Chapter 23:

My Captain is Apologetic.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

Today's been a relatively uneventful day. It's just been an average day in the middle of June where I go to school and nothing happens. This really shouldn't be anything to take note of, but with how unusual my life has been recently, it's nice to have these days where nothing happens.

After all the effort I put in to try and stop my parents from embarrassing me in front of the entire school...they did anyway, but in the exact opposite way I imagined. As soon as my mom went berserk I just knew that my quiet high school life was over and I'd never hear the end of it.

But surprisingly, that hasn't happened. It's been a couple weeks and no one's said a word about it to me. Not even Ayame, who knew exactly what was going on.

Could it be that the majority of people just don't care?

It's a lie to say that nothing happened in the aftermath of the festival, though. There was someone passing by who saw me fight the delinquents, and the Public Morals Committee called me in to give testimony, but after they asked me a few things they let me go and nothing else happened to me.

Other than that, karate team practice was suspended for a while. I didn't hear about why- it seems like the administration doesn't want anything to get out- but I'm guessing it has something to do with the senpai. Well, not that it takes a genius to figure that out.

The sun coming through the window, lighting up the classroom after today's rainstorm, is so soothing I'm starting to get a little sleepy. Man, I'm starting to get used to not having any club activities. It was a blessing in disguise that practice got suspended right as we were having a round of quizzes, so I had plenty of time to study.

As I'm starting to doze off, I hear a friendly voice. "Hey, Haru. Wake up, sleepyhead. Practice starts up again today."

It does? No one bothered to tell me in advance. I open my eyes to see Tatsurou, a big grin on his face as usual.

I sigh as I pick myself up and sling my bag over my shoulder. "Come on, dude...I was really relaxed."

Tatsu gives me a quizzical expression and then a grin. "Someone's a little too used to the go-home club lifestyle. What's it been, only a couple weeks?"

"I can't help it! It's nice having more free time." Looking around, I see that we're some of the last stragglers left in the classroom as students make their way to their clubs and sports teams.

It's not like I completely slacked off over the break. I still did my individual exercises and stayed in shape, but I would be lying if I said I didn't think about just getting home and putting my feet up like Kaede does every day.

"I'm not blaming you," Tatsurou replies, sighing. "It was definitely nice having extra time off, and if anyone needed some it would be you. I don't think I've ever actually seen someone try to sleep in the classroom, other than in manga, though..."

"...Shut up," I grumble as we start walking down the hall.

"It was nice having that extra study time, though," Tatsurou muses. "It worked out perfectly for me, at least. What did you get on your English quiz? I didn't get the chance to peek at it." He grins.

"You first."

"Ehhh...90." He scratches the back of his head with a dopey grin. That's way higher than what I was expecting.

"81." My grades are usually in the mid-to-low-seventies, where I was during the midterms in May- not too high, not too low, just above average, which is exactly where I want to be. However, with the extra study time, my grades on this last round of quizzes have been higher than what I'm used to. I don't expect this trend to continue now that practice is back in session.

"What do you think Ayappi got?"

"Honestly? 10."

"That's a little..."

"I'm not being rude! I'm being honest. There's a difference."

"Suit yourself," Tatsu grins. "By the way, I heard the delinquents are back today, too...apparently they got a 'self-reflection'. No one's taking them seriously, though. Apparently they demanded some guy in their grade give them money and he just laughed at them, and you know what? They didn't even do anything! I'm kinda shocked. I mean, if I was in the same situation as the guy they tried to bully, I'd do the same thing. Running away scared from a little girl? How tough can you really be?"


Tatsurou puts his hands behind his head casually. "Man, you have a little sister that loves you so much she was willing to fight delinquents for you. I'm jealous. Mine would tell me I deserved to get my ass kicked."

"You...saw that?" Tatsu gives me a concerned glance in response to my statement. I must look very uncomfortable. I figured someone would eventually mention the incident, but I still wasn't prepared.

"Yeah. I heard it, at least. Who wouldn't have? She screamed like she was trying to go S*per S*iyan."

"That wasn't my little sister, was my mom..."

There's a moment of silence and then Tatsurou snorts. He's about to laugh himself to death. Damn it. See, this is what I was worried about the whole time.

"You've had a rough couple of weeks, haven't ya, Haru? Pffft..."

I glare at him. Then I sigh. "I'm never gonna hear the end of it, am I..."

"Of what?"

"I didn't want my parents showing up to the festival because they're weird. You saw what they did and now everyone is gonna laugh at me."

"Uh, Haru...everyone's laughing at the delinquents, not you. I doubt anyone who doesn't know you even realized you had anything to do with it."



For some reason I find that hard to buy, but maybe he's right. After all, no one has said a word about it to me- not even Satake, who would definitely rub it in my face if he knew.

We reach the dojo- same old exterior, same old musty smell on the interior. As we get changed and exit the locker rooms, I'm confronted with something that I never thought I'd see in all my years of being in high school.

Shunsuke Takeno is sitting on the center of the floor, his head bowed low in apology. The club is missing quite a few people- the delinquents aren't anywhere to be seen. I wasn't looking forward to seeing them again, so I'm a bit relieved about that.

Tatsu looks rather surprised, too. As I look around, I can tell that the other students here don't know what to make of it, either. They're all murmuring among themselves. Takeno-senpai is not one to apologize- in fact, I don't think I've ever seen him do so, which is what makes this so shocking.

As we mill into place, he begins. His deep, powerful voice is shaky, almost weak. "I...deeply apologize for my lack of judgment over the past months. I thought I was training all of you, but in the end it was all pointless. I wasn't a good enough captain to keep the club in order, and as a result all of you have missed out on the experience that you should have had if I had been a better leader. Our goal was the Interhigh, and I still plan to go, but because of me you've missed out on so much valuable practice time, and with this little time remaining, there's no way that we can even be ready for the prefectural tournament. The blame rests entirely on myself and my poor discipline. I've expelled the troublemakers, but I understand that's not enough to make up for my lack of oversight. Again, I apologize. If you would like to resign from the team now, you may do so."

He keeps his head bowed, and then I see a first-year walk toward the locker rooms, then another, then another, then they start to stream out. It's tempting for me to go, too. The captain who once told me to my face to give it up is sitting there, humbled.

But that's not what I wanted.

I didn't want him to wind up humiliated. I'm not satisfied with that. I want him to respect me. I want to prove to him that I'm not a loser or a quitter. If I walked out the door right now and never came back, I'd be exactly the person that he said I was. I'd never get over that.

The seconds tick away for what seems like hours, and then he raises his head. There are only seven people left in the dojo. Takeno-senpai, myself, a couple second-years, two more first-years whose names I don't know, and Tatsu, who's still standing right next to me. I thought Tatsurou would be one of the first to bail. I mean, he only picked up the sport as a hobby recently...he's not even been at it long enough to make shodan. But here he is, right beside me, not going anywhere.

Takeno-senpai gets to his feet. "For everyone else, you are also dismissed. I expect to see you back here tomorrow afternoon." He scans the small group that's left in the old dojo, and his dark, deep-set eyes catch mine. "Kouga, stay behind for a few minutes."

When the rest of the students clear out, it's only him and me left. I hesitantly approach. "Captain, what did you..."

"Kouga." He cuts me off and points to his cheek. "Hit me."

"What? I can't..."

So quickly I barely register it, he grabs me by the collar of my gi and pulls me so close I can see the whites of his eyes. "When I say hit me, YOU HIT ME! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"

"I can't just hit you for no reason!"

"The reason is that I told you to do it!" he bellows. "You don't commit to anything! Did you ever understand why I was so hard on you?! This is why! When I see you practice, I don't see someone who wants to win- I see someone who looks like he's doing his job! I see someone who just wants to look busy! This isn't a sport you do just to look good- it's something you put your heart into! Millions of people our age all across this country are giving their best effort, pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into training, just because they dream of winning the Interhigh! And you think you'll get anywhere with your half-assed effort? It's not enough that you're just working have to want it! And if you don't, it's better if you quit and give the spot up to someone who actually wants to be the best!"

I bite my lip. "If that's the way you wanna play..."

I've got just enough room to step in. He isn't even looking at my right hand.

Jun-zuki, lunging punch. The motion of my body wrenches my clothes free from his grasp, and my fist connects flush with the base of his jaw. That was a good hit, but in an actual competition match it's definitely a foul. We're not in a competition, though.

He doesn't even flinch, he just stands there. Holy crap, he's tough. I just socked him on the jaw and it looks like I didn't even hurt him. Man, my knuckles are stinging.

Forget that, though. There's something I have to get off my chest, too. I can't just take what he said lying down.

"You wanna call me half-assed?!" I yell. "I'm going to the Interhigh, too! With you! Even if I have to train 4 hours a day, 6 hours a day...I don't care!"

Yeah, I may have only kept at martial arts for so long because I wanted to have a "normal" hobby that wasn't like my parents'. But I'm not a quitter. I'm going to show Takeno-senpai I'm not. If that means working my butt off to get to the top, then that's what I'll do.

I hear a short chuckle. "Well, it looks like you do have some fire in there after all, Kouga. I'm impressed." He exhales. "I'm sorry I was so harsh, but it's the only way I know how to be."

Even if he is truly in the wrong for everything that happened, it doesn't feel right to see him speak so softly and apologize like he just did.

"Kouga-" He looks at me with his stern gaze. "Are you serious when you say you want to aim for the Interhigh, even though we've only got a couple weeks before the prefectural tournament?"

"I'm dead serious."

"Good. I hope I can take you at your word. I expect to see you here at 3 AM tomorrow. Don't be late."

Crap. 3 AM? I already wake up at 4:30 AM most days to go running before school, but this is on a whole other level! How much sleep can I even get?

Then again, if that's the price I have to pay, I'll take it. You can't get to the top without making sacrifices.

"I'll be there, Captain."

For the first time, I think I see a hint of a smile cross his face. "I'll be expecting you."

"I'll be going now..." I say as I head for the locker rooms, but instead of the "Thanks for your hard work" response I'm expecting, I hear something different.

"Kouga, one more thing," I hear Takeno-senpai call out as I go to change. "There's someone else I need to apologize to, in person. Whenever she has time."

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy