The Line That Separates Them. — Line 23

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Gathering.

After what had occurred not more than a couple of minutes ago, the female population of our two classes was rather on edge, or one could say the girls hadn’t recovered. It is not unnatural for people to be afraid of other people having their personal information, and this is especially true for women.

Forget personal information, those scums had clicked our pictures and captured videos, so it’s completely acceptable for the mood to be complicated. However, the one thing I can’t come on terms is with the girl’s unreasonable resentment towards Takumi.

Those three scumbags were sent off in a rather miserable condition by the boys, so there was no one the girls could vent their anger on. However, there was one among the boys of our school who had supposedly seen all the pictures and videos on the phone, so as if natural, the girls started passing comments about Takumi, and after a couple of minutes, those comments transformed into blatant insults.

Minami and I were the first ones who wished to interfere and stop the other girls from saying such things, but Takara stopped us, saying that it would be best to ignore them or the situation could take a turn for the worse. Chiaki agreed with Takara, so Minami and I didn’t have a choice but to step down.

With frustration building up in our minds, we entered the karaoke that Takara had booked in advance. It was a three-story building with ‘Tsuyu Karaoke’ written on the backlit signboard outside the building. Takara walked up to the reception with confident strides, there was no sign of nervousness on her face. Normally, when one would make such a huge booking involving so many people, they would be somewhat anxious since they could let down a lot of people with a single mistake.

However, Takara was different. On the surface, she seemed like your typical pretty high-school student, but she was as far from it as one could be. She was the sole successor of Miyashita Technologies, the second-largest company in Japan.

Takara retrieved what seemed to be a black card from her bag and swiped it, proceeding to pay for the room by herself. The female receptionist had a complicated smile on her face as she watched the young girl in front of her calmly press the buttons on the machine. Once the payment went through successfully, Takara received the card key for the room and walked towards us with her usual calm smile.

“Let’s go, the room is on the third floor. Since it is a room for a large group, they already have a drink bar and vending machine installed in it, but if you guys want something to eat or drink other than the available options, the menu is available in the room.”

Takara said in a voice that wasn’t too loud but could be heard by everyone present. She urged the boys to move since the lobby wasn’t large enough to accommodate so many people and we were blocking the way of other customers.

As the students began to move, the four of us naturally came together and began discussing a topic that was probably stuck on the minds of each one of us.

“This is just wrong.”

Minami said, although her voice was low, it conveyed the sorrow it contained within. What she was talking about was-

“I understand that he helped us, but he doesn’t have any right to look at our pictures like that…”

“Pictures are still okay… But what about the videos? He should be ashamed… I never expected Kawashima-kun to be a pervert.”

The girls were being unreasonable because of their frustration, it was clear as day to see. The things they said were utter nonsense, and they knew it. However, it couldn’t be helped, humans do be like that. There wasn’t a single girl from Class E berating Takumi, on the contrary, they seemed much calmer than what I had expected.

There was no video of Minami, and I couldn’t care less if Takumi did see those videos. Although there was a video that featured me, it was practically impossible to discern which video displayed whose secret areas. But these girls just didn’t understand that. No, they did understand, but they feigned ignorance.

We didn’t want to make a big deal out of it since the girls saying such things numbered very low, but it did piss me off quite a bit. Even if they are girls from my class, I am clear of my priorities.

“It’s fine, I am sure he doesn’t care… At all.”

Takara said while placing her hand on Minami’s shoulder.

“Mhm.”

Minami nodded in affirmation and looked at Takumi, who was walking a fair distance away from us and said in a low voice.

“If he wasn’t here, those videos would’ve probably gotten spread over the internet or something… The girls from Class A should appreciate him like all the girls from Class E.”

“I am not trying to defend them or anything, and you know that. However, I can somehow understand why they would try to shift the blame and go after Takumi. What happened to us was scary… So it’s natural for them to be a bit traumatized. And if blaming Takumi helps them recover, then isn’t it okay? I mean, it does piss me off, they are talking about my crush… But still.”

“I agree with Miya on this. We should just let this go and discuss the tactics for the sports festival. Our classes would be traveling together whether we win or lose, you know?”

“Mm.”

Minami seemed somewhat dissatisfied, but she wouldn’t be stubborn about it. Her usual angelic smile returned soon after. Some of the students took the elevator while the others opted for the staircase. We were one of the former just because the eyes of our fellow students urged us to take the easy way up.

The color scheme for the interior of the building gave off a rather retro vibe with its light brown walls and wooden furniture. The elevator was the same, it was customized to look wooden from the inside, and the cool part was that the captivating smell of the wood surrounding us in the elevator seemed quite genuine. The most pleased out of all of us was Takara, “I love the smell of wood.”, she said with a smile.

The elevator door opened and we arrived on the third floor. Some of the students who took the stairs had already arrived while the others were still on their way up. Takara raised the card in her hand and gestured with her gaze.

“This way.”

She stoically said and led the rest of us to the enormous karaoke room this particular establishment was known for. I couldn’t make out Takumi’s group in the crowd since the hallway was narrow, but I reckoned he was somewhere in the back.

We continued to walk on the greyish carpet for a short amount of time before stopping in front of a huge door. The door was at least two meters in length and about the same, or maybe a little more, in width. One could just glance at it and tell that the room behind this door did the size of this building justice.

Takara shoved the card in front of the sensor installed on the door’s handle, and after the satisfying sound of ‘click’ reverberated in the quiet atmosphere, she pushed the door open with ease.

What lay beyond the door was a room, no, it would be an insult to call it a room. It was practically a hall. A huge hall consisting of multiple monitors, tables, couches, air-conditioners, karaoke machines, drink bars, vending machines, etcetera.

Excluding all the small monitors and karaoke machines all over the room, there was an enormous monitor at one of the walls, accompanied by a long table and multiple couches surrounding it. It was probably the main gathering point. The monitor was probably meant to be able to display content visible even to a person standing at the opposing wall, which was easily twenty meters away from it.

It seemed as though the staff had already set everything up as all the monitors were already displaying something or other while the ACs were keeping the room warm.

Takara casually entered the room while the rest of us were left gawking at the sight of the room. I mean, I’ve been to my fair share of karaoke. I could say that I’ve seen it all. However, a karaoke room like this one was probably the first one for all of us.

After our group entered, the remaining students slowly walked into the room while observing every nook and cranny with considerable intrigue. As for Takumi, he seemed to be talking on his cellphone as he just sat on a couch far away from the main table and leaned into the couch with a casual expression. The couches around the main table could accommodate approximately thirty-forty people while the couches around the smaller monitors could accommodate about seven-eight people.

You could either join the big group and sit around the main table with the humongous monitor, or you could make a small group of friends and occupy one of the many small tables with a small monitor. Aoki-kun naturally joined Takumi and sat beside him, and so did the other three boys that seemed to be part of their group.

I looked at Minami, Takara, and Chiaki in succession. There was no need to exchange any words as we moved towards Takumi and his friends.

“Can we join you guys?”

Minami asked with a smile.

“M-Minami-san? Y-yes! Sure!”

One of the boys responded excitedly urged us to sit down. It was a long circular couch with a round table in the middle, so it was obvious that all the people had to sit together. And since we were nine people, the distance between each person would be minimized as well. Takumi was sitting in the middle with his cellphone in his hands, on his right was Aoki-kun, followed by the three other boys.

So naturally, the space at Takumi’s left was empty.

“Miy-” “Mina-”

An awkward silence descended as we both just looked at each other with firm resolve in our eyes.

I want to sit beside him.

It was a simple wish, and I don’t think that Takumi would care. Nonetheless, it was a wish, and it was also a sign of authority. However, before either of us could take action.

“Excuse me~”

Takara pounced on the couch and squirmed around until she was comfortably seated beside Takumi. She looked at us with a mischievous grin on her face. Takara had already been aware of the situation, but it seemed as though she found it quite amusing.

“If the seat itself is occupied, you won’t fight over it.”

She said with a quiet voice, smirking as she spoke.

The other boys on the couch were looking at us with interest, wondering what we were standing around for, so we decided to sit down. Minami took the seat beside Takara while I sat beside her and Chiaki took the corner seat.

Takumi was still conversing on his phone, but we couldn’t hear him over all of the noise in the room. Looking around, I could see that practically all of the students except us were seated around the main table and were cheerily conversing amongst each other.

Some of the students were at the drink bar or the vending machine, but except for them and our group of nine, everybody else opted to socialize with people from the other class. The door was left open since several students were scheduled to arrive.

“We shall wait for the other students to arrive before we begin the discussion, so until then, do enjoy yourself!”

One of the girls from Class E said in a cheery voice and proceeded to pick a song on the small tablet placed upon the table. The humongous monitor displayed the lyrics, but the music wasn’t loud enough to completely hinder the proceedings of our group, which was sitting a fair distance away.

“I’ll go get something to drink. Takumi, do you want anything?”

I asked. Takumi looked at me with his cellphone on his ear and simply replied.

“Some type of coffee should be fine. Thanks, Princess.”

“I got it~”

I couldn’t help but leak a smile at Takumi’s casual response. It was like we were in sync or something. I asked the others if they wanted something, and headed to the drink bar alone.

I got myself the same coffee as Takumi and got juice for Chiaki. When I turned around to return to the table, I was surrounded by some of the girls from my class.

“Shiki-san, what is it?”

“Miya-chan… Why are you sitting with Kawashima-kun?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“I mean, aren’t you repulsed by him? There was a video of yours as well, right? And he saw it. He saw and gave a half-assed apology, and nothing else. It’s like he doesn’t even mind it. The girls from Class E are the same as well… How are you guys so calm about it? Those pictures and videos could’ve been shared on the internet, they had Minami-san, Miyashita-san, and you as well, those would’ve gone completely viral! Our luck was good, or we would’ve been in a difficult situation.”

“It wasn’t luck, Shiki-san.”

“Huh?”

“We both know who saved us. Please don’t assume that slandering boys would make me impressed, and don’t you dare think that blaming him would gain my sympathy.”

“N-no, that wasn’t my intention! We ju-”

“He saw it, so what? From our class, only I and Muranaka-san had our videos captured. And both of us didn’t care, so why are you so concerned about it? As for the pictures, I don’t think yours would’ve done very well in the market… If you know what I mean.”

Shiki backed off a bit, probably taken aback by my cold tone. I didn’t want to be cruel to my classmates, but I was pissed.

“As for the girls of Class E. I believe they know Kawashima-kun better than we do, and forget being angry at him, they sincerely showed him their gratitude and apologized for not being aware of their surroundings. You seem to be quite smart, why not draw your own conclusions?”

“M-Miya-chan?”

“It’s ‘Kobayashi-san’ for you, Shiki-san. Well then, see you.”

I left the gawking trio and made my way back with a satisfied smile.

“Here.”

I offer the can to Takumi by bringing it to his cheek. It seems he is done with his call as he turns his head and thanks me before taking it from my hand.

I take my original seat beside Takara after handing Chiaki her can of juice.

“So, what do you think about it, Fujiwara-san?”

There was a conversation in progress when I returned, but I decided to observe instead of asking what’s going on.

“Hmm~? I looked over the pamphlet, and it seems like there is a visible harsh disparity between the trips of the winners and losers. I would love for our classes to be the ones getting the best package, so I will work hard to win. As for the trip itself, I am sure it’d be a blast.”

“Well said, Fujiwara-san. What amazes me is the sheer amount of money that will be invested in this trip. I mean, the amount they’re asking from us is rather reasonable considering the experience they’re willing to provide us with.”

“Yeah. Paying for five-hundred people must be a burden even after the trip fees… And our class isn’t the only one going on a trip. Second years are scheduled for a trip after we return from ours.”

“My father said that The Oracle is one of our school’s sponsors. Maybe it’s somehow related to them?”

“Oracle? Why would they invest in our school? I mean, yeah, our school has good grades and a reputation, but Oracle is a massive fucking company.”

“Well, there are a lot of rumors that Oracle’s CEO values raw talent much more than marks or a degree. It could be that Oracle picks people from the graduates and molds them into their workers?”

“Well, it’s all just speculation. Speaking of Oracle, Kobayashi-san’s brother works there, doesn’t he? I heard that he even has quite a reputable position.”

Suddenly, the conversation amongst the boys of Class E turned towards me. Even Takumi was looking at me with interest.

“A-Ah, well… Yes, my brother does work at Oracle. And it seems he is rather favored by the CEO, so he has a high position.”

“Has he ever seen him?”

“Huh?”

“The CEO, I mean. Has your brother ever seen the CEO? His identity is such a huge mystery that the entire world’s media has been on his tail since two years ago. Even the President said in an interview that he has only ever talked to him over the phone and never actually saw his face. It fills you with intrigue, doesn’t it? Just who is it? So, Kobayashi-san?”

“My brother does have personal connections to the CEO, and has met him on multiple occasions, but he has never said a word about his identity to our family. Though my brother does seem to idolize him a lot.”

“Is that so? Lucky~ Miyashita-san, what about you? Have you ever seen him?”

“Ara, Tanaka-kun, do you really wanna know?”

“Yes!”

“Hehe~ I’d say I have a close relationship with that guy~ He’s a friend of my father’s, and he takes care of me like his little sister~ He’s quite the gentleman.”

“Oh~!”

It seems like Tanaka-kun is quite the Oracle enthusiast. I should let him meet my brother once.

“For now, let’s sing!”

Tanaka-kun said and urged Takara to pick a song on the small tablet placed on the table. Takara grabbed the tablet and displayed a competitive smile towards Minami and me. I turned towards Minami and looked her in the eye, my intentions hitting their mark.

From then, it was a competition amongst us, women, to impress the boys (Takumi).


“Hey, Kawashima-kun. Share it with us!”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean! The experience! You saw all those photos and videos, so, how were they!?”

It was one of the boys from Class A who jumped me while we were walking to the station. The girls had separated from us and seemed to be rather wary of the boys, especially me. I say girls, but they’re mostly from Class A.

“I recommend you shut up. It wouldn’t be good if you were to piss off the wrong person.”

Fumiya grabbed the boy’s shoulder and said with a smile, to which, his reaction was rather timid.

“O-okay. Sorry.”

The boys from Class A retreated, both Fumiya and myself were left with confused expressions at their hasty departure. I assumed that it would be a huge pain to shake these guys off, I mean, they are horny sixteen-year-olds.

We were able to figure out the reason soon enough as many of the girls from Class E were walking towards us with heavy steps and serious expressions. It was probably them who intimated the boys into running away.

“Kawashima-kun.”

One of the girls timidly called out to me from the group.

“Yes?”

I replied. There are two ways in which this conversation could proceed. Either they express their gratitude or show their contempt. I’d personally prefer the former, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if it’s the latter. The female heart is just way too complicated.

“Well, we understand that the atmosphere is kinda awkward right now. However, we just wanted to thank you for what you’ve done for us today. If you hadn’t done what you did, it would surely turn into a huge mess. I’d hate it if my pictures were circulated amongst unknown men or shared on the internet…”

“Yes. We know that you are not someone who would care much about such photos and videos…”

“Ahaha… He doesn’t care about the real deal standing in front of him, forget pictures.”

“Oi! That’s rude, you know? But seriously, Kawashima-kun, thank you for what you did. That crisp sound of the slap was music to our ears.”

Hmm… They are in a much better state than I imagined.

“It’s fine.”

“Also, Kawashima-kun, ignore what the girls from A class are saying, okay? They just don’t know you well enough. Let them say what they want, all of us are with you.”

They must be part of the latter category then. Full of contempt. Class A? I wonder if Princess and Yukimura-san are included?

“Is that so…? I will take your word for it then. I appreciate your understanding.”

The girls giggled amongst themselves and left after chatting a bit. The other boys who were curious about the contents of what I had seen didn’t approach me anymore after witnessing what happened. Also, by the time the girls left, we were already close to the karaoke building. I could see people commuting to and from the station passing by our group.

“That’s the place.”

Takara separated from Princess and them to inform me.

“Okay. Just pay for it, and downplay the price a bit. There’s no need to charge these guys too much. Five-hundred or thousand yen per person should do. You can cover the rest, can’t you?”

“Of course~!”

Takara smiled and after tapping me on the shoulder, returned to the front of the group, taking charge of the vanguard. The only ones left in the back were Fumiya and me.

“Seriously, how are you two so close? I’ve been with you for years, and I didn’t know that you two were even acquainted.”

“I guess that we started off on the wrong foot, but then fifteen minutes later, she was already calling me ‘Onii-sama’. She had been obsessed with me ever since Oracle began its rise. And since my father was quite close to her father, he helped me out quite a bit. And some time ago, he introduced Takara to me at a party.”

“And since then… You’ve just been… What? Siblings?”

“Nah, you know how it is with those at the top. Unlike what she seems on the surface, she is a really lonely and fragile girl. No matter how strong she may seem to the media and to the world, she is just a teenage girl who seeks warmth.”

“Then, why did she transfer here following that terror incident? I mean, I understand how she’s attached to you and all, but still… Won’t people be suspicious if the heir to the Miyashita Technologies just randomly starts attending a school like ours?”

“What’s the problem? Takara just wants genuine friendship, and at her previous school, it was anything but that, all the rich girls only approached her because of her status. In a certain way, I am glad that she transferred here, there are people like Minami who accepted her wholeheartedly without any malice or ill-intentions.”

“You truly care for her, don’t you? It feels like you are talking about Miyuki when you speak like that.”

“Well… Her ‘Onii-sama’ has grown on me.”

After a bit of walking, we entered the karaoke building and Takara took charge to pay and get the key for our room. I couldn’t tell what was going on at the front, but it seemed as though except for a group of girls, the rest of the people were taking the stairs, so I followed them and arrived on the third floor, where the crowd seemed to be dazzled by the contents of the room.

“Isn’t it just a normal room?”

Fumiya asked in confusion, clearly baffled at the other’s reactions.

“Yeah.”

I was no different.

After waiting for a minute or two, the crowd began to move, and the entirety of the room was swarmed by curious students studying every part of it. I found a rather nice location in the room, a blindspot, where not many eyes would gather, and sat down in the middle section of the long circular couch. The couch was longer than normal circular couches, and a round table sat in the middle of it with a small tablet displaying various songs neatly placed on it.

Vrr Vrr Vrr

As soon as I sat down and saw Fumiya head in my direction with the other three, my phone started vibrating. The screen displayed the name ‘Sawada Kyoko’.

[Hello. Takumi?]

“What is it?”

[Ah, nothing much. The department heads are here for the monthly meeting.]

“So? Isn’t it fine?”

[Yes, yes it is.]

“Then why did you call?”

Takara suddenly sat beside me while I was talking, and the other girls occupied the empty places beside her.

[I am so bored~ Riku is handling the meeting~ Akane went to Shibuya because she had nothing to do. And you are frolicking around with kids. There is no one to play with me~]

“Should I make some work for you? I’ve heard our Korean branches are having a little conflict with other local companies, can you go and sort that out?”

[Noooo~ I don’t wanna~]

While I was listening to Kyoko whine from the other side of the phone, I heard someone speaking loudly from the front of the room.

“We shall wait for the other students to arrive before we begin the discussion, so until then, do enjoy yourself!”

[What is happening there? Discussion? Didn’t you go to karaoke with your friends or something?]

“Something like that.”

As I replied to Kyoko’s curiosity-filled question, I heard my name being called out from beside me.

“I’ll go get something to drink. Takumi, do you want anything?”

I was feeling a bit thirsty.

“Some type of coffee should be fine. Thanks, Princess.”

“I got it~”

[Princess? Who is that? Is it that Miyashita girl you’re so buddy-buddy with?]

“No, it’s Kozu-chan’s little sister.”

[Oh! The one who has a crush on you?]

“I wouldn’t put it that way, but yeah.”

[Is that so~? Well, do take care of her then~ Seems like the meeting has ended, I will go and play with Riku for now! See you~]

“Don’t trouble her too much, see you.”

I ended the phone call while heaving a sigh. And as if waiting for my phone call to end, Yuzaki spoke in an excited voice.

“So, school trip! I am really excited about it.”

“Yeah, me too. I only had an excursion in middle school, so this is going to be fun.”

Ieshige jumped in with equal enthusiasm. Tanaka spoke with a glimmer in his eyes.

“Yeah. And if we get first place, we’ll have a luxurious trip. Miyashita-san, did you have trips in your middle school?”

“Yes. They took us to Hawaii, France, and Las Vegas, for our three years in middle school respectively.”

“Ouch, I shouldn’t have asked.”

Tanaka said with a crestfallen expression. However, it seemed that Yuzaki’s spirit was still going strong. The Princess also returned during that time and handed me the drink, I thanked her as she smiled and took her seat.

“So, what do you think about it, Fujiwara-san?”

Minami thought for a bit and answered with a smile.

“Hmm~? I looked over the pamphlet, and it seems like there is a visible harsh disparity between the trips of the winners and losers. I would love for our classes to be the ones getting the best package, so I will work hard to win. As for the trip itself, I am sure it’d be a blast.”

After that, the conversation escalated and touched upon many topics. The discussion about Oracle and its CEO was quite fiery in particular. Especially when Takara made some controversial statements.

After a bit of drinking, eating, and singing. All the people who were supposed to attend had arrived, so the discussion could finally proceed.

Someone from the main table grabbed the mic and spoke with a smile.

“Good evening everyone. My name is Yamada Asahi from Class 1-E. I am a member of the baseball club, I have been given the duty to lead today’s meeting.”

As soon as he said that, all the other students who were still singing halted their activities. All of a sudden, the whole room went quiet with complete attention focused on Yamada.

“First of all, I extend my gratitude to all of you for coming. In my personal opinion, it shouldn’t be exceedingly difficult for us to win the overall competition. The whole point of this meeting is to decide the athletes and the events they will be participating in. Having said that, we shouldn’t be careless. And since we’ve been given the whole day tomorrow to practice, we will spend the day practicing our events and honing our skills enough to dominate the other classes.”

Yamada ended with a smile. And after he sat down, two girls took out their notebooks and began writing the names of all the students in the two classes.

From then, it went to who will participate in what events. When the names of people on our table were called, the room descended into a curious chatter since Fumiya, Takara, Minami, and Princess were sitting together.

I managed to bargain and get myself out of participating in too many events, but it seemed Minami was too enthusiastic since she practically forced my participation in the three-legged race with her. Also, at the request of Fumiya and the rest of the soccer team members, I agreed to be the goalkeeper of our soccer team.

The discussion itself concluded by the time the sun had completely set. The girls were being escorted by boys that lived near their houses. Kozu-chan picked up the trio of Miya, Minami, and Yukimura-san. Fumiya went home after I said that I’d swing by the company.

“Why aren’t you going home?”

I was left along with Takara as she beamed and clung to my arm.

“I wanna go with you~!”

“No, it’d be a hassle to get you home afterward.”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll have Daddy pick me up from your company~”

“It’ll be boring, you know?”

“Onii-sama… Please?”

“Okay, okay.”

“Yay~!”

Takara smiled cheerily as she contacted her mother and informed her of the situation.

“Mom said yes.”

“Fine… Kyoko is coming to pick us up.”

“Okay~”


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