It was break time the next day and I was heading to the science lab because we were doing a chemistry experiment in my next class.
I was holding my thighs as I walked down the hallway.
Even though I’ve been doing club activities for over a week now, I still always get sore muscles every day.
I haven’t moved my body at all for almost a year.
The consequences of my actions were huge indeed.
I guess it was not that easy to live like myself…
“You seem to have a lopsided stride.”
I heard a man’s voice from up ahead, and when I turned my head up to look.
Kiritani-sensei was right in front of me.
“It looks like you’re doing a lot of hard work in your club activities, Kenji-kun.”
“I’m just doing what I’m told by sensei.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Kiritani-sensei smiled kindly.
By the way, I use honorifics for Kiritani-sensei at school.
…Well, I should have used honorifics when he was visiting me at home, but I didn’t have the right timing… I’m sorry.
He was my homeroom teacher, so we’ve talked a lot since my first day at high school.
When I first met him at school, he was surprised but very happy and I was also very happy to see him.
“By the way, how are things going with Aima-san”
“Ruri… well, it is the same as ever.”
Kiritani-sensei sounded disappointed when he responded.
I told him about Ruri earlier.
She was one of the reasons I stopped going to school, and she was the person I still love.
“But I think I’ll talk to her without being discouraged.
My high school life has just begun.”
“Yes, you’re right.
If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to talk to me.”
“Thank you very much! You’re the best teacher!
“No, I’m not.
I’ve told you many times, but I’m your homeroom teacher, so it’s only natural.”
“Even so, you’re a great teacher.”
I was sure if I talked to Kiritani-sensei about it, he would try his best to help me like he did when I was a shut-in.
…However, I wanted to solve the problem with Ruri on my own.
That was my way of making up for the mistakes I made in the past.
“I hope you’ll do your best with Aima-san.”
“Yes, I will do my best.”
After exchanging last words like that, Kiritani-sensei and I parted ways.
He was rooting for me, too.
Next time, I would definitely talk to Ruri.
…As much as I was enthusiastic about it.
“No progress at all.”
It has been another week since then, and Ruri still avoided me.
This might have just solidified that she really doesn’t like me…
I’ve heard this once from Touya in middle school, so I was shocked as hell, but I don’t think this would send me back to being a shut-in again.
Besides, the Ruri thing is important, but I have other things to do—
“I’ve recently been into the anime on Mi-Tubes.”
“Like Mio May and Morimori Molly, right”
“Yes, yes! There are so many funny stories, like the one where they use up all the secret sauce, or the kid haggling over the price for the first time at the store, and so on!”
During the morning in the classroom.
Two boys were talking happily nearby.
This was a chance to get to know them… but I have no idea what they’re talking about.
I guess they’re doing anime on mi-tubes these days.
I had never heard of it because I had only seen commentary videos on games before.
I hurriedly pulled out my phone and searched for it, and sure enough, an anime appeared.
You can really watch anime too …That’s amazing.
While being impressed, I searched for the channel the boys were talking about.
As I looked at the titles, all the videos looked interesting.
One of the most interesting was…
“You know the ones where they take a blindfolded surprise detour”
I tried to talk to the boys as I showed them the screen of my phone — but unfortunately, they had already gone somewhere.
I let out a big sigh.
I’ve been trying to talk to my classmates like this many times since I first went to school, but I keep failing because of my bad timing and the way I talk to them.
I want to get along with my classmates as soon as possible…but it was hard to be myself.
—Then, I felt a gaze on me unexpectedly.
When I looked, I saw that Ruri was fiddling with her phone.
I haven’t talked to her yet today…Just to make sure.
“Ruri, look at me right now—”
“Maki-chan, good morning!”
Suddenly Ruri stood up and went to her friend.
She avoided me again…
I’ve been trying to talk to Ruri like this for two weeks now and I was still not getting along with my classmates.
I couldn’t keep up with my club activities because I was not strong enough.
On top of that, Ruri was still avoiding me …Well, I was in a pretty bad situation.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let myself rot.
All I had to do was to present myself more aggressively to my classmates, increase my physical strength by increasing the amount of independent practice, and keep talking to them without being discouraged by the loneliness.
“Marumaru, I’m going for it.”
I braced myself as I muttered the name of my departed companion.
Since he said goodbye to me, all of his social networking and gaming accounts have been deleted.
It was not like he stopped playing games or anything, but he was probably just trying to look out for me.
If I had the accounts, I could always get in touch with him.
He was the one who said goodbye to me so that I wouldn’t run away again and be stuck in a corner.
I was sure he would do it to the point that he would delete his account.
He would probably be playing the game under another name and posting clips by now.
“Hey, are you good at ‘Zomabrawl’”
While I was absentmindedly thinking about Marumaru, a classmate suddenly spoke to me.
I think he was Sasaki-kun, a member of the basketball team.
“Well, I guess…”
“Really! Actually, I’m going to have a Zomabrawl tournament with my classmates at my place.”
That sounds like fun.”
“So, I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to play Zomabrawl”
“Well… that’s fine…”
“Really! I’m so happy!”
Sasaki was happy, but while we were talking, I had a question.
How did he know I was good at Zomabrawl
Not only have I never said a word to my classmates, I haven’t even talked to them properly in the first place…
“Um… How did you know I was good at Zomabrawl”
“Ah, that’s, uh, Ai—”
“Stop! If you talk any more, I’ll kill you☆”
The one who interrupted our conversation was Maki-chan—Or rather, Kudo-san whom Ruri went to talk to earlier.
She was choking Sasaki-kun.
Hey, hey, isn’t this too much…
“Ugh, ugh, pain…”
“You’re the one who’s trying to talk nonsense.
Shut up for a while.”
When Sasaki-kun weakly replied, Kudo released him by removing her arm from around his neck.
“Good morning! Tanaka-kun!”
I know you must have been scared when this idiot suddenly started talking to you.
As his childhood friend, I apologize.”
“No, it’s okay, I was just happy that he talked to me.”
I didn’t know Sasaki-kun and Kudo-san were childhood friends.
That was news to me.
But in the end, I couldn’t figure out how Sasaki-kun knew I was good at Zomabrawl…
“Hey, if you want, why don’t you come to the next Zomabrawl tournament, Tanaka-kun”
“Me… Umm, will you be there too, Kudo-san”
“Of course! I’ll be there to beat this man to a pulp!”
Kudo-san said as she turned her attention to Sasaki-kun.
“So I’d prefer to have more people, but do you want to join”
I’m an outsider, aren’t I I was about to say that, but I stopped myself.
This was my chance.
I’ve never been able to get along with my classmates no matter how I try, but this was a great chance for me to finally get to know them.
If I showed them how good I was at games and showed them my knowledge of Zomabrawl, I may be able to close the gap between me and my classmates in no time at all.
“Can I come to that tournament”
“Oh, you’re so flippant~ that’s the way to go.”
Kudo-san gave a thumbs-up.
You’re the one who’s flippant though.
“I’m going to need you to teach me how to play Zomabrawl before the tournament.”
“Got what Heh.”
He was a little nervous.
I felt someone’s eyes on me again from somewhere.
When I turned my eyes, I saw Ruri there, happily chatting with her friends.
…Was it my imagination
“Everyone take your seats!”
The classroom door opened and Kiritani-sensei walked in.
It was time for morning homeroom to begin.
Sasaki-kun, Kudo-san, and the rest of the classmates were all returning to their seats.
I had originally been sitting in my seat, so I stayed there until Ruri returned to the seat next to mine.
She sat in her seat, looking nonchalant.
I thought I felt her eyes on me twice today…was I mistaken Over self-consciousness
Or was it—
Homeroom began, leaving me with such a bewildering feeling.
“Tanaka! You’re the slowest one today!”
All the first-year students were running at club activities, and as usual, I was the only one being yelled at by my seniors.
While the second-year students were practicing passing in pairs, the first-year students continued to focus on running.
I apologized and sped up with all my might.
I’ve been increasing the amount of running in my voluntary training, and I was sure my body will get used to it in another week.
…This was the time to step up to the plate.
“Kenji, are you okay~”
As I was running, breathing quite unevenly, I was approached by a male student running in front of me.
He was Kudo-senpai, and he was the only student who talked to me in the school.
He was also the head of the soccer club and the ace of the team.
He had competed in a national tournament in middle school, but he had decided to enter Seiran High School only because it was close to his home.
In fact, he seemed to be coming off an injury, so he was practicing the same menu as the first-year students for rehabilitation.
By the way, the other members of the club were appalled that I was not keeping up with the practices, even though I joined the club in the middle of the year, and they scolded me, but no one actually talked to me.
But I was a sportsman myself, and I fully understood how they feel, so I’ll just have to work hard from now on and gain their trust little by little.
I’m fine, you can go ahead.”
“Don’t be so considerate.
We’re all in the same club.
…but I just simply don’t like to run.”
Kudo-senpai smiled when I ran next to him.
He was a good-looking guy, probably very popular with the girls
“By the way, Kenji, do you have a girlfriend”
“What’s this all of a sudden…”
I thought it would deepen the friendship between seniors and juniors.”
Kudo-senpai said so with a grin.
I was at the physical end of my rope, I didn’t have time to talk about this…
“I don’t have any.
I mean, I’ve never been able to get one before.”
There was someone I like, though.
She was doing her manager’s job well today.
I thought you definitely…”
Kudo-senpai mumbled something, but his voice was too low to be heard.
I thought about asking him back, but I was too exhausted to do so.
Then I managed to finish the run with Kudo-senpai.
“Ugggh…I’m really going to throw up…”
I fell to my knees and gasped for air.
The other members of the club were looking at me like I was a fool while I was trying to catch my breath.
Everyone on the team was all running the same distance, except only one of them — the one who joined the club in the middle of the year — was exhausted, so of course they would react like this.
It was just the way it was.
“Ohhh~, you look like you’re about to die today too~!”
Kudo-senpai was staring at me, still unable to stand up.
This guy was running the same distance as me and the other first-year students, but he was not out of breath at all.
What kind of physical strength does he have
“There’s no need to apologize.
You’ll get used to it anyway.”
Saying that, Kudo-senpai extended his hand to me.
After thanking him, I took his hand and managed to stand up.
…Ah, I still feel a little nauseous.
“We’re doing a practice match later.”
The first-year students will probably be running, dashing, and running again, anyway.
The tournament was just around the corner.
The actual ball was basically only for the second-year students to practice with.
I guess it would be different for the first years if they could get a regular spot.
“Kenji, you’re joining us.”
Kudo-senpai said something I couldn’t quite get, so I asked him back.
“Yes I said you’re participating in a practice match.”
“What… but I’m a first-year, though”
“I’m going to start bringing in some first-year students today.
So I picked Kenji.
…Oh, by the way, I’ll be participating in that practice starting today too.
I haven’t quite caught up with reality, but for some reason, they’re going to let me participate in the practice match.
…Seriously, what does that mean
“We’re going to start a practice session now where you’ll have to play in a real game.”
At the center of the soccer court, the advisor said this and put the ball on the ground.
Two members of the club were standing across the ball.
One was Kudo-senpai.
And the other was Takahashi-senpai, the vice president of the club.
Takahashi-senpai was the senpai who scolded me a lot, and I have been scolded by many senpais.
Takahashi-senpai was on my enemy team, and Kudo-senpai was on my side.
“Let’s have fun, Kenji.”
I was still not fully grasping the situation when Kudo-senpai said this to me, so I responded reflexively.
I stood on the soccer court without knowing why, why did Kudo-senpai pick me in the first place
I was happy… I honestly have no idea why I was here.
I wasn’t even able to keep up with the running practice.
“Kenji’s position is in the middle.”
“What The middle…”
I think he meant volante, which was a position that mainly involves passing the ball around.
The way he said it was too normal.
…Also, how did he know my position in middle school I never told him my position, and I never even practiced by touching the ball, so how could he know
The questions didn’t just remain, they increased, and without any answers I moved to my assigned position.
“Then we begin!”
The advisor said loud enough for the club members on the court to hear, then sounded the whistle.
It was the kickoff.
When our team kicked the ball, all the players on the court began to move in unison.
“I haven’t touched the ball in voluntary training… is it going to be fine”
I ran along with my teammates’ movements, feeling uneasy.
But this was the best opportunity to gain the trust of the team members.
If I showed good play in this practice, other club members besides Kudo-senpai might start talking to me.
Just as I was thinking that, a member near me picked up the ball.
I raised my hand and shouted.
The player with the ball glanced at me and then passed the ball to another player.
I was free now and he could have made the pass.
…No, maybe I didn’t make enough of an appeal.
Next time, I’ll call for a pass more clearly.
I got myself together and continued to play.
During the game, I repeatedly called out for a pass, but after ten minutes, no one gave me one.
“I was completely hacked off…”
I never thought I would have so little trust from the club members.
…Well, it was no surprise when they saw the running training.
Well, what shall I do
If I wanted to play well but couldn’t touch the ball, it was a huge problem.
“Hey, don’t skip out on the team!”
Kudo-senpai, who had moved all the way over here from his front-line position, said to me.
“No, I’m not skipping out, I’m just not getting any passes.”
I know, I’m kidding, kidding.”
Kudo-senpai was laughing.
However, I was not laughing over here.
“Then let me give you a little advice, to you who don’t have the trust of your fellow seniors.”
“You say terrible things to your junior without mercy.”
“Listen to me.
If you can’t get a pass, just steal the ball from the enemy.”
Kudo-senpai had a rather wicked smile on his face as he said this.
“To be honest, our level isn’t that high, and maybe Kenji can do it, right”
“What does senpai know about me”
“Well, a lot of things.
That’s why when you get the ball, you’re gonna pass it to me.”
After responding appropriately to my question, Kudo-senpai returned to his position.
What in the world is this guy… I thought so, but his advice was sound, so I decided to go for the ball right away.
“What the heck, you’re my opponent”
And so I was confronted by Takahashi-senpai, the vice captain.
He was looking at me with eyes that were clearly bored.
I could see that he was caught off guard, like there was no way he was going to lose to a guy like me.
Just get out of the way.”
Takahashi-senpai dribbled after saying that in an uninterested manner.
Feinting to the right and left, he tried to fake me.
He was the vice captain so he was pretty good at it.
But he was not as good as Touya…
I was anticipating his movements, and I put my foot out at the exact timing I thought was right.
Takahashi-senpai let out a surprised cry as I neatly stole the ball from him.
I left him there and dribbled up to the front line.
“Over here, Kenji!”
I turned my eyes to see Kudo-senpai running at a good distance away from me.
No, he was too far away.
I was not supposed to pass the ball at such a distance.
“Kenji! This way, this way!”
Kudo-senpai called me repeatedly.
He really wanted me to make the pass.
To be honest, I don’t know if it would work, but if I could make the pass here, the club members would trust me a little more.
Then I have no choice but to do it!
Calling out his name, I took aim and kicked the ball as hard as I could.
The ball went straight down to Kudo-senpai.
And then—it landed perfectly at his feet.
Kudo gave a thumbs-up.
I was so happy that I couldn’t help but give him a thumbs-up too.
In addition, I raised my fist in the air.
It has been a long time since I’ve had this feeling of a clean pass.
It felt really good.
After receiving the pass, Kudo-senpai broke through the enemy defense in no time, and scored a goal.
This person is just too good… As expected of a national level player.
“You made a good pass…”
Takahashi-senpai called out to me from behind.
And I don’t think he was being sarcastic or anything, I think he was genuinely complimenting me.
“How did you develop those kinds of passes”
I felt a little pressure from Takahashi-senpai who asked that question.
“Eh…Well, since I was in elementary school, I used to mark the wall, the ground or in the park and hit the ball against it from different distances.
“Just that Did you learn it through such basic practice
Yes, I did that for about five hours every day.”
I didn’t do it when I was a shut-in, but I started the same practice again when I started club activities.
“! Five hours…!”
Takahashi was so surprised that his eyes were wide open.
I had to practice that much because I had no other weapon than passing.
I yelled at you during practice for nothing.”
Takahashi-senpai suddenly apologized.
“I didn’t keep up with the practice, it was natural, I don’t mind at all.”
“I still overdid it.
Takahashi-senpai deeply bowed his head.
I thought he might be a scary person, but he was a good person, just a little too passionate.
As I was thinking—
“What’s with your pass That’s awesome! I thought you were unmotivated when I saw you practicing, but you can’t do that unless you work hard.
Let’s get fit fast and play in a game together!”
The club members all gathered around me and praised me for my earlier play.
It seemed that my appeal was successful.
I think I’ve gained a lot of the club members’ trust with this.
“Boys, we’re in the middle of a game! Get back into position!”
The advisor pointed out, and all the members returned to their positions.
Then the practice session continued for about 30 minutes.
I made good pass after good pass, and Kudo-senpai scored all the goals.
In this way, I steadily gained the trust of the club members through this practice match.
When I was changing in the locker room after the whole practice, Kudo-senpai called out to me.
The other members had quickly left, and it was just me and Kudo-senpai in the room.
“Thanks for your hard work.”
“You made a lot of good passes.
Thanks to you, we scored a lot of goals.”
Kudo-senpai was in a good mood as he changed his clothes.
When he took off his clothes, his steel-like body was revealed.
I didn’t notice it when he was wearing his uniform, but it was hard to believe he was a high school student.
“Don’t stare at me too much.
Are you a pervert”
Don’t say things that could be misinterpreted.”
When I replied, Kudo-senpai laughed in an amused way.
What was so funny…
“Umm… May I ask you one question”
“What is it I have a girlfriend.”
“I’m not interested in that.”
“Why not You should be interested in her.”
Kudo-senpai sincerely appealed to me, but since I could not proceed if I kept responding to him, I let his comments pass through for the time being and asked him a question.
Kudo-senpai said that you appointed me, but why did you let me participate in the match today”
I had always wondered.
There were many first-year students who were able to keep up with the training better than me, and there were also many players who were bigger than me.
I wanted to know why Kudo-senpai picked me.
“I actually knew about Kenji for a while.”
“! You knew about me…”
Kudo-senpai shook his head.
“Yeah, that’s right.
It was about this time last year.”
Then he began to talk.
About a year ago.
The day when I was in the third year of middle school, Touya and I made it our goal to get to the finals of the Tokyo Metropolitan Tournament to participate in the National Tournament.
It seemed that Kudo’s younger brother was at the game and he was also watching.
He was watching the game, and even though I made a mistake that caused us to lose, he seemed to remember that I had made many good passes in the game.
“So that’s why you assigned me to the practice match”
Your passing accuracy is at a level that can be used on a national level.”
Kudo-senpai, said something outrageous without hesitation.
National level… Surely that was an exaggeration.
“And also, the manager of the same class as you asked me—”
There, Kudo-senpai stopped speaking.
Immediately after, he makes a face like “Oh sh*t!”
The manager in the same class as me…
Kudo-senpai’s eyes darted left and right, then he let out a deep sigh as if he had given up.
Actually, my sister and Aima-san are friends, and we used to know each other.
“Ruri’s friend… Is your sister Kudo Maki, by any chance”
“What, you know Maki”
Kudo-senpai looked surprised.
I asked him because they have the same last name and she was a friend of Ruri’s, and I guess I was right.
“Well, that’s why Aima-san asked me to include Kenji in today’s practice match.”
“Ruri told you…”
I had no idea.
She still doesn’t speak a word to me at school.
“Aima-san had told me not to talk about it, but I accidentally did.”
Kudo-senpai puts his hand on his forehead in dismay.
She even tried to keep me in the dark and get me to practice behind my back.
Why did Ruri go to such lengths for me…
“But well, I was originally going to let Kenji join the practice.
I knew you were good at soccer.”
I was honestly happy to hear Kudo-senpai’s words, but my head was filled with questions about Ruri.
Maybe she doesn’t hate me…
“I’ll put you in the same practice tomorrow as I did today.
You should rest your body well~.”
“Then good night.
See you tomorrow.”
Kudo-senpai finished changing his clothes and left.
Tomorrow will be the same practice.
I’ll have to play better than I did today.
“But I see.
She was helping out at practice today as manager, it seemed like it was business as usual.
Why did she go to the trouble of asking Kudo-senpai, the captain, to let me participate in the practice match
I thought about it the whole time I was getting dressed, but no matter how much I thought about it, I still couldn’t figure it out.