Chapter 44:

Side Story 4: How I Met My Worker

Confession Games

I watched his back as he washed the dishes while I sat on the couch. He probably didn't know it, but I could see his growth from here. He had far surpassed the expectations I had of him when I entered him into that club. Hmm, I wonder if I could have imagined that things would turn out like this when I first saw him.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

It was a cold day in late winter. I was at home, taking a break from preparing for the new school year. I used to think that teachers had it so good since they could kick back and relax while the students were stuck with homework, but after a few years in this job I realised that I shouldn't have envied those teachers.Bookmark here

"Ugh, my shoulder."Bookmark here

For the nth time, I rubbed my right shoulder but I only received a momentary feeling of pleasure before it was sunk back into dull pain. The weight on my chest was bad enough, but this work was just sapping my energy. And it wasn't the carrot that forced my body back into motion, but the stick. I didn't want to become that wacky headmaster's toy by not getting this done on time.Bookmark here

It was the around the time when I was daydreaming of a fancy lunch that I heard some noise coming from my neighbour's apartment.Bookmark here

"Oh yeah, there's supposed to be someone moving in today."Bookmark here

I didn't think much of the event, even after finding out that it was a student that moved in beside me, but at times he would catch my eye, especially after he came to complain to the headmaster.Bookmark here

It was after the entrance ceremony when he came to the administrative building and went straight to the headmaster's office. The secretary happened to be out at that time so there was no one who could stop him. Naturally, I was surprised to see the familiar boy enter the well-furnished room that only held the headmaster and I, but I was also intrigued so despite finishing my business I stayed in a corner of the room and listened.Bookmark here

The first thing the boy did after barging in was shout while pointing at the headmaster, "This school's system is wrong!"Bookmark here

I would quickly surrender if you asked for proof, but I was willing to wager that no first year on their first day had ever been as bold as the one before me.Bookmark here

"You-"Bookmark here

Quickly snapping out of my shock, I hastily attempted to prevent him from making any more mistakes, but the headmaster stopped me with a raise of his hand.Bookmark here

With an amused expression, he asked, "What about my system is a mistake?"Bookmark here

From then on, I became a witness to two 'men' arguing about the essence of true love. Yes, I know, it was as ridiculous as you imagined. There were many times when I wanted to laugh, and it was quite a struggle considering how serious their faces were while saying things like 'true love', 'destiny' and 'soulmate', but as their debate continued it stopped hurting my stomach and started hurting my brain.Bookmark here

Since I couldn't take anymore of this, I tried to interfere.Bookmark here

"My apologies, sirs, but I don't believe either of you will be able to prove which of your theories is superior in this manner."Bookmark here

The boy backed down with a dissatisfied look on his face, but that damn gee-, gentleman had a nasty grin.Bookmark here

'Oh no!'Bookmark here

Looking at that face I was sure that we had fallen for his trap.Bookmark here

"You're right. In that case, why don't we make a bet?"Bookmark here

To summarize, the bet was about whether or not the boy could tell what true love was. If he could get a proper partner before the end of the year then it we would be his victory, otherwise, the headmaster's. I could imagine countless ways for the headmaster to manipulate things in his favour, but even under fair conditions I didn't have much faith in the boy who impulsively accepted the bet before I could dissuade him.Bookmark here

I didn't want to start feeling pity for the boy who would become the headmaster's next toy, so I made up an excuse and left the room. He may have been my student as well as my neighbour, but I had learnt the hard way not to stick my head into troublesome matters. Surely this would be the last time the two of us interacted. Unfortunately, my heart wasn't as cold as I thought it to be.Bookmark here

I already knew that he had a part-time job since he needed permission from the school to get it, but soon after that incident I noticed that he started coming home much later than usual. I was concerned but even though I could have interfered as a teacher, I chose to ignore the matter. I could have taken action, but I ignored the issue until one day, I heard something odd.Bookmark here

I tried not to think about it, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I took a peek out of my apartment. It was then that I saw him, collapsed in front of his door.Bookmark here

"Are you okay?!"Bookmark here

Frightened into action, I hurriedly went over to him and rolled him onto his back before checking his condition. Bookmark here

"Uggg..."Bookmark here

He groaned but his eyes remained closed and he barely put up any resistance. Bookmark here

"W-what, I need, the ambulance! That's right."Bookmark here

With no idea what to do next, I panicked and reached for my phone to call for help, but then I heard the sound that solved all of my questions and relieved my tension.Bookmark here

It was the rumble of his stomach. That sound put a stop to my frantic behaviour.Bookmark here

"Um, are you perhaps, hungry?" I asked.Bookmark here

With the little strength he had, the boy slowly nodded his head. I heavily sighed both in exasperation and relief before getting up.Bookmark here

"What a troublemaker, stay here for a minute."Bookmark here

I went back to my apartment and took out one of the cans of fruit slices that I regularly kept in stock. I opened it and poured the contents onto a plate before heading back out and giving it to him. Bookmark here

"Here you-"Bookmark here

Before I was finished, he pounced on the plate and cleaned it in a few seconds, leaving me slightly astonished as well as curious. I couldn't help but wonder how he ended up in this position.Bookmark here

Once he made quick work of the fruit slices, the boy struggled to his feet and then lowered his head.Bookmark here

"Thank you very much. I don't have much money right now but-"Bookmark here

In the midst of his apology, I pat his shoulder and said, "Stop. As an adult and an educator, it's my duty to help a student in need."Bookmark here

Secretly I was elated at finally having the chance to say the line I had heard in a drama, but with my skills I was certain that I had the expression of a saint.Bookmark here

When the boy looked up, he was naturally overwhelmed by my holy aur-Bookmark here

"You're a teacher?"Bookmark here

If I was moment too late I would have started applying pressure to his shoulder, but thanks to my quick reflexes I let go without getting him hurt.Bookmark here

"That's right. I was there when you confronted the headmaster."Bookmark here

I swallowed my shame, and luckily for his sake, he managed to remember me.Bookmark here

"Oh! Sorry, I didn't notice since you look rather... different."Bookmark here

Watching him blush and fidget while taking glances at my exquisite figure, I decided to forgive him for his previous transgression. I also felt a dark desire begin to awaken but the teacher inside me hurriedly held it back.Bookmark here

"Ahem, yes, that's understandable. More importantly, I do believe you should have a part-time job, why are you in such a miserable state?" I asked.Bookmark here

"Well..."Bookmark here

His face looked hesitant, but I wouldn't stop here after coming this far.Bookmark here

"Just so you know, I won't take a no for an answer. Consider it your payment for those fruit slices."Bookmark here

"No, it's not really something to hide."Bookmark here

"Good, then come inside for a bit."Bookmark here

As I opened the door for him, it took a couple seconds before he eventually entered. Based on how nervous he was it would be easy for an ignorant passer-by to have the wrong idea, so I took a quick look and then closed the door.Bookmark here

After I boiled two cups of tea and gave him one, he informed me about his situation. Apparently, he tried to save a female co-worker from delinquents, but because of the scene they caused the manager fired him so he was looking for a new job.Bookmark here

I thought it was commendable of him to try and help, but considering the manager's position it would be hard to get him back his job. And although he could survive with the limited allowance from his parents, he would only have the bare minimum of resources.Bookmark here

However, as I wondered how I could help him, the boy was already close to giving up.Bookmark here

"It's okay. If I'm more careful, this won't happen again."Bookmark here

Looking at this boy who accepted his fate, I felt the strong urge to bring a smile to that downhearted face.Bookmark here

'But how...'Bookmark here

I tapped my table while looking at my empty teacup. Just when I thought about going to the kitchen for a different type of drink, an idea struck me.Bookmark here

"Akishiro, you said you did your own chores, right?"Bookmark here

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