Caste Crusher Tsukimura-kun - Chapter 1 Part 3
That day, I spent the entire day trying to figure out what Ryosuke was up to.
It was fortuitous that I was able to find out just before the start of the school day.
However, since Ryosuke himself did not directly approach the girl, so the feeling was one-sided…I inferred.
So, the next step was to find out who that person was…
There are four of them in that group of nerdy girls. They were all quite unusual girls, but among them, Kiritani was the one that stood out the most.
She was the one who was making the biggest fuss and getting the winning key chain from the other girls. She was also the one who suddenly and mysteriously exclaimed out of context about risking one’s life.
But even stranger than that was…The fact that she wore a mask all the time.
At the beginning of April, it was pollen allergy season, and since there were several other students wearing masks, I was not particularly concerned about it.
Then the peak of the pollen season passed, and the number of students wearing masks to school decreased one by one…As we approached May, Kiritani was the last one left.
Since I don’t have a pollen allergy, I wondered if the pollen was still flying around in May this year — then I suddenly realized it.
Unlike other students with pollen allergies, Kiritani was the only one who was not sneezing at all.
Yes, Kiritani Hatori was a “masked girl”.
She always wore a mask to school every day, kept it on, and doesn’t even take it off to eat.
I was even impressed by her thoroughness when I saw her dexterously pull a straw through the mask to drink a pack of juice.
However, wearing a mask on a daily basis has its downsides.
First of all, Kiritani’s voice is a bit difficult to hear due to the obstruction caused by the mask. This was especially noticeable in class, when she was asked to speak by the teacher.
Many of the teachers were elderly and hard of hearing, so she was asked several times for her answers, and to top it off, some of the girls would make rude comments such as, “I can’t hear you,” which froze the air in the classroom on several occasions (Actually, this is a thing of the past. Since I nailed the girl at the beginning of May, she has stopped this malicious shouting in the classroom).
But still, Kiritani never took off her mask.
In other words, Kiritani had a reason for not wanting to show her true face to that extent.
If she had a burn or scar around her mouth, it would be natural for a girl to want to hide it.
However, it seemed that Kiritani has no scars around her mouth at all.
This was something Kanade told me before.
Kiritani Hatori does not take off her mask during lunch or even during physical education (rumor has it that she brought her own water-resistant mask and wore it during swimming time), but during a physical examination in April, Kanade happened to be in the same group as Kiritani and encountered a doctor urging her to take off her mask.
However, Kanade did not see Kiritani’s true face either.
None of the other students could see her face. However, in terms of the reaction of the doctor in charge, he seemed to have decided that there was no egregious scar there.
This raised the fundamental question of why she was wearing a mask in the first place…?
(Is it safe to assume that even if there were no scars, there would be a complex about her appearance?)
Thinking about it, I looked up at the sky.
It was a slightly chilly June.
The blue that had begun to blush slightly turned to orange. The air was getting cold again. It would probably be cold again tomorrow.
“Hmm? Tsukimura, what are you doing here?”
It was at that time.
Suddenly, there was someone talking to me.
“As you can see. I’m waiting for Ryosuke.”
I checked the other person’s face and replied.
It was Gatou.
“Ryosuke? Why? Tsukimura and Ryosuke only hang out at school, right?”
Gatou asked back with a chuckle.
“No, we get along well enough in private.”
“Hmm. It’s all with that game. So why are you coming all the way out here to see him in person?”
“I have other things to do besides playing games. I’m here to kidnap Ryosuke.”
“Heh. If you can kidnap him. How nice boys are.”
“Yeah. Whenever I ask him out, he always turns me down because he wants to play games with the boys. I don’t understand what’s so fun about those games.”
Gatou, with an abject expression on her face, said in a strong tone.
Her name is Gatou Miki.
She was a classmate of mine and Kanade’s in class 2-2, and she was also the leader of the second-year girls’ dance club.
In other words, in terms of position alone, she stands alongside Ryosuke, the leader of the second-year boys.
(…Only in position.)
This was a point that cannot be overlooked when talking about Gatou Miki.
Gatou is beautiful. She has medium-length, wavy hair curled at a salon, eye makeup that emphasizes tear troughs, clean white skin, and a glade lip to emphasize the freshness of her mouth.
She wears a foreign idol group T-shirt on top, a jersey top wrapped around her waist, and the same green jersey underneath that covers just below the knees. Gatou, who was quite tall for a girl, clearly looked “powerful” when she was dressed like that.
Even I think so. If a girl, or even a weak boy, were to see Gatou, what would they think? —They would feel intimidated.
And there was nothing wrong with that.
Gatou was a scary woman.
“It can’t be helped. Boys have their own ways of socializing.”
“Besides, anyone can play games nowadays.”
“Eh, even Tsukimura is taking Ryosuke’s side?”
“That’s right. It is rare to find a boy who has nothing to do with video games nowadays.”
“Hmm…Well, I can understand if it’s something like Tsum Tsum, but come on. Shooting games are usually for otakus.”
Gatou narrowed her eyes.
Gatou was very prejudiced. There were probably plenty of other games where you simply shoot guns, and I was sure the idol group Gatou has on her T-shirt has members who enjoy this type of game.
Well, if I told Gatou that, she would probably say, “Except for XX-kun!”
This would be a hardship for Ryosuke, too.
“I’m going to go now. We practiced separately for men and women today, but the men should be finished soon…Ah, that’s right. When you see Ryosuke, tell him that I’m the one who always invites him out, so it’s about time he accepts my invitation at least once.”
“Unfortunately, I’m a proponent of free love.”
“Yeah, yeah. Irrelevant.”
Gatou turned her back on me.
She then left without saying another word. I felt the tense atmosphere disappear as soon as Gatou was gone.
Was she unknowingly intimidating those around her, or is she doing it consciously?
(Definitely the latter.)
How could Ryosuke be getting through his days in the same club as Gatou? She has placed so much pressure on those around her.
“…I should look for Ryosuke.”
Gatou Miki was in the same class as us, but we don’t have the kind of relationship where we talk a lot.
She was mainly with her cronies. The head Gatou and the others were very similar in nature and to be frank, their behavior was not very good.
—They often have a coercive attitude toward students who are lower in caste than they are.
In our common parlance, they were “bullies”. Their targets were all female students who were at the bottom of their class — “Otakus” for example.
(Gatou should no longer be messing with Kiritani…)
I felt strange karma.
Recently, Kiritani Hatori was unable to answer questions properly when asked to do so, and was sometimes subjected to criticism from her classmates.
They told her to answer quickly, that they couldn’t hear her voice because of her mask, that she couldn’t understand such a question, etc. These were abusive words that one couldn’t bear to hear.
The group that was doing the shouting was a group of gals in the class led by Gatou.
I was too late to notice the behavior, as it seemed to have started in an elective class I was not taking at first. I immediately nailed Gatou and got her to stop…but I don’t think the spark was completely extinguished.
Gatou looks down on Kiritani from the bottom of her heart.
She believes that Kiritani is inferior to her and that she can do anything she wants to her.
Because Kiritani is lower than me — in the school caste.
No matter what I say to her, Gatou will continue to look down on Kiritani in her heart.
I am just a human being, not a superhuman.
I can’t change a person’s mind as if I used magic or hypnosis.
Because there is a caste system.
Gatou was convinced that Kiritani was below her. As long as this hierarchical consciousness — the “negative system” — exists, it was difficult to change her distorted mind.
Five minutes after Gatou left.
Fujishiro Ryosuke appeared, surrounded by the members of the dance club.
Ryosuke noticed my presence and looked a little surprised. Ryosuke was involved in club activities, but I was not a member of any club because of my part-time job and other extracurricular activities. We rarely see each other after school because we hardly ever go home at the same time.
“Hey. It’s Tsukimura-san, isn’t it? What’s going on?”
“Do you have some business with Fujishiro-san?”
“If you’re free, how about duel later?”
Some familiar faces of the first-years noticed me and started talking to me. I had been on the “battlefield” with them, and we had crossed the line of death and killed each other several times.
“Yeah, sort of. Sonoda, Katsumata, and Kobayashi…are all first-years. Are there any other second-years?”
“No, they were taken away by the third years…”
“That’s right. I’m having a little trouble with the girls.”
Ryosuke gave a wry smile.
“Most recently, there’s a five-person dance battle tournament.”
“So the dance club is doing a tournament?”
“Yeah. It depends on how many people are on the team, but it’s not uncommon to have a tournament format. The biggest high school dance club competition, DanceStar, is also a tournament format.”
“Heh…I see. So, what’s the reason for the tussle?”
When I asked, the four people present all scrunched up their faces. After a pause, Ryosuke said in a hushed voice.
“It’s a competition for members, or rather…Some divisions have all the members going, while some have small teams going. The teams are more, well, variously…struggling.”
“…That doesn’t sound good.”
“I know. The boys are more relaxed about it, and the seniors are like that. The girls are pretty aggressive…”
“They’re fighting over the boys at this time of year to move up as much as possible…”
“Isn’t that usually a big problem? I know this is coming from an outsider, but it’s a bad thing to have mixed genders…”
When it comes to team dances, the members should be able to breathe in perfect harmony.
With the timing of the tournament so close, this kind of problem could develop into something more dangerous.
“Ah…Tsukimura-san, don’t get us wrong…I know our dance club has an image of being all about games, but our dance ability is also top level in the country! Especially the third-year students are amazing!”
“No, I know that. It is not uncommon for professional athletes to play games in between games. It’s the same in Major League Baseball. It’s only those who are good at what they do that realize the importance of taking a break, and they’ve achieved enough results to allow it, right?”
“Y-Yes! I know what you mean!”
“Then there is nothing wrong with it. If someone is telling you what to do, let them say it. If you get the results you want, they’ll shut up about it.”
“…I hope you’re right.”
Ryosuke muttered to himself.
I was also thinking that this kind of idealism was not being conveyed straight to the younger Kobayashi, and that was why we are in this situation.
The boys in Hachiko’s dance club were far superior compared to other schools.
There were often banners hanging in the school building congratulating each club for advancing to national competitions or winning awards, and awards were presented at school assemblies.
The dance club was often mentioned at these events, but the fact was that most of these teams were boys-only teams… The girls were sometimes mentioned if they were on a mixed team, but the opportunities were far fewer than for the boys.
Incidentally, there were definitely more female members in the club.
The girls practice more and were more enthusiastic about dancing, while the boys, after practice, hurry home from all years and play only shooting games…
However, the only ones who got results in competitions were the boys.
The dance club’s inner workings were a bit of a mess. Earlier, Gatou had also commented on the fact that the boys were only playing gun-shooting games, but that reaction was not only due to Gatou’s own personality but also to the bad mood shared among the female members of the club.
The male members of the club must have become even more absorbed in the shooter game because they could not stand the atmosphere in the club.
It seemed like a kind of negative cycle, like “a husband who doesn’t want to stay at home because the atmosphere at home is so bad that he is even more adulterous.”
“…Well, anyway, I understand the situation.”
There would be no reason to continue the painful conversation involving them any longer. I decided to end the conversation.
“Let’s just leave it at that. I’ll borrow Ryosuke for now. I want you to win today with your first-year team.”
Ryosuke looked puzzled when he was suddenly mentioned. However, the first-years reacted quickly. They immediately nodded their heads in agreement.
“Yes! I understand!”
“I’d love to talk to you next time, Tsukimura-san if you get the chance!”
“Me too. But, you guys said it’s hard to talk to him…”
“Well, it’s still hard to use a smartphone. Tsukimura-san, you’d better get used to using a pad.”
“That’s my biggest challenge right now. I wish the game itself would support smartphone cross.”
“Ahaha, that’s a bad idea! If you leave out the smartphones, the people who can’t even handle it now will become even more outrageous!”
“It’s better than putting a Switch in there, right?”
At my last word, Ryosuke and the others erupted with a thud.
Personally, I felt that the boys in the dance club are a bunch of good-natured, cheerful guys.
I don’t think there are many club activities where there was such a big difference in between boys and girls.
(Maybe it’s because the dance club itself is very special as an athletic club…)
In the dance club, boys and girls practice together, and it is possible for boys and girls to compete in competitions as a mixed-gender team. It was a very rare tournament where both sexes could truly compete on the same stage.
If there was an excessive difference in ability there, there was a good chance that the different genders will have an even greater negative impact.
However, I can’t do anything about the problems the dance club is having right now.
After all, I was an outsider 100 percent of the time. I have no right to interfere with their problems, no matter how much they are struggling.
What was important was a more personal matter.
—Ryosuke’s love life.
I wondered if Ryosuke was aware of it. That it was impossibly difficult for him to fulfill the love he has in his heart now.
The reason why it was difficult was because of that inexcusable and unreasonable thing.