seen as jealous towards her talent, and ridiculed by the people around you. Although the general caste of this class had been decided, in this uncertain first term, nobody would do anything to hurt their impression within others. As a result of that, Aotsuki-san became this odd existence that ‘Cannot be bullied but should be avoided’.
One day, the girl sitting next to Aotsuki-san went to take a sip of water, but the bottle slipped out of her hand, and splattered water on the floor. That water even reached up to Aotsuki-san, drenching her socks.
“Ah, I-I’m sorry…”
It really didn’t seem like she did it on purpose, and it was merely an accident. Naturally, the girl was scared, thinking that she might have angered Aotsuki-san, so she carefully looked up at her. However, Aotsuki-san didn’t seem angered by any means.
“You’re not feeling well, are you?”
“Eh…How…did you know?”
“Your face is red, and your hands are shaking. You probably dropped the bottle because you couldn’t properly hold it.”
“I-I’m sorry, I’ll wipe it right away…”
“Don’t need that. I’ll take care of it myself, so you just head off to the infirmary.”
“You’re just a bother to me at this rate. I don’t want your cold.”
“Ah, um…I’m sorry…” The girl showed a bewildered reaction, and staggered out of the classroom.
She must be heading over to the infirmary now, just as Aotsuki-san ordered her. The people who listened in on this conversation were secretly criticising Aotsuki-san.
“What’s up with her? Was there really any need to say that much?”
“Aotsuki-san is so scary~”
…Is she scary? Her choice of words were quite rough, but I think that what she’s been is nothing but kind. Why does she always act like that? She’s not a bad girl or anything, so why can’t she just get along with everyone?
“Hey, if you have a problem with me, why don’t you just say that to my face? I can hear you all whispering in the back. So lame.”
Yet again, she poured more oil into the fire. Does she like campfires or anything like that?
Next to me, I heard an annoyed voice. Sipping on the ‘royal strawberry chocolate milk lemon tea’ they are selling here at this school’s vending machines, Gami directed a bothered gaze directly at Aotsuki-san. As someone who stands at the top of the class, standing out in a different way from Aotsuki-san, it must be quite irritating for her to see Aotsuki-san not bow down to her. Trying to ease the anger inside of her, she eventually burst out laughing.
“Who even cares? Just leave her alone. Let’s talk about something more interesting than that. There’s a store across the train station that just opened up, you know~”
Be it yourself or others, let them drift, and drift along. If you just swim with the stream, these three years will go by smoothly.
Something I never understand is why all these normies go on to play around like this. Karaoke, family restaurants, cafes, game centers, fast food, or just staying behind in the classroom in case they’re low on money. For the sake of my human relationships I do try to tag along with their nonsense, but there are times where I think to myself ‘They really don’t have a worry in this world’. Even today, tagging along with Gami robbed me off the rest of the day. By the time I was heading home, the sky was already dark.
I really wanna watch some anime at home right now. Thinking about which one to enjoy later, I walked down the closed road home.
Mid-way—I spotted the shadow of a person sitting on the swing in a public park. They wore my school’s uniform, and their long and glossy hair swayed in the wind. It was hard to make out in this darkness, but…that’s Aotsuki-san, right? What is she doing here this late, not to mention all alone? She was sitting on the swing, looking down at a book in her hands.
Though if you asked me, she’s not even reading the book, merely spacing out with an open book in her hands. It’s like she’s just waiting for time to pass. After all, she showed no intention of flipping over the pages. It’s pretty late already, so leaving a girl all alone here is dangerous. If this was a game, I could already see the choices popping up on my screen.
- Call out to her.
- Ignore her.
Is it just me, or is this basically the moment to raise a flag with her? This might just be the decisive point that could get me down the Aotsuki-san route. With these thoughts in mind, I felt the urge to call out to her. However, I can’t be shaken by these feelings. I want to have a peaceful high school life, so I need to avoid any possible landmines.
I acted like I didn’t see anything, and was about to walk away—However, my legs wouldn’t move. Weird, did I break my legs? If I was the protagonist of a sports manga, there’d be some drama of me realizing that I suffered an injury mid-match. Sadly enough, I’m not a member of any sports club, so there won’t be any drama like that.
As a matter of fact, my legs didn’t hurt either. I just couldn’t help but be curious. Not to mention that a chance like this might never come again. I always thought it was weird. Why would Aotsuki-san take such a stance towards the people at our school? After all, isn’t she like a XXX who accepts all danger that befalls her? Is she really fine being excluded from the class, being treated like someone weird? Even though I know that she hates me, I want to hear this answer from her own mouth.
…A bit should be fine. Since nobody is watching, I might as well.
“Yo, Aotsuki-san, what are you doing here at such a ti—”
I called out to her with the same tone of voice and attitude I did in class, only for Aotsuki-san to raise her head. In response, I froze up. From her glass marble eyes, tears came running down her cheeks.
Both Aotsuki-san and I froze up, like someone played the pause button on the TV. I don’t even know how much time passed in this paused state. Eventually, Aotsuki-san seemed to have organized her thoughts, and frantically wiped away her tears.
“—You will forget!!” She spoke up with a voice loud enough to fill the otherwise silent park.
“You! Forget everything! You just saw!”
Ahh, I was wondering what she was on about, but that’s it? Normally, you’d say stuff like ‘Forget that right now!’ or ‘Erase that from your memory!’, right. It seems like she’s still pretty confused. And, she must have been aware of this, as she awkwardly cleared her throat.
“…Forget about that! Okay? This is an order. If you dare not listen, then…Um…Ehm…I’ll destroy the world!”
“I feel like you’re planning too far ahead there.”
She was trying her hardest to keep a calm and composed attitude, but she was desperate enough for her eyes to spin. She’s not scary at all.
“A…Anyway, just forget about that. I’m leaving…!”
“Ah, wait a second.” On a whim, I grabbed her arm before she could run away.
It really happened reflexively, so I didn’t even have a particular reason as to why I did that. I didn’t even think about the repercussions of doing that. But can you blame me, I was pretty much as shaken as she was.
“Did something bad happen?”
“Shut up. As long as you’re alive, bad things happen all the time. I don’t see any reason to listen to your fake sympathy.”
“You say that, but it’s already late, so I’m worried about letting you walk around alone…What were you even doing here, all alone?”
“Nothing at all. I didn’t want to be at home, so I was just trying to waste some time outside.”
She hates it at home, huh. Must be related to her desire of not wanting to deal with other people. That being said, we don’t have the sort of relationship that would allow me to just investigate that problem, so I was at a bit of a loss on what to do.
“It’s late already dark outside, so isn’t it dangerous to still be out?”
“Not really. My home is close-by.”
“Eh, you live around here? Same here.”
“Really now. And?”
She must have gotten annoyed now, as she threw me a harsh glare. I know I’m being meddlesome here, but…
“Say…isn’t our class hard to deal with?”
“…Not really. I’m at fault for standing out like that.”
“Right. So, why would you go that far?”
“Doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
“Do you like being treated coldly by everyone?”
“I’ll kick you to the ground and step on you, okay?!”
“I was just trying to brighten up the mood, I’m sorry.”
Then again, being stepped on by a beauty is more of a reward than anything.
“I mean, I don’t get the reason as to why you would make everyone your enemy like that. There’s nothing for you to gain from that, right?”
“I’m not thinking about gain and loss. I just…say what I want.”
“Really? But, you’re really kind, Aotsuki-san.”
“Your tone might sound a bit strict and unfriendly, but the motives behind it are clearly driven by consideration. The reason you didn’t lend these girls your notes is because you were worried about them not studying at all, and you forced that girl today to head to the infirmary because she was feeling off, right?”
I know. Just because Aotsuki-san is kind doesn’t mean I get any merit of this. But, I can’t just ignore her now that I found her.
“That’s why…it’s just a waste. You should be more open about that kindness of yours.” I said these words, expecting harsh words back in return.
However, Aotsuki-san didn’t insult or berate me, let alone giving me a cold gaze. She just grabbed the skirt of her uniform with both her hands, and muttered with her gaze cast down.
“…Because that’ll only get me hurt.”
“It’s nothing. You’re so annoying! Noisy!” Aotsuki-san pushed away my hand, and walked away.
However, after taking a bit of distance from me, she turned around one more time, like she was looking down at me.
“Just to let you know, but people just sometimes cry, okay! I just, well, got something in my eye, so you don’t need to worry about me at all! Make sure you forgot about all of this tomorrow!” She left behind these words, and walked away for good.
…Her words just now. Although it pains me to say it, I’m not some romcom protagonist that just goes ‘What did you say?’ when faced with this kind of situation. I perfectly heard what she just said.
“Because that’ll only get her hurt, is it…”
There’s definitely something going on there. I know I shouldn’t be looking into it, and yet…
Ever since then, I sometimes ran into Aotsuki-san at that very public park. Despite me saying that I wouldn’t try to get involved with her, the second I spot her, I find myself contradicting this, and calling out to her. Leaving aside the classroom with eyes everywhere, if it’s at this empty park, the hurdle to call out to her is much lower. Though I’m sure that I was just one-sidedly bothering her by doing so.
What surprised me the most is that—although she never showed a smile or anything like that—she always properly responded when I struck up a conversation. It’s almost like, deep down beneath all her cold words, she longed to have someone to talk to.
—This time continued all the way through the first term, and even after we entered summer break. Whenever I went home after playing with the guys from class, or on my way home from the train station, I always passed by that park anyway. The same goes for Aotsuki-san, because she always sat on the swing at the same time of the day, as if she was waiting for me.
“Although it’s already late, being outside is still pretty hot. You’ll get a heatstroke like that.”
“Can’t you just go somewhere where it’s a lot cooler than here?”
“Mind your own business. I do go to the library during the day.”
“I see…But, please be careful of your own condition, okay?”
“……” Aotsuki-san stayed silent, and just looked up at me, who stood in front of the swing. “…Say.”
“Why do you bother with me?”
Because I saw you cry like that. Because seeing you all alone like that reminded me of my past self. Because you are the same as me right now, hiding your true feelings. That’s why I grew conscious of you, and couldn’t leave you alone? No, of course not.
When it’s Aotsuki-san, I can talk to her without having to worry about myself. Unlike Gami, and the other guys high up in the school caste, I don’t need to be careful of spoiling Aotsuki-san’s mood. Even if I was hated by her, my position in the school caste won’t change. Not to mention that Aotsuki-san only acts sharp and cold on the outside.
However, she’s not particularly harsh or anything, and if I just think ‘She’s the same way towards anyone’, then it doesn’t even hurt. What I’m really afraid of is for everyone to look at me in contempt. That’s why spending time with her feels so comfortable. Much much more so than with my ‘friends’ at school. But, there’s no way I could say that. I don’t have the right to, because as soon as I’m back inside this secluded box called classroom, I treat her the same way as everyone else does.
“I mean, we’re classmates, so isn’t that the normal thing to do?” That’s why I smiled like I always would in class, speaking innocently.
“……” Aotsuki-san stayed silent for a moment, only to slowly open her mouth. “<How idiotic>.”
It was so straightforward, I could only show a wry smile. However, do my surprise, she didn’t sound like she was looking down at me. Instead, the gaze in her eyes relaxed a bit.
“…It’s nothing, just forget it. It’s no good after all…”
What exactly is no good? Well, Aotsuki-san speaking in riddles is nothing new, so I didn’t bother questioning that.
“Anyway, I’ve said this many times before, but don’t bother with me. You have a lot of friends, Yafune-kun, so you don’t need to spend time with me.”
“…Well, it’s true that I do have a lot of people I can call friends.”
But, I can only call them friends. It’s nothing more than a name, a relationship barely scraping the surface. People that I can’t show any opening, any hint of what I truly like, aren’t what you call friends. Even so, Aotsuki-san believes that I have a lot of friends. The virtual image and reality are completely different in terms of warmth, it makes me want to taste reality some more.
“Do you hate me?”
“Eh, you’re ignoring me now? Come on, say something~ Lol.”
“…<Of course I do>.”
“Yup. I knew you’d say that. I’m glad.”
“…What do you want to say?”
As the polar opposite of Aotsuki-san’s cold gaze, I just showed her a warm smile.
“Just as you said, I’m an idiotic human.”
Hiding my true self, decorating myself with beautiful lies. I don’t plan on changing my way of living like this, but being liked for the fake me that I was made me feel disgusted.
—For a brief second,my memories of the sports festival of my second year in middle school filled my head. From far, far away, I was watching a classmate of mine, who was about to break out in tears. Since remembering this scene alone made me feel like puking right this instant, I put a lid on these memories to forcefully cut them off, and focussed only on the eyes in front of me. Aotsuki-san called me an idiot. And, I agree.
“That’s why, no matter what everyone else feels about [Me], Aotsuki-san, I want you to…”
I didn’t know what I was thinking myself. Maybe the summer heat made my head melt. Summer season just makes people crazy. It’s hot, it’s humid, and the cicadas sound like they’re chanting a spell, the shadows are dragging along the ground, and I never even got to drink the symbol of summer, some ramune from a nearby sweets shop.
Summer is the season that clearly splits normies and loners. That’s why my thoughts are going crazy. Despite being a loner, I try to act like a normie. I’m sure that the reason I’m saying this is because of this summer.
“Only you, Aotsuki-san. I want you to never act affectionate towards [Me].”
Aotsuki-san blinked two times. Her glass marble eyes looked at me in confusion.
“…Act affectionate?” Aotsuki-san tilted her head in confusion.
Rather than not understanding the words I used, it seemed more as if she thought of my choice of words as odd.
“—Nevermind, just forget about it.”
“Hey, don’t act like a coward now.”
“Didn’t you use the exact same excuse before?”
“……” Aotsuki-san grew silent, but eventually raised her head to look up at me again. “Yafune-kun…Do you hate yourself?” Her voice sounded like she was touching the softest parts inside of me.
I regained my senses, telling myself that her stepping further any more than this would be too dangerous. I already showed too much of myself. Even though I just have just acted like usual, giving a careless ‘I was just joking~’, these unnecessary words came out instead. Hence, all I could was hide my mistakes by showing a cheerful smile.
“Anyway, I’ll be going now. Make sure to not stay out too late, Aotsuki-san.”
I turned my back towards her, and while feeling the sweat build on my body with every breath, I walked down the street on this summer night. In reality, I don’t have the personality that would make me well-liked with others. Of course, I’m just acting the normie, so being liked for a fake personality would be troublesome, but going all ‘I want to be loved for who I am!’ and changing my life yet again is utterly ridiculous. Every single person this world lives their lives while hiding their weak selves. And yet, I wonder why.
She’s the one person I don’t want to come to like this fake me, who is just forcing out a fake smile. Well, it’s probably the summer’s fault. You moron, summer!
Despite me saying these words, I knew right away that no ‘Welcome back’ would greet me. So why am I even saying that in the first place? Maybe I’m just expecting something. In the living room, Dad, Mom, and even my younger brother were having fun enjoying a conversation. I already ate sandwiches for today’s dinner at the public park, so I just headed straight to my bed, collapsing on the bed. Since looking up at the ceiling would only make me feel more horrible, I opened up my paperback book.
However, the page I had opened was the scene where the heroine confessed to the protagonist. I bought it because it’s a popular mystery novel, but why does it have to have romance elements as well. I let out a sigh, and ran my eyes along the words on the paper.
Like. Love. Stay with me forever. These words were lumps of sugar, an onparade of words like sweetness in shape. To me, all of these words hold no meaning…However, today, merely on a whim, I felt like using these words. It was just because of my mood…Because of everything Yafune-kun just said, they caught my attention.
After breathing in and mentally preparing myself, I read out the words exactly as they were written in the book.
“>I hate you<…>Disappear<…>Don’t ever get too close to me<…”
All these small confessions turned into harsh words and insults, vanishing in utter silence.
“Yeah, I figured as much.”
In the end, I repeated the same words I said in front of Yafune-kun, so I closed the book in resignation. I can’t even whisper these words of love. After all, I was cursed. And, surely nobody would believe such an idiotic story even if I told them. When I was still a young child, I told a certain wish of mine to a ‘Witch’. As the compensation for that, my ‘Honest words of affection’ were sealed off. Whenever I try to give any kind of positive affection towards anybody, they end up as the ‘opposite’. Namely, I like you turns to >I hate you<. When I say ‘Stay with me’, it turns to >Stay away from me<.
The stronger my feelings are, the stronger of the opposite comes out of my mouth, and there’s nothing I can do about it. When I try to reverse that, and immediately say ‘I hate you’, nothing happens, so there’s no meaning to going against it. Of course, I can’t say ‘I like you’, but saying ‘I don’t like you’ still works.
I tried writing it on paper, or sending messages, but the result is entirely the same. That’s why I don’t have any way of expressing my positive affection for anybody. Of course, that includes love towards family, and friendship…Or rather, I don’t have any way of testing out ‘romantic love’. Never had a lover after all.
Either way, so that I don’t hurt people because of my disposition, I made it a habit to not deal with other people as soon as I started attending high school. Despite me staying silent, there were a lot of people still trying to talk to me. I still can’t forget about that day a month ago, when some girls in my class, as well as Yafune-kun, asked me to lend them my notes. There, I tried to sound as cold and unbearable as possible so that they wouldn’t try to deal with me again.
…However, I went too far. I clearly took it one step too far. Remembering this event, shame and self-hate started to rise up inside of me, and I forcefully buried my face in my pillow.
I’m sorry. Both to you Yafune-kun, and these girls as well, I’m really sorry…Not to mention that I started talking with Yafune-kun more, and it became really apparent that he wasn’t actually asking for my notes, and instead just wanted to help me…Why am I always like this? Even if I can’t openly show my affection, there must be other ways besides hurting people.
Even so, because I tried to distance myself from others, once somebody actually talks to me, I just tense up, and these cruel words just start gushing out of my mouth. Not to mention that an ‘honest apology’ is seen as ‘honest affection’, which is why I can’t even say I’m sorry or my bad, providing any kind of follow-up. It’ll just turn into >I won’t apologize< or >I’m not at fault< after aell.
That’s right, ‘honest affection’ is very vague when it comes to being safe and being out. With the risks being too high, even words in the grey area are too dangerous to use.
—If only everybody would just ignore me from the very beginning. Then, I wouldn’t have to hurt anybody, and could just resign myself. In order not to make anybody else suffer, I should stay secluded. I know that this is the best possible method, and yet—I want friends, and someone to talk to.
To think that Yafune-kun saw me crying in loneliness back then…He’s very popular. There’s always people around him, and someone I can’t easily talk to at school. Even so, when it’s that park at night, he would talk with me. Because I could never talk with anybody, I just got so happy…and despite me knowing that I shouldn’t be with him, I just answered his questions and conversations.
I knew that I could have just tried to avoid that park to resolve everything, but my legs just naturally carried me there. In fact, it’s fun. Only this time holds a different color compared to my usual dull and cold daily life. But, it’s no good after all. Even today, when I wanted to say ‘Thank you’, I couldn’t. My words ended up twisted, as only a fake >So idiotic< came out. Even when he asked me if I hated him, I wanted to say ‘Of course not’, but it turned into >Of course<.
While reminiscing about these events, I gazed up at the ceiling. Back then, when I asked him why he was still dealing with me…It felt like Yafune-kun wanted to say something else. I doubt he holds such special circumstances like I do, but…When it’s just the two of us talking, the atmosphere around him is different compared to how he usually acts in the classroom.
The reason why he’s talking to me like that…I don’t think it’s solely out of kindness so that I wouldn’t be all alone. But, I still don’t get what his reason for that might be…
—’Yafune-kun, do you hate yourself?’
When I asked him that, he gave me no response. However, staying silent with such a question in the room is basically the same as affirming it. Not to mention that he gave me a ‘I’m glad’ when I responded ‘Of course’ to his question of if I hated him. It’s almost like he feels relief at the fact that the people around him hate him as much as he himself does.
I wonder why. He’s so cheerful, kind, and popular with everyone…Maybe Yafune-kun isn’t the type of person the people around him make him out to be. He might be hiding something behind his gentle face, or he might be twisted in some way. But, that doesn’t matter. These kind words directed at me, I don’t care if they’re fake. It doesn’t change that they made me happy. Not to mention that I also hide an important part of myself. I stay the way I am without telling people.
Having been cursed, I shouldn’t deal with other people, let alone come to love them. Being alone is lonely for sure, but I deserve this curse, so I’ve come to terms with this curse, and accepted it. But…even so, I want to talk more with Yafune-kun.
No matter what kind of person you may be, I want to give you my gratitude. I don’t think that my words could change anything, but if I could only become a small portion of your strength…then I want to do something for you, Yafune-kun. Because I felt happy when he called out to me when I was crying. I was delighted. I felt my heart warm up. That’s why I want to give something back to him.
But, how should I do that. Even with all the effort in the world, nothing will work out. After all, with the power of magic, I was cursed…Of course, I won’t be as greedy as to wish for this curse to disappear. Just once…once is fine, I want to tell him that I don’t hate him at all.
With conflicted feelings, I tightly embraced my chest. But, wait a second? Didn’t he say something to me? ‘Only you, Aotsuki-san. I want you to never act affectionate towards [Me]’, is what he said to me, right? It’s quite rare to hear such a choice of words from him. That’s why it felt like something painful was deeply rooted inside his chest, which had me feeling gloomy and uncertain. Even more so because I don’t know what this ‘something’ was.
Not wanting me to be affectionate is basically the same as not wanting me to fall in love with him, right? Maybe he’s trying to say that I’m not his type at all, which is why I shouldn’t even see him as a potential love interest? I couldn’t blame him for that, but I feel like there’s a different nuance in there. Maybe this is also related to this self-hate of his, something I shouldn’t be looking into too deeply. Since I’m like this, I can understand why you would feel that way.
But, unlike me, you don’t have any reason to hate yourself. It’s not like I know everything about you, but I can tell that, deep down, you’re very kind. In reality, I don’t hate you at all…Not in the slightest. That’s why, I want to tell you how wonderful you are—
“…I couldn’t even act all affectionate even if I wanted to, idiot.”