Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai:Volume 08
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai: Volume 8 Illustrations Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai: Volume 8 Reflection: Prayers and Shouts Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai: Volume 8 Opening Act Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai: Volume 8 King Lear and The Fool Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai: Volume 8 Turning Their Backs on the Light
Cowardly Pride and Pompous Shame
Unfortunately, however, this is not where our story full of misfortune ends.
The end of the festival signaled the return to our usual daily lives.
Our extended vacation ended yesterday, on Monday, and upon reaching school today I quickly noticed that all the decorations at the school gate and in the school yard were gone.
That said, it was only the parts that you could see from the outside that had been completely cleaned up. Inside there were still tons of cardboard boxes and supplies lying around, and plenty of posters were still up on the walls too.
The entire school was full of that unique relaxed feeling you get after the end of a festival.
It feels like there are more students than usual close to falling asleep in the middle of class as well, myself included.
And on top of that, we're currently in the middle of modern Japanese, the number one class to put you to sleep, and just staying awake is taking all the energy I have.
The current subject we're covering is Atsushi Nakajima's Sangetsuki.
It's set in ancient China, and apparently it's about an amazing poet down on his luck who ultimately goes insane and turns into a tiger.
"...Then, Richou quit his job and cut off all contact with other people in order to focus solely on his poetry, however he had quite a hard time coming up with anything. What would you usually do in this situation? ...What do you think, Mikadzuki?"
The mild-mannered teacher was giving his lecture in a leisurely tone of voice as he slowly walked around the room, and then stopped to ask Yozora a question.
By the way, the teachers here pick on Yozora fairly often to answer questions.
If I had to say why... it's probably because they think that they can move the class along more smoothly by having an honor student like Yozora answer the question.
I figured Yozora would matter-of-factly state the correct answer as she always did, however to my surprise she went "Eh..." and seemed to be at a loss for what to say.
She flipped through her textbook in a slightly hurried manner, and then quietly answered in a voice lacking confidence,
"......Get mad at myself...?"
She must've chosen that as her answer because in the text it stated that Richou had self-derisive tendencies.
"Hahaha, it's not every day we get to hear a joke from you, Mikadzuki."
The teacher cheerfully laughed, honestly thinking she was joking.
However Yozora only fell further into panic.
"Eh... Ah... Um......... I don't know then."
The teacher laughed again as Yozora answered with a straight face, however he appeared to have noticed that Yozora truly didn't know the answer, and then said, "How about you, Suzuki? What would you do?" choosing to ask the student sitting behind Yozora next.
"Umm... Talk to someone else about it?"
"That's right, normally in this type of situation you'd ask someone for help, however Richou——..."
Suzuki's quick, off-the-cuff answer appeared to be the one the teacher was looking for, as he then continued his lecture.
As for Yozora, she was staring straight downwards, glaring at her textbook, and her face was bright red all the way up to her ears.
"Argh, I can't stand it!"
After school, as we were making our way to the clubroom, Yozora finally snapped once we'd made our way to where nobody else was.
"C-can't stand what?"
It was so sudden I was more surprised than anything.
"Isn't it obvious!? I'm talking about earlier in modern Japanese class!"
Modern Japanese was three periods ago... so about five hours ago now. How long has she been thinking about this?
"...Pretty rare to see you get a question wrong. Did you not read the story ahead of time?"
"No, I read it just fine. His stupid question wasn't in the book..."
Yozora said with a frown on her face.
"Well, it was more like a part of his lecture than an actual question about the story. Makes sense it wouldn't be in the book."
I said, however Yozora only got angrier.
"I can't believe he'd ask such a ridiculous question, that damn sadist of a teacher! Sneaky jerk! Moron! Baldy! Retard! Jerk! Idiot! Poophead!"
I'm guessing it's because she lost her cool, but Yozora's insults were pretty lacking compared to usual.
"And besides, if he was the kind of person who could just ask others for help when he needed it, he wouldn't have quit his job to become a poet in the first place, you damn idiot! That bald moron has no idea how Richou actually felt! That bald imbecile has no place talking about Richou's noble ambitions! That stupid idiot!"
I said, ignoring Yozora with a wry smile.
...I'd say he's actually a pretty good teacher myself, considering he noticed Yozora didn't know the answer and quickly moved to another student.
Yozora's complaining eventually moved from insulting our teacher and empathizing with Richou, to her own little theory on "What literature really is", and then to her criticizing Japan's education system.
She was so all over the place I had no idea what she wanted to say though.
"Also, how can you even measure how much somebody has to be suffering to turn into a tiger, I mean—— Kodaka, are you listening?"
"Eh? Oh, y-yeah. Authors sure have it rough~"
"Yeah, that's exactly right! Even the most skilled author will make a mistake or two when they're faced with overwhelming distress..."
"...Eh... Y-yeah... I-I s-suppose some authors m-might do that t-too... Jerk."
Yozora's flowing critiques came to a crashing halt as she quieted up like a cat that'd just been scolded. Guess I don't have to worry about her turning into a tiger like Richou...
...Actually though, as a matter of fact, back during class I was just as lost as Yozora on how to answer that question that our classmate, Suzuki, answered without even having to really think about it.
Asking others for help, huh...
...They make it sound so easy...
A New Light
After running out of the clubroom the weekend quickly passed by, and it was now Monday after school.
As I was walking through the halls with heavy steps, I saw Aoi Yusa a ways off walking in my direction.
She was carrying two cardboard boxes and looked really unsteady on her feet.
The boxes looked pretty heavy, and she was wearing a pretty stern expression as she carried them.
The boxes made it so she couldn't see in front of her very well, and it wasn't until she was about a meter away that she realized it was me, causing her to go "Ah..." and make an awkward face.
Yusa averted her gaze and quickly tried to pass by me.
However, all of a sudden she tripped over her own feet and lost her balance.
I reflexively grabbed both boxes with my hands and held them steady, allowing Yusa to regain her balance.
"Phew... T-thank you, Hasegawa. I-if you'll excuse me!"
I called out to Yusa as she tried to quickly get away from me, and asked her,
"...Want some help?"
"I-I'm fi—— Owah, ah?"
Yusa was right in the middle of refusing my offer when she tripped again, almost dropping the top box. All I could do was sigh at her.
"...You can't even see where you're going. It's dangerous——"
I said before snatching the top box.
However it was heavier than I thought it'd be, causing me to let out a yelp in a panicked voice.
Most girls would probably have a hell of a time trying to carry two of these at once... Hell, some guys might even have trouble carrying two.
"T-thank you Hasegawa..."
Yusa thanked me while blushing faintly.
"Don't sweat it."
I said, and then started walking alongside Yusa.
"These are pretty heavy... what's in 'em?"
"Request forms and printouts used during the school festival. There's some pamphlets and such in here too."
"Ahh, paper huh. No wonder it's heavy... What were you thinking, carrying two of these at once?"
"I-I couldn't help it, there's a lot of them I have to move! ——Uwo!"
Even with only one box Yusa still looked unsteady on her feet.
"...Are you OK?"
Yusa seemed embarrassed as she nodded at me.
"So if you have a lot, does that mean there's still more after these two?"
"Why are you even carrying these in the first place?"
"It's part of my Student Council duties."
"You have to carry all of them by yourself?"
"How can they make one person carry so many of these alone..."
"T-that's not it!"
Yusa hurriedly interjected upon hearing my accusatory tone.
"It's not like everyone else in the Student Council pushed this onto me. It's the opposite actually, I turned down their offer to help."
"Because it's my fault for skipping a week of work that things got this backed up. I can't bother everyone else with this when they're already so busy."
Yusa plainly stated with a super serious look on her face.
That week she skipped... is probably the time she spent observing what we were doing in the Neighbors Club.
And apparently this is the work that piled up in that time.
"...Why did you try so hard to get rid of the Neighbors Club?"
I asked her something that'd been on my mind.
First she came and complained we weren't following school rules, and when that failed she went so far as checking the staff roster just to find something we did wrong.
And that's all despite the fact that the Neighbors Club hasn't ever caused any real problems.
The fact we spend all of our time playing around is probably an issue, but I'm pretty sure there are plenty of clubs besides ours who don't do much.
If it was just about the school rules, then there are plenty of other students who aren't following them. In fact, I'd be surprised if you could find even one person who follows all the school rules to a T.
There's also the fact that the time I first met Yusa she actually complimented my clothes and hair and such because she thought I was doing all that to be fashionable.
Even if she is a ridiculously serious hard worker, I don't think she's an inflexible stubborn person at all.
And yet, she focused on the Neighbors Club to the point that it caused problems with her own work, and even tried to have the club disbanded.
I'm not sure how to put it exactly, but it just doesn't seem like something she'd do.
"I did it because people with amazing skills should be in a place that suits those skills."
Yusa plainly answered.
"...A place that suits their skills?"
"Yes! It is a great loss to all of mankind to have a person as gifted as Sena Kashiwazaki wasting her time in such a place!"
"To all of mankind, huh..."
I said while making a wry smile, and then asked,
"...So, basically, you were trying to get rid of the Neighbors Club for Sena's sake?"
"Yes!" Yusa immediately replied.
Looking at it from an objective point of view—— I'm sure Yusa is right.
Whether or not it's something that affects all of mankind aside, I'm sure Sena could achieve some great things in a sports club.
She might be fatally uncooperative, but it'd be fine as long as she did solo events, and even for team events her specs are so high it balances out her faults and then some.
And Sena isn't the only one in the Neighbors Club like that.
Yozora Mikadzuki is amazing at both academics and sports.
She's bad at socializing, but it's not like she can't fit into a group at all, and I'm sure she'd be able to handle just about anything you throw at her.
Needless to say there's Rika Shiguma as well, who's already done actual professional work.
I bet tons of people would love to have her spend her free time helping them research and invent things. In fact, there's probably more people who'd want her than there are who'd want Sena.
Kobato Hasegawa is popular in her middle school—— She has a place she belongs outside the Neighbors Club.
She should value the bonds she has with her classmates, so she can be ready for when she eventually graduates and becomes a high school student.
Maria Takayama has an older sister at her side who loves her more than anyone else.
Even if she didn't have the Neighbors Club, I'm sure her sister would protect her and guide her right this time.
As for Yukimura Kusunoki, she claims "I do not need friends." and thus completely denies the idea of "making friends" at the heart of the Neighbors Club.
A shiver ran through my body and caused all my hair to stand on end.
If you think about it logically,
the Neighbors club has no reason to,
no reason to...
"Just kidding, that was a lie."
Yusa said with a sigh just before my brain could form that final terrifying word.
"Huh? A lie?"
"...It would've been nice if I had a cool reason like doing it for the world, or for someone else, or for society, or for justice, but... that's not why I did it. Honestly, I didn't think about doing it for her at all."
"...What do you mean?"
Yusa made a self-derisive smile at my question.
"I just wanted to beat Sena Kashiwazaki. I wanted to show the queen who has everything that not everything will go her way. ...Basically, I was jealous. I wanted someone blessed like her to pay a fitting price. If you're more blessed than others, then you should suffer an equal amount. Otherwise it'd be unfair. If there are people who are born with everything and get to be happy no matter what, then what about the normal people out there trying their best every single day?"
Yusa then paused and went, "Hahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh~~" and let out a big sigh.
"...But, trying to harass Sena Kashiwazaki only ended up making me look more pathetic... I even caused trouble for you too, Hasegawa. I'm sorry."
Yusa seemed to truly regret her actions as she apologized to me.
Honestly, I don't think playing the bad guy suits her in the least.
"You don't have to worry about us, what's done is done... And besides, I kinda know what you mean..."
"I appreciate it, even if it is just a lie."
Yusa said with an apologetic look on her face.
I wasn't lying though. After all, what's wrong with being jealous of others?
There was something more important than her apology I needed to tell her.
"...You're wrong about thinking that Sena has everything. There are things that even she doesn't have."
"Oh? Just what doesn't she have then?"
"...Friends, for example."
Yusa made a big grin after hearing my completely serious answer.
"W-why are you laughing?"
Yusa looked like she'd just heard something hilarious as she said,
"Aha, you've got as good a sense of humor as always, Hasegawa~ As if there's anybody who doesn't have any friends! Good joke though! Pfft, haha!"
"......Y-yeah, guess you're right, haha..."
"Thank you very much, Hasegawa! I appreciate you telling such a funny joke to try and cheer someone like me up! You're a really nice and wonderful person!"
She made a sweet smile, and I could see that her walking wasn't as labored as it was before.
.........It's good to see she's back to her usual self again, but... for some reason I feel kinda depressed right now...
Yusa and I left the school building, and carried the boxes all the way out to a shed tucked away in a corner of the school grounds.
Inside the shed there were bunches of folded up cardboard boxes, stacks of printer paper, newspapers, and books all separated into their own little areas.
I've heard that all the paper garbage in St. Chronica Academy goes here, and that once a month they send it out to be recycled.
I took all the paper out of my cardboard box, broke it up into smaller stacks, then tied it up with some vinyl rope and placed it in the designated area.
I folded up the cardboard box too, and placed it on top of the other folded up boxes.
Just one box alone was quite a bit of work.
"Thank you very much, Hasegawa. You were a big help."
Yusa said with a smile while wiping the sweat off of her forehead.
She then told me,
"I'll be fine now, you can go to your club."
My heart felt like it was about to jump out of my chest at the mention of the word "club".
"You've still got more to carry, don't you? I'll help with those too."
I said, trying my best to act calm.
Yusa looked confused for a moment, and then said,
"Y-you don't have to do that! This is all work I should be doing!"
"Don't worry about it. In for a penny in for a pound."
"B-but there are still quite a few left..."
"Then all the more reason for me to help. Can't just abandon you, now can I?"
That was, without a doubt, what I honestly thought.
I'd feel bad if I left a little girl like her (even if she is the same age as me) to do all this heavy lifting by herself.
"But it doesn't even have anything to do with you, I'd feel bad making you help..."
"This is all work that piled up while you were observing the Neighbors Club, right? Then it does have something to do with me."
It's also true that I felt a bit guilty about making Yusa waste all that time.
"You... think so...?"
After mulling it over for a few moments, Yusa made a cheerful smile and said,
"Okay, then I'll take you up on your offer. Thank you very much, Hasegawa!"
"...But is it really okay if you don't go to your club?"
I did my best to sound casual as I responded to Yusa's hesitant question.
"You should know by now that the Neighbors Club doesn't have any specific activities. If we have other stuff to do then we're free to do that stuff instead."
That is also the truth.
The seven of us might've started gathering more frequently lately, but it wasn't too long ago that hardly anyone ever showed up.
People would be absent for any number of reasons you'd never get away with in a normal club, whether it be because they wanted to buy a new book, wanted to play a new video game, wanted to do their homework, etc.
In fact, sometimes the only reason would be that they didn't feel like it, and on top of that they wouldn't even tell anyone they weren't coming. To tell the truth, I've actually done that on more than one occasion myself.
Thus, "helping the Student Council" was just the reason I needed.
It was a perfect reason, one nobody could fault me for.
...Why have I been going out of my way to mention "this is the truth" and "that was what I really thought" for the past little while now?
...Why was I looking for "a reason I can't go the Neighbors Club"?
...Who am I making excuses to?
.........The answer is obvious.
I didn't want to admit that, even if it was just for a split second, that I thought to myself, "I don't want to go to the Neighbors Club."
Yusa and I made three more trips back and forth, carrying the heavy cardboard boxes from the Student Council storage room (the room next to the Student Council's room) to the shed.
Yusa plunked the box she'd been carrying down onto the floor of the shed, and then sat down on top of it.
She was breathing heavily, and her forehead was covered in sweat.
I was in much the same shape, and was currently resting against a shelf regaining my breath.
"Haa......... This is pretty hard work..."
"Sh-shure ish... Hau..."
Yusa gave a tired nod in response to my wry smile.
"How much is left?"
"There's still all the boxes on the floor in our storage room, so at least 10..."
"Seriously...? All of those...?"
"B-but don't worry! We're almost done with all the paper, all that should be left after that is cloth and wood stuff!"
"C-cloth aside, isn't wood kinda heavy...!?"
I said as a cold sweat ran down my cheek.
"...I know it's too late now anyway, but couldn't you have burned all the paper and cloth at the campfire?"
I thought it was a pretty good idea myself, but Yusa simply made a wry smile.
"Ahaha... Maybe some of it, but definitely not all of it."
"Eh, how come?"
"It's dangerous if the fire gets too big, and some stuff might be toxic if we burned it. There's also the fact that the people in the neighborhood would complain if we kept the campfire going too late into the night. ...Actually, it's so much work to do the campfire that every year people say we should stop doing it."
"Yes. We only still do it because it's been a tradition since the school was founded. ...Although some people say it's also because the chairman won't cancel it."
Guess there's a lot of annoying behind-the-scenes stuff even for something as beautiful as the campfire.
"...Alright, ready to get back to work?"
"Ah, yes. ...Um... I think I'll do the rest by myself after all, Hasegawa you can..."
I cut off Yusa mid-sentence, and told her,
"Don't be ridiculous, I'm helping you to the very end and that's that. ......But, well, wanna call it a day after two or three more boxes? It's starting to get dark and all."
"Eh!? Are you going to help me tomorrow too?"
Yusa looked incredibly grateful and made a bashful smile upon hearing my answer.
"Hasegawa... Thank you very much...!"
"Don't sweat it."
...Having someone direct such honest appreciation towards me was honestly really painful. I don't deserve to be thanked by anyone.
"C-come on, let's go."
Yusa nodded with a smile after I'd stuttered my words out, after which we turned towards the entrance to the shed.
However as we did, someone appeared at the entrance.
The light behind them was so bright I couldn't see their face very well.
I could tell the person had long hair and was wearing a skirt though, so it had to be a girl.
"Kuhaha! Excellent work you two!"
...I know I've heard that clear voice that makes you want to just keep on listening to it before.
The girl who'd just appeared with a blinding light behind her greeted us in a hearty voice along with a boisterous laugh, and then entered the shed.
Her good-looks gave her an aura of refinement and intelligence, and her long black hair, tied into braids which made her look like the daughter of a well-off family, only served to strengthen that impression.
Slender legs, a supple waist, and a plump yet modest chest.
Her name is Hinata Hidaka.
She's the student council president here at St. Chronica Academy, beloved by just about everybody (or so I've heard), as well as the girl Yozora secretly loathes and calls "King Lear".
"Hinata!? Why are you here!?"
Yusa said in a shocked tone of voice.
President Hinata responded by going "Heh," before making a both majestic and charming smile, and then saying,
"I heard there was a regular student helping you out with your work, you see. I figured I should say my thanks as Student Council President."
She came all the way out here just to thank me?
I was pretty shocked myself, but Yusa simply gave the president a cold stare.
"...You just used that as an excuse to skip out on your work again, didn't you?"
"Kuhaha! Interacting with my fellow students is my job!"
From the looks of it Yusa was spot on with her guess, but the president didn't seem to care at all and instead made a cheerful laugh.
Yusa said with a sigh, after which the president shifted her gaze away from Yusa and over to me.
Her eyes resembling a pair of giant black pearls met with mine.
Her gaze had a certain force to it, but it wasn't an overwhelming one. Rather, it was a tender, comfortable one.
It almost felt like I was going to be sucked into those eyes of hers.
"Hinata, this is Kodaka Hasegawa of class 2-5."
Yusa said, introducing me to the president, which elicited from her the following response:
"Ohh, so this is him, huh!?"
"Eh, you know him?"
The president said with a serious look on her face in reply to Yusa's surprise.
"Then why'd you act all surprised!?"
"I was just going with the flow!"
......What the heck is going on here...
For a second there I thought that even the Student Council President had heard all those bad rumors about me... I almost had a heart attack for cryin' out loud...
Yusa's expression now appeared a bit annoyed as she introduced the president to me.
"Ah, Hasegawa, this is the Student Council President, Hinata Hidaka."
"Ah, yeah... I know."
I said before making a little bow in the president's direction.
"Umm... Hi, I'm Hasegawa."
"I'm Hinata Hidaka. Nice to meet you, Hasegawa."
"Ah, y-yeah, same here."
I couldn't help but feel nervous after having that smile as bright as the sun itself cast at me all of a sudden.
"By the way, why are you helping Aoi, Hasegawa? ...Ah, I know, you must be Aoi's boyfriend, right!? I'm so jealous of you, Aoi!"
""T-that's not it!!""
Yusa and I both denied the president's question in harmony with one another.
Yusa then went red in the face and started fidgeting as she went on to say,
"T-there's no way that... Hasegawa would ever g-go out with someone like me! Besides, Hasegawa already has a fine girlfri-... Oh, wait. You said you aren't going out with Sena Kashiwazaki, didn't you?"
"Y-yeah, that's right..."
Hearing Sena's name got me flustered again.
"Then are you going out with anyone else in the Neighbors Club?"
"I-I'm not! I'm not going out with anyone. ...It's not like that with them."
"Hmm, I see. That makes sense though."
"? What do you mean by that?"
I asked, thinking it was weird how convinced Yusa looked, to which she replied,
"Eh? Because, you're the only guy in the Neighbors Club, right? Things would get really awkward if the only super cool guy in the club started going out with one of the girls!"
...Whether I'm cool or not is up for debate, but...
I placed my hand on Yusa's head—— and started patting her.
"H-Hasegawa!? W-why are you patting me on the head with an expression that looks like the face an old man not long for this world would make while looking at his newborn granddaughter!?"
"Ah, well~... It's just... I'm happy that someone out there gets it......"
Crap, I might actually cry.
"I-I don't really get it, but... f-feel free to pat me as much as you like! ...Fuah... It feels so good..."
"Hey~ Earth to Hasegawa~"
The president said with a dumbfounded look on her face, after which I let out a gasp and stopped patting Yusa's head.
Yusa, who'd been entranced until just a second ago, also came back to her senses and started blushing before quickly moving away from me.
"So, if you're not her boyfriend then why?"
"Ah, well, it seemed like a lot of work for just one person, so, you know..."
"Hasegawa is a wonderful person who can't overlook those in need!"
"Eh!? No, I wouldn't go that far..."
Yusa's overwhelming praise left me feeling bewildered.
"I see, that's quite admirable of you! Not many young men like you these days. Keep up the good work!"
"...Eh? Oh, yeah..."
"Alright then, let's get this cleaned up!"
However Yusa squinted at the president's easygoing comment and said,
"...Hinata, please go do your own work."
"Kuhaha, no need to be so cold with me. Come on, it'll go faster with three people, won't it?"
"...Well, yes, that's true, but..."
Yusa then let out a sigh of resignation.
"...Fine. I don't want to bother Hasegawa any more than I already have, so let's all do it together. We might be able to finish today if you help us."
The boxes we'd been carrying were plenty heavy to begin with, but the president was able to carry two of them easily.
Thanks to that we were able to carry twice as many boxes per trip as before, and just like Yusa said, we ended up finishing moving all the boxes just as the sun had begun to set.
...This girl is really something...
I let out a sigh of admiration as I followed President Hidaka back to the main school building.
I'd heard that clubs always fight over getting her to help them out with stuff, but she really is an incredibly powerful person, despite her girlish looks.
"Hnn, haven't had a good workout like that in a while!"
The president was busy stretching her arms out full of satisfaction as we walked.
"...Come to think of it, what events were you in for the athletics festival, President?" I asked on a whim.
Given her strength and stamina I'd imagine her doing really well at the athletics festival, but oddly enough I can't remember ever seeing her.
The president said, almost as if pouting about it.
"Huh? The ball-toss?"
"My team would've won for sure if I'd actually participated, so the festival committee told me not to do any events other than the ones everyone does. Hahhh, I wanted to play at the festival too you know."
She then pursed her lips a bit, and made a bitter look at Yusa.
"T-there was nothing we could do about it... It wouldn't be any fun if everyone knew who'd win right from the start. It would've been a different story if you weren't in class 3 though."
"Class 3...? Ohhh..."
I realized what Yusa meant by that.
The teams for the festival were broken up by class number, which made it so the president in class 3-3 and Sena in class 2-3 were on the same team.
If there were two people who win every event they're in on the same team, then no other team would've even had a chance of winning, and the entire festival would've been ruined.
The president made another cheerful laugh after seeing Yusa's uncomfortable expression.
"Kuhaha, I know. You guys made the right choice. I'm the Student Council President after all, it was my duty to put up with it so everyone could have fun. What do you think Hasegawa? Pretty admirable of me, right?"
"Haha, you'd be more admirable if you didn't brag about it."
I couldn't help but let out a laugh.
...She's a really interesting person.
Not only does she put others above herself, but she does so gracefully without a hint of bitterness about it. I can see why so many people would like her.
"By the way, Hasegawa."
The president stopped walking all of a sudden, and turned around towards me.
"I like you, would you be interested in joining the Student Council?"
I stood there, stunned.
"W-wh-where did that come from!?" Yusa yelped, seeming as flustered as me.
"It's nothing much. We lost our general affairs manager recently, so since the position's open I figured I'd ask."
"Figured you'd ask? Isn't that a bit too casual...?"
I was astonished by how carefree she was being about it.
"Hrmm... That's not a bad idea... There's also the rule that says: 'In the event there is a vacancy in the executive roles, the president is allowed to appoint a regular member to the position so long as the other executive members agree,' so it wouldn't be breaking the rules either."
"Now you too, Yusa!?"
Yusa continued to stare at me with a serious look on her face, despite my yelling, and said,
"The executive roles in the Student Council are currently fulfilled by President Hinata, Vice-President Akane Ohtomo, our treasurer, me, and our clerk, Karin Jinguuji, but we always run into trouble because we're so short on hands."
"Carrying all these boxes was supposed to be the general affairs manager's work, too," the president added.
"We have to hurry and finish the preparations for the Christmas party and ski training in January too, so right now we can use all the help we can get. The four of us are all girls too, which presents problems for us sometimes... Having a guy around would be a huge help! I'm sure you'd be perfect for the job, Hasegawa!"
Yusa seemed strangely enthusiastic as she tried to convince me to join, but all I did was sigh.
"I'd be perfect for the job...? Do you honestly think that?"
"? What do you mean?"
Yusa tilted her head in confusion, so I asked her,
"...Do you honestly not know what everyone else at school thinks of me?"
Yusa paused briefly to think before cutely tilting her head again, and replying,
"Umm, do they all think...... that you're a super cool bad boy?"
"You're the only one who thinks that! Thank you!"
Her answer was so off the mark that I ended up thanking her before regaining my composure and letting out another sigh.
"Hahh... You're completely wrong. ...I'm not a bad boy, just plain 'bad'... Basically, like a yankee or a delinquent. My hair, my face, and a bunch of other little stuff I do makes everyone think that."
"Hrm... Now that you mention it your hair does stand out a bit at this school, and you look menacing. I can see why people would think you're a delinquent."
I ended up making a wry smile after hearing the president's blunt evaluation, and said,
"Do you get it now? If you let someone like me into the Student Council it'll just make you guys look b——"
"Only a fool would judge someone based on their appearance alone. I couldn't care less what people like that think."
The president declared without a hint of hesitation, as if it were only natural.
I opened my eyes wide in surprise, and simply stood there staring at the president's face.
Come to think of it, she hasn't made a single comment about my appearance all day today, let alone acted scared of me because of it.
Up until now, I've had people act afraid of me like most students do, think I'm a yankee like Sena and Kate did when we first met, tease me for looking like a Yankee like Yozora and Rika do, or in rare cases have some weird yet positive impression of me like Yusa and Yukimura, all because of how I look.
This girl before me might be the first person I've ever met who's the same age as me but doesn't care about how I look at all.
Don't judge someone based on how they look—— It's easy enough to say, but doing it is hard.
Even I sometimes think "She's got a cute face" or "He looks scary" despite having met my fair share of trouble because of people doing that to me. In fact, I even imagined 'how much easier my life would be if I had that kind of friendly appearance' when I saw the president give her speech at the athletics festival, too. I don't think anyone can really help themselves from thinking like that.
And that's to say nothing about the near-impossible act of completely ignoring the appearance of someone you've just met.
Hinata Hidaka, huh...
I can't believe someone like her exists... and in the same school as me, too.
"What's the matter, Hasegawa? Why are you spacing out?"
"Ah, i-it's nothing!"
I hurriedly tried to act normal after the president gave me a dubious look.
"I see. So, how about it?"
I was honestly at a loss.
I thought to myself that working for this person wouldn't be half bad—— in fact, it'd probably be amazing.
However I shook that thought off, and told her,
"...S-sorry, but I think the Student Council is too much for me..."
Upon seeing the dejected look on the president's face, I quickly added,
"B-but, if you ever need help with manual labor stuff like this again, then just say the word! I've usually got plenty of free time!"
I blurted it out so fast it was as if I'd done it by reflex.
"By reflex"—— In other words, it wasn't an excuse to avoid the Neighbors Club, it was how I truly felt.
After hearing that, both the president's and Yusa's faces broke out into huge smiles.
"I see! So then, can you come again tomorrow? The library staff asked us to help sort some books."
"O-of course, no problem at all!"
"A fine answer. Today must be my lucky day, meeting such a hard worker as yourself! It was worth sneaking away from Akane to come out here, kuhahaha!"
The president said full of cheer, along with a loud, hearty laugh.