Ordinary Days Of Taking Shelter From the Rain With A Gatekeeper Girl - Chapter 5 Bad Communication After School
- Ordinary Days Of Taking Shelter From the Rain With A Gatekeeper Girl
- Chapter 5 Bad Communication After School
In front of the whiteboard in the computer lab, a male teacher with an unhealthy-looking complexion was enthusiastically explaining the technology needed for the future.
According to him, from now on, “the power of self-expression” would be important.
So, as they announced before, from next week’s class, we would have two weeks of one-minute “self-introduction presentations”. The results of the presentation would be reflected in the first semester grades. I was told to use the “PowerPoint” software that I learned in junior high school and the first semester.
No, I didn’t learn that. As I listened to the explanation, I gazed blankly at the computer screen, which was displaying a series of beautiful views of nature.
What is a presentation anyway? Is it like a gift exchange? That sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll give away my useless mobile batteries.
I was in the mood for Christmas in the summer and I was typing with my index finger. I used a search engine to learn about the presentation. And I despaired on the last day of summer vacation.
W-What the heck is this… I’m forced to speak in front of the whole class, and I’m supposed to make my own presentation…? This was more than I could handle on my own.
Hahaha. Is it finally time to pay for skipping junior high school, classes, and all that? No, it has already come around. Hahahaha. I burst out laughing inwardly, trying to escape reality.
So, back to reality, what should I do?
※ ※ ※
A lunch break in mid-June.
The ponytailed senpai, who had heard my complaints, poured herself a nutritional drink and said with the solemnity of a priest in a church.
“Everyone in the country goes through a presentation failure—You should just accept it.”
The ponytailed senpai was, in fact, also an unreliable master.
“You’re too quick to abandon me. Listen to me. I’m serious. I haven’t been able to attend the computer class that much. So if I make a bad presentation, I’ll get a failing grade, and not only would I have to take make-up classes, but I might even get held back.”
“You deserve it. It’s better to attend classes that you don’t understand well. I also tend to skip classes that are boring, but at least I attend them so that I can catch up.”
She was so right, I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know if I should roll around on the ground and scrape my whole body while gnashing my teeth in an over-reaction.
“Eh. Then, are you not going to teach me how to create my presentation this time?”
“Teach you… I won’t do that. I’m not your presentation mentor.”
The usual Amamori would have lifted herself up while giving her own tips and tricks with the ‘trials’, so her reply was unexpected.
“Please don’t be offended, okay? I’m known as a jack-of-all-trades, but to tell you the truth, I’m not good enough at computers to teach you…”
“Ahh, that’s what it is.”
It made sense. Well, everyone has their weaknesses, right? You don’t have to look so apologetic, though.
“I can’t fake knowing things when I actually don’t. A-Anyway, that’s how it is, gochisousama.”
Amamori hurriedly clasped her hands together, and without waiting for my reply, she immediately took out her game console. This seemed to be the end of today’s conversation time.
I looked up at the ceiling, slack-jawed, as my hope was cut short.
What should I do now? The only other person that I can trust, that I can rely on, is Kusano though—
—The other day, I had just turned down her offer without any reason. I wanted to avoid asking Kusano to teach me if at all possible (how awkward would that be?).
“Mu… But isn’t this a growth opportunity? Ding-dong!”
A bright onomatopoeia came from her mouth. Amamori held out her right palm above her head. It seemed to be a non-existent light bulb blinking.
“Fufuu. The super genius and talented master has come up with the next ‘trial’.”
“You just came up with it now…”
“Turn a disaster into a blessing. It’s a pinch of equal opportunity! Let’s use this presentation study as a stepping stone to fit in with the class.”
Amamori lifted the corners of her mouth in a confident and smug manner. I could almost hear the gears of her speech kicking into high gear.
“It looks like you’re coming up with some crazy ideas again. What kind of reckless ideas are you going to come up with this time?”
“It’s not a reckless idea, but a brilliant one. This ‘trial’ is the most difficult one ever, with actual battles—listen carefully, my disciple.”
She stood up and gave off a very solemn look. There was a halo of light shining through the window of the rooftop door. I gulped at the thought, and Amamori looked pleased. She was an easy person to understand, despite her habit of playing the expressionless character.
“Then, as of today’s ‘trial’, I’d like to ask my disciple to perform the following task! Its name is called ‘Aoki-kun desperately tries to take the position of Princess of Otaser’.”
“Heh. I see. Since I’m going to fail anyway, can we just call it a loss already?”
“You should at least hear me out.”
Pew. I was hit on the head with a hand chop like she was cutting tofu.
“But like, the name of the mission is an obvious minefield. What’s with the ‘princess of Otaser’ position? I don’t know the details, but that’s probably not a position I can aim for.”
“No. It’s no problem. Let’s act cute as usual and aim for a gap moe.”
“Don’t talk like that. Don’t make it sound like I’m a pretty girl on a regular basis. That’s the only time in my life I’ve ever done that… I know it’s not going to work anyway, but if you want to explain it, then go ahead.”
“In the end, a rice cake is made by a rice cake maker. Ask your computer teacher about how to make it. If you tell him ‘I don’t know much about computers. I want you to teach me.’ I’m sure they’ll be able to teach you a handful of things.”
“M-My position in the class will be ruined!”
“Mmm. It can’t be true. I was able to figure out that the gap moe power hidden in Aoki-kun might be enough to make it work.”
“Like hell you did. Don’t ever act like you have an IQ over 200 again. Just so you know, Paisen is the only person on the planet who appreciates me for my cuteness, seriously.”
“Haa─────Ah. All you do is complain without taking action…”
“Am I saying something crazy enough to make you sigh? Did I? Hey?”
Amamori shrugged her shoulders. It seemed like I was the one who was out of line. Without a third party, I couldn’t prove that I was right. Here in front of the rooftop, Amamori was the standard.
“Well, let’s just give it a try. Try to get an appointment with one of my classmates to teach you by the end of the day.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“It’s only a free order, you know. Please come back to report after school. In addition, this ‘trial’ is expected to be hyper difficult, so don’t worry if you can’t do it. It’s the attitude to live up to the challenge that counts.”
“Can I refuse?”
“If you don’t do it… I’ll excommunicate you, and you’ll be banned from the rooftop front.”
“Should have known…”
What a Spartan master. In fact, perhaps Amamori would rather have me expelled.
Well, no matter what Amamori’s true intentions were, I was the one who’ll be in trouble with the presentation if things don’t change. It might be nice to have some compulsion in the form of a ‘trial’.
As I bit into my rice ball, I made up my mind.
※ ※ ※
As soon as it was after school, I decided to take action. Fortunately, I’m a man of action. It was just that most of the time it doesn’t work out.
“Hey, Yoshizawa-kun. Stop for a moment. Do you have time after this?”
I casually approached the person I was looking for as he was walking out into the hallway. The man of medium height tensed up for a moment but soon looked up at me with a calm attitude.
Yoshizawa. He was the guy who recently got rid of his loneliness and joined the otaku group.
His eyes are almost completely hidden by his long bangs. I was biased, but he seemed to know a lot about computers. I’ve always had a sense of familiarity with him. I knew I could count on him to help me with my presentation.
He was wary of me. It was understandable. I had been so cautious about Kusano when she suddenly approached me.
But if I was too suspicious, I’ll stand out because we’re in the doorway of the classroom. If possible, I want to move as soon as possible.
“I’m sorry, but can I have a moment of your time? Hahaha. I have something I want to talk to you about in private, so let’s talk behind the school building.”
I don’t know if this was what I’m supposed to be doing, asking for a private meeting. When I was in elementary school, I could have done it better, but now I feel like I was slipping up.
At any rate, I smiled at him to give a better impression.
Kawabashi (that little animal-like girl), who was passing by, was taken aback. Why are you freaking out when you see me smile? It was a heartwarming attempt at communication.
“…Okay, let’s go.”
Perhaps my smile had helped, but Yoshizawa accepted my sudden invitation.
What’s that? If you talk to them, they’ll accept you sooner than you think.
“Ah, really? It’s a good thing that Yoshizawa-kun was fast to agree.”
“…Not so much. Let’s go quickly.”
Maybe he doesn’t want to stand out either. It seems that we are on the same page.
Without talking to each other, Yoshizawa and I walked together to the back of the school building, where there was no sign of life.
※ ※ ※
We walked past the gymnasium warehouse. If you go straight to the back of the school building, you will find a space where not many people can see you. I’ve heard that some students use this space as a place to confess their feelings, so I trust its secrecy. It’s not the best place to eat, but it’s a good place to talk about your secret.
Standing a few steps away from me, Yoshizawa was rummaging through the contents of the bag on his shoulder. Maybe he was looking for something, like his phone or something.”
“So… what is it? Please make it short if possible.”
“Haa. Anyway, relax. Actually, I have a small favor to ask Yoshizawa-kun.”
I licked my dry lips and opened my arms exaggeratedly like a cast member of a foreign drama. It’s a friendly pose that says, “I’m open.”
“You want me to… do something for you.”
“Y-Yes! Don’t worry, it won’t take up too much of your time. It’ll be done in no time. I’m in a bit of a pinch this month, you know.”
A self-deprecating laugh came out. Depending on how well I do on my presentation at the end of the month, it would decide whether I quit school or stay in school.
“So, you know. So I was hoping that Yoshizawa could help me out a little bit.”
“I knew that would be the case.”
Just when I was about to get to the point, the air around Yoshizawa changed a bit.
His bag fell with a thud, defying gravity. In his right hand, which had just been rummaging through the contents, he was holding an unfamiliar tool.
Two grips and a blade. They were swinging in a pendulum-like motion.
“…What? Butterfly knife…?”
It was a dangerous tool that has no place in an educational setting and can kill if applied to the right spot.
A small weapon dancing in his hand. The sophisticated technique was like some street performance. The spinning blade’s tip was finally aimed at my abdomen.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to give in to any threats. I don’t care how tight your wallet is, I will not accept any kind of mugging. Take it by force.”
A curt voice came out. Yoshizawa slumped down and backed away, somehow he was ready.
“What. That’s not right. Hahahaha, I didn’t say anything about mugging, right?”
Even so, Yoshizawa did not let go of his battle-ready stance and kept his eyes fixed on me.
“W-What the hell… d-don’t look at me like that…”
My fists were clenched, perhaps from tension. The joint of the middle finger protrudes, the shape of a hand suitable for violence.
I thought, “I should just do it.” The other side was turning on me, too. If I were to take such an aggressive stance and then run away, there would be no way to show my face.
—Show my face? How long am I going to feel like a pissed-off teenager?
A stalemate. A person who carries a weapon on a daily basis was just as dangerous as a wasp, no doubt about it. I knew it was a warning knife, but I couldn’t let my guard down.
If either of us made a move, the battle would break out. There would be no way to recover. But if we were passive, we would be preempted. The only thing to do was to take the weapon in his hands…
“—W-What are you doing!?”
A high-pitched voice came from behind me and I almost turned around.
But I continued to stare at the classmate with the weapon. Damn it, someone had found us. I’m going to have to go to the guidance office if that’s the case…
I looked back for a moment while keeping my eyes on the person ahead.
“A-Aoki-san and Yoshizawa-kun, don’t quarrel! I-I’ll call the teacher. If you bleed, I-I’ll call an ambulance too!”
But fortunately, the person who found us was not a teacher. My classmate, Kawabashi, peeked out from the wall and warned us in fear.
The little animal girl who heard the conversation between me and Yoshizawa earlier might have been following us alone.
“W-What should I say in such a situation? In dramas, it’s like this… Ah, Yoshizawa-kun, lay down your weapons and surrender!”
“…All right, I’ll surrender.”
Yoshizawa, also known as Yoshizawa-kun, put the knife straightforwardly into his bag.
Thanks to Kawabashi, who was more frightened than necessary, the air became relaxed. To be honest, it was quite a relief. I was about to start a fight with him randomly.
“T-Then… A-Aoki-san… you need to stop that stance!”
“You can’t give difficult instructions in the spur of the moment. If you can’t think of something, you don’t have to say it.”
“Hee. I-III’m very s-sorry!”
Stop slurring while talking to me Kawabashi. Well, thank you for coming out, Kawabashi. I breathed a sigh of relief against the heavy cloudy sky.
※ ※ ※
The computer lab after school.
Yoshizawa, who had borrowed the key from the staff room on behalf of me, sat down, put his hands on his knees, and bowed his head like a wild samurai.
“I apologize again and again for what I said earlier, it was all due to my hasty assumption.”
“You don’t need to apologize over and over again. I’m aware of my appearance, which can be misunderstood.”
I was hurt, though. I was going to seriously consider changing my character to an outgoing one.
“…All my money is for my favorite voice actor. I’d rather fight than get beaten up and become a delinquent’s drinking money. That kind of feeling was too much for me.”
According to his story, this voice actor simping otaku was spotted by a group of delinquents when he was a junior high school student and was used as a slave. So he started carrying a knife for self-defense.
After I explained the situation properly, Yoshizawa agreed and stopped being hostile. As an apology, he agreed to help me with my presentation and has been helping me ever since.
“But, Yochisawa-kun. That was not a good idea. It’s too dangerous to use a knife for self-defense! If you mess up, y-y-you’ll bleed all over the place and your intestines will be chopped up!”
“It won’t happen. It won’t get to that splattered state. Also, my last name is Yoshizawa, so don’t forget the muddled sound.”
“Oh, so you’re Zawa instead of Sawa? Seriously? My memory is wrong.”
Kawabashi, sitting in the row behind us, clasped her hands together and apologized. She only becomes a little animal when dealing with me, but she’s a cheerful girl in class.
“So, why are you here, Kawabashi?”
I wondered about the girly girl who was following me down the street, so I asked her (As I had expected, Kawabashi had followed us to the back of the school building when she sensed a disturbing atmosphere).
“I-Is it bad that I’m here…?
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
The face with make-up on was looking at my face without masking its expression.
“I mean, Kawabashi, to be honest, you don’t like me, do you? You’re still using honorifics. You don’t really want to help me.”
“H-How do I put this… I thought it would not be a good idea to avoid you because of my preconceived notions, as Kusano said, so I thought I would take this opportunity to get to know Aoki-kun.”
Kawabashi continued in her ridiculously polite and respectful manner.
I remembered that a few days ago, Kusano had tried to introduce me to Kawabashi and the others, even going against the norm. I couldn’t take her kindness in stride, so I wrinkled my brow.
“Oh, yes. So that’s how it is. Thank you very much for your kindness.”
“I-I-I wish you wouldn’t glare at me like that, though…”
“What? I’m not glaring at you, you have a bad eye. This is my true self.”
“Then you’re scaring me!”
“…We can chat while we make slides, right? Can we start?”
After turning on the computer, Yoshizawa leaned back in his chair. He was wearing a pair of earbuds in his left ear that had no strings attached, and the music was pop with an anime voice.
I don’t know if it was the right word, but he doesn’t seem to be nervous about sitting with a classmate he was not close with. Expected a hero who was able to get out of his house, not a timid one.
“…I thought… Aoki-san was never going to participate properly.”
“Hmm? You mean the presentation?”
Yoshizawa, leaning his weight on the backrest, affirmed with silence. Kawabashi agreed with him, but Yoshizawa ignored her without looking back. Is this guy invincible?
“Well… this presentation is going to be related to my grade. Well, if I don’t take it seriously, I’ll be done. That’s because senior high school has a retention system.”
“Heh? Eh, uh… held back because of this computer class, I’ve never heard of it, no way! Kufu, ahahaha!”
At first, Kawabashi held back, but by the end, she was laughing hysterically. I’m really struggling here, you know. You should be more serious about my presentation!
“Fufu, Aoki-san always seemed to be an unserious person… But you’re surprisingly serious?”
“S-Shut up. You’re the one who’s acting like a rich lady character. You’re my classmate, you should talk as usual.”
“What? Is that okay?”
“Of course it’s okay, isn’t it obvious? Just think of it as common sense.”
“I think the overly polite honorific is more like a classmate’s maid.”
“I don’t really understand Yoshizawa-kun’s hobbies…”
Kawabashi lowered her voice slightly and tapped her left ear twice.
“The anime girl’s song is leaking out of your ears, did you know?”
“Anime girl, that’s not an accurate way to put it. Her name is Murakumo Hibiki-chan, and she has a miraculous voice that melts the eardrums of the masses. I wonder if you know.”
“I seriously don’t know. Who is that? A monster that melts coins?”
“She’s a voice actress who’s going to be named queen of the land for her voice alone. Remember that.”
A country like that will be destroyed soon. I logged on to my PC, not bothering to comment on the “I’ll memorize that” conversation going on behind me. A vast rock wall, apparently a world heritage site of some country, was displayed on the monitor.
“I was able to boot up. But what should I do with it?”
I had no idea what to do from here. I felt like I had been thrown into a foreign city without a map. I had only used a computer in elementary school during computer class, and my memory of it was fading into oblivion. I could barely remember typing in Roman characters.
“Well, at any rate, we need to start the software to get started.”
“Y-Yeah. I understand that, but… Where is that software…? Wait a minute, isn’t my computer the only one that’s broken? I can’t find a single icon with a single katakana, let alone ‘Powerpoint’. I can’t believe I got a defective one.”
“…you’re too weak-minded. You’re as bad as those old people…”
Yoshizawa pressed his right hand grimly against his forehead as if he was getting a headache without any context.
“Aoki-san, switch seats with me. I’ll make the template.”
“Eh, you’ll do it? Much thanks.”
I stood up as I was urged.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. I don’t have time to start a computer class for you.”
We exchanged seats, and Yoshizawa clicked and fiddled with the mouse and keyboard with surprising finesse. Just looking at him, he looked like one of those clever hackers you see in mangas. As a mechanically illiterate person, I was impressed.
“Wow, the level is high. Question, can Kawabashi use a computer as well?”
“I’m not very good at it. I’ve been learning about it from my friends around me, but to be honest, I don’t know what to expect. Eh, don’t you need a smartphone for everything nowadays?”
“I totally agree with you on that one, though. There’s no need to be afraid.”
“Sorry. I know it in my head, but I can’t get rid of the image of Aoki-san as someone who shouldn’t be approached casually.”
“The kind that has a barrier that says, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ You always look sleepy, and I haven’t heard any good things about you in junior high school. I’m surprised I could talk to you as normal as Kusano said.”
“I get that feeling.”
Yoshizawa agreed, talking to himself.
“In my experience, it’s the lone wolves that are more unfathomable than the gangsters. You have to have a certain core to be able to take a stand without the need for companionship and without worrying about being scorned. I’ve tried being on my own, but I feel safer when I have friends.”
“Uh… What…? Suddenly, you’re saying some strange things. What do you mean?”
“You can look it up on a nearby machine called a computer.”
I was listening to their delicate conversation, which they would not normally talk about, with a delicate heart.
It seemed that my classmates saw me as a lone wolf…
But only strong individuals who don’t need the company of a pack can be lone wolves. Weak individuals could only starve if they are isolated and have no food. The natural order of things was too obvious.
Which side am I on? I didn’t have to think about it. Of course, I was on the verge of starving to death—
—I suddenly thought. I wondered to which side that misshapen gatekeeper standing alone in front of the rooftop belonged.
The answer was already there, but I didn’t want to think about it.
“I’ve set up the title and end slides myself, and for the time being I’ve set up the likes and hobbies fields for the contents, so you can just type in whatever you want. I’m sure even the most mechanically illiterate can do that much.”
A few minutes later, Yoshizawa cracked his neck and leaned his weight back in his chair with a sense of weakness, as if he had just finished a job.
“You’ve done it already? Ah, I’m sorry for everything. I was in a tight spot and I really needed help.”
“It’s okay. It’s not that much work, you know.”
Yoshizawa took a piece of mint-flavored gum from his bag, popped it in his mouth and stood up. He tucked his chair into his long desk and took off his earphones, suggesting that he wanted to go home.
“Oh, Yoshizawa-kun, you’re leaving already? Why don’t you stay a little longer? After such a dangerous encounter, there’s no place like this, right? Oh, do you want to take a commemorative photo at the end?”
“If you don’t post it online, then sure.”
“You don’t mind?”
He answered immediately. Yoshizawa was rather enthusiastic about it, with his long bangs brushed back. I don’t know whether he was in a good mood or not.
Kawabashi also stood up, stretched out her arm and positioned her phone high up.
“Nice. Then I’ll take a picture of us… Aoki-san, we can’t see you from there, so get closer!”
“Eh? I can join too?”
“Of course you can. Are you ready then? Here we go!”
A white light blinked with a snap. Kawabashi posed in a moment, making her best face. I was not accustomed to having my picture taken, so it was able to capture the dumbest face I could in the shutter. I was not well prepared.
When I looked next to her, I saw that Yoshizawa’s mouth was also half-open, and he hadn’t fully formed the pose.
※ ※ ※
Favorite thing [bread]. Hobby [listening to music].
The rest of my work was indeed just filling in the blanks.
A simple string of characters was displayed on a screen with a lot of white space. Kawabashi, who stayed behind to help me, taught me how to save the file. I was able to complete my submission within the deadline.
After finishing our work, Kawabashi and I walked to the second floor where the staff room was located, talking about popular TV programs. I was able to keep up with her as long as I listened to her.
“Then I’ll give them the key to the computer lab. It’s not like you have to go in with me.”
“Yeah. Can I ask you to do it?”
“Sure, sure. I’ll see you later.”
Her back spun around. I stood there looking at Kawabashi as she walked away.
I never thought I’d be able to have such an exchange with Kawabashi, who had been blatantly avoiding me.
I had completely forgotten about it. If you have the courage to take action, the world could easily expand.
So, the real problem was what happens after the world expands. The past that I ran away from because I couldn’t fit into various places. The sum of it was staring at me like a ghost.
I decided to head to the front of the rooftop to report the results of this ‘trial’—
“Ah, it’s Kusano. Are you on your way home?”
“Yes, but… didn’t Kawabashi-chan just split up with Aoki-kun? Eh. Eh? What is happening?”
To escape from the conversation between Kawabashi and Kusano coming from in front of the staff room.
※ ※ ※
No matter when I go to the rooftop, Amamori was always there in silence.
Today, too, she was sitting next to the door with her legs stretched out. The sound of buttons being lifted and lowered by the mastery of her fingers could be heard softly.
This unchanging scene was somehow reassuring. At the same time, however, the silhouette of Amamori illuminated by the quadrilateral — perhaps because it made a good picture — also gave me a certain sense of desolation and frustration.
The emotions that came and went in my chest were similar to the anxiety I felt when I was playing alone in a dark park after all my friends had gone home… What am I doing? I was getting a little too sentimental.
“Paisen. I’m here to report the results of the ‘trial’ as you asked.”
I tried to call out to her from below her, but she was still focused on the game screen. But she seemed to be listening carefully to what I had to say. Amamori remained immobile and opened her mouth.
“Yes, thank you for your hard work. You sound as desperate as a father who has lost his million-dollar ticket… Did you fail in the end?”
“No, this is my normal voice. I’m calm. I’m more at peace. Screw you, Detective.”
“Hmm. A more forceful attitude than usual… Yes, a great detective and a great master can tell. The result is a disaster, right? I knew it, but thank you for your hard work.”
“Oh~, you don’t have much faith in your disciple, do you? Come on. I’m going to take my stolen bike and go on a road trip across Japan.”
I won’t do that. But since you’re the one who planned it, you should at least think about the possibility of success. I put my hand on my neck and turned away, and out of the corner of my eye, Amamori snickered.
“Don’t be so sulky. Yes, I’m not flawless. This trial is of the highest difficulty level. Of course, failure is expected. I’ve prepared a presentation instructor for today.”
“Did you invite someone else?”
“Yes. Normally, I wouldn’t even want to talk about him, but I invited him for Aoki’s sake. I want you to thank him by throwing yourself on the ground so hard that you will sink into the ground.”
Apparently, Amamori had prepared a remedy in anticipation of my failure. I guess it was supposed to be a surprise, and she was looking even more smug than usual.
“The man should be here any minute. Please wait for him to arrive…”
“Well, you see, I didn’t fail today’s ‘trial’.”
I was both grateful and apologetic. I cut in on Amamori’s statement and told her the results.
Amamori finally looked up from her game and widened her eyes. Is that so surprising?
“Well, yeah. They helped me as usual. But I had a knife pointed at me, and I almost got into a fight, but in the end, it was a success.”
“T-That’s not safe. Oh, no, I don’t care about that now…”
“No, you should be more interested in this. One wrong move and a junior student would have been suspended.”
A weapon lurking in everyday life, yet she didn’t give it any attention.
“Yeah, that’s not the point, Aoki-kun… Did you approach someone from your class?”
“Eh? Oh well, I was in a tight spot too. I just went for it. If I just wanted to talk to him, I couldn’t even do it from the start.”
I wondered if my classmate would accept my request. I was worried about that.
“T-That’s how it went? But I set this up as a sure-fail event… Oh, no, well, first of all, congratulations on completing the ‘trial’…”
The momentum of the congratulatory words was slackening. Her voice started to fade away.
I don’t know why, but Amamori was looking depressed. I thought this was the time to be happy. You’re the master who’s trying to push me back to the classroom I escaped from.
“Ah… then. Let’s do something. I’ve heard that it’s really hard to get through, so why don’t we have a victory party sometime?”
I said, trying to distract her from what she was doing.
“A victory party, huh?”
“By the way, don’t misunderstand me again, I’m not trying to pick you up. Just something to eat. I really don’t have any money, so I’m just going to buy some snacks and juice at a convenience store and open it for both of us. If we go to the city, we can find a place where we can relax. Like that.”
“….I’m not going. You’re on your own.”
My invitation was rejected without a hint of hesitation (this was a normal shock).
What Hatoda had said was true. No matter how many times she invited her to hang out, her feelings were unlikely to come through. Amamori seemed to have no intention of moving from here.
Amamori was sitting on the floor, looking up at the rooftop doorway with a glare on her face. There was an awkward silence where conversations had stopped. From a distance, I could hear the brass band playing.
And then — there were strong footsteps approaching from the distance, trying to drown out the music. Someone was closing in on us. Dan-dan-dan-dan. From the interval between the sounds, I guessed that the person was running up the stairs, skipping two steps.
Eventually, a small man with a thin figure appeared.
Walking fast, he passed through the landing and came up to the scaffolding.
“Sorry to keep you waiting… Soooo, haa… sorry for the delay. The meeting… dragged on…”
The man was out of breath. I wonder if this is the “instructor” that Amamori called for. Sweat trickled down from the forehead of his neat babyface.
The ponytailed woman took one look at the tired-looking boy.
“You can go home now. It was useless. Thank you for your time.”
Amemori pointed her palm towards the stairs. Relentless. What a demon.
The “presentation instructor” was indeed surprised when he was asked to go home, but he quickly made a cool face and lifted the bridge of his glasses with his fingertips.
“I’ll take it. The moment I arrived, I was greeted by a queenly gesture… but I’m willing to accept your coldness. I tend to be more of a maso…”
“Don’t know. It’s disgusting. I hate it.”
The man with glasses twisted the corners of his mouth and smiled fearlessly, even though he was being abused like a servant by Amamori. He doesn’t make a face of disgust at such blatant rejection, so maybe he is a real M.
“It’s been a while since you’ve contacted me and I thought you wanted to talk to me… Don’t use such strong words, ‘Kokoro-chan’. It might make me feel sad…”
The bespectacled man smiled wryly, apparently unable to convert pain into pleasure. Apparently, he was not a true masochist. No, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
“Eh, your first name is ‘Kokoro-chan’?”
I couldn’t help but interrupt the conversation and ask.
“My name is Kokoro-chan. What of it?”
“No. I’ve never heard your name before…”
Amamori Kokoro wasn’t convinced with a blank expression, but that was all. No, you were definitely hiding it on purpose, weren’t you? I’ve been with you for almost three weeks, and I haven’t even been able to get your given name.
I thought again. I don’t know Amamori that well.
For example, why she insisted on calling the area in front of the rooftop a territory, or about her father, who was often mentioned. If I had asked, I would have been brushed off lightly, so I didn’t even try to mention it.
I wondered if this congenial guy with glasses knew what was going on. If so, I wonder why. If so, why was it that I’m so irritated? …I stared at him unreservedly, and he noticed my gaze and let out a generous smile.
“Heh. Tall, and that attitude… I see, you must be the one Hotoda mentioned, Aoki Teru.”
“You mentioned Hatoda, so you are related to the student council?”
The man responded with a thin smile.
During a recent lunch break, Amamori had complained, ‘The members of the student council come at about the same time every day and confiscate my game consoles.’
I’ve been ordered not to come after school, and with the exception of Hatoda, I’ve never come across such a time. However, I was sure that the student council was putting pressure on Amamori on behalf of the teachers.
“Before I ask you to leave, let me introduce you. He is the carnation of evil, the ruler of all evil. The student council president, a dumb narcissist who wanted to be a role model for the entire school.”
Amamori stood up and introduced the man with glasses before he could answer. The person who was introduced put his hands in his pockets with a cool face and put on a relaxed smile.
“I’m the student council president, Ichinose… I look forward to working with you.”
“Yeah, uh. Okay…”
This disappointing guy is the student council president of our school, seriously? That talented and accomplished guy? I’ve only heard him for a few minutes, I didn’t expect him to look like this.
“I mean, you’re amazing. How can you be so unfazed by being ragged on by someone younger than you? Is that the dignity of a student council president?”
“I’m long used to her rants… You know the saying, ‘Hot water is fine once it gets past your throat’. That’s exactly what was going on now.”
“Please shut up now. If you talk any more, your disappointment will be even more apparent than it is now.
Frowning, Amamori moved away from Ichinose, who was standing next to her, as if she really didn’t want to see him.
The two of them are close in height, and with their well-rounded baby faces, they give the impression of being brother and sister. The word ‘homophobia’ popped into my head, but I didn’t say it.
“Really, I’m fine now. I’ve already introduced you to my junior, so please go home now. The case I wanted to ask you to take care of has been resolved.”
“Huh. I see. Then I’ll leave without knowing what I’ve been called in for. In addition, I’m going to be rude and confiscate this… Rules are rules.”
Picking up the game console in slow motion, Ichinose slid it into his pocket. Amamori glared resentfully at the man as he took the toy away from her.
“Now we’re done with each other, aren’t we? Now get the hell out of my territory.”
“Haa, you’re still saying that, Kokoro-chan… This is a school building. The rights to this building are held by unknown and important people. It’s not your territory here in front of the roof.”
It was as if he was admonishing an inattentive child. When Amamori heard the warning, which could be taken as a provocation, her ears instantly turned red.
“P-Please get out. Get out of my territory right now. Get the f*ck out of here!”
“I will… but don’t expect your squatting and violation of school rules to go on forever… Go home by dismissal time.”
“Shut up. Idiot!”
Amamori shook her hands in the air and lost her temper. Ichinose, with a generous smile on his face, retreated at the speed of an old man strolling at dawn.
Silence returned to the front of the rooftop. Amamori’s anger doesn’t seem to have subsided, and she was breathing hard. When she came back to herself, she gave me a look, but quickly turned her head again.
“Uh… What’s your relationship with the student council president?”
The question came up quickly. A question I didn’t really want to know the answer to, just to fill in the blanks.
“Well, that was pretty awkward. Did something happen in the past or something like that?
“Please don’t pry into my past.”
Amamori gripped the sleeve of her hoodie tightly, leaned against the wall, and sat down.
“The ‘trials’ are… completed. And that’s it for today. Goodbye.”
A weak voice. Her voice sounded as weak as it did when she almost had an accident on the stairs. So I couldn’t stay here any longer.
“…Ah, then… I’m going home.”
I left Amamori alone and followed the student council president down the stairs.
If I could, I would have not faced the fact. But I can’t do that anymore. I had to admit it.
The self-proclaimed and reliable master, who was always bullheaded, was not really a rooftop ruler or anything — She was not strong enough to teach anyone anything.
She was just a lonely senior who huddled alone in a dark space.