Perhaps she knew the person who started the rumor and was protecting them?
Or maybe she didn’t want to believe in the existence of such a rumor?
I couldn’t even begin to imagine…
“Listen, Saki, you’re a very charming girl, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
Saki Takane’s voice was strangely faint, and several of the onlookers, including Yuka Senami, erupted.
“You have a beautiful appearance, excellent grades, good manners, a warm and gentle personality, and a strong sense of obedience and compliance with the rules… you are truly a talented, colorful, and well-rounded person.”
“Obedience…?” Yuka Senami, who was listening next to me, twisted her head.
“It’s the spirit of following the rules.” I explained politely.
“I know what it means, I’m just surprised because it’s a word that doesn’t often make it into the lineup of words of praise for girls.”
“Saki Takane is so obedient that she has never violated the school rules or any other equivalent as far as I have been able to observe. Even without makeup or a folded skirt, her noble spirit shines through beautifully.”
“Are you sure it’s not because you are the Discipline Committee President?”
What happened was that right after Yuka Senami’s meaningless comment, Saki Takane suddenly strangled Yuka Senami from behind. Of course, she kept her “Noh mask” on.
The two of them were held like teddy bears, and Senami Yuka seemed to be getting fed up with the whole thing.
“…Do you think that me being the Discipline Committee President has anything to do with Saki Takane’s character?”
“Hey… Saki Saki… Can I just tell him the full story? I’m getting tired…”
“Full story? What?”
“Nothing, nothing, nothing. Don’t worry about it. Just keep talking.”
“Don’t use me as a shield.”
“Don’t you mind having me between you and her?”
“No, It’s fine. I’m more comfortable like this.”
“Well, if you say so, then let’s talk like this.”
“Oh uh… no, it’s… it’s me, it’s me who is the person in question…. and I want you to confirm my intentions…”
“As I said before, Saki Takane, you are very attractive.”
“Oh… he’s really starting like this…”
“Both as a human being and as a girl. I can assure you of that. But that is why some people may have ill feelings toward you. If you don’t feel comfortable telling me now, you can do it later, but if you ever need help, I’m always here for you.”
“Please… before you start spouting off your cool lines, try to be objective about this situation…”
Senami Yuka exclaimed in an exhausted voice, but there was no reply from Saki Takane, who hid behind her.
Again, she was silent.
After waiting for a while Yuka Senami let out a loud sigh.
“What’s the matter?”
“I think you’re probably a very dull, serious and honest person.”
“I’d like to be humble, but I’ll accept your honesty.”
“I guess that’s why you don’t understand this situation.”
“I’m sure it doesn’t make any sense.”
“I’ll show you how to make sense of it.”
“Look at the expression on Saki’s face behind my back, and you’ll probably know the whole truth.”
Isn’t it the usual Noh mask?
I leaned forward and peeked behind her as I was told.
Saki Takane had her face right up against the back of Senami Yuka. Naturally, I couldn’t see her expression.
The only thing I could barely make out was that her ears were dyed bright red like autumn leaves.
“…… Saki Takane, I’m sorry, can I see your face?”
She seemed to be saying something, but I couldn’t make it out.
“My back is so warm, it’s uncomfortable.”
Senami Yuka blurted out.
“Saki Takane, if I have done something to offend you, I apologize, so please let me see your face.”
“Saki Saki… it’s easier to just give up… because Mashima-kun is that kind of person… He’ll never get it unless you say it clearly…”
The meaning of Senami Yuka’s persuasion was unclear to me, but it seemed to have at least touched Takane Saki’s feelings.
She finally moved away from Senami Yuka.
Her face was still down, so I couldn’t see her expression…
Saki Takane slowly began to speak.
“I’m talking about the rumor you heard earlier, Mashima-kun.”
“Actually, it’s not a rumor.”
“Not a rumor?”
The onlookers all gasp. Everyone present was waiting to hear what Saki Takane had to say.
“Well, that is why.”
Saki Takane squeezed the words out of her chest.
Her voice is not the usual indifferent one.
The words she uttered seemed to have some kind of heat in them.
She eventually raised her face with determination and strength.
Her expression was no longer the usual “Noh mask”.
“I’ve been thinking about you, Mashima-kun…!”
As soon as our eyes met…
The flame of determination within her seemed to have somehow been extinguished in a single instant, and Saki Takane’s face instantly reverted to a “Noh mask”.
“…Ugh, it’s not a rumor, it’s a complete hoax.”
Silence once again enveloped the morning in front of the Kamimura High School.
“…Hmmm, I knew it.”
In the silence, as if time had stopped, I nodded my head in agreement.
“You heard it, people! I’ll let you off the hook this time, but this is the kind of malicious gossip that needs to be addressed! And you’d better stop gossiping! That’s all!”
With these words, I felt the tension that had been building up among the onlookers suddenly dissolve.
“What a stupid hoax.”
“What a surprise, I really thought a confession was in the works.”
“I was so jealous I was close to killing Mashima.”
“But I’ve never seen Takane-san talk so much.”
“She seemed very different from usual, maybe she’s not good at talking about her love life?”
“Well, if that’s the case, maybe Takane-san is easier to get along with than I thought.”
“Let’s go to class.”
“I’ve got a dental checkup today…”
The crowd in front of the school gate was scattered in groups, each returning to their normal routine.
Daily routine was restored as if nothing had happened.
…Now, it was time for me to get back to being a part of the daily routine.
“Thank you for your honesty, Saki Takane. From now on, I will work to improve public morals and maintain public safety on campus so that this kind of thing will never happen again. If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Then, I’m gonna excuse myself.”
And so, we at Kamimura High School returned to our normal, flawless routine.
“…What are you doing, Saki?”
I could hear Yuka Senami’s voice coming from behind me, but it was a small whisper, so I couldn’t make out the full content of her words.
In any case, peaceful and quiet – peace is the greatest of all.
Have you ever heard of the “Windsor Effect”?
It is a line of dialogue by the Countess of Windsor in the mystery novel “The Countess is a Spy.” written by the American author Aline Griffith.
“Compliments from a third party are always the most effective.”
This refers to a psychological effect.
The simple explanation is that “word-of-mouth” is more trustworthy than what you hear directly from a person.
This method is mainly used in marketing, but it is also very effective in romance.
If you communicate your feelings to a third party, even the shyest, the most suspicious, and the most skeptical of guys may instantly fall in love with you.
“It was written on the website…”
I wailed in an empty classroom on the third floor of the Kamimura High School annex building, which was not in use at that moment.
Here, no matter how much I cried or screamed, I could rest assured that no one would hear me…
However, the way Yuka has been looking down at me since a while ago was painful.
“…You act so differently in front of everyone, Saki Saki.”
“Hey! You know I can only speak properly with Yuka here at the school, so don’t be so mean to me!!”
“If you could have been that honest about your feelings, maybe you would have started dating right then and there.”
“That’s impossible! It’s not possible to express your feelings directly in front of that many people! I can’t believe I really like M-Ma-Mashima-kun…”
“All you had to do was say, ‘Yes, the rumors are true’. If you can’t do it after all that preparation, then maybe it is impossible?”
“Don’t sob quietly! You’re depressing me all morning!”
Of course I want to sob.
“It was a perfect strategy, but…”
“If he were a normal boy, he would not fit you. The guy you like is that insensitive, serious, public morality freak.”
“Ma! Shi! Ma! Understand!! Do not call him weird nicknames, not even you, Yuka-chan!!”
“Oh, yes, yes, Mashima-kun. Saki’s crush is Kengo Mashima.”
“Can you please not say it out loud!? What if someone hears you!?”
“It’s such a hassle.”
Well, did you all understand by now?
“Takane-san Seems to Have a Crush On You”
These words are not a rumor, not a hoax, not even a legend, it’s 100% true.
Because this is exactly how I feel, I, being a bit of a tight-lipped person, asked Yuka to convey it directly to him!!
…Well, the result was a disaster.
“I tried so hard to be brave…”
“Hey wait, it’s not called bravery to use your one and only best friend to steal a guy you like. It’s called psychological effect, and it’s called plausible deniability, but what you’re doing is so goofy.”
“Imamote said this would definitely make him conscious of me…”
I took out a book from my school bag that was covered with sticky notes.
Imamote – a how-to book on romance written by popular online romance author, Mori-sensei, “Now you can be popular!” It also stands for “Super Love Psychology Course” and it was my bible…
“…Always that weird book.”
“What are you talking about!? This book has everything you need to know about romance!”
“You’ve never been in a relationship before.”
“I’ll prove it to you!”
Yuka’s insensitivity made me totally angry.
“I won’t depend on Yuka any more. There’s more than one way to approach someone listed in Imamote, you know. Next time, I’ll definitely make Mashima-kun turn to me…”
“…Now that you mention it, what do you like about Mashima-kun, Saki Saki?”
“Well, let’s see! First of all, his eyes are long and sharp, like he has a strong will! The wrinkles between his eyebrows are also very refined! The serious expression on his face when he is giving instructions to someone is just irresistible! And then, there’s the other ones! His forehead peeking out from his center parted bangs is so smooth that I just want to touch it, and his eyelashes are surprisingly long when you look at him up close, and in terms of his character, he has a great personality.”
“Okay, okay, okay, okay! I was wrong, so make it quick!”
“…He rescued me.”
Mashima-kun was the hero who rescued me.
The reason why I fell in love with him was, after all, pretty simple.
But even though I was aware of it, I still loved him so much that I couldn’t stop.
That’s why I definitely desired to have a relationship with Mashima-kun.
I wasn’t going to be discouraged by one or two failures.
After all, according to Imamote, “Ninety percent of the factors that make a relationship work are courage and perseverance!”
I’m going to use my courage, perseverance, and love psychology to capture Mashima-kun’s heart!
“Why don’t you just tell him in person instead of going through all that trouble?”
“If you confess to someone up front and they turn you down, you won’t be able to get over it! You need to be 100% sure that the answer will be positive…”
“So you don’t have the courage~~~”
“What? Did you suddenly grin and smile? I’m scared of your smile.”
“I was just thinking about how Mashima-kun said I’m attractive… Heheheheh.”
Of course, a maiden in love is invincible, so Yuka’s wasteful eyes didn’t help either.
“I mean, Saki Saki, Mashima-kun aside, are things okay on your end?”
Yuka-chan’s expression turned mysterious.
“You see, …… Saki, I heard some strange rumors about you again, right?”
Seeing the unusually sharp-tongued Yuka-chan, I immediately guessed what it was.
It must’ve been about that rumor that the three girls asked me about a week ago at the bike parking lot.
Yuka-chan was always the first to worry about me, no matter what.
“Don’t worry, I’ve gotten used to it.”
“How can you get used to it? If I ever find someone spreading rumors like that, I swear to God…!”
After saying that much, Yuka stopped talking.
…It is true that there is someone who is spreading terrible rumors about me behind my back.
But I am sure that Yuka knows this.
It is impossible to find the source of a rumor that has spread so widely.
“Rumors are rumors for 75 days, and if you leave them alone, everyone will forget about them.”
…The truth is that it has been going on for nearly a year, not 75 days.
The fact that there are people who have definite ill will towards me is more distressing than the groundless rumors…
I won’t dare to say that, because it would worry Yuka.
“I’m not a good talker and I’m not very sociable.”
“…That is not true.”
Since it was her, I could show my pained expression.
I sincerely wished I could express my emotions as richly as Yuka does.
“─Mashima-kun, did you confess to Takane-san and get rejected?”
…I was on my way back to the classroom after finishing my work for the committee. When a familiar face spoke to me like that, I couldn’t hide my annoyance.
“There was a rumor about you! They said you were hitting on Takane-san at the school gate early in the morning!!”
His name was Tatsuki Iwasawa, a small guy who looked up at me excitedly.
With his handsome face, white skin, and youthful voice, he could easily be mistaken for a woman.
“Eh!? Is that for real, Tatsuki!?”
And next to him, peering up at me with eyes wide in shock, was Kawariku Arakawa.
In proportion to his voice and loud reaction, he was so tall that I, a 175cm guy, had to look up to see his face.
He wasn’t a very smart guy, but he was the ace of the basketball team and was very popular with girls.
Tatsuki Iwasawa and Kawariku Arakawa.
Although they were complete opposites, the armbands on their left arms indicated that they were members of the same Discipline Committee, and have been my best friends since middle school.
But that did not mean I was going to give him a pass.
“Mashima-kun, what are you doing!?”
I grabbed Iwasawa by the shoulders, and his baby face instantly distorted in fear. The same goes for Arakawa, who was standing next to me.
This is what they used to say, although I am not aware of it…
Apparently, when I am in a bad mood, I have a very scary face.
“Wha… What!? Did I say something wrong!?”
“Iwasawa… Who told you that ridiculous rumor?”
“I heard it from Souta, who’s a member of the 1st year C class. Just now, at the central entrance!”
“I don’t think so, but did you tell the rumor to any third party…?”
“I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it!! Now! I told someone, you, for the first time!”
“Oh, I just heard that for the first time as well. Really!”
“Oh well… sorry about this.”
I finally let Iwasawa go at that point.
“I’m so pissed off…”
“Wow… I haven’t seen Kengo lose his temper in a long time…”
“They say that rumors have fins and tails, and it looks like they’re about to grow wings.”
Just when one rumor was squashed, a new one was born.
I could only imagine what Saki Takane had been through.
“The truth is that I confirmed the unproven rumor that Saki Takane has feelings for me in front of the school gate in the morning, and she denied it. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The thought of having to explain every single one of these things to everyone was depressing to me.
It seemed the two of them were in for quite a shock, though.
“… Eh!? Kengo, did you ask Saki-chan directly!? In front of everyone!?”
“Isn’t that the fastest way to kill a rumor?”
“I’m sure that’s true, but… This sounds like a very Mashima-like episode…”
I’m not sure if “I-like” is the right word, but whatever it is, I must have done the right thing. As I was thinking that, Arakawa suddenly said…
“But if you just look at the result, it’s the same as Kengo getting rejected by Takane-san, isn’t it?”
“…That? That’s exactly what Arakawa-kun says.”
“Wait a minute, I didn’t confess to Saki Takane, so how can that be true?”
“Because she told you to your face that the rumor is false. That’s like being rejected in public, isn’t it?”
“Yes, yes, that’s right.”
Iwasawa started giggling.
…Oh, so that’s how it is, I thought
“I see, Arakawa has a point.”
“I don’t think you would be interested in a love, though, ha ha ha…”
“Well, I’ve never had my heart broken before, but… I see, it’s a lot more bearable than I thought.”
The two guys screamed in dumbfounded disbelief.
After a short, strange pause…
“Do you possibly like Takane-san?”
“Don’t speak too loudly in the hallway.”
It wasn’t against school rules… But it was embarrassing even for me, as expected.
Fortunately, no other students were in sight…
“Well… I thought Mashima-kun was not a man who would be so keen on that kind of thing.”
“Have I ever said that to you? I’m the same age as you.”
“But, look, if it were usual, you would say something like, ‘Student Handbook, Regulations and Rules, Section…’!”
“At our Kamimura High School, healthy relationships between guys and girls are not forbidden. Not to mention, I also have feelings for the opposite gender.”
And that rugged face is my imitation, Iwasawa?
“What? Is it so bad that I have feelings for a certain girl?”
“No! It’s not a bad thing, but…! Then why are you acting like that to the girl you like!?”
“My behavior? I don’t know about you, but my favoritism and my activities as a Discipline Committee President are two different things.”
“You’re too serious…!”
Iwasawa and Arakawa were in a state of shock, ready to have a stroke at any moment.
They were a so-called “mismatched duo” but at times like this, they were in sync with each other.
“I don’t have a problem with that. I had no intention of telling Saki Takane how I felt from the beginning.”
“Why!? Healthy relationships between men and women are allowed, aren’t they!?”
“There’s nothing in the school rules about it, it’s just…”
I scoffed at myself inwardly for giving such an obvious answer.
“Even if I like her, I don’t think I’m suitable for her.”
The two looked at each other for a moment.
“……I don’t think that’s true.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as the two of them said the same thing as Yuka Senami.
Apparently, I was surrounded only by nice people.
“Now, now, now, enough of this idle chatter, let’s get to class.”
“Mashima-kun, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee or something during lunch.”
“I don’t mind paying for coffee, but I don’t like receiving it. Besides, coffee doesn’t appeal to me.”
“Kengo, do you want some throat candy?”
“Homeroom is about to start. I’ll just take your sentiments.”
Although I said that… I was honestly grateful for their kindness.
Apparently, I was a more sensitive person than I thought.
I should have known that it would never happen anyway…
…I never thought my heart would be so shaken after only three years of one-sided love dissipated.
“I’m still immature…”
“I think you’re cool.”
“I think so too.”
It’s almost a miracle that I, the hated, uptight Discipline Committee President, have friends who comfort me in times like these.
(TLN: Special thanks to Jizzames for providing raws <3.)