Chapter 8:

Kobayashi Already Knew

Hanako won’t Grant my Wish!

So much happened in the past two days. For somebody who was barely even capable of greeting their teacher at the school’s front gate, I had already experienced (at least what felt like) a lifetime’s worth of drama. Though I was never one for fantasy, even I had to admit I wasn’t dreaming at this point.

I really had summoned a succubus from The Nether, asked her for sex, probably almost died by her hand, had one of the most vulnerable talks of my life with her, then woken up to homemade breakfast and a fight with my sister the next day.

I skipped a lot of fine details of course, but if this was a weekly Jump comic, I’d say that was a good enough recap.

All of it really happened and I could feel a stupid grin force its way across my face as I thought about it. What a stressful pile of events that had fallen upon me.

Seriously, I could do without all of the extra trouble in my life.


That previously mentioned “next day” was today by the way, which had still barely even begun.

Having such a delusion about the passage of time was just enough to allow me the courage to return to school, following the harrowing events of yesterday’s classes. It felt so long ago after everything else that happened that I had almost forgotten about it entirely.

And yet for everybody else, it must have been fresh in their minds. An occurrence just strange enough to make its way around the school after I ran home, left to stew in a bunch of young middle schooler minds overnight.

“Shoutarou Suzuki skipped classes for a week, then showed back up only to brag about having sex before leaving again.”

The rumors were probably about that bad.

I could feel eyes on the back of my neck as I walked into class. Everybody must have been looking. The attention was so easily noticeable, to the point where I had no choice but to play my own cringey demo reel back in my head.

Over and over.

It was a miracle I made it here to begin with.

No, actually, maybe it was more of a nightmare. My worst nightmare, to be exact. But I was already at school, so there wasn’t really a way out of it. Especially after I promised my sister, I had no choice but to endure. Actually, it really wasn’t even a promise. More of just something I sort of said “yes” to in the heat of the moment. But despite how little importance it should have held to me, I didn’t want to let her down, either. It felt as if I would be losing to her in some way.

As long as I kept my head down, I could just ignore it all and wisp my way through the day.

Forget my apology, Saito wouldn’t even want to talk to me after this much gossip was brewing. That was just fine though. I didn’t expect things to go well to begin with.

This was much easier for me.




Lunch break.

My plan failed miserably, foiled by Saito’s gleeful ignorance as he skipped over to my desk before I could even put earbuds in.

Was I actually relieved? I couldn’t quite tell over my rapidly increasing heart rate. It was time to put that hour of apology rehearsing from yesterday into practice, whether or not I was ready.

Which I wasn’t.

“Your girl-friend! Or, friend-girl I guess. What do you call that, when you guys do it but you aren’t dating?”

“Uhh, they call it ‘no strings attached’.”

Well, at least that’s what Hanako claimed it was called. specifically referring to what residents of The Nether called that sort of relationship. She nor I had any clue what kind of slang humans used on their own.

“‘No strings attached…’ That sounds so mature… So you guys are like that then? How’d you meet her? She’s really hot, right? D’ya think I could meet a girl like that too? Like maybe her friends or something?”

I could barely get a word in. He was already starting to run his mouth with questions, and if I answered a single one it would surely spawn five more. I had to apologize.

That’s what I thought, but the words wouldn’t come out. His glimmering, sparkly eyes hit me like a debuff to my already weak communication skills.

He wanted somebody to look up to. If I became that person at the cost of a lie, we could be friends. Not only friends, but I would be respected. If I came clean and told the truth, it would come at the cost of his respect. Even if we made up, it would likely take some time to build his trust again. Though, if he found out about the lie, wouldn’t it just end the same?

Saito didn’t seem to be the brightest, but Kobayashi always came off as observant. Embarrassingly, he and I have made eye-contact a good number of times when I’ve eavesdropped. In fact, it wouldn’t even surprise me if he already knew I listened in on them all the time during lunch period.

He would know if I lied to Saito. In fact, he might already. And while he didn’t seem the talkative type, I’m sure he would be willing to expose me if he had so much as half a reason to.

It really did feel like no matter what decision I made; what my response was; I was doomed to suffer some sort of short or long term consequences.

If I got burned either way, wouldn’t that indicate that I should just take the path of most gain? Did I even deserve to come out of this situation, which I had caused, with any sort of gain? Maybe these two were talking about me behind my back as well. Or at least they would have been, if I hadn’t introduced myself yesterday.

Actually, what was I trying to do again? What did I want with these two strangers?

“Oi, Saito. You’re overwhelming him.”

Kobayashi’s voice. He must have been referring to me.

“Hey, Suzuki, are you okay? Would you like me to take you to the nurse’s office?”

Suddenly, my train of thought was broken by him calling out my name.

The nurse’s office.

If somebody else was suggesting it, maybe I was looking bad enough to need it. While that wasn’t exactly reassuring, it made for a perfectly crafted escape from the situation.

It must have been intentional. Under the guise of a simple kind gesture, what was Kobayashi really trying to do?

Well, honestly something like ulterior motives didn’t matter much to me. Not right now anyway. Any opportunity to get away from people; from the whispers and stares; was one I’d gladly accept.

“S-sorry, if it’s not too much trouble.”

I called out to him, a bit louder than I intended to, avoiding eye contact with Saito.

“Saito, let the teacher know I’m taking Suzuki to the infirmary.”

“Oh, uh, yeah man. Sure.”

This brown and black haired duo, who by no logic should be compatible, acted quickly and effortlessly in what should have been an awkward situation with little room for hesitation or error. Or really, I had kind of thought Kobayashi was Saito’s lackey, but this situation almost made it seem like the other way around.

As we separated out into two groups, the taller black haired boy side-by-side with me as we made our way to the medical office.

Over a lively hallway atmosphere which I did my best to drown out, guilt washed over me as I realized that I had undeniably just chickened out of my original plan. Actually, I didn’t even have the ability to chicken out myself. Somebody else gave me an opening to chicken out, and I took it.

I was even cowardly at being a coward.

That made no sense really, but regardless, the feelings churned in my gut. Combined with my nervous, sweaty anxiety, I was feeling unpleasant in several ways. The stand-up student beside me even offered to lend a shoulder, but with my dwindling determination and extreme fear of the situation, I opted to walk by myself regardless.

Just in case.

The awkward silence between steps, only occasionally broken up by the idle chatter of other students passing by, caused each second that passed to long overstay its welcome.

I didn’t know if I should say something. I didn’t know if I should act. All I was capable of was following the leader like some stray sheep. Would I be questioned? Interrogated? Surely there was a reason that the quiet and composed boy wanted to get me alone.

He wouldn’t just help me for help’s sake. People aren’t like that. Especially not the kid in our class that didn’t seem to show much more than a surface level interest in anybody other than Saito.

I took occasional glances at Kobayashi, who seemed to be the embodiment of inner peace. He was silent with an even stride and a straight back.

Actually, was it normal to have posture like that? I didn’t know how I looked when I was walking, and yet I could feel the distance in social aptitude between us only by the way he carried himself in comparison to me.

Kobayashi was the walking social ideal. An easygoing, indifferent smile; a knack for listening to others and validating their feelings; with good looks to boot. The only reason he didn’t have a girlfriend was because our class didn’t have any Shoujo protagonist-types that could match his class.

Even if we did, he likely would still lack an interest in them. That’s the kind of cucumber-cool vibe I got from him..

And yet, amongst the many cute female classmates and popular boys that seemed to swarm him like flies, it was only the short, pervy, unfiltered Saito that he seemed to talk with consistently.

It felt like there was some piece of the puzzle that I was missing. If even these two could be friends, was there a relationship out there for me as well?

A reminder of the succubus waiting for my return home popped into my head. Maybe we could become like that too. No, but nice to me because she was nice to everybody. Just one or two close encounters wasn’t going to spawn a relationship like that right at the start.

She was a succubus. For her, it was just business exchanges. It must have been something like that.

But still, I wanted to know. I wanted to ask about it.

Why are you friends with somebody like Saito? You two are like opposites.

Something like that, maybe.

“That kinda came out of left field, didn’t it?”


“Your question. Not that I mind or anything.”


I said that out loud.

“Ah! Sorry, don’t, uh…! I was just thinking and-”

“No, it’s fine. I get asked that all the time. Things like ‘why do you hang out with somebody like him?’ and ‘isn’t he always imposing on you?’ and all that.”

Well that was no surprise. I guess everybody thought those kinds of things about other people when it came down to it. While nobody had much trouble humoring the scruffy boy’s overly optimistic vulgar nature, they also didn’t break surface level communication with him either. Not that it was any surprise to me, but sometimes I wondered if he could actually tell that people sometimes looked down on him.

“So why then?”


He seemed deep in thought. As if casually contemplating how much effort he needed to give in his reply.

“Things just… ended up that way. Probably for impure reasons.”

He really was making it sound like he was gay or something.

Not that I was going to point that out.

“So it was Saito that started talking to you?”

“Actually, yeah. But that’s not exactly what I meant.”

I waited for further elaboration, but it didn’t come. Actually, I knew that it wouldn’t on its own, but I also didn’t know how to press him further. I didn’t want to press him further, really. Though I did want to know his honest thoughts.

He was a really hard character to read.

“Are you going to tell Saito the truth?”

A question that came out of right field. Not that I knew a thing about baseball.

“I-I wasn’t exactly lying…

No response.

“No, actually… maybe I was just a little bit…”

He still wasn’t impressed. Did I strike out yet? Probably, with the tears welling up in my eyes.

“I- I’m sorry. I wanted to make friends. You guys just seem like… a lot of fun. Or something. You know, uhm… it was like that. That’s all…”

I was spouting words that meant practically nothing. And yet, that was when his smile came back. Still indifferent, but not thoughtless.

“Sorry, I was just teasing you a bit.”

No, that’s definitely not how you tease somebody.

“But I’m glad you’re the kind of guy I thought you were after all.”

Sincere words. In the same tone and the same demeanor as he usually spoke, but somehow they were different.

Did he realize he went too far, and wanted to pull back?

I honestly had suspicions at first that maybe he was using Saito to ward off people he had no interest in. To be honest, I still did to some degree. I could hear the hint of guilt in his voice as he reminisced. But regardless, Kobayashi clearly cared about his counterpart. I may not have been able to tell what he was really thinking, but his intent was laid bare just a little more than usual.

The intent to try and protect his friend from somebody who he didn’t trust. But he had still said something that didn’t make sense to me.

“W-what? What do you mean?”

“Well it’s a little embarrassing to say it outright, but you’re pretty honest. And, well, you’re straightforward.”

I had heard similar lines from Hanako, in a similar situation of just having met her the day before. Was this some sort of joke that I wasn’t in on? When one person said it, sure. But coming from the mouths of two entirely unrelated people, what could they possibly mean? How could I be considered honest, after lying to both of them?

Once again, it felt like I didn’t understand a thing. Neither about these people, nor myself.

“I don’t mind at all if you come talk to us more, you know? If you want to.”

Huh? Did I ask him already?

No, he probably could tell just from seeing me staring from time to time. I’m sure I had some sort of dumb, envious look on my face as I listened in on them at lunch.

We had long since reached the infirmary, finishing our little talk outside the doorway.

“Well then, I’ll uh, be in your care from now on.”

I gave a nice long bow. So he knew I really meant it.

“Wow, so formal.”

He seemed genuinely surprised.

No, but that kind of thing was normal, right? Was I doing something weird enough to be called out? It was just an introduction.

All that time practicing in front of the mirror meant nothing apparently.

I made my escape into the infirmary room. After another bow. And a wave.

And another bow. I had really lost all indication of how I should be acting in such a situation. I even waited until he faced away from me and started walking away.

Despite the fact that he returned both gestures, it was somehow even more embarrassing than if he hadn’t.

This social interaction thing was too much for me.

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