[Still in the past]
After I left Master, I was sitting in the corner of the campfire.
No one was talking to me. Occasionally, I heard my stepsister shouting, but I didn’t care.
Shizuka Miyasaki was walking alone with a male student, but I felt nothing.
Kisaragi and her group of girls found me, pointing and laughing, but I don’t care.
Nanako was sitting there all alone, but it didn’t matter to me.
My head was full of thoughts of writing a novel.
“Hey! You look so lonely. Haa. ……, you’re really screwed if you didn’t show up after I invited you. You know, you really should apologize to me……”
Hanazawa-san came to sit next to me.
I don’t know. Why is she talking to me at this forest school?
“…… I don’t understand.”
“Ah right, you know, there are a lot of bad rumors about you, but you’re good at sports, you’re the best student in our grade, you’re tall and you have a beautiful face. Some of the girls are checking to see if the rumors are true. Seriously, you’re like five seconds away from being popular. I don’t know if you can tell because you’re always picked on in our class. The upperclassmen and underclassmen are talking about you.”
In order not to humiliate my stepmother and stepsister, I keep my appearance neat and tidy.
Studying and exercising perfectly will lessen the negative feelings of my family.
I did what I had to do.
I never thought I’d be popular.
There is no way I could be popular. I’m being treated like a criminal.
“It’s not possible. …… I’m too gloomy”
“What? You talked to my sister for a bit. I heard you were normal at that time. You really should stop hiding it. Even Ryuji gets annoyed with you so he messes with you.”
I really don’t understand. A little thing can change a person’s evaluation.
Is it just my bad luck? No, wrong. I just keep making the wrong choices.
This girl is just like Nanako.
She just wants to play the role of a good student taking care of me that everyone hates.
Her words have no weight.
“Why are you trying to talk to me?”
“Eh? Because we’re classmates. Besides, I was just curious to see what kind of face you have since my sister was so cute and shy. And did you think I liked you? Pfft, I–“
“Uhm, about Sakakibara-kun.”
“What!? S-Seriously!? Why? What? Eh, you’re lying! Oh, Ryuji–“
Hanazawa was looking behind me, smiling and waving.
That’s when I felt a shock on my back.
“Goh gooh ……”
“Oh, excuse me, you’ve been on a roll since this forest school, huh? I mean, you should think about your position in the class. Hanazawa is being nice to you, but this is impossible. I’m really going to hunt you down.”
It seems that I was hit in the back as hard as possible.
It was so sudden that I couldn’t breathe properly.
“Wait, Ryuji, you’ve gone too far. L-Look, it’s forest school, so it’s fine to just be a patsy. Besides, the food was delicious.”
“So, Hanazawa likes this guy? Aren’t you close to him? I was looking forward to going to the forest school with you~. Can I come over to your room afterwards? If I sneak in, I won’t get caught, right?”
“A-ahahaha, seriously?! Wait, I’m super happy. ……. But Shinjo has nothing to do with it. There is no way I would like this gloomy guy. He is just someone just to make fun of. He’s a real pain in the a*s. He’s so annoying, and he doesn’t say anything even when he’s getting his textbooks ripped to shreds. He’s not a man, you know?”
Hanazawa’s face turned red as she spoke happily. Perhaps she doesn’t want to be seen being friendly with me, but she’s doing her best to deny it.
I wonder if she knows what she’s doing? She’s looking down at me from above. She doesn’t see me as a person. What was the point of what she said just now?
“You’re really disgusting. I mean, Shinjo, you were with a kid earlier, right? Are you a lolicon just because you can’t get any attention from your peers? Isn’t that bad? Shouldn’t I tell everyone about this? You have molested someone before, correct?”
“Eh, ah, seriously, ……? Ah, I held your hand when we were dancing earlier. You’re the worst…”
Hanazawa’s voice becomes low. Her gaze changes to one of contempt for me.
Do you really believe in this stuff? Oh, I see. There’s no one who believes me.
I don’t feel sad. I just think it’s normal.
“Sure, I’ve been talking to her, but—“
“Ga—–Seriously it’s disgusting!! I have a little sister, so it’s really disgusting that this guy is in my class. Isn’t that right, Hanazawa~”
“Yeah, it’s really creepy ……. It’s impossible. Shinjo, are you really a lolicon?”
“Oi oi, don’t tell Miki. She’s interested in him, so she’s teasing him. Seriously, she’s got bad taste.”
“What? No way. That Miki, right? She’s super cold.”
“Look over there. She says it makes her want to pick on the girl he likes. I can tell she’s super bothered because I hit him. Do you want me to pick on her too because she is too cocky?”
I couldn’t understand what the conversation was about. Toranomon and these guys are supposed to be friends, right? So why would they want to betray someone so easily?
An incomprehensible anger welled up from the bottom of my stomach.
No, anger can ruin a person. I don’t need to feel anything.
I take a deep breath.
It’s okay, my mind is calm.
I see more and more students watching our interaction.
They look at me being bullied and feel a sense of superiority. It’s true that Toranomon is looking at us with a glare in her eyes.
A group of elementary school students from Shihan’s group were also looking at me.
Master, surrounded by a group of girls, looked down with a look of regret.
I was worried about what they might have done to her. I wanted to rush over there right now.
But that would not solve the problem.
…… I’ll be fine, I have a will of steel. I just have to build a wall.
Sakakibara gets up and kicks me lightly in the stomach with his foot.
It doesn’t hurt, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I feel miserable.
“It’s really creepy. I don’t want to sleep next to this guy. You should sleep outside today. There’s a nice tree over there, right? You need to cool down for the night. Or should I just have him keep watch? Bring the liquor I brought to the girls’ room and leave it there. Keep the cigarettes with you, because if they find out, it’s all on you. Seriously, don’t get carried away just because I’m being nice to you today–“
Sakakibara’s shoes put mud on my jersey. Sakakibara’s kicks are getting stronger and stronger.
There was no sign of the teacher coming. Perhaps they’re having a drink somewhere.
I wonder what the protagonist of a novel does at a time like this. What kind of story should I write at a time like this? Is there a way to stop bullying in a novel?
Ah, if my clothes get dirty, my stepmother will be angry with me. If I get hurt, I’ll have to pay for the hospital. If I break something, I’ll need money.
Sakakibara grabbed me by the chest.
When I looked at Hanazawa, she was looking at Sakakibara with a passionate gaze.
Oh, yeah, these guys don’t understand human pain. They don’t think that it might come back to them.
“What the hell are you doi—gu?”
Violence is absolutely wrong. It will come back to you. That’s why, no matter how many times you are told to do something, you must not do it again. However, if I don’t show the will to rebel, those girls will continue to bully me. It’s an affirmation of the bullying.
I was not looking at Sakakibara. I was just imitating Sakakibara and grabbing his chest.
I’ve read a novel about how to grab someone’s chest. By wrapping the clothes around him, raising your arms high and tightening them with as much force as you can muster.
In the style of these guys, this is…
“This is a joke, right? Grabbing classmates by the chest, kicking them, punching them?”
“………Wha, you, you shady b*****d, defy, uuu–“
“I’m just a junior high school student, no different from you. I don’t understand why you put a pecking order on me. Why are you violent to students you don’t like? Why do you break people’s things? Why do you do things that people don’t like?”
“……, Haa, you’re a criminal and–“
I almost lost my mind for a moment.
Well, that’s human nature. Justice with malice.
As I grabbed Sakakibara by the chest and looked around, he couldn’t hide his surprise at my sudden defiance.
And I’m thinking of the rumors about me. The rumor that I was violent at the karaoke box. They probably think that Sakakibara is the victim in this situation and I’m the violent one. In fact, I was the one who was violated.
Hanazawa shakes my shoulder, almost crying.
“S-Stop it?! You’re going to kill Ryuji! He’s fainting! You know that I like Ryuji, right? And just because I teased you a little…”
“I don’t care about your feelings. –Teased me? No, this is clear bullying. How long did I have to put up with that? Rumors about me? I don’t care about that. You don’t really think what you’ve been doing to me is teasing, right? It’s not just Hanazawa and Sakakibara. I’m talking to all my classmates. –Why can’t you understand?!”
“I-I know! B-But t-there are some things he just can’t control!”
“I see….in that case—-“
I looked around at everyone in the area.
“Don’t ever get involved with me again!”
I took my hand away from Sakakibara’s chest, which had been quiet for some time.
Sakakibara collapses to the ground without effort.
The only sound in this place is the sound of the remaining campfire.
No one tried to speak.
I went to the teacher right after that and explained to her about the trouble I had caused.
I explained not only to our homeroom teacher, but also to the relatively sane head of the grade.
The homeroom teacher was desperately trying to deny any bullying, but…
“I-It’s true what Onii-chan says. Because I understand because I’ve been bullied at school too!”
The teacher came over with a teacher from the elementary school and showed us a video she had recorded on her phone. Master had a scratch on her face. It was a scratch sustained when she fought back against a group of girls who tried to interfere with her filming.
When I told them that I would report the bullying to the police or the board of education, my homeroom teacher looked very pale.
I also found a cigarette in Sakakibara’s pocket after he passed out. Sakakibara also said that he had brought some liquor with him, so they checked his luggage and found liquor as well.
Sakakibara’s behavior became a big problem, and they contacted his parents on the spot and decided to temporary suspend him.
I only grabbed him by the chest, but I had to write a letter of remorse for the violence. From the testimony of the other students, it was clear that I was the victim of bullying, and no further blame was placed on me.
I had to spend the rest of the school year in the forest.
I showed them that if you bully, you get bullied back. At the end of the school, my teacher reported to me that the bullying had stopped.
The forest school ended without talking to my classmates.
Master gave me a smile that was appropriate for her age and said goodbye to me with a clear face.
“I’ll see you in the rankings someday! Thank you, Onii-chan!”
Summer vacation is over, and the atmosphere in our class is, to put it mildly, terrible.
The bullying against me has stopped completely. But no one wants to talk to me.
Rumors were spreading that my bad reputation was real. Nanako’s incident of violence at karaoke had been exaggerated.
It had nothing to do with me. I’m fine as long as I can spend my days quietly and write novels.
Besides, our homeroom teacher had changed. It was because she knew about the bullying problem but hid it from us. Instead, the relatively decent head of the grade became the homeroom teacher.
Sakakibara goes to school as usual ……. For a while, Sakakibara stopped coming to school, but with the help of Hanazawa and Toranomon, he gradually regained his normality. He doesn’t have the same centripetal force as before.
When he sees me, he doesn’t even look at me, as if he’s recalling the memory of being choked up.
That’s just the way it is in junior high school. I thought that maybe he would resent me, but he didn’t. Occasionally, I would see Sakakibara being teased. He was smiling, but he looked disgusted, which made an impression on me.
Hanazawa was still trying to talk to me. I ignored her, and she gradually stopped trying to talk to me.
From time to time, I could feel Toranomon staring at me, but it didn’t matter to me.
I don’t think I’ll ever speak to these guys again.
Apparently, the head of the school had been told that three other students had been harassing me.
The three of them have been spending their days in class looking uncomfortable.
There were only a few days left until graduation.
I was called to the back of the school building by a letter.
“S-Shinjo, I’ve had my eye on you for a while now. …… I know the bad rumors are lies. …… I did my research!! I-I’m clumsy, so I messed with the girls you like.…… I’m sorry for what I’ve done. …… I’m sorry. –I-I want you to go out with me. ……”
“I’m sorry, it’s too late to apologize now. I’m not going out with anyone because of my family situation. Then–“
“Ah, ……, that’s right. I-I bullied you. ……”
“No, it’s simply because you’re not attractive.”
“…………Eh …………. Higgghhh ……, ugh, Sh-Shut up—-“
Toranomon runs off, crying and screaming with a red face. I don’t care about these false confessions. Her words are light, just like Hanazawa’s.
The head of the school year came out of the corner.
“O-oi, I don’t care how many false accusations have been made, I’m not going to stand for a confession. ……”
“No, if you don’t do this, they’ll say I spoke out of turn. Thank you for your time.”
“Y-yeah, I’ll help you with that. Honestly, why don’t you have a little trust in people?”
“Trust? That’s right, ……. I hope I can find someone like that someday.”
“Oh, wait a minute, Shinjo, listen to me!”
I didn’t expect that I would receive a series of false confessions after this.
On the way home after I left the teacher.
Hanazawa was waiting for me in front of the park.
“Ah, ehehe, I’ve been waiting for you, Shinjo. Y-you know. I was nice to Shinjo at the forest school, remember? I liked Shinjo from that time. …… To be honest, I like your coolness. You should go out with me.”
I couldn’t help but wrinkle my brow.
I’m not going to let something like this upset my emotions.
“Eh-uhm, I thought Hanazawa was dating Sakakibara-kun?”
“Eh, ah, yeah. That was a long time ago. That lame guy is just a friend. …… Hey, w- what do you think of me? I think you’re pretty cool. ……”
I let out a sigh and start walking.
It’s worse than Toranomon.
“Hey, wait for me!!!”
Hanazawa tried to grab my hand. I can’t let that happen. I don’t want to be attacked by nausea again.
It reminds me of the bus at the forest school. I ducked Hanazawa’s hand again.
Hanazawa was stunned.
I let out a few words in an unexpectedly rough tone.
“—-I told you that time. Don’t ever get involved with me again. Please don’t give me a false confession. …… Goodbye.”
Hanazawa kept saying in a voice mixed with sobs, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry for bullying you, I’m sorry–“. But I have a will of steel. I won’t be fooled by such words. I can’t trust people.
I took one cold look at the sobbing Hanazawa and walked towards home.
My stepmother and stepsister are not here today. So I’m going to write a novel.
I’ve finally reached the “No. 1 ranking” that Master had told me about back then.
I keep writing novels to fill the gaps in my heart.
It’s the only thing that can save me.
A past I don’t want to remember. But I needed to look at it again in order to move forward.
I guess I’ve changed a little since then. I wonder if I will be able to enjoy the forest school.
“Thank you very much! I look forward to seeing you again!!”
I walked out of the building and became sentimental.
The wall that I thought was unbreakable was broken down by Anri.
Anri has healed the wounds in my heart that I thought would never heal.
My life, which I thought would never change, has been colored by Anri.
My phone vibrated.
I quickly checked the message and saw that Anri had arrived at the station.
I couldn’t wait to see her, so I started running towards the station.
–I want to see Anri. I couldn’t stop the feeling.
I ran, and ran, and kept running.
Suddenly, I remembered what Dojima had said. It’s true that running makes you forget all the unpleasant things and feel refreshed.
I found Anri waiting for me in front of the station.
Just the sight of Anri makes my heart skip a beat.
Anri noticed me and waved her hand.
The gesture was so endearing …… that I almost lost control of my mind.
“Huh? Makoto, did you come running? You should have come slowly. Ehehe, let’s talk a lot today!”
I didn’t know what to say….
I hugged Anri.
“E-Eeh!? Makoto!? W-What’s wrong? Did you have a bad day?”
“…… I finally met Anri. Thank you …….”
Anri smiled and hugged me back without saying a word.
I couldn’t trust anyone, but I miraculously met someone who was very important to me.
As I thought.
–I’m in love with Anri.