Still, I must
The last time I saw Kushida-san was last weekend at the special exam.
For the next week, I did not see her once, upto Friday after school.
That wasn’t all. Neither Wang-san nor Hasebe-san were attending school.
Five days from Monday to Friday. It’s already been five days.
Nothing was going to wait. Time continued to pass us by.
Careful meetings and preliminary research for the athletic festival. Student council work. Ordinary studies. Sometimes, as I continue to face the rushing waves head-on, my knees tremble and I feel like falling backwards.
But I can’t let myself fall here and now.
I’m not showing any results even though I’ve declared that I would absolutely make it up to them. I have no right to lament.
I tried several times to contact Ayanokouji-kun, but I stopped myself.
If I ask for help, there is a chance he will respond.
There is also a chance that he’d lead us to the answer we want.
But at the very least, this time I should try to solve things with my own power.
“That concludes homeroom.”
When Chabashira-sensei finished her last homeroom of the day and left the room, I quickly followed her.
“Sensei, may I have a word with you?”
“I don’t mind, but… okay. Let’s talk while walking.”
The hallways are conspicuous because many students leave their seats to use the restroom at this time.
Perhaps taking my intentions into account, Chabashira-sensei decided to talk while we walked around.
“It’s been five days since Kushida-san, Wang-san, and Hasebe-san last came to school.”
“Yeah. We’ve received word that the former two keep calling in sick, but they haven’t shown their faces at the clinic for an examination. As for Hasebe, she just keeps saying that she’s taking the day off and hasn’t given us any details.”
Definitely not the best way to take a day off.
Their delinquent refusal to attend school felt like a punishment for me.
“Are they about to get severe penalties?”
I know she won’t be able to give me a specific answer, but I tried asking once.
“No need to worry. Especially for honor students like Wang and Kushida, the rules are designed to give them slack. As for Hasebe, she is not a problem child, so it is not such a big deal yet. It would have been different, of course, if this was someone who had no achievements or was known for bad behavior.”
“Thanks to how they usually act – is that how it is?”
“That’s right. Besides, there are lively students who skip a week of classes just fine and there are also students who get themselves hurt emotionally and shut themselves in. It is difficult to tell the difference. If that’s the case, the only way to judge them is to look at their attitude and performance in school so far.”
I felt my heart lighten just from her telling me that.
“And schools are not demons. We don’t think of it as appropriate to bludgeon the children’s minds by forcing them to go to school. Anyway, the three students who are absent right now have not been tardy and have been diligent in class. They deserve a reprieve.”
Chabashira-sensei tells me softly.
She seemed to be a different person from usual, so much so that I wondered if there was something behind it.
It may have been true that, just as the gossip with my classmates went, the special examination was an opportunity for her to change.
“Above all, they understand that the school also administers rigorous special exams.”
It’s not unusual for them to need rest, so it’s forgiven for now…..
After confirming that there was no one around, Chabashira-sensei stopped for a moment.
“But the time limit is near. If the absences continue up to next week, the 100 points you earned so desperately will dwindle away mercilessly.”
Do something about it during this weekend, the teacher implied.
But could I really answer to that?
I only intended to hear about the current state of affairs, but my weakness appeared on my face little by little.
“Thank you very much. That was very helpful.”
“Wait Horikita. Don’t you still have something to say?”
“…No. I shouldn’t bother you any more than this.”
“You won’t know if you’re bothering me unless you ask. I still have a little time. Won’t it be a little easier if you just talked to someone?”
My shallow mental state was seen through by Chabashira-sensei.
It would be a lie to say that I didn’t hesitate, but I decided to be brave here.
“We got class points by expelling Sakura-san. Was that the right choice?”
“Do you regret your decision?”
“I thought I made the right decision at the time. But…… to be honest, I’m second guessing right now.”
“I wish I could show you the answer, but there’s nothing I can do.”
“I understand. As a teacher, you can’t answer that question, can you?”
“That’s not the case. I just can’t prove that you were right at this point in time. Some students may have seen your decision as somewhat dictatorial and self-serving. As a result, you are suffering from the judgment of others, and beginning to feel as if your answer was wrong.”
What a painful thing to hear. I can’t even deny her.
“But does it really matter that much? To begin with, no human being is perfect. We make simple addition and multiplication mistakes, learn, and then move on. Even I am walking through a life full of mistakes.”
“You too…… Sensei?”
“That’s how it was even when I took the same special exam. I couldn’t even answer the questions in time. You gave an answer. You did well. No one can get a hundred points without experience. You were recognized and empowered as a leader at the time of that special test. And you were prepared to cut someone off to protect Kushida. The time to acknowledge that you were right to do so starts here and now.”
Sensei says something very teacher-like.
I was a little puzzled, as such a thing had never really happened before.
“You don’t have to try to score a hundred at this stage; you can either cut the OAA bottom line reasonably, or you can prioritize your commitments and accept the inconvenience. So you have two choices.”
I know. I know, and yet I still feel lost.
“But…I also think that I may have lost sight of my surroundings. I think that if I had listened more, I might have been able to get a better grasp of the right answer.”
“There are times when you can’t see what’s around you. And there are times when the heat catches up with you and you doubt whether or not you made the right choice.”
But I had no such experience. I was so frustrated that I unconsciously made a clenched fist.
“To put it gently, you’ve been taking the easy way out until now. To put it roughly, your decisions have been two-dimensional until now. Don’t you think so? Of course, that’s normal. It’s just that for the first time the peculiarities of this school have brought us to seek new alternatives.”
Powerful advice, and yet I still can’t find the right answer. I must have been looking pitiful, but Chabashira-sensei treated me softly and patiently.
“You fought within the rules presented to you by the school, didn’t you?”
“But I broke my promise not to drop anyone out except the traitor.”
“Did you decide to protect Kushida from the beginning, lie and make that promise to get that vote in favor?”
“No! I was really prepared for that at that time… It’s true.”
“Then there is nothing wrong with that. It is important to keep one’s word. However, even adults sometimes make mistakes in their promises. I know you changed your mind when you realized that keeping Kushida was the right thing to do. You are free to disregard or ignore those who make fun of you now. Some will follow you, some won’t, and bringing a class of nearly 40 together is not something that even Ryuuen, Sakayanagi or Ichinose can do so easily. The other students may be yes-men on the surface, but you never know what they are thinking on the inside.”
Chabashira-sensei then placed her hand gently on my shoulder.
“Don’t be afraid to fail. I don’t want to be an adult who can’t accept and forgive a child’s failure.”
“Sensei, I haven’t failed yet.”
“……That’s right. I just meant that I intend to see the choices you make through to the end.”
After giving me a slightly troubled look, she looks me in the eye again.
Her polite, stern, but loving words almost make me choke a little.
“You’ve changed, haven’t you, Chabashira-sensei.”
I didn’t mean to say it out loud, but I did. Because that’s how I truly felt.
“Is it strange that after always giving you the cold shoulder, I would start trying to act like a teacher?”
“I’m a little surprised, but it’s not strange.”
“Oh, well that’s good.”
Perhaps thinking she had said too much, Chabashira-sensei coughed and changed the subject.
“As for Ayanokouji or Kushida, what’s the situation?”
“About Ayanokouji-kun, you say?…… Nothing much really. If I had to say, I think he’s observing what I do.”
“I see. He thinks it’s something you should solve, doesn’t he?”
“Maybe he just can’t keep up with my selfishness.”
“I wonder. But he’d made up his mind in Kushida’s case. If you weren’t someone he trusted, I don’t think he would’ve let you be.”
“You sure have a lot of favor towards Ayanokouji-kun, don’t you? I remember you saying that Ayanokouji-kun was the most defective product.”
“That was a very old statement.”
“He’s even better than the OAA states.”
“Your trust and approval of him has risen considerably too.”
“He has some personality difficulties, but that’s not limited to him so…… what did you mean by that? Or were you mistaken, Sensei?”
He is undeniably excellent, and he is more calm and collected than I am.
I don’t feel like he is a defective product.
“You don’t need to take every single thing the teacher says seriously. He’s spent far more time with you than with someone like me, hasn’t he?”
“I’d still like to hear about it.”
“…….Right. My assessment has not changed since before. No, I believe the credibility of that assessment has increased.”
He is defective. The validity of those words hadn’t changed.
“But it is too early to dwell on that now. There are other problems you need to solve as soon as possible.”
“That’s – right.”
It is true that I am curious about it, but surely that can wait. Kushida-san, Wang-san, and Hasebe-san must be brought back to school.
“Is Kushida tough to handle?”
“So far it’s been a waste of effort. No matter how many times I visit her, no matter how long I wait, she won’t open the gate.”
Aside from the weekend, on ordinary days she can usually buy as many things as she wants to in a convenience store while we’re at school.
It’s pointless to try to starve her.
When I tried to contact her on my cell phone, there was no battery.
“She must be happy to feel me running in circles on the other side of her door.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that either. But if you don’t make a move, things won’t progress. They’ll only get worse.”
“If you can’t do something on your own, you can always ask for help from another.”
“But the only classmate who would be willing to help persuade Kushida-san is…… Hirata-kun. Even he probably doesn’t have time for that right now.”
He’s backed up by Wang-san, Shinohara-san and their followers.
“Indeed, Hirata would be… but I’m not sure it would be enough for Kushida. He’s a good person with a good head on his shoulders. I don’t think the door will open if you bring such a person in front of it.”
“I think I somehow understand what you’re trying to say. Because she’s dishonest.”
“I’m afraid I can’t think of anyone suitable at the moment, but it might not be a bad idea to look outside of your classmates.”
“But to try to persuade Kushida-san means to confront her with her true feelings. It would be a considerable disadvantage to tell that to an outsider.”
“I suppose we’ll need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. But it’s not necessarily forbidden. For example, some of us teachers know about Kushida’s past, and there are tight-lipped teachers even aside from us. I don’t really think there’s such a thing as a secret.”
Someone who can move Kushida-san’s heart…
No, even if it’s not moving her heart, if there were somebody who could bring some sort of breakthrough…
“It’s almost time. Let me say one last thing, though it may be meddlesome. The most important thing is what you want to do, Horikita. Think about that carefully.”
What I want to do with Kushida-san… huh.
“Thank you very much, Sensei. Thanks to you, I’ve hardened my resolve.”
I still don’t have an answer, but I feel more motivated to struggle.
“Don’t worry about it. As a teacher, I’m sure this much is natural.”
After saying that, Chabashira-sensei went back to the staff room.
I continued to watch her from the stairs until I could no longer see her back.