Implication 3: Understanding

 *Credit and thanks goes to shawty_12 for the poster!

It’s the last school festival before graduation. Our class is in charge of having a host club. I’m responsible at the front, making sure that everyone is put at the right tables and has reserved the proper host. Ayane was in charge of costume design, so during the actual event, she is free to do whatever she wants. Keigo, on the other hand, is a host, the most popular one on the list. Annoying bastard, as I write down every girl’s request. I was the most popular guy in school before Keigo came along and stole all of my glory . . . and Ayane.
Because Keigo is a host, though, Ayane is so bored that she’s beside me. She’s helping me make sure that everyone is lined up properly. Of course, the girls secretly hate her. Even as a guy, it’s obvious that the girls despise Ayane. Who can blame them? Ayane is stealing their favourite idol, and I’m her best friend. She has the best of both worlds.

Now the annoying Keigo swoops in front of Ayane to kiss her. They’re kissing almost too passionately for the crowd to handle. I know that if they go on for longer, they’d need a room. I’m pretty sure Keigo has a hard Richard. Who wouldn’t have one with Ayane’s chest pressing against his body?

I end up coughing pretty loudly to break up the two, and in a frustrated tone, I tell her, “Yeah, Ayane, I’m going for a breath of fresh air.”

“But what about—“

“I’m sure you can handle it,” I cut her off without thinking. “If you can’t, just ask Keigo to help you out. He’s your boyfriend right?”

After finishing that question, I loosen that tie that she had forced me to wear to look professional. I also unbutton a couple of buttons that were strangling my throat. Now that I’m free, I turn around the corner and chuck that hideous purple tie into the bin. She only picked purple for every guy to wear since Keigo looked the best in “mauve”, which was pretty much purple to me.

As I stroll down the stairs with my hands in my pockets, my friend, Uchida Ogano, sees me and urges, “Azu-azu-ma! You’ve got to make our maid café more popular! Please?” 

He’s using his signature puppy eyes and even praying with his hands together. I can almost see dog ears popping out of his hair. That’s how well he’s acting this role. He knows me too well. After all, we’ve been classmates ever since kindergarten. He was the only one that stood up for me besides Ayane when I was a weak nerd. Even when Ogano was this popular child actor, he’d still be my friend. Now, Ogano had stopped being in the spotlight just like how many child actors had eventually disappeared from the industry. No one could see him past his role as the protagonist of a manga. Even though it was Ogano, who had announced his retirement after junior high, I knew that he still loved to act. He’d secretly watch the drama students rehearse from time to time. He’d even comment about how bad their staging or their script was. I’d try to encourage him to act again, yet he’d shake his head and switch the topic to something else like how hot a new celebrity was. Plus, he had admitted once, his parents would never let him get out of university just to pursue a useless dream, one that was too far to reach.

“So, what are you studying in university then?” I asked him one day.

“Law?”

“But you don’t—“

“Well I’m good at memorizing, so hopefully that’ll be a plus.”

I feel bad for him every time I see him now. I know that his smiling face is just a façade. He wants to act, yet he knows it’s too unrealistic. He knows he can count on me for anything, and I know that he’ll be there for me like a brother would. 

“All right,” I grumble. Ogano gives me a brotherly hug with one arm, and I receive this by sticking my hand out. “You owe me one, man,” I scoff.

“What? What do I owe you?” He chuckles.

“I think lunch,” I utter. “Why not just let me have free food at your maid café?”

“All right, all right, at least pay for the drink and stay for an hour or so.”

“Deal.”

And it turns out to be a bit of a lie. They only have cake, and I hate sweets. Ayane would always force them into my mouth; she likes to say that I’m too skinny for my own good. I just hate how disgustingly filled with sugar each dish happens to taste like. I’m now stuck here forking fruits off of the cake while slowly but surely, more female customers enter because I’m there.

In their eyes, I’m probably some prince born with good looks. They don’t understand that I worked for this to happen. I worked to become more in tune with my skin. I used to have a bit of acne here and there, but then Ayane taught me all she knew about skin care. I followed her suggestions religiously. I found haircuts that actually suited my face. I looked at GQ and other magazines to know what was popular.

A bit silly, I think, when they can use this time to work on themselves. I’m pretty much bored to death until I recognize that guy along with his gang. They take a table across from me. I can pretty much see them straight ahead; at least I can see that guy’s face. What’s that dude’s name anyways?

“Yeah, Takeshi, you’re so lucky that you have Sasaki-san!” one of the guys with a faux-hawk teases while slapping Takeshi’s back.

Takeshi . . . why does that name sound so familiar? I’m biting into a strawberry that I’ve ripped from its shortcake. I’m thinking hard into my past. Nope, his name doesn’t ring a bell. I don’t think I know . . . 

“Yeah, Hitomi is so hot!” another guy with rectangular glasses comments.

“You’re supposed to call her Sasaki-san, okay?” Bando Daisuke hollers while slamming his fist on that poor guy’s head. 

Daisuke always ranks within the top three for midterm examinations, but he can’t beat me. In fact, I’m sure he hates me because I’m the one free loading on the only full scholarship offered for this private school. Plus, I’m sure he hates my guts because he was rejected into the university both of us were aiming. Naturally, I have his spot, and normally I would feel sorry for him but this time there’s no remorse. He was always annoying since elementary school, a total teacher’s pet.

“It’s okay, Daisuke,” Takeshi reassures.

“By the way, so is Hitomi actually going to quit school and do modeling full time?” Daisuke nosily asks.

Takeshi shrugs his shoulders, adding, “I guess so. She’s also thinking about becoming a designer.”

“Does . . . she even know how to sew?” the faux-hawk guy snickers.

“No.”

“Yeah, Sasaki-san’s dad is loaded anyways,” the rectangular glasses boy cheerfully states. “He’d let her do anything right, Takeshi?”

Takeshi nods while sporting a sheepishly sly grin. Daisuke, as a result, nudges him, and the two burst out laughing. “You’ve hit it big this time.” Daisuke throws a wink. “A pretty and rich girl. You pretty much don’t have to do anything in the future, and you’re all set. Just work at her dad’s company and suck up to her father.”

Takeshi just laughs along. “Haha.”

I roll my eyes and let out a scoff upon eavesdropping. Shallow. Reminds me of this sugary cake. Why add sugar to perfectly normal dough? john teshed up. That’s what it is.

And just as I’m sipping the last bit of iced coffee I have, I overhear Daisuke complain, “Yo, so why are we even here?”

“Didn’t Isao want to see that crush he has?” Takeshi confirms.

“Which one? There’s no one hot here,” the guy with glasses mopes.

“Yeah,” Daisuke mumbles and points his finger to the left, “especially that girl with short hair. She’s a bit chubby too. Well, I guess she has some boobs. That makes up for her plain face. Hey, Takeshi, wasn’t that the girl that got recommended to Tokyo University instead of you?”

Immediately, I turn to see who Daisuke was saying. It was her . . . the one that liked Takeshj. She also goes to my school? I wonder why I never see her around. Honestly, what in the world did she see in that jerk? I really don’t get girls. Look at Ayane. She decides to stay with Keigo, who most likely cheats on her. I really don’t understand this that I want to push over this table. I’m sick of this. Really.

“Let’s call her over!” the glasses guy suggests. “Hey! Waitress?”

I see the poor girl nervously walk towards this table. I can tell that she’s purposely avoiding Takeshi’s glance. I can already imagine what they’re going to do to her. Why are these guys acting like such girls? Luckily, my table is closer to where she was, so I wave and yell, “Miss! Can you add some more coffee to my cup?”

She and I look at each other intently. I don’t know why she’s almost gawking at me in shock. Does she know me from somewhere? I doubt she’d know that we keep seeing each other or that I know quite a bit about her. She’s probably too absorbed in her own love life to take note of anyone else.

Finally, she opens her mouth to stutter, “Y-y-yes. Certainly. I’ll arrive with another drink for you.” Then, she takes a slight bow and returns to the kitchen area.
Daisuke throws a glare at me because I have spoiled his fun. Regardless, Daisuke decides to say, “Okay, let’s rate that girl. On a scale of zero to ten, how hot is she?”

“One!” one of them screams.

“No, probably point five! Have you seen her eyebrows? They’re like a gorilla’s! Hahaha!”

“What about you, Takeshi?” Daisuke nudges.

“Umm . . .”

“Oh come on. Just give a number,” Daisuke prompts.

Takeshi with his arms folded mutters, “F-fine. I guess a two.”

“What? That’s so high!”

“Guys, let’s not . . .”

“Oh Takeshi, stop acting like you’re so good! We all know what you’re thinking!”

Unfortunately, the girl returns with my drink very quickly, and she manages to hear what Takeshi has said. I can see that petrified and embarrassed look on her face. She can’t even look at me straight; her eyes are cast to the floor. Her ears are almost as red as that strawberry I just ate. She rushes back to the place set as the kitchen, and I hear her sputter, “I-I-I’m going to the washroom. I’ll be back.”

When she runs out the entrance, I see her eyes watering. A sense of guilt permeates through my chest. Immediately, though, I’m overcome with anger. I feel my blood fuelling to my brain while my fists are tightening. The gang’s laughter is growing louder and louder, especially after the girl left. I finish up my coffee before standing up. I walk over to the group to take a seat in the empty chair beside Takeshi.

“Haha!” I mock. “How about let’s rank all of you? I think I’d have to adjust the rules and play with negative numbers though Daisuke.” I purposely tilt my head and snicker.

“Who do you think you are?” Daisuke throws his palms onto the table, yelling. “You think you’re so cool huh?”

I lean against the chair and place my legs on the table. “I’m cooler than you,” I declare. “That’s for sure.”

“You!”

“Come on, Daisuke.” I point to my cheek. “I know how much you’ve wanted to beat me up. After all, I’m sure your parents compare you with me. You never measure up to my marks anyways.”

“You are—“

“I dare you, Daisuke,” I continue to tease. “I dare you to punch me. Punch me and lose that scholarship of yours to that university. What was that university again?”

Before any of the guys can grab him, Daisuke leaps over the table and grabs onto my collar. He thrusts his fist into my cheek and then throws another one on one of my eyes. I know better not to fight back, yet he shouts, “You’re a scum bag, Akuma. A scum bag just like that your whole low class family!”

That’s when I retaliate but as soon as I hear footsteps coming, I let Daisuke take the upper hand. In the end, the two of us are called to the principal’s office. Luckily, Ogano was there to witness everything, and he backed me up. Plus, I’m their best student, so they can’t really touch me. They can touch someone lower than me, and that’s Daisuke. Daisuke becomes suspended, and his scholarship is also revoked because of this. 

“Dude,” Ogano releases a sigh as we both leave the principal’s office, “why’d you do that? Were you still pissed that he bullied you in elementary school?”

“No,” I admit to Ogano, “he was just bullying a girl.”

Ogano shakes his head, lecturing, “Do you know how much shi.t you could have gotten into? You could have had your scholarship annulled! Honestly, I don’t get what you’re thinking sometimes. You do these crazy things that no reasonable person would ever—“

I give Ogano a pat on his shoulder to let him catch his breath. I don’t want him to burst a vein from his temple because of me. “Don’t worry man. I have everything covered.”

“You sure?” Ogano gives me that doubtful frown, where he makes a slight double chin and puckers his lips together like a little sissy girl. “You have enough from your family for food, books and all that sh.it?”

“Seriously, Ogano, chill. I don’t need help from your family. You’ve done enough as is.”

As soon as I finish that sentence, I hear sprinting coming from Ayane. Then, she greets me with a heavy slap. “Azuma! What were you thinking?” she bellows in a screechy voice.

I ignore her and utter, “Nothing. I just need some time alone.”

“What are you talking about? You could have gotten into so much—“

I stop at my tracks, and I see her panicked face. I don’t want her to worry, but I don’t want to hear her nagging either. I’m tired . . . really. I’m so tired of seeing her like this towards me. So, I give her a glare and just leave. Heck, I’m bailing on this festival. Technically, school is cancelled too, so it’s not necessary for me to stay. I can tell them to suck my balls if I wanted.

Ha.

It’ll only be a few weeks before graduation now, and I’ll be completely free. I’m stretching my arms out towards the sky. As much as I hate sweets, I feel like getting some pudding. I think Hisashi would like that too. 

--- 

Our maid café has been rather dead because there’s simply no popular girl from our class. Sure, people drop by but compared to other classes’, we’re a dead café. When he shows up behind Ogano, though, the whole place seems to be charged with energy. All of the workers turn to his direction. Even with just a white button up shirt that’s not even tucked in properly, a pair of black trousers and leather shoes, he manages to captivate all of us. Somehow, seeing him makes me feel like there’s hope to this business.

Ogano puts him at the table in the centre of the room before grabbing a bunch of cakes from our prep area. I witness Rock Star’s bewildered look when he sees all the sweets. Then, he frowns and folds his arms. I hear him complaining, “Seriously? You guys have nothing else?”

Ogano coughs up, “Well, there are drinks. I’ll get someone to fix you something. Iced coffee sound good?”

“Sure,” he answers with a scoff, “just don’t add any sugar and I mean it!”

I can’t help but let a smile creep out. He’s a funny guy. Who knew that a guy would dislike sweets so much? He really is interesting. Sometimes, I take a few glances at him and find him playing with his straw. He’s swishing the liquid in his cup over and over. I can tell that he’s thinking about something. The way his eyebrows are scrunched up together, the way he sucks in his chin, and the way his fingers pinch the edge of the straw all tell me that he’s bothered by his own thoughts. I wonder if he’s thinking about her.

“Sumiko.” 

I feel an elbow to my arm, and there’s Itami Masa cheekily smiling at me. She’s giving me that look as if she knows everything about me. Masa and I are quite close. We have known each other since elementary school. Still, she always likes to make false conclusions about me, and I’m too bothered to correct her. I know what’s she’s going to say. That grin of hers is too wily.

“It’s not what you think,” I decide to inform her.

“R-r-right.” She even winks at me as she proceeds to his table to refill his drink. “You’ve been eyeing him for a bit now.”

“Who? What are you even talking about?” I pretend to act dumb.

Just as she passes by me, she whispers in my ear, “Nogiri Azuma. Silly.”

I don’t know why, but that name is lingering in my ear. Azuma. He sounds really familiar, but I can’t pinpoint where I’ve heard of his name. He sounds tantalizing too, and in person, he is far too unapproachable. I don’t consider him a god, but I know that he and I are in two different worlds. He belongs in Takeshi’s realm. Just as I start having thoughts of Takeshi again, Takeshi unexpectedly shows up with his group of friends. My hands are clammy and hot. My cheeks are burning red. Oh god, I don’t want Takeshi to see me like this. I’m not prepared to face him and . . . his people. I want to wish myself away and pray that he doesn’t recognize me. Quickly, I absorb myself with the other customers. Because of Azuma, more and more girls have hogged tables nearby him. They all want a piece of him. 

Now, I’m at the opposite end of their table. Still, I see one of the guys point at me and I hear, “Tokyo University”. It’s obvious that he’s talking about me. Are they saying how I got recommended instead of him? It wasn’t my fault, and I really appreciated what Takeshi did. I didn’t mean to steal anything from him. Please . . . don’t . . .

“Let’s call her over!” I hear one of them scream at me. “Hey! Waitress?”

Sadly, I make eye contact with him, so I have to go to their table. My knees are wobbling, and my heart is pounding too loudly. My stomach is churning like a laundry machine doing its cycle. I feel like puking. Really. 

As I pass by Azuma, I hear him call out and see him wave at me, “Miss! Can you add some more coffee to my cup?”

I’m stunned to find him staring at me. The two of us are caught in a perplexed gaze. Seeing him so close feels so different. He has these dark alluring eyes shaped like a kitten’s, but I sense no danger from him. Instead, I feel safe and less anxious because of his presence. I do hope, though, that he didn’t recognize me from elsewhere. He can’t know . . . that I know about him and his feelings for her.

So, I, at last, answer him in a stammer, “Y-y-yes. Certainly. I’ll arrive with another drink for you.” 

I bow at him to secretly thank him for saving me from this situation. Then, I head to the prep area and ask another classmate to fix a drink. I also take this time to help clean up some of the dishes. Maybe I’m stalling time here, but it’s better than going back there. I’m stupid to think that it’ll work out. Within minutes, I have his drink filled, and I’m forced to deliver it to him.

Suddenly, I overhear one of the guys exclaiming, “Oh come on. Just give a number.”

Takeshi with his arms folded whispers, “F-fine. I guess a two.”

“What? That’s so high!” 

“Guys, let’s not . . .”

“Oh Takeshi, stop acting like you’re so good! We all know what you’re thinking!”

I know too well what they were doing, and who they were ranking. Why? One of them is staring at me and laughing at me. I feel so stupid, thinking that there was a chance to reach out to Takeshi. I just lent him money, and I expect him to be nice to me. I expect him to start to be my friend, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll fall in love with me for who I am. But, I’ve got it all wrong. There’s no hope at all. He sees me as a two out of a scale of ten, and that’s being generous according to his group. I don’t even pass on their terms. We really . . . are part of different worlds. I’m . . . I’m so stupid. Oh god, I want to cry. I want to sob right here and there. I know I should be mad at them, but secretly, I know they’re saying the truth. I just didn’t want to hear from him about it.

I know I’m not pretty, but I’m not ugly either. I’m just your average school girl. I might not stand out from my appearance, but academically, I do. I rank higher than Takeshi and a whole load of other students. Whenever marks are out, that’s when I know where I stand in the future. I will be better than them. In the real world, skills will count for more. Reality, though, shoves a knife into my skin awakening me to my senses. People are shallow, and in the end, I’m just being optimistic. 

Their laughs are getting louder and louder in my head. I want to melt away and hope to never exist. I have to get away soon before I start to cry. I know, sooner or later, I’ll break down. In a hurry, I excuse myself and dash out of the room. Even when I’m sprinting down the hall to the nearest washroom, I already feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. I’m thinking to myself that if I keep running, maybe, all of this will be a dream, and everything will go away. If I run away from my fears, then they’ll never get to me. 

If I just keep going . . .

I finally collapse onto the grass. I’m close to the empty track field where people train for baseball, soccer, and other sports. I keep breathing harder, trying to gain my breath back. The tears too just keep flowing faster. There’s a bit of shade covering me as I’m under a tall tree. I’m glad . . . I’m glad that I’m alone. I let out a loud cry and sob till my eyes are almost too sore to open.

I hear the school bell chiming. It’s the end of the day, meaning that it’s time to head back. On my way, I discover Masa dashing towards me. “Oh my god! Where were you?” she shrieks.

“What?”

Masa lets out a big sigh, “After you left, Nogiri-san and another guy had a fight! They even got called to the principal’s office!”

“Wh-what? Why?”

“I-I-I don’t know,” Masa mutters. “Azuma kind of just stood up and started to taunt one of them. He said a lot of mean things, but I think . . . he was standing up for you. I mean, he didn’t need to refill his drink.”

“But why?” I blink a few times, wondering. “Why would he—“

Masa interrupts me to advise, “I think you should go thank him. He’s probably finished talking to the principal by now. I mean, he could have lost his scholarship to Tokyo University!”

“W-w-wait what? He’s going to the same university as me?” I almost trip over my own feet when I hear Masa say that.

“Well, he’s majoring in Finance,” Masa clarifies. “Wait . . . don’t tell me that you didn’t know who Nogiri-san was?” When she sees me nod my head cautiously, she grabs my arms and shouts, “Oh my god! He’s the guy who is always ranked the top of the grade! You know, the guy who got to make the speech in the beginning of high school? Oh wait . . . you were sick that day so you missed that.”

“Wow, I didn’t know . . . he was that smart,” I mutter quietly.

Masa continues to add, “He’s not just smart. He’s good looking too, but I heard from a few people who used to go to the same elementary school as him that he was bullied. He was a huge nerd, and after he transferred in the middle of junior high, he met Ishikawa-san. She’s the one that changed him and made him into the Nogiri-san today! I do hear, though, people saying that he’s the devil! You know, Azuma the Akuma?”

“Oh,” I mumble, “so that’s why he can have earrings and look like a rock star.”

Masa starts to chuckle at my remark. “That’s all you got from what I said?”

“Well . . . I guess that’s why he lo . . . he is close with her.”

I almost let his secret out, and luckily, Masa doesn’t hear me. She just proceeds to state, “Well, it’s obvious that he loves Ishikawa-san, like pretty much worships her. I kind of think she’s selfish though. Actually, his fan club hates her, and I don’t blame them. She doesn’t deserve him.”

I don’t know how to comment on that. It’s hard to figure out who deserves whom. I can understand why Azuma would be so close to her. If someone changed me, then I would forever be grateful for him or her. Sometimes, it just takes one person to believe in you. For Azuma, it was her. I’m sure that’s how he started to fall for her, but that was just the beginning. His love, surely, is deeper than that. He . . . for some reason, makes me feel that there’s more to him. He’s not shallow like them. Maybe, he’s in a completely different world than them.

And I realize that he is when I spot him at the gates. I had to go close to the entrance for a shortcut to the principal’s office. Luckily, Azuma doesn’t see me follow behind him. I really only want to thank him, I tell myself. I know, however, that I want more. I want to know more about him. I’m curious as to what he’ll do and why he cared about what happened to me. Out of pity, perhaps? Somehow, I feel that he’ll understand me and that I’ll understand him fully too. I can’t deny that feeling I have.

So, I enter the convenience store a few minutes after him. I’m standing at the snack aisle, but I know that he is at the drinks and fresh food section. He’s looking at sandwiches and then bends down to reach for a . . . pudding?

Pudding? Didn’t he hate sweets? Why would he even pick that? I’m a bit confused as to his choice. Then, I see him put it back as he sighs in a disheartened way. I know that sort of sigh. I’ve done that too often. It’s when what I want to buy is too expensive, and I have to put it away. I have to tell myself that I’ll live perfectly fine without this purchase. It’s a luxury.

Pudding . . . is a luxury to him, and it was for me too.

I want to tell him so badly that I know. I know how he feels. I even want to lend him what I have, so I can thank him properly. Instead, I watch him leave. I end up taking the pudding he held and buying it. I run outside, hoping that I’ll find him still there. Sadly, he has disappeared and all I’m left with is this sweet delicacy. 

I know I can’t store it in the fridge at home because my mother would yell at me for wasting money. So, I sit outside the store and open the lid. With a small plastic spoon, I scoop enough pudding for it to jiggle. Then, I stick a spoonful into my mouth.

It’s sweet, too sweet for me to handle.

And a tear drops down my cheek. 

He might not know who I am now, but in the future, I want to be better so I can thank him properly. He makes me see that there’s a future for me out there. There’ll be someone willing to see past my appearance, someone willing to appreciate me for who I am.

Azuma . . . how can you ever be a devil?

And if you were, then I’d rather side with you than with an angel.


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