Chapter 41:

Fan of Art

Couple That Can't Touch

Sunday morning arrived. Suzuka, Sae-san, Hashimoto-san, Rem-san, and I met at the entrance of the school and headed to the Art Club exhibition. Tarō-san had arrived earlier because he had to prepare his stuff, while Kawahara-san didn't exactly tell us why she had to arrive early as well.

Opposite to the previous day, Sae-san asked if she could accompany us this morning. Although it wouldn't be for the whole morning, since she had to practice for her play. Just like Hashimoto-san.

We stepped into the Art Club room. Compared to the Cooking or Music clubs, the size was about the same but with a lot of fewer members. No more than twenty. It made the room appear like it had more space. Yet, every single corner was crammed with some kind of art.

Crowds surrounded everything. Especially the paintings. We struggled to find Tarō-san among too many people. I took advantage of my height to see over the crowd, but he was nowhere to be seen.

"Hey, let's see this girl's paintings. I know her," Suzuka said.

Without objections, we followed her through the room. I kept looking around for Tarō-san, with no luck. I stopped when we reached the girl Suzuka was talking about.


"Hi, Suzuka-san."


As soon as I turned around, I recognized her. Short dark hair, blue eyes, and almost as tall as me.



"You know each other?" Suzuka asked, surprised.

I nodded. "We studied together at Zei."


"We've been friends since middle school," Sora-san added.

"I see…"

"How did you meet each other?" I asked.

"I've been working at Suzuka-san's family bakery shop for a couple of weeks."

"Seriously? I would've never expected that."

"After I left Zei, I began looking for my passion. I found it this year."

"You like baking?"

"No. I took the job because I want to paint cakes. Once I convinced our chefs to make one, I realized it wasn't enough to just look at it. I needed more intricate inspiration."

"So you got a job at a bakery to make cakes yourself. I'm impressed you convinced your parents to let you work. Can you make cakes on your own already?"

"No, I keep ruining them. But Suzuka-san and Mrs. Kozue are very kind and still let me use their kitchen."


"Ahem," Hashimoto-san uttered behind me.

Both Suzuka and Sae-san stared at me, clearly upset. I didn't understand why, but I knew I should stop.

"It was surprising to find you here. Your paintings are quite good."

"Thank you. I was surprised to see you here as well."

I smiled. "Well, see you later."


After observing her paintings a little more, we walked around to see more art. From more paintings to even mangas created by the club members. Everything looked very professional.

"So, are you close friends?" Suzuka asked me.

"Sora-san and I? Maybe. Although I don't know if 'close' is the right word. We shared similar problems and thoughts. She was the only one I could talk to without feeling judged."

"That's great," she smiled.

"And now you have me for that," Sae-san smirked.

"Excuse you?" Hashimoto-san scowled.

"I'm just stating the facts. Everyone believes the rumors about him and spreads them. Except for me."

"Yeah, but putting cigarettes inside someone's backpack to get them expelled isn't any better."

"Don't you dare bring that up. Like I just said, everyone believes the stupid rumors. Including you."

"Okay, let's not fight," Suzuka interrupted.

"I'm sorry, Su-chan. You can't force people to like each other," Hashimoto-san said.

"We don't expect you to," I replied. "We simply want you to tolerate each other. And Sae-san is right. You shouldn't assume that's what happened just because of rumors."


It's impossible to deal with their immense egos.

"Let's keep looking for Tarō," Suzuka said.

A minute later, we found a sign with Tarō-san's name on it in front of multiple easels. Still, he was nowhere to be seen. We began to worry, so Suzuka decided to send him a message. Just before she hit send, he walked through the door. He dragged a table with four boxes on it, followed by Kawahara-san carrying two more boxes. People moved aside to let them through. When they reached us, Tarō-san moved the empty easels away and placed the table there instead.

"Hi. I'm a bit late," Tarō-san giggled.

"What's going on?" Suzuka asked, just as confused as me.

"I changed my mind last night. You made me realize that I was hiding my hobby for no reason. Instead of showing the paintings that I made with no love, I decided to show what I'm passionate about."

He opened one of the boxes. Dozens of origami figures lay inside, varying in size and color. Some looked more complex than others, yet all of them were impressive. He moved the boxes down to the floor and began arranging the origami on the table.

"Do you need help?" Kawahara-san asked him.

"No, you've already helped me a lot. Thanks."

"You're welcome."

They look closer to each other as the days pass.

"What about us? Can we help?" Rem-san asked.

"Please, if it isn't too much trouble for you," he giggled.

"Not at all," Hashimoto-san replied.

We all began to take the origami out of the boxes and arrange them nicely on the table. Even Sae-san helped. Compared to the size of the boxes, there weren't many figures. The big size was to keep them from getting crushed. We had just started and a crowd was already gathering around.

We finished after a few minutes. A huge crowd surrounded the table now and talked to Tarō-san, impressed by his work. He wouldn't stop smiling, while Kawahara-san stood next to him the entire time. Since we had already seen them up close, we stepped aside to let more people approach. We took advantage of the situation and walked around the room to see more art now that everyone was gathered in one place.

Half an hour flew by as we chatted and avoided fights. The speakers turned on to announce the start of the Science Club exposition. Many people left the room and, eventually, it became empty. Students kept arriving to watch, but mostly only members remained. They used their free time to rest and visit other clubs.

Sora-san approached us at Tarō-san's exhibition.

"They are amazing," she said, looking at the figures.

"Thank you," Tarō-san grinned.

"Can I grab one? I want to take a closer look."

"Go ahead."

I tried to suggest for her not to do it. "I wouldn't…"

Sora-san crushed the figure as soon as she lifted it. It didn't break, but the shape was completely gone.

"… recommend it," I finished softly.

Everyone stood still in silence.

"I'm very sorry," Sora-san apologized.

"It's fine! Don't worry about it," Tarō-san replied. "I can make another one in a couple of seconds."

He suddenly walked towards a big cabinet and opened it to look for something.

"Did you know it was going to happen?" Sae-san asked me.

"She was always known for being extraordinarily clumsy."

Suzuka rose on tiptoe to whisper in my ear, "She's right next to you!"

"It's fine," Sora-san replied. "It's not like he's insulting me, he's just speaking the truth."

"I see," Suzuka giggled.

Tarō-san returned with a paper in his hand. Supported on the table, he began folding it with no fear. Fold after fold, he finished in a matter of seconds. The same figure that Sora-san had just destroyed was back. We stared at him in awe.

"When you said a couple of seconds, I didn't think you meant it literally," I said.

He giggled. "Well, it was a small origami. Bigger ones take a lot more time."

One minute?

Suddenly, a group of students behind us gasped, "It was awesome! Can you do it again?"

"Oh, sure."

Confused, he went for another paper and made another origami. Gradually, more people arrived to see his impressive skills until a crowd gathered once again, making us step aside. Sora-san headed out while we waited for Tarō-san.

Finally, people calmed down after another half an hour. Tarō-san was clearly tired, so we decided to take a break. We walked out of the room and headed to the cafeteria. Suddenly, Sae-san's phone rang. She took it out and stared at it, confused.

"I have to answer this," she told us. "I'll catch up with you in the cafeteria."

"Sure," I replied.

Still not answering, she stepped inside the bathroom.

"I wonder if she will yell," Kawahara-san said.

"Yeah," Tarō-san added.

"Why would she yell?" I asked.

"Regularly, she comes to the fanfiction section at the manga store and reads the same book every time. Then she would call someone while reading it and start yelling. It has happened so many times that the manager had to threaten to bar her from the store if she did it once more. She has since stopped."

"I see."

It was extremely strange hearing something like that. However, my brain began connecting many dots and the answer became almost clear. I just needed to confirm it with her.

We arrived at the cafeteria and everyone ordered food. We began eating and, five minutes later, Sae-san arrived. She bought her food and sat with us.

"Is everything okay?" I asked her.

Confused, she answered, "Yes. Do you ask because of the call?"

I nodded.

"It was something dumb. Nothing to worry about."

"Good. I was wondering if you write fanfiction."

She choked on her food. "W-What? What would make you ask about that?" She glanced at Kawahara-san for a split second.

"A few things have happened. First, Kawahara-san once threatened you with the fanfiction section at the library. Second, it has been a couple of times that I've seen a notification on your phone with the word fanfiction in it. Now, Tarō-san told us that you call someone to yell at them while reading a fanfiction."

Speechless with her face gradually becoming red, Sae-san stood up and walked around the table to approach me. She pulled me away by my arm. Far from any other person.

Taking a deep breath, she answered, "Yes, I write fanfiction. But don't tell anyone!"

"You've already made yourself very suspicious by pulling me away to answer."

"Yes, but they won't hear it from me."

"Sure. I just have one question."

"What is it?"

"What is your pen name?"

She sighed. "Sarumi Ryōko"

"Wait. You are Sarumi Ryōko?"

"Have you read my fanfictions?"

"I don't read fanfiction, but I've seen the name on many forums. You're quite popular and controversial."

"I know."

"Why do you keep your identity a secret?"

"You just said it; controversy. I don't write very family-friendly stuff. I don't want my real name associated with it. Not yet, at least."

"I understand. Thanks for telling me. Let's head back."

Before I walked away, she grabbed my arm and stopped me.

"Promise me that you won't tell anyone."

After a moment of staring at each other, I replied, "I promise."

When we headed back and sat down, everyone became silent.

"So, does she write fanfiction?" Hashimoto-san asked.

"Yes," I answered.

"Koji-kun!" Sae-san yelled and slammed the table.

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