The call remained on.
With my earphones on, I turned the voice up, and immediately heard an afternoon serial drama of family love and hatred. It was so shockingly loud, and they seemed to be quarrelling. Ten minutes later, it seemed to have calmed down.
The mother who only had eyes for her son called out her daughter’s name in a doting manner, and the daughter who envied her little brother apologized for her sins.
I hung up.
I thought that it was a ruckus, but I really was grateful that Masaya’s mother didn’t kill herself. I didn’t want more pain in Masaya’s home. He grumbled a lot, but he really loved his family.
“The reason why I chose this park was to make sure the daughter would get back to save her mother immediately.”
I muttered. I picked up the can Sanae dropped, and turned to leave the park. It’s already six pm, and as it was late December, the sky began to darken.
I wanted to take action quickly.
I kept waiting for as long as I could, and this time, the phone rang. It was from Masaya’s mother.
“What should we do…? What do you hope for?”
That was the one thing she immediately said, “I just hope for you to promise me something,” so that’s all I said, “so that there won’t be another victim like Masaya.”
I earnestly prayed for them to be happy again, and decided to head to the next destination.
“Now all the pieces are in place, and all that’s left is my determination.”
“Did you plan all this?” Sanae did question me loudly, but that’s not the case. If not for the goddess of luck letting her show up, I probably wouldn’t have been able to complete this plan. No matter how much I would say, being alone, nobody would trust me.
To convince Masaya’s mother, I needed the strength of her daughter.
She remained aloof to her daughter, but the fact that her daughter did abuse Masaya left her really shaken up, and her form of strong-armed education was unexpectedly a torture to Masaya.
“I hope for you two to be happy,” so I muttered.
And so, I headed for the end.
To Kuzegawa Second Middle School.
This really was the end.
I decided to walk towards my destination.
Normally, I would take the bus, and if I walked, it would take about an hour. On my way there, I went home; I had to prepare myself, so I spent a little more time.
But even so, I continued forward.
I didn’t know when would be the next time I would take this road, or whether I would have the chance to take this road again.
The last time I took the bus home with Masaya, we had this discussion. It was February, during our first year.
“It’s still better than your family, but my family’s kinda twisted…”
Masaya sat by the window as he suddenly said this. He kept looking outside, not looking at my eyes, but his tone was unexpectedly grim.
He leaned his head on the window of the bus, and grumbled with hatred.
I sat next to him, cupping my bag that’s on my knees.
“Yeah, strangely twisted. Mom suddenly talks about grades and college without warning; she has high hopes for me. Sis always bullies me whenever she returns home. She envies me; it’s disgusting.”
“Because you’re a genius, Masaya?”
“Yeah. It seemed the reason was that she was dumped badly during college. After I had a girlfriend, she kept pestering me. It was annoying.”
“Masaya, your sister’s pretty right? She sounds popular.”
“Let me have sex with her.”
“Don’t say this to her brother.”
“You want me to say this to her brother-in-law?”
“Why are you getting married with my sister!?”
“But you seem really gloomy today.”
I asked, and Masaya didn’t respond immediately.
After a second or two, he started talking, and there was mist on the glass window.
“You remember Kotomi Ishikawa?”
It was an unexpected name. Of course I remembered that name.
“..I wanted to save her, but I failed.”
And also, she’s the girl going out with Masaya.
Upon hearing my answer, “Don’t say that it’s a failure. That was the right choice,” Masaya refuted.
Such comforting words. So I thanked him, and asked why he suddenly mentioned Ishikawa.
“That Kotomi’s still scared of the Human Power Test, and being graded by others. She’s a little overly reliant on me.”
Masaya said as he continued to look outside the window.
“Oh,” I answered listlessly. “That harassment really left her shocked, huh?”
“Seems that way.”
Masaya nodded, and sighed.
“But recently, I’ve started to understand Kotomi’s feelings.”
His tone had a little melancholy to it, so unlike someone of my age.
“Everyone calls me a hero, but human attitudes change easily. Those girls jealous of Kotomi started being nice to her after I went out with her. Even I was terrified when I saw that. I was wondering that one day, my friends might betray me.”
“To be honest… there is this possibility.”
“Yep. So I started to feel uncomfortable about human relationships. Annoying… well, it’s a little different from that.”
Masaya looked down at his palm. Of course, we couldn’t change this depressing reality.
“There are still scars in Kotomi’s heart… I’m affected too, though I have to protect her.”
“…I see… I want to help her to.”
I answered without thinking. I latched the strap of my bag onto my fingers, and watch it redden as I said that.
However, Masaya seemed to have realized my thoughts through these words alone. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his pants, and looked at me.
“Just maybe, but you like Kotomi, don’t you?”
As to be expected of Masaya. He got it immediately.
Maybe my thoughts were written on my face.
“Not to the point where I like her,” I chuckled, trying to avoid the incoming hostility, “I do admire her somewhat, but relax, I’m not the trash who’ll steal my good friend’s girlfriend.”
Masaya chimed in,
“Eh, that’s impossible for you.”
“I’ll kill you.”
“You said you wanted to help her, right?” Masaya ignored my retort, and answered seriously, “Really? You failed once, yet you… you aren’t scared?”
“Didn’t you just say “Don’t say that it’s a failure”?”
“I swear I have no impression of that.”
“…To be honest, I’m scared.” This time, it was my turn to ignore Masaya’s antics, “I didn’t want it to end that pitifully. I had a bumpy life; I don’t want to be hurt again.”
“I guessed so…”
‘But… if she’s really frustrated, and if you’re powerless, just tell me. I’ll definitely protect Ishikawa.”
“It’s so like you.”
“Don’t envy me. I might as well save you too, Masaya, beat your classmates along with your family.”
“You’re doing that as an afterthought.”
“What else?” Saying that, I continued, “So, when I’m in trouble, help me out here, Masaya.” I then added on, “You know… I have family troubles too.”
Masaya nodded, his face becoming kinder.
“Leave it to me. No matter whether I’ll be arrested or persecuted, this genius boy Lord Masaya shall drop by to help you out. Next time, you can tattoo the words ‘Taku has Masaya’. That’s nice.”
“Don’t wanna… you love to act tough there. You became good friends with me because you and I both have twisted families, right?”
“Yeah, we’re good friends, allies.” His face reddened as he said that.
Then, he reached his fist out at me.
“Those of twisted families shall help each other out. This is the TakuMasa alliance.”
What’s with that name? I thought, but I never denied it.
“Righto.” So I tapped his fist with mine.
I still remembered the TakuMasa alliance.
Masaya seemed to be the same too.
He left two wills for me.
One was the one directed at the media and society at large, “Taku Sugawara is the devil.”
The other was the one he left in my shoe locker, on the day before he killed himself. That was the one love letter I had ever gotten in my life.
The pretty words written on printed paper were textbook-like. It was Masaya’s handwriting. This was the only word written:
Looking at the outcome, I thought he was right.
I couldn’t save him.
We couldn’t go home together, or go back to the days of chatting endlessly. From that word, I understood this very well.
We deserved it.
Masaya bullied me, and ended himself dejectedly.
I had a ridiculous goal, and struggled in despair.
Both of us deserved it.
However, I seemed to be the lucky one, not too bad.
After Masaya died, even with my reputation in tatters, I still had a girl waiting for me to give her happiness.
At the very least, I could complete half of what I promised with Masaya.
And thus, this long revolution would finally come to an end.
This revolution was bigger than I expected. All of Japan was cursing me, and foreign media was reporting.
The entire world’s my enemy.
All of humanity is cursing me ‘to die’.
On twitter, newspaper, 2ch, youtube, entertainment magazines, TV, facebook, LINE, Google+, letters in my living room, inside the bus, LINE, internet podcasts, foreign news, classrooms, Mixi, cafes on the streets. Everyone was slandering me.
“But even though I’m the bad guy, I have a good guy-like wish.”
For I was a real trash.
As long as she could smile again, I was fine with falling into hell.
“Right now, I’m going to execute the real happiness.”
I would drop by Kuzegawa Second Middle School every day, but this might have been the first time I showed up at the parking lots. I passed by it before, but typically, I wouldn’t really take notice of the place called the ‘parking lot’.
It was way past dismissal time, and no student could be seen. The parking lots were at the back of the school compound, the size a quarter of a gym. There were only half of the cars that were parked at noon. The lights in the middle were flickering, and I had lots of places to hide.
The asphalt during winter was cold as ice, and as I sat down, my butt ached. I hid in the darkness, waiting for my target to appear. I huddled my body, recalling Masaya and Ishikawa, hoping for the revolution to end.
Several teachers boarded their cars, looking very lethargic, and did not seem to notice me. Then, I lowered my head towards where they left. No other meaning.
As time passed by little by little, I felt my heart pounding increasingly.
I mustn’t get anxious.
All I needed to do was to make up my mind.
After a while, I saw Toguchi-sensei head for the parking lots, but he’s not my target either. I was disinterested in him; surely someone would judge him. There were some comments on the internet criticizing the teacher-in-charge. If I kept blaming him, he would look really pitiful.
Thus, I watched his car leave without doing anything.
Bye bye. Stay safe.
By the time I realized it, most of the teachers had already left, with only two cars left. It’s eight pm. Even as civil servants, the profession of teaching really is tiring. One of them should be a staff member, and I knew who the other one was.
“I never thought you would wait until the end.”
And so, I showed up right when Principal Fujimoto showed up.
His eyes widened slightly, but he did not seem particularly shocked.
“Oh Sugawara. What is it?”
Of course, it was not the first time we met. I had met him twice, first when I hit Masaya with the water bottle, and second when Masaya killed himself. We hardly talked directly, but we knew each other’s appearance.
At this moment, I took out a survival knife, and pointed the tip at the principal’s chest.
There was a five meter distance between us as we faced each other.
“So you want to kill me?” Principal Fujimoto didn’t move, “Why?”
“To end the Human Power Test. We don’t need such a thing,” I immediately answer. “We’re living in a nightmare. The media’s ripping apart the cons brought up by this new education system. Once you die, the Test will definitely vanish from this world.”
“Then you should be saying it to everyone, and not use violence.”
“Looking at your attitude, even a middle schooler can tell that you don’t intend to tell. If you want, Kishitani’s mother will.”
Hearing that, “Oh?” the Principal seemed a little surprised.
“So you convinced Akane Kishitani? You?”
“Yeah. I sent her a cat carcass, did my best to taunt her, growled at her, and got her to submit. I really wanted to tell her how hard it was to stuff the cat’s carcass after it got ran down in an accident.”
“I see, you had her… it’s a little tricky now.”
“It’ll be easy with your death.”
I held the knife with both hands. As long as I stabbed it into the Principal’s chest, I should be able to keep him. Even with my poor athleticism, as long as I have a weapon, I should be able to beat this old uncle.
All I needed was to make up my mind.
I couldn’t just tremble.
To encourage myself, I continued,
“All I want is just happiness. I won’t become a superstar at school, won’t be able to go out with the school idol, and all I need is to remain in a corner of the classroom while everyone’s able to laugh. For this reason, I started the revolution. I wanted to end Masaya’s bullying, destroy the Human Power Test, and the hell of human relationships.”
The knife in my hands was shaking.
“That alone is good enough for me.”
“But then, Masaya Kishitani killed himself,” with a deep growl, the principal said.
“Yeah! The revolution failed! This is the final gambit from me, the forced hand. I’m going to kill you, and end this Human Power Test!”
“It won’t end. First, is there a meaning to this? Even if you do kill me, Class 2-1 won’t be back to normal, not the class you want again.”
“No, this is no longer for my own sake,” I mocked myself, “it’s for a certain ‘normal friend’, who’s scared of the Human Power Test.”
So, I had to kill this guy.
I gathered all my strength, and aimed my knife at the Principal’s heart. I kicked the ground, and lunged with all my might.
But the Principal moved first.
He took a step back.
Just a step back, and it felt like a superpower had sent me to the side. Someone leaped at me, wrapping my body with their arms, and locking me with a technique I didn’t know of. There was an abnormal pain from my right hand.
I couldn’t take the pain, and couldn’t help but let go of the knife. That person then switched position, pinning me to the ground. My face was stuck on the icy asphalt.
“Takkun, enough already!” she yelled at my ears, her voice cracking, on the verge of tears, “There’s a limit to everything!”
That person was Sayo. I didn’t know why she was present, but with her holding me down, I couldn’t move at all.
“You’re betraying me too!?” I lashed out, “Why!? Why isn’t anyone standing on my side!?”
“Shut up! I was on your side the entire time!!” she yelled, basically arguing against me.
I tried my best to nudge my body out, but I couldn’t break free from Sayo. I couldn’t beat her at all, whether it’s strength or skill.
I saw the Principal pick up the one weapon I had—the knife. I pinched it with his fingertips, and looked down at me as though he was touching something filthy. I couldn’t escape from that look.
“She told me everything about you, and that’s why I dithered this long. Also, we did spot you hiding in the parking lots, so I was wary beforehand. Sugawara, what you did lacked thought.”
I turned my head towards Sayo, and she sheepishly uttered, “Sorry.” I guessed Sanae told her everything, and she figured out that I might attack the Principal.
Perhaps she had a bad feeling about the words “The revolution has yet to end.”
If that was the case, I was really careless.
“Hey, Sugawara, what do you wish for?”
The Principal kneeled down, and was basically caressing me.
“The Human Power Test isn’t some meaningless, crude interest. Academic tests alone won’t be enough to survive modern society.”
“I know,” I answered. “But what do you think about this society? Are you going to promote it? Celebrate the erosion of academic history? Don’t blame everything as ‘society’s fault’ without thinking!”
“I see. So you do understand this.”
“DID YOU UNDERSTAND THE FEELINGS OF THOSE WHO GOT LAST IN THE HUMAN POWER TEST? DID YOU HELP THOSE WHO WERE BULLIED? YOU DID NOTHING! YOU DIDN’T KNOW MASAYA’S PAIN, YOU DIDN’T KNOW ISHIKAWA’S TEARS! ALL THE BIG TALK ABOUT HOLLOW THEORY, ACTING LIKE YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE SOBER IN SOCIETY! THAT’S WHY I HAVE TO DESTROY THIS TEST! I WANT TO END EVERYTHING!!”
I yelled on the floor abysmally, I might have been yelling, or maybe it was just plain regrets.
In the end, I couldn’t accomplish anything at all.
Sayo eased up, probably because I didn’t continue to resist. But at this point, I had no intention to run away, and laid down on the ground, tragic and crestfallen.
Principal Fujimoto indicated for Sayo to let go of me, and said,
“I wouldn’t say that I didn’t consider this; I would contact those ranked low on the Human Power Test and try to interact with them. The Human Power Test itself is imperfect, and I do need to hear the students’ voices. There was no way I could let my students suffer.”
The Principal patted my cheeks, dusting my face.
With a stunned look, I stared at the Principal.
“Wait, you’re Sou?”
“Yes. I had exceptional hopes for you in particular. Of course, I did realize the increasing tension in the student interactions. However, you remained at the bottom, still continuing to live on. I kept praying for you to realize, able to prove that personality is just one of the factors forming humanity.”
The Principal then derided me,
“But you were thoroughly shallow. There’s not just good and evil in this world. Those that we assume are good can be deemed evil from another perspective, and if we switch it around, the same logic applies. You should understand this better than anyone else, Taku Sugawara. Did you indulge in your sense of superiority in the face of the ignorant masses? Did you despise Masaya as a kind person, along with those classmates of yours who hope that you die?”
Such perception in the words were undoubtedly ‘Sou’s’. Those words the Principal said shook my heart harder than those on the internet.
“So for some reason, you became a fanatic who deemed me someone to be eliminated in order to remove the Human Power Test, swung this knife, unwilling to talk to me, and ignored me when I was the ‘Sou’ who had been watching over this lonely you? Absolutely preposterous, shallow, silly. Do you think you are a sage? Did you not realize that you are one of the foolish masses too?”
I could only respond weakly. What the Principal said was completely correct, so much that it was absolutely cruel.
“You always boast such logic, and persecuted others. You’re the one who provided Toguchi-sensei’s youtube account to the media, right…?”
“Even after investigating this much, do you still not understand? So what if you destroy the Human Power Test? Are human relationships going to be easier? In modern society, humans have to rely on other people’s opinions. You could have understood this if you worked a bit.”
Finally, the Principal said,
“How stupid you are. Please talk to those around you when you are in trouble. I would have to keep reminding you of this. If you had discussed this with ‘Sou’, none of this tragedy would have happened.”
Adding insult to injury there.
Nobody noticed the bullying, and I had no adult around me to talk to.
I had lots I wanted to grumble about, but I didn’t want to admit all that. It was called being despicable. The reason why I never did this till this point was that I didn’t want to be a despicable kid criticizing a despicable adult.
And then, this was all I had left for my willpower.
The one thing I did after my revolution failed—
An utterly revolting resistance.
“However—” the Principal said as he turned around to leave, “given how you’re about to force that feisty Akane Kishitani to stand by your side, I do find that impressive. It seems I will be a little busier; there is a need to make changes to the Human Power Test.”
“A cruel reality it is, but education does always come with failures. I have made many mistakes that can be considered nightmares, but we won’t give up just because of singular single mistakes; we have to learn from experience, and continue moving on. Masaya Kishitani, Taku Sugawara, thank you for your valuable data. It is inappropriate to say this now—but good job there.”
In a self-satisfactory manner, the Principal walked towards his car.
Good job there. Those words were coldly spat at me, and I couldn’t shake them off my mind.
Reality was not that nice. Nothing changed with Masaya’s death, and my efforts were for naught.
“Can…” subconsciously, I said, “Can I get any happiness…?”
“You should know now, right?” the Principal coldly stated, and finally vanished from my sights.
In this freezing parking lot, I did my best not to cry.
Everything I did, and this was the outcome.
A bad end without redemption.
Now then, my story comes to an end here.
A shallow, pitiful revolution, isn’t it? Amazing, isn’t it? As I expected, it’s really lousy.
You might think it’s for nothing.
I didn’t grow up.
Masaya’s suicide was pointless.
Nobody cared about this.
It didn’t matter at all.
The revolution failed, and I nearly committed murder.
I drove my one and only friend to his death.
My first crush was severely hurt because of me.
I couldn’t destroy the Human Power Test she was so terrified of.
Such a tragic ending it is, so mock me. Don’t have any more hopes for my story.
Mock me for being so shallow in thinking. I got bullied by my good friend, my classmates called for me to ‘die’, all of Japan hoped for me to kill myself, so just despise for. That’s all I want from you. Moral of the story is, don’t say anything like “you want to be like me.”
Ahh, right. This story isn’t important at all. It’s basically trash.
It’s pointless to discuss a trash’s life.
I know this well—so then!
“…Why am I still narrating at this point?”
“Because you hope for others to listen, don’t you?” Sayo’s voice came.