Translated and Edited by: luccayn.
-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.
One whole week has passed since I faced that torture. It was time enough for most friend groups to have formed in the class, and also enough for an implicit caste to take shape from top to bottom.
Imataka also undoubtedly sat atop this hierarchy in our class, 1-A. That was an undeniable fact. Meanwhile, I was just another supporting presence swelling at the bottom of this invisible pyramid.
It wasn’t the end, though. I was still holding my own, being amiable with everyone in class. Actually, I was even able to at least greet a few people every day! Considering how painfully shy and awkward I’ve always been, this is solid progress.
But what impacted me the most was the unbelievably high level this school taught at. The way they explained math and physics made me feel like I’d been hearing gibberish from a weird language. This truly was one of the top schools in the prefecture… Still, I felt worried. Would I be able to keep up?
Regardless, I was determined to make friends and even find a girlfriend, like any other regular teenager out there. From within, I felt a burning desire to somehow catch up.
Will didn’t translate to results, however. By the time the sixth period was over, I felt like a wreck. Homeroom passed by in a daze, and before I knew it, I was all alone once more.
This is bad. Really bad.
I couldn’t go on like this. Feeling a rise in urgency, I left the classroom and happened to look out at the schoolyard one floor below. Come to think of it, I had to decide which club to join. Not being a part of one wasn’t allowed in this school.
Maybe I should go with the literature club, which I’ve been a part of since middle school. Oh, but board games might be fun as well. No, I might as well take the plunge and try baseball, soccer, or even basketball…
My heart burned with determination, and I even considered sports-oriented clubs recklessly. But my thoughts spun around in circles, and I considered how complicated relationships could be in the athletic department.
Thinking about the future, I reached the shoe locker only to realize I’d forgotten something. “Crap, my textbooks.”
Less than a week into my enrollment, I was confronted with a considerable pile of homework that served to reveal my incompetence. Still, my determination was far from crushed. I diligently returned to the first-floor classroom.
As I approached the classroom door, I stopped my hand with a halt. There were voices coming from inside the room, and what’s more, they weren’t stranger’s voices…
I involuntarily held my breath. That melodious voice was undoubtedly from the girl I’d admired for a little over three years. Why was she still there? I asked myself. However, at the same time, I could hear another voice. This one was deeper, huskier, the one from the male idol of the class. The answer was clear.
Of course, they’d be together. They’re old friends — childhood friends. It’s natural for the two to spend time like this. Ugh, why do I have to go through this when I haven’t even left the starting line of my new life?
Though a bit frustrated, I felt a subtle discomfort. The tone of her voice was different from all the cheerfulness she always displayed. It was more solemn, if you will, as if they were discussing something serious.
I realized I was eavesdropping. While I knew it was wrong, I couldn’t help myself, pressing my ear against the door.
“You’re a bit different today, Kiyami. Ah, by the way, in class today…”
“Wait a sec. Before that, I want you to listen to what I have to say.”
She sounded somewhat agitated; her speech lacked its usual snark and brilliance.
“What’s with the formal tone? I mean, do we have to talk about it here?”
“Um, yeah. I couldn’t find any other place where there weren’t people.”
So this was a private conversation after all. A surging and intense curiosity mingled with nervousness, banging against my chest. I could feel my heartbeat.
“…I’m quite busy today, though. Well, fine. I’ll listen.”
“Sorry for being selfish. Um…”
Was it just my imagination, or did her words come out a bit choked and shaky?
“Amane, well, I was just wondering… What do you think of me?”
Hold on a moment. I’m not your typical dense protagonist from a light novel. I could see where this familiar narrative might be heading.
“Hm?” He started. “Ah, well, y’know, it’s a friendship where you don’t need to confirm or say things explicitly. We’re kinda like that.”
What sort of answer was that? I wish I had a translation tool from an otherworldly society just so I could understand whatever it was I just heard. He felt like some alien stammering through a radio.
“So… You mean, you like me?”
C’mon legs, move already! Why am I stuck here, paralyzed?! I don’t want to hear this. I don’t want to know what happens next. Am I glued to the floor or something?!
“Ah? Ah! Right, I mean, I don’t have to worry about the little things when I’m with you, unlike other girls. You just don’t complain about these things.”
“Like good friends, huh…? I see, haha…”
“That’s it, that’s it. Let’s continue being friends.”
Good, now just end it already! I’d finally be able to race down the stairs at the speed of light and convince myself nothing ever happened here! If this conversation continued, I’d be facing my worst nightmare: my crush officially dating this real-life “chad” guy. Please, spare me from this visage!
However, there was always an overtime in moments like these. Always.
“What’s wrong? You look troubled. But I’ve got plans to hang out with friends soon, so…”
“W-Wait. I’m sorry, but there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for a really long time, and…”
A girl wanting some time alone to talk with a handsome guy, You didn’t have to be a genius to see what was to come; the answer surfaced, clear as day in my mind, and it filled me with despair.
“I… Actually, for a while now…”
God, did you let me into this high school just so I’d hear this line? I tried, I swear I tried to leave, but my legs wouldn’t budge.
“I’ve liked you, Amane.”
I was on the brink of utter dejection. There’s nothing to be done; the response was already predetermined. Written in the stars.
“Eh, w-wait… Seriously?”
Yes, seriously. I’m listening too, bud, so there are no hallucinations on your part. Honestly, I could basically see the future: they’d engage in playful banter, and it would all converge into him saying, “Actually, I’ve liked you too” in the end. Obvious, isn’t it?
Ah, what’s up with me? The agony is unbearable. I should really leave now… What if their lips suddenly meet due to my accidental intrusion for my books? Suddenly, I found my motivation for both clubs and studying had suddenly vanished. Poof.
However, despite all that, I couldn’t tear my ears away from their conversation. For a while, as I expected, the handsome guy responded with something like, “Huh? Well, even if you say that all of a sudden,” and the girl, her cheeks probably blushing shyly (I couldn’t see her face, but I’m sure that’s how she looked), repeatedly gave responses that were neither straightforward nor evasive.
I felt my HP almost hit zero. After a bit of this romantic back-and-forth, Imataka finally took a deep breath.
There’s no turning back now. I should just prepare myself for what’s to come… I’ll remain an outsider until graduation, looking onto their perfect love story from the other side of the window. It all came down to his last phrase…
“Alright, alright. I’ll tell you then. Do you realize you’re a pain in the a*s?”
And so it began—What?
“…Eh?” This was the first time I’ve ever heard Kiyami whimper. She sounded almost like a downtrodden puppy. If she didn’t understand what just happened, what of the outsider? Me?
Did he just call her… annoying?
“Well, I had a hunch. You may try to appear all cool, but you’re quite obvious. You talk about being ‘good friends’ and all that, but it’s clear when you get all bothered, especially when I’m friendly with other girls,” he continued.
He’d shed his usually cheerful demeanor, now talking to her like she was some sort of vile being. I felt a chill run down my spine, and my unease grew stronger. The atmosphere also felt laden.
I couldn’t bear just to listen anymore. Gently, almost imperceptibly, I pulled open the door just enough to see them through a crack. To my surprise, the two of them were near the windows on the teacher’s side of the classroom. Right next to my seat.
They didn’t notice my watching them. I looked on as Imataka glared her down as she stood there, utterly stunned. I couldn’t see a single trace of the usual cheery mood they had just moments earlier.
“Yeah, I did. Stuff like us playing together in the past, yadda-yadda, I don’t give a damn. Hey, y’know it’s because of you that I missed a chance with a real cutie back in middle school? That’d be a much more memorable experience than anything I did with you.”
“Huh? You don’t remember? Whatever. But seriously, you… You’re just too much. I even told other girls that, y’know? You’re so demanding, it’s exhausting. Childhood friends? Feels more like ball and chains, to be frank with you.”
I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand where his anger was coming from. What’s there not to like about such a charming childhood friend? Even the term ‘ball and chains’ was perplexing to me. I just… I just didn’t understand.
“Changing the topic a bit, Aoi from the class next door, she’s really cute, isn’t she? And then, Reina from our class, and also Mizuki from Class D.”
“W-What are you talking about?”
Why was he listing other girls all of a sudden? His thought process felt alien once again. Just looking at his cold, unfeeling profile was enough to fill me with something nasty.
On the other hand, I could see the desperation bleed out of her every pore. She seemed so fragile, like she could shatter like glass at any second. While she had a tomboyish vibe to her, it didn’t exempt her from almost breaking down.
“The answer is no. That’s all,” he concluded.
“Yeah. That’s a no.
“Was I really that annoying…?”
Her unwillingness to give up, her determination to find a satisfactory answer, was palpable. Even from a distance, I could see the shock in her expression, and for a moment, I cast my gaze to the floor.
Why did I feel so sad about this?
She’d been rejected by the handsome dude. It shouldn’t be a bad thing for me, right? And yet, I could smell something burnt simmering within me, rising with every single one of his words. What on earth was this magma?
“Rather than annoying, it’s more… Ugh, you’re a hassle, that’s what. Should I spell it out for you? I’ve never once thought of you in a romantic way.”
I silently raised my head, staring in astonishment at that blond-haired guy’s profile.
“Aoi, Reina, Mizuki, they’re all cute, you know. I even thought Rika, whom I couldn’t date back in middle school, would’ve been nice. But, I just can’t see you as a woman.”
Kiyami stumbled back slightly. Even from the crack of the door, I could see tears welling up in her large brown eyes.
“It’s impossible, no matter how much I lower my standards… Hey, you already know it, don’t you? Plus, you’re just too demanding. Seriously, a no-go.”
Kiyami finally burst into tears, and I could only watch her silently. That’s all I was supposed to do.
Yet, why was my hand gripping the door? My left, clenched so tight it turned white, wouldn’t stop shaking. I wasn’t Kiyami herself to feel this, so why was all this anger welling up inside me? The guy named Imataka no longer looked handsome.
“Why are just standing there after confessing? Whatever, I’ll just tell you this now, so pay attention. Get out of my way. Don’t bother me anymore.”
I opened the classroom door with a heavy pull. The atmosphere hanging over the classroom would’ve been unbearable for an introvert like me. But at that moment…
I was truly out of my mind.
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