Crossover Fan Fiction ❯ Bitter And Murky ❯ Message, Message! ( Chapter 6 ) Updated

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Message, Message!

 

“I need the help of the Service Club. There’s been a chain-mail message circulating that’s accusing my friends of being villains,” Hayama Hayato explained. It was club. He’d skipped practice, because he was wearing his school uniform rather than the one for soccer. Hayato was the star soccer team captain. All the girls liked him, except apparently Yuigahama, Saki, and Yukino for some reason. Yukino actively glared at him, in obvious loathing.

I suspect there’s bad blood between them, but this is not my business. Women treasure their grudges, just like men do, only women’s grudges are formed over little things and men tend to fight over territory, stolen women, insults to their pride and theft of property. The sort of thing that lead to old west gunfights in the street at noon, or Akira Kurosawa movies, which are the same thing, only with swords. Kurosawa made Magnificent Seven first, though. His was called the Seven Samurai. And the original plot for Star Wars, called Hidden Fortress. Just to be clear.

“Oh! I got that. I thought it was a prank,” yelped Yuigahama. Yoshi and Komachi looked it over on her phone. Hayato showed his phone to me and the message circulating.

“Hmm. Well, that’s interesting. Is this common for popular people, inspiring this kind of jealousy?” I asked him. He nodded. I turned to Yukino for confirmation. She nodded as well, hating to agree with her apparent nemesis.

“Wait, what about you, Hikki?” Yui asked me, confused.

“What about me?” I asked.

“Don’t people make rumors about you out of jealousy?” she asked. Komachi winced at this.

“Not recently. I own a mirror. I know what I look like. Being a better student than everyone else only gets a little jealousy from my direct competition, so probably the International Class girls hate me, but I don’t associate with them so I don’t care.”

“They do,” admitted Yukino. “They really hate you.”

“Other than you I couldn’t identify any of them by face, and I don’t care about their names,” I admitted.

“That will make them even more angry,” Yukino warned.

“Tell them or not. I don’t care. I don’t even care about being first student. I care about interruptions to my study time.”

“Harsh, Hikitani-san,” commented Hayato.

“It’s Hikigaya. Not Hikitani. I’m at the top of the list because I spend all my time studying, not playing soccer or tennis or video games or light novels. I have neither time or interest in social nonsense, because it won’t matter. Much like this chain mail doesn’t matter.”

“But the accusations,” Hayato tried to explain.

“Are they true?” I asked him, looking him in the eye.

“Of course not,” he yelled back.

“Then it doesn’t matter. Whining about obvious falsehoods is a waste of time. Ignore it and it will disappear,” I waved him off, turning back to my studies.

I was deep into the history of Appalachian bourbon and whiskey manufacturing by moonshine distillers. The stories are hilariously intricate, since it was technically illegal in a number of states, and heavily regulated, then outright banned. And none of it stopped production because Americans find the idea of thumbing their noses at authority to be hilarious fun. Pretty much the opposite of Japanese people.

“Ah, I think this means that Hikigaya is not interested in this request,” Yuigahama explained uncomfortably.

“I’m not interested either,” agreed Yukino sharply. She returned her attention to what appears to be A Farewell To Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. Ah, love and a treacherous woman in a time of war, a classic theme. Schopenhauer would be a fan. I suppose Casablanca would be another example of cuckoldry. A man ruins his life helping a woman who uses him and leaves him behind to face Nazi death squads because she’s just that selfish. And then there was Gone With The Wind, where a selfish woman teases several men, leading them to die in a civil war, then complains about how its all her fault but makes no honorable changes to her behavior and proceeds to brag she still has her land (money) in the end. She also keeps slaves. Wow, when you think about it, Hollywood is incredibly honest about how appalling women are.

Yui and Yoshi decided to take the lead on this case, leaving Yukino and I to our own devices, namely my studies and her book.

Three days later sensei arrived and decided to glare at first Yukino and then me.

“What am I going to do with you two? You’ve really let me down. Not just me. You’ve let the school down.” Her fingers twitched just before reaching inside her coat, remembering she couldn’t smoke in the club room. “Tch.”

I stared at her, since this was more of the usual female emotional outbursts I was coming to see are typical for the gender and sensei in particular, big and dramatic being her preference. Yukino showed signs of working herself up to a proper snit, and I am half-curious to see what it’s like when a Yuki-onna hits her limit break. Even I know about those popular media phrases. That’s from a game, right?

“I grant you this room. You’ve got a mission statement. You are supposed to help people. And what do you do? You sit here reading American literature, in English no less, and sip tea!” Hiratsuka sensei complains. To be fair I was reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, which is both metaphors about Vietnam in the format of World War 2 bomber crewmen out of Italy, as well as the nature of life itself and the meaninglessness of it all. In Catch-22, it is what it says on the tin. I was reading this in English, to improve my use of that language. Decoding American English colloquialisms is a big part of the reading process and trying to formulate meaning on several levels is part of the challenge of such literature.

I have come to a realization. Distillation of alcohol, no matter what kind, is merely hedonism, and drunk men make mistakes, like sleeping with some gold digging slut out for a paternity suit or an ATM. Some makeup and a full press attack on a drunk guy, she’s pregnant and got legal leverage over him, his money, and it is better than a job. Another generation of children raised by loveless marriages. And distillation enables those women to prey upon men. So I think I will not pursue this idea further. My investigation got into education, costs, fees and licenses required, inspectors, all the important stuff required to make whiskey or bourbon in Japan. The eventual profit margin is narrow, which means that with the investment in real estate and equipment and delays for aging it’s a negative investment over the long run. Investing in stocks has a better return.

“Hachiman? Are you listening to me?” demanded Hiratsuka in my face. I could see her pores under her light makeup, and the overwhelming stink of Seven Lucky Stars tobacco, which clung to her.

“Should I?” I challenged her. “You asked me to focus on a specific task, which I am doing. I provided advice to the claimant to resolve his problem and he rejected it. Miss Yukinoshita also rejected this case, which suggests she agreed with my solution. Two of our club members opted to be more direct, and I suspect they will learn from this experience, even if what they learn may not be as positive an experience as they initially believed.”

“Hachiman,” growled sensei, her eyes bloodshot with stress. “You don’t get to decide what is acceptable to me.”

“Sensei, this case is rumor by some coward who lacks the courage to face those he or she is accusing. Even the internet’s early days had the solution to this problem: don’t feed the trolls. Reminding people of it by investigation causes the Streisand Effect, returning the drama and outrage to the event over and over again, with every mention renewing it. My advice was to ignore it. So your complaint should really be directed to Yoshiteru and Yuigahama, don’t you think?” I responded. She glared another thirty seconds, then backed off, reaching for her pocket (and smokes) before visibly freezing and forcing her twitching hand back again.

“I was expecting you to guide those two into an elegant solution,” she insisted. “Not set them loose to cause a scandal.”

“A scandal? Do tell. I could use some entertainment,” I jested. Hiratsuka-sensei glared harder at me. I think this reaction is probably a big part of why she’s Christmas Cake instead of married. This obsessive and bossy behavior probably also continued into her adult relationships. My realization is expressed on my face because the pity I showed enraged her.

“Oh sensei. You really need to become familiar with the definition of Projection,” I explained. “The differences between men and women are huge, and that’s one of the important ones.”

Yukino yelped with outrage, though I dare not turn to observe her while sensei was so furious. Her eyes narrowed with violent consideration.

“I asked you to take this job in exchange for academic consideration. A recommendation. I think you’ll have to make up the difference to regain my esteem.”

“The amount of time I’m losing to my studies in order to attend this club is non-trivial, sensei.”

“I picked you for this task because you possess a cold calculation that could balance out the extremes of the rest of your club.”

“Not escalating some Streisand Effect rumors is my cold calculation. Why do you insist that their actions are your problem or mine?”

“The rumors escalated off campus, so now all the students in the various high schools of Chiba City are aware of the rumor of the character of Hayama’s friends.”

“Interesting. Do you think the person who started the rumors, certainly a Soubu student, meant for that to happen? And which administrator believes that your students’ reputation is your problem?” I asked gently. She frowned, eyes going elsewhere.

“It seems that you know the answer. Projection is often joined by Displacement. You should look up that word too. You should also learn the word Accountability. If you can learn to stop doing the first two and start doing the third you may resolve your personal issues which seem to be causing you so much stress.”

“You have a lot of nerve lecturing a grown woman about dealing with adult issues, Hikigaya,” sensei accused.

“Yes, I do. Most of the men in your life choose not to face you head on, isn’t that so?” I responded. Yukino choked.

“Brat. We aren’t here to discuss my life or choices. I want you and Yukino to find your clubmates and correct their approach to this problem,” she demanded.

“Ah, the desires of an adult woman to avoid responsibility. Can I say I’m disappointed?” I questioned. Yukino barked. Sensei threw her hands in the air and glared at me, then stormed out.

“Hikigaya, I really want to introduce you to my sister,” Yukino said as sensei thundered away, cussing in what sounded like Italian. That explained a lot.

“Oh? Are you planning to film it?” I asked her, turning to look at her holding out her phone, clearly having videoed that entire exchange. “You know, if you post that on WePipe with an amusing title, it will remove all attention from the incident we’ve been tasked with hiding.

“I know. I was planning to do so later. Do you think Sensei will be pleased or angry?” she asked me.

I shrugged. “Who cares?”

The video ended up being titled: Unreasonable Teacher Demands The Impossible From Student Explaining Streisand Effect. Our faces were blurred out, to protect the guilty. Using the right keywords, and the name of the minion high school rather than our own despite the uniforms made the entire thing more hilariously complicated.

The actual class field trip groups found me visiting a distillery since I’d put that on my form. It was interesting, and the working science required to make sake and all eleven steps of the fermentation process was pretty amazing. Kawasaki had joined our group, looking comfortably mellow. I asked her why.

“Oh, my family works at a sake distillery. They’re busy at weird hours because of how complicated the process gets sometimes, so I ended up looking after my siblings while our parents worked.” I examined her elegant posture, like a model. She’d probably look epic in a yukata. Must resist the temptation.

“Do they like their jobs?” I asked.

“Yes. They like the challenges. The weird hours are only sometimes,” she explained.

“That’s good then. Life is more bearable if you like what you’re doing most of the time,” I said, something I’d read by Nietzsche about that topic. The exact quote escapes me at the moment. I think I’m pretty tired. I will go to bed early after we get back to Soubu. I still need to ride my bike home, after all.

“I don’t think this is the life for me. I want to design clothes,” she volunteered. With her looks that makes sense, actually.

“Do you have a particular university you are aiming for?” I asked her, making conversation. We moved onto the next stage of the process as the guide explained the steps.

“Onaka University of Arts has a good program for clothing design. There’s also several others in Tokyo. Either way I’d be leaving my brother to look after our sister, but he’s old enough to do that now. I’d like to be able to focus entirely on my education so I can find success. I can’t do that if I’m constantly interrupted helping other people, even when I care about them.”

“I understand what you mean,” I replied, thinking of club. We moved to the next stage, where sake is aged in barrels, tasting and dilution to the correct legally defined levels of alcohol to be sake, then finally to bottling and further aging, then actual labelling. After that they got into boxes and sold by wholesalers to liquor stores across Japan. All this effort for a 2000 yen bottle of giggles chugged by your average salaryman at after-work drinking parties. Drink the bitterness away so you can work hard the next day too.

“Thank you for the conversation, Saki-san,” I offered. She bowed slightly and we went our separate ways as the tour ended. I went back to Soubu. She probably went for a smoke, then home. I messaged Komachi to head home since club was cancelled. My bike ride home passed a few Box Truck accidents, with people hit by them and ambulances moving slowly. Obviously, the victims hadn’t survived. Why the Chiba City police ignored their menace suggests a terrible conspiracy, but since I’m not wearing a tinfoil hat, I am paying no attention to it.