Will The Stars Remember My Name?
Everyone remained silent for a moment as the pink haired girl looked at them with her stoic posture and stubborn eyes.
Finally, Ryuuji sighed and asked, "Class president, what're you doing here?"
"Shut up Baka-yuuji. I'm not talking to you right now."
Ryuuji sighed again. He held his forehead and turned towards the others.
"Meet Ai Tanaka. The class president of 1-E and the only girl in this world who hates me."
She glared at him and said in a demeaning tone, "Huhhhh!? What do you mean? I'm not the only girl. Once I show the others what kind of a lousy-"
Ryuuji tugged at his chest showing he was hurt by her words but that didn't stop Ai.
He fell on his knees.
"And a huge seducer you are!"
Ryuuji said in a weak voice, "You'll kill me if you say anymore."
"But the worst thing is-"
She looked towards Futaba and said, "How did this man, who is an enemy of all woman-kind, end up dating one of the most splendid girls in our country!?"
Futaba's cheeks slightly turned red as she squirmed a bit and replied in an embarrassing tone, "Hehehe, that's not true... I'm just a normal girl~"
"Normal?! No way! You're someone so many girls look up to. Three times winner of Inter-State Badminton Championship. Two times winner of National Jiu-jitsu Competition. She even won the Best High School Writer prize last year. Her grades never fall below A and not to mention, she is one of the most popular girls in our high school. She's truly the ideal student one could be!"
Ryouta raised his eyebrows towards her questioningly while Futaba simply blushed and waved her hand, trying to be modest.
From the depths of hell, Ryuuji tried to rise up saying, "Hey! I have won a prize in-"
Before he could even complete, Ai cut him off, "The only prize you deserve is the Winner of Deceiving Women."
Ryuuji quietly shrunk back to his corner, his soul leaving his body.
"Ah, God, you can take me away now."
Ryouta finally spoke up, "Well, Ai... You're free to join our club but then, you need to have a better reason than just coming in between a perfectly normal couple."
Ai looked up and down at Ryouta and continued in her ignominious tone, "Perfectly normal you say? I've seen you around Ryuuji a lot. But I've never seen you in school with him. You can't be his friend, can you? Wait a moment... I've never seen you in school at all! I wonder what a loner like you is doing with Ryuuji..."
Ryouta frowned and this time sternly but, politely said, "Miss Ai Tanaka, though I'm happy you want to join our club, this is an extremely rude way of behaving with our club members. Not only are you judging us right in front of our faces, but you had the audacity to stomp in our first club meeting unannounced and, after that, make wild accusations against both Ryuuji and myself. Looking at your improper demeanour, I might have to think twice about letting you join our club."
The assertive Ai, who had roared in like a tiger, now whimpered like a mouse as she backed away apologetically. Her cheeks were an embarrassing shade of red as she stuttered, "I- I'm sorry. I'm usually not like this bu- but whenever I see Ryuuji Ito, I- I just lose my composure and start behaving in this manner."
She bowed, her eyes almost puffy and ready to shell out tears. This time Futaba raised her eyebrow towards Ryouta and mouthed, "Look - you made a girl cry."
Ryouta's face slightly twitched with guilt. He had never had to be this assertive with anyone before but, if there was one thing that Ryouta knew very well, it was how to handle a responsibility. He had taken the responsibility of making the club and being the club president so he had to play his part as the leader. He wouldn't just allow anyone to join his club without any purpose. Though Ai had a purpose, it still wasn't enough to make her eligible for the Odd Jobs Club according to him.
Ryouta slowly breathed in deeply and kept his hand on Ai's shoulder, who was still bowing down. She looked up to see Ryouta's kind face smiling as he said, "That's alright. We all make mistakes. Let's start from the beginning with you introducing yourself, ok?"
Ai's eyes glazed over as she mumbled, "Such a gentleman..." She shook her head and came back to reality. She backed away two steps and turned around. She quickly fixed her skirt and her shirt. She adjusted her glasses and fixed the loose strands of hair on her face. She slapped her cheeks lightly with both her hands and muttered, "Yosh..."
She turned around to face them, this time with a softer look on her face. She smiled politely and bowed once.
"Hi everyone! My name is Ai Tanaka and I'm a student of class 1-E. I saw the club's poster on my way back and was interested in joining the club."
Ryouta smiled back and introduced himself, "Nice to meet you Ai! I'm Ryouta Ito from Class 2-A, the club president of Odd Jobs Club. I'm glad you were interested in joining our club."
He thought about asking what exactly was it that caught her interest in their club but he knew she wouldn't have a proper answer for that right now. Moreover, it's not like anyone has a hobby of helping people out so he couldn’t even expect her to have a reason in the first place. He didn't exactly want a lot of people to join their club and that's why the Odd Jobs Club was a good way to blend in. He was fine with just one or two students joining their club.
Ai gasped at hearing Ryouta's full name.
"Wait. A. Moment. So you two... Are brothers!?"
Ryouta nodded as she remarked, "You both are so different from each other. Ryouta-senpai is so much more of a man than Baka-yuuji."
Ryuuji’s whimpers were clearly audible now from the corner of the room.
Ryouta cleared his throat and said, "So, since you want to join us and you've submitted the form too, I'll do the formalities. But, that doesn't mean you're a club member yet."
Ai's face drooped.
"You'll be a temporary recruit till our first job. We'll see how you fare at it and then accept you in. Does that sound good?"
Ai scratched her head.
"Well, to be honest, it's kinda complicated for club recruitment buuuuuut, I don't have a problem with it. I'll still be a part of club meetings and everything, right?"
"Yep. And I think we'll probably change this rule but, for now, that's how we're gonna recruit more students."
"Great! Then what do we do today?"
All three of them looked at Ryouta.
"Uh... I guess we chill till we get a request?"
"Then can I talk to Futaba-senpai?"
"Of course. I think Ryuuji and I have to go do some part time jobs."
"Not me Ryo. I don't have any work today. Also, I'll need to stay here to make sure Ai doesn't brainwash my girlfriend."
Ai pouted, "We don't really need you here though."
"Your hateful words touch me deeply sometimes."
"And there you go again with your empty words."
Futaba chuckled at the two bickering classmates as they went on. She waved towards Ryouta as he quietly left the room.
Ryouta wasn't sure what to make of the club. He hadn't expected a new member right at the beginning. All he wanted was just a place where all of them could be together. He wasn't sure how Ai would impact their club but it seemed Ryuuji was used to her scorn towards him. His main concern was if she annoyed Ryuuji but if that was the case, Ryuuji would have spoken out frankly. He was not the kind of guy who would hide his annoyance. As long as Ryuuji was fine with it, the atmosphere at the club should be fine.
As he walked out of school he saw Hinata leaving with a few girls. They looked like they were having fun. For the third time that day, Hinata's eyes met his again. She smiled at him as if she knew what he was thinking right now. The next moment, she looked away and laughed at something one of the girls said.
Ryouta sighed, recognising the all familiar pattern of Hinata's behaviour. After all those years, her ways still hadn't changed. She was still afraid, afraid of her real self, afraid of losing her image... Afraid of being honest. Truth had never treated her well and Ryouta had seen that first-hand.
With a sad look on his face, he left for work.
A few days passed by as Ryouta observed Hinata's behaviour. Almost like Futaba, she had become friends with everyone. There were still a few girls jealous of her gaining popularity so fast but all of them were keeping their distance.
As for the boys... They were hopeless. Every day she would get a ton of love letters in her desk and some even dared to show up and ask her out. Of course, all of them were flat-out rejected but that didn't stop the other boys. For them, it was just one less enemy.
But, in between the boys, a rumour had spread quickly. Ryouta wasn't sure why but people had started noticing him these days. He would often find a pair of eyes watching him as he walked in the corridor or past another class. It was Haruto who told Ryouta about the rumour. They were having lunch together during recess when Haruto said, "Hey Ryo, one of the guys in my team told me that you are close with the new girl Hinata? I- I just wanted to uhm- ask you once if that's true or not."
"I'm not close with her. We used to be... Friends in elementary school."
"I see. You do know how popular she is, right?"
"Yeah. I've been noticing it."
"Some of the boys might start false rumours about you, so I want you to come to me when that happens, ok? I'll make sure the others understand your position. You're already friends with Futaba and now the other stupid boys can't see you getting close to both the popular girls in our school."
Haruto looked at Ryouta with a concerned face. He knew that Ryouta didn't care about rumours and that sort of stuff but it mattered to Haruto and the rest of Ryouta’s friends. They didn't want him to look bad in front of everyone. They wanted others to see his hidden good side too. But Ryouta avoided the spotlight as much as he could. He remained invisible to everyone. The actual reason why Haruto hadn't approached Ryouta much before was not because he had forgotten to scout him for the soccer team but, it was because he respected Ryouta's wishes to stay away. He knew when he saw him in his class the first day that he intentionally kept his distance from everyone. He didn't know why Futaba approached him that day, but that day had changed everything — not just for him and Shiomi, but for Ryouta too.
It was because of that incident with Ryouta that Haruto realised what actually was important to him. It was not his public image in school but rather the people who knew him closely. That day, when he had approached Ryouta to apologise and then Ryouta had instead pushed him away, he was frustrated at his helplessness as he watched him become the public enemy. But there was something else that had hurt him more. It was that even though he was able to see through Ryouta's charade, he didn't have the courage to break his image and talk to Ryouta afterwards. Instead, he sat there like a coward while other people told him to avoid "the loner."
Ryouta looked at Haruto and smiled.
"Don't worry Haruto. If it gets out of hand, you'll be the first one I come to."
Haruto sighed with relief. "We're there for you Ryo. All of us. Just remember that."
Ryouta nodded as the bell rang, indicating the end of recess.
Haruto got up and said cheerfully, "Then I'll get going to class first! Make sure you get there on time."
Ryouta quickly wrapped up his lunch and got up to leave. A boy who he had never seen before came up to him and put his hand around his neck. He smiled at him and said, "Hi there mate!"
He slipped a note in his hand and whispered to him, "This is for you. Hope you have a nice time."
With those words, he chuckled and ran away. Ryouta breathed in deeply as he opened the note.
'Meet me at the rooftop.'
He threw away the note and made his way upstairs slowly. He prepared himself to meet the boys that had called him there. He knew he wasn't going to come back without a single scratch. He took a deep breath as he came in front of the rooftop door. It was open today which wasn't surprising.
Ryouta opened the door and stepped out. He blinked his eyes in confusion. There were no boys on the rooftop. The only person there was a girl standing near the edge of the rooftop. She turned back and faced him, her loose hair flying all over her face.