Vol. 1 Chapter 18: Frontline.
Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-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.
Incidents happen when you least expect them to.
Two days after my desk became a dictionary of insults, I went to school with Kurosaki as usual, leaving her at the entrance so she could switch into her slippers. However, she didn’t come back after quite a while. I got worried so I went back to see if I could find her.
Countless thumbtacks were strewn inside her locker, some even twinkling down to the floor.
“Kurosaki! Are you hurt?!”
I rushed over to her. Ahead of my eyes, I saw a long line of studs pointing upward, placed intentionally to hurt someone. If an unsuspecting person were to open and try to grab whatever, they wouldn’t be able to avoid an injury.
“I’m fine! I was just taken aback by this childish preschool-level harassment.”
Seems like I’m the only worried one. True to her word, her face was unblemished and untouched. It doesn’t look like she’s suffered any psychological damage, so I got relieved for the time being.
However, as seconds pass, a horrifying thought grows inside my head. One wrong move and she would’ve been scarred by that pile of thumbtacks. Since I couldn’t deny the possibility she was putting on a strong front so I wouldn’t worry, I carefully probed her hands to see if she really didn’t get a single scratch.
“U, um… It tickles when you touch me that much.”
“I’m just worried you got hurt, please wait a second longer.”
From her palms to her fingers, I analyzed every nook and cranny. At one point she let out a yelp, probably due to her being ticklish.
“I’m sorry… Just bear with it for another moment.”
“…That’s very kind of you.”
It’s not a matter of being nice; what I feared came true. I never thought that just because you hate me, whoever you are, you’d place your hands on those around me. Moreover, Kurosaki had no way of knowing the reason she was being targeted by such childish persecution.
Even if I knew almost nothing about it, and all I had were guesses, I had to give her an explanation. “Kurosaki, actually…”
“In other words, someone is jealous of you?”
“I think so. I’m really sorry you got dragged into this.”
“No, thanks to that, I managed to flirt a bit with you, so no problemo! …Still, I can’t believe your ex is that Asakawa-san.”
After listening to my explanation, she was neither angry nor reproachful. She just took it with her chin up. Actually, she looked even more interested in the Asakawa part of the story,
“We were childhood friends. She, as you know, ended up cheating on and throwing me away.”
“Hmm… From my point of view, doesn’t seem like it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Uh, nothing! I’m just a little ol’ junior happy that a powerful rival is already out of the picture!”
Even though the damage was already done, I couldn’t help but pat the head of this cute oddball.
“Anyway, sorry about today. I’ll definitely make it up to you.”
“Ehehe. Are you looking forward to it?”
While feeling her soft and silky hair under my hand, my thought wandered. The culprit is probably someone from our class since no one else knew Kurosaki and I were close. And since he’s already taken action, I can’t possibly believe Kurosaki is the only target.
“Sorry again. Though, I have an idea of who their next victim might be, so could I go back to my classroom?”
“Got it. You can always count on me if you need anything!”
“That’s my line. If anything happens to you, I’m definitely coming to your rescue.”
I escorted Kurosaki, whose face was red as a boiling octopus, back to her class, then ran to my own. As soon as I arrived, my hunch was confirmed. The bustle I would usually hear in class was nowhere to be found.
“Katayama! Are you okay?”
I stepped into the classroom with a bang, only to see his table dripping with black ink from corner to corner.
“Miyamoto… This is definitely the guy who scribbled our desks.”
The person in question was quite calm while answering. Then, he went back to looking up how to soak up ink on his phone.
“Probably… Sorry, it’s my fault you got dragged into this.”
“It’s fine! Rather, they probably acknowledged we are friends!”
He tapped me on the shoulder, hard, and gave me a thumbs up. With a toothy grin, he tried to cheer me up.
“Thanks… Of course, I’m your friend. I’ll settle this matter, and I’m sorry for letting them bother you.”
Oddly, he showed more emotion at my worry than at the sea of black trickling down his table. Still, I wonder how he feels about all of this. In the next moment, though, his face got serious and he opened his mouth again to encourage me.
“Are you all right? I’m always willing to help if you need anything.”
“Thank you, dude. If I can’t handle it by myself, I’ll give you a call.”
I felt grateful and guilty for his generosity, even though he was the one who got affected… Katayama’s too good a friend for me.
Ignoring is not an option anymore. I wouldn’t mind it one bit if I was the only target, but now that the people I care about have been touched, I must find out the culprit and stop them.
As I looked around for any ends of a rope that might lead to the culprit, I felt a stare pierce me from behind. She just arrived at the classroom, breathing shallowly just as if she saw something unbelievable.
—It was Asakawa.
Our gazes met, but she looked away as if guilty of something, then she walked straight to her desk. Although she took a seat, her breathing showed no signs of calming down. Her usually straightforward gaze was all over the place. She looked like she wanted to say something, but couldn’t due to something else.
I know she’s not the culprit from the way she turned her face away from me, as well as the way she’s acting now. However, she does look like she knows something important.
Looking back at the whole situation, something occurred to me.
There’s one main reason I can give for excluding her as a potential culprit. She may have harassed me in the first place, but the reason for that was to get my true feelings out, as she mentioned before. Then I don’t think she would go out of her way to hide or harm anyone else but me.
In that light, the culprit must’ve harbored a gargling hatred for me due to what happened in the classroom right after the summer break. The events that stand out to me from back then were when I became friends with Katayama, when Kurosaki came to pick me up in class, and when I cut Asakawa off.
The fact both Katayama and Kurosaki are being targeted removes those two events from the equation. Katayama ain’t the type of person to be targeted by anyone, and if the culprit liked Kurosaki, they wouldn’t have tried to hurt her.
By a process of elimination, there was only one possible answer: someone was angered by Asakawa’s crying. If that’s the case, it made sense that she, who before summer vacation seemed to be on good terms with me from the eyes of others, wouldn’t be one of the targets. Asakawa is the school’s Madonna, so there are countless students who admire or have a huge crush on her.
However, this method of not contacting her and their roundabout way of doing things wasn’t akin to reverence or love, but rather to faith.
If this was a detective novel, I would’ve gotten soft at how easy the mystery was solved. Regardless, if I were to question any suspects, they would just give me the silent treatment. In that case, I’ll anticipate their next move and settle the matter then.
I quietly made up my mind while not letting the culprit, who was certainly watching me, take notice.
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2 comments »
nika77722August 14, 2022 at 10:08 pm
Thanks for the chapter
GattsAugust 15, 2022 at 4:45 am
Thank you for the chapter !