Chapter 53:

My Teacher is Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

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

It's around five PM, and Shinchoushi's sprawling campus, normally filled with students of every shape and size, is deserted. Well, it is summer break, but even the sports teams that use the grounds to practice have gone home at this point. The teachers are probably about to wrap up and go home too, which means I need to find who I'm looking for fast.

The August heat in Kanto is oppressive. My shirt's drenched and sticking to me, and I'm just streaming sweat and panting for breath. I nearly ran all the way here. Inside the school is even worse than outside. There's no breeze to cool anyone off, so all the heat collects inside and makes it uncomfortably stuffy. I think this is what the jungle must feel like.

I'm heading straight for the teachers' office. It may be pretty rude to suddenly burst in there and demand answers from people, but I don't really care about manners at this point. They need to explain.

Before I can make it to the office, though, I turn the corner and see the woman that I wanted to talk to. Kawano-sensei is standing just outside the office with her hand on the door handle, frozen in place, staring at me with a confused expression. "Kouga, that's a surprise...what are you doing here? Club activities?"

"No." I don't pause. Instead, I walk right up to her until I'm almost in her face. "What's going on with Ryou Shiritori?"

For a second, her eyes widen a tiny bit, and then she replies, "Kouga, that's an internal matter. It's not any of your concern."

I figured that Kawano-sensei would know the most about what happened, since she's the Student Council's advisor, but I also had the feeling that she probably wouldn't be willing to talk about it. From a purely logical standpoint, it makes sense. There's definitely a rule against teachers spilling the details of disciplinary actions to outside parties. Privacy is important, after all.

But we're past the point of logic. Something unfair is unfolding in front of my eyes. The rules can get bent.

"Kawano-sensei, I was involved in what happened. I deserve to know what's going on."

She shakes her head. "None of the witnesses mentioned you being there, not even Shiritori. Sorry, Kouga, I can't tell you anything. Rules are rules."

I can feel my eyebrow twitch a bit. Why do guys have to be so dumb?! Shiritori-kun probably didn't say anything about me because he didn't want me to get in trouble, too, or something like that...but I have the evidence that can save him!

Okay. Plan B failed as well. Kawano-sensei isn't budging. I guess I'm gonna have to go to Plan C. I didn't want to do this, but she's leaving me no choice.

"You know how much I've helped you out, right? I think you owe me a favor."

A look of consternation crosses her face. "Like I said, Kouga, I'm not allowed to tell you anything about the disciplinary process-"

"That's fine. But I'm not helping you organize your papers or set your calendar ever again."

Kawano-sensei stops, looking like she just swallowed a lemon. Then, she suddenly briskly strides away from the door. "Kouga, follow me."

We silently walk through the deserted hallways, passing by dark classroom after dark classroom, until we reach a set of double doors. Kawano-sensei puts her key in the lock, sliding one of the doors open and revealing a cavernous room, dotted with square islands covered with electric cooktops.

"The home ec room?"

Kawano-sensei slides the door shut behind her, not even turning on the light, but the evening sun is shining brightly through the large windows on the back wall of the classroom, so I'm able to see everything perfectly.

"There's nobody who can overhear us all the way out here." Kawano-sensei nervously looks away. "Kouga, you realize that I would be in serious trouble if someone found out that I told you this, right? I would probably end up unemployable."

Yes. I do realize. But telling me is still the right thing to do, and that's important enough to risk your career. At least, if I was in her shoes, it would be for me, no doubt about it.

She pauses for a second, leaving the classroom silent except for the cicadas' deafening cries.

Then, she turns to me. "Before I say anything to you, tell me how you were involved." Her voice, nervous before, is now steely.

I don't hold back. I recap the entire situation from beginning to end- the first-year girl leading me to the old school building, then running away, feeling like I was being stalked, ending up in the Student Council room, Senjuuin locking the door on me, the hateful grin spreading across her face as she humiliated me...

I'll never forgive her. Ever. For as long as I live.

When I finish with my story, Kawano-sensei stares at me for a second, takes her glasses off, wipes them, and returns them to her face. "I think you're telling the truth. At least, I trust you. You're not a liar."

"So go to the principal, tell them what I said, and that'll be enough for them to lift Shiritori-kun's punishment! And while you're at it, get them to throw the entire book at Senjuuin!"

Kawano-sensei looks down at the floor, slowly shaking her head. "I can't do that."

"What?! Why not?!" My voice is starting to get frantic.

"The administration already decided to punish Shiritori. Even if they allowed you to give your side of the story, it's still your testimony against ten others."

"So?! That doesn't matter! The entire Student Council is lying!"

Kawano-sensei sighs. "Of course they are. I know that. All the teachers know that. Senjuuin doesn't have a concussion or a skull fracture. She got a lump on her forehead, a small cut, and a wounded ego, and that was it. As for the rest of them...I caught them about to attack Shiritori once before. I’m almost certain they provoked him this time, too."

"Then why didn't you punish them?!"

It's silent for a second as Kawano-sensei takes a deep breath, and then she speaks in a soft tone. "Because Eiko Senjuuin barged into the headmaster's office, hopping mad, and threatened to pull 500 million in funding if the 'boor' who laid a finger on her 'little angel' wasn't expelled."

"Are you...kidding me?"

Now I see where Senjuuin gets it from. She was raised that way, obviously- to think that because she has more money than anyone else, the world needs to bend to her will. It's that kind of thing that pisses me off the most- people who think they're above following the rules that we all have to play by because they have money and influence. And it's people like Shiritori-kun and me who have to suffer because of them. It's not fair.

"We had no choice, Kouga."

"Yes, you did have a choice! You could have thrown her money back in her face and told her that her 'little angel' is an awful excuse for a human being and she needed to get out and never come back!" I didn't realize I was shouting until I stopped talking.

"...It's not that simple." Kawano-sensei looks away, ashamed.

"What isn't simple?! Sitting there and doing nothing to stop one of your students from getting framed instead of doing the right thing? Seems pretty 'simple' to me!"

I can't stand when adults do things like this. They teach us about how we need to always do the right thing, even if it costs us, but when they have to make a hard decision, they say something like "It's not that simple." or "There's nothing I could do." or "I need to let the professionals handle it." It's too selfish. No one in this country actually does the right thing over the easy thing.

This world is so unfair...I hate it. I hate it so much.

Suddenly, there's a twinge of anger in Kawano-sensei's voice. "You think we didn't do anything? We fought for Shiritori as much as we could. Eiko Senjuuin started off by threatening to have the school's accreditation pulled if both Shiritori and his sister, who wasn't involved in any way, weren't expelled. Headmaster Kashiwagi looked her dead in the eyes and said that it would be an outrage if someone who didn't have any part in the incident was punished and that she needed to remember her duty as the wife of someone in the Ministry. We managed to negotiate her down into accepting a suspension in exchange for her family's continued donation. It was the best that we could do."

"So what? Shiritori-kun is still getting punished for something that he didn't do because some rich jerk had it out for him! You're okay with that?"

"Of course we're not! Do you think we liked having to do that?! Do you think we were happy having to discipline him?!" Kawano-sensei snaps. "It's not the same as with someone like you. Shiritori is legitimately a troublemaker. He's been in and out of the teachers' office multiple times just last month. Even though the Student Council was out of line...they're completely right that he's disruptive."

"Yeah, maybe he might be a bad kid...but that has nothing to do with what actually happened! You said that you fought for him, but he still got punished because some lady thinks that because she donates to the school, she gets to tell you what to do! It's not fair!"

" isn't fair. Someday you'll understand."

"Understand what? Why are adults always like this? You do nothing but make excuses, because you want to ‘preserve the social harmony’ or something, and then we end up punished because you didn’t do what’s right when it mattered!"

Oh, crap. I went way too far there. Calling your teacher a coward is how you end up joining Shiritori-kun on the "Self-Reflection" list.

I expect Kawano-sensei to flip out at me, but instead she just shakes her head slowly and mutters, "Someday you'll understand, Kouga. Someday you'll understand."

I've had enough of this.

I slide the door open and storm out. I've had it with the adults acting like everything was out of their control. Like they were forced to punish Shiritori-kun. Teachers are supposed to protect their students, just like he protected me. But it was the opposite. When a bully threatened them, they caved, and now we both have to suffer because the adults who are supposed to stand by us backed down.

I just can't stand it. I hate this country, and I hate its “social cohesion”. And I hate the unfairness of it most of all. Bullies never suffer the consequences they deserve, or change their ways- instead, they keep kicking regular people around. That’s what Senjuuin’s gonna turn into in ten years.

When I turn the corner, I see them. All of them, in full uniform, walking in a cluster, the armbanded goons around the edge, Nagahama's tall, gangly shape in the middle, and Senjuuin, walking daintily to the left of him.

Just seeing them makes the blood rush to my head, and the image of me wrenching one of her arms or legs, marching her right to the headmaster's office while she screams for mercy, and making her admit to everything she's done wrong is popping into my mind. You don't know how much I want to do that.

But I can't. All I can do is bite my lip and stand there while she stares right at me and a malicious grin curls across her face as they pass by.

If the adults won't do anything, I have to. There's something that I can do to fight for Shiritori-kun. Or, more specifically, it's something that one of my friends can do.

@kae_musaszi: Hey Miku

@maebaramiku100 is online.

@maebaramiku100: Hey!!!! o7

@kae_musaszi: Can u do smth for me

@maebaramiku100: 彡໒(⊙ᴗ⊙)७彡

[Hello Kitten surprise sticker]

@maebaramiku100: What is it?!

@kae_musaszi: There's this kid in the grade below me that got in trouble because You-Know-Who lied

@kae_musaszi: U prob already know about it

@maebaramiku100: Yup! Sayaya told me!

@maebaramiku100: The big tall guy right?

@kae_musaszi: That's him

@maebaramiku100: Σ(♡@﹏ @☆)ノ"

@maebaramiku100: He's scary!!!!!!

@kae_musaszi: Can u follow Senjuuin around and record it

@maebaramiku100: Huh?! ₍₍ ᕕ(´◓⌓◔)ᕗ⁾⁾

@kae_musaszi: If u can get her to admit she lied on tape, we can go to the teachers

@kae_musaszi: Like if she doesn't realize she's being recorded

@maebaramiku100: (≧U≦❁)β

@maebaramiku100: Kaechan ur so smart!!!

@maebaramiku100: The Shinchoushi Middle School Newspaper Club's roving reporter is on the job! ε===(っ≧ω≦)っ

@maebaramiku100: o7 o7 o7

@kae_musaszi: Thanks so much Miku brb

The idea popped in my head when I left the classroom. Miku's stalking skill is incredibly annoying, and it's borderline illegal (scratch that, it IS illegal), but it can come in useful here. If she can just get Senjuuin to let her guard down and catch her admitting to her lie, whether it's just out of the blue or because Miku buttered her up and she let it slip, we can do something to help Shiritori-kun.

It's definitely a longshot. Senjuuin's completely devoid of human empathy, but she's smart, and Miku's...not. There's no guarantee that anyone could trick her into admitting it on tape, much less Miku, but we have to gamble on this.

If no one else is willing to defend Shiritori-kun, then I will. Because he did the same for me.

Steward McOy