[This happened in the past]
It was the summer of my eighth grade year. After the incident with Saito-san, Kisaragi, and Nanako-san, I was spending the school day alone.
I didn’t want to stay at home with my stepsister and stepmother, so I went to school first thing in the morning and either studied in the library or read a novel. The same goes for after school. After spending some time in the library, she went home.
Saito-san hasn’t come to the library since the incident. It was fortunate that we were all in different classes.
I tried not to worry about people’s eyes on me. Whenever I was alone, I felt as if everyone was laughing at me.
Every time someone talked about me behind my back, it wore me down.
I just wanted people to leave me alone. No expectations. If there were no expectations, my heart wouldn’t be hurt.
HR before the summer break.
My homeroom teacher in junior high school must have had a good time at school.
She thought that all students can get along with each other.
“Assign your groups as you see fit! You can team up with any of them you like! Hahaha, guys, forest school is not just a trip! Enjoy your youth!”
Deciding on the groups for the forest school. Everyone made their groups, talking and deciding their plans.
I had no choice but to join one of the extra groups.
Classmates write their names on the blackboard. The teacher looked at the blackboard and let out a doubtful voice.
“Hmm? There’s someone who hasn’t joined the group yet, right? Shinjo, you need to talk to your friends and join the group, you know?”
That made me jumpy.
I hadn’t expected my name to come up here.
The teacher must know that I was alone and had no friends.
I had no choice but to get up.
I pretended to be thinking while looking at the blackboard with a piece of chalk in my hand.
I could hear my classmates sneering at me.
The time I spent standing in front of the blackboard with no answers felt terribly empty.
Because I don’t have any friends. I don’t want any friends.
“No, I don’t like that guy.”
“No, no, my group is full.”
“Our squad doesn’t need an other man.”
“Ha, it doesn’t matter if we’re missing a man.”
“Wai, Shinjo, pupu, I’m sorry”
Words that do not express emotion. Words that look down on others. Airy words.
I thought no one would believe me after the incident at the elementary school. And yet, people make the same mistakes. I was lonely on my own, so I tried to believe in someone else.
You get your hopes up and get betrayed.
I wish I had never met Saito-san at the library.
I should have rejected Kisaragi’s false confession outright.
I shouldn’t have fallen for Nanako’s cheerfulness.
I know, it’s really all my fault. I can’t blame others.
So, no matter how many people made fun of me, I just have to pretend that I don’t feel anything.
On the day of the forest school, I headed to the bus alone. It was a two-hour drive from the school to a mountain in Saitama.
There was a lot of pushing and shoving going on, but in the end…
“Hey, why don’t we make him a patsy?”
I was assigned to this group by those people.
School events are really troublesome. It’s when you’re assigned to a group that you’re reminded of how foreign you are to the class.
Until the beginning of my sophomore year, I was just a loner. I was just an outcast until the beginning of my second year, when I heard people talking about me behind my back.
However, because of the homeroom teacher’s unnecessary actions, ……, my classmates’ hate for me became even deeper.
When I walked down the hallway, they would bump my shoulder hard. My shoes are hidden. My gym uniform was torn to shreds. I was pushed down of the stairs. My textbooks were hidden. Scribbled on my desk.
Everything is done as a ‘joke’.
That’s about it. It’s not as bad as when I was falsely accused.
It’s not as scary as being tricked and threatened by the Yankees.
I just don’t need to feel anything.
As I was thinking about this, I saw the bus stopped in front of the school.
It was still early. I don’t want to go to school when there are so many students. Even though I’m not being watched, I don’t like the way the students are looking at me.
I let out a sigh and tried to get on the bus.
“Huh? Shinjo-kun’s early, huh? There’s no one here, is there? Ha, did I get the time wrong?”
Hana Hanazawa, one of the girls in my group.
The girl who laughed at me, threw my textbook the trash.
I take a deep breath.
“Shu, there’s still one hour left until the meeting time.”
Hanazawa slaps me on the shoulder. It was much weaker than when I was beaten in the classroom.
“Seriously! There’s no Ryuji or Miki. …… Oh well, you’ll get on the bus as soon as you can! I don’t know what you’re thinking because you don’t talk much. And if you molest me, I’ll punch you.”
The incident with Saito-san comes to mind. My mind is going to be dark.
It’s not my fault ……, but even though I told everyone that, no one believed me.
After that and other incidents, I just didn’t care anymore.
I almost hated myself for playing the victim and being sad.
So I didn’t care about anything. I’m not worth it.
“You’re a little gloomy. That’s why you get picked on in class. Come on, let’s go! You’re supposed to get to know your classmates a little better today!”
I couldn’t help but clench my fists tighter and tighter.
It’s so normal to talk to someone one-on-one. And yet, when you’re in the presence of others, you say and do things that don’t seem like the same person.
I can’t believe anything. I don’t have to believe anything.
I can just build a wall.
“You’re …….right. I’ll try.” (Polite language)
“Ha? It’s funny, why are you talking in honorific? I’m just talking to you. whatever, you look like an a*****e and it suits you. Oh, and we’re going to occupy the back seat! You’re in the back too.”
“My seat is supposed to be in the front. ……”
“Don’t worry about that.”
Hanazawa tried to take my arm. I don’t want to be mistaken for a pervert again.
I take a step back and dodge Hanazawa’s hand.
Hanazawa’s face looked sad for a moment. Why do you look like that when you’re bullying me?
It didn’t hurt my heart at all.
“A-ahahaha. you get nervous when a girl touches you! I don’t care what you say, let’s go to the back. Oh, you don’t have the right of refusal or I’ll tell everyone later that you molested me.”
I can feel my body temperature getting lower.
I should just let it pass. Pretend to smile.
I raise the corner of my mouth slightly.
“You’re right. I understand.”
“Yeah, yeah, seriously, your face is the only thing that’s cool. …… Oh, it’s nothing!”
I avoided the hassle and went to the back seat of the bus as urged.
As I spent my time appropriately babbling with Hanazawa more and more students started to arrive.
Unlike when she was in the classroom, Hanazawa really looked like a normal girl.
They talked about club activities, study issues, and other normal student stuff.
“Well, he has gotten really tall in his second year, right? ….you know , if Ryuji …, oh !! Miki !! over here!! Uwa~ your make-up is beautiful!”
This is Hanazawa’s friend, Miki Toranomon. She’s a calm, girly schoolgirl for her age.
“Good morning. I don’t know why this guy is here, Hana-chan. It’s really creepy.”
“Ah……….L-Look, we’re in the same group today. That’s why, you know, I let him pass the time here. What the hell, Shinjo, don’t give us that creepy look.”
“Ah I see. I forgot we were in the same group. Yeah, but he’s creepy, so he should go to the front seat.”
“A-ahaha, seriously creepy. …… You need to get out of our sight.”
Hanazawa pushed my body hard as I was about to stand up.
I lost my balance and fell down.
The bus is surrounded by a whirlpool of laughter.
“Oh, what? Is Shinjo being physical and making us laugh right away?”
“Ryuji, good morning. He was talking to Hana-chan in the back seat.”
“Hana, are you okay? Are you being molested?”
“Oi oi, stop pretending you can’t get up. You’re in my way. I told you to move.”
“Ha-Haha, I-It’s just a little push, he is just overreacting…..”
My back hurts, my legs hurt, my shoulders hurt—-
I get up slowly.
It’s okay, my heart doesn’t feel anything. It’s my fault for getting too close to Hanazawa.
It’s nobody’s fault. It’s my fault for sticking out.
It’s weird for me to think like that.
While everyone else is laughing, Hanazawa approaches me and lightly pushes my back.
She whispered to me from behind.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t want to mess with you ……”
It’s okay, all these words are lies. Why should I believe the words of the girl who was bullying me?
If you feel guilty, stay out of my life. Even if I get along with them, they will betray me anyway.
That’s why I didn’t hear Hanazawa’s words.
I wanted to read the rest of the novel I was reading, “Tetsuro the Bloody Brave”
I wanted to read the book without being disturbed by anyone.
I don’t want to trust anyone.
There was nothing but emptiness in my heart.