Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
Yesterday I was taken by Reika, and we walked around the city all day long. I got a haircut, bought some clothes, watched a movie, and soon all of those dark feelings dissipated.
I need to stop hesitating so much.
And we’re the only ones who need to know what really happened with my dad. I’ll just ignore what everyone else has to say about it.
Likewise, I should forget about Eri.
Yeah, I will feel those prickly stares at school, but I can just ignore these sorts of things. After all, Grandpa’s health tips are not only for strengthening the body, but also the mind.
When I stepped into the classroom, an indescribable sort of gaze stabbed me from all sides. I looked at my desk and saw some vile graffiti.
’Son of a criminal’, ‘F*ck off, Scum’, and even ‘S*xual harasser.’
Is this a children’s prank? Doesn’t matter, I just need to change my desk.
And soon, I noticed something. When you sit all alone, you end up seeing a lot of things. The class seems equal on the surface, but if you look close enough, you can make out a hierarchy. No one explicitly decided it, but it’s still there, and everyone instinctively knew it.
I was already at a low position before all the rumors, so now I must be at the very bottom of the well, where people are usually bullied.
The top class bullies the middle class, which in turn makes a fuss and gloats at the bottom class so they can have the chance to move up.
Those in the lower strata live quietly and inconspicuously. Occasionally, they shed the teasing that comes from the middle class and tries not to rebel. And even they look down on those at the bottom.
Girls, however, are usually more sensitive to this hierarchy. If you step a millimeter out of line, you will fall quickly.
Eri was loved by everyone because of her beauty and friendliness. Many students misunderstood kindness for love, so I’ve always been careful not to fall for that. That’s why it’s okay, and she hates my guts now, to boot…
I’d say Eri was part of the highest rank in the hierarchy, while I was at the very bottom. Therefore, it was a mistake for her and me to be together in the first place.
First love is always fruitless…
I don’t know why, but for some reason, I thought of Reika, and the time we spent as kids.
To be completely honest, my childhood memories have faded since my dad died. Come to think of it, Reika is my childhood friend, too. We spent every day together until I was six—
As these thoughts flooded my mind, the teacher walked in. Behind him was… Eh?
“Shush and take your seats! Quiet! Ah, as some of you may know, there is a new student joining us today… Could you please introduce yourself?”
A buzz arose in the class.
“Yes, I’m transferring to this school due to my parents’ circumstances. My name is Reika Sakashita, and I look forward to working with you!”
My friend stood there in her school uniform, and the buzzing just kept getting worse.
“Oh my God! She’s so cute!”
“Too damn cute…”
“She’s a bit tight, but she’s pretty.”
“Do you think she’s prettier than Mashima-san?”
“I’m gonna switch to the Sakashita team…”
“Is she half-Japanese? An angel? Or…”
The teacher taps on the blackboard to make the students go silent.
“Ah. Sawada, Sakashita asked you to give her a tour of the school, so show her around during lunch break. Oh, and you should sit behind him too, Sakashita.”
I heard suspicious mutterings coming from my classmates, but she just walked toward me while paying no attention to the commotion.
“Yaho~ I’m here for you! Hehe, now we can always be together!”
“Oi, come on, really? Well, fine… I’ll show you around later.”
We high-fived and laughed heartily, which only added to my classmates’ confusion.
It’s okay for me to have friends.
“Oh, so you get along with Sawada…”
“It looks like you’re really good friends.”
“Isn’t this bad, Sakashita-san? Isn’t he deceiving you?”
“Oi, oi, what does this mean?!”
“Is he doing another crime?”
I could see the crease between her brows grow, so I took her by the arm and sat her down before she could say anything.
“Don’t worry about it, this is Japan. And I’ve decided I don’t care anymore.”
“O–Okay… If you say so…”
For some reason, she shyly touched the hem of her uniform… Oh, skirts were rare for her, seeing that she only wore pants whenever we met.
“The uniform looks great on you by the way. In any case, congratulations on moving in… Uh, is congratulations enough?”
“Y–Yeah, thanks… It’s sooooooo uncomfortable down here though!”
And this is how Reika came to my classroom. While I don’t know the reason why she did, I welcomed her from the bottom of my heart.
“Haah… This is so annoying. Seriously.”
“Can’t help it though, you’re a new student and you stand out. Even guys from other classes are coming here to see you.”
“I’m not some freak show.”
“Chill, tomorrow things will settle down, so let’s just go eat.”
“Mkay. Do you always eat alone?”
“Oh, I used to eat with my friends, but things happened. So yeah, I guess I’m alone now. Want me to be your guide, then?”
“Guide? I don’t need no guide. I have the terrain all drilled right into my noggin’.”
“Okay then. Well, how about we eat together in the classroom?”
She did not wanna leave me. Classmates tried to talk to her whenever I wasn’t there, so when I walked into the hallway earlier, she was already surrounded by a lot of students, some even from other classes…
“Hmm, yeah, classroom seems to be the quietest place…”
So we spread our lunches on the table and started eating.
Meanwhile, I can hear my classmates talking behind my back. Both Reika and I had pretty good ears, so we knew what they were saying.
“I mean, what the hell was that?”
“Seriously, doesn’t she know he’s a criminal?”
“Someone has to tell her…”
“She can’t be friends with that.”
“You have to choose your friends properly, y’know~”
“I mean, isn’t that guy acting like a jerk? he’s talking too much!”
“He’s trying so hard with his hair, it’s disgusting.”
Come to think of it, I always revert back to my old tone when I’m with Reika… Well, that’s okay, I won’t seem weak that way.
Eri always told me she liked kind guys, so I always used kind and tame words—Forget about her.
I noticed Reika was putting all her strength into the spoon, and it was almost snapping.
“Reika, don’t worry about it. I’m partly to blame for not making myself clear in the first place.”
“If you say so… But I mean, seriously?! Isn’t that too shady? Are these girls really 17-year-olds?”
“I mean, that’s how it is here in Japan. Here, eat quickly… Hm?”
My former friend, Hayakawa, scurried into the classroom. He, like me, was perceived as a gloomy person. He never joined other classes, since it would be the worst thing for an introvert like him.
His eyes met mine, and he approached while scratching his head. Reika tried to hold up her spoon, but I stopped her gently and waited until he started to speak.
“Toshiki, I… got mad at you yesterday. To be honest, I don’t care about this ‘son of a criminal’ stuff. You thought I believed the rumors back then, didn’t you? That was the thing that pissed me off… But I’m really sorry, I acted poorly as well… Could we just make up?”
I almost dropped my chopsticks.
So Hayakawa brushed off the rumors as unimportant, and he was just mad at my attitude?
I kinda wanna laugh.
“Ah, I’m sorry too man… You know, I really thought no one believed in me.”
“Huh? You idiot! you’re my friend, right? Unlike my alcoholic, gambler, poor father… Damn it… Hm? By the way, who’s the girl over there?”
“Oh, so you don’t know about her? She’s Reika Sakashita, my childhood friend.”
“Hmm, not that cute… Yup, as expected, thicc women are the best~”
Hayakawa looked at Sachiko Goda, my classmate, with lewd eyes. Meanwhile, I saw Reika’s eyebrows twitching, so I lip-synced to her.
“This guy likes, um… Thick, fluffy, gorilla-like girls. Sorry about that…”
“O–Okay. He’s your friend, so I’ll forgive him… I guess?”
Then his gaze turned toward the entrance of the classroom. Moe Nakajima, the girl from the Women’s Manga Research Club, stood at the door.
“Oh, I’m here, I’m here! As I expected, it’s hard to just get into a senior’s classroom… Ayy, I got in without a hitch though!”
Nakajima walked, looking straight at me. She was angry and looked like she was almost crying.
“Dummy, dummy, dummy, dummy, dummy! Why didn’t you listen to me back then in the hallway? Hic~!”
She repeatedly hit my shoulder with soft hands. It was a very nostalgic exchange, to be honest.
“I’m sorry, Nakajima-san… I thought you hated me as well… Looks like I was wrong.”
“W–When did I ever say I hated you? … Good grief, I’ll forgive you if you get me some ice cream.”
“Sure, sure. We’ll eat it together next time.”
However, Reika interrupted us.
“Fu–fun~ You’re a cute junior, aren’tcha? … Toshiki, are you actually popular? Well, get me ice cream too. I haven’t hung out with you properly in forever.”
Nakajima pouted at Reika.
“Heh?! A–A beautiful girl? Whaaa?”
“Um, Nakajima-san, right? If you’re Toshiki’s friend, you’re my friend too. I look forward to working with you from now on.”
My junior looked at Reika, then at me, then back at her, then back at me, finally nodding shyly.
Thank goodness… I’ve had a lot of bad days, but it looks like I’m going to have a peaceful school year.
… I shouldn’t forget, however, that I was set up by Hiratsuka as the son of a criminal.
If any of my friends happen to have a bad experience because of me in the future, I’ll…
—And right then, I made a vow to myself.
I wouldn’t cower anymore.
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