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.
Every day had been hell since then. Obvious, I know. Nobody wanted to be my friend, and having a girlfriend was just a distant, foggy dream. Not only that, Imataka occasionally made fun of me as soon as the teachers and the girls weren’t around. He even used his lackeys to harass me at every opportunity.
I was furious, sure, but I had to endure it. Causing another scene meant I might not have been able to stay in the school I fought so hard for. With no other choice and holding back the urge to cry, I put up with their abuse day after day after day.
During those days, I often wondered if Kiyami was alright. I managed to spot her in the hallway sometimes, and she was different from her middle school self. Opposite to how bright she shone back then, a cloud of gloom followed in her trail. She started to show this distant and unfriendly disposition, and it seemed like everyone started avoiding her.
Thinking back on it — and it might just be my imagination, as I’d only seen her from a distance — I think she used to always have someone to talk to. Seeing her alone now made me feel murky and heavy inside.
Maybe… Maybe it’s my fault. It probably was. Regrets played and replayed in my mind, and I felt them swell to a hurting degree. This guilt stripped away my previous passion for everything else, but more than all that, I couldn’t stop feeling sorry to Kiyami. I owed her an apology.
I felt the days were long as weeks, and a year had eventually passed me by. I’d become a sophomore, which meant I had to go through a class shuffle, as it happened to everyone once a year. Sure, I could finally be free from Imataka’s harassment, but that didn’t remove the laden weights from my heart.
Emotionally worn out, I sighed. “Lucky me, huh…” New classmates, new lessons, new people — none of that really mattered. All I had to pay attention to was my new desk’s location, nothing else.
How had it come to this? I asked a rhetorical question. It was undoubtedly a mistake to do what I did last year, and I knew it.
Regardless of what I felt, it was almost time for my sophomore year to start. New faces flooded inside the classroom, most of them familiar but with whom I hadn’t even spoken to.
With nothing else to do, I decided to play a game on my phone until the bell rang. While booting it up, something happened. A small shadow loomed over my field of vision, and it remained there oddly for a while. I raised my head, wondering where the sudden shade was coming from.
“Ah…” I couldn’t hold back a soft gasp. Wait, wait a second, wait a second! My head couldn’t catch up to the sudden turn of events.
Why is Fuuka Kiyami here?!
She stood there, unmoving, looking at me with an unreadable expression. However, she didn’t say anything and quietly moved to the seat next to mine.
Wh-What’s going on?! I asked myself, quickly pulling out the seating chart I’d basically shoved into my backpack. Actually, I hadn’t paid attention to anything but my own seat. Could it be?
I sat on the second-to-last row and in the second-to-last seat, nearer to the window than to the door. But the seat next to mine, just under the window, was indeed hers.
Well, I’m to blame for not checking, but this is still a difficult situation. O God, did you let me into this school just to suffer through hell?
What should I do? I panicked. As our first homeroom went on, I tried to appear like I was paying full attention to the blackboard, but my focus was completely on her still beautiful profile.
Honestly, awkward wasn’t enough to describe it. From her perspective, the guy responsible for ruining her already miserable confession, turning her high school life into a mess while he was at it, turned out to be her seat neighbor.
She has every right to get angry and even physically confront me for all I know. I’m scared. Please help me, God! Why do you have to be such an S?! I don’t recall ever believing in a God who likes to torment their believers so shamelessly.
As it was the first, the day ended in the morning, which was a relief. Still, that didn’t take away from my unease. Naturally, we hadn’t exchanged even a single word.
However, as I was about to scamper out of the classroom, I noticed she was about to say something. Still affected, I pretended not to notice and escaped that day.
The day after, my sophomore year had officially begun.
Oh, this is bad. This is bad! I looked straight ahead. Why? Sitting right next to me was Jeanne d’Arc, a woman capable of cutting down the man-turned-criminal that was me. That might sound like an exaggeration, but you’d understand if you were in my place. Her very presence was overwhelming, though she didn’t glare at me or anything like that.
Still, the threat didn’t just come from her. Keeping up with the classes had become an arduous task in itself. A year had passed by, and our high school — still strong in this prefecture — had increased our pace significantly.
To be honest, it was at a level that an ordinary guy like me, who had a hard time in middle school, couldn’t keep up at all. Whether it was physics, math, basic chemistry, or logic, I faltered. Why were they so difficult?! Teacher, I’m getting close to my limit! No, I’m already well over every red line!
Unlike me, however, the absolute zero beauty in the next seat excelled effortlessly in every subject. She was truly amazing, despite the gloomy atmosphere. Last year aside, her intellect hadn’t rusted in the slightest. She was probably improving a lot as well.
Lost in these thoughts, time passed by relatively quickly. Phys. Ed and Physics also passed by like a breeze, and it was suddenly the end of another school day. I had actually joined the photography club out of curiosity, but today wasn’t club day.
As the others chatted away happily and left, I reluctantly grabbed my things to leave, lonely as always. That’s when it happened.
Hmm, I’m pretty sure I have the day off work today as well. Well, guess I’ll just head home and watch some YouTube.
“H-Hey! Are you leaving already?”
What’s going on? I wondered. It seemed like someone might have been calling me, but it surely wasn’t my concern. Never was.
“Hey! Don’t ignore me!”
A sudden slap on my back sent a jolt through my spine, and I jumped in surprise. Startled, I turned around and time froze as my eyes widened and my mouth hung slightly open.
“What’re you daydreaming about? I asked if you’re going home.”
“Huh?! Oh, y-yes, I am.”
“…Why the formal language? Um, well, I’m going home too.”
What? I never expected Kiyami to strike up a conversation with me. Rather, why was she suddenly trying to interact with me? Is this some kind of trap? I asked internally. Am I about to meet my ultimate end?
No, I need to give her a proper answer first. Can’t afford to be killed right away, after all.
“Y-Yeah, sorry. I haven’t been talking to people much these days. I see, you’re going home too.”
Here, my inability to say a simple “goodbye” was enough telltale of my lack of social skills. But considering the deep grudge she must have for me, I can only hope she forgives my stumbling response.
Saying a wordless goodbye due to my social inability, I turned around and started walking toward the door. She followed suit.
“I live in the northern part of town. Where do you?” She started.
“Ah, I live there as well. I also went to the northern middle school.”
“Really? I did too. So we went to the same one, huh?”
“Yeah, guess so. Hmm… Hmm?”
Wait… This is strange. Why is she walking down the hallway with me? I ended up reaching the shoe lockers without a single clue why. This went on for a while, and it wasn’t until we were through the school gates that I realized just the weirdness that had been transpiring.
For some reason, we were having casual, trivial small talk the whole way to the train station. Since we attended the same middle school and lived in close proximity, we had this odd interaction even while on commute.
“O-Oh, I see. Kiyami-san, you’re in the art club now?”
“Yeah. Drawing is fun. I used to play tennis in middle school, but haven’t had much of a drive for it lately. The fluttering uniform also didn’t help.”
Was she referring to the tennis skirts? Oh, she’d look nice — Stop! I managed to hold back on saying it. I settled for a vague smile, but Kiyami must’ve sensed me acting strangely. She raised her eyebrows a little but didn’t pursue.
“By the way… What’ve you been up to since then?” She threw this curveball at me. Sure, it seemed somewhat casual and I could sort of answer it, but I knew what ‘then’ was referring to. It had been a year after all.
Finally, this topic has been brought up. I couldn’t hide my rising nervousness, and my whole body tensed up. The cityscape filled with buildings outside seemed even colder than the concrete that built it.
“Well, let’s see. Hmm, it’s like, for me, it was kinda tough; oh, but not so tough. I, um, just didn’t really find my place in class, is all,” I stumbled over my words while her eyes locked on mine. She was staring at the face of a clearly flustered man. Awkward and not knowing a good answer, I felt my mouth parched.
What if my answer was terrible? She might even convert all her pent-up anger into a punch if it was… No, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. I was the one to ruin her entire year, so if getting punch was the price, so be it. It was still terrifying, though.
The atmosphere between the two of us had an ineffable turn, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“You didn’t find… a place in class…”
Hm? Her reaction was different than what I’d imagined. It was as if she felt down on my behalf.
When the train stopped at our town station, she stood up and mumbled softly, “Um, I have something to take care of. See you tomorrow.”
“Ah? Oh, yeah! See you.”
I couldn’t see her face as she looked down, but was relieved I hadn’t stepped on a landmine and died nonetheless.
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