Chapter 26:

Confession of the Summit (2)

Confession Games

'This is bad. This is really really bad.'Bookmark here

If he had just asked 'why' I was allowed to be in the club, then I could have answered by saying that I got a teacher's recommendation, but what he was asking made it hard for me to reply.Bookmark here

Hiroki's phrasing made me wonder if he knew something, and his smug expression pushed that thought to certainty. If he had connections to the teachers... no, either way, as long as he was smart enough it wouldn't be too difficult to deduce the true reason why I was allowed to be in the club. If we were alone then I wouldn't mind admitting it to him, but definitely not in this setting.Bookmark here

'I don't have nearly enough balls to say that my role is to keep the club together. Even if he lets me go after that, the students certainly wouldn't and what about the others in the club? How would they feel if I said that I was put in the club to keep a watch on them.'Bookmark here

For several reasons, there was no way I could tell the truth. It would be pretty bad if Hiroki said it himself, but it would still be better than if I admitted it. However, since I had to lie I had to make my lie as believable as possible.Bookmark here

"What's wrong? Cat got your tongue?"Bookmark here

As I tried to come up with a suitable response, Hiroki urged me to hurry up and since I didn't know if I could get slapped with a penalty, I quickly came up with something.Bookmark here

"Ehem, I believe that every member of the High School Life Assistance Club is there to cooperate in order to aid our fellow students. So I believe my role is to do whatever I can to help every student that comes to us for help."Bookmark here

To be honest, my confidence in this answer was low. It was a very generic response, that I was afraid wouldn't be enough for him to back off, but after with a light chuckle, Hiroki accepted it. Bookmark here

"Fine, I'll leave it at that. Moving on, do you believe you are fit to stand on the same level as your clubmates?"Bookmark here

[Oh! Quite the sadistic question from Hiroki! How will Akishiro respond?]Bookmark here

I thought the first question was bad enough, but at the second one, I gritted my teeth. Putting aside the fact that my honest answer would be no, the most obvious follow-up if I said 'yes' was 'why do I believe that', and that's where I would be stuck.Bookmark here

And if I said 'no', he and the rest of my enemies would force me to resign from the club with my lack of confidence as the premise.Bookmark here

Even after asking Ms. Aria, I still didn't believe that I was an essential part of the club, nor was I their equal. I was someone who could easily be replaced, therefore I thought about giving up here, but then I immediately shook my head.Bookmark here

'I'm just an ordinary guy so I can't stand on their level, but even this average boy gets upset when someone tries to take something from him.'Bookmark here

There was no answer, real or fake that I could come up with to defeat his question, so I no longer tried to come up with one. Taking a deep breath to suck up whatever scraps of courage were in the air, I answered with a firm stance.Bookmark here

"I don't know."Bookmark here

"Huh?"Bookmark here

I smiled as I saw that Hiroki was confused since he didn't expect this reply from me, and continued.Bookmark here

"Whether or not I'm worthy isn't for you or me to decide. It's for the teacher who recommended me, and my clubmates. Only they can decide whether or not I'm fit for this role."Bookmark here

My cheeks burnt red throughout my declaration, but I stood straight. Before me, was a Hiroki whose face rapidly swapped through several expressions. I covertly pumped my fist in celebration of seeing him this shaken, but that was done much too soon.Bookmark here

Just as Hiroki seemed like he was about to erupt, the announcer interrupted.Bookmark here

[Uh-oh. Though I certainly enjoy this please try and wrap things up. We don't have all day after all.]Bookmark here

Hiroki glared at the speaker that the sound came out of, but once he faced me again he was able to shake off his irritation with an ominous laughter.Bookmark here

"Kukuku, it looks like I need to finish this, don't hate me for this, okay."Bookmark here

"Ask your final question."Bookmark here

I felt slightly relieved when I thought that this would be the end, but just like with his last two questions, I was worried that this one would be no less difficult. And I was right, but I had underestimated him.Bookmark here

"Tell me kid, why do you want to stay in that club?"Bookmark here

Wary of his intentions, I hesitantly responded, "Obviously, because I want to help my schoolmates-."Bookmark here

"Is that really so? Isn't it just because you don't want to lose the chance to be close to your crush?"Bookmark here

"?!"Bookmark here

[Oh! Could it be, could it be? Is Akishiro really the frog trying to eat swan meat? And which swan could he be after? Don't tell me, it's all of them?! How envi-, I mean despicable!]Bookmark here

I panicked and showed my surprise, that was my fatal mistake. With that, I basically acknowledged that he was right and no matter what I said, I wouldn't be able to persuade anyone otherwise. At this time, I knew. I lost.Bookmark here

After eliciting that reaction, without even fanning the ignited flames, Hiroki ended things there and left the platform with a confident smirk. I didn't wonder how he was able to figure out that I liked someone in the club, there were countless ways for him to know that even without outside help.Bookmark here

As I stood with my fists clenched, besides the overwhelming sense of defeat, my heart was caged by fear. I didn't dare think about the crowd and their reaction, I simply got off the stage as calmly as I could, and went straight to the exit. Once I was outside the auditorium, my pace started to go up little by little, from power walking to a jog, until eventually sprinting out the school.Bookmark here

Whether there was anyone watching me, whether there was anyone worrying about me, whether I was being scorned, none of that mattered. With my heart racing, I just kept running and screamed.Bookmark here

"Damn it!!!!!!!!!"Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

"Ha...ha...ha..."Bookmark here

I don't remember much about what happened after that. The next thing I knew, I was in the elevator heading up to my room, panting heavily with my hands on my knees.Bookmark here

'Did I run, all the way here?'Bookmark here

I had a little confidence in my stamina, but I was still shocked that I made it all the way here. Luckily, I still had my bag on so I didn't leave anything behind, otherwise I wasn't sure if I could gain the courage to head back. As I looked at the shiny, silver floor of the elevator, the fear that someone had seen my embarrassing outburst began to fester, but I pushed it aside. I didn't want to think about it or anything else. There was no point. Bookmark here

Even if they had suspected it before, it was different now that I had basically admitted to liking someone in the club. One of the many excuses I used not to confess my feelings to Arisugawa, was that it would cause friction in the club. Just like several other co-ed clubs before us, love troubles would slowly degrade the relationships between members until the club was ruined. However, I didn't want that to happen. This wasn't because I was being paid for it, or because I felt a sense of responsibility. I just didn't want to destroy all of the effort we put in to get here.Bookmark here

The scorn I would get from my classmates, despite many of them harbouring similar feelings, that was trivial at this moment. The thing that hurt me the most, the thing that blurred my eyes with tears, that stoke a deadly blow to my heart, was the fact that everything could fail because of me.Bookmark here

"...It was as I thought. I shouldn't have been the one chosen."Bookmark here

When the elevator stopped on my floor and opened, I stayed in position for a couple more seconds before dragging my feet. I looked at Ms. Aria's door before mine, but I didn't choose to enter it. I had something to tell her, but I wasn't in a rush.Bookmark here

I entered my apartment, dropped with my back on the door and sat at the doorstep. As I sat there lifelessly, I felt a vibration from my pocket and lazily took out my phone. I saw two messages, one from Zakushi and one from Ms. Aria. I looked at both of them and hesitated before checking Zakushi's message first. Bookmark here

{The battle isn't over yet.}Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

It wasn't the best, but I could tell that this was his way of encouraging me. He was such a good senior to me, helped me when he didn't have to, cut into his personal time for my sake, and yet I couldn't even take advantage of his help. This wasn't the abilities of someone who was average, if I couldn't pay him back after all his help, I couldn't claim such a high appraisal. Since I couldn't win even with him supporting me, I wasn't even average, I was below-average, a failure.Bookmark here

I lowered my head in shame and disgrace and gritted my teeth to resist the fluids threatening to burst from my eyes. I admitted my loss, but I still didn't want to cry. I felt that if I cried, then there really would be no way for me to make up for this. However, I found myself barely holding up in this battle against my own emotions, until another message came in. This one was also from Ms. Aria so I rubbed my eyes and looked at them.Bookmark here

{Get dinner started early.}Bookmark here

{Response?}Bookmark here

It was an order that ignored all of the trouble that I was going through, but I found myself chuckling as I read the messages.Bookmark here

'This is just like her.'Bookmark here

I was still hurting, but I sent 'Okay' and slowly got up. Even now, I couldn't go against that carefree benefactor of mine.Bookmark here

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