(Note about the title: Kuri Kinton is Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes. It symbolizes economic fortune and wealth and it’s an important part of the New Year meal to bring good luck and prosperity for the new year.)
I was reading a book in the library until the appointed time.
Since entering high school, I had stopped going to the library by a remarkable degree. I wasn’t exactly an avid reader, but hanging out in a library would make me look like one in the eyes of the general public. If in pretence of being wicked you kill a man, wicked is what you are. Even a deceitful imitation of wisdom will place you among the wise.1 Then again, I wasn’t pretending to be wicked, wise or even an avid reader. This empyreal appearance that can be seen at the end point of this accumulation of denials is the petit bourgeois, the form of being that I wholeheartedly aspire towards.
After taking a glance at the clock on the wall, I decided that it was about time to leave, and stood up from my seat. While I was returning the novel I had been reading to its shelf, I noticed some red light seeping through the blinds. As summer was ending, the days were becoming shorter, and the sun was already setting. And there was this phenomenon that occurs a few times each year. The sunset was a slightly discomforting shade of red that was painful on the eyes.
The red light filled the corridor, lighting up the long, thin school building from one end to the other. I walked down that corridor while paying heed to a piece of paper in my pocket.
That piece of paper had been inserted into my desk in my classroom without my knowledge, and it was an invitation to a classroom after school. I didn’t know the sender, nor did I know their motive. In the first place, I wasn’t clear as to whether it was even addressed to me. It was something I could easily ignore, but it was an invitation that someone else had taken great pains to send out. Isn’t it just like a petit bourgeois to timidly show my face and check it out?
Since it was approaching the end of school hours, there were few students in the corridor. It had been five months since I became a second-year student. The month was September, and while I wasn’t so sure about the temperature, it had certainly become autumn in spirit.
By staying that long in school, the number of faces I recognized also increased. For example, the guy who I just walked past was a familiar face. Was he in the student council, or did he achieve excellent results at his club? I recognized his face, but I couldn’t remember who he was, and of course, nor did I know his name. He probably didn’t even know who I was, which is why we passed each other uneventfully. It was as if neither of us existed.
Also, it seemed that I was finally getting accustomed to the indifference to social obligations that I had been struggling to acquire for a long time. In school, I could confidently say that I had become the type of existence that someone else would say, “Oh yeah, there’s that guy,” about. It was not unnatural for me to be present, but it was also not unnatural for me to be absent.
If so, what was the deal with someone calling me out?
I retrieved the piece of paper from my pocket.
When I first saw it, I’d thought it was a scrap of paper, but I was mistaken. There were perforations on one side of the paper, and some effort had been spent to cut it out cleanly from a notebook. At the very least, I could gather that the person who sent me the invitation was someone who carried a notebook around.
The message written on the note was short.
|Please come alone to the classroom after school at half past five. I’ll be waiting.|
The words definitely could not be considered as well-written, but were not difficult to read. As for whether it was the handwriting of a boy or the handwriting of a girl, I could see it being possible either way. The text was blue, and written by a water-based ball-point pen. The words had a supple quality about them, but based solely on my impression, I felt that a delicate boy had written them.
There were also a few things I could understand from reading the text.
It said, “Come to the clasroom”, but there are dozens of clasrooms in Funado High School. Even so, the note did not indicate which classroom to go to, obviously telling me that it was referring to my classroom, 2A. It only said “after school” without specifiying the month or date, because it obviously meant today.
Hypothetically speaking, if the sender of that note was a student from class 2B and they had wanted to convey the message that it was not Classroom 2B, they would have written, “Come to Classroom 2A” or “Come to this classroom”. Also, it would be difficult to confirm that the note got into my hands by the end of today, so they would have written a date.
That is why the person who called me out was probably a classmate.
Another guy approached from the other side of the red corridor. This time, we knew each other. He was my classmate for two years in a row already. With his sociable personality, he was frank to anyone, and he had talked affably to me when it came to events where the class had to participate as a whole. As reciprocation for his kindness, I had also answered with a pleasant smile. But now, both he and I passed each other without looking each other in the eye. I could not even remember his name. Was he called Iwayama or Iwate? All I could remember was that he had “Iwa” in his name.
My gaze dropped to the piece of paper in my hand again.
It was a short message, but had quite some meaning packed into it. The words “alone” and “I’ll be waiting” were written in hiragana, and it wouldn’t be bad if that had been the intention, since it made the invitation give off a softer impression. Also, not relying on kanji and using hiragana could mean that the sender was used to writing messages out by hand.
Additionally, the part I was most curious about the word “alone”. If they wanted me to come alone, what could that mean?
The probability that they wanted to absolutely avoid being seen by others was almost zero. Even if I did go alone, meeting at a classroom after school is definitely not enough to avoid being seen by others. If they had something questionable to talk about such that they even had to hide the fact that we had met, then it would be far more appropriate to choose a location outside of school.
That’s right, I remember receiving a memo in middle school that also said something along the lines of “Come alone”.
Just recalling it made me shake with trepidation. I’d stuck my nose into someone else’s problem, thinking I could solve it on my own. I was called out several times, all related to that incident, with the challenge letters generally saying, “Come alone”. However, I never actually followed their instructions. One time, the specified location was the parking lot of a demolished bowling alley, a place that I would normally never go to. Well, it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
But that was all in the past. I had no idea what their purpose could be in this case. Thanks to that, I was utterly confused over such a short bit of text.
I, Kobato Jougorou, am merely a little citizen who will not be embarassed no matter where I go. Just a second-year student of Funado High School whose smile blends in with the class, and who does not remember the names of the people there.
Why in the world did someone like me have to receive an invitation?
Wanting to find a clue to deduce an answer to that question, I fiddled with the piece of paper again. It just felt discomforting to thoughtlessly accept the invitation of that anonymous person without knowing their identity. That said, there wasn’t particularly much to read from a single piece of paper. In the end, I decided to play it by ear. I probably wouldn’t be ambushed in school, anyway.
The sunset lost a little of its brightness. Without my knowledge, signs of night had snuck into the red light. I could see one female student in front of my destination. That was also someone I knew, although we had never been in the same class since we’d entered high school. She had a good social disposition, and seemed to have quite a lot of friends. She looked like an underclassman or middle school student, and to some even an elementary school student, but she was a fully-fledged student in the same year as I.
Of course, we passed without looking each other in the eye.
This time, I knew her name. Osanai Yuki, a girl who insisted that she was aiming to be a petit bourgeois, a girl with many rumors floating about her.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- These two lines are from Tsurezuregusa, or Essays in Idleness, a collection of essays written by the Japanese monk Yoshida Kenkō between 1330 and 1332. The two lines come from passage 85, which says that no one is truly honest with themselves, and however pretentious, one will be judged by their actions.