Episode 25 – Shinkai Sakura ①

Source

https://kakuyomu.jp/works/16816700427224608463/episodes/16816700427982213184

Elementary school is an important place where character development begins. It is the first step where students begin to study Japanese, mathematics, and other subjects, and where they learn to live in a real group.

I too must have done well in the beginning. I had a lot of friends and was often praised by the teachers because I performed well. However, a breakdown of routine can easily happen to anyone.

It started when I was old enough to remember.

“Look, get down on your knees !”

“You made Aki chan cry !”

“Wow, I knew it, a creepy person has a lowly heart.”

I was met with numerous contemptuous looks. Some of them were smirking at me, and my classmates, who didn’t even believe me, continued to hurl heartless words at me.

“……”

I was frustrated. But more than that, I was driven by a fear that made my stomach curl and my heart shut down. It all started with a trivial conversation between two boys.

 [Hey, Sakura chan is cute, isn’t she?]

[Sure, she’s really cute.]

Even though I was in elementary school, I stood out among my classmates. The reason was simple: I was cute.

I had a well-defined face and a petite body that made others want to protect me. Above all, I had a kind personality that treated everyone with open arms.

Perhaps because of this, I found myself attracting the attention of many boys. I was embarrassed and uncomfortable, but at that point I was not disgusted.

[……]

But of course, there were those who didn’t think well of it. Specifically, the girls who’s in the upper caste in the class. The boys they liked were all interested in me.

I’m sure they were patient at first. But then something happened that lit a spark.

[Sakura chan, please……go out with me !]

[Um, that…..,I-I’m sorry.]

I had several opportunities to be confessed to as an elementary school student. But I had no interest in romance, only a fear of the unknown, so I turned them down every time. And one of them was a boy whom the girls in my class had feelings for. And they finally witnessed the scene.

And after some time passed, as my mind was formed, I began to be visibly harassed. It was in the third grade of elementary school.

[U-um…..]

[……]

It’s normal to be ignored in daily life. And gradually it escalated to the point where things were hidden and people started talking behind my back.

At first it was just some of the girls, but gradually the boys joined in and the whole class started to target me and have fun with it.

[Um, my pencil box…….]

[Huh? I don’t know.]

[Hey, hey, hey, don’t talk to us too much. We’ll catch the germs.]

They laughed and shooed me away. As it turns out, my pencil case was found in the classroom trash. And because it had been thrown away with the zipper open, the pens inside were scattered all over the place.

[……]

At the same time I discovered the pencil case, I heard giggles from behind me. It was mainly boys, with a few girls’ voices mixed in. I’m sure everyone was in on it and threw my pencil case in the trash.

And the teacher, who must have seen all of this, did not say a word, nor did he scold the students who had misbehaved. I think he didn’t want any trouble. Looking back, he was always a man of few words with a blank expression on his face. I think he hated being responsible for us and tried to stay out of our lives as much as possible.

[Hey, ugly, do the cleaning for me.]

[……]

[Answer me ! You’re really useless !]

The pranks turned into clear bullying, slowly eating away at my heart. Such days continued for three years. There was a class change, but that didn’t matter.

[S-stop……]

[Stop you say? It should be ‘please stop it’ ! You always speak in honorifics !]

[You’re so embarrassing, by the way you flirt with the boys in your class, aren’t you?]

I was bullied in ways that left evidence, such as being doused with water in the bathroom, having my shoes hidden and not being allowed to go home until late, and being called bad names in a loud voice. Still, the momentum didn’t abate, but rather escalated day by day.

[……]

It was probably around this time that my emotions completely froze. No matter what I said or tried to do, it would only come back to me like double payback. I may have given up on my own situation.

[Sakura chan, you’ve been down lately, are you okay? Is something troubling you?]

[……Yeah, I’m fine.]

They worried about me back at home, but I always faked it. I didn’t want to worry my parents about such a trivial thing, and I didn’t want them to direct such pity toward me.

I was sorry to my mother, but I had to miss school trips and excursions because I was sick. Perhaps my mother may have sensed that I was being bullied, but as if she knew I didn’t want her to know, she only spoke kindly to me and didn’t take any concrete action.

[….]

But I was fine with that. What could I do to prevent the situation from getting any worse? That was all I could think about. And if things go on like this, even my mother might feel bad about it. Because of that, my heart grew colder and colder.

And without any change in the situation surrounding me, I graduated from elementary school as it was. I expected that going to middle school would change things, but the private elementary school I attended was an integrated elementary and middle school. In other words, the guys who attended the school were almost the same. There are times when excellent new students are admitted from the outside, but these are only a handful, so there is no drastic change in the students.

[Hey, we’re in the same class as her again.]

[Tsk, I’m going to have to spend a whole year with a plague. Depending on the class change, it could be three years.]

[Fufu, that’s fine.. I’ve got a new servant.]

I’m sure that from now on, my treatment will not change until I graduate from middle school. The homeroom teacher was a serious person unlike in elementary school, but he was still busy every day. I didn’t think he would take me seriously if I told him I was being bullied, and I was completely afraid to talk to people.

(As expected, nothing changes in middle school, I guess…….)

I should just kill myself once and for all. I was seriously thinking about it at that time.

One week had passed since I had been in this class. As expected, my pencil box was missing, a wet and dirty rag was randomly placed on my desk, and I continued to be harassed in various ways.

Moreover, as a middle school student, I guess they are getting smarter and more cunning, and they would target me in subtle ways so that the teachers would not find out about it. I was probably crushed by the voices of the entire class when I raised my voice.

(I knew I should’ve killed myself…….)

But I wonder how I should die. I might as well jump off the roof of this school and cause as much trouble as I can. Perhaps the school board would intervene and clarify the whole matter. I was clinging to such a faint light.

One day, when I came to inspect the rooftop where I was going to jump, someone suddenly called out to me,

[Are you giving up?]

[……Eh.]

[If you keep going like this, you’ll end up losing. It’s so frustrating.]

I had never seen this boy before. Probably someone who entered from outside. He wore an atmosphere that was somewhat different from the boys around me, and talked to me when I was alone and isolated.

[Why are you surprised?]

[…If you talk to me, even you will be treated badly…]

[I’m fine. I will never lose to those people.]

I don’t know where this boy’s confidence comes from, but his smile like the sun is so dazzling that I can’t look directly at it. I’m sure he is the opposite of me.

I don’t know why, but I feel that this boy would be able to achieve everything I haven’t. Rather, an unidentifiable fear bound my heart and paralyzed it temporarily.

[Don’t be so nervous. There’s no one here but you and me. I just want to ask you one question.]

[….What is it?]

[Do you want help?]

[Help?]

For a moment, I didn’t understand what this boy was saying. If I were to just take this boy’s words as it is…..

(Are you trying to help me?)

That’s……absolutely not going to happen !

[No thanks. I can handle it by myself.]

[You can’t. You’ve run all the way down here.]

[…..I

[If I hadn’t spoken to you here, sooner or later you would have chosen death here. Is that wrong?]

This was exactly what the boy had said. My will to resist had been crushed and I had arrived at this place as if to escape. I had given up on my life.

[If you’ve given up, you can bet on me, you know?]

[Bet on you……?]

[Yes. If you’re going to end your life, why not let someone else take the reins of your life? For example, me.]

What is this boy saying? I want to be angry at him for being so selfish, but I can’t yell at him in such a rough tone of voice. I wonder how long I have not raised my voice.

[No, I’m not asking you to believe me. No, it is……]

The boy then growled and clapped his palms, as if thinking about something.

[If I can’t help you, I’ll jump off the roof with you.]

[……Huh?]

[That’s about as far as I’ll go !]

Jump off with me?

I really don’t get it. I mean, is it even possible for him to save me? He might end up being bullied. I’m not sure why he would do that in the first place. It’s obvious that he would end up being betrayed.

Because that’s what this school is.

[…… Do as you please.]

[Is that so? Then I won’t hesitate.]

Then the boy got off the roof before me. Oh, come to think of it, I forgot to ask his name. I’m sure he’s probably from the same class as me, and I’ll get to know him sooner or later.

I took a long look at the ground I could see from the rooftop and returned to the classroom hell with slow steps.

As I entered the classroom as usual, I noticed something strange.

[……Huh?]

It was the morning of the third day after that that I noticed something strange. There were fewer students coming to school than usual. In fact, they all looked at me as if they were scared of me.

As I was thinking this, several female students approached me timidly. One of them is……

(……Miyamoto Aki san)

She is the main culprit who started bullying me, someone who’s in the upper caste of this class, who until just yesterday was constantly harassing me.

Her relentless bullying of me started when a boy she had a crush on confessed to me. And the girls who were close to her were also harassing me in a flirtatious manner. Incidentally, the boy transferred to another school in the middle of the day, but her harassment of me did not end there.

But the look on her face, which had been so confident until yesterday, was now frozen and frightened.

“Ah, you know, Sakura ……we’re friends, right?”

“……Huh?”

What did she just say? Am I friends with this person?

[We’ve been friends for a long time. See?]

Why do I feel so nauseous? I try to say it back, but I can’t quite put it into words. In fact, I feel like I’m going to collapse from the stress of being stared at by so many people.

[……Ugh.]

My knees tremble and I feel like collapsing. But there was someone who supported me.

[Are you okay?]

[…..Y-you?]

It was Tachibana Kanata, the boy who was on the roof the other day. After that, I returned from the rooftop and immediately checked him out. As expected, it was a boy who entered from outside. Kanata kun whispered to my ear as he supported me.

[I’m here for you. So, you must tell me everything here.]

[Everything?]

[Yes.]

Because if I don’t, nothing will change.

[……]

I found that my body had stopped shaking. In fact, my body felt strangely warm.

No, it was my heart that was warm. It was as if my heart, which had been frozen for a long time, was melting away. I’m sure it’s because he is standing right next to me, watching over me.

So, I’m going to give it my all right here !

[I-I’ve never thought of you guys as friends !]

At first, I was just stuttering, but gradually, the power of the words began to dwell in me. Oh, how my heart could be so colorful.

[I hate you guys. I’ve had my precious pencil case that my mother bought me thrown in the trash, my shoes hidden and watered……my school lunch all stolen, my gym clothes ripped, I’ve had enough of this ! I’ve been …… ugh, keh !]

I let all my emotions explode and hit them with my words. But I was so overcome with emotion that I could not hold my breath and sobbed.

But even so, my feelings seemed to have been conveyed well enough. The classroom was a scene, and everyone was staring at me.

[I’ve been through a lot because of you….]

[Ah…….]

I put all my heart and soul into these words. But there were some who bounced back and didn’t accept it all. That is Miyamoto Aki in front of me.

[It’s okay. You did well. Leave the rest to me.]

Then Tachibana kun stood in front of me as if protecting me and pointed something at Miyamoto Aki. Is that a……pencil box?

[You, by any chance……]

[Fufu, it looks like you’re having a hard time getting your picture out there. By the way, I’ve got these pictures…..can you take a look?]

[Tsu !? T-that’s….]

With that said, Tachibana kun took something out of his pocket and threw it toward Miyamoto Aki. That’s……!?

[That’s a thumbtack that you planted in Sakura san’s desk……,and it’s a mechanism that sticks when you put your hand inside the desk, isn’t it? It’s an interesting idea, but I think it’s a little over the top because it leaves evidence and she could get hurt.]

“You……you did that?”

[Fufu, what do you think?]

The picture he offered showed Miyamoto Aki and a few of her lackeys hanging out in a desk with thumbtacks. He must have taken advantage of the opportunity to take a peek. But wouldn’t it be conspicuous if he brought a camera to school……

[Fufufu, what’s the matter, you look so impatient. Look, your face looks amazing.]

A mysterious metal sound came from inside the pencil box. Then, a piece of paper came out from the gap of the pencil case. Could that be ……

[A pencil box type developer. It can only print a few sheets due to its capacity, but it seems to be effective for people like you. It cost a lot of money, but it was worth it.]

[You’re a voyeur ! It’s a violation of the right of publicity !]

[I prevented criminal activity and injuries from occurring. If you hadn’t done something like this, I wouldn’t have taken these hidden photos either.]

That’s……for sure. It’s messed up, but it makes sense. Maybe the reason why there are so few people in the class is because of something he did? As I was thinking about this, my homeroom teacher, Tamura sensei, came into the classroom.

[Hey, what’s this all about !?]

[Sensei !Please check Shinaki Sakura san’s desk. That will tell you everything !]

When Tamura sensei was surprised and confused, Tachibana kun suddenly raised his voice and said so. He was surely trying to prevent the loss of evidence.

[….The thing you said yesterday. All right. From now on, no one moves !]

Tamura sensei then began to search my desk. And what he finds are a number of cunningly arranged thumbtacks. When Tamura sensei saw them, he was surprised and showed his anger.

[Tachibana, was it you who put those pictures and letters on my desk?]

[Yes.  I saw that you had already left yesterday.]

[…… I have a lot of questions for you, but it seems there are some fools I need to talk to first.]

Tamura sensei looked around the classroom and saw several students shaking with fear. No doubt, they were my bullies.

[Even so, I can’t disrupt today’s schedule at this hour. I have other teachers’ classes, too. After school, any students you know of should stay behind. But be prepared, some of them will be called out on the broadcast during the lunch break.]

And so the situation was settled. However, I really wanted to ask Tachibana kun something. There were so many questions, and I didn’t know where to start. And when it was lunchtime…

[U-um……Tachibana kun !]

[I’ve been waiting for you.]

I followed him to the rooftop. He had his back against the fence to prevent him from falling and was facing me directly.

[Um, thank you very much !]

[No, it’s totally fine. I would have been uncomfortable too if I had spent time in that class.]

[It’s not that.]

[Yeah?]

I was a little hesitant, but I threw the words at him properly.

[Thank you for being there for me back then !]

I was already on the verge of tears, but I held back the tears because I knew I had to say these words clearly. Why do I feel like crying when I’m so happy?

[So, you want to know the sequence of events?]

[……Please.]

Tachibana kun accepted my words with a smile and explained to me what had happened.

[It’s been a whole day since I parted with you on the rooftop. I observed the behavior of the students who seemed to be bullying you. Well, it was worse than I had imagined. Some of them I even prevented from happening.]

And he had captured the evidence and confronted them. Then he turned to them and said,

[Don’t come to school once this week. And next Monday….make sure you come to school.]

Apparently, he questioned the students who were bullying me and found out who was the main bully. And when he found out about Miyamoto Aki, he witnessed the moment she overflowed my bag with liquid milk and hid my shoes. He then filmed the moment and snuck it into her shoe box this morning.

[I never thought it would pop off so easily. I mean, she’s too seamless.]

[Well, that’s……sorry.]

[You don’t have to apologize.]

And then he put a letter on Tamura sensei desk with the photos he had taken so far and a general outline of what he was going to do.

And it seems that the students who have been absent until today will be given guidance at a later date. On the other hand, the students who came to school today are the ones who have not done anything to me in the past three days. I’m sure that there are probably people among them who have been bullying me, but now that the situation has come to this, they will eventually come to light.

I see, he is definitely not the type of person you want to make enemies with. I became a little afraid of Tachibana kun.

[I guess it’s roughly like this. Um, do you have any other questions?]

[Why did you help me?]

Usually, we always recognize the risk, such as helping someone who is being bullied. You might be the next target. Will he be the next target? Will he suffer a loss? Such risks are sure to come to mind. However, Tachibana kun helped me without thinking about it.

When I was thinking about this, Tachibana kun smiled and said, 

[Because I wanted to help. Nothing more, nothing less.]

I don’t know why just hearing those words made my heart heat up. It was a warmth called compassion that I had forgotten for a long time.

[You must have been in pain for a long time, right? How did you endure it all by yourself? You have really worked hard until now.]

Tachibana kun then patted my head. There’s nothing unpleasant about it, and it’s strangely comforting.

[…..Yes.]

I couldn’t do it anymore. I had a tear gland collapse all at once, and I had a face that I couldn’t very well show to anyone. When in the world had I been this emotional?

After that, the students who were bullying me were suspended from school. However, because of what they had done, they were likely to be transferred to another school. Apparently, the information that they were bullies had spread without them knowing it.

Incidentally, the homeroom teacher in elementary school was also questioned by the Board of Education and had him fired. Maybe Tachibana kun had something to do with it, but it doesn’t matter.

[Look, there’s nothing that ties you down anymore. Your life starts here today.]

[…..Yes]

[S, do your best to move forward. I’ll push you along.]

[….Yeah !]

And so I began to move forward.

But I’m not alone anymore. A kind person appeared in front of me who pushed me back. I’m sure that I will be able to fly out into the sky.

The boy who saved me was like a hero from an anime or a novel, solving in three days what I had suffered for three years. On the long road in his life, take care of any extra work that he happens to find while walking.

If I followed this person, maybe I could……

This is how my school life finally began.

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