Chapter 2: Yukinoshita Yukino is Always Headstrong

As I was exiting the classroom after homeroom, I spotted Hiratsuka-sensei lying in wait for me. She was like a prison guard, standing completely motionless with her arms folded. In fact, if she had come dressed in military uniform and had been given a whip, it would probably suit her a little too much. Well, school is pretty much a jail, so that wouldn't be too much of a stretch of the imagination. I mean, you could compare it to Alcatraz or Cassandra. It would be nice if the Savior of the Century's End would hurry up and arrive.

"Hikigaya. It's time for club activities."

I felt my blood run cold the moment she spoke. Crap. I'm going to be arrested. If I get escorted to the clubroom, then I seriously will lose all hope in my school life.

Yukinoshita, a natural-born stuck-up, speaks words that are sort of venomous. Actually, they're just abusive, not cute at all. Would you call that being a tsundere? No, wait, that's just a bitch.

Hiratsuka-sense ignored my obvious reluctance with an indifferent smile.

"Let's go," Hiratsuka-sensei said, attempting to grab my arm. I evaded her. Without hesitating, she reached out her hand again. I barely dodged her again.

"Umm, you see... I think that, well, among other things, our education system is supposed to encourage and respect students' independence, so... I would like to object to being forced to do this..."

"Unfortunately, schools are institutions designed to train students to become well-integrated members of society. Nobody cares about your opinion out in the real world, so you should get used to people forcing you to do things." As soon as sensei had said that, her fist came flying at me.

She didn't give me a regular punch but a real body blow with her clenched fist drilling into me like a screw. It was so powerful that I couldn't breathe. Then without missing a beat, she stopped trying to kill me and gripped my hand instead.

"You know what'll happen if you try and bail again, right? Don't try and provoke my fist."

"Are you really dead set on using your fist?"

There's no way the pain could get any worse.

As we were walking, Hiratsuka-sensei opened her mouth as though she'd remembered something.

"Oh, that's right. If you try to escape again, then you will lose the match with Yukinoshita by default. No buts allowed. If you try regardless, then you shouldn't expect to graduate in your final year."

There was no way I could escape her, and I couldn't escape mentally either. Sensei walked beside me, her heels clacking with every step. To make things worse, she gripped my arm. Any other circumstance and it would have looked like sensei was a bar hostess cosplaying as a teacher who was escorting me to her cosplay cabaret.

However, there were three things that were different: I wasn't paying her any money, she wasn't actually gripping my arm but the end of my elbow, and I wasn't happy or excited at all. Well, except for the fact that the end of my elbow was touching sensei's breast.

The only place she's taking me to right now is that clubroom.

"Um, I'm not going to run away or anything, so I'll be okay going by myself. I mean, you know I'm always alone. I'm totally fine by myself. Or, rather, if I'm not by myself I can't keep my composure."

"Don't say such sad things. I want us to go together." Sensei gave a soft sigh and smiled gently. The difference startled me; that expression was nothing like the way she usually glared at me.

"Letting you escape would be enough to make me grind my teeth. So even if I don't want to, I'll have to drag you there to ease my mental stress."

"That's the worst excuse ever!"

"How should I put it? Even though I'm absolutely fed up with all this, I'm still accompanying you there for the sake of straightening you out. This is what you would call a beautiful bond of love between a teacher and her student."

"This is love? I don't need that kind of love."

"Well, that excuse just shows that you really are twisted, doesn't it? ...So twisted that your pressure points are reversed? Are you going to construct the Holy Cross Mausoleum or something?"

You seriously love manga too much...

"If only you were a little more compliant, you'd be cuter. It won't be any fun looking at the world through that distorted view of yours."

"Well, it's not like the world is full of sunshine and daisies. If society was only shaped by the view that one must be happy-go-lucky all the time, Hollywood wouldn't make tear-jerking movies would they? One can find pleasure in tragedies."

"Making speeches like that must be pretty typical for you. It's pretty common for young people to be cynical, but for you it's already an illness. An illness characteristic of eleventh graders. Yeah, you really do have 'kounibyou'."

Hiratsuka-sensei wore a brilliant smile as she confirmed my 'illness.'

"You're treating me like I have an illness? That's a little too harsh. I mean, what the hell is 'kounibyou' anyway?"

"Do you like manga and anime?" She ignored my request for an explanation, changing the subject.

"Well, I don't dislike it or anything."

"So why do you like it?"

"Well, that's because... It's representative of Japanese culture. It's also a part of pop culture that is recognised as the pride of Japan. Wouldn't it be strange if I didn't acknowledge that fact? The domestic market is becoming larger, so we can't ignore it on an economic front either."

"I see. How about general literature, then? Higashino Keigo and Isaka Koutarou and the like?"

"I read them, but to be honest, I like the books they wrote before they became popular."

"What are your favorite light novel publishing labels?"

"Gagaga... Kodansha Box too. I don't know if you can consider what Kodansha Box publishes as light novels though. Why are you asking me all this stuff?"

"Well. You've really met my expectations ? not in a good way. A perfect instance of kounibyou."

"Like I said, what the hell is 'kounibyou'?...."

"Kounibyou is simply kounibyou, a common state of mind experienced by high school students. They think that being cynical is cool and always express views that are popular on the internet, like, 'Work and you lose to the system.' When referring to popular novelists and manga writers, they say, 'I like the books they wrote before they became popular.' They mock the things that everybody worships and praise the obscure. And on top of that, they make fun of otakus even though they are like them. While giving off an air like they understand everything, they spout twisted logic. Basically, they're unlikeable."

"Unlikeable... Crap! That's pretty much spot on, so I can't argue!"

"No, I'm kind of praising you. Students are actually quite clever these days and come to terms with reality quite easily. As a teacher, it's not as if I find it fun to point out your faults. I mean, I'm talking to you like you're an adult, so it feels like we're working right now."

"Students these days, huh?" I couldn't help the wry smile that crept across my face. What a cliche thing to say. I felt kind of pissed off, so I thought about responding with a slight retort. However, I noticed Sensei staring hard into my eyes, so I just shrugged my shoulders.

"It looked like you were just about to say something but it was probably something completely characteristic of someone with kounibyou."

"...Oh, really."

"I don't want you to get a big head, but I really am kind of praising you. I like people who stick to their ideas, even if they're twisted."

Having her say 'like' so suddenly could only leave me stumped for words like an idiot. I found myself worrying about trying to find a retort to counter words I wasn't used to hearing.

"So, as a twisted person, what do you think of Yukinoshita Yukino?"

I replied immediately. "She's a bitch." I hated her with the kind of venom you reserve for people who tell you, 'I think you should give up on "Concrete Road."'

"I see." Hiratsuka-sensei smiled bitterly. "She really is an extraordinarily excellent student, but... Well, those who 'have' may indeed suffer just by 'having'. Even so, she is a very sweet girl."

'In what way?' I thought, shaking my head in my mind.

"She would certainly have some kind of 'illness' too. She's kind and occasionally right, but society is neither kind nor righteous. I'm sure it's a hard way to live."

"She's not righteous or kind, but I'm sure most of society would agree with you." As soon as I said that, Sensei looked at me as if to say, 'That's what I was thinking.'

"As I expected, you are - the both of you are quite contrary. That's worrying. Neither of you seem like you'll be able to adapt to society well, so I want to bring you both to the same place."

"Would that be an isolation ward...?"

"Yeah, probably. It's fun to watch students like you two. Maybe I just want the both of you to be close by." She laughed cheerfully.

Then, like always, she quickly trapped me in an armlock. Both her arms locked mine around her torso, holding my arms straight from my sides. This mixed martial arts type move was probably influenced by manga. As my elbows made this unpleasant creaking sound, they kept rubbing up against sensei's huge bust.

...Jeez. As per usual, I'm finding it difficult to escape after having her pull a perfect move on me. It's vexing but it shouldn't be long before I have to just give in to this feeling.

No, I'm already done for.

At that point I thought, since there are two breasts, 'bust' should be pluralized as 'busts'.

Once we reached the special building, Sensei finally released me. Maybe she had finally stopped worrying about me running away. Nevertheless, she kept glancing in my direction as she left me there. She didn't express even a small compassionate sentiment, nothing like, 'I'm sorry to part with you,' or, 'I'd hate to leave you...' Instead, she gave off an intense murderous intent, as if she was saying, 'You understand what will happen if you run away, right?...'

I smiled wryly at that as I walked down the hallway.

The end of the special building was filled with cold air and dead silence.

There should be other clubs here, but I couldn't hear them. It might be the special building, or maybe it was because of her, a result of the strange aura Yukinoshita Yukino emitted.

I put my hand on the door to open it. This was depressing, but I hated the thought of running away. It'd be fine if I didn't let her get to me. I shouldn't think about us being alone together. I should just think of her being there and me being there separately.

If there was nothing between us, I wouldn't have to feel awkward and uncomfortable. Today, I would use the first way to banish the fear of being alone: 'If you see a stranger, think of them as a stranger.' Incidentally, there's no second way.

Awkwardness is essentially a result of thoughts such as 'If I don't say something...' or 'If I don't try and get along with her...' gnawing at your mind.

It's the same as how someone sitting next to another person in a train wouldn't be thinking 'Crap! We're alone together! This is so awkward!'

If I thought of it like that, I could get over this whole thing. It would be good if she was just silently reading a book or something.

As I opened the clubroom door, I saw Yukinoshita reading, still sitting in the exact same position as yesterday.


Okay, I had opened the door, but should I say something? In the end, I just gave her a brief nod and moved past her.

Yukinoshita just gave me a quick glance and then a second later her eyes returned to her paperback book.

"You're in this distant room - are you being ostracized?"

She completely ignored me and I felt like I just vanished into thin air. Isn't this exactly like how I feel in the classroom?

"That's a strange greeting. What tribe does it originate from?"

"...Good afternoon." I uttered a greeting I'd learned in nursery school, unable to bear her caustic remark. Yukinoshita smiled in response.

This was probably the first time Yukinoshita Yukino had shown me her smile. I learned that when she smiles, her dimples show and her vampire-like fangs peek out. It may have been cute, but I didn't care about that trifling piece of information.

"Good afternoon. I thought you weren't going to come anymore." That smile of hers was foul play, foul play on the level of Maradona's 'Hand of God'.

"I-it's not that big of a deal! If I didn't turn up I'd lose so that's the only reason! D-don't get the wrong idea!" This was a little like a romantic comedy type conversation. However, we're playing opposite roles - it's like I'm the girl and she's the guy. This certainly isn't the romantic comedy I'm looking for.

My remark didn't seem to offend Yukinoshita. That is to say, rather, she continued conversation like she didn't even care about my response.

"When one is lambasted to that degree, they wouldn't normally come again... Are you a masochist?"


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