We are Supposed to be the Side Characters
Bumping a girl when you’re late, accidentally swapping bags with your crush, forgetting your umbrella and sharing an umbrella with your crush in the pouring rain, or even the unexpected jacket swap during PE class. You might think that these things only happen in the world of fiction. Well, you're not entirely wrong. But let me tell you, it does happen. Throughout my year and a half in this school, somehow, I always find myself witnessing scenes like these, either right before my eyes or in the corner of my vision. And to make matters worse, these situations often entangle me in their love stories, as if I'm destined to play a part in them. But here's the thing: I'm not interested in being the voice of reason, the all-knowing observer who sets things to reach a happy ending for someone other than me.
Juggling my student duties with my extracurricular activities outside of school is already a hassle. I certainly don't want to burden my mind with matters that have nothing to do with me. Oh, and if you're wondering why I seem to understand these clichéd situations all too well, it's because... I do like reading romantic comedies.
This might seem irrelevant to what's about to unfold, but by the way, I have a goal in life—to become an animator. No, not the entitled position whose names are credited prominently every 2 seconds in the film. And not the revolutionary animation producer who takes the medium to new heights with my contributions. Just an animator, a corporate worker receiving a monthly paycheck. Having a stable job and a comfortable routine is my ideal life.
This day is quite unusual. Making my way home from my animation class, I tried to find the quickest route on my smartphone. Gotta get home fast, grab a cup of coffee, and lose myself in the world of manga. But little did I know, this mundane walk would take an unexpected turn.
As I strolled through this unfamiliar narrow alley, my eyes caught sight of something that made me stop dead in my tracks. It was her, the girl I recognized from my class, but she was sporting cat ears and a tail.
And to top it off, she was playing with the neighborhood cats. What the…?
I quickly averted my gaze, hoping to just forget the whole bizarre scene and continue on my way. But before I could escape, she turned her head and locked eyes with me.
Her face.. a mix of surprise and embarrassment, and I just walked fast while wondering what the heck was going on.
Not wanting to dwell on this strange encounter any longer, I resumed my walking, forcing my eyes to focus on the sky. Just as I thought I was in the clear, she suddenly raised her voice, calling out to me. "Tomorrow! I'll explain everything tomorrow! Don't get the wrong idea, okay... Kai!"
"I... I don't even wanna know!" I exclaimed, turning my face away and shouting into the air. Seriously, why did this have to happen?
"You do! Please!" she retorted, there is a determination on her face as if she was forcing me.
"I don't," I mumbled, quickening my pace. I just wanted to forget about the whole thing and move on with my ordinary life.
The afternoon sun cast long shadows as if mocking me for being caught in such a cliché romantic comedy situation. The gentle breeze carried whispers of laughter, as if the world itself found this encounter amusing.
God damn it.
Next day, school.
I walked cautiously, my senses on high alert. I couldn't afford another gimmick rom-com encounter like yesterday. I had to avoid her at all costs. Maybe if I just pretended she didn't even exist in the first place, this whole rom-com gimmick would fizzle out and fade away.
"At least," I thought to myself, desperately hoping for a stroke of luck, "if I don't run into her today... and if she somehow forgets about it tomorrow..."
The last class is finally over. No dramatic scenes or life-changing moments for me today. That girl, Noa, seems to be going about her usual business. I guess I worried too much.
"Noa! Let's go karaoke!" her friend calls out to her who’s sitting in front of the class.
She's occupied. Nice. If today ends like any other day, then maybe... "Sorry, I have something to take care of real quick. I'll catch up later!" Noa tells her friend.
Damn it! I need to get out of here as fast as possible... I increase my pace, hastily packing up my books and making a quick exit from the classroom.
I make my way through the school corridors, It's a way to retreat from the chaos that seems to follow me everywhere.
"Kai!" Noa calls out to me just as I leave the classroom.
"Kai!" my homeroom teacher shouts from across the hallway, making her way toward the classroom. Savior!
"Oh, Noa, you're still here?" the teacher continues. Just ignore her existence! I shout inwardly.
"I have a favor to ask," she says while rummaging through the papers in his hand. “You know, the student who rarely attends school and is supposed to sit next to you. This is his final warning, so if he doesn't prove his participation in school by completing these assignments, he'll be expelled." The teacher then extends a stack of papers in a plastic bag.
"Take these, deliver them to his house. The address is written there. And if possible... it would be great if you could persuade him to come to school."
Such a hassle! I think to myself as reflect.
Hold on. if this student is irrelevant to my school life, it should be just another mundane task that yields nothing. It's better than dealing with Noa, that's for sure.
"Eh? To Nikki's house? How lucky!" Noa suddenly chimes in. Huh? I wonder, I don't have a solid memory of this Nikki person.
"Why... doesn't he come to school?" I ask the teacher.
"Well... the problem is... he often gets involved in fights. Especially with upperclassmen, but sometimes it even attracts outsiders to come to school looking for him. The teachers have tried to intervene, but I think he insists on handling it himself outside of school in his own way. Just... if only he could be calmer..."
"But it's that wild spirit that makes him even cooler, Teacher! Handsome, mysterious, and takes responsibility in his own way! Isn't that super duper cool!" Noa interjects.
So noisy! What's with that super duper thing?
Wait a minute... mysterious... secretly solving people’s problems... good looking... wild... there's a possibility... he has a touching backstory! Truly... a main character!
If... if Noa goes there... maybe it opens the door for her to become the heroine for this Nikki guy. And the threats that disturb my ordinary life will be gone. Yosh!
"Noa, right? Why don't you go there instead? It seems like you already know him," I say to Noa, hoping she'll take the bait.
"Huh? But... wouldn't that violate the ethical rules of the Nikki fan club..." Noa saying more nonsense. he's really beyond help at this point.
"Fine, I'll go, but come with me. Come to think of it, I don't even know what he looks like... We'll figure it out together."
"Really? I can come?" Noa's eyes light up with excitement, her hesitation vanishing in an instant.
"Yeah, let's just get this over with," I reply nonchalantly.
It’s the only way. Fine. When we arrive at Nikki's residence, I'll be gone like a ninja looking for a toilet. Meanwhile, Noa will approach him, risking the possibility of rejection. But hey, she has a fine face, even if her personality is a bit generic, but just her face... if Nikki happens to fall for her looks... then my plan will be a success. As we walk, a mischievous smirk creeps onto my face, the entire plan playing out in my mind.
"Hmmm hmmm hmm, Nikki meeting with... Nikki hm hmmm," Noa hummed to herself.
If you're going to hum, do it with tone! I mused silently, a wry smile forming on my lips, as I pressed the doorbell of Nikki's apartment.
An elderly woman opens the door to the apartment we've come to. Perhaps Nikki's mother. Still alive, I see. Or maybe it's his father who... oh, could it be a broken home? My mind unintentionally begins to wander, conjuring up tragic backstories that Nikki might have.
"Oh? Nikaido? He left earlier... I'm not quite sure, but it seems like he was with a girl. He's been smitten lately... I guess it's his first date. Sorry, dear," she says.
"What?" I blurt out, caught off guard. Noa's handbag slips from her grasp, hitting the floor with a thud.
"He..." Noa stuttered
"...already...?" I did too
"WHAAAAAT?" Noa and I share a synchronized internal scream.