A/N: Okay so here's my third story. Although Hachiman may be OOC in this, I just wanted to help them settle things of the past, since 8man-sensei would probably just avoid all contact with his trauma.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Wataru Watari and I own none of this (wish I did). The idea that Orimoto lamented the way things turned out between her and Hachiman came from a series I read on Pixiv. I expanded on the details a bit here, but all credit of this idea goes to that guy.
"Alright, today's club activities will end here." Yukinoshita declared as she began packing away the utensils. It's 5:30pm now, so usually there wouldn't be any new requests for the day. We all followed suit after giving the clock a glance.
The three of us returned the keys together and headed out of school while conversing about mundane things. Well, it's more like the two girls were talking amongst themselves while I followed behind them.
As we approached the school gates, I spotted a familiar figure. At times such as this it's best to activate Stealth Hikki to avoid any unnecessary confrontation. I crossed over to the left hand side of the trio group and kept my profile as low as possible (using Yukinoshita as a meat shield) and tried to hide myself from the figure's vision. That was, until a certain Ice Princess decided to blow my cover.
"Hikigaya-kun, Just what are you doing…" She trailed off as she face-palmed. Yuigahama was clearly displeased, looking at me as though I was some sort of creepy pervert stalker. Don't do this to me, I can't handle this pain! Despite this being a small exchange between the three of us, it was enough to reveal my existence to the one waiting.
"Yo, is that Hikigaya? I've been looking for you." A certain bob haired girl made her way to our group. She's the last person I wanted to be found by.
Yuigahama and Yukinoshita eyed Orimoto Kaori as she approached us, slightly waving her left hand as a friendly gesture. None of us knew what her intent was, nor did we want to know. The first impression between these three was definitely not what anyone would call welcoming.
I kept quiet. Noticing this, Yukinoshita decided to speak on my behalf.
"Orimoto-san, was it? Do you need something from Hikigaya-kun?"
"Oh, ahh yeah, can I borrow him for a bit?" Orimoto clapped her hands together as though pleading Yukinoshita. Obviously that wasn't the case; she's only acting so as to reduce any tension that may build up.
Yukinoshita gave me a glance, as though worrying for me. Well to be very honest, I'm quite worried too. My (prideful) skill of reading between the lines was failing me at this moment. Yuigahama too seemed a bit worried about this development.
But still, Orimoto went through all the trouble just to wait for me to leave the school grounds. Kaihin Sogo and Sobu High aren't exactly close to each other, meaning that she was in some respects desperate to find me. Knowing this much makes it harder to refuse her. I guess I'll give her a chance as an appreciation of her effort.
"If it's just me that you want then it's fine. I'll come with you for a bit." I spoke nonchalantly. "You guys can go back first." The other two girls widened their eyes a bit, before giving me a slight nod. It struck me that having someone out there caring about me felt nice. How unlike me. What happened to the loner Hikigaya Hachiman?
"Well then, Hikigaya-kun will be in your care, Orimoto-san." Replied Yukinoshita. "Yuigahama-san, let's get going."
With that, Orimoto and I were left alone together. Seriously, what's with this development? A loner hanging out alone with a girl he confessed to back in middle school? You've got to be kidding me.
"Well then, shall we get going too? There's a café near the station that I wanna go to, if you don't mind." As usual, Orimoto has her ways to reduce the distance between her and others. But, this time I won't be falling into the trap of thinking that she's treating me as someone special.
Before I could respond, Orimoto got herself onto the back of my bike. Just what is this person doing…
"Umm, Orimoto? What are you doing?" I spoke hesitantly. She eyed me back with an 'isn't it obvious' look.
"The station's not really close from here and it'll be a pain to walk all the way there, so I figured you could bike us there." She brimmed brightly at me, maybe even thinking that this is hilarious. Well definitely it's hilarious, but only for her.
"No, I don't think it's a good idea, and also it's against the law to-"
"Come on Hikigaya, don't be such a wimp and let's get going already."
Can't I even voice my complaint…?
I decided to simply stand there in an attempt to resist Orimoto's bashfulness. This time I'll make sure my wish comes true! Turn into an Eternal Girl and be reborn! I'm ready to head to that mysterious white room!
After a minute or so, Orimoto finally gave up and hopped off the seat.
"Well I guess I went a bit far with my joke there. Sorry. Shall we get going then?"
She began walking ahead, leaving me behind still deep in my thoughts. Orimoto Kaori was not a girl to straightforwardly admit her faults like that. According to all the observations I made during middle school (definitely not stalking you hear me?), she barely went ahead and apologised upfront for her own actions in such a. The closest one was right after Hayama wrecked the double date. With Orimoto and her friend.
The voice of my old crush dragged me back into reality. She stopped about ten steps away from me and eyed me with a slight look of concern. Was this also part of your acting Orimoto? Or was it something else…
Letting out a mental sigh, I caught up to her so that we walked side-by-side. Again, something the middle school me would be screaming in happiness for. Man, it sure is nice to be youthful! Something of such little importance was enough to make my day back then. Now, I wasn't so sure.
I was sure that I had managed to let go of something that never existed between the two of us back at the cinema last time we were together. She was simply Orimoto Kaori, nothing more and nothing less. So why was I feeling insecure right now?
The walk to the train station was enveloped in silence. Neither one of us dared to break the delicate balance of peace through the use of words. After all, it is said that communication is the source of misunderstandings.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally sat down at the café Orimoto had specified. Looking around, this café mainly featured couples having afternoon tea. So reals came to such places for their so called 'dates' so that they could bond with their partners through the act of flirting and eating huh.
…So, what the heck am I doing here?
We sat in silence for quite a long duration of time. Whenever the waitress came and went she eyed us with a suspicious look, as though I had done something wrong to upset the person across me. Hey I haven't done anything yet ok!?
"Hey, umm, Hikigaya, can you hear me out for a bit?" Orimoto kept facing downwards and her fists were probably clenched together.
Come on, if you act all flustered and nervous it's gonna get to me too!
I gave her a slight nod as an indicator for her to continue.
"Well, the thing is, you know, I wanted to make up for what happened back then."
Back then? So, the confession? Does she honestly think I could forgive her?
"I know you still hate me for everything that I did, but I'd just like to let you know that it wasn't intentional, at least on my part."
Does she have any idea how much suffering that caused me?
On a certain day, in a certain classroom, the evening light shone through the curtains briefly covering the windows, illuminating the room with a glow of mystical orange. There stood a boy, full of hopes and expectations, and a girl who knew that something bad was coming. The boy extended his right arm, bent his body down at right angles and confessed his feelings for the girl he had admired. If only he knew what would happen on the following day, he would have suppressed his feelings to stop himself from confessing.
"It was a big shock for me too. I mean, Hikigaya of all people confessing to me. I know we kinda talked for a bit, but it wasn't to the point where I was able to understand who you were at all anyways, so the confession jumped the gun a little."
The girl smiled wryly and focused her vision on anything but the boy. After a long awaited silence, the girl rejected the boy. She proposed that they be just friends, but she knew that they were not going to interact with each other after this event. The boy mistakenly took this as a positive sign for him to work harder so as to win her heart when the day comes.
"Afterwards I asked a few friends for advice on how to handle the situation. At first they all laughed their asses off after knowing that it was you, but they gave me serious advice afterwards, and I was grateful of that."
The boy headed home, still immersed in his own illusion of hopes and possibilities. He told his sister about this event with great excitement. He wanted to share the results of his bravery with someone he knew would be able to understand him without treating him as their laughing stock.
"But when I got to school the next day, I was baffled and confused by the fuss of a new rumour. I could hear the whispers and gossips going around from person to person that severely degraded you as a person. I could see stares going towards your direction, stares that showed disgust, shock, and most of all, contempt and despise. I could feel glances directed towards me, whispers of how I was a victim in all this, and to have been confessed to by Hikigaya. The confession itself was twisted so much that it no longer told the truth of what had actually happened."
By the time he got to school the next day, he became the laughing stock of everyone in the year. The boy named Hikigaya Hachiman had confessed to Orimoto Kaori. Not face to face, but through the phone. He did not even have the courage to face the girl he liked in the eye, and resorted to using such tactics even during such an important stage. Hikigaya was a creep, a loner, and was disgusting in every way he had acted. He ostracised himself from the rest of the class thinking he's superior to them, and the only way for others to communicate with him was through insulting him. This was the general consensus among the students, and was far off the mark.
"I am very sorry for all the hurt and angst I caused you."
But now the boy named Hikigaya Hachiman was no longer the weak, defenceless boy he once was. He protected himself by analysing his enemies, then predicting their motives and course of action, and finally stopping them before they could do any harm to him. He could read his enemies like a book. He was no longer kept in the dark by the lack of communication with his peers.
"…So, would you please forgive me?"
There was no way Hikigaya Hachiman could forgive Orimoto Kaori. She was the one responsible for utterly destroying the old Hikigaya Hachiman.
But in another sense, she was also responsible for the birth of the current Hikigaya Hachiman.
Thus, can she be forgiven? No, can she be praised?
That, I have no idea.
Silence once again dominated, the atmosphere thicker than the wall of fog surrounding the four haunted Tyrones.
She finally looked squarely at my eyes.
"There's no way I can forgive you. I'm sure you yourself know as much."
She broke eye contact with me and faced downwards again. The window to her soul was once again out of reach. But this time I don't need it.
"But, antagonising you right now won't help with anything."
I'll put an end to all this with my own will. I'll do as I wish this time.
"So, it'll be for the best if we could rewrite our relationship."
I have declared that I wanted something genuine to those two. Even though I still don't have any idea on what it actually was, I would make my own judgement from what I've gathered so far.
"It would be good that we don't see each other anymore. That would be the easiest. But if that fails," Yes, all I wanted was something genuine, thus the answer was clear. "I'd like to know you better. Not as the Orimoto Kaori who tries to minimise the distance between her and everyone around her, not the Orimoto Kaori who acts as though she's perfectly conversable with almost everyone she knows. Instead, I'd like to know Orimoto Kaori herself, the one who she can be true to herself and not acting under the influence of other people's expectations."
Finally our eyes met again. This time, it was inundated with expressions of confusion and surprise. But, what stood out the most was the underlying feeling of relief. Orimoto Kaori, too, was now free of the restraints of the past placed on her without her consent. This was the solution Hikigaya Hachiman had reached, a solution where both parties would no longer be held back by an ulterior force.
Finally regaining her senses, Orimoto gave me her reply.
"Alright. I'll do my best."
Our food had arrived without us knowing, its heat stolen from it rapidly due to the air conditioned environment. It no longer possessed the energy to appeal to us how tasty it was simply through the way of knowing of sense perception. But, it was still edible. Although the remaining heat no longer made it appetising, the flavours still remained somewhat intact.
I no longer long for the person named Orimoto Kaori, but making sure that her characteristics won't go by unnoticed was still within the limits of my abilities as a fellow human.
To be honest, it was nice to have had this conversation with her.
Omake Tanamawa POV:
Wait wasn't that Kaori-chan? And who's she with? If I recall…it was the dude from Sobu High with a set of dead fish eyes… what are those two doing here together?
No it can't be! After BRAINSTORMING with my peers the conclusion was that Kaori-chan likes me. Through LOGICAL THINKING we deduced that she didn't hold an interest in many guys and it became the CONSENSUS amongst us. The GRAND DESIGN was to bring her to the events to show her my spectacular INNOVATION and skills in NEGOTIATION with the other school, so a SYNERGY effect can be created using everyone to enhance her LOVE.
What are those two doing together!?
*Blows his hair*
"Umm, Tanamawa-kun? Please focus on your work."