Chapter 47:

My Crush Can't Help Being Who She Is.

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

To this day, I still don't know what made me take the entrance exam for Shinchou. It was on a whim, I guess. I had no chance of making it. I knew as soon as I registered. My mom and I told my teacher I couldn't afford it, but he said I should at least try. I was lined up to go to Shouan instead- I had the grades for it, and it was public. I knew I couldn't afford a rich kid prep school like Shinchou.

Somehow, I passed. If Fujitaka-sensei never pushed me just to try, I never would have made it. When I saw the email, I was speechless. The next time Mom and I met with him, we told him I had to turn it down because I couldn't afford it, and he replied that Shinchou had awarded me a scholarship because I scored the highest out of all the examinees.

With that, a dream I never thought possible became a reality.

The days dragged on, and I became more and more nervous. I started to dread my first day. Shinchou was full of rich kids, and I was a poor kid from the city. I didn't know anyone there. I thought they were going to snub their noses at me, clique up, and look down on me. I could endure it for three years, though.

My very first day at Shinchoushi was pretty miserable. It had rained the day before, so instead of cherry blossoms falling, everything was wet and muddy. As I rode the train, I got more and more nervous as I got closer. By the time the train arrived and I got off it and started walking toward the school, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. The street was filled with students in Shinchoushi uniforms. I thought they would all realize I didn't belong with them immediately.

As I was walking down the street where it goes along a riverbed, I heard a frantic noise beside me, and I only had enough time to turn and see a girl in a Shinchoushi uniform come flying out of nowhere, knocking us both down the muddy slope. It took her a second before she even realized that she was sitting on top of me and I was face-down on the ground, because she was holding up her bag, triumphantly. I later found out that she had tripped and it had gone flying and she was trying to save it. Don't ask me how that makes sense. I think getting yourself muddy is worse than getting your bag dirty. I have no idea what goes on in that head of hers.

Anyways, my uniform was ruined. As soon as she realized, she jumped back and frantically tried to apologize and waved her hands and even offered to let me borrow hers. I was sitting there on my hind end on the cold, wet ground, soaked all the way down to my underwear, covered in mud, having made the worst high school debut in human history and I couldn't help but laugh because she was so innocent and cute. After a few seconds, she started laughing too. Maybe all Shinchoushi students weren't stuck-up rich kids after all.

That was the first time I ever met Ayame Shiritori.

Not too long after that, a boy with dark bangs and these piercing eyes peered into the ditch from the road and his eyes immediately widened. Not even a minute later, we had crawled up the riverbank and he was already there, bowing and profusely apologizing for his friend's stupidity and how this wasn't the way they normally went to school, but she saw a cat and chased it and they ended up there. Then he slapped her across the back of the head.

And that was the first time I ever met Haruto Kouga.

Instead of sitting in the opening assembly, I spent my first hour or two of my high school life at Shinchoushi shivering in the nurse's office while waiting for my clothes to get done at the nearest coin-op laundromat. I managed to get them back in time to meet my homeroom for the first time...and that was when I found out that the girl who had knocked me into the mud and her exasperated companion were both part of my class, and I sat next to her. That afternoon in the courtyard, when club recruitment was taking place, I absentmindedly signed up for the karate team, and the next day after school at the first practice Haru was there and that's how we started to get along better.

My first few weeks at Shinchou were pretty bad for me- everyone there already knew each other and I was an outsider. It didn't matter to Ayappi, though. She would always talk to me in the morning, after every class change, at lunch, and so on. Haru would get annoyed at her bothering me, but I thought it was nice. She was just so friendly. And it was because of her that I came out of my shell and started making friends with everyone else. It turns out they weren't snobs at all- my class was full of really cool people.

Without her, I would have ended up alone. She didn't notice that I was some poor kid from a bad part of Tokyo in a place where I didn't belong- even if she did, she wasn't bothered. She sincerely wanted to be my friend, and cared about me.

I guess that's why I fell in love with her.

No matter how bad of a mood I'm in every morning, or how tired I am, it all melts away as soon as I see her smile, or I get to tease her and she laughs. I feel like a lot of people think she's annoying. Haru doesn't even hide it, and she rarely talks to anyone but us two and that girl from 1-4. I think that makes her cuter, though. Ayappi's so cheerful and energetic that it warms your heart no matter what crazy fixation is coming out of her mouth.

I wish everyone else could see what I see in her. Haru, too. He may be rude and blunt a lot, but he's a good guy deep down. I hate that most people ignore both of them.

At the same time, there's a part of me that's jealous of Haru. He's had Ayappi his whole life. They're inseparable. When I first met them, I thought they were dating. I'm pretty sure most people who don't know them also think they're a couple. They may just be friends, but I'm smart enough to realize that he's special to her in a way that no one else is. Sometimes I wish that he wasn't there, so that I could be that person to her. I always feel terrible every time I think that, because I like Haru, but it's the truth. He doesn't know what he has. So many guys would do anything to be the best friend of someone as beautiful and golden-hearted as Ayappi and he treats it like a responsibility instead of a privilege.

A peasant can work hard for all his life using nothing but his wits and skills, and become a rich man, but he can never win the hand of the princess if her prince is already there.

Damn it. I can't help who I love.

Knock. Knock. The sound of a hand rapping on my bedroom door snaps me out of my daydream. When I swing the old door open and it squeals in protest, Tasuku is standing on the other side, holding his ball tightly.

"What's up, kiddo? Did you get tired of the game?"

"Tatsu-niichan, will you play soccer with me at the park?"

"I don't know...I'm kinda tired." That's an understatement. I'm exhausted and sore. "Maybe some other time. Can you go play with your friends or something?"

Tasuku starts sniffling. "Yuuta and the others won't play with me anymore. They say I'm too good and it's not any fun."

Crap. What am I doing? I hate seeing Tasuku upset. "Oh well. Guess I gotta. I'm not going easy on you, though."

My little brother's downcast expression is immediately replaced by a happy grin. "Yay! I'm gonna beat you, Tatsu-niichan! I nutmegged Ken-chan last week!"

"You're getting ahead of yourself, kid."

He doesn't pay me any attention and happily skips all the way down the steps, humming the whole time. "Come on, Niichan!"

As I watch him, Ayappi's smile pops into my mind again. She's so cheerful and energetic, just like a little kid.

Gatsby could never win Daisy's heart, and Maya could never win over Shouhei, because Tsubasa was there. No matter how much Kumi Manabi loved Jinta Kitano, she had no chance with him because Ryouko Koma loved him, too, and he only had eyes for her. The pauper never defeats the prince. That's the way it always goes.

But I'm still not giving up on Ayappi. No matter what. Even if it’s hopeless. Even if I don’t stand a chance.

If I have to battle Haru for her...I guess I will.

Steward McOy