Chapter 4:

Making Friends Is Hard

Stars of Aoba

[Yo, Umeno. How’s today?]

I stare at my phone’s screen. The message has been sent for around ten minutes, but there’s no answer yet. Well, classes are over already, so I’ll see him again soon enough. At this time of the day, surely he’ll be at that place.

I pack my bag and head out to the classroom door. Before I can move, however, another hand has already grabbed my backpack with the force of a crane.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Tsunagi’s voice sounds behind me. I don’t even need to look back to tell that she’s angry like she always is.

“Uh… home?”

“We still have work to do.”

Without another word, I’m soon dragged back to the middle of the class. Along with the action, Tsunagi shouts out to everyone:

“Remember, class! All of your personal forms have to be filled in by tomorrow! And as for the Student Council Election, the deadline for sign-ups is next Monday! Be sure to keep it in mind if you plan to run for President!”

“Yesss…” an unenthusiastic sigh of agreement comes from everyone in class, me included. Any normal student would avoid being involved with things like the Student Council like the plague, let alone a school with the pedigree of Aoba. Heck, we don’t even have clubs to fully focus on our studies and preserve our academic success; it would be a miracle if anyone would actually bother to sign up.

Only once everyone’s sure to get the memo and return home do I get released.

“You know, you could just do that by yourself.”

“You’re assigned the job too, so at least try to act the part, will you?”

I wouldn’t have been in this position had it not been for that damn Shiraku though, but sure.

“Well, anyway, I’ll head…”

“One more moment.”

“Again with the backpack?”

“Give me your phone.”

“What do you need my phone for?”

“Just give it here!”

Before I can react, Tsunagi has already taken my phone off my hand with about the same grace as a stampeding elephant. And before I can ask what she’s trying to do, she’s already given my phone back to me.

“Here. If there’s any problem that occurs within the class, we have to make sure to contact each other.” Tsunagi concludes.

I had expected my first time getting a girl’s number to be less… forced and violent. Oh well, it is what it is. Not like she’s treating me special or anything.

“Hold on,” realizing a flaw in her logic, I ask. “Then shouldn’t you need my number as well?”

“What makes you think I didn’t have your number already?”

Right. Never mind that.

“Well, now there’s officially nothing left. You can go home now.” Tsunagi concludes with a wave of goodbye, but I get the feeling that it’s more like a wave to chase me away.

Not that I’m complaining. I’ve been trying to go home for the past ten minutes now… Okay, not exactly “home”. My destination is, in fact, somewhere else.

“Hey, Tanaka-kun isn’t it?”

Never mind, looks like I’m not going where I want to go soon. And as soon as I get to the gate too; just my luck…

Actually, maybe I can. Considering who is talking, maybe I can even get them to tag along.

“Shiraku-kun, what’s up?”

“I just wanted to say hi. You seem like you’re going somewhere, right?”

Well, normally people would be going home, but I get what he meant.

“There’s a really famous cake shop around. Wanna come with me?”

“You don’t strike me as someone who likes sweets,” Shiraku answers innocently. It’s blunt and, to be honest, a bit rude, but I can’t blame him for it. From the looks of things, he’s a good and honest guy.

“Well now you know,” with a grin, I answer. “So, how about it?”

Before the boy can reply, another voice has sounded from behind him, with a similar-looking black-haired boy waving from afar.

“Shiraku! Ready to head home?” Ryuuro calls out to his younger twin, with Shizuka standing quietly next to him.

“Nii-chan, come over here!”

As the pair stands face-to-face with me, the white-haired genius gestures to where I stand. “This is Suzuki Tanaka-kun, a fellow classmate of mine.”

“Ah, I see. Tanaka, isn’t it?” The black-haired boy lets out a friendly smile and raises his hand towards me, offering a shake. “Please to meet you.”

I raise my hand forward to accept.

“… Faker.”

Wait, why did I say that? What’s wrong with me? I mean, sure, that is the most pretentious smile I’ve ever seen from someone, but even I have enough tact to know that you should never, ever blurt out something like that!

Ryuuro pauses for a moment. I guess that he’s fuming right now. After all, for a genius that only appears once in a generation, being insulted like this must be a first for him.

Contrary to my expectations, however, the boy laughs. A loud, hearty laugh, truly refreshed and unreserved, as if he’s finally freed from all the things that were holding him back.

“We all have sides that we have to keep up, Average-kun,” Ryuuro’s joyous laugh turns into a chilling grin as we return handshakes. “But I digress. From the looks of things, I guess you’re one of Shiraku’s new friends. Please be kind to my brother, he might be a bit airheaded but he’s got a good heart.”

“Unlike you?”

Dang it! Does this guy have mind control or something? Why am I keep saying these kinds of stuff?

“Haha, you could say that.”

“Nii-chan, Tanaka-kun asked me to come to this famous cake shop with him. Wanna come with us?” Shiraku jumps in on the conversation, giving me a reassuring wink in return. Who says he’s a bit of an airhead? From the looks of things, I’d say the guy knows his way around social situations.

“Oh, you mean Sunshine Sweets, right? I’ll pass; I don’t have much of a sweet tooth myself. Feel free to go on your own though; just remember to return by dinner.”

“… Nah, if Nii-chan doesn’t wanna go then I’ll pass as well,” after a brief hesitation, Shiraku shakes his head before waving me a cheerful goodbye. “Well, catch you tomorrow, Tanaka-kun!”

The pink shade of the famed sweets store slowly reveals itself in my sight. With the orange sunset to further compliment it, the store really looks like it’s glowing a heavenly light, just like its name implies.

As expected, the place is packed with customers. Naturally, since it’s the shop of the young genius baker, Sakuraba Hikaru, after all. Light shining on a cherry blossom garden [1]… a fitting owner for a picturesque shop like this, isn’t it?

The doorbell rings as I push the door to come in. “Sakuraba-san, it’s me!”

Normally, greeting me is supposed to be a dashing young man in a pink apron behind the stalls, along with a gloomy-looking, but honest boy taking and delivering orders. However, today, said gloomy boy is downright wasted, as the first sound that I hear when I enter the shop is his teary sob:


“… Sakuraba-san, did you let him drink fizzy soda again?” Seeing the pile of cans and bottles on the table nearby, I call out towards the stall inside.

“Sorry, Suzuki-kun,” replying to me is a gentle, but regretful, voice. “I tried to stop him, but Umeno-kun just went in and immediately took everything on the shelf… Was there something wrong at school?”

“We’re in different classes, so I’m not sure. But I can guess the issue.”

Turning to Umeno, I pat the drunkard lightly on the head. Although, I have no idea how someone could be drunk just by having fizzy soda. “There, there. Was class B tough on you?”

“I… I thought the days of middle school were over…” Umeno, still hasn’t sobered up, sniffles after every few words. “I tried to start fresh and make new friends… But no one even noticed me… I got ignored through the whole day…”

Yup, I’m pretty much on the money. However, I don’t think it’s like what Umeno thought. His rumors were definitely all cleared up in middle school; this cake shop alone should be the most definitive proof of it (as to how or why it is or what happened, well, that’s a whole other story, as I mentioned before). I believe his problem right now is much simpler.

“Class B does have the better students, after all. I’m sure most of them are just so focused on their studies that they don’t find socializing too necessary.”

“Hic… then… what do I do?”

“Well… ah, we don’t have any extracurricular activities; that would be an easy starting point… I guess forcing them to interact with you would be the most feasible choice right now.”

“That sounds… hic… mean…”

“No, no, we’re not threatening them or anything!” I quickly wave my hand to deny the claim. “I mean the position of class rep!”

“But… those are for… hic… the top-ranking members…”

Oh, right. That whole debacle with my class completely erased that simple fact off my mind. For the so-called “average class”, why did mine have to be the outlier?

Hah… Well, that’s out of the picture. Is there another way, I wonder…

A sudden beep from my phone interrupts my train of thoughts. As I open the device to see two messages at the same time, I can’t help but widen my eyes in surprise. Both in the content, and the senders’ identity.

[Suzuki-kun, the deadline for the Student Council Election has been moved to the end of tomorrow. Please inform the rest of the class for me. – from Ichinose-sensei]

[Ichinose-sensei just informed me that the deadline for the election has been moved to tomorrow. Make sure to inform the boys on time, you hear me? - from Tsunagi]

Hah, more paperwork for me to do… And Tsunagi is way too strict on these things too. Don’t you realize that since I’m a rep as well, Sensei will obviously send me a message too? Well, complaining doesn’t change things too much, I guess. I’ll just message the…

A flash of genius runs through my mind like a jolt of electricity.

“Wait, that’s it!”

“W-Wha? What happened?” It seems like my shout shocks Umeno into soberness as well. What are the odds?

Nonetheless, this is still the perfect chance.

“I got it! A sure-fire way to get people to know you!”

“Really?” Immediately, Umeno’s eyes sparkle as if a thousand stars have lit up. “What is it?”

Taking out the all-important piece of paper in my backpack, I gleefully point towards the registration form:

“Think about it. Aoba might be a special school devoted solely to academic results, but what is the one thing it shares with any other high school? The Student Council! The one division that deals with everyone’s problems! Umeno, if you can be the Student Council President, people will surely get to know and respect you better!”


Author's notes:

[1] Sakuraba Hikaru (桜庭 光): The kanji 桜, 庭 and 光 respectively mean “sakura” (cherry blossom), “garden”, and “light”. 

Arashi Sensei
Ei Ruan