Kimi ni Koi wo Suru Nante, Arienai Hazu Datta - Chapter 1
I frequented my prep school over winter break, studying there from morning till night.
Fortunately, there weren’t any people around that were from the same high school as me, and I was able to distance myself from troublesome relationships and slander, so I concentrated on preparing for the exam while I was at prep school.
On the way home, I’d usually head to Chiba station just before the train departure time and board the train using a different entrance than before. That way, even if Kitaoka was there at the same time, she was unlikely to notice me, and I could just head home without having to see her at all. It would definitely hurt my conscience if I saw her all by herself looking sad and lonely, and on the other hand, it would be a shock if she looked completely fine and indifferent. Either way, I don’t want to needlessly run into her.
Time passed, and before I knew it, the end of the year came and the new year began. Even during the first three days of the new year, I didn’t slack off and devoted myself to studying all day long. Thanks to that, I was able to get decent scores in both classic and modern Japanese literature, which were my weak points.
The long winter vacation seemingly went by in a flash, and on the last day, the first snowfall fell on the southern Kanto region, albeit slightly late.
On that day, I planned on staying in the study room until closing hours, just as usual. However, it was forecasted that the weather might turn stormy very soon. This raised concerns over how the staff members would head home in said situation, so the prep school was closed early in the evening.
After being kicked out of the building, I reluctantly headed for the station. Something white was slowly falling from the sky. It was cold, melting as it gently brushed against my cheeks, and I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head to preserve my body heat.
The moment I arrived at the downbound platform, I realized there was still a bit of time before the train arrived. I didn’t have the time to head back to school to wait, so I decided to wait here for a while.
I spotted an empty bench a little further away, so I headed over and sat down on it, peering into the distance.
(…It’s really beautiful.)
The snow fell quietly on the usually hectic downtown area. The whiteness of the snow made me feel as if all of my feelings and anxieties were temporarily being snuffed out.
Fuu. I take a breath. It feels like I’ve been so busy for the past two weeks that I haven’t even had the time to notice the changes happening outside, such as this one. I honestly don’t know what to do about Kitaoka or my exams; I have my hands full. However, I managed to get through the winter vacation by concentrating more on my studies, telling myself that it was necessary.
But starting tomorrow, there’ll be a momentary period of time where I’ll have to go to school, and if I go to school, I’ll have to face Kitaoka, and since there was the matter of the false accusation, I might even be treated unjustly at school. Knowing that tomorrow would be a much harder time than ever before depressed me, and I no longer wanted to think about anything else.
I yawned loudly due to my lack of sleep as I cast my eyes downward, watching as the snow slowly fell before my eyes. It was so peaceful, it was as if all the troubles that plagued me were nothing but an illusion.
(How nice it would be… if time could just stop right now…)
I put my hands in my pockets and slowly closed my eyes. As I began to doze off on the bench, I suddenly felt something hot pressed against my temples.
My body shook, surprised at the sudden sensation. When I hurriedly turned around, I saw a girl in a coat holding a can of coffee in her hand, looking down on me as she stood right above me. The girl’s face was light in color, just like a snow fairy, and she had long, silky hair. It was Kitaoka. It looks like she had pressed that can of coffee against my face just now.
I felt a sharp pain in my chest, and I was suddenly snapped out of my drowsiness.
Damnit. I had been extremely cautious for the past 2 weeks, trying my best to avoid running into her, but I let my guard down at the very end.
While I was plainly in a state of confusion, Kitaoka held the can of coffee out to me and said.
“You’re cold, aren’t you? Here, you can have this.”
She was holding a plastic bottle of milk tea in her other hand. She probably went out of her way to buy the can of coffee just for me.
I muttered a single word to her before averting my eyes away from her’s. I stood up and turned my back towards her. Not wanting her to follow me, I quickly started walking away.
But she immediately stopped me.
I tried to ignore her, but she firmly took hold of my arm, stopping me in my tracks. When I turned around, she started questioning me intensely.
“Why are you leaving? Are you avoiding me?”
“Why, you ask…?”
You of all people should know why, I wanted to retort. I finally found out your true feelings, so I ran away. That’s all there is to it.
But I didn’t want to say that myself. If I did, I’d basically be admitting the fact that I was in love with her. I don’t want her to know that. If she knew, it’d be my loss.
I’m not sure if she’s trying to play dumb or if she really thinks I haven’t found out about her secret, but after a brief moment, she lowered her eyelashes and quietly muttered.
“Even though I’ve been waiting for you for so long…”
Her voice sounded so sad that my heart almost lurched for a moment. She really is an incredible actor.
Don’t let yourself be fooled by her, I told myself as I gripped my thumb tightly. Seeing her downcast face up close, the negative emotions that I had been suppressing came flooding out.
(…Putting on a cute face like that and acting all vulnerable doesn’t mean that everything will go your way.)
The arrogant and prejudice-laced conversation she had with her friends the other day came to mind. Even though they were just high school students like everyone else, they looked down on others and made fun of them just because she and her gang had slightly better looks than others. That’s absolutely ridiculous. They should know that their actions are wrong and unjust.
The train made a rumbling noise as it slid onto the platform, and eventually the train came to a complete stop. After everything had quieted down, I slowly started to speak.
When I apologized, my eyes met Kitaoka’s, who looked up at me.
“The Center exam is coming soon, and I don’t want to waste a single second.”
So, I don’t have the leeway to bother with you.
At my words, her mouth, which had started to soften a little, froze in a flash.
I pretended to have not seen that as I turned to face the stationary train. It was bound for a transfer station to a local line that headed to my house, not to the area where she was living in.
“Ah, I’ll be leaving now.”
“…Kitaoka, you should head home early too.”
Leaving those few words behind, I shook my arm free from her grip and rushed into the train.
The doors closed right behind me. Looks like I made it just in time.
The train then started moving. When I looked out the window, I found myself meeting Kitaoka’s gaze, who stood alone on the platform. She looked shocked, as she kept following me with her eyes. Her lips were quivering and her eyes were wide open, a hint of despair in them.
Serves you right! That’s what you get for deceiving me, I tried to convince myself with thoughts like those. But instead, my mind was filled with nothing but regret, and there was no way I’d actually derive pleasure from having done something like that.
With this, I’m sure she won’t ever be messing around with me anymore. I’m not sure if she’ll target someone else or if she’ll actually change for the better, but at least she won’t be speaking to me in a friendly manner like before.
As the station grew further and further, the last thing I saw was her face, seemingly on the verge of crying. It was the same expression I had seen when I turned around to help her on the mountain road at the summer training camp.
Now that I think about it, this entire mess stemmed from that very moment. If I had just pretended I hadn’t noticed her, or if I had won the rock-paper-scissors game, she wouldn’t have stuck around with me afterwards, and I wouldn’t have to feel this way now.
All my memories of my time with her melted away and disappeared like snow. Even so, I wondered if there was at least a single truth mixed into any of the words she’d ever spoken to me. I cursed my own naivety, at how a part of me still hadn’t learnt its mistakes by even considering such a thing.
Rumors only last 75 days.
If I am to believe this saying, then simple math tells me that this rumor should die down by early March. However, it felt like it would take an eternity until then.
Whenever I walked past girls at school, they would all run away from me, and whenever I went to the bathroom, boys I didn’t even know would start whispering, calling me a pervert. Individually, their actions weren’t too problematic since they were modest in nature, but collectively, it was mentally taxing. As a person who previously didn’t stand out, I was rarely ever on the receiving end of hostility from others, so I found their treatment towards me unbearable.
And so, to avoid contact with others as much as possible, I spent my time in the classroom, trying to lay low until the end of classes, after which I would disappear from school before anyone else. Even so, Katsuya did not blatantly show any sign of displeasure or hostility towards me. I don’t know if it was because he knew that I didn’t have a smartphone, or if he genuinely hadn’t heard the rumors at all. But I was grateful for him, because to me, he is the only saving grace in this whole ordeal.
I spent the rest of my days without so much as a glance in Kitaoka’s direction. Our seats were located on the opposite ends of the classroom anyways, so I could stay uninvolved with her for as long as I wanted.
“Yassan, you’re not looking too good these days, ya know? Did you have some sort of fight with Kitaoka-san?”
On the way home, Katsuya, who was walking right next to me, asked me that question. His guess is half right, but a fight is only possible when there is a certain level of intimacy. Adding onto that point, I was actually just a plaything to her, and she never actually considered me a friend, let alone a love interest. So it might look like a fight, but in reality it’s something else.
“No… the exams are coming up, so isn’t everyone going through the same thing?”
I laughed and spouted some random excuse to brush off his concerns. Katsuya looked unconvinced, but he nodded his head anyway.
“But you know, Kitaoka-san also seems a bit off. She just seems a bit tired and out of it. I’ve noticed that she doesn’t really talk much anymore.”
“Yeah… In fact, you’re closer to her than I am, so shouldn’t you have noticed this too?”
Having such a pointed remark directed towards me put me at a loss as to how I should answer. I couldn’t tell him, “I didn’t notice that because I’m trying to avoid looking at her as much as possible,” so I just feigned ignorance and gave him a vague response, saying, “I wonder why”.
It was the third Saturday of January. The first day of the Center Exam has finally arrived.
I had been feeling anxious, but I went to bed early last night, so my body felt light. As I arrived at the station in the piercing cold weather, I noticed a familiar face in front of the ticket gate.
I called out to her, and she, Tamura Nanami, turned to me and raised her hand without much change in her expression as she said, “Yo”.
“Morning, Messhi. Where’s Peyoung?”
Looks like even she thinks of me and Katsuya as a set. There was another girl who said something similar too, huh, I thought as I wryly smiled at her.
“Looks like he got assigned to a different test venue for some reason. It’s a bit further away, so he left ahead of me.”
“Ah, I see. Looks like he got unlucky too.”
Tamura muttered words of pity for Katsuya.
But, Katsuya has basically given up on passing the Center exam right now, instead opting to take a gap year later. When I told this to Tamura, she said, “That really sounds like something Katsuya would do,” as she fixed her muffler which was only covering one side of her face.
Apparently, there were lots of students who chose to take the exams in their school uniform, but I and Tamura decided on plain clothes instead. Tamura prioritized practicality and mobility, so she chose to wear a down jacket and jeans. I was also dressed in a similar way.
Despite being a Saturday, the train was quite crowded, so we talked to each other while standing as the train made its way to the station where the venue was located.
At first, we discussed rumors about how difficult the exam would be as well as the range of topics that would likely be covered in the exam while we studied the booklet the prep school gave us, but eventually the conversation died down, and I took the initiative to ask Tamura a question.
“Those strange rumors you were talking about the other day… Did you mean that rumor about the smartphone and the pictures and stuff?”
She stared at me, seemingly gauging my reaction. Her expression faltered slightly before she eventually started speaking.
“Ah… so you’ve finally caught wind of it?”
I nodded my head. Tamura then laughed before continuing, seemingly trying to lightly brush it off.
“It’s truly awful, isn’t it? You wouldn’t even have the guts to do such a thing in the first place.”
In fact, you don’t even have a smartphone, she added.
Normally, I didn’t like Tamura’s condescending attitude so much, but now her haughty attitude and her stoutness was really encouraging.
“I really want to go someplace far away…”
My life had been peaceful and uneventful. But it all fell apart the moment I got involved with a single girl.
I don’t know who started the rumors about me. I had a vague hunch that my relationship with Kitaoka played a part in it, but since I have no substantial evidence pointing to a potential source for the rumor, I’m confused as to how I should deal with it. This really wore me down mentally, and it grated on my nerves.
I’m just tired. I’m sick of everything, and I want to throw it all away.
In response to my whining, which I did quite rarely, Tamura’s mouth twisted into a grimace as she exasperatedly replied to me.
She rolled up the booklet she held in her hand and smacked me on the head with it.
“If you have the time to worry about such unnecessary things, then you should be allocating that time to focus on what’s in front of you instead.”
Her phrasing was harsh, but it was definitely reasonable and necessary. The all-important Center exam is taking place in a matter of minutes. This is not the time to be distracted by other matters.
I couldn’t even groan at her words as I stayed silent. But suddenly, I heard a sigh coming from Tamura before she continued.
“But, well… I think that’s a perfectly reasonable option, you know?”
What does she mean by that?
When I stared back at her, she continued speaking in an indifferent tone.
“I think that taking the plunge and applying for a school far away from here is also a perfectly reasonable option.”
Tamura’s unexpected opinion caused me to stare at her face in disbelief.
Her expression didn’t make it seem like she was joking, and it didn’t appear to be something she just said on the spur of the moment either. Her expression was what it always was: calm and composed.
“The rumors might die down in the future, but still; once people associate your image with a crude label like that, it’ll be real tough.”
Her choice of words seemed to carry some sort of hidden meaning.
Perhaps she’s been through a similar kind of experience in the past. But, tactlessly broaching the subject might reopen some old wounds… I tried to act considerate, but Tamura continued in a low mutter, pasting a hollow smile on her face.
“I also had a bit of a reputation before I transferred to this school.”
“A bit of a reputation…?”
This was the first time I’d ever heard of such a thing. I felt taken aback, but Tamura continued speaking as if it were a trivial matter.
“There was this time in elementary school when the funds my class had gathered disappeared. I happened to be the last one in the class, and I was suspected as the culprit. It was terrible. Even the teacher suspected me.”
She spoke smoothly and without hesitation, but I’m sure it must’ve been a fairly difficult ordeal.
Unsure of what to say to her, I stayed silent as I awkwardly let my gaze wander around.
“Sometime later, the money was found in an unused and empty locker, but… there were some people who kept treating me like a thief, even after the money was found.”
“I had no idea…”
“Yeah, well. I never told you, so…”
Tamura was a girl who had moved here from another prefecture when she entered junior high school. I had never heard her talk about her life before junior high school, and I just assumed it was because no one else was from the same school as her. I had no idea she had such a dark past until now. And even worse, it was during elementary school. Since they were still very young, they’re merciless in nature, and they do not know how to use discretion in dealing with others. That’s why Tamura was probably treated much worse than the way I’m being treated right now.
She’s certainly a mature person, and her words and attitude may be overly blunt and direct, but all of them were reasonable. Knowing that such a cruel and tragic experience was the reason behind her strong-willed nature left me feeling regret and pity for her.
“That’s why I think starting over in a completely different place might be a good idea.”
“Is that so…?”
“Yeah. Going to new and unfamiliar places might turn out to be a surprisingly fresh and fun experience.”
Then, she lifted up the edges of her slightly large mouth and smiled happily. Now that I think of it, back when I was in the same class as her in my first year of junior high, she rarely ever smiled like this. I’m sure that her words contain no falsehood in them. I believe that there are many positive things that come from leaving a place you’re familiar with or changing your environment.
“By the way, Tamu. Which university are you applying to?”
When I asked her this question, she didn’t show the slightest bit of intention to hide this information as she stated the names of several elite universities. She also said that she was trying to get into the economics department.
“Economics? It kinda doesn’t suit you…”
“Yeah, well, I was thinking of becoming an accountant. It’s the quickest way to get a professional job without getting tangled up in the humanities.”
Hearing her words and her absolutely unwavering tone, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
As I continued talking with Tamura, I noticed that my pre-exam nervousness and my anxieties regarding the future had lightened up, just a little bit.
Later, when we arrived at the campus of the private university where the exam was being held, we found out that students were assigned to classrooms based on alphabetical order, and since my name, Iijima, started with the letter I and Tamura’s started with the letter T, we had to take the exam in different buildings, and ultimately, we ended up going home separately as well.
On the second day of the exam, after I finished all 5 subjects and 7 courses worth of exams, I arrived home, looked at the answers published on the website of my prep school, and immediately started to grade myself.
My results were so-so. The mean score for the exams hasn’t been made known yet, so I can’t say for sure, but I think my scores were well within the range of my expectations.
I was planning to enroll in a public school, and if I couldn’t, then I would enroll in a private school in Tokyo. It would take a fair bit of time, but my sister commuted to her university by train every day, and I planned to do the same.
But now I’ve made up my mind. As a change of plans, I’ll be enrolling in a public school far away. Living alone in the countryside would come with a cheap rent, and it would be a much lesser burden to my parents.
I had thought that Tamura’s suggestion would basically be me admitting “defeat” to Kitaoka.
However, there probably wasn’t much to gain by firmly opposing slander and defamation. The people around me were, in the end, irresponsible and neglectful. Even if I prove my innocence, I’m sure there’ll still be people who will say whatever they want, and no matter how much I’d be inconvenienced by their actions, no one would be able to punish them.
Fortunately, Katsuya, Tamura, and other people who are close to me believe that I’m innocent. That is all I need. I’ll just come back every once in a while to meet up with them, and if anyone else from my school has something to say about me by then, then I’ll just let it be.
I compared the list of deviation values given by my prep school with the results of my Center exam that I self-graded earlier to make a list of schools that I can almost certainly enter.
Then, I investigated the statistics of universities chosen by Nansou High School students from the past three years. I singled out the universities that no students had ever applied to, or universities that students applied to, but ultimately chose not to attend.
I eventually found the perfect university with great departments and courses. When I checked their website, I found that they were researching topics that I found very interesting, such as “research on polymer compounds such as organic luminescent materials”.
(So it’s in Yonezawa, huh…)
【TLN: Yonezawa, the name of a city in the Yamagata prefecture】
The campus was located in a region known for its heavy snowfall. I don’t like cold weather, but I’m pretty fond of snow. If I lived there, I think I’d probably be able to get along just fine.
For its midyear exams, you were required to take either a maths exam, a physics exam, or a chemistry exam. Fortunately, English, a subject I was bad at, was excluded from the list.
Let’s go to this university. I’m glad I studied so hard on physics and maths. I’m sure this is God’s way of telling me to go here.
Up until now, I was under the impression that if I stopped going to school, it’d look like I’d succumb to all the rumors, so I was determined to show up at school no matter what the cost.
But now, I have a goal in mind. I will go to a place where no one knows who I am. There, I will start my life anew once more. I don’t care how low my current reputation falls to as long as it helps me achieve my goal. Then, after I move, I’ll make sure that no one ever ridicules me as an “otaku” or a “pervert” ever again. I feel like doing all this would finally help me to forget that girl’s face and remove all traces of that girl’s shadow, which still lingered in a corner of my mind, tormenting me from time to time.
The bookstore near my house didn’t have an entrance exam workbook for the university I wanted to apply at, so I ordered one right then and there. The store contacted me the very next day, notifying me of the book’s arrival.
From that day on, I didn’t go to school, instead shutting myself at home and solving all the past exam papers.
There was nothing that could bind me to this place anymore.