In any case, travesties always give off a bitter aftertaste. Whether it is a family death, a furry companion leaving you, natural disasters, or an idol you once adored retiring. But there is one thing that overshadows all of this, a single event that can haunt hundreds of people in an instant: a live suicide. Especially when it is exposed to a bunch of teenagers who have not quite figured out their lives yet. If a scenario like that were to happen, the hivemind that is called high-school students would collectively have one general response: “Why us?” But fortunately, the chances of that happening are pretty much close to zero. If that was only the case for our school.
It was the early morning of spring; everybody was getting situated back into their daily routine of preparing for the school day. The oversleeping, the modern cliché of hastily grabbing a piece of toast, which I was guilty of myself. I was complacent when it came to academics, I wasn’t considered dumb or anything. I simply did not need to try my hardest in school; a modest university was good enough for me. Living like this hasn’t done me any wrong yet. My parents weren’t too keen on me going to a mediocre university. But they didn’t bother convincing me again after the first two tries failed. Getting my belongings ready, I headed out for the 2nd course of my high-school life. A size of depression and solitary. Your typical schooling experience.
As this was already my 2nd year, I continued to stick to my original resolve—to live a shallow yet competent lonesome life. By this point, everyone had already settled down with their friend groups and was starting to look onward to the future. Unbeknownst to them, their adolescent years were slowly ending. It also marked the beginning of the end of the assignment of giving random students a popularity status. Of course, we still had another year before our actual departure, but pointing out the signs early gave it a satisfactory feeling. As I walked, I noticed a stray kitten outside my neighbor’s house, it seated itself on top of the black stoned wall that housed the family’s name. Curious, I started to approach it carefully. Right before I was about to pet it the door of the house opened, and walking out was Ayano Chiba.
“Oh, morning Shoya.”
I felt uneasy about conversing with Ayano this early in the morning, let alone conversing with her at all. Adding further to my uneasiness, Ayano continued to talk.
“I didn’t expect you to be out this early, usually you leave a lot later.”
What kind of person even remembers something like that about their neighbor? Ayano was holding a bowl of milk that she had for the kitten. She noticed me at once standing in front of the gate with my hand slightly raised. She kept walking until she was within arm's reach of the kitten and placed the bowl down in front of it. Seeing this made me see another attribute of Ayano in person: her wavering kindness.
Due to this, Ayano was a victim of the popularity status, she’s been plagued by it throughout her life, and everybody was there to see it all, especially me. After all, she and I had been neighbors since grade school. Ayano was complimented with a good figure, large soul-staring eyes, silky black hair that glistened under the light, smooth fair skin that made her look like a shrine maiden, small lips, and sparkling blue eyes that you could consider the pinnacle of beauty. Everything about her was beautiful.
“Yeah, I just wanted to wake up ‘earlier’ for the first day back,” I replied, giving off an uncanny smile. I wanted to end the conversation as fast as possible, my social skills were practically nonexistent.
“—So, what I’m hearing is that your mom made you wake up earlier,” Ayano remarked with a cunning smile.
I pointed my index finger at her and added with a single breath of me mouthing the words ‘yeah’, insinuating that she was correct. Ayano began to laugh at my response, which puzzled my mind. She’s known my family and me for years already, she already knows the ins and outs of how I talk, my demeanor, and who does what, yet she always laughs at stuff like this. I would expect her to get tired of my wasteful lifestyle, but she never does. It’s like she doesn’t know what negativity or tiredness is, which was honestly admirable. Another one of Ayano’s qualities. I wonder if the kitten was thinking the same way about Ayano. The kitten purred when she rubbed its ears gently, whisking its tail in a water-like movement. Although the sight was pleasant, I still had to leave before another conversation sparked. But I’m guessing Ayano thought the same thing because as soon as I took a step, she started to walk through her home gate.
“Ah, I just remember I have student council activities, so I’m going to get going, Shoya, see you at school!” She blurted out. “—alright kitty, I’m about to leave now, you should probably get going too. I don’t suggest coming back though, or you might be sad.” Ayano added before running off.
In my head, I thought that was a strange way to say goodbye to a kitten. But I didn’t think too much about it. Ayano ran down the street giving me a wave; I shortly waved back. I took a deep breath before continuing my walk. The air outside felt nice, a cool gentle breeze whisked past me, and the fresh scent that you could only get during spring filled my nose. Further into my walk, I saw myself slowly catching up with the cluster of students who were all chatting away with their friends. Some were talking about which teachers they got, others were talking about what they did during their breaks, and the rest were just talking about typical teenage stuff. I did not care about any of it, plus there would be nothing for me to talk about. The daily life for a loner like me is to wake up, eat, read, eat again, and then sleep. A very fulfilling life. I and the ever-growing cluster of students approached the school gates. The cherry blossoms that are in front of the school were on the verge of blooming. When they do, it will truly mark the beginning of spring.
As I stepped foot onto the school courtyard, I got a tap on my shoulder. Immediately, my facial expression turned into one of a father who constantly gets pestered by his kids in the morning. And there was only one person capable of doing this. Yuuta Hiiragi. Now normally, simple stuff like a tap on a shoulder wouldn’t irritate me, but what’s different about Yuuta is that although he was plagued with the infamous popularity status, he still considers me—a self-sufficient loner, his best friend. He’s an anomaly that can penetrate a lonesome man’s bubble. As much as it annoys me, there is no reason for me to hate him.
He’s an extremely extroverted individual. He’s so extroverted he gained the notoriety of being friends with everyone at school. But I don’t blame him, who wouldn’t want to be friends with him? He had short blonde hair, his facial features were good-looking, he was also about 190 cm (about 6.23 ft), funny, compassionate, and to top it off captain of the baseball team. To summarize, he was the prince charming of Hiromasa Academy.
“Crazy we’re already almost done with this shithole, huh,” Yuuta commented.
What is this guy talking about? “We still got another year before we truly leave,” I remarked. Though I’m in no position to talk, I also mark the 2nd year of high school as the turning point of our lives.
“Yeah obviously, but I’m just saying in general, we’ve been at school for how long, and I’ve been thinking about the future and whatnot. I mean think about it, the moment we graduate you’re never going to see any of these people again.” He continued.
“I guess so, I haven’t really thought about it. But why worry about it? Don’t you already have a couple of university scouts looking at you? I think you’re pretty much set in life.”
“Yeah, but you never know, what if I get into some freak accident or someone kidnaps me breaking my all fingers, or something even worse! Then my future is bound to change.” Yuuta blurted out.
“Do you really think someone would kidnap an idiot as big as you? Also, the chances of that happening are nonexistent. Idiot.”
“You’re probably right, maybe it’s just the first-day nerves kicking in, also there was no need to call me an idiot twice. Oh, that reminds me, what class are you in again?”
“Hm, I’m in 2-A, why?”
“2-A huh, that’s the same class as Ayano, lucky you.”
“What’s so lucky about it? I don’t see anything special about being in the same class as her, also how do you even know that?” I looked at Yuuta distraught and concerned.
“Heard it from a friend, but that’s beside the point. Any guy would kill to be in the same class as the silked hair princess. And you even have an advantage, you’re both childhood friends. That’s practically a cheat code.”
“First of all, we’re not childhood friends, we just happen to live next door to each other, secondly, I don’t care about the whole princess thing. I just want to enjoy my second year in solitude. That means, no worrying about love, friendships, relationships, or whatever that hinders my free time.”
“Everything that you just said sounded like a textbook definition of a soon-to-be NEET. Are you sure about all that? It sounds—depressing.”
“Obviously I don’t plan on being unemployed, but caring for those other necessities is honestly a waste of time for me. I’m perfect with the way I am.”
“Huh, okay then. As you wish, I won’t meddle with your future endeavors.”
“Thank you for understanding.”
“Well, except for trying to put you and Ayano together. Okay bye, class is starting soon!”
“Huh! What do you mean—”
Before I had the chance to question him, Yuuta had slithered away from the conversation and straight to his homeroom. Of course, it was too good to be true for him to agree with my wishes. It was practically in his DNA to meddle with any type of matter; specifically, mine. I had no reason why he was so keen on it, he had not shown interest in it initially. But I didn’t question his behavior, Yuuta Hiiragi's mind works in ways not even scientists can describe. But for safety measures, I decided to talk to him about when I see him in the halls or after school.
When I arrived at homeroom, most of the students were already inside. All of them were talking with their social groups. As I walked through the arrangement of seats, I could feel their cold eyes piercing me with every step I took. It may sound schizoid, but I could almost hear their thoughts.
『 Isn’t that Mashiro? I thought he stopped coming to school. 』
『 Poor guy, he looks lonely, you should go talk to him, 』 and among other things.
To put it in perspective, I was a gazelle galloping through the plains right into the den of a pride of lions. But that was fine, most of these people will hit their peak in high school. My seat was second to last on the last row closest to the window. And to my right, dead centered in the middle was Ayano, who was chatting with friends. I sat at my desk, resting my head on my palm followed by a private sightseeing at the window. The busy atmosphere of a teenage classroom filled the room, a typical high school setting.
After a few minutes, the teacher walked into the classroom, he introduced himself as Mr. Gyomei. He looked to be around his late twenties, had a broad stature, was taller than average, had short hair that was jet black, had calm yet striking facial features, and his eyes were a light purple haze. He mentioned this was his first-day teaching at this school, but he already had the class in awe, especially the girls. But the boys weren’t jealous, in fact, they seemed like loyal henchmen with how cool he looked. I glanced at Ayano who surprisingly wasn’t enchanted by him. She kept a level-headed expression. I was in the same boat, but it would’ve been ignorant to not notice his aura.
“Looks like everyone has settled down. Let’s get right into the introductory part. First up is, Ayano Chiba.” Mr. Gyomei announced.
She stood up with a gleam in her eyes like this was an important moment for her. “Hello everyone, my name is Ayano Chiba, but you can call me Ayano. I can be modest sometimes, but I’m looking forward to being friends with everyone this year!”
A straightforward introduction, a simple, yet effective strategy. Though mine is going to be a lot simpler than that, as there’s not much for me to say.
“Ah, I made a mistake, I skipped over this person, my apologies, Miss Arakawa, could you please.”
The class giggled at his simple mistake, and the next student went ahead to stand. Futaba Arakawa. She was the true embodiment of a gal. She had blonde hair, dark eyeliner that made her eyes pop, a body that could be comparable to a model, smooth skin, and red lipstick that complimented her small lips. But she didn’t seem like the traditional gal you’d see in movies and tv shows. She looked kind and respectable, but knowing her, it was a forced look. So, it’s safe to say she was doing all of this for the sake of getting Mr. Gyomei to notice her. It was like she prepared for this. Commendable.
“Hi class, my name is Futaba Arakawa, uh, I hope to be friends with like everyone here, and uh, that’s like it~” She sat back down with a proud smile on her face.
Forget everything I said about kindness and respect, all that went down the drain the moment she opened her mouth. It could be compared with a little kid rehearsing their lines for a school play.
As it progressed, Mr. Gyomei called us one by one, until it was my turn to speak. I’ve never been a fan of these types of introductions, everybody will remember each other eventually in one way or another. Especially the way this school system does it. Even though we’re already in our 2nd year, we still give introductions every year. But to fit in with the conformities of a high school class, I had no other choice. As I was getting up, I could once again feel the presence of everyone looking at me, it wasn’t serious, but I’m always hyper-aware whenever I do public speaking.
“Uh I’m Shoya Yamazaki. I’m a second year here, and I hope you keep me in mind.” I at once took a bow and went back down to my seat. I was extremely tensed up when taking a bow, hopefully, no one noticed.
“Haha, no need to be so tense Mr. Yamazaki, thank you for introducing yourself.” He gave a slight chuckle at my notion, and the rest of the class followed suit.
There went my invisible presence, I’ll forever be known as Mr. Tense. Well, I was exaggerating it a bit. Extroverted people can really shift the mood of an entire crowd, huh? We had a few minutes before our first period began. As Mr. Gyomei stepped out, the cluster of students began to migrate over toward their individual friend groups.
I, of course, stayed in my seat. I pulled out a book I was reading earlier out of my bag. It was titled ‘No Longer Human’. A book I borrowed from a family friend who works at the local bookstore. Although I’m only 30 pages in, I can already feel the author’s message and the way he writes vibrates through my body. Eerie.
…..................But this is how I want to write; I want my readers to feel this connected to the story. I’ve written a couple of stories, but I’ve never had anyone read them for me, besides close family members. I think it’s due to the fear of people thinking that it’s boring. Hell, even I think, “Is this maybe boring...?” whenever I write. I used to publish some online, but out of fear, I hid them all.
As I went through my train of thought, an eraser tapped the side of my shoe.
I went to reach for it, until another hand touched mine, and I instinctively retracted my fingers.
“Oh, my bad, I didn’t mean to—” I impulsively said.
“No, no, you’re fine, don’t worry about it...”
When I looked up, I realized it belonged to a girl in dark red-rimmed glasses and short black hair. I think her name was Satsuki Nanamura. She also had an awkward introduction.
“H-here you go...” Looking away so she couldn’t see my embarrassment of a face.
Although she said don’t worry about it, I still grabbed the eraser for her anyways. I opened my hands revealing my palm so she could grab it.
“Thank you, Yamazaki-kun.” She made a slight head nod before going back to her seat.
“Jeez Nana-chan you gotta be more careful, sometimes you can be so clumsy.”
“Ha, sorry, Reina.”
So even the awkward Nanamura has friends. But if I had to be honest seeing her up close, she was cute.
I lightly tapped my forehead with my book, relax Shoya, no need to blush over an unexpected interaction. I blame Hiiragi for putting ideas in my head. I’ll add that to the list of things to complain about to him.
Thinking about it now, I don’t really know any of my classmates' names. I’ve been absorbed in my bubble and it’s already the 2nd year. Hell, I’ve just realized half of these people existed.
It’s not like knowing now will change anything. I’ll stick by my lonesome playbook.
The end of the day was nearing, as our last teacher was preparing to leave, and all we had to do was wait for the bell. Of course, I had no idea what they even talked about as I fell asleep mid-lesson.
My head was still in a resting position, curled up by my elbow pit. So, my eyes were locked in the middle of the classroom.
Ayano isn’t in her seat. Oh well, it’s probably some student council shenanigans.
Tsk. Hiiragi really got inside my head, now I can’t stop thinking about things I would normally never think about. Prince charming my ass, at best he was the prince of being annoying.
The final bell of the day finally rang.
I and the other mix of students gathered our belongings. The usual cluster of students going to the same destination filled the atmosphere of the halls from top to bottom. As I looked around, I saw a plethora of teenage youth. Some were clichés and others that aren’t worth mentioning. I cringed at most.
I regained my composure remembering what I needed to do.
I headed over toward Hiiragi’s classroom. I needed to set his mind straight and clear up false narratives and misunderstandings. I took a quick peek inside his classroom, and he was unsurprisingly not there. He is a popular man, after all, of course, he gets scooped up by some other group.
I’d sigh. I’ll tell him tomorrow.
“Ha. Did you miss me that much?” A voice protruded from the air.
My right eye twitched hearing that familiar cheeky tone. I relaxed my shoulders and turned toward him with a grimaced look.
“You’re the last person I would miss. I’m not here for some eye candy.”
“Ouch. Then what are you here for?” Hiiragi said while bubbly walking toward the school entrance.
I followed suit.
“I’m here because you got the wrong idea about me and... Aya-Chiba-chan,” I said whilst opening my shoe locker.
Hiiragi cheekily smiled at me.
“Oh nothing, but I don’t see why this is a big deal to you, it’s not like any rumors are going around.”
“That’s the problem! I won’t be able to fulfill my goal of being lonesome if I’m the center of attention. If a rumor spills out because of you then you’ll just be making me and Chiba-chan's life miserable.”
“Well for starters, you’re doing a horrible job at being alone since you’re talking to me.”
“Well, you’re the one who decided to puncture my personal bubble.”
“Eh, is that how you saw it? But if I had to be honest, I don’t think Ayano would mind being a part of a rumor with you.”
“What makes you so sure about that?”
“Just a hunch!” Hiiragi said, shrugging his shoulders as we were standing at the entrance.
I raised an eyebrow trying to process what he meant by that. He wasn’t some magical fortuneteller or anything like that.
“Oh, that reminds me! You wanna go to this new arcade that opened recently?”
And he’s right back to his usual self.
“Listen, I’m not here to hang out with—”
My rebuttal was cut short when what felt like the longest time ever had only happened in a fraction of a second. My eyes widened from what I saw. I saw the body of a high school girl falling past my eyes. The sound of the body hitting the pavement reverberated through the area. Droplets of blood scattered over the pavement. My eyes were glued to the horizon, my body was stunned, my hands shook in a whimper. My eyes slowly descended toward the grizzly scene. The sounds of student’s screams were muffled upon seeing the flattened corpse,
—The corpse of Ayano Chiba.