Chapter 1: In Any Case, Hikigaya Hachiman is Corrupt



My Japanese teacher, Shizuka Hiratsuka, popped a vein as she read my essay aloud. As I listened, I realized that my writing skills were far from proficient. I thought I might seem smart if I strung some fancy words together, but it just came off like a cheap tactic some struggling writer would think of.

That said... Is that why she called me? That couldn't be it. I already knew that was an amateurish essay. After Hiratsuka-sensei had finished reading, she put a hand on her forehead and sighed deeply.

"Say, Hikigaya, what assignment did I hand out during class?"

"...well, it was an essay with the topic 'Looking Back on High School Life.'"

"Exactly. So then why did you write a threat letter? Are you a terrorist? Or perhaps, an idiot?"

She let out another sigh and pulled a hand through her hair, vexed.

Now that I think about it, using the word mistress instead of 'female teacher' makes it sound more erotic. Then, just as I was grinning to myself while thinking about those things, a bundle of paper struck my head.

"Pay attention!"

"Yes."

"Your eyes are like the eyes of a rotting fish."

"Do they really seem that rich in omega-3? Makes me sound smart."

The corners of her mouth twitched upwards.

"Hikigaya. What is with this tasteless essay? I'd at least like to hear some sort of reason." Her eyes flashed, shooting daggers at me, with a scowl deadly enough to make a sound. Only a woman cursed by beauty was capable of an expression so alarmingly powerful that it would unwillingly draw you in and completely overwhelm you. That is to say, it was seriously scary.

"Uh, well, I... did reflect on high school life, didn't I? This really is what modern high school life is like, you know! My essay is pretty close to it!" I kept fumbling my words. I get nervous just by talking to people, but talking to an older woman made me all the more nervous.

"Usually, such a question would require you to reflect on your own experiences, don't you think?"

"Then please preface the question by saying so. If you'd done that, I would have written the essay accordingly. Isn't it your fault for writing a misleading question, Sensei?"

"Oh, stop being so pedantic, kid."

"Kid...? Well, I guess I'm definitely a kid from the perspective of someone your age."

There was a gust of wind. It was a fist, a fist unleashed without any indication of movement. And if that weren't enough, it was an impressive fist that just grazed the side of my cheek.

"The next one won't miss." Her eyes were serious.

"I'm very sorry. I'll rewrite it." I'll have to choose my words wisely if I want to show some semblance of remorse and regret. But of all things Hiratsuka-sensei was right now, 'satisfied' was not one of them. It seemed there was no other way but to kneel down and bow at her feet.

I attempted to brush the creases out of my pants, and as I neatened them, my right leg bent down and became affixed to the floor. A flawless and swift movement.

"You know, I'm not angry with you."

...Oh, so it's come to this. They always do that annoying 'I'm not angry, so please tell me' thing. I've never seen someone who says that not get angry. Surprisingly, though, she really wasn't angry. Well, excluding the moment I mentioned her age.

I furtively observed her reaction as I lifted my right knee off the floor.

Hiratsuka-sensei reached into the bulging pocket in front of her bulging breasts, pulling out a Seven Stars and tapping its filter hard against her desk. It was an old man's gesture. After packing the tobacco, she clicked a 100-yen lighter and lit her cigarette. She took a drag and considered me with a serious look on her face.

"You're not in any clubs, right?"

"Right."

"...Do you have any friends?"

She asked me like she had already assumed I didn't have any.

"Well, I-I'll have you know that I live by the virtue of impartiality, and as such, am unable to have particularly intimate relationships with people!"

"In other words, you don't have any, right?"

"W-well, basically..."

As though she knew how I would reply, Hiratsuka-sensei's face brimmed with excitement.

"So that's how it is! You really don't have any friends! Exactly as I had diagnosed. Just one look at those lifeless eyes and I knew straight away!"

So you figured it out just by looking at my eyes? Then don't bother asking me.

She nodded her head knowingly with a 'mhmm, yes' and considered me with a reserved expression.

"...What about a girlfriend or something?"

What's with the 'something'? What would you do if I said I had a boyfriend?

"Well, I don't have one right now..."

Considering my hopes for the future, I emphasised 'now', just in case.

"I see......"

This time she gazed at me intensely, with misty eyes. I really hoped it was because of the cigarette smoke irritating her eyes.

Hey, stop that. Don't pity me with that soft gaze.

In any case, where are all these questions going? Is Hiratsuka-sensei one of those enthusiastic teachers?

Is she going to start talking about how I'm that one rotten apple that spoils the barrel?

Perhaps she was once a delinquent high school dropout who's now going to go back to her old high school to be a teacher? ...Seriously, can't she just go back there?

After some consideration, Hiratsuka-sensei sighed as she exhaled a puff of smoke.

"All right, let's do it this way. Rewrite your report."

"Yes."

And I definitely will.

All right, this time I'll write a highly appropriate, inoffensive composition, something like the blogs of gravure idols and voice actresses.

Something like: Today's dinner was, like... curry!

What's with using 'like'? There's nothing about that word that adds to the surprise of eating curry.

Up until this point, everything had gone as I expected. But what followed this was more than I had imagined.

"However, the fact remains that your heartless words and behavior have hurt my feelings. Were you never taught not to talk to a woman about her age? As a result, you are required to join the service club. After all, wrongdoings must be punished."

She sounded commanding, not hurt. Rather, she was perkier than usual, speaking in a cheerful manner.

In saying that, the word perky inadvertently reminds me of something else... I averted my eyes from reality and ended up settling on Sensei's breasts pushing up from underneath her blouse.

Despicable... But then again, what kind of person delights in handing out punishments?

"The service club... What do you suppose I do there?" I timidly inquired. I get the feeling they could quite possibly ask me to clean out the gutter or, even worse, kidnap people.

"Just follow me."

Hiratsuka-sensei pressed the end of her cigarette onto a densely filled ashtray and stood up. I stayed rooted to the spot, having had no explanation or introduction to her proposal, but Sensei was already at the door and looking back at me.

"Oi, hurry up."

With my brows knitted and a scowl on my face, I followed her.

The school building at Chiba Municipal Soubu High School has a slightly irregular shape. If you look down at it from above, it looks just like the kanji for mouth (口) and a lot like the katakana for ro (ロ). Add the little audio-visual building at the bottom and you complete the bird's eye view of our school. The building that contains the classrooms is on the side of the road and lies opposite to the special building. A passageway on the second floor links the two buildings, forming the square shape.

The space enclosed by the school building in all four directions is the holy courtyard for the riajuu. During lunchtime, both boys and girls eat lunch there together. Then they play badminton to help digest. After school, with the last light of the sunset on the school building as a backdrop, they talk about love and watch the stars as a salty sea breeze blows over them.

Are you kidding me?

From an outsider's perspective, it looks like they're actors in a youth drama trying their best to play their respective roles. The thought can only make me shudder. In such a drama, I'd probably play the 'tree' or something.

As Hiratsuka-sensei click-clacked on the linoleum floor, it seemed as though she was headed toward the special building.

I have a bad feeling about this.

For starters, something called the 'service club' can't be any good. The word 'service' here wouldn't be used in an everyday situation; rather, the use of this term would only be permitted in a restrictive sense. Like, for example, when referring to the kind of service a maid provides for her master. If it was this kind of 'service,' it'd be a real turn-on and you'd really want to go 'Letsu Party!'.

But such a thing wouldn't happen in reality. No, actually, if you pay a set price it would be possible. But if money can buy anything you want, even this kind of thing, then I don't have any dreams or aspirations in such a rotten world. In any case, 'service' isn't something good.

What's more, we had already reached the special building. I'll definitely have to do stuff like move the piano from the music room, clean out the raw scraps from the biology lab or sort out the books in the library. In that case, I'll have to take precautions in advance.

"I have this chronic disease in my lower back... What was it, her...her...herpes? Yeah, that's it..."

"I think you're referring to hernia. However, there's no need to worry. I'm not asking you to do manual labor." Hiratsuka-sensei regarded me with an exceedingly contemptuous expression.

Well then. Is it research, or some other kind of deskwork? That kind of work means a mindless job that's more intense than manual labor. It's similar to the torture of filling a hole in the ground, only to dig it out again.

"I have this illness where I die upon entering a classroom."

"What long-nosed sniper does that remind me of? The one from the Straw Hat Pirates?"

So you read shounen manga?

Well, I don't mind laboriously doing work by myself. If I flip a switch in my mind, making it clear that I am a machine, there will be no problem. In the end, I will pursue a mechanical body only to become a bolt.

"We're here."

The classroom sensei had stopped in front of was not unusual. There was nothing written on the doorplate. As I was staring at it in wonder, sensei opened the sliding door with a clatter. There were chairs and tables piled up in cluttered stacks along the edge. Perhaps it was being used as a storage room? In comparison to other classrooms, there was nothing else special about its contents. It was an exceedingly normal classroom. However, what was most obviously distinct from everything else in the room, was a single girl.

She was reading a book by the light of the sunset. It was like an illusion or a scene from a painting. It was if she would still be sitting there, reading, even if the world had ended.

The moment I saw that scene, both my mind and body froze.

I was inadvertently fascinated by it.

Realizing there were visitors, she placed a bookmark in her paperback book and looked up.

"Hiratsuka-sensei. I thought I told you to knock before you enter..."

Elegant features. Long, flowing ebony hair. Wearing a uniform that should be the same as the group of girls from my class, but still looked entirely different.

"Even if I do knock, you never respond."

"That's because you enter before I have time to respond." She looked disapproving. "And who is that airhead with you?" She gave me a quick once-over with a cold look in her eyes.

I know this girl. It's Yukinoshita Yukino - Grade 11, Class J.

Obviously, I only know her by name and by face - I've never talked to her before. I seldom ever have conversations with people at school, so there's no way I would have.

At Soubu High School, apart from the nine standard classes, there is one class aimed at nurturing talented students capable of fulfilling an active role in the international arena. This class has an academic standard that is two to three times better than the other classes. It mostly consists of students returning to Japan from overseas or students who have aspirations to study abroad.

Among such a class, the one student that is prominent, or rather, naturally draws people's attention and stands out brilliantly, is Yukinoshita Yukino. Whether it's a regular exam or a placement exam, she is a high achiever who consistently sits at the top of our grade. Simply put, she is virtually the most perfect and beautiful girl in school and everyone knows who she is.

I, on the other hand, am just your average, completely mediocre student. That's why I'm not offended, even if she doesn't know me. I was a little bit hurt that she used the word 'airhead,' though, hurt enough to distract myself with the thought that there used to be a candy by that name. I hadn't seen it around lately...

"This is Hikigaya. He's looking to join the club."

Prompted by Hiratsuka-sensei, I nodded in acknowledgement. It's probably time to segue into a self-introduction.

"I'm Hikigaya Hachiman - Grade 11, Class F. Um, hey. What do you mean by join?" Looking to join what, this club?

Sensei began to talk. Had she already guessed what I was going to say?

"You must engage in this club's activities as a penalty. I won't allow any disagreement, objection, protest, question or retort. Cool down for a bit. Reflect on your actions!" She declared her verdict with great resolution, allowing me no time to protest. "That said, you can probably tell by looking, but his heart is considerably corrupt. As a result, he's a pitiable, lonely person."

So you really can tell by just looking?

Sensei turned to face Yukinoshita and said, "If he could learn how to be sociable he might just clean up his act a little. Can I leave him to you? I'm requesting that you straighten out his corrupt, reclusive disposition."

"If that's how it is, I think it would be good if you beat and kick discipline into him," Yukinoshita replied grudgingly.

...What a scary woman.

"I would if it was something I could do, but lately I've been having some problems myself. Also, physical violence isn't permitted."

...It's like she's saying psychological violence is completely okay.

"I respectfully decline. That boy's lecherous eyes make me feel that my life is in danger." Yukinoshita set about readjusting her collar, which was not particularly out of place to begin with, and glared at me.

I'm not looking at that extremely modest chest of yours... Wait, am I? No, no, I'm not, I'm really not looking. It just entered my line of sight for a bit and I was momentarily distracted.

"Don't worry, Yukinoshita. His eyes and heart are both corrupt, so he is quite adept at self-preservation and calculating the trade-off between the benefits and risks of doing something. He would never do something that would result in a criminal charge. You can trust his nature as a petty thug."

"That's not a compliment at all... Aren't you mistaken? It's not about self-preservation and analyzing risk-benefits. I'd rather you just say that I'm capable of making sensible judgements."

"A petty thug... I see," Yukinoshita said.

"You're not even listening to me and you ended up agreeing with her..."

Was Hiratsuka-sensei successful in persuading her or did my nature as a petty thug win her trust? No matter which way it was, Yukinoshita had come to see me as everything I didn't want to be seen as.

"Well, if it's a request from sensei, I can't very well refuse... I accept." Yukinoshita spoke with incredible distaste.

Sensei smiled with satisfaction. "Okay. Then I'll leave the rest to you." And with that, she left the room with haste.

I was left standing there alone.

Honestly, I would feel much less stressed if they had just let left me by myself. I'm usually in an isolated environment, so that would make me feel more at ease. The clock's second hand was so dreadfully slow that I could hear it tick loudly.

Hey, wait, is this for real? A sudden romantic comedy development? An incredible blanket of tension just came over the room. I had no complaints about the situation.

Suddenly, I recalled a bittersweet memory from junior high school.

It's after school. There are two students alone in a classroom. The curtains sway with the light breeze, and as the rays of the setting sun stream through, a young boy gathers his courage and confesses.

I can still clearly remember that girl's voice. 'Can't we just be friends?'

Ah, no. This is a bad memory. We never even spoke again after that, let alone stayed friends. Thanks to that, I started wondering if friendship was a relationship where people didn't have even have conversations with each other.

Well, the point is, being alone together with a beautiful girl in a locked room like some kind of romantic comedy would never happen to me in real life. Now that I'm highly trained, there's no way I would fall into such a trap. Girls are shown to be interested in hotties and popular people. They also engage in impure relationships with them. The thought of it made me snigger.

In other words, they are my enemies.

Up until now, I've worked to make sure that I would never experience that again. The quickest way to avoid getting caught up in a romantic comedy development is to be hated. Lose the battle to win the war. I'll do anything to protect my pride so I don't need things like popularity!

That said, in lieu of a greeting, I decided to intimidate Yukinoshita by scowling at her. Wild beasts kill with their eyes!

Grrrrr -!

In response, Yukinoshita glanced at me like I was a piece of trash. She narrowed her large eyes as if to half-close them and let out a cold sigh. Then, with a voice like the murmuring of a clear stream, she spoke to me.

"...How about you stop standing there and making those disgusting growling noises? Just sit down."

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sorry."

...Woah, what was with those eyes just now? Is she a wild beast?

They would have certainly killed five people. Just like how that singer, Matsushima Tomoko, got caught in that leopard's mouth. Did I just end up instinctively and unconsciously apologizing to her? Even without me intentionally trying to intimidate her, Yukinoshita had regarded me with hostility. Deeply unnerved, I pulled up an empty chair and sat down.

Yukinoshita didn't show me an ounce of concern afterward. She eventually opened the paperback book again. The sound of the pages flipping ensued. I couldn't tell what she was reading by the cover, but I figured it must have been some kind of literary work. Something like Salinger, Hemingway or Tolstoy. That's the kind of impression she gave.

Yukinoshita is like some kind of noble. She is an honor student and she will always, no matter what, be a beautiful girl. But like other elites, Yukinoshita Yukino is cut off from any social circles. Her name is read much like, 'the snow beneath the snow, and it fits. However beautiful she is, she is untouchable and unobtainable. The only thing one can do is ponder her beauty.

Honestly, I never thought that I could be acquainted with her through this absurd turn of events. I'm sure my friends would be jealous if they heard... If I had friends, anyway.

So what should I do with Miss Beautiful here?

"Is something wrong?"

I probably stared at her too long. Yukinoshita stared right back at me, her brow furrowed in displeasure.

"Ah, my bad. I was thinking about what I should do about all this."

"About what?"

"Well I mean, it's just that I was brought here with nothing but a confusing explanation."

In place of a 'tsk-tsk', she expressed her annoyance by vehemently snapping her book shut. Then after glaring at me with her eyes, as though I was a mere bug, she breathed a sigh of resignation and uttered a few words.

"...I suppose you're right. Then let's play a game."

"A game?"

"Yes. A game which requires you to guess what kind of club this is. So then, what kind of club is this?"

A game with a beautiful girl in a locked room.....

I could only feel that there was some kind of erotic element to this, but... The vibes she was giving off weren't light-hearted, but rather like that of a sharpened knife, so sharp that I wondered if my life would end if I lost. Where did that romantic comedy atmosphere go? Isn't this more like Kaiji?

I gave into the pressure, beginning to run a cold sweat as I surveyed the inside of the room, trying to find a clue.

"Are there any other club members?"

"No, there aren't."

Was this club even able to continue as a club? I highly doubted it. To put it plainly, there were no hints.

No, wait. On the contrary, there had been nothing but hints. I don't want to boast, but ever since I was little, my few friends made me extremely good at one-player games.

I had quite a bit of confidence in choose-your-own-adventure books and riddles, and I thought I could even win in one of those high school quiz shows. Well, if it was a club that couldn't recruit other members, then other members couldn't participate. There were a lot of things I can gather from this. If I organized my thoughts from the beginning, the answer should become obvious.

"A literary club?"

"Really...? Your reasoning?" Yukinoshita questioned with great interest.

"The setting is peculiar, there is no special equipment, and the club hasn't been abolished despite the lack of members. In other words, it's a club that doesn't require any expenses. In addition, you were reading a book. The answer was apparent from the start."

Flawless reasoning, if I do say so myself. Even without an elementary school kid with glasses saying 'Wah, really?' and giving me hints, something like this was a piece of cake.

It should make even Miss Yukino show some admiration and say 'I see...' with a small huff.

"Incorrect." Yukinoshita gave a short, scornful laugh.

...Now you're getting on my nerves. Who the hell said you were the irreproachable, perfect superman? You're more like the demon superman.

"Then what kind of club is this?"

Yukinoshita seemed indifferent to the irritation in my voice. She made it clear that the game would continue.

"All right, I'll give you the biggest hint I can: My being here, doing what I am, is the club's activities."
Something like: Today

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