Chapter 28:

Be Yourself, Satoshi-kun!

Be Yourself, Ayane-chan!

“I love Ayane-chan! I always have!”

The wind blew past me as I tried to process what he said. I only stood, paralyzed with shock. I didn’t know how to feel. I couldn’t understand anything about what he said. With a yell like that, he had to be genuine, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know anything. All I could do was ask.

“Why did you never tell me?”

“Because you would’ve made fun of me for it.”

The wind only got stronger, trying to prevent me from making any sort of contact with him. While I could no longer move, however, I knew I needed to find out more for the sake of my friend.

“What do you even mean!?”

“Well, I didn’t know about you really, but Satou-kun would’ve shredded me. He would’ve said something like, ‘Satoshi-kun, I didn’t know you were a damn lolicon this whole time!”

With his hands now in the air, his bottled-up emotions roared out on the rooftop. Seeing his face, the widened eyes and deep smile looked more like a bout of insanity rather than relief. I still didn’t understand it, though. I still had questions.

“That doesn’t make any sense, though. We’re all the same age.”

Hearing this, Satoshi stood away from me once again, putting his hands on the gates of the roof while crossing his arms in the process.

“It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. It matters how others perceive me.”

“I don’t understand that.”

In response, Satoshi leaned back, using his left arm to prevent his fall while he held onto his forehead with his right. With a pose that only a chuunibyou would do, this side of Satoshi was completely foreign to me.

“You couldn’t. You don’t know what it’s like to be me.”

I stomped down to the floor while I held onto my chest to project myself.

“I don’t, but I still would’ve listened! Where did this all sprout about!?”

Satoshi stood up again but still held onto the gate.

“It was when my parents refused me being a mangaka.”

Suddenly, the wind stopped, giving me the ability to finally come to him face to face. Taking this opportunity, I ran as quickly as I could toward him. Hearing my footsteps, he faced toward me, only to now be pinned against the wall. Tightly tugging his shoulders, I yelled with all my might.

“Are you shitting me!?”

Satoshi looked away from me and mumbled.

“It sounds stupid, right?”

“You seriously called me up here just to complain!?”

“I suppose.”

“But why me!?”

“Because I hate you, dammit!”

Satoshi pushed me off of him once he said this. I couldn’t take this, however. I had to keep speaking, even if I now had to yell to get past the newly invigorated winds.

“Wait? What do you mean? I thought I was your friend! Were you lying to me this whole time!?”

“I was. I always hated you. I hated how you’d take everything so nonchalantly. It’s like you had no emotion. Are you some sort of robot!?”

With his hand on his chest, I could no longer deny his honesty.

“I’m not.”

I mumbled it. Looking down at the ground, I covered my head in shame for having been such a bad friend. I couldn’t believe I never knew any of this.

“I can’t hear you, asshole!”

His answer was inevitable, which is why I repeated what I said.

“I’m not!”

This time, though, I screamed it while leaning forward so I knew he’d hear it.

“I didn’t think you’d respond like that.”

Why did he just laugh?

“Why wouldn’t I!? I’m the one who lost his mom, and you think your life is hard!? Do you have any self-awareness!?”

“Boo hoo! It’s so sad I could cry, but have you ever lived your life with no one accepting you!? FA life where your parents make fun of your dream, a life where your friends make fun of your sexual preferences, a life where you try to hide all that with some bullshit mask!”

After having yelled that, he took a deep breath only to sit down on the concrete. He still wasn’t done speaking, though. Just this time, he spoke at a more reasonable volume.

“Everyone thinks I’m the confident class president who has everything. Hell, I doubt that’s even true. I was tossed aside by everyone once I failed to get into the student council. What is that now? The third time that’s happened. That’s the third time I’ve humiliated myself in front of the whole school. In fact, settling for class president just makes it worse.”

Stumbling deeper into the abyss of despair, Satoshi got back up again, one limb at a time, while his teeth clenched and his vocal cords grew rumbly.

“I hate them all. I hate my classmates who won’t talk to me, I hate Satou for being a judgemental asshole, and I hate you for not giving a flying fuck about any of it.”

Retreating back to the floor, Satoshi put his hands on his scalp, clawing for any inch of sanity he could get. Despite this, he stopped yelling. He was truly defeated.

“You all ruined me. The world’s against me. That’s probably why I hate myself more than anything else.”

“And you think ragging on me is gonna fix that?”

“Not at all. I just need someone who understands what I’m going through.”

I held onto my right arm with my left hand while looking down at the concrete, embarrassed to tell him the truth.

“I’m sorry. I can’t.”

Satoshi clenched his fists.

“How did you do it? How did you so effortlessly earn the affection of Ayane-chan?”

“I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know why she was the one who intrigued me. I didn’t know anyone could intrigue me. I just wanted Satou-kun to stop annoying me. Do you understand now? I don’t get what happened. I don’t get why I love Ayane-chan now, and I don’t get why she loves me back.”

“That wasn’t what I was asking. Why weren’t you made fun of? Why was Satou-kun encouraging you? Why were you the one to obtain her?”

He punched the fence upon saying this.

“Satou-kun isn’t as bad as you think. The whole world isn’t against you.”

“You expect me to believe that?”

Now, back on the defensive, I put my hand on my neck, struggling to say a word.

“I thought I did, but I… uh…”

Satoshi couldn't take it anymore. Standing up, he leaned toward me and put his hands on his chest.

“I put in so much effort to be loved by everyone! I get the best grades, get the best haircut, get the best body, and even then, I still don’t have anything that I want!”

“So why haven’t you gotten it!?”

I began walking toward him as I heard his response.

“Because I’m scared! It’s terrifying imagining how people will see the real me. If they do see the real me, then will they continue taking me seriously? The failed mangaka with a lolicon complex isn’t exactly a flattering assessment.”

I finally got back up to him again and grabbed his shoulders, screaming at him with the velocity of a vulture.

“Why are you so fixated on that!? Why do you let it control you when it’s so obviously bullshit!?”

Satoshi calmed down somehow, responding more quietly than before.

“Are you deaf? I keep on telling you. I need people to love me.”

“But how can people love a facade?”

Looking away, Satoshi struggled to speak to me.

“I… don’t know.”

I looked down at the floor, contemplating what to do. Having bounced back and forth, the argument had gone absolutely nowhere. I only had one option left, but it would be a big risk. I knew I couldn’t convince him of it, so I grabbed his hand to do it by force. But as soon as I took a single pull, he slapped my hand away and retreated back to the fence.

“Don’t touch me!” he yelled with his eyes closed.

I took a deep breath, calming down before I spoke again.

“I just need to take you somewhere.”

“What are you scheming?” Satoshi asked while holding his arm in defense.

“I’m not scheming anything. I’m trying to help you.”

I held my hand out to him, hoping that a less forceful approach would be successful.

“How am I supposed to believe that!?”

“I don’t know! You just have to trust me!”

“How can I trust you when I don’t even know where you’re taking me?”

I didn’t want it to come to this, but I had to spill the beans. Taking a deep breath, I held onto my heart and gave him my answer.

“We’re going to the drama club.”

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