School Days Fanfiction: I Don't Know I Love You - 61. Chapter 61
Mom insisted I go. She said cutting class when I was “perfectly healthy” would have major repercussions. Nosy extended family, demanding school faculty, and disappointed student representatives would chastise me for missing just one day of school. Their condescension would snowball into antagonism. That’s what my Mom thinks, anyway.
I wish I had it in me to judge her in my head. But instead, my mind drifts endlessly. Sound vibrates inside my ears, but I don’t register who’s saying what or why.
“Where’s Ashikaga? He’s always here by now.”
“Chie told me he like… Fell down some stairs or something. It’s not serious, he just cracked a rib or two. But he’ll be out for a couple days.”
“But he’s so… Safe. How the hell did he let something like that happen?”
“Glad to see you’re as compassionate as ever, Minami.”
“I’m just saying. It’s weird. Don’t you think so, Kumi?”
“Not really. That kid doesn’t have his shit together. Remember that time he got so pissed at us, he was ready to deck us?”
“Oh yeah… That was really screwed up, wasn’t it?”
“No kidding. So, Natsumi, why are we supposed to feel compassionate for him again?”
“W-well, he had a lot of stuff going on. I just don’t think we should jump to conclusions. What do you think, Otome?”
“When did you catch my short-attention span?!”
“There’s something Chie’s not telling me. She could barely look me in the eye. Her body was so tense… She looked pissed.”
“Couldn’t she have just been worried about his safety?”
“The injuries were relatively minor, remember? If anything, she should be relieved he’s getting out soon. Maybe it’s…”
“I don’t know… I’ve got other shit to worry about it. I’m sure the truth will come out eventually.”
It’s all just… meaningless noise. A nagging haze surrounds everything. I can’t focus enough to check the time. My phone’s vibrating, and I don’t care. I’m just here, on my own but not.
Why are my shirt buttons uneven? Why’s the tail tucked into my skirt? Why are the nails on my left hand too long? Why is there a small red dot on my skirt? Why am I biting my lip so hard? Why are my fingers digging into my thighs? Why do I keep applying pressure? Why am I letting it hurt more and more and more? Why aren’t I crying out in pain? Why does my skin feel so raw? Why are my fingers starting to wet and thick? Why is someone calling my—
I heed the voice. I guess the teacher would appreciate that.
“Katsura Kotonoha is present,” I shake my head in a gesture that I think is reassuring.
He doesn’t. But after a shrug, he moves past it. He begins scrawling notes on the blackboard.
Why is the chalk so loud? Why does he talk with no emotion in his voice? Why does everyone take notes on his lecture when only what’s on the board makes it to the test? Why do so many people try when half of them probably won’t make it to college? Why do I try when I’m too unstable to do anything on my own? Why am I such a failure when Kokoro can live up to expectations?
Why can’t I just die so no one has to look at me anymore?
First Period wraps up.
I hate the tension between and Sekai and me. I always acted super annoyed when she stole my phone, stuck out her tongue, and riled me up. But I really enjoyed it. It kept me awake, and she was just a fun person.
“I wonder who ruined that,”
I wanna talk to her. She’s looked so down since she first came in. I think I saw tears in her eyes. Per the norm, she hasn’t looked at me once, at least not intentionally. I wish I could change seats.
But… If I wanna fix things, maybe I should just be straight with her. I’m not brave enough to do that now, but someday…
Regardless, I should break the ice now. I’m not heartless. I gotta let her know I’m worried.
“Saionji… I’m sorry,” Still refuses to meet my gaze. “Do you wanna talk about it?”
She bites her lip and hangs her head lower. “You wouldn’t understand.”
That hurt. A pit grows in my stomach. “Still, I’ll listen. You’re someone who deserves to—”
“You don’t get it, Itou.”
“Please don’t call me that.” A part of me I force down inside me begs to say.
“You’d just get confused.” She smiles bitterly and stares me straight in the air. “I mean, you’ve never REALLY loved anyone, right?”
I swallow hard. There’s a lump swelling in my throat. Her eyes are so cold… She’s not looking away. I can’t take it. I peel my eyes away, pretending to review my notes.
You really can’t mend every fence.
I’m catching the team at the end of P.E before we split for lunch. I tell them about Katsura.
“Otome, I don’t get it. Why are you kissing up to that rich bitch? Did you forget she got Nanami kicked out?”
Why did I think this would be easy again? I said I’d bring them over to help if I could, but I’m already doubting.
“Listen,” Chie cuts in, voice intense but eyes elsewhere, “You know how much I enjoyed watching Nanami fuck up her life. But you heard the rumors, right? About how weird Katsura was acting, how she’s still a little off? What could you possibly gain from throwing something like this for her? Who says she’d even trust you after everything that happened?”
A bunch sided with her. In fact, pretty much everyone did. No one here likes how privileged and “innocent” Katsura is and acts. I should know; I was in the same boat until damn recently. But I owe her a couple explanations and an apology.
I don’t want something terrible to happen because I was bitter.
“You all know I’m fair. I do it through gritted teeth and scrunched eyebrows, but I keep things fair. If I don’t, then I’m a hypocrite. For the longest time, all she did was just think about her own feelings and never the people around her. She closed herself off because of how many people were jealous of her, and now it’s gotten worst. Even so, I’ve done some shitty things to her for no reason… Instead of just talking everything out, I acted passive aggressive and catty, like… well… a bitch.”
“She’s right,” Roka sticks out her tongue and elbows my rib as she walks beside me. “Koto—Katsura can be a little entitled sometimes, but she doesn’t deserve to be treated like shit. I think when she sees us treat her like she’s just another student, she’ll become a lot more bearable for us.”
Roka’s veins are throbbing. It’s gotta be hard as hell to pander to a crowd who hates Kotonoha when it’s obvious she admires her so much. Still, it’s legitimately awesome to see her coming into her own as a leader.
“Neither of us are gonna force you,” she sighs. “But if you do this, you’re gonna feel like a weight’s off your shoulders afterwards.”
The team’s thinking about it. They exchange looks, talk amongst themselves. Finally, they get back to us.
“Yeah, I guess that kinda makes sense,” one of Chie’s flunkies whose name I honestly can’t remember rolls her eyes. “But if she wanted us to be nice, she should’ve acted at least somewhat self-aware from the start.”
More people fall in line behind the seniors. But not everyone.
“Am I gonna have to apologize to Katsura, Otome?” Kumi asks wearily.
“Katsura’s a total snob, but I’ve always thought the way she did her hair and make-up was kinda cool. Maybe if we stop hating each other, she could give me pointers!”
“We all deserve closure,” Natsumi sums up perfectly. “Alright, when classes end, where are we meeting up?”
Roka’s eyes light up, her cheeks glowing red. “It’s at one of the clubrooms! They’ve been baking, putting up signs, and preparing for this day, so we’re gonna help with some last-minute preparations, and I’ll lead her over. We got little decorated cupcakes with her likeness on it, a banner that says “We Love You, Kotonoha” all kinds of stuff. I even had them shape the cake like a book cause she loves reading so much.”
“That seems ridiculously over the top,” Kumi rolls her eyes.
“Trust me. It’ll be worth it when this is all over!” Roka pumps her fist and grins. “Let’s do this thing!” She cheers.
No one follows up. Recognizing the silence, Minami feels the need to wrap things up somehow.
“Yeah… After we eat, haha,”
I can’t get her to talk to me. I hate it when she’s like this. All I want to do is help her, but she just shuts herself off. Maybe if I can get her away from everyone else…
“Do you want to eat on the rooftop? I could pick up your lunch from the cafeteria, and you could wait me for me there.”
“Y-yeah…” She closes her eyes and smiles at me. “Thanks, Sestuna.”
She’s exhausted. There are bags under her eyes. That smile’s on the verge of just breaking entirely. I wish she’d just told me earlier.
“Of course…” I fake a smile. “I’m your friend, aren’t I?”
“Yeah… you care about me.” She chuckles lifelessly. What’s going on…?
“I’ll meet you at the rooftop,” I head towards the exit. “Okay?”
The door’s creak cuts through the silence I endured walking up the stairs.
She’s sitting on that bench she smuggled up here. Eyes glued to her phone, her hands are gripping the sides so hard, they’re turning pale.
Then, she notices me.
“S-Setsuna,” she pockets it.
Trying to inject some humor, I hold up the bags. “I brought food,”
I head on over. I hate that it takes me an awkwardly long time because of how short I am. I plop beside her and hand her the food.
“The cook said this is her best batch yet.”
“She says that about every batch,” she chuckles a little more earnestly this time as she pulls her bread from the bag and sips from the green tea I bought her at a vending machine.
I let her eat for a while. Maybe the food will calm her down. Mid-bite, I summon the resolve to talk to her.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
I glare to kill. Swallowing hard, I try again. “Sekai… Did something happen?”
Sekai throws herself against the back of her bench, a long breathy sigh escaping her lips. “I just feel so useless… I knew he was mad about Kasannoin, but I should’ve stopped him when I noticed how scary he was acting… He hasn’t gotten back to me since he left. I’ve been texting him almost non-stop, and I’ve gotten nothing. Now, I’m hearing rumors that he missed school, that he’s in the hospital or something… And I’m just…”
She wraps her arms around herself, clenching her sleeves.
“What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t he trust me enough to talk to me about stuff like this? I’m not some dumb girl… Why won’t he let me be there for him?”
She stares at me, eyes red.
“If he hates me now, why won’t he say that to my face?”
I place my hands on her shoulders. My grip stops her in her tracks. “Breathe,”
She grits her teeth, then stops. She takes a big breath and lets everything out. “I just wanna know what’s going on.”
“If he’s in the hospital, they might not have given him back his phone yet.”
“This option kinda sucks, but if you really wanna know, maybe you should ask Chie. I bet she has an idea.”
“If I find out… What do I say…”
I let my hands slide off her shoulders.
“It’s bad that he just ghosted you. I think he needs to answer for that. I don’t know how bad things are at the hospital, but you know what you wanna say. You’re a bit… emotional, but that’s a good thing. The fact that you’re so sensitive is what makes you easy to talk to,” I smile.
Sekai sniffs, wiping her eyes out again. She nods wordlessly as she drops the empty can back in her bag.
“You know how he can be. Sometimes, you’ve gotta take matters into your own hands. Maybe he’ll get better about it, but if you wanna learn now, that’s your only option.”
Holding back tears, she wraps her arms around her.
“I don’t deserve you, Setsuna.”
She’s being a little dramatic. But there’s nothing better than being wanted like this.
For once, I don’t make some dumb comment. I hug her back, burying my face in her shoulder.
After a minute, she lets go. “Welp, I know what I’m doing after lunch wraps up” She stands up and stretches.
“If you want, I can come with you. We can talk to Chie, visit Yuuki. Wouldn’t it help to have someone with you?”
“Nah, this is something I gotta do myself. Besides,” She sighs, shaking her head. “Don’t you got something else planned?”
I really hope my cheeks aren’t red right now. “No.”
“Setsuna, you’re such a bad liar,” she giggles. “Alright, who is it?”
“Don’t get flustered!” “N-no one,”
“Let me put on my thinking cap,” She taps her chin over and over. “Who could it be…” Her eyes flash open. “Oh god, no. Not him!”
She facepalms. “Setsuna… Why?”
“How did you know it was—SHIT!”
“It’s true?! God, this is the worst timeline…” She falls to her knees. “Legit though… I’m not gonna force you to stop, but you know how he fucked things up with Katou and Katsura. Has something really changed? Or are you letting nostalgia get in the way…?”
I keep my mouth shut and re-evaluate. I’d be lying if I said I don’t still see the chill guy in middle school who roasted those jerks who pushed me around. But I never talked to him expecting us to get this close. What is it…
“Before, he was always so closed off. I remember whenever I’d see you to talk, he just seemed so anxious and irritated all the time, like he just wanted to shut off the world and be in his little bubble. Now, he’s a lot more candid. I’ve found out he’s got a sense of humor. People, deservedly, hate him now, so he doesn’t see a reason to act like someone he’s not. He’s relaxed, sarcastic, and a really good listener.” I hear Sekai laugh at the sarcastic thing and roll my eyes. “I sound really dumb right now.”
Sekai sighs. “You don’t. I’m getting it now. Kinda.” She holds my shoulders. “Just… Don’t let him have too much of… you, alright? You saw how pissed off I got when he backstabbed someone I didn’t care about that much. If he hurts you, I’ll rip his dick off.”
I can’t help but snicker. “I’m glad you’ve got my back. Don’t worry, if he starts acting weird, I’m pulling out.”
“Don’t let him go in, if you know what I’m saying,” She winks, batting my shoulder.
“Oh my god,” I punch her ribs, holding back laughter.
“Where y’all headed?”
“Oh wow,” She shakes her head. “She’s in for a surprise. I’d pay to see the look on her face when she sees you two…”
Shit, I’m nervous.
I was kinda hoping I wouldn’t be. Setsuna’s so chill, and she’s REALLY easy to talk to. I feel more natural in front of her than I have in front of anyone else in a long time.
The fact that I’m lugging my school bag filled to the brim with thick textbooks does help zap away the tension, though.
I mean, at best you could call this a half-date. We’re mostly there to grab a bite to eat, study, and carry on like we always do.
Realizing that, I ease up, but I’m also a tiny bit disappointed?
“Why are you disappointed?”
“Because I realized I forgot to head to the bathroom before you showed up, so at some point, my bowels will give out, I’ll quietly fart, and it’ll be really awkward.”
No one says anything for a while. The sheer stupidity renders us mute.
“Let’s pretend that didn’t happen.”
I couldn’t help but notice her holding back a chuckle, though. I’m glad to see I’m even less of a smooth operator than when I went out with Koto—Katsura.
Setsuna looks the same. We’re both still in our school uniforms. I mean, that makes sense. It’d be a waste to put things off just so we could change clothes.
“Did that terrible fart joke traumatize you?”
“A little,” I admit, marveling at the non-existent romantic atmosphere. “You’ve probably been to Crème de la Crème more than I have. Got any favorites?”
“I’m a huge fan of the double decker chocolate cake with strawberries peppered all around it.”
“Yeah… Mind if we split the check on that one?”
“Oh? I figured since this was a “date”, you agreed to pay the check. You never said it, but it was subtext.”
“That subtext was non-existent.”
“Whatever you say,” she shrugs as I let my arms hang loose beside me. “I like their blueberry parfaits. It’s got a very rich flavor I really enjoy. What about you?”
“The Mountain Dew they’ve got in the vending machine’s pretty cool.”
I’ve never seen her glare like that before, oh my god.
“Kidding! I’m a big fan of the cinnamon roll. The dough’s really thick that makes eating it really satisfying.”
“Basic,” she shrugs, “but I respect it.”
“Yeah,” My mind drifts off with the conversation as I remember this morning. “Hey, is Saionji okay?”
Setsuna stops for a second. After thinking it over, she nods.
“Yeah. She just needed a pep talk. I’m not gonna give you all the details, though. She’d rip your dick off.”
“Did she really say that?”
“Yes. In those exact words, too.”
“Oh my god,”
At least she’s okay. Saionji’s got a lot of friends, so her support system is pretty good. I should stop wasting time worrying about something like that.
“You should feel pretty damn special by the way,” she smirks, “I was ready to skip on this to hang out with her the whole day if it meant she’d feel better, but she insisted I stick with you, so I’m being pretty generous.”
“Noted, milady,” I bow all the way down to my knees. “Ow, my back hurts, I’m gonna stop now.”
“I’m hanging out with a dork like you when I could’ve been hanging out with Saionji who’s actually cool.”
“Don’t make me bow again, it was painful enough the first time.” I chuckle. Suddenly, I stop. “Wait, Kuroda’s gonna be over there starting her shift, right? She’s not gonna make this weird, is she?” Oh crap, talk about timing. “Hold your nose, fart just came out.”
“What, when, where, why, how?”
Kuroda leans REALLY far over the counter, one eye staring Setsuna down, the other on me. The people in line behind us are staring.
“Hikari, we’re just studying here.” Setsuna blinks nonplussed. “If this was a date, you think we’d be in our school uniforms?”
“Well, yeah, I mean, sure, but… HIM?!”
She points her index finger at me so fast, she pokes my eye.
“Our schedules worked out, so we’ve been prepping for the exams. Besides, since we’re not dating him, he can’t backstab me.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,”
“Hm…” She rubs her chin in that patented Kuroda way. “You only live once, I get. But if you hurt a hair on her head, Itou, I’m gonna grind your bones to make me bread.”
“I’m sure your customers will appreciate their food with a cannibalistic twist.”
“Nah, it’s just a reference to classical literature.” She winks. “Alright, what do ya want?”
“I’ll have the usual.”
“Blueberry parfait with milk, got it! What about you, Itou? Still want that basic cinnamon roll?”
“Can’t a guy like what he likes?” I shrug. “Hmm… How about the cherry parfait with some chocolate milk?”
“Cherry, huh?” Eyebrow waggle intensifies.
“On second thought, make that a lemon crepe.”
Totally embarrassed, I grab Setsuna’s hand and head to nearest small table.
“Wow,” I wipe my forehead with my free hand. “Pastries are innuendo city. Noted.”
“We planning to sit across each other?”
“As you do,”
“You should probably let go of my hand then,”
“What? Oh,” I try to unclasp it naturally and not really wildly and awkwardly as I might’ve before. “Damn, I didn’t even notice.”
“It felt natural?”
“Yeah,” we sit down. “It did.” My eyes are drawn to yours. “And that’s because we’ve become such good friends!”
“Our physical boundaries are more relaxed around each other.”
“Uh-huh!” Stop sweating, stop sweating, stop sweating! Don’t make it weird. “Either way, I’m glad we got out of there.” I dig through my bag and pull out the Language textbook. “Oh god, are we really gonna start with this first?”
“We’ve got energy right now,” She pulls out a notebook and some pencils. “If we wait until the end, we won’t feel like doing it.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” I nod, shuffling through my bag to get my notebook out. “Should we start with present perfect tense. I can’t believe that’s actually a thing,”
My eyes glaze over the text for a bit before I look up. Setsuna’s eyes are laser-focused on the book in front of her. Scanning line after line of text, her determination shines through her body language. She does this little thing where her tongue slips a tiny bit outside the corner of her lips as she reads, probably to catch any sweat from working her brain too hard?
I glance at my phone for a second. After deleting my old wallpaper, I hated leaving it blank. So, back when I last hung out with Itaru, she suggested we take a picture together. It never fails to make me smile. The only thing that’d make it better is if Mom had been around, but maybe that’d be too bittersweet.
I love that picture. Still, an idea comes to mind. I know about the whole charm thing, but I should’ve gone with my gut back then and realized it was bullshit anyways.
“Mind if I take a pic of you while you’re studying?”
She raises an eyebrow. “Why?”
“The way you look… It’s just so picturesque and stunning.”
“Are you serious right now?”
“Well…” I roll my eyes, trying to stave off the embarrassment.
“Wait,” she blushes a little. “Is this about that whole charm thing—”
“Nah, that’s bullshit anyways,” I chuckle. “It’s more creepy than anything. I put a lot of thought into what ends up my wallpaper. I decided then whenever I open this bad boy up, I wanna see someone I really care about, someone who makes me smile, someone I have a really good relationship with it. That’s why this one’s my pic right now,”
I show her the shot of me and Itaru. She’s got her arms wrapped around my neck with the biggest smile on her face. I’m smiling, even though I was kinda struggling to breathe.
“That’s actually really cute,” she smiles.
“Right?” I glance back at my phone and sigh. The more I think about it, the more I realize I might be moving too fast. What’s the rush? “Look, you gotta see what you look like, it’s the funniest thing. I promise I’ll delete it off my phone after I send it to you.”
“This better be good,” she rolls her eyes as she goes back to studying.
“You look too self-conscious,” I frown. “You were more natural before.”
“If you wanted me to look candid, you shouldn’t have told me you were taking the shot!”
“It’d be weird not to ask about that kind of thing!” I take a deep breath and look back at my textbook. “Let’s get back to studying.”
Sure enough, we do for about half a minute. Then, I take it.
“Should’ve seen that coming,” she smirks as she gets a notification on her phone.
“Hey, how else as I gonna make it candid?” I laugh as she checks the photo.
“Oh my god, t his is weird,” She scrunches up her face. “What about this is interesting?”
“How do I put this?” Kuroda’s Mom, noticing we’re deep in conversation, puts down our plates and drinks without saying a word. “It’s all the reasons I like you in a single picture.”
“Really?” Her voice gets a little softer as she meets my gaze. “How’s that?”
“You’ve got a lot of drive and focus that allows you to do whatever you want or need to, but you’re not obnoxious about it. You’re a very real person who acknowledges her good points and her bad points. You let your little quirks shine through unashamed, like the way your face scrunches up when you’re concentrating. You have an off-beat sense of humor that some people don’t get, but you embrace that. That’s the kind of genuine I wanna be.”
She glances down at her parfait, takes a small bite, and swallows it before responding. “And you got all that from one picture?”
“What can I say? It’s a good picture.” I smile. “The subject’s the best part about it by far, though.”
“Wow…” Setsuna’s face fluctuates as she tries to decide how to respond. I’m not sure what’s going on inside of her. I mean what I’m saying, at least I think I do. But maybe she’s not sure? I can’t blame her. If this throws her off, gets her to leave, that’s my fault. I’ve decided I’m ready to take life for what it is, the good and the bad, and stop blaming it on others. Whatever she says, I’m ready.
Her smile… She doesn’t smile like that often. It’s happiness in its purest, rarest form. My chest feels so warm right now. My eyes meet hers, and I nod and smile, soft but sincere.
“Am I dead?”
“Only on the inside,” I observe as we leave the café. “We’re covering more ground each time. That tells you we’re learning something.”
“I just wish learning felt satisfying BEFORE you got your grades back,” I groan. “I haven’t caught that bug yet.”
“I wouldn’t expect to.” I nod. “That’s something that manifests at an early age as far as I know.”
We walk quietly towards the train station, only chiming with the occasional comment here and there. It feels natural somehow. I guess you could call it comfortable silence.
“I had a lot of fun today.” Makoto says, flashing that smile again. It’s weird to see him look so genuinely happy. Weird, but… nice.
“Me, too,” I smile back.
“Hm?” His eyes dart everywhere but in my direction. “Hey,” I bop him on the shoulder. “Be straight with me.”
He nods, taking a deep breath. “Are you free tomorrow?”
My heart skips a beat. I know where this is going. “Yeah,”
“There’s this drama that’s been out for a little while now, Sayonara-Midori-Chan. I’ve heard it’s a lot, but in a good way. We could meet around 3, explore downtown some before we go see it.”
My brain’s on auto-pilot. I barely hear what I’m saying. “That sounds fun,”
“Yeah,” he looks me in the eye. “Wanna go with me?”
“Definitely.” That’s a weird response, but I’m not thinking enough to care.
“Awesome!” His excitement spreads throughout his face. “I’m looking forward to it, Setsuna!”
His train starts to pull in. Although dazed, I notice something. His hand playfully, slowly reaching for mine. His fingers touch mine and he looks at me, waiting for my signal. Smiling, I bring my hand forward, fingers intertwining with his. Adrenaline surges me through me. Oh my god, his cheeks are so red. I wonder if mine look like that, too.
A recorded voice calls out the train’s destination.
“I’ll see you then, Setsuna.”
His hand lets go of mine. He turns around, waves, and gets on the train.
I wave back with energy, life, and purpose I’d never thought I’d feel this soon in life.
A/N: Hey, ya’ll! Happy Holidays! It’s been a while, lol. You probably noticed I changed the title of the story. I chose the title back when I was a pretentious 16 year old, and I decided it only fits the story in a superficial way. “I Think I Love You” matches what I’m going for a lot more. Next time, Kotonoha finds out what Otome and Roka have been planning. Yuuki wakes up in the hospital, and a certain womanizer may well show up again . Stay tuned!