Y1 Vol 1 Chapter 3 | The Students of Class D

On our second day of school—well, I suppose technically it was the first day of class—we spent most of our time running over the course objectives. Apparently, many of the students were quite surprised, if not a little disappointed, by how genuinely warm and friendly the teachers at this school looked. Sudou had already made a spectacle of himself by spending most of the class asleep. I thought that the teachers would notice, but they showed no signs of doing so. After all, it was up to every individual student whether or not he or she wanted to listen in class. I wondered if this was how teachers typically interacted with students once they left compulsory education.

I took in the relaxed atmosphere, and soon it was lunchtime.

Students stood up and left with their new acquaintances, disappearing from my view. I couldn’t help but feel slightly envious as I watched them. Unfortunately, I still hadn’t managed to befriend a single one of my new classmates.

“How pathetic.”

Only one person had noticed how I felt, and she met my pain with derisive laughter.

“What? What’s pathetic?” I asked.

“‘I want someone to invite me along. I want to eat with someone!’ Your thoughts are like an open book,” Horikita said.

“But you’re alone, too, aren’t you? Haven’t you thought the same thing? Or do you intend to spend three years here without making a single friend?”

“That’s right. I prefer to be alone,” she replied quickly, without hesitation. It sounded like she was being honest. “Why don’t you stop worrying about me and instead think about yourself?”

“Well, I…”

I certainly wasn’t proclaiming my intention to be social.

Honestly, at the rate things were going I might be unable to make any friends, spelling trouble for my future. I’d likely end up alone again, and that would make me stand out. It could make me a target for bullying.

Less than a minute after the end-of-class bell rang, about half of the students had disappeared. Those who remained either secretly wanted to go, like me, were unconscious of their surroundings, or preferred being alone, like Horikita.

“Well, I was thinking of heading to the cafeteria. Anyone want to come with me?” announced Hirata as he stood. He was clearly one of those all-around good guys. I had to take my hat off to him. In my heart of hearts, I’d been waiting for a savior to bestow a chance like this upon me. Yes, Hirata, I will go with you. I slowly tried to raise my hand, and…

“I’ll go, too!”

“Me, too! Me too!”

Girls gathered around Hirata one after another, and I lowered my hand. Why did those girls have to take his offer? This could’ve been my chance to make friends with Hirata! You don’t need to jump all over him for lunch just because he’s kind of handsome!

“How tragic.”

Horikita’s derisive laugh morphed into scorn.

“Don’t just assume you know what I’m thinking,” I said. “Does anyone else want to come?”

Hirata looked around the room, possibly feeling a bit lonely because no other boys had joined him. Hirata scanned the classroom, and his eyes met mine. Over here! Notice me, Hirata! There’s someone here who wants an invitation! Hirata didn’t avert his eyes, just as I would expect from someone with a handle on his life who cared about the people in his class! He understood my appeal!

“Hey, Ayano—”

Hirata began to call my name, but in that instant— “Come on. Hurry up, Hirata-kun!”

A fashionista-type girl latched onto Hirata’s arm. Ah… The girls stole Hirata’s attention. They left the classroom together, all looking rather happy. I remained alone with my arm outstretched. Somewhat embarrassed, I tried to play it off by pretending to scratch my head.

“Well then.” Horikita shot me another pitying look before departing the classroom, leaving me alone.

“That was pointless.”

Reluctantly, I got up and decided to head toward the cafeteria by myself. If I didn’t feel like I could eat alone in there, I’d just score some supplies from the convenience store.

“You’re Ayanokouji-kun, right?”

On my way out, a beautiful girl suddenly called my name. It was Kushida, one of my classmates. This was the first time I’d actually taken a good look at her, and it caused my heart to start pounding in my chest like a jackhammer. She had short, straight, dyed-brown hair that almost brushed the tops of her shoulders.

While it certainly wasn’t crude, the school had recently approved rather short skirt lengths. I had a strong feeling that this was one of the more recent uniforms.

She was holding something in her hand. I couldn’t tell if it was a pouch with a lot of key holders or what.

“I’m Kushida, from your class. Do you remember me?” she asked.

“Yeah, kinda. Do you need something?”

“To tell you the truth, there’s something I wanted to ask you.

It’s just one little question. Ayanokouji-kun, are you on good terms with Horikita-san?”

“I wouldn’t really say we’re on good terms. Just casual acquaintances, I guess. Did she do something?”

It looked like her business was with Horikita rather than me, which was a little disappointing.

“Oh, no. Well, do you remember when I said I wanted to get along with everyone in class? That’s why I wanted everyone’s contact info. But…Horikita turned me down.”

Ugh. Horikita was so oblivious. If such a positive, outgoing girl asked for your info, it would’ve been nice for you to throw me a bone and give me her contact info while you were at it. I could probably have gotten to know everyone in the class in almost no time at all.

“Weren’t you two talking outside the school on the day of the entrance ceremony?”

Considering we’d all ridden the bus together, it was no wonder that she’d seen my meeting with Horikita.

“I was just wondering what kind of person Horikita-san is,” Kushida continued. “Is she the type who’ll talk a lot when she’s with a friend?”

She seemed to want information on Horikita, but I couldn’t give her any answers.

“I don’t think she’s very good at interacting with others.

Why are you asking about Horikita, anyway?”

“Well, during our introductions, Horikita-san walked out of the classroom, right? It seems like she hasn’t talked to anybody yet, so I’m a little worried about her.”

Kushida had said that she wanted to get along with everyone when she introduced herself.

“I understand what you’re saying, but I only just met her yesterday. I can’t really help you.”

“Hmm. I see. I thought that you two must have been old friends before starting school here. I’m sorry to have asked you such a strange question.”

“Oh, no, it’s all right. Anyway, how did you know my name?”

“How? You introduced yourself the other day, didn’t you? I remembered.”

Kushida had listened to my hopelessly lame self- introduction. Somehow, that made me really happy.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you again, Ayanokouji-kun,” she said.

Although I was a little bewildered by her outstretched hand, I wiped my palms on my pants and shook hands with her. “Yeah, nice to meet you,” I said.

Today was probably my lucky day. Even though there’d been some low points, some things had gone well. Since humans were creatures of convenience, the positives quickly overrode the bad memories.

3.1

After taking a quick peek into the cafeteria, I opted instead to go to the convenience store, buy some bread, and return to class. About ten people had remained in the room. Some had pushed their desks together so they could all eat as a group, while other, more solitary students quietly ate their lunches alone.

Everyone here had brought a lunch box from the cafeteria or convenience store.

I was going to eat by myself, but then Horikita returned and sat down beside me. On Horikita’s desk sat a delicious-looking sandwich. Her aura seemed to say, “Don’t talk to me,” so I returned to my seat without speaking. Just as I was about to sink my teeth into a sweet bun, music played through the speakers.

“At five PM Japan Standard Time today, we will be holding a student club fair in Gymnasium No. 1. Students interested in joining a club, please gather in Gymnasium No. 1. I repeat, at—”

A girl with a sweet voice continued the announcement. Club activities, huh? Come to think of it, I’d never joined a club before.

“Hey, Horikita—”

“I’m not interested in joining a club.” “I didn’t even ask you anything yet.” “Well, what is it?”

“Are you interested in joining a club?”

“Ayanokouji-kun, do you have dementia, or are you just an idiot? Didn’t I just tell you that I’m not interested?”

“That doesn’t mean you won’t join, though,” I replied.

“Now you’re just splitting hairs. Don’t argue for the sake of arguing.”

“Okay then.”

So, Horikita had no interest in making friends or joining clubs. She seemed annoyed whenever I tried to talk to her. I wondered if she’d come to the school only to advance into higher education or get a job. If she wanted to advance to higher education, I wouldn’t have found that too surprising, but I did consider it a bit of a waste.

“You don’t really have any friends, do you?” she asked. “Sorry. But, hey, I can at least talk to you pretty well now.” “Listen, don’t count me as one of your friends.”

“O-oh…”

“Well, since you apparently want to go find out about the clubs, do you intend to join one?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m not sure, I guess. I’m still thinking about it.

Probably not, though.”

“You don’t plan to join a club, but you want to go to the club fair? How odd. Do you plan to use this as a pretext for talking to people and making friends?”

How could she possibly be so sharp? No, I was probably just easy to read.

“Since I failed to make any friends on my first day, I thought that clubs would be my last chance.”

“Can’t you invite anyone other than me?” she asked.

“It’s precisely because I don’t have anyone else to invite that I’m having such a hard time!”

“True. However, I don’t think you seriously mean what you’re saying, Ayanokouji-kun. If you seriously want to make a friend, you should be more insistent.”

“I can’t, though. I’ve devoted myself to walking a lonely road.”

Horikita took up her sandwich and quietly resumed eating. “I have trouble comprehending your contradictory way of thinking.”

I wanted to make friends, but I couldn’t. Horikita apparently found that incomprehensible.

“Have you ever joined any clubs, Horikita?” I asked. “No, I’ve never been in one.”

“Then, do you have any experience? You know, doing this or that?”

“What exactly do you mean by ‘that’? I can’t help but feel like that’s a mean-spirited question.”

“Mean-spirited? Why? What did I say wrong?”

In one quick motion, Horikita karate-chopped me in the side. I coughed after being struck, unable to believe that a girl could hit so hard.

“Wh-what was that for?!” I cried.

“Ayanokouji-kun. I’ve warned you thoroughly, but it would appear that you haven’t been listening. I think I may have to dole out rather merciless punishment to you later.”

“Absolutely not! Violence doesn’t solve anything!”

“Oh, really? Violence has existed since the dawn of time. Violence has historically proven to be the human race’s most effective means of achieving resolution. Violence is the most reliable method to make others listen, or safely deny their demands. Not to mention that, in many countries, the police who enforce the law use handguns and batons, wielding violence as a tool to make arrests.”

“You sure are rambling…”

She gave a grand speech, insisting that hitting me had not been wrong. She also stated that her unreasonable behavior was reasonable. If I tried to argue, she would viciously tear me down.

“I think that I will employ violence to rehabilitate you, Ayanokouji-kun, and purge you of those impure thoughts. How does that sound?”

“Okay then, what if I said the same thing to you, Horikita?

What about that?”

At best, men who raised their hand against women were called “lowlifes” and “cowards.”

“I wouldn’t particularly mind, because I don’t think you’ll get the chance. Besides, if I never say anything wrong, then you’ll never be able to reproach me.”

Her answer was totally unexpected. She really seemed to believe that she was always right. Even though she looked and spoke with the civility befitting an honors student, on the inside, she was a cruel beast.

“Okay, I get it, I get it. I’ll be careful from now on.”

I gave up on Horikita and looked out the window. Ah, the weather today was so nice.

“Club activities, hmm. I see…”

Horikita mumbled to herself as she pondered something. “Well, if it’s only for a little while after school, I’ll go with

you,” she said.

“What do you mean ‘a little while’?”

“You asked me earlier, didn’t you? You said you wanted to go to the club fair.”

“Oh, yeah. I never planned to stick around. I was just looking for a chance to go. Is that okay?”

“If it’s just for a little while. All right, we’ll go after class.”

After our conversation ended, we resumed eating our lunches. I had said that she was unpleasant earlier, but maybe things had turned around. Perhaps Horikita was actually a good person.

“Watching you flail about as you fail to make friends sounds somewhat interesting.”

Nope. She was unpleasant.

3.2

“There are more people here than I expected.”

After class had ended for the day, Horikita and I went to the gymnasium. Nearly all of the students assembled there were freshmen. There were about a hundred people waiting around. We stood near the back of the room and waited for the fair to begin.

While waiting, we glanced over the pamphlet that students received upon entering the gymnasium. The pamphlet contained detailed information about club activities.

“I wonder if this school has famous clubs. For example, something like karate.”

“Every club seems to operate on a high level. It looks like many athletes and club members here are famous throughout the nation.”

Even though this school didn’t seem like a top-tier institution for activities like baseball and ballet, the clubs here certainly looked great.

“These facilities are significantly more substantial than ordinary schools. Look, they even have O2 chambers. The equipment here is so luxurious, it puts the professionals’ stuff to shame. Oh, but it looks like they don’t have a karate club after all.”

“I see.”

“What? Were you interested in karate or something?” I asked.

“No, not particularly.”

“It seems like it’ll be hard for newcomers to get into the athletic clubs,” I said. “Even if a first year managed to break in, they still might just be a benchwarmer forever. I can’t think that would be much fun.”

Everything around here seemed far too orderly.

“Wouldn’t that depend on one’s efforts, though? Surely by training for one or two years, anyone could get in and play.”

Training, huh? I didn’t think I’d be able to put in that amount of effort, no matter how desperate I was.

“I didn’t realize that the concept of training even existed for someone who always avoided trouble, like you.”

“What exactly does me not liking trouble have to do with that?” I asked.

“Would you agree that someone who avoids trouble also avoids unnecessary manual labor? You said it first. You should keep to your word, I think.”

“I didn’t really think about it that deeply.”

“If you keep acting so non-committal, you’re never going to be able to make any friends,” she said.

“You wound me, Horikita.”

“Thank you all for waiting, first-year students. We will now begin the club fair. A representative from each club will explain their function. My name is Tachibana, the student council secretary and the club fair’s organizer. It’s nice to meet you all.”

After Tachibana delivered the opening remarks, representatives from each club quickly lined up on a stage. It was quite a diverse crowd. The club representatives included everything from burly athletes in judo uniforms to students dressed in beautiful kimonos.

“Hey, if you want to get a fresh start, why not try joining an athletic club? The judo club looks good, doesn’t it? That upperclassman looks kind, and I’m sure he’d encourage you.”

“What do you mean ‘kind’?! He looks like a gorilla! He’ll kill me for sure!” I snapped.

“He’ll probably talk passionately about how easy judo is.” “Cut it out!”

Sheesh. I’d thought that we were having a decent conversation, but she’d done nothing but stick it to me.

“Even if I wanted to join, the athletic clubs all look really intimidating. I get the impression they don’t accept beginners.”

“Beginners should be welcomed. The more members a club has, the more money they receive from the school. That’s how they’re able to get better training equipment.”

“Sounds like they’re using the beginners for the money…”

“It would be ideal to gather many new members as a budgetary increase, and then simply to bench them the rest of the time, like phantom members. If you were skilled at manipulation, that is.”

“What an unpleasant world… You have a pretty strange way of thinking,” I muttered.

A girl dressed in archery gear stepped onto the stage. “Hello, my name is Hashigaki, the captain of the archery club. Many students may be under the impression that archery is an old- fashioned, simple activity, but it is actually a fun and rewarding sport. We welcome beginners with open arms. If you’re interested, please consider joining.”

“Hey, look, they seem to be welcoming newcomers. Why don’t you try joining? In order to increase their budget, that is,” I said.

“I hate the idea of joining a club solely for that reason!

Besides, athletic clubs are just gatherings of people with nothing better to do. Also, I probably wouldn’t have fun if I didn’t know anyone there. I’d end up quitting in the blink of an eye.”

“Isn’t that simply your twisted personality talking?”

“Yeah, you’re absolutely right. But athletic clubs are a no-go.”

“Yeah, you’re absolutely right. But athletic clubs are a no-

I thought about joining a nice, calm, quiet club. “Tch!”

As the seniors introduced their respective clubs one after the other, I saw Horikita suddenly tense. She looked at the stage, her face pale.

“What’s the matter?”

She didn’t even seem to notice me anymore. I followed her line of sight to the stage, but I didn’t find anything of note there. Just the representative of the school baseball team, dressed in uniform, giving his introduction. Had she fallen in love with him at first sight? No, I doubted it. Surprise? Disgust? Or maybe she was overjoyed? To be honest, Horikita’s expression was complex and hard to read.

“Horikita, what’s the matter?” “ “

It was like she couldn’t hear my voice. She kept staring intently at the stage. I decided that I’d stop talking to her and simply wait for an explanation. The baseball team’s introduction wasn’t any more compelling than the others. All things considered, the greeting was rather stock, no matter their schedule, appeal, or how welcoming they were to newcomers.

It wasn’t just the baseball club. Nearly every club’s introduction was similarly ordinary. If anything surprised me about the fair, it was the substantial number of minor liberal arts- related clubs and organizations, such as the tea ceremony club or the calligraphy club. Also, I was surprised that you only needed a minimum of three people in order to form a new club.

Every time one club finished and the next sprang up, the first-year students talked among themselves about what they thought. I noticed that the gymnasium’s atmosphere was rather lively. Each club’s representatives, including their supervising instructors, continued to explain their organizations to the unruly

first-year students without a hint of displeasure. Perhaps they were just that desperate for more members, even if their ranks only increased by one.

As the upperclassmen finished their introductions, they walked off the stage and headed toward an area where some plain tables had been set up. Probably a reception area designed to accept new members. Eventually, everyone walked off until only one person remained. Everyone focused their attention upon him, and I realized that Horikita had been staring at that specific person this whole time.

He appeared to be about 170 centimeters in height, so he wasn’t very tall. He was slender, with sleek black hair. He wore sharp glasses and had a piercing, calculating gaze. Standing in front of the microphone, he calmly looked around at the first-year students. What was his club, and what in the world was he going to say? My interest had been piqued.

Unfortunately, my expectations were dashed immediately. He didn’t say a single word. Maybe he was drawing a blank? Or perhaps he was so nervous that he couldn’t speak?

“Do your best!”

“Did you forget to bring your notecards?” “Ha ha ha ha ha!”

The first-year students hurled comments at him. However, the upperclassman stood on the stage calmly, without trembling. The laughter and comments didn’t seem to faze him. When the laughter had reached a crescendo, it suddenly died. He wore an apathetic expression.

“What’s with this guy?” remarked an astonished student. The gymnasium buzzed with people talking, yet the boy on the stage still did not move. He simply stood there, quiet and motionless, staring fixedly at the crowd. Horikita stared back at the student with an intense gaze, not breaking her line of sight even for a second.

The relaxed atmosphere gradually changed, and things took an unexpected turn. It was as if some chemical reaction had taken place. An unbelievably tense, quiet mood gripped the entire gymnasium. Even though no orders had been given, the silence was so terrible that it seemed to have gagged everyone. Not a single student looked able to open his or her mouth. The silence continued for about thirty seconds or so…

Then, the student started his speech, slowly scanning the crowd.

“I’m the student council president. My name is Horikita Manabu,” he said.

Horikita? I glanced at the Horikita next to me. Perhaps they just happened to have the same surname. Or, maybe…

“The student council is looking to recruit potential candidates among the first-year students to replace the graduating third years. Although no special qualifications are required for candidacy, we humbly ask that those considering application not be involved in other club activities. We generally do not accept students involved elsewhere.”

He spoke in a soft tone, but the tension around us was so thick it felt like you could cut it with a knife. He had managed to silence over a hundred new students in that spacious gymnasium. Of course, it wasn’t his position as student council president that granted him this deference. That was simply Horikita Manabu’s power. His presence dominated everyone around him.

“Furthermore, we in the student council do not wish to appoint anyone who possesses a naive outlook. Not only would such a person not be elected, he or she would sully the sanctity of this school. It is the student council’s right and duty to enforce and amend the rules, but the school expects more than that. We gladly welcome those of you who understand this.”

He didn’t pause even once during his eloquent speech.

Immediately after finishing, he hopped off the stage and left the gymnasium. None of the first-year students could utter a single word as we watched him go. We didn’t know what would’ve happened if we’d tried to talk. Everyone in the room shared the same thought, apparently.

“Thank you all for coming. The club fair has ended. We will now open the reception area to anyone interested in signing up.

Also, registration will be open until the end of April, so if any student wishes to join at a later date, we ask that you please bring the application form directly to the club you wish to join.”

Thanks to the laid-back organizer, the tension in the air dissipated. Afterward, the third-year students who’d introduced their respective clubs started taking applications.

“…………”

Horikita remained still as a statue, giving no sign she would budge.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked.

Horikita didn’t answer. It was like my words didn’t even reach her ears.

“Yo, Ayanokouji. You came, huh?”

As I was lost in thought, someone called out to me. Sudou.

Our classmates Ike and Yamauchi were also with him.

“Oh, hey, you three. Looks like you guys are getting along well, huh?” I responded, feeling a bit envious of Sudou.

“So, you joined a club, too?”

“Oh, no, I just came to check things out. Wait, ‘too’? Did you

join a club, Sudou?”

“Yeah. I’ve been playing basketball ever since elementary school. I thought I’d join the team here.”

I had thought he was athletic, judging from his physique.

Basketball was clearly his game. “What about you two?”

“We just came because we felt it might be fun, you know?

Besides, we thought we might have a fateful encounter afterward,” Ike said.

“What do you mean, ‘fateful encounter’?”

I wanted Ike to explain his rather odd-sounding goal. He crossed his arms and responded proudly, “I want to get my first girlfriend in Class D. That’s my goal. That’s why I’m keeping my eyes open for an encounter.”

Apparently, Ike considered having a girlfriend to be of the utmost priority.

“Also, I have to say, that student council president was something else. He was so imposing. I got the feeling he ruled the place, you know?” he said.

“I know, right? He made everyone shut up without saying a word. That kinda stuff is impossible,” I replied.

“Yeah. Oh, by the way, I made a group chat for the guys yesterday.” Ike took out his phone. “Do you want to join in, too? It’s pretty handy.”

“Huh? Me? Is that okay?” I asked.

“Of course it’s okay. We’re all in Class D together, after all.”

That was a rather unexpected proposal. I was happy to be invited to the group chat. Finally, I’d found the perfect chance to make friends! However, when I took out my cell phone to exchange contact information, Horikita disappeared into the crowd. Worried about her, I stopped what I was doing.

“What’s wrong?” Ike asked. “Oh, nothing. You ready?”

I returned to my phone and exchanged contact information with Ike and the other guys. Horikita was free to do whatever she wanted, and I didn’t have the right to stop her. For a moment, I’d felt like following her, but in the end I decided not to.

Written on August 15, 2022