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.
T/N: I’m adding names to these chapters since the author hasn’t for the sake of website organization. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil or run from what the author has intended.
My classmate, Kou Hareta, was damn popular.
Today, as always, he was surrounded by his bouquet of beauties, only to look ever-so-oblivious to their affection. Day in, and day out, he went with the flow with this grin on his face.
At first glance, Hareta may even seem feminine, but rumors have it that he’s exceptionally strong in fights, incredibly smart, and incredibly lucky. In any case, from the perspective of a random Joe like me, he possessed at least one enviable talent. Well, his androgynous and attractive appearance alone would likely make him popular.
He also had this convenient obliviousness to the affections of girls. Surely, living life like him would give you the mental space to handle such situations. With that mindset, it’s no wonder he’s well-liked by women.
Honestly, he was quite enviable.
They say heaven doesn’t give you everything, but every time I look at him, it feels like a gut punch from the harsh reality of society. His situation wasn’t anything like that. In truth, I’m just a regular high schooler with regular sensibilities, so I find it embarrassing to even think of getting involved or to be jealous of the guy.
So, it’s in my best interest to stay out of it. At the very least, for the sake of my lonely fantasy, I hope they keep flirting to their heart’s content.
“I made you lunch, Kou-kun.”
“Ah, I made one too. You said you wanted some yesterday.”
“Yup! I worked hard on mine too.”
“…Actually, I did too.”
It was the rainy season, and apparently one of those days. Figuring it’d turn into a battlefield again, I put on my earphones and lay my head on the desk. I’d stayed up into the dead of night reading a book, so this drowsiness just wouldn’t leave me alone.
Detective novels have both their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the thrill of solving mysteries. For a guy like me, who just can’t handle not knowing the truth, the more intriguing the puzzle, the less it hinders my sleep.
Matsumoto Seicho, your writing is so bad it robs me of time. Why don’t you just reflect on it, and come back writing something more interesting than “The Castle of Sand”?!
“Did I really say that?”
“You did. You said my food looked delicious!”
“I worked hard because you praised me.”
“Hey, you said you wanted to taste mine after I cooked.”
“So, whose lunch are you going to eat?”
Whose will he choose? Surprisingly, I found myself eavesdropping into their conversation.
“Nah, I got some bread at the convenience store earlier this morning. So, well…”
“Wait, wait. You can eat bread anytime, so just get one of their lunches, dude,” I couldn’t help but stand up and interject at the sheer absurdity of what I just heard. His words not only displayed his indecisiveness but also the disregard he gave to these girls’ feelings.
“…What’s this all of a sudden?”
Hareta gave me a quizzical look as if perceiving some hostility. The way he reacted so defensively only reinforced why he didn’t have a single male friend in this class.
Meanwhile, I was getting progressively more annoyed at it all.
“Look, it’s fine to be clueless, but don’t you think it’s a bit strange to prioritize bread — which you can have any time, mind you — over their handmade food?”
“And? What’s with the sudden anger?”
“Not angry. I’m just sympathizing with those girls.”
Then, one of his harem girls, Aoyama, stepped closer to me. It seemed like she took it as if her beloved had been severely hurt or something. Surprisingly, I don’t dislike strong-willed women. If they’re up for it, I’ll give ’em a little pushback.
“What’s with you, ‘sympathizing’ when no one even wanted it? It’s none of your business, so back off.”
“You guys should back off. You’re being a public nuisance, so could y’all do your thing where I can’t see you?”
“Oh? What? Is this the envy of a guy who can’t even get a date?”
“My lack of popularity and your creepy interactions have nothing to do with each other,” I was deadpan.
“Creepy?!” Aoyama was a boiling kettle of fury, almost bursting in an instant.
“This is so cringe. Just the sight of you all making tons of food and pushing it onto him is an eyesore. Plus, Hareta not realizing he’s so loved is even more bloodcurdling!”
“Not only that, the fact none of you realize how annoying it is to see this every day and the superficial friendliness among your group is plain disgusting. We’ve all been enduring this since we got to our second grade in spring, but ugh. I just can’t stand it anymore. Seriously—”
Aoyama slapped across my cheek. It didn’t take long for me to hear some of our classmates whispering among themselves.
I got more annoyed at the guy who couldn’t manage his harem than the girls themselves. If I were to compare this situation to recent events, it’s like the difference between the ones executing shady jobs and the ones giving orders from the shadows.
Well, I may have lashed out, sure, but it’s fair to return the favor for getting slapped. I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to say what needs to be said.
“First of all, why haven’t any of you four asked him if he even wanted your food before? This is annoying, plain and simple.”
“So these socially awkward idiots have been wallowing in their inner circle without even so much as a yap to ensure he’d eat? Then, on the actual day, they’re like ‘Eat mine!’ or ‘No, mine!’? Am I crazy or isn’t that weird?”
“What do you know?!”
“I don’t. But having this kinda drama play out right in the middle of class every single day is a pain. Aren’t you guys a bit too self-absorbed? Or are you intentionally flaunting it into everyone’s faces?”
“What?!” Aoyama trembled while she and the girls behind her looked flustered.
Still, they were probably not thinking about the meaning of my words, instead compartmentalizing everything I said into a little box labeled, ‘Creepy guy throwing a tantrum!’ or they were playing the victim card. Those were the two most likely things.
I know women are like that. I’m well aware of it.
“So, what should I do when you guys play house all day? Should I go, ‘Ah, how heartwarming~! It’s so bittersweet’? Seriously, none of you deserve any support; you’re not trying at all, and y’all are just being ridiculous.”
I threw a glance at the speechless heroines before turning to Hareta himself.
“Actually, the biggest issue here is you, Hareta.”
“Wh-What is it?”
“Do you live in your own little world, completely disconnected from ours? Have you never thought about how regular men and women interact with each other, or how others live normally?”
“What are you on about?!”
At his question, I asked myself why I was even getting so worked up over this? Was it because I was hungry or sleepy I couldn’t stay calm anymore?
“Don’t get it? Well, I’ll explain it to you then. Women who don’t like you don’t just randomly make you lunch. They don’t gather around your seat every day like Pavlov’s dogs. Even if you don’t get that, you should’ve at least been curious and asked, ‘Why are they doing all this?'”
“There’s a reason…”
“If it’s hard for you to say, let me do it for you. You’re so uninterested in other people you don’t even get basic social cues, do you?”
Hareta looked over at his heroines. Their faces were all red, but it wasn’t clear if it was due to embarrassment, anger, or shame.
“It’s that kinda idiocy that’s creepy. Not realizing you’re special, yet not reacting even when they all cling to you. Just standing there, surrounded by girls while grinning and frolicking isn’t the worst — it’s your lack of common sense that’s truly creepy. Seriously, man, where the hell did you grow up before coming to high school?”
It was a pretty harsh way of speaking, and it almost made me laugh when I said it.
“What’s with you?! Why do you think you have the right to say all that?!”
“Because it’s annoying. Even psychopaths put in some effort to fit into society a bit. So it’s just annoying to see a guy so full of awkwardness being surrounded by girls and enjoying it at every waking hour of my school life when I and many others didn’t want to see it at all! If this isn’t annoying, then what is? Explain it to a loser like me, won’t you?”
I realized my own envy in the latter half. However, it seemed like my words didn’t go unnoticed. Some of the most socially unfortunate guys and girls in the class nodded in agreement at my points, though I could see they took it the wrong way.
Cut it out. Don’t act like any of you understand me, you bunch of introverts. Don’t you know the term “mutual disgust”? I spat internally at the crowd.
“Even those shady ads in adult manga websites have their time and place. Just as you have the right not to restrain yourselves and be all lovey-dovey, I have the right to find it all creepy. Oh, but this isn’t something that crosses the minds of self-conceited idiots like you, who only think of themselves. Unless you think the whole world spins around you, you wouldn’t think it wrong of me to have the right to say what I think.”
“But, well, I don’t really wanna complain about other people’s tastes, but I wonder. Why are you so popular? Maybe those girls have something off about them too?”
“Cut it out!”
Hareta grabbed my collar with clenched fists. He really was strong in a fight, and I could feel it.
“Getting pissed off now? But don’t forget. You were the one who went all creepy on me first. If you wanna hit me, go ahead, but at least understand the public cringe you’re inflicting on others.”
He punched my face without hesitation. In truth and in hindsight, I have said words that far exceeded the threshold of insults people my age would get or endure. And I understood that what I said was worse than the punch and the slap I received.
I was flung toward my desk and collapsed onto the floor. Still, while I couldn’t see myself, I was sure that as I looked up at Hareta, my expression was a sick twisted smile, drenched in utter malevolence and nihilism. I knew it because the expression on his face screamed more pain and suffering than any words I could choose.
“What are you doing? You guys!”
Someone appeared, probably called in by a classmate who saw or heard the commotion. Soon Shinkai, our student guidance counselor, came into view.
“Hehe, do you think you protected those girls and preserved your dignity? Or do you believe you’re right, that you defeated the villain? You believe in yourself as a hero?”
If I’m going to be punched again, how about venting a bit more?
“I’ll say it again and again. I was annoyed here today. I didn’t want to get into trouble, so I put up with your group’s antics until this very day. You were the one who ruined you, Hareta.”
“No! It was you!”
“Those who feel the way you want them to, and those who get mad at seeing this scene every day — which group do you think is more common?”
At that moment, an intentionally loud and insidious conversation echoed throughout the class.
“Hareta’s an idiot for picking a fight with Shinji. Doesn’t he know about the incident?”
“Yeah, seriously. He doesn’t seem to care about anything in class. I tried talking to him once, but all I got were half-hearted responses.”
Naturally, their words didn’t make much sense to me. I wiped my mouth, stood up, and righted the overturned chair all by my lonesome. Shinkai then began talking to Hareta and the heroines. Eventually, the conversation would turn to me. What should I say to deflect the situation?
…I got it.
“I asked him to punch me because I was feeling sleepy,” I testified as such to our guidance counselor, Shinkai.
At that moment, Hareta’s expression warped into something I hadn’t seen before. It was filled, no, burning with a kind of hatred that seemed to consume to world whole. A feeling I hadn’t seen in him before.
His pride was high, I must admit. But that was still miles better than being some unfeeling pseudo-psycho.
T/N: Just a heads-up, there are reasons for a lot of things that happened here, and they’ll be explained in the following chapters. One of them is the MC’s cynicism.
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