Chapter 2:

Prologue: 3:30 p.m.

The Kimochi Warui Diary

In the back-left corner of the room—in the seat next to the window—I reviewed my script one more time.Bookmark here

I’m going to nail this.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, in the front of the class, a student began his own presentation. Bookmark here

“Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Harold-san desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”Bookmark here

Before he could continue, Naoko Sensei interrupted him:Bookmark here

「ハロルドさん、もう一度言ってください。『Yoroshiku』。」Bookmark here

Sensei had a problem with the way he was pronouncing “yoroshiku.” He wasn’t able to roll his ‘R’ properly. Bookmark here

“Yo row shiku,” Harold said.Bookmark here

Sensei sent it back at him with a stern emphasis on the syllable: “Yoろshiku!”Bookmark here

“Yo ROW shiku,” Harold said, louder this time. Bookmark here

Sensei’s face was blank. Bookmark here

“Okay,” she said. “Keep going.”Bookmark here

Harold took a deep breath and continued:Bookmark here

“Watashi wa anime to manga ga suki desu. Full Metal Alchemist ga ichiban suki desu. Video geemu mo suki desu. Supotsu ga kirai desu.”Bookmark here

Harold bowed deeply to the classroom, hinging at the waist a full 90 degrees. The students applauded him and he returned to his seat.Bookmark here

In Harold’s presentation, he said he liked anime and manga, but that was no secret to anyone. Two lectures ago, he was watching anime on his laptop—in the middle of class. Without any headphones.Bookmark here

Honestly, I felt terrible for sensei. Bookmark here

She came to this country to teach Japanese, but did she ever expect her students would be so embarrassingly otaku? Bookmark here

But that wasn’t fair of me to say. Even the actual otaku in Japan were much better than the wannabes in this room!Bookmark here

The people here? They were “weaboos.” Weaboos are entirely separate from otaku. An otaku is just a fanatic, but a weaboo is someone who literally wishes they could have been born Japanese.Bookmark here

I can forgive someone for loving Japan. I have no problem with that. The irritating part is that you can already tell half of them think this class is going to be a breeze.Bookmark here

Why? Just because they’ve watched Naruto with subtitles?Bookmark here

But don’t get me wrong. Bookmark here

I love Japanese cartoons as much as any weaboo. The difference between me and them is that there’s no way I’d let it show so tastelessly. Bookmark here

And unlike them, I’m way ahead of the curve. I’ve already taught myself how to write hiragana and katakana, and I’ve even begun studying kanji. Bookmark here

Honestly, I’m only taking this class to get speaking and listening practice. If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t actually—Bookmark here

“Psst! Hey!” My desk neighbor tapped me on the shoulder. “She’s talkin’ to you, [Watashi]!”Bookmark here

I looked up to see sensei staring right at me.Bookmark here

“[Watashi]-san, please present!”Bookmark here

Finally. It’s time to show everyone my power level!Bookmark here

I got up and moved to the front of the class. I took a deep breath and repeated my lines, just as I’d rehearsed them:Bookmark here

「はじめまして。『わたし』です。日本ぶんがくが好きですよ。日本語は難しいけど、とても楽しいです。よろしくお願いします。」Bookmark here

I gave a curt bow to show I was finished.Bookmark here

Sensei applauded. Her mouth was agape in astonishment.Bookmark here

“[Watashi]-san, you have very natural pronunciation. It almost sound like native Japanese speaker.”Bookmark here

Then, she asked something I hadn’t expected at all: Bookmark here

「どのくらい日本語を勉強していますか? 」Bookmark here

I’d barely caught even one word of what she said. Truthfully, I hadn’t expected sensei to ask anything at all after reading what I had written in my script. Bookmark here

“S-sorry…” I said. “I mean, ごめんなさい、もういちどいって。。。kudasai?”Bookmark here

Sensei repeated the question again for me.Bookmark here

“Dono kurai…” she said, slowly. “How long…” Bookmark here

My mind was blank.Bookmark here

“How long have you been studying Japanese for?” she finally asked in plain English.Bookmark here

“Oh. Um… One year?” Actually, it was longer.Bookmark here

“一年間ですか?”Bookmark here

“Hai, ichi nen kan.”Bookmark here

Sensei wasn’t satisfied with my answer. Her open palm was saying I had left something out.Bookmark here

“Ichi nen kan… desu?”Bookmark here

“です!That’s right. Don’t forget to use the verb!” Bookmark here

She addressed the entire class now:Bookmark here

“I will be listening for verb during final speaking exam, ne? Make sure to study and practice!”

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