I fully enjoyed my time as one of the cool kids, but that time came to an end once we reached school. Second and third years had their classes in a different building from first years, so Zakushi was the first to part from the group.
The rest of us spilt up after entering the first year building. All of us had our classes on the second floor, but as soon as we entered, fans from our classes started gathering around us. Oh, and in case it wasn't clear, none of those fans were mine. Maybe it would be different if we looked at just the name 'Haruto Akishiro', but the man himself was only looked at with curiosity and suspicion. Although the memory of walking next to Arisugawa was still fresh in my mind, my chest felt heavy as I endured these looks on the way to my class.
On the bright side, those who had openly ridiculed me thinking that I couldn't be a member of the club, had ugly faces as I walked by.
'Hehehe, that's what you get for running your mouth.'
I didn't resent them, but I couldn't deny that I felt satisfied seeing them regret what they had done. Before, they were so loud when they denied the possibility of me being in the club, but now they were completely silent.
With a faint grin I sat down in my seat, and at the same time, I felt my phone vibrate. I took it out and answered the incoming call once I checked the caller ID. However, I had to distance the phone from my ear when I heard Naoya shouting.
"Haruto! Did you really walk to school with Arisugawa, Amakawa AND Kirisaki?!"
"A senior named Zakushi was there too you know," I replied with a sigh.
'Quite a lot of people actually.'
I knew that Zakushi had more than a few passionate fans of his own, but I didn't say that since I knew it wouldn't help the conversation.
"So, what about it?"
"'What about it?' I only recently managed to accept that you got into that club as an errand boy, why the hell are you walking with them like a bold photo bomber?!"
"Errand boy? Isn't that a little-"
"Bro, let's be honest here. You were stepping with the big dogs while looking weaker than a Chihuahua. When I saw the pictures I thought it was an easy game of finding the odd one out. They might as well have been giving out charity for being caught on camera with your mug. You know those stories where the normal guy gets with the rich girl, you were the extra with less than a minute of screen-time. If this was a game then you weren't even riding a bus, it was freaking spaceship!"
"Okay, okay, I get it!"
Part of me was actually impressed by his on-the-spot analogies, but that didn't mean I wanted to sit here and let him insult me. Thanks to my minor outburst, more eyes were gathered on me, but I tuned them out for now.
Naoya continued, "I hope so. I need to know what scam you got yourself into, so I can get into it too."
"Ugh, it's kind of a long story and class is about to start."
It actually wasn't that long of a story but I really didn't want to explain it to him right now.
"Who cares?! What is one session of class compared to this momentous event?"
"Well, you have a point there, but why do I have to get myself in trouble for your selfish sake?"
Faced by my question, Naoya paused before eventually backing off.
"Tch, I'm going to need another day to shake off this cold but you better have a explanation for me tomorrow."
I neither confirmed nor denied his order, I only quickly wrapped things up so that I could hang up.
Once I finally cut the call, I released a light sigh and shook my head. Naoya was annoying and persistent a lot of the time, but he was a funny guy so I didn't really mind his sudden call. It was refreshing compared to the looks targeting me.
After I finished the call and returned my phone to my pocket, I was finally confronted by a classmate.
I rarely spoke with anyone in this class besides Naoya, so when I noticed the girl standing by my desk I didn't even imagine her talking to me with any other reason besides the club.
"Um, excuse me. Would you mind if I talked to you for a little bit?"
'Yes, I would.'
The girl standing next to my desk had straight, shoulder-length hair and a petite figure. Honestly she was rather attractive, but due to the interactions I had on a daily basis she only looked average to me. Additionally, the way she tried to act innocent rubbed me the wrong way.
It wasn't just because I was suspicious of her, and I knew that she didn't mean any particular harm, but after spending so much time with my club's angel her acting stood out too much. It was one thing to bother me with a smiling face, but it was another thing to encroach on Kirisaki's territory as the cutest girl in our year.
...Okay, maybe I was getting a little too enthusiastic there.
"Uh, I suppose. What is it?"
I had nothing to say to her, but if I acted rude then it could become a problem so I accepted her request while wondering how I should end our conversation as quickly and politely as possible.
"Thanks, I just want to know if you're particularly close with any of the members in the High School Life Assistance Club."
'That's none of your business though.'
Maybe I should admire the fact that she got straight to the point, but just because her intentions were clear didn't change the fact that this would be troublesome.
"No, not really," I replied.
"Oh, don't be humble, you have to be at least a little close to them if you can walk to school together."
'So it was a rhetorical question, huh?'
I knew that she had already convinced herself that I was close to the others to some degree, and those watching our conversation were likely the same. It was obvious that they wanted to take advantage of my connection to them, but unless she admitted to it I couldn't reject her.
"I guess. Why do you ask?"
"Well, you see," she said while fidgeting like a bashful maiden.
An unexpectedly large amount of disgust and irritation, that I could barely stop from showing on my face, rose from my gut as I waited for her to continue.
After blushing and squirming in place for a few seconds, she finally completed saying her request.
"Would you mind introducing me to them?"
At this point, I imagined my classmates turning into greedy predators ready to latch on to her request the moment I said yes. I had my suspicions but this confirmed that this girl was sent to be the trigger, a scout you could say. If she was able to get a positive response from me, then the rest of her team would change her request from introducing her to introducing them, and they likely didn't think I would refuse. After all, despite my disgruntlement with their perceptions of me, it was true that I didn't want to get into trouble by refusing them. However, I couldn't back down so easily.
"Well, that might be difficult since we only talk about club matters."
"Then ask them to let me join the club."
This time she threw away the shy act and made a more selfish request, no, a demand. Though she hadn't been hiding it well before, she had now completely thrown away her humble attitude. Additionally, judging by the shocked faces of our classmates, I could tell that this was an unexpected move, which meant that this girl had gotten greedy.
'I don't even want to introduce you, and you want me to have you enter the club? Don't joke with me!'
As politely as possible I replied, "No, I don't really have that kind of authority. And our members have been carefully selected by-"
"But I can help them. I'll be a great asset if I can be a member of the club."
I had a feeling she meant to say that she could be a better member than me, and I was likely correct based on the disdainful look in her eyes. She didn't let me explain that we were selected by the teachers, in her mind, if I could enter then there was no reason why she couldn't either.
"Listen, the members of our club were-"
"Stop making excuses, just introduce me and ask them to let me into the club."
Never had I felt like wanting to slap a girl in the face as much as I did right now. I was trying to give a valid reason why I couldn't let her into the club, but she wouldn't even listen to me. She no longer treated me as an equal, or a fellow classmate, I was just a means to an end, a mere tool.
As I stifled my bursting rage and tried to come up with a another gentle way of refusing her, the damn #@$*! taunted me.
With deviously smug face she said, "Oh I know, you're afraid, aren't you? You're afraid that if you introduce me they won't pay any attention to you anymore. Hmph, how pathetic."
That was the last straw. Surprisingly, my anger didn't erupt because she insulted me, it was her sheer stupidity of actually believing the garbage coming out of her mouth that made me release the lock on mine.
I dropped the meek attitude I had, crossed my legs and leaned back into my chair as I looked up at her.
"I've been enduring you running your mouth, but why do you think I should do anything for you?"
Surprised and confused by my sudden change, the girl was stunned and speechless.
"You may know my name but I don't know yours. You may be my classmate but honestly this is the first time I've gotten a good look at you. You're someone I barely know so why should I risk my neck to introduce you to them? Are you an idiot?"
Finally, in the face of my harsh words her confusion began to transform into malice and rage, but I raised my hand to stop her from interrupting me.
"I'm not finished. Asking for an introduction from someone who barely knows you is dumb, but you're not the only one in here who had that idea so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that someone else put you up to this."
Glares full of hatred started stabbing me but I still wasn't done yet, and they weren't enough to stop me.
"However, you had the gall to ask for a recommendation. And on top of that, you berated me like that was going to help. It's one thing to be a dumb opportunist, but could you stop the third-rate villain acting."
She seemed to be at the limit of her patience and I was at the limit of my courage so the next line ended this.
"Back to my main point, to answer your request, no. I won't introduce or recommend you or anyone else eavesdropping. If you want to talk to them, move your damn feet and go do it yourself."
Along with the end of my rant, I received a slap to the face from the girl in front of me. This would be the start of my less than ideal school days.