Editor: Shard, Katnip
Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 6 (Karasawa POV)
My question was followed by a long silence. The sounds of the classroom buzzed, picked up by just one of my ears, and flowed around us, providing the perfect amount of background noise. When I raised my head, having been faced down on the desk, I saw the two of them having frozen looks.
“Didn’t you hear it?”
“…Ah! Ah, I heard it. Hey, Amami.”
“I-I hear you! Is that…uhm, what are you worried about now?”
“N-No. It’s not what I’m worried about, just something I saw on TV.”
Panicked, I backed it up with a haphazard reason, but I must have undoubtedly seemed strange. I knew that it would only make me feel even more depressed to know what other Omegas were like, but it was difficult to withdraw the question at this point since it would raise even more questions. Just as I was wondering about how to change the subject, Kijima got the ball rolling.
“Karasawa, I’m sorry but I have no experience in this matter. I’ll leave this to Amami.”
Kijima kept making frequent eye contact with Amami, who had a look of despair on his face like it was the end of the world. This wasn’t a topic for a casual chat. Secondary gender was a delicate topic to broach and I had completely messed it up.
“Sorry, I didn’t intend to trouble you like this.”
“Ahh, uhm, I was certainly surprised, but I’m not troubled. My family is fairly famous and all of my siblings are Alphas. Honestly, I have been approached by Omegas in that way. There were even talks of a marriage interview.”
I had heard rumours of Amami’s family having a long history and being quite rich. When I heard they owned several companies, I was quite impressed, thinking, “As expected of an Alpha lineage”. That must have been the reason why he could buy that ridiculously expensive book from that second-hand bookstore the other day without batting an eyelid. But the one truly taken aback by Amami’s shocking revelation was not me: it was Kijima.
“A marriage interview!? We’re still in high school!”
“It wasn’t as if we were going to go through right away; it was more of a fiancé–or something like that. But I rejected them all.”
“You rejected them…”
“Of course I did.”
It wouldn’t have been easy to turn down all the marriage interviews that his family had set up for him to maintain their pedigree. Amami had a gentle smile on his face. Perhaps he was saving himself for the Omega he had an unrequited love for, I absentmindedly thought.
(I envy him…)
The feelings that suddenly floated up from the depths of my heart shocked me. Never before had I felt envious of an Omega who was loved by an Alpha. I even thought marriage was an escape route for Omegas: being compelled by their instincts and having no choice but to follow them. Had not just my body but even my mind gone to the dumps? In the end, was it impossible to escape your secondary gender…?
I thought it would be bad if I showed no reaction to a question I asked of my own accord, so I forced a smile to keep up appearances.
“An Omega desired by Amami sure is lucky.”
The two of them froze up even more than before, but I was too occupied with my own affairs to notice.
I spent my days ensuring that as little changed as possible, so I put all the more effort into my studies. As I spent my time in this way, I gradually forgot about that unpleasant dream.
I was rewarded with grades proportionate to my efforts and a physical ability that was neither superior to others nor so abyssal that it stood out. Most importantly, I had understanding parents and good-natured friends. I lived such a blessed life it would have been crazy of me to keep on complaining. The rainy season this year was shorter than usual, and its end was announced on the first week of July. The cumulus clouds heralded the summer and stretched across the blue sky.
While it was different for every club, the third-year Gardening Club members will retire midway through this month. The duty of taking care of the flowers over the summer break would be taken over by the second-years and below, and the third-years would focus on our summer courses and the preparation for our respective plans post-graduation. I was proud that I had benefited the most from the greenhouse in the gardening club, so I had been actively repairing and fixing it to repay the favour.
After all, it was where I had planted the chilli peppers and shishito peppers1 that I worked so hard to cultivate. Since these plants originally grew in warmer regions, the greenhouse provided the perfect conditions to cultivate them. Now the two crops were laden with delicious peppers and gave off a delicious fragrance: a signal that they were ready for harvest.
“Sorry for making you wait! ”
As I was standing idly in front of the school gate, Amami ran up to me. We met up and headed towards the station. I showed him the contents of the plastic bag I was carrying in my hand.
“You grew these, Karasawa? Amazing!”
“It’s not as if I was the only one who tended them though.”
Inside the bag were chilli peppers and shishito peppers. In addition, there were also some green peppers. Green peppers were a close relative of the shishito, and if planted next to them, could cross-pollinate with the shishito and apparently become spicy. When I heard about this, I couldn’t resist my excitement and planted them together as an experiment. I felt that what I had grown was a little small, but they looked like proper green peppers. The problem was tasting them.
After all this effort, I wanted to eat them on the day of the harvest, but it seemed like my parents would be home late today. After hearing that at worst, they might not even return home tonight, I felt I’d be lonely eating all alone; so I asked Amami and Kijima about their after-school plans.
Kijima said he was busy with his part-time job as usual and refused, but Amami said he was free after his club activities and readily agreed. The ingredients other than the peppers were all ready, and it shouldn’t be that late if I went home and started cooking now.
“You said we’ll do a pepper tasting, but how are you gonna cook them?”
“Too much seasoning will cover up any potential spiciness they have, so I’m thinking about meat-stuffed peppers.”
“You’ve got quite a well-thought-out recipe there. Are we going to take them somewhere?”
“…Hm? I’m going to make them at home.”
“I was looking for someone to eat it with me at home.”
Actually, it would have been nice if Kijima were here and the three of us could eat together, but I couldn’t force him to do so when he was just as busy as my parents. Amami was a sweet tooth to the point that I thought most of his diet was comprised of sugar, but it didn’t seem like he couldn’t tolerate some spice. I judged it wouldn’t be a problem even if I invited him.
“My bad, do you not like the plan? I left before I could explain it in detail.”
“It’s not that I hate it! I would be dressed formally and bring some gifts if I knew I would be invited to your house, Karasawa.”
“What’s the point of dressing up to go to a friend’s house? Besides, it doesn’t seem like my parents will be home tonight, so you don’t need to worry about gifts.”
“You’re not inviting me for…that, are you?”
“I am inviting you to come and drop by my place?”2
“Ah, that’s right, haha, hahaha…”
I tilted my head in confusion at Amami, who was laughing like a broken toy, but he sometimes acted in mysterious ways like this, so I let it slide.
We made it home before dark. I spotted my house, which had no lights on, and invited Amami inside. While I knew it was Amami’s first time visiting someone else’s house, his tense demeanor made me wonder if there was any need to be so nervous. He seemed to calm down when I led him into the living room and served him some green tea.
Taking off just my blazer and putting on an apron, I quickly began to whip up the food. Amami looked at me as if I were some unusual entity. Both my parents worked, and since I was a child, they routinely came home late. Before long, I had learnt to do housework on my own. I had only recently started to do some serious cooking, which I found surprisingly addictive. After all, you could adjust the taste of the food to the spiciness you liked. What started out as a cover for my constitution, spiciness, had now become an indispensable element of my daily life.
“Sorry to make you wait. Here you go, stuffed peppers and stir-fried shishito peppers. There’s some chilli pepper mixed in as well.”
“Wow! So many kinds of spicy food! Thank you for the food!”
“Please dig in.”
When I took off my apron and sat down at the table, Amami began eating the dishes as if he had been waiting for me to join him. The unfamiliar sight of a friend in the living room of my home gave me a slightly awkward feeling.
As it turned out, the green peppers were not spicy. The Shishito peppers weren’t spicy either.
On closer inspection, even if the green peppers were spicy, they were too mild, and the shishito peppers themselves needed a certain method to grow to a spicy taste, so the only spicy ingredient on the table was the chilli peppers. When we finished all the food and reported to each other that there were no hot peppers, we both burst into laughter for some unknown reason. The shishito peppers and chili peppers were so numerous that other members of the club picked them as well, but the green peppers didn’t bear much fruit, so I took all of them home with me. Perhaps the existence of green peppers that might be spicy dissuaded the other club members. I vowed to redeem my pepper-growing skills someday.
Amami offered to clean up the dishes, so I gave him some dishwashing liquid and a sponge and gratefully agreed to have him do it. I tried to cook as quickly as possible, but by the time we had finished eating, it was dark out. After cleaning up, I brewed Amami a cup of tea and urged him to sit on the sofa.
“Sorry for keeping you so late.”
“Not at all! I should be the one apologising; you prepared me a complete meal. Karasawa, you’re an amazing cook.”
“I’m just normal. More importantly, will you stay over tonight?”
“… … Huh?”
After a long pause, he muttered a single syllable as if it were almost coerced out of him, and I looked at Amami in surprise.
“It’s getting pretty late and we’re a long way from the station, aren’t we? I’ve got a spare futon, and it’s a day off tomorrow, so I thought you could…”
I muttered and ‘stay the night’, the end of that sentence grew faint and inaudible. I felt uncomfortable with my own words, which sounded like I was making an excuse. An excuse for what? Who was that excuse for? Confused, I looked at Amami and saw that he was smiling his usual gentle smile, the strong rejection he had shown earlier seemingly disappearing into thin air. And yet, his words that followed were frigid.
“I’ll go home.”
“Is that…so? Then let me accompany you to the station.”
“No, I’ll be fine alone. I’ll get home before it gets too late.”
I was rejected in a tone which did not let me pursue the matter any further, and I suddenly felt embarrassed. I invited him carelessly, thinking that he was a friend I knew better than anyone else, but from Amami’s point of view, he might think he had done his duty just by coming to the house of a friend who was only a hair above a classmate’s level. Besides, there are probably only a limited number of people who would immediately agree if they were suddenly asked to stay over the night. Even if it was a school holiday, he might have his own things to do.
There were good reasons why feeling hurt by a cold refusal might be barking up the wrong tree at best. It seemed as if I had taken advantage of Amami’s kindness a little too much. I suppressed the feeling of sinking in self-loathing and saw Amami off as he put on his shoes at the entrance.
“Thank you for today. It was fun having dinner together with you, Amami.”
“I feel the same. Do Kijima and your other friends come over and stay the night too?” Amami, with his back turned to me, asked.
Come to think of it, it had been a long time since I’d had friends over at my house.
“No. The last time my friends came over to visit me was when I was in sixth grade, I think… I’d love to have a sleepover, but I’ve never been to one and no one has ever stayed over at my place either.”
“I see. That’s a relief.”
“It’s nothing. Karasawa, if you don’t mind, is it fine if I come by to visit you again? I’ll prepare a gift next time.”
“You really don’t need to bring a present. You can come anytime.”
“Yeah, thank you. The food was delicious.”
Since he didn’t let me send him off, I parted with Amami at my front door. Even though it was common courtesy to say that one would visit again, when Amami said it, it felt like he would actually visit again, which made me feel warm and fuzzy deep in my chest. I laughed at myself. To believe that there would be a second time!
I looked back on my high school life, and I was too timid, and too busy trying to hide the fact that I was an Omega. I hadn’t made any people I could call friends other than Kijima and Amami. To him, I was probably just one of many friends, but to me, he was one of the most important friends I had. Although our paths would diverge after graduation, I hoped we would be able to meet up once in a while to have a meal or to share a drink together someday.
That was why right now I had to focus on the peaceful completion of my high school life and not misjudge the depth of my relationship with Amami, while continuing to hide my Secondary Gender and not cause anyone any trouble. I reminded myself to never ever forget that.
Staff Notice: We’ll need to bump down our releases to once every two weeks due to real life stuff. Sorry, but do stick around and enjoy~