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The Triangle of rejection
As the second term started, the school for me began to take upon a peculiar atmosphere.
It was neither due to nostalgia for the memories of summer vacation, nor agony over unfinished homework.
It was anxiety and restlessness, that’s right – over the approaching cultural festival.
Hozumino Private High School’s cultural festival is run by the student council. It was created seven years ago by a reputedly charismatic and pioneering student council president to resemble a television programme.
At a meeting discussing the roles of the student council in the upcoming cultural festival, that student council president was said to have asked the following:
“Girls have always had the benefit of Valentine’s Day to make their confessions, but what about boys?”
And thus, the student council-sanctioned “Calling of the boys” event – also known as the “Confession Festival” drew ever closer.
The futility of summer caused many to fluster as the second term began.
Many held the faintest of hopes of anything happening – it was summer after all, right – only for predictably absolutely nothing to happen before it was time for a new semester.
Damn, what should I do? It’s already too late, I should’ve done something to spare myself from this regret when I could.
Wait a minute. Our school has that “Confession Festival”, right? Good thing the cultural festival is on the 15th of September. That’s plenty of time for me to make things right.
So the typical decision making process went. But after that came the rite of suffering in silence.
Because the confession would be done on the big stage in the gym. In front of the entire school. Even the bravest would surely find it hard to stop their legs from trembling in fear.
There was, however, a reward for rising to the challenge. The rate of success at the “Confession Festival” was unusually high – or so it was claimed.
One could call it a demonstration of the suspension bridge effect. Disarrayed under the intense pressure and embarrassment of being confessed to in front of the entire student body, a girl would nod meekly and accept even if her true feelings said otherwise. A bizarre tale of unknown veracity to be fair, but all the same the whole school spoke about it as if it were fact.
Coupled with the additional benefits of looking three times cooler afterward and the longevity of the resulting relationship, partially due to the difficulty of breaking up after getting together in front of everyone, it was altogether not a bad return on investment for boys who took on the risk.
Therefore as the new school term began, so did the head-scratching for us impotent males for whom summer had failed to bear fruit.
“–So, Sueharu. What about you then?”
It was lunch break in the classroom. Sitting across from me was a boy with light brown hair the colour of tea, holding a sandwich in one hand as he questioned me.
Kai Tetsuhiko – a friend, but perhaps better described as a negative influence. We seemed to get along well almost immediately following him introducing himself after we entered the same class as freshmen, and have been eating lunch together in this fashion ever since.
“Hm? What do you mean, what about me?”
“The ‘Confession Festival’. You doing it?”
“Wh– why are you asking?”
I averted my gaze and dropped my voice to a whisper as Tetsuhiko pressed on adamantly.
“Stop monologuing, man.”
I held back the urge to scream.
“Can’t you tell, dammit?”
Or so I thought to myself, because that would basically be admitting there was someone I was interested in. So I turned away and evaded his questions.
In truth, I was planning to participate in the “Confession Festival”.
I had gone seventeen years without a girlfriend.
In elementary school, I’d wondered if it was really all that nice having one.
In middle school, I wasn’t uninterested, but getting one seemed so unachievable I never considered the possibility seriously.
In high school, as the number of couples around me multiplied, I began to panic.
This was the state I found myself in as the summer of my sophomore year passed.
It was about time to take a straight look at reality.
Come on, let’s think about this calmly. Let’s say you got a confession from someone you liked. Then while I have no proof for saying so, after that probably things will happen bringing the two of you closer together, or something similar. Then after that things will probably work themselves out without you having to force them to, right?
–With that I finally returned to my senses.
This is precisely why I mustn’t reveal who I’m interested in to anyone until the “Confession Festival”.
“… Speaking of which, Tetsuhiko, you bastard.”
Isn’t the person you’re interested in normally supposed to be top secret information? What are you thinking, asking me so casually? If on the off chance someone hears and they go something like “Damn, you’re into X? Interesting. Not that it really matters to me lol” I might just die.
Privy to or ignorant of my thoughts, Tetsuhiko propped his head on the table with one arm and continued feeding himself the cutlet sandwich with the other.
“Sueharu, man, you’re always so easy to figure out it’s almost boring.”
“What, Tetsuhiko? Are you mocking me?”
“Nope, it was just an honest question. Especially since you have that one special talent-”
Some things are better left unsaid.
Tetsuhiko’s words were a definite example.
“… You promised never to mention that.”
“Yeah yeah, I know.”
Tetsuhiko did not show a hint of remorse. A provocative smile illuminated his face.
“So, coming back to the matter of the ‘Confession Festival’.”
“Damn, you’re persistent. What about you then? Are you in?”
Tetsuhiko grinned like a cat as I directed the question back at him.
“Oh, you really wanna know?”
Tetsuhiko seemed to have purposely waited for this moment to comb up the tousled brown hair which had fallen to his eyebrows.
“Right now I have seven girls lined up, which really is a bit of a bother. I planned to put each of them on a day of the week at first, but then again doing only one confession on Saturday would be such a huge waste, don’t you think? So now the plan is to get by with either two or even three a day, but that would still be a real pain to coordinate. It’s come to the point where I might decide to just pick one big fish and be done with the whole ‘Confession Festival’ thing, but what do you think?”
“You’re incredible, you know that? Really incredible how irritating you can be. Sometimes I really do want to kill you.”
If I was talking to someone else, I might have laughed it off or asked if he was an idiot, but Tetsuhiko is a little different.
For you see, he actually is really really popular.
One can tell from just looking at his face. He’s a really good-looking guy. It’s no wonder he’s hot stuff.
“Wait, don’t all the girls hate you now after you got caught three-timing before summer break? How did you get seven of them to take part?”
“They’re all from other schools, dumbass. The girls in this school basically now think of trash more highly than they do of me. For example… watch this.”
Tetsuhiko proceeded to wave and flash his pearly white teeth at one of our female classmates standing by the window.
She was a soft-spoken girl from the art club, a normal girl with no potentially dangerous connections to Tetsuhiko such as being one of his ex-girlfriends.
Noticing Tetsuhiko, she openly grimaced, looked away, and abandoned any semblance of propriety as she spit out of the window.
“Eww, the trash just gave me a look. Gross. Let’s go!”
With those parting words, the girl and her friends left for the corridor in flight.
“What do you mean, ‘see?’ I was not expecting that at all! Just how much do they hate you? I’m telling you, the fact that you’re not bothered at all is insane!”
“Huh? Look, Sueharu, women are creatures who live by deceiving men. Men and women have a relationship where one spends half the time lying and the other half being lied to, so it shouldn’t hurt or tingle at all if they end up hating you, you feel me?”
“Don’t say ‘you feel me?’ like you’re asking me for my approval, man! I don’t know and I don’t empathise!”
He truly is scum of the earth.
A face much prettier than the rest. Test scores pretty much at the top. Great sport sense too.
All of it wasted by this pile of human garbage.
That is the essence of the man called Kai Tetsuhiko.
“So anyway, have you figured out who’s the big catch I’m aiming for at the ‘Confession Festival’?”
A glimpse of a certain girl’s face flashed for a moment in my mind. But not wanting to be conspicuous, I feigned ignorance.
“How should I know? But, well, I guess I’ll ask. Who are you confessing to at the ‘Confession Festival’?”
A cool gaze, a cherubic smile, and the aroma of the slightest whiff of shampoo floating in the wind all flit through my mind as I found myself holding my breath.
“–What would you feel if I chose her?”
Tetsuhiko had the widest grin across his face, clearly having a lot of fun.
“Sorry, what was that?”
“I wouldn’t feel anything at all, okay?”
“Sueharu, just stop. You’re making me feel embarrassed too watching you act so pathetically.”
I felt something snap at the back of my head.
“I’m going to kill you. I’ve made up my mind.”
“Eek, just, just hold a minute! So you’re serious about her right? Hey, no need to get so mad… Oh, it’s Kachi.”
My heart began to pound.
Tetsuhiko continued to gaze at something behind me, which could only mean that Shirokusa was approaching from an angle I couldn’t see.
I had already forgotten all about throttling Tetsuhiko as I hurriedly ceased all unbecoming behaviour while the index finger of my idle right hand twirled my hair around, acting out an old nervous habit of mine.
No sooner had I let go when Tetsuhiko spoke in the most unapologetically nonchalant way possible:
“Oh, my bad, I saw wrongly.”
“Do you actually want me to kill you?! I can’t take this any longer!”
“You know, I do consider you as a friend, but at this point I’m having so much fun I’m almost willing to end our friendship.”
“I’m almost shocked at how shallow your friendship is!”
“Oh, it’s Kachi.”
“You know Tetsuhiko, even I would find it hard to fall for the same trick twice–”
“Did you need me for something?”
I turned around towards the origin of that elegant voice and Kachi Shirokusa was there.
“I, wait, what?! Kachi?! Why are you here?!”
“Why? Well, this is my classroom. Far more natural for me to be here than not, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Well, uh, I mean yes but don’t you always eat with Mine at the cafeteria?”
“Meiko left on other business. Nothing too time-consuming apparently, but we finished early all the same.”
Shirokusa spoke with a dispassionate tone as if indicating complete disinterest in her companion, but it would have been incorrect to interpret that as animosity on her part.
Shirokusa had always talked like this.
She was known to be cool even towards her female friends, further adding to her reputation as an ice queen.
I feigned calmness in order to hide my rising heart rate.
Shirokusa was exceedingly mesmerising, as usual.
A dignified elegance. In physical form alone one could already tell she was vastly different from other girls. One might wonder if she were a sanctuary, if one could be purified just by standing in her very presence – such was the aura she projected.
Shirokusa’s hair was of the righteous long and black.
Lustrous, eye-catching and velvety smooth.
Given the chance to comb it, its allure would probably never allow me to stop.
This is not forgetting the thighs hidden behind a pair of knee socks, and an ample bosom and behind under that uniform that would put most gravure idols to shame. A “self-indulgent body” in other words, hotter than summer but expertly concealed.
Whenever I looked at Shirokusa the wildest preconceived delusions would come into my head.
– “I would not be happy if she willingly showed me her panties.”
Would you be able to understand? I want to see them because they are hidden. There is value only because there is risk.
Shirokusa’s humourless frigidity and faultless countenance are both contradictory to the very concept of eroticism. But then, that “self-indulgent body”.
In other words, what I really want to say is that Shirokusa’s existence is eroticism itself.Q.E. D. I rest my case.
However, Shirokusa’s magnificence stems from her true value lying beyond her distinguished beauty or sexuality.
“How big do you think these are?”
“D… no, E maybe?”
“Damn, can’t they choose something more revealing already?”
“Exactly! Oh a swimsuit would be just perfect!”
The voices of two male classmates drifted into earshot.
The topic of conversation was about a gravure image in a magazine. That in itself was nothing out of the ordinary.
However, the exchange seemed to have caught Shirokusa’s attention. Perhaps due to mild shortsightedness, Shirokusa squinted in order to get a better look of the magazine’s cover.
By the time she had I had already figured out the reason for her interest.
Tetsuhiko whispered softly.
“Oh, is that Kachi’s gravure pic? Did it come out in today’s mag?”
Shirokusa’s shoulders stiffened.
Saying so in front of the person in question was something I could have never done… Tetsuhiko truly had the courage of the devil.
A sinister aura began emanating from Shirokusa.
I wished my words could reach the two boys who were having a whale of a time.
Fellow gents, I understand your feelings only too well! How could I not? How could one claim to be a man if seeing a gravure pic of a beautiful female classmate did not excite him?
–Or so I thought with enough passion to let the entire world know.
But of course it was an impossibility. Especially in front of the person herself!
While the two boys were hyping it up without care for their surroundings, Shirokusa was already approaching with silenced steps.
“Guys, behind you! Look behind you!” I could only think to myself as I watched. Abject fear prevented me from warning either of them as Shirokusa advanced wordlessly.
“Ooh, a swimsuit… was it?”
Having achieved complete surprise, the indignant Shirokusa finally unleashed a wave of ice.
“Yes, exactly! The things a swimsuit would do for that fearsome bust, oh… huh?”
The boys turned around slowly as they came crashing back to reality.
For the briefest moment Shirokusa broke into a cheerful grin, but by the next she was coldly staring them down with a gaze that could freeze water.
“I reallyhate perverts.”
That single sentence, delivered so casually, jolted the heart of every male student in the classroom.
If allowed to I would have liked to speak. About how men were perverted creatures by nature, and also to ask if they could not be forgiven for and permitted to lust after a beauty as great as Shirokusa.
But the merciless assault by her icy daggers, both visual and verbal, was to continue upon the boys.
“So, which will it be?”
“To find joy in the shaming of women is something that should be nothing less than illegal. However, I have always endeavoured to be a benevolent person, so I will offer the both of you a choice. To jump from the window to protect your honour, or to be arrested by the police for sexual harassment – which will you choose?”
Everyone was overwhelmed. Sure, some boys get off to being stared at coldly, but those are in the minority.
Even fellow girls would have been hard-pressed to show their support by matching Shirokusa’s intensity, and honestly probably would have been better off keeping their distance.
“We… We’re sorry… Please have mercy…”
With a stern glare, Shirokusa grabbed the magazine containing her gravure picture.
“I’m confiscating this. I’ll be leaving it with the teacher, so retrieve it after school if you must.”
“Oh, please no! Not the teacher–”
“… Any complaints?”
There wasn’t a single person in this school who could resist the power of Shirokusa’s glare.
“No, we’re really sorry…”
Not bothering to hide her displeasure, Shirokusa returned to her seat.
Tetsuhiko and I glanced sideways at each other in unison and began conversing in low voices.
“See, this is exactly why Kachi doesn’t have any friends. Don’t you think she really comes across as one of those discipline committee members you see all the time in manga?”
At Tetsuhiko’s words I could only nod.
She was outstanding, beautiful and famous. Who would not want to get closer? However, there was always the matter of her fierce, or perhaps better described as crusty, temperament.
Even so, I did not share Tetsuhiko’s aversion for her personality.
“Well she might have gone a little over the top there, but don’t think you really can blame her for getting angry. I know she speaks harshly, but it’s not like she blatantly lies or makes unfair accusations just to put people down, you know? Also, you didn’t have to deliberately point out the fact that she doesn’t have many friends either.”
My personal opinion of Shirokusa is that she is “sublime”.
What I sense from Shirokusa is the resolve to not show any weakness. Is this not another manifestation of her sublimeness, and her exceptional manner of speaking not simply a shield to hide her weaknesses?
“I expected no less of you, Sueharu. So quick to defend your wife.”
“I don’t think you’ll get to live a very long life, Tetsuhiko. Your mouth is going to get you killed.”
Coolly ignoring my words, Tetsuhiko continued.
“Even so, you have to admit Shirokusa’s going a little too far. If not she’s definitely pushing the limit.”
“Isn’t that what’s popular on TV nowadays, though?”
“Well, I suppose they do say genius and madness are two sides of the same coin, and she has a shock factor that’s basically made for television. The fad is almost over but that still is a beautiful Akutami award-winning high school girl author.”
That’s right, Shirokusa’s true value lies neither in her stunning features nor her cool demeanour. It is in her talent, achievements and reputation as an author.
Last year she made her literary debut titled “The Seasons When You Were There” while only a high school freshman. She was already well known throughout the school when I managed to finally convey my feelings about the book to her, but at that time this incredible piece of writing had not yet exploded onto the wider scene.
By the following three months she had received the Akutami Award, regarded as the gateway to future success in the literary world, and instantly elevated herself to national fame.
An exceptional young and incredibly talented beauty. When she spoke it was detached, never flattering, and always with the eccentricity and intensity typical of those with genius. It was impossible for her not to be popular.
Popular enough to appear in a heterogeneous deluge of magazines, TV spots and of course gravure pics – though always limited to her school uniform or casual wear – included.
“Sure, that’s kind of incredible, but at the end of the day isn’t she just another classmate?”
I bluffed purposefully.
“I mean, we’ve also got the third year Tada-senpai who’s apparently some amateur model, as well as that girl in the first year called Misawa who’s supposedly an idol prospect, right? Kachi might be amazing relative to the rest of our class, but if you look at the bigger picture she’s only kind of average, no?”
While not wanting to expose my true feelings, I inadvertently went too far.
The truth was that I had never seen a beauty as great as Shirokusa, and thought of her far more highly than any amateur model senpai or idol prospect kouhai. But to say so and not overtly deny it would essentially be digging my own grave.
Clang! came a dull thud.
Shirokusa was the source of the sound. She seemed to have hit her desk with her leg while sitting.
However, whether she had bumped into it by accident or kicked it in anger was a mystery.
“That wasn’t for me… right?”
I wasn’t speaking that loudly, and she was probably still simmering from the gravure incident earlier.
“Oh ho, if we factor in your lying, Kachi must really be something else then.”
“How the hell did you figure that out? Just stop it, please. I’m sorry, okay?”
“Well, since you’ve apologised I’m going to give you some friendly advice. That girl is too good for you. You’re better off giving up.”
I should have played dumb and replied “Whatever, I don’t like her anyway.” But being told it was impossible before I had even confessed was a little agitating.
“Well, I don’t like her or anything, but I’ll have you know that Kachi and I are actually pretty close.”
–was how I answered.
Tetsuhiko rubbed his chin in a bemused manner.
“You say you’re close to the Kachi who we all know hates guys so much?”
“Well, I’ve never told you this, but last year before Kachi won the Akutami Award I met her by chance along the way home. I had read her book you see, so I told her how much I liked it. And after I did she gave me the greatest smile I had ever seen and said to me–”
“–Thank you. Hearing you say that makes me really happy. I’m really glad… that I tried as hard as I did up till now.”
That was how I ended up succumbing to the poison of love.
A smile she never showed in school… a smile shown only to me.
I regarded the memory as my private treasure.
“And that was how you fell in love?”
It was a feeble denial on my part. I rattled on in hopes of salvaging the situation.
“W- well, you might not know this either, but apparently we live pretty close to each other too, and I’ve bumped into her enough times since then to make light conversation. When you meet Kachi outside it’s like she’s completely different from how she is in school. Kind of lively and carefree? So I don’t like her or anything, but I’d say we’re pretty close.”
Finding her enjoyable to talk to, her looks matching my tastes, her excellent style, us having similar interests, all the small things had built up little by little– leading to this moment.
Tetsuhiko placed both of his hands gently on my shoulders.
“You poor thing… To have become so caught up in your own delusions… I’ll arrange a group date for us so please, just come back to reality…”
“Why do you always have to be so horrible? And don’t pretend like you’re doing me a favour either!”
I forcibly gagged Tetsuhiko with my iron claw causing him to tap the table in submission.
“So anyway, assuming your delusions are true.”
“You’re the one who’s been twisting the facts!”
“And that although you’re plain as shit and an idiot, you’re the only one Kachi acts pleasantly to when she talks.”
“Please don’t call me those things. I don’t have your mental resilience so it actually hurts when you do.”
“That’s why you think Kachi might actually be in love with you?”
“Err, no… that would honestly be a bit much. I swear, I’ve never thought that way.”
Sorry, but that’s exactly how I feel. How could I think otherwise, starting from the premise that she treats me so nicely while being so hard on other guys? Come on, didn’t you just see how awfully she behaved toward Tetsuhiko, while talking to me somewhat normally? A normalcy other boys would never get? This isn’t even counting the fact that we live close by and have met many times on the way home because of it. Could all of those times have been by coincidence? That was definitely her waiting for me.
When you factor all of that in, there can only be one conclusion.
That right now, Shirokusa is waiting for me to confess to her!
There was no longer any doubt. What other choice did I have… but to appear at the “Confession Festival”?!
Oh but hang on, if all went well at the “Confession Festival”, wouldn’t everyone find out? Shirokusa is famous, and it certainly wouldn’t be good for her if a bunch of magazines or TV channels ran an exposé.
“ ‘Beautiful Akutami award-winning high school girl author’ Kachi Shirokusa has found a lover! Rumoured to be classmate Maru Sueharu (17)!”
Holy crap, wouldn’t that mean I’d be under the spotlight? Damn, do I have any clothes I can wear in front of a camera? That settles it then, I’ll go shopping for some around Omotesando the next free day I have.
I was getting into quite a groove when I heard Shirokusa and her aforementioned friend Mine Meiko talking.
“My, Shirokusa-san… you don’t look like you’re in a good mood. Did something happen?”
“Perhaps… I was just thinking about how it would be better if all the men in the world just died.”
… That was just a coincidence, right? She couldn’t have been referring to me, right?
Is Shirokusa’s romantic interest in me really just a manifestation of my own longing or delusion?
If I think about it logically, Shirokusa is an author, a beauty, appears in gravure pics, has good grades and athletic ability and so she is naturally attractive to guys.
I have… no selling points worth talking about.
Staring at Shirokusa’s back, I drifted into thought.
About how a first love could be so exciting and joyful– and yet taste so bitter at the same time.