Unexpectedly, the ghost of Sobu made her appearance.
"Hey, have you heard of that strange girl from class 2-C?"
"Ah, Sadako, was it? Like from 'The Ring'?"
"Yeah, her. Someone said that her classmate once teased her then he failed all his exams later."
"Yeah, some also say her gaze can bring sickness to those whose eyes meet hers."
"Ehh! That's way too scary!"
Ever since the start of my second year here in Sobu High School, I've been hearing rumors about this student at 2-C known as 'Sadako'. Most of the rumors are about her related to the supernatural and bad luck that it already reached the dumb ears of my classmates. In fact, the most popular clique of 2-F, or just the school in general, is talking about. Of course I'm talking about Hayama's clique.
I'm honestly bothered by the fact that I still haven't seen their center of gossip before despite my constant bragging of being a very perceptive person.
You see, I still feel a slight empathy towards loners that has been treated like a disgusting or evil beings. Yes, even though I haven't seen her yet, I can tell that this 'Sadako' is a female loner who kinda has a gloomy aura on her. Source: Me. In my case, because I'm a male with a gloomy aura and a creepy eyes, people always assume that I'm either a creep, stalker, sex predator and such. The female counterpart of these generalizations are being a whore, delinquent (Source: Kawa...something), and of course, witches and ghosts.
That's why I hate normies and their superficial view of people and things. Although they're constantly saying about the beauty of uniqueness and individual differences, they tend to judge based on appearance and social status on how a person is different from them. If they saw a loner, especially those with appearance that are not so appealing, they immediately judge them as someone evil, disgusting, and overall inhuman. Such hypocrites.
At last, lunchtime. Grabbing a can of MAX Coffee and a yakisoba pan, I went to my usual spot. You may already know why I like this spot but I'm gonna explain it anyway. This spot usually receives the relaxing breeze coming from Tokyo bay which I like, a clear view of the tennis court where a girl usually practices which I later identified as Totsuka and he's a boy, and just the overall silence of the spot. One of the best places for a loner indeed.
"Um, is this your pen? I think you've dropped this a while ago."
I suddenly heard a literally cold voice from my back. Too cold that it sent shivers down my spine. I turned around and saw a girl with a hair as long as that of Yukinoshita, freely flowing on her back and shoulders. Her skin is a little bit paler than most girls I know. The unique thing about her is that her skirt is of below-knee length, different from all of the Sobu High School girls where they all have a mid-thigh length skirt. She holds out a pen which was unmistakably mine.
"Uh yeah, Thank you." I received the pen and sat back to continue eating my lunch.
Being a loner myself, I can easily identify a fellow loner. There's no mistake that this girl standing on my back staring into space is a loner, though I couldn't identify if she's a loner by choice or by circumstance. As for me, you already know that I'm both of the aforementioned types of loner. All those years of being ostracized by peers and accumulated realizations made who I am today. Nah, there's no use in figuring out what type of loner this girl...who's still on my back?
"Uh, what is it? You've been standing there for a while now." You're starting to creep me out, actually.
"C-can I sit h-here with y-you?" What's with this stuttering mess? I think I know what type of loner you are now. "I don't h-have any place to eat my l-lunch today. I-I promise that you w-won't be cursed."
As much as I hate sharing my throne to someone else, it won't hurt to share it with her just this once as she probably won't be frequent here considering that it's the first time that I saw her here. And what was that about you not cursing me?
"Sure, not like there's anyone who has the ability to do so."
With that, she sat on the opposite end of the stairs, maintaining a good distance between us. If I was a normal guy, I'm pretty sure that this is definitely a romcom scenario. I mean, just look at us. Two loners sharing the same eating spot, definitely an ideal start of a romcom light novel, or a shoujo manga? Well whatever. As what I already concluded, there's no way anything related to romance will ever happen to me. That time when I was crushing on Orimoto will be the last of it, if that could be considered a romance-related event of my life.
Then I heard a faint murmurs of people at the far end of my back. They're probably talking about me being a creep again that's why I didn't bother listening to them. However, what they've said later surprised me a little.
"Hey, is that the creepy guy at the Class-F?"
"Look, he's with...Sadako."
"As in Sadako? That one who can summon ghosts?"
"Yeah. Birds of the same feather really do flock together, huh."
I turned my gaze on the girl on my right which they refer to as 'Sadako'. As expected, she also heard the people from the back as her sad facial expression says it all. She looks like she's already used to hearing those from people doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt her. In fact, even if she tried to prevent it from showing, I saw the most pained expression I ever saw in my whole life. Did I just stared at her for a good three minutes? Since when did I became a stalker?
"Excuse me, are you the girl they always refer to as 'Sadako'?" I didn't intend to rub salt on the wound but I just need to know the truth.
"Y-yes. D-don't worry, I can't r-really summon or even see ghosts!" She's was flailing her hands while saying those.
"Nah, I don't believe in ghosts anyway." Besides, humans are way more scarier! "Looks like you have a hard time dealing with those rumors."
"Um y-yes, but I'm already used to it."
"Hmm, I know what you feel. But why they call you 'Sadako'? I'm pretty sure Sadako from The Ring can't summon ghost."
"It's probably because of my name." she replied shyly.
"Eh, you're name is Sadako?" That's a rather bizarre name you got there.
"It's S-Sawako. Kuronuma Sawako."
I see. Because it kinda sounds like Sadako that she's called like so. Combined with her gloomy aura, someone may easily turn her into a subject of bullying. You know pretty well I'm also in the same situation as her, like my fourth grade schoolmates calling me Hikigay, Hikiguana, and other depression-inducing nicknames that should be buried in the depths of my past.
"I think I get it now. They easily confuse 'Sawako' with 'Sadako' and everyone just agreed on calling you like so. I kinda feel bad for you."
The only reply from Kuronuma was a...blush? I don't think there's anything she should be blushing for right now. Unless it's about... Hah, I did just said 'Sawako' to her. And hold your horses, you depraved youth side of my brain! Not every blush means that a person is attracted to you. There's also the most common reason which is being embarrassed and being so angry that it made her cheeks heat up with the accumulated blood. Of course on this situation, the only possible reason that she blushed is because she's embarrassed that I mentioned her given name. Like I've said so many times in the past, there's no room for misunderstanding on situations like this.
"Ah don't be, and thank y-you for your c-concern." Unfortunately, that wasn't a display of concern. "C-Can I ask for your name?"
"Hikigaya Hachiman." I then heard the chime of the electronic bell signalling the end of lunch break and the start of fifth period. "It's time, huh? I'm leaving now, Kuronuma-san." I didn't say 'see ya' because I probably won't see her again like this.
"Ah, thank you f-for your time, Hikigaya-san. Please e-excuse me." She bowed to me then bolted to her classroom, possibly due to embarrassment.
Honestly, the idea that I've found a kindred soul is kinda revolting like it's stripping away my loner title. However, for someone like her, moments like those are like finding an oasis in the middle of a dessert journey. What I mean is that it somehow puts her mind at ease knowing that I didn't treat her as 'Sadako' right during our lunch. As sad as it sounds, the kind of treatment that I gave to her might already be the best that she got so far from the students of Sobu even though I'm not even trying to act nice to her.
Acquaintances are by far the highest form of interpersonal relationships that I've made. Surely you can say that my club mates became a bit closer to me due to spending a good amount of time everyday but that's just it. For as long as I could remember, there's no one that considered me as their friend.
Where was I again? Ah, acquaintances. I don't know if it's only me or once you've been acquainted to someone, you'll start seeing them frequently on random locations. Maybe, it's because you now know them that you'll start acknowledging their existence, thus leading to easily identifying them even in the crowd. Of course this effect will be maximized the lesser your acquaintances are because there's no one left to stand out of the crowd if you just knew all of them.
I think you know why I'm having this internal monologue right now. Of course I'm talking Kuronuma, or much commonly known as Sadako. Ever since that day, everytime we bumped into each other, she always try to greet me with her very shaky voice. Being the usual loner that I am, I would just return the greeting by saying "Yo." to her. To my surprise, or lack thereof, her mood lightens up a bit after every reply that I'll give to her.
That only means that she rarely receives even a half-proper reply to her greetings as everytime that I saw her greeting someone else, they scream "sorry" and bolt out of her vicinity.
My train of thoughts are stopped when a teacher suddenly made a noise on the hallway, and surprisingly, it's not Hiratsuka-sensei.
"Forget about your feelings for me since I don't deal with kids."
"What? I only have my eyes for Haya-" Was that Miura?
"If I were you, go confess to someone your age. It doesn't matter if he likes you or not as his mind will be filled with thoughts about you for the entire day."
"Because kids are stupid, hahahaha!" Damn that loud new teacher.
After listening to that Isshiki-style of rejecting someone who's not even asking them out in the first place, I looked at my two club mates who's just as puzzled as I am of what transpired outside the clubroom.
"Eh, Was that Yumiko? I feel bad for her." Yuigahama started.
"To be honest, I don't really care about what happened but he sure is noisy." I added. "Who was that annoying monkey again?"
"I'm pretty sure you're the only wild animal around here, Hiki-sloth-kun." This time it's Yukinoshita.
"Yeah yeah, so who was he again?"
"He's the new homeroom teacher of class 2-C, Arai Kazuichi-sensei."
I then turned towards the other person in the club. "Yuigahama, I think your friend outside needs some friendly comfort right now as she's just been, you know, rejected. That must be too disgusting for her. "
"You're right, Hikki. I'll be back, Yukinon!" she enthusiastically said while going out to comfort the fire queen.
The club room was silent again. If only Yukinoshita and me are inside the club room, it's always a custom of us to not talk with each other, with the exception of important things such as asking permission to go out because of nature's call and such. Usually and even now, we are with our own books, enjoying the silence of the room.
God, I need MAX. "Excuse me Yukinoshita, I'll just go out a bit to get a drink."
"Is my tea not to your liking?" she put down her book and faced me.
"It's not like that, I'm just craving for something sweet."
"Okay, you have my permission."
I then went out leaving Yukinoshita alone inside the club room. During this hour, most of the students are only either those who belong in a club or a friend of theirs. With that, the hallway towards the nearest vending machine is clear from noisy normies who doesn't mind their surroundings and just screaming their lungs out.
And this is what I'm talking about earlier. Due to my limited number of acquaintances, I could instantly identify who this girl that's standing before the vending machine is. The odd thing is that she's staring above in the air. I think this is why she's rumored to be able to see ghosts.
"Uh Kuronuma-san, are you done there yet?"
Her body suddenly stiffened upon hearing my voice. At least I got my expected reaction of hers. "H-Hikigaya-san! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to block your way!"
After inserting my coin and choosing my desired drink, the vending machine dropped... two MAXs? Maybe it's broken. Well whatever, broken or not, this additional can of coffee is now mine. Unfortunately, I don't feel like drinking two cans. I then turned to the girl beside me who's face lightened up after seeing the additional can that I have in my hands. Wait, is this why she's standing here for quite some time?
"Kuronuma-sa... Can I just drop the honorific and call you Kuronuma instead?" I can't really stand addressing people using honorifics.
"Okay Kuronuma, I think this other can is yours." I handed her the other can of coffee which she accepted with her two hands.
"Ah thank you. Actually, my money was stuck there and I don't know what to do until you came." she bowed to me repeatedly. This is embarrassing.
"Stop bowing please, it's embarrassing."
I don't know what came into us but we started walking beside each other. Seeing her being a bit comfortable with me feels kinda relieving considering there's literally no one else here on Sobu who's willing to be with her. Thinking about her situation makes me wonder why she haven't given up on making friends yet while I already did few years ago. I know because I could definitely tell that she's trying to befriend me.
"Yes?" She's a lot calmer now but she's still surprised everytime I call out to her.
"You don't have a club right? So why are you still inside the school?" That came out a bit... harsh.
"I was stuck on cleaning our classroom by myself."
"Don't you have a partner to do it?"
"I have, but they always run away before I could begin cleaning the room." Why did I even ask anyway?
"What about you? Are you stuck on cleaning too."
"Ah no. I'm in a club so I usually stay inside the school a bit later than most students." Hearing this, she somehow looked apologetic.
"I, I'm sorry for jumping to c-conclusions!" There she is with her incessant bowing.
"You don't need to be too apologetic to me. I would only feel bad if you'd keep doing so."
"Sor... I mean yes."
After a few steps, I reached the service club room and it's there that we parted ways.
"I'll be off here, Kuronuma." Even after that coffee, my voice still sounds dry.
"Mm, see you, Hikigaya-san."
She bowed then walked slowly away from me. I watched her as slowly escaped my sight and realized that I've been doing something creepy so I immediately closed my eyes and slid the door of the club room open.
I've been always thinking about this for a while now. Whenever I'm with a loner, I feel like I could talk with easier than I am to normies, except for Komachi because she's special. Maybe, I have a soft spot for loners and 'semi-loners' because it's only to them that I could freely say what I want to say and I feel that they're also the same to me. They are of course Hiratsuka-sensei, Yukinoshita, Zaimokuza, Kawa... whatever her name is, and the most recent addition, Kuronuma Sawako. I kinda feel bad that Yuigahama isn't one of those people that I'm comfortable talking to, obviously because she's a normie and I just can't stand normie topics. I'm also kinda sad that Totsuka isn't one of them, for obvious reasons.
Out of those loners and 'semi-loners' I've mentioned, there's one of them that I'm the most comfortable talking to and surprisingly, it's my most recent acquaintance that claimed the position. Maybe it's because we both have the worst reputation here in Sobu that she's the one I could easily relate to, thus making our conversations a bit smoother than me to others.
But in all seriousness, though I hate to admit it and it might be my very first to say this but...I don't actually mind befriending her.
Okay, I decided to fuse the two chapters together and make this the new start of this fic. I don't know, there's just something about this fic that makes me go back to it no matter how hard I try to forget it.
As for the timeline, this will now take place in between Yui's birthday and the summer camp.