"You're doing what to impress Seiko?" asked AU Seiko Okamoto over the phone, the strength of her disbelief and incredulity able to travel across dimensions through the volume of her voice. "I mean, the other me?"
Tomoyuki Yamamoto couldn't believe that he revealed what he'd been up to so soon.
Especially after he kept his other plan—ruining Kazuhito Sugata's so-called harem to force a resolution of the "Will they? Won't they?" relationship status between him and his universe's Seiko Okamoto—a secret from her.
But this time this was different. It hit different. He had to tell her about his plans this time around. Because it was kind of her "fault" why he had to do his new plan in the first place.
Her careless kindness struck his heart almost as hard as when he first fell in love with her other self who rescued him from his own bullies.
He tried explaining himself to her again.
"I joined the Literature Club so that I can become more... creative. I want a creative outlet, Amazon Queen."
Dammit. Why couldn't he convey into words what he was thinking? What he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it.
"B-But what about your job at the convenience store?" AU Seiko asked.
"It's not like I'm the manager or anything. I'm just a clerk. I can manage my time just fine even with after-school club activities. I guess I just wanted to be..."
He trailed off, braced himself, and continued.
"I wanted to be more on Okamoto's level by finding something I'm passionate about like she is with sports, even though that's only part of the reason why I'm doing it. Maybe impress her a little by indulging in something I'm passionate about."
"I... I didn't realize you wanted to be a writer, Cherry Boy," said the Amazon Queen quietly. "W-Wait, why would you even need to impress me with you joining a club? Also, how is that supposed to impress me? I mean, the other me!" she stumbled over her words that puzzled Tomoyuki.
Why did she seem so upset by his revelation?
Clearing his throat, he continued. "...I want to keep up with you," he said, practically repeating what he told Megumi Minagata, the childhood friend of Seiko Okamoto and Kazuhito Sugata.
"...Well? Did you?" she asked. "Was the other me impressed by your effort to change yourself, at least?"
He shrugged even though Seiko couldn't see him do so over the phone. "She's still treating me like normal. She even congratulated me."
The current treatment of him by his universe's Seiko was certainly a nice change of pace from all the teasing and ribbing he got from her because of Akira's recently exposed catfishing shenanigans.
"Are you an idiot?" AU Seiko finally said after a minute of silence.
"HEY! Who are you calling an idiot? BAKA! (STUPID!)" he almost yelped in defense of himself, confused by the Amazon Queen's reaction.
What was going on? Why couldn't she understand him and why he was doing this?
"H-Hey, watch your... m-mouth, AU Cherry Boy!" she said, grasping for words like one would grasp for flotsam from being swept up the rapids of her own turmoil. "I'm not picking a fight here!"
"Well, neither am I! But you called me an idiot first!" was the Cherry Boy's petulant response.
AU Amazon Queen let out a long and dragged out sigh.
"Look, I called to thank you for helping me deal with both my Cherry Boy and my Miku-chan. Again. As usual. I'm grateful. Now I... I only wanted to help you get AU Me the way you helped me with my Cherry Boy. B-But... now you don't even seem to care about wooing the other me! Have you already given up on me? I mean, O-Okamoto S-Seiko? Jeez, that felt weird to say."
"I-It's not that at all! Y-You don't understand," he said, deflating like a balloon with a prolonged sigh of his own. He lowered his guard down. "I'm doing this for me but I'm also doing this for you too. I mean, for S-Seiko... Okamoto. For her too. You know what I mean."
He could imagine her shaking her head as she told him, "No, Cherry Boy. No, I don't."
Why couldn't she understand that she was out of his league and that he didn't deserve her the way that he was now?
That he needed to be within her league or at least reaching towards a goal it to feel confident about wooing her?
Or at least the other her that he could actually reach?
She deserved better than a loser.
Keit-AI! Tomoyuki x Seiko
An Anime-Inspired Original Story from 4chan's /a/ Board by Abdiel
Original Idea by Hataki.
The other shoe drops.
Disclaimer: This work may reference copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is believed that this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. All copyrighted material referred to in this work belongs to their respective owners. All rights reserved.
Chapter 22: The Dream Is Dead
Back at the Maehara High cafeteria...
Class 2C Representative Aya Fubuki continued what felt like a police interrogation to Tomoyuki's ears.
"Why did you join the Literature Club?" she asked.
"Er... why do you ask?" he said in return.
"It'd be a shame if all that progress you made with Seiko-chan were to end up for nothing because you were too busy with your li'l club and all." Aya smirked with half-lidded eyes, sipping her drink daintily. "Consider me your devil's advocate."
'I consider you Satan herself! Ugh. Would everyone get off my back about Seiko-chan? They should mind their own business. Even AU Seiko-chan should cut me some slack,' Yamamoto thought with an inward scowl hidden behind a forced smile.
Did the 2C Class Rep still have a chip on her shoulder over the infamous Cherry Boy because of the bad first impression she got from him?
'First AU Seiko, now Fubuki. Yet just literally last year, people were also making fun of me for being too desperate in getting a girlfriend and being too clingy towards girls. Jeez, make up your damn minds!'
Deep down, a voice inside the Cherry Boy asked, 'Did you give up on wooing Okamoto Seiko after seeing how much in love with Sugata Kazuhito she is, like Fubuki is implying?'
The name of that voice? Insecurity.
He nonetheless answered both his insecurity and Aya.
"It's not a li'l club and I didn't join it for shits and giggles. I love movies. I also love writing and reading stories. Or watching them on the big screen. I kind of want to write one of my own, if I could. You know, because it's my dream to do so!"
"And he's actually pretty good at writing too. Even our club advisor is impressed by his works," said Miku Machida, the 2B Class Rep, in his defense.
Tomoyuki was half-flattered but also half-unsure of the sincerity of the praise. Not because Miku was a dishonest person but instead because she was probably just being nice to him. Nice to a fault, perhaps.
Her niceness was what led him to also chase after her during their first year like a creep, only for him to get friendzoned hard by her.
Lesson learned. A nice girl wasn't just nice to a particular boy because she liked him. She was nice to him because she was nice to everyone.
"Come to think of it, isn't the Literature Club supposed to be a book club where you just read books all day? Like it's the Library Club or something?" asked Yukari Goto, Aya's self-proclaimed best friend, with a finger on her lip and a head tilt to the side.
"W-ell, technically we are, but ever since Miss Kitamura became our club advisor, we started making essays and creative writing projects too," Machida explained. "Like it's a Creative Writing Club now too."
"Oh, is that so?" said Yukari, who now had her arms spread like a restless child mimicking an airplane's wingspan, her body tilting from side to side.
'What the hell is this goofball doing?' thought Tomoyuki as he just stared at Goto.
"Why don't you write a love story about Seiko-chan then, Yamamoto-kun? Or maybe even dedicate a poem to her? Make good use of your talents." Aya kept pressing the issue. "Actually, it seems like you've been avoiding her more and more lately. Would you rather spend time with Miku-chan instead? If you chase two rabbits you'll lose both."
"W-What are you saying, Aya-chan?" stuttered the glasses-wearing class rep, her face turning red. She probably still remembered the Cherry Boy's embarrassing (fake) love confession to her that he made to help Fubuki save face from her own failed love confession to Kazuhito.
Okay, sure, he kind of was avoiding Seiko lately. He still couldn't look her in the eye after they were both photographed by Akira in such a compromising, suggestive position. In a love hotel of all places, at that.
There was also the time when the Amazon Queen acted angry (perhaps jealous?) when she heard the recording of his confession to Miku. Also recently, Okamoto told him that he always found a way to say the right things to her.
That last one, her thoughtless remark, made his pulse quicken and cheeks flush with blood in remembrance.
He then told himself to not be presumptuous about Okamoto's reaction the same way he used to overthink Machida's embarrassed reactions towards him, when in fact the mousy nerd was merely being either friendly with him or creeped out by him and his desperation for a girlfriend.
Nevertheless, he countered, "I don't want to be clingy around Okamoto. I learned my lesson the last time." Or last times (plural).
Fubuki chuckled, crossed her arms, and smirked. "You're not just using this club thing as an excuse to run away from her, are you? You coward. She intimidated you so bad back at the Sports Fest volleyball tournament that you don't feel worthy of being in her presence."
She actually hit the nail right on the head. No that he'd ever admit that to her face.
"Well, thank you for filling me in on my intentions, Fubuki!" he answered, standing... or rather, sitting... his ground. "Besides, I don't want to be called her stalker or anything by overstaying my welcome when I'm around her. You should know what that's like, right?"
'Or maybe it's much harder winning over a version of Seiko-chan that isn't already in love with you? Or rather, another version of you,' his own insecurity further needled. Like a pinprick to his heart.
"Hey." Aya's brows furrowed as she grabbed the edges of the table and looked like she was about to rise from her seat. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Hey, you two! Don't fight!" said Yukari with her hands raised up in seeming surrender. "You just made up recently, so don't ruin it!"
"WE'RE NOT FIGHTING!" Tomoyuki and Aya chorused in a way that belied their denial.
Fubuki took a deep breath and sighed. "I'm not trying to pick a fight."
Yamamoto himself exhaled, sinking back down on his seat. "Neither am I."
Even after their misunderstanding and the rumors of them dating was cleared up (he actually dated Aya's brother in disguise, not her), he and Aya still couldn't see eye-to-eye. It must be a personality clash then.
Regardless, he looked Aya in the eye and said, "I'm not running away either. I won't lose the same way I helped our class lose the volleyball finals at the sports fest. Understand?"
"Hey, I won an event there!" said Yukari in remembrance. "We were first place in the three-legged race, right? Aya-chan?"
"Fine. If it's really your dream to make movies or write stories or whatever, good on you," Fubuki relented, which made Goto remark, "Oh, I'm being ignored, huh?"
The 2C Class Rep then teased, "A certain little bird told me that you're much more romantic than people give you credit for, so I expected more from you when it came to wooing Seiko-chan. I hear you're quite the gentleman when you try your hardest. You do your research and try to learn more about a woman's likes and interests even if you yourself have zero interest in those hobbies. You're supposedly very dedicated."
"GEH!" Tomoyuki yelped and pointed but the words he intended to say got caught in his throat at the last second lest he incriminated himself, his other hand covering his agape mouth.
Aya was talking about her snitch of a crossdressing brother, Akira, wasn't she?
Yikes. Yamamoto didn't want to reveal or confirm that Akira catfished him to more people.
However, apparently, the same Akira had already confessed his crime of catfishing Yamamoto by pretending to be his own big sister to his own big sister! He even told her about the dates they went on! The long talks they had! The embarrassing things he told her, er, him! Akira!
'Don't make such a happy face,' he thought, not said, to the giggling Class 2C Rep, whose hand covered her own mouth. 'You're enjoying this too much, Fubuki! You sadist! You're swaying so much that you might hit the table with your shin!'
"Jeez, stop teasing Cherry-kun, Aya-chan!" said Goto with a pout and a wagging finger. "If you keep doing that I'll get mad!"
"Oh, and what will happen when you get mad?" Aya asked with an eyebrow raised. "Will you whip your twin ponytails back and forth and hit my face with them?"
Tomoyuki then thought, 'Oh, so she did that stupid technique of hers on other people, huh?'
"Then I'll... I'll... I'll cry!" threatened Yukari.
"You don't say. Sure you will. And water is wet," remarked Fubuki to the crybaby, nonplussed.
"Actually," began Machida, unable to help herself, "Water isn't wet. Wetness is a description of our experience of water; what happens to us when we come into contact with water in such a way that it impinges on our state of being. We, or our possessions, 'get wet'. Not water."
"..." said everyone.
"...What?" the bespectacled girl asked with a double blink.
"How can water not be wet?!" said Aya. "It's water! It's surrounded by water. Anything that's surrounded by water, even water, is wet! You've been hanging out with Yukari-chan too much, Miku-chan! Next you'll say the sky isn't blue!"
"Not at sunset, dawn, or night. Or when it's rainy. The sky doesn't even have one particular color," pointed out Yukari matter-of-factly.
"Case in point!" said Aya. "You're both insane!"
'What is this conversation, even?' thought Yamamoto.
Goto's eyes welled up.
"DON'T ACTUALLY CRY! Jeez," said Aya.
"You're being mean, Aya-chan! Aren't we supposed to be best friends?" bawled Yukari.
Fubuki raised an eyebrow at Goto. "Wait, wait, wait. Since when were we ever best friends? Don't decide that on your own!"
"We aren't?" a tearful Goto asked. "B-But you keep fetching me at the front gates of the school! I always keep waiting for you at the same time every day since we're beeest fweeends!"
"You're not supposed to wait for me around that time! You're supposed to get to class on time! At an earlier time!" Fubuki scolded, hitting the twin-tailed girl square on the noggin with a karate chop.
"Owie! Aya-chaan! That hurt!" cried the klutz.
"Besides, it's not as if I was waiting for you at the gates every day! I was just doing my job to prevent delinquency in our class like a good iincho (class representative)!"
'What a tsundere,' thought Yamamoto.
Well, that was an interesting lunchtime.
Yamamoto walked back to class, leaving behind Machida to chat away with her friends from Class 2C, Fubuki and Goto, about whether water really was wet or whether the sky really was blue.
Seriously, Miku managed to bring up some good points.
As usual, in the background, he expected shenanigans afoot with the Official Class 2B Power Couple of Seiko Okamoto and Kazuhito Sugata, bickering about... whatever.
With him not getting any closer to breaking the Golden Pair apart.
"DT-kun! DT-KUN!" he heard Seiko yell. Huh. Must be a new pet name she gave Sugata. They had all sorts of cute nicknames for each other by then. Amazon Queen. Yankee. Furyou (Delinquent). Okama (Drag Queen).
Actually, the two of them both called each other okama for different reasons. Kazuhito was called that as an insult to his manhood. Seiko was called that to imply she was practically a man in a dress.
...They weren't exactly politically correct, after all.
Meanwhile, Tomoyuki's half-baked harem elimination plan had ended up in shambles too. He got assaulted by Sugata himself after doing a fake confession to prevent a real confession by Aya to get shot down.
He then wasted time with Aya's cross-dressing brother that didn't even have anything to do with the harem plan. For selfish, personal reasons.
Maybe he really had given up on Seiko by joining the Literature Club after all. Perhaps deep down in his heart, he realized he really didn't deserve Okamoto, as Aya claimed he thought.
Perhaps talking to another version of Okamoto and helping her end up with the other version of himself was as good as it would get for him to having Seiko as his girl. At least there was one dimension where the two of them would end up together.
He then felt the world blur around him as something grabbed hold of his collar and jerked him towards the stairs.
The next thing he knew, he was backed into a corner, with Seiko Okamoto of all people having her hand slammed on the same wall, right beside his face, cornering him and keeping him from escaping.
Wow. She was such an ikemen (hunk). Or at least the girl version of such. An Alpha Female. That was such a Chad move.
If the genders were reversed, this situation of theirs would totally look like the cover to a girl's romance comic. Or if both genders were male, then it'd totally look like one of those yaoi (boy's love) manga that Machida read in secret.
"DT-kun! I've been calling you all this time!" said the tall, pony-tailed tomboy that had been running in his mind, unbeknownst to her. "I haven't been seeing you around lately. Something up?"
"D-DT-kun...?" he stuttered. 'Wait, I'm DT-kun?!' he also thought to himself.
"No, no. Not DDT-kun. You're not giving out DDTs like Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, after all! R.I.P. to him, by the way. It's your new nickname! DT-kun!" she explained, which somehow confused him more, thus defeating the purpose of her explanation.
He then vaguely remembered AU Seiko also telling him that the front facelock or inverted headlock driver—the technical terms for the DDT pro-wrestling move—was innovated by an American wrestler from the Eighties. The seeming acronym didn't actually stand for anything specific, but it was named after a pesticide.
"What does DT mean anyway? Dimension Transfer?" he then asked, half-joking and half-bewildered.
"No, no. It's doutei (virgin)!" said a grinning Amazon Queen.
He almost face-faulted to the ground after hearing that. "That's just another way of saying Cherry Boy! Amazon Queen no baka (You stupid Amazon Queen)!"
Seiko then burst out laughing, with tears in her eyes. She was in stitches, leaning on the wall and clutching her stomach in laughter.
"You sure are proud of your joke," he said.
"I-It's the best!" she said, wiping the tears at the corners of her eyes.
Oh God, she was so cute.
"Oh, by the way, I wasn't able to give you a gift for your birthday a few weeks ago," said Seiko. "What do you want for your birthday?"
"You already gave me a lunch date," he pointed out.
"We do that every lunch except lately," she refuted. "That doesn't count."
Agh. Wasn't that the most "Seiko" thing he heard her say or do? Just ask him what he wanted.
He remembered that he gave her the impression that he wanted a date from her for his birthday. Maybe he should cash in that rain check?
No, no. He shouldn't push his luck. He actually hoped she forgot all about that since it sounded skeevy in retrospect. What sort of creep would ask their crush for a date as their birthday gift?
He then figured out the best possible answer to her qustion. "Give me something you like."
"Huh. But you're not remotely interested in sports things. What would you want with sneakers or a boxing DVD?" she asked after considering his response for a minute or two.
He smiled and shrugged at her. "I guess, but I want to know more about you and a gift you like will tell me more about you."
Seiko's cheeks flushed before she smacked Tomoyuki upside the head.
"OW! HEY! What was that for?"
"Stop acting so corny, DT-kun! Jeez!" she said, leaving in a huff back to their classroom.
"Fine, I'm corny! But just call me Cherry Boy instead! That's somehow less embarrassing than Doutei-kun!" he called out after her.
"FINE! You're Cherry Boy again!" she shouted as she retreated from him with her long ponytail sashaying from behind her, not bothering to look back at him again.
Normally, he'd interpret her reaction as her being mad, but he knew better now. Okamoto actually found his answer charming, cute, or even romantic. Maybe. He got the answer straight from the source, after all.
He already tried out his "pick-up line" on AU Seiko when she herself asked straightforwardly what he wanted for a birthday gift before she got creative about it.
She also told him to stop being so corny but she actually loved it.
Nonetheless, he felt guilty for knowing what to say to her question in advance. He already had a speculative or conjectural discussion with AU Seiko about what she would've done had she not figured out what Tomoyuki wanted for his birthday.
These other-dimensional shenanigans were a bit unfair, really. Like getting the answer key to a test and scoring high not by hard work but by cheating.
"DT-kun, huh?" he murmured to himself before wishing he could smack himself upside the head. 'DT-kun is so much cooler a nickname than Cherry Boy! Most people don't even know what it means till you ask! Why did I tell her to call me Cherry Boy instead? Stupid!'
After dismissal time though, she ended up giving him an MMA DVD collection. It was Fedor Emelianenko's greatest hits, with his fight against Brock Lesnar as the main attraction.
How very "Seiko" of her to do so. Oh, and she said she wasn't sure if her sneakers could fit his feet.
Huh. Maybe AU Seiko would appreciate the video clips he could record from this gift he got. He should send them to her.
The first few days of working at the Literature Club went great for Tomoyuki. Swimmingly well. No complaints.
It reminded him of the happier days of his youth, before he got into a fight with his junior and got socked in the face by him for his troubles.
Or before he embarrassed himself on stage by crying multiple times as a kid when he was asked to recite a poem or play the role of a tiger for a school play. But never mind his childhood trauma.
Speaking of his childhood, he was like a kid "scenario writer" back in the day.
Whenever he had playmates in school, he would "direct" and make stories with them so that when they played pretend as superheroes, ninjas, samurais, pirates, monsters, or whatever else, they could depend on him to set up some sort of scene.
It was through such things that he got his first pieces of praise, which to an attention-starved, socially awkward kid with few friends was like an oasis in the desert that was his self-esteem.
Because it was one of the few things he was praised for as a child, he started becoming really interested in making up stories in his head or continuing stories from television shows he watched so that even after a show had long concluded, he could have it continue in his mind.
He'd made and lost friends from his obsession for making stories or proposing ideas for movies. So much so that when he hit puberty, he abandoned such childish dreams yet longed for a Hollywood-style romance with the way he unrealistically chased and wooed girls using the clichés found in romantic comedies.
Or at least in retrospect, that was what he viewed had happened. He wasn't so self-aware when he got rejected over and over by girls one after the other through his clingy, immature, and disgusting ways.
Becoming part of the Literature Club was his way of revisiting his old childhood dreams.
Anyway, once he stopped being the newbie of the Literature Club and Miss Kitamura took her kid gloves off by becoming more critical of his writing, his old self-doubts started to surface.
Little things started to happen that chipped away at his fragile ego. Trivial issues by themselves but they stuck out in his mind all the same.
For example, when making a simple short story about a millionaire playboy falling for an ordinary secretary (something straight out of a romance novel, even), he still got criticized even though he wrote with the correct story structure in mind.
"The story is fine, Yamamoto-kun," Miss Kitamura said, "But isn't it a bit... heavy in the middle? Your pacing needs work. A story, even a short story, should have proper structure. We discussed this in class, remember?"
"But I followed the structure," Yamamoto said. "It's Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis, right?"
"Whoa. When did I teach you that?" she asked.
"...I-I learned it from the Internet," he admitted. "It's the three-act structure Hollywood movies use. I mean, even foreign literature use it. It's universal. Isn't it the same for Japan?"
"No, no. You're not supposed to use a three-act structure like in overseas works. Here in Asia, such as Japan, China, and Korea, it's supposed to be Kishotenketsu, or the four-act structure."
'Kishotenketsu?' he thought to himself. If Machida were here with him, she'd joke that it sounded like a special attack in shonen (boy's) manga like Dragon Ball or something. Then she'd explain what it meant.
"Ki is the introduction. Sho is the development. Ten is the twist. Ketsu is the conclusion. It's Kishotenketsu altogether," Miss Kitamura herself broke down the individual meaning of each character. "You're missing the Sho and Ten parts, mixing it up with the Ki."
He scratched the back of his neck and then shook his head. "But isn't that the same thing, sensei?" he argued. "Just bring Ki and Sho together, Ten will serve as the Antithesis or conflict then Ketsu is the Synthesis or conclusion."
"But it's not exactly the same, Yamamoto-kun," insisted his club advisor. "The third act of a Kishotenketsu story is a complication but not a conflict. You must watch a lot of western films to follow their structure by heart, but the Hollywood audience is used to central conflicts that are supposed to be defeated every time. Sho isn't a conflict but a twist. Do you understand?"
"A story without conflict? I never even heard of it!" he complained. "All stories have conflicts! Life is defined by conflicts and resolving them!"
Kitamura riposted, "Hmmm? But you more than any student here have watched all sorts of movies. Surely you've gotten to see the same conflict-free structure in Japanese media."
"But we've covered western books and stories, so it's okay to mix it up and use their structures, right? If Shakespeare and Hemingway can use it, why not students, even if they're Japanese?"
He was about to go on a rant about how rejecting western influence and culture was what kept Japan from technologically progressing during its isolationist period, but his teacher popped his ballooning ego with pinprick precision.
"It's okay to use it, but you're not exactly Shakespeare or Hemingway. Right, Yamamoto-kun? Please use what's been taught to you. You can experiment on other forms later if you want once you get control of your stories' pacing. Follow my instructions please."
"But...!" he said before trailing off, his shoulders slumping down before he bowed at his teacher altogether. "Yes'm. Thank you for the feedback."
When he got back to his seat and discussed what had happened to Machida, the Walking Encyclopedia of Class 2B shared, "Huh. Well, maybe you should've used the eastern three-act structure. Johakyu."
"Eeeh? So I should've said I used Joha-whatever instead?"
"Well, even though they're both three-act structures, Johakyu does conclusions more abruptly than western works, which are more methodical and slow-paced. And it's an assignment where we have to use what's been taught to us."
As his so-called best friend explained what Johakyu or Jo-Ha-Kyu (literally Beginning, Break, and Rapid) meant, how it originated in Noh Theater, and had applications in martial arts, he placed his face on his desk and covered his head with his crossed arms.
Even Miku herself wouldn't defend him against Miss Kitamura's criticisms, huh?
In fact, the class rep even confirmed that movies like "Kiki's Delivery Service" by the anime maestro Hayao Miyazaki did indeed use the Kishotenketsu four-act structure.
A few weeks later...
Tomoyuki also got to read some of the works of his fellow writers in class.
Whether it was to compare notes and techniques or as an assignment to learn how to critique the works of others, Tomoyuki had his fill of amateur stories written by his peers. Many of whom were strangers to him.
For the longest time, he only had Miku Machida to talk to in class.
This was the same case as in Class 2B, actually. It took some time for him to even muster the courage to talk to the intimidating, larger-than-life Seiko Okamoto on top of him having to deal with his bullies from first year ending up in the same class as him in second year.
Even now, in Class 2B, he still had issues talking to people outside of the Seiko, Miku, and Kazuhito clique.
He was just glad he got into a clique in the first place after being thought of by most of his classmates, especially the girls, as a desperate woman-chasing stalker creep with social anxiety.
Even until now, he didn't really think he deserved Seiko's love, whether it was in this dimension or a parallel one. She was out of his league. He even had a sneaking suspicion that even her heartthrob childhood friend thought the same thing.
She shone so bright that those around her couldn't help but either be intimidated by her or want to be like her. A free spirit or muse that inspired others to become the best that they could be.
How could anyone live up to such a strong personality? His answer was simple.
They needed to change themselves to keep up with the shining light that was Okamoto or else they'd end up being swallowed by the darkness of their own jealousy (feeling like Seiko was taking away their dignity and pride by merely existing and being better than them) or envy (wanting the awesomeness of the Amazon Queen for themselves).
The difference between envy and jealousy was that envy was about wanting something you didn't have.
So Tomoyuki was envious, not jealous, of Seiko.
With the way he was now, the woman that he loved the most in two worlds also elicited other emotions in him that made him feel ashamed of himself.
Whoever heard of a lover who was envious of his beloved for merely existing and being her awesome self anyway?
Regardless, the stories his classmates wrote ranged from okay to amazing. Few were outright terrible. Sure, there were stories he couldn't care less about, but that was a matter of taste. Nearly all of them, from his point of view, put in a lot of effort in writing their amateur yet well-constructed works.
The ones who could really write good stories though were jaw-droppingly amazing.
It was hard to explain in words but if they were writing his thoughts down they'd come up with paragraphs of an engaging narrative far better than he could, as though capturing the human spirit in a few words the way a good image or picture was even better than a thousand or million words.
It particularly hurt his pride whenever they excelled in the tests, quizzes, seatwork, and homework given to them by Miss Kitamura while he himself floundered here and there despite getting high praise initially when he first joined the club.
There was also the fact that he could barely keep up with reading the litany of books that they were supposed to learn from when writing. Ironically, he joined the club mainly after finding out they included written exercises on top of merely reading and studying literature.
The ones that joined the club from the start, especially the second and third years, were used to the version of the club where they mostly talked about, analyzed, and reviewed books.
They also had an almost elitist feel to them when discussing the film versions of books. They had all sorts of complaints about how many films missed the point of the books or made "unnecessary changes" even as little ol' him knew most of his literature knowledge by their movie versions.
A third year girl in his class had actually giggled at one of his works and remarked to herself, "Heh. What is this? It reads like fan fiction."
She of course quickly apologized and said she didn't mean what she said in a bad way. And maybe she didn't. But the damage was done.
Regardless, he still persevered and took her criticism to heart. Took it like a challenge, even.
Like he had an "I'll show her!" kind of feeling in his chest. But only half of him thought that way. The other half instead thought, "What's the point in doing this and embarrassing myself further?"
His insecurity's voice just grew louder and louder still, drowning out his confidence's own pleas that sounded more and more like lies.
Regardless, he didn't give up writing even as that particularly ego-blowing critique had him miss a class or two of the Literature Club.
The continuation of the phone conversation between Tomoyuki and AU Seiko (or in her point of view, AU Tomoyuki and Seiko) when he revealed to her that he had joined the Literature Club...
"Okay, you want to know why I joined the Literature Club? Why I thought that would impress you?" he asked in an unintentionally aggressive way.
"Yes. Why? Why do you think you need to impress me?" AU Seiko asked back, forgetting she was referring to her other self in his dimension.
"Why did you fall in love with Yamamoto Tomoyuki?" he also "answered" her question with his own question.
"Why? Well, because he's nice. Friendly. He's always there for me. He's loyal. I can trust him and he'd never betray me," she said before telling Tomoyuki, "Sure, you can be moody, temperamental, or melodramatic, but those are also things I like about you! Warts and all! This is why I can't stand the thought of you trying so hard to change yourself! You don't need to! The other Seiko will like you just the way you are!"
"But think about it. When did you fall in love with my other self?" asked Yamamoto with a sigh and in a tired monotone. "Wasn't it after Sugata dumped you for Minagata?"
"...I'm sorry for saying something so hurtful," he apologized to the void of silence before them as vast as the dimensional rift between their two worlds, struggling to find the right words to say and convey his motivations to her before she even attempted to end the call.
He hoped she'd hear him out.
"It's true, though. You wouldn't have even noticed my other self had Sugata ended up choosing you instead of Minagata. I don't want to be your consolation prize after failing to get Sugata. I want to be the best I could be so that you'd choose me over him. I want to shine as bright as you would, living life to the fullest like you. You're the essence of carpe diem. I want to be worthy of you because you're out of my league but that's not stopping me from wanting to be with you, or at least another you that I can actually reach. I don't want to be a lottery winner. I want to be a self-made man."
He took a deep breath, not realizing he'd been holding it in all this time as he poured his heart out to the silent AU Okamato, begging her to understand him and his actions.
After what seemed like forever, she said, "...Baka," before hanging up.
They didn't speak to each other for many days after that mini-argument.
However, they soon forgave and forgot afterwards, apologizing to each other for the mishap.
On one hand, they couldn't stay mad at each other forever. On the other hand, the topic of Tomoyuki's new club membership and how he was using it to impress the Seiko of his world somehow never came up again.
Or maybe they both avoided it every time they talked, like the elephant in the room.
Soon, more weeks passed. Before the summer vacation came about, he kept on writing. Kept on creating. Kept on improving the best he could.
Weeks turned to months. He didn't feel like he had improved his writing ability all that much.
He tried out Kishotenketsu as Miss Kitamura taught it, but found his writing awkward and forced to read back since he had since forever followed the apparently more western three-act structure instead.
He thought that that was the standard of composing stories, even to the point of seeing it in Japanese writing and folktales that in reality had used Kishotenketsu, Johakyu, Hadouken, Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku, or whatever else.
He lagged behind classmates who were used to the Japanese writing style or read mostly Japanese literature.
Every now and again, he'd write up a worthwhile short story or essay that even Miss Kitamura would praise him for by cheating the system and claiming it was using the similar three-act Johakyu structure.
However, for the most part, his writing was riddled with errors, plot holes, plot contrivances, and inconsistent characterization that his fellow club members criticized to impunity every time they were asked to review each other's works.
Yes, they were tasked to critique each other's work to "learn from each other" every time they finished a story.
Nevertheless, he persevered with the club work. Wishing to grow. Wanting to be better than what he was before. Needing to be like Seiko Okamoto, who kept pushing herself to higher boundaries so that she remained above and beyond those before her. Or better than she was yesterday.
But people didn't change that easily. His so-called talent could only take him so far.
He kept attending the club even as he saw his club classmates weave yarns far more complex than the simple ones he made that one of them had described as "fan fiction".
He also remembered submitting many of his fresh new fountains of short stories and ideas to the Drama Club when they held a contest for students from the Literature Club to submit such works.
They were specifically looking for original manuscripts they could use for their next big play made by actual students instead of adapting existing plays from William Shakespeare or stories from Meiji Era novelists like Mori Ogai and Natsume Soseki.
Rather than pore through tomes of plays or just do Romeo and Juliet for the umpteenth time, they decided to use other resources available to them as an interclub activity. The reward? High grades, of course. Nothing monetary, they were only poor students.
Tomoyuki had several stories in mind that he could easily adapt into script form for the Drama Club to perform.
All of them were rejected one after another as either incomplete or badly written. None of them clicked with the Drama Club even as he scrambled for a plot or idea he'd come up with to turn into a play with stage directions and whatnot.
However, one of them came through and was optioned for use in the Drama Club.
The one he based off of the trailer of the "nonexistent" film "Ran" by his idol, Akira Kurosawa.
The one he "plagiarized" and turned into a manuscript.
He had AU Seiko send him screenshots of the movie and the more he saw, the more intrigued he got. She even relented and sent him an entire Wikipedia (her universe's version of Encyclopedia Britannica Online) article summarizing the plot of the movie.
He was so inspired by all this wealth of information about a film that didn't exist in his universe that he submitted his condensed version of the screenplay (or stage play) of Ran to the Drama Club contest.
In his world, information about the unfinished Kurosawa film was sparse and he only really had that trailer AU Seiko sent him to go by, but he managed to bug her enough to send him a synopsis of the story care of a series of website screenshots, which he saved on his computer and pored over as the basis for his submission.
He even got to see other clips and photos from the finished film, which "inspired" him to write his own version or "treatment" of the story.
He should've been happy for finally having his hard work pay off, but the only time he was able to win people over was through someone else's work. Akira Kurosawa's work, to be exact.
How pathetic could he get?
It was like having an artist trace the exact work and pose of another artist's work and claiming it to be his own because he made a few changes in coloring, posing, or facial expressions.
It was simply art theft. Or getting credit for something he didn't deserve to get credit for.
He blinked back tears that pelted his letter of congratulations like pebbles aimed at his back by bored bullies, the ink running and bleeding on the page like mascara from a crying whore.
What was he doing all this nonsense for anyway? What was the point? What would he get out of being in the Literature Club?
Seiko didn't even care about his writing improvements one way or another, right? Neither version of her did.
There were plenty of people in his club who were far superior to him when it came to writing that whittled away his passion for it. What was the point of writing a half-baked story when others could easily make the same idea ten times better than him?
Or make original stories of their own, at that?
Especially Miku, who could write anything from prose to doujinshi (self-published works, mainly erotic boy's love comics) to poetry with a humorous tinge to it that made you question if she really was the one who wrote her varied works (in a good way, not in a plagiarist way as in the case with him).
He then remembered why he did all this.
He joined the Literature Club to impress Seiko, who honestly couldn't care less about it and merely patted him on the back after finding out, saying, "Good for you!"
At any rate, enough was enough. This farce had gone on for too long. He knew what had to be done.
Days after Yamamoto caught wind of the "good news" that his entry for the Drama Club's contest got selected as the winner...
"YOU'RE QUITTING THE LITERATURE CLUB?" screamed AU Seiko to the point of making the audio from Tomoyuki's phone crackle and pop, which surprised him.
"Yeah," he answered, taken aback by how extreme her reaction was to his "good" news.
Wasn't this what she wanted? Didn't she want him to quit the Literature Club and "stay the way he is" or something? Women didn't know what they wanted!
She was never a fan of him ending up in that stupid club anyway, so why did she sound so distressed now?
'I can never figure out women,' he thought. Even tomboys who acted boyish were still women deep down inside, with whimsical, impulsive minds to match even the girliest of girls.
'W-Why, Yamamoto-kun...? Why are you quitting? You were doing so good! You were improving with your writing, a-and everyone...!'
Or that was what he imagined Miku would tell him when she learned the news. What he wished she'd say. However, she never said any of that. He didn't really improve his writing in the least.
Not even his so-called best friend could say such things with a straight face.
Not at this point anyway, in light of last month's events. They couldn't even keep eye contact with each other at this point. But that was an issue for another day.
Besides which, none of those things he wished had happened actually happened.
After a promising start and high marks from his club entrance exam, he had nothing to show for in his months with the club save for contempt from his fellow clubmates, disappointment from Miss Kitamura, and rejection after rejection from the Drama Club and their stupid scriptwriting contest.
All except for one entry that he couldn't really claim credit for. Not in good conscience.
Out of all the ideas he poured his heart and soul into, the one that got picked by the Drama Club was the one he barely worked on and wasn't truly his.
Rejection after rejection from his Literature Club peers and the Drama Club itself had chipped away at his self-confidence. Going to the Literature Club stopped being fun and felt more like schoolwork.
Their critiques made him want to huddle underneath the nearest table like there was an earthquake drill and bunker down there till he died.
Like pinpricks to his heart. Or maybe more like multiple rabies shots to his fingers, since those supposedly hurt more.
It was death by a thousand cuts. The straw that broke the camel's back.
And that was indeed the last straw.
He had thought he could improve himself and become a better Tomoyuki by following his dreams, but maybe in the end he was deluding himself.
"Are you serious, Yamamoto?" asked the Drama Club president.
"...Yeah." Tomoyuki bowed down deep. "I'm really sorry for doing this. I didn't think it'd come this far."
"If you say so then fine. But are you sure...?"
Although it made his insides want to crawl out of his mouth to become his "outsides" (as Yukari would joke about), Yamamoto swallowed his pride and his aching heart back into this chest and came clean to the Drama Club regarding the truth behind the "Ran" manuscript.
Well, he came clean as much as possible without him ending up in a straightjacket and hauled off to the nearest mental institution. So he still (kind of) lied by omission.
Even though it was humiliating and could get him in trouble, he kindly told the Drama Club not to adapt his manuscript into one of their plays because he had plagiarized the idea wholesale from a unfilmed movie script from renowned director Akira Kurosawa, which was actually all true to an extent.
He left out the part where he had gotten the idea from an AU version of his crush who lived in a dimension where Kurosawa's "Ran" was actually filmed to completion, contacting her through a extra-dimensional phone number he could only access through his own cellphone.
He had suggested they just adapt the runner-up of their contest or something. There was no way they should adapt his story that was stolen from someone else. It was like adapting "Heidi" then claiming credit for it.
Besides which, Tomoyuki intended on quitting the Literature Club soon after anyway, so any positive increase in his grades for extracurricular activities that winning their contest would give him were all for naught.
He couldn't live down having his Ran "fan fiction" get adapted into a play not because of the brilliance of his writing but rather because of the brilliance of Akira Kurosawa.
He wanted no part of that. Luckily, his reputation was already in the crapper to begin with due to his "Rico Suave" shenanigans with Goto, Fubuki, and Machida when he was still a creepy freshman.
No harm, no foul, right? They'd allow him to save face this time around and just let him go, perhaps?
Yeah, of course! Maybe the Drama Club would "forgive" him for "accidentally" stealing the ideas of a world-famous director and national treasure because he himself was a huge screw-up from the start anyway!
As he turned his back and began to walk away, the Drama Club President grabbed him by the shoulder, turned him around, and said, "Hey, wait a minute, Yamamoto! We're not yet finished here...!"
'...Or maybe not.'
Ah, whatever. Let them drag his name in the mud. He could take it. Just like with his exploits with Matsuda, his big school bully.
He was already used to being made into a clown.
Back to Tomoyuki sharing the "bad" news of him quitting the Literature Club to the AU version of the Amazon Queen...
"...You asked me what I love about you, right? Well, while we're on that subject, let me tell you what I hate about you instead!" said AU Seiko, her voice an octave higher, its volume rising like a TV set whose remote he'd accidentally sat on.
"Eh?" said Tomyuki, not sure of what to expect. What was this about? Why was she so upset?
He even voiced his worries out. "Why are you upset? Didn't you say before that being in the Literature Club isn't the way to impress Okamoto? Or impress you?"
"I wasn't sure if you were going to the Literature Club to run away from me! The other me! Like all the others! There, I said it!"
"...What? What are you talking about, Seiko-chan?"
"I hate it... HATE IT... when people quit on me. When they couldn't even enjoy a game or even try to play their best because they keep comparing themselves to me! They keep being intimidated by me! Especially when I beat them at games, matches, or athletic competitions! That's what happened with Kazu-kun! He gave up on me and settled with Megu-chin! He told me the same thing you're telling me now! That I don't deserve him! How dare he decide that for me! Don't I have a say on who 'deserves' me or not?!"
Whoa. He didn't know what to say to that long rant.
Like Aya Fubuki before her, AU Seiko Okamoto hit the nail right on the head. With a handy karate chop, even.
"Um," he began, gulping. He wanted to deny what she said about him, but gave up halfway through and instead said, "Okay."
Just like how he quit the Literature Club halfway through the school year.
He then asked defensively, "Well, what do you want, then? Unlike Sugata, I gave up my dream. I stayed exactly the way you wanted me to be. Were you lying when you said you wanted me to stay the same like always?"
"No, I wasn't lying," she said. "What I told you came straight from the heart, Cherry Boy."
"Then why are you so angry that I decided to quit? You hate quitters yet you also hate it when people try to live up to your example of living life to the fullest every day? You told me to not change but when I followed your advice, you hated that too! What do you want, Seiko?!"
"I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WANT, OKAY?!" she shouted back. "Is it too much to want both? Is it too much to want Kazu-kun to still want me and chase after me even as he started becoming more macho when he started shining by himself too? He stopped feeling like he's under my shadow like Megu-chin did, but when he did, that's when he left me!"
It was then that Tomoyuki realized something. Something that his universe's Megumi somewhat confirmed.
"Waaait. When Sugata left you for uh, Minagata-san, was he a crybaby? Emotional? Socially awkward?" He then cut to the chase. "Was he kind of like me right now?"
Her silence told him everything. His suspicions were correct.
This time, it was Tomoyuki who hit the nail right on the head. With a hammer, of course. He couldn't karate chop a nail like the Amazon Queen probably could.
"...Is that how shallow your love for AU Okamoto Seiko is? You're just going to quit the Literature Club like a little bitch? Or quit AU Seiko? You're not the man I fell in love with if that's the case," Seiko murmured to seemingly change the subject.
He then quietly said in turn, "Did you really fall in love with me, or a shadow of your ex-crush, Sugata Kazuhito?"
He couldn't help himself. Not because she called him a little bitch. More because he realized the reason why she fell for his other self.
She then hung up on him.
The girl he fell in love with even harder than the version of herself that was within his reach just rejected him. Told him that he wasn't the man she thought she knew.
What was he supposed to do now?
Should he stay the same way as AU Seiko's crush, AU Kazuhito, was?
Or should he pursue his passions to feel worthy of AU Seiko, despite her consternation and trauma from her Sugata abandoning her when he changed and matured?
He didn't know what to do at all.
Tomoyuki actually reached a compromise with the Drama Club president.
Because the president loved Kurosawa's "Ran" so much—or at least the Cherry Boy's treatment of it—they agreed to use the script on the condition that it was credited under Kurosawa instead of Yamamoto.
Tomoyuki decided to be a ghost writer for the "condensed script version" he made of "Ran" since he basically just copied an excerpt of the long film.
It was all described in his own words and all, but the whole idea and plot was still Kurosawa's, albeit a Kurosawa from another dimension.
It was basically the writing equivalent of tracing an existing work and recoloring it, so they should give the credit where credit was due.
For good measure, Yamamoto handed all the materials, stills, storyboards, and synopsis of "Ran" to the president as well for "extra research", claiming to have gathered them from sites filled with Kurosawa super fans.
He only held out on sending him the outright trailer for Ran, even though he could also lie and say that it was a fan trailer or something.
Regardless, everything ended up peachy. "All's well that ends well", as Shakespeare would say. Or write.
Tomoyuki and Seiko (the non-AU one) greeted each other casually at the hallway leading to the cafeteria.
"Miku-chin still isn't talking to you, is she?" Seiko asked.
He shook his head, his mouth turning into a thin line in remembrance of last month's events. He didn't want to broach that topic right now though. He had other things in his mind.
"Did you quit the Literature Club to get away from her too?" she probed further.
"No, nothing like that," he confessed. "It was more because of personal reasons, really. I just wasn't feeling the club at all."
She slung her arm over his shoulders. "Them's the breaks, I guess. If you want to quit, then quit. There's no point in forcing yourself to do something that doesn't make you happy anymore, right?"
He nodded, inwardly amazed at how well this Seiko was taking his news. It was like night and day. "I guess you're right."
"Hey, Cherry Boy. Have you ever heard of the Gracie Hunter?"
Yamamoto almost said yes but caught himself at the last second. He second-guessed his answer, realizing that he might've heard of Kazushi Sakuraba from AU Seiko instead of Non-AU Seiko.
"Uh, who is that?" he feigned ignorance.
The Amazon Queen's eyes sparked joy in way he imagined AU Amazon Queen did when talking about something that excited her.
"His name is Sakuraba Kazushi. He's a pro-wrestler who decided to enter MMA then became a legend afterwards. He had an amazing career as an MMA fighter."
At the back of Tomoyuki's mind, he wondered how the Sakuraba of their universe differed from the Sakuraba of AU Seiko's world as the Seiko of his world kept talking about the Gracie Hunter's achievements.
Long story short, the "shoot wrestler" Kazushi Sakuraba earned the nickname "Gracie Hunter" by defeating all of the who's who of the Gracie Family, a Brazilian Family who developed Japanese jujutsu into their own more ground-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu style.
Jiu-jitsu took Brazil by storm due to the 790 Japanese immigrants that went there back in 1908 to fill in labor shortages in coffee plantations. Japanese culture permeated into the land, which led to Brazilians learning the Japanese martial art of jujutsu.
Brazilian martial artist Helio Gracie, along with his brothers Carlos and George Gracie, founded the self-defense martial arts system known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which was also known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
These badass martial artists went about their version of jujutsu in a different way than all other martial arts like aikido and karate, with them willing to actually fight people in the streets to showcase the practical applications of their self-defense school.
From what Tomoyuki understood from AU Okamoto's explanation, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tournament came about mostly as a method of showcasing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as the ultimate martial art above all.
They also had Royce, the smallest brother of the Gracies, participate in the first UFC in order to show how their jiu-jitsu, not brute strength, was really the best martial art around.
At least in AU Seiko's universe, Sakuraba beat Royler, Royce, Renzo, and Ryan Gracie one after the other. His one defeat by a Gracie, a rematch against Royce in "K-1 Dynamite! USA" in 2007, came about when Kazushi was past his prime and Royce tested positive for using steroids.
All the others fell against Sakuraba one after another. Royler was beaten by TKO (referee intervention while under the Kimura Lock) in the second round. His first match with Royce, the first-ever UFC Champion, also ended in TKO. He earned his "Gracie Hunter" moniker after those matches.
Then there was Renzo, whose arm Sakuraba broke, resulting in a referee stoppage due to injury. Famously, Renzo refused to tap out to a submission like his father Helio before him (who never tapped out) and his brother Royler who went unconscious while under Kazushi's Kimura Lock.
Finally, Sakuraba fought an injured Ryan Gracie. Because of a shoulder injury, the bout was limited to a single 10-minute round. Kazushi won the round handily while avoiding attacks on the younger fighter's arm. Later, the Gracie Hunter argued that Ryan faked the injury in order to catch him off-guard with a submission.
This amazing run was all done by a pro-wrestler, weirdly enough. For someone who belonged in an industry known for predetermined matches, the pro-wrestler showed that the unorthodox showmanship of professional wrestling could work against "real" martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The irony was that the guy from the fake sport was able to beat tough guys who claimed their sport was the realest sport out there. In both the universes of Tomoyuki and AU Seiko, at that.
'I wonder why the Amazon Queen brought this up?' he thought to himself. Was she trying to cheer him up? Tell him that even though he wasn't that great of a writer, he shouldn't give up so easily or something, like Kazushi Sakuraba did?
He then brought up, "Did this Gracie Hunter MMA guy fight every last Gracie?"
"Hmmm? Oh right. He never fought Renzo Gracie. That was one of Renzo's greatest regrets, to not be able to fight and defeat the greatest thorn in the Gracie Family's side," informed Seiko.
"Wait, no. Wasn't it Rickson Gracie?" Tomoyuki corrected Okamoto absentmindedly, only to retract and say, "I may be mistaken though."
Seiko laughed. "Silly Cherry Boy. Rickson is the Gracie whose arm Sakuraba broke! Renzo is the one who never fought Sakuraba and claims he would've whupped his ass given the chance."
"Oh yeah. My bad," he said while mentally taking note that in their universe, it was Renzo who Sakuraba never fought and it was Rickson whose arm he broke when attempting to submit him with an armbar.
Seiko laughed in her tomboyish way, punching Yamamoto's arm with a smile. A sighing Tomoyuki gave her a wan smile in return. "You're not going to tell me that you remind me of Sakuraba or something, right? The guy sounds like a genius."
"Hmmm? Oh no, you're nothing like Sakuraba, Cherry Boy," said the Amazon Queen. "You quit your club. Sakuraba was a mid-card wrestler who somehow showed everyone he's very skilled in actual shoot fighting!"
Tomoyuki chuckled at that. "I guess you're right."
The Non-AU Amazon Queen then said, "If Sakuraba had settled to being a mid-card wrestler, he wouldn't be the legend he is today."
He asked, "Do you think less of me for quitting the club?"
She answered, "No. Like I said, you should do whatever you want. If you're really tired of going to that club, find some other passion. It's up to you to decide if the Literature Club is your passion or not."
A week or so later after quitting, Tomoyuki swallowed his pride once more and decided to rejoin the Literature Club.
He had finally found his resolve.
It was embarrassing to go back there like a spoiled Prima Donna, quitting on the club only to come crawling back.
He also had to face Miku as well and start talking to her once more.
Thankfully, the members thought that the reason why he quit was because of the drama between him and the 2B Class Rep instead of him losing his nerve and confidence in his writing abilities.
The returning Tomoyuku and the quiet Machida mostly engaged in small talk but it was a start.
He considered never returning to that club room in sheer embarrassment and shame, but then he realized that even if the plagiarized "Ran" script was his only shining beacon in his so far mediocre works, he still appreciated what the Drama Club president told him about it.
"I liked your version of the script. It wasn't bad. I understand that you took it from another source. Please let us use it. We'll credit you both and Akira Kurosawa, if you want."
It made him want to make a story of his own that didn't extensively crib or use plot points from one of Akira Kurosawa's masterpieces (even if that masterpiece didn't exist in their universe).
He wanted to, for once, be praised for something he made. All on his own. Through his own effort. No matter how long it took for him to shape and improve his current skill level.
His dream of becoming a writer wasn't dead. He wouldn't let it die so easily, or else it wasn't really his passion in the first place.
Like Kazuhito, he'd become a man worthy of the Amazon Queen in his own terms. So he'd stop letting his own insecurities sabotage what he and Seiko had. 'Have.'
He had wondered whether he was doing this for himself or for Seiko.
He realized he was moving towards bettering himself for the both of them, and that was okay.
Their blossoming romance should bloom. They should move forward together instead of becoming toxic to one another. So that they could shine together. So that they could both decide that they were "worthy" of each other's love.
To Be Continued...
By the way, this chapter goes through a span of a few months, but the next chapter will go back to the same month when he first joined the Literature Club. Near the time he celebrated his birthday.
Also, shout out to Doki Doki Literature Club. Helluva game and helluva paradigm shift at the midpoint of the story (you know the one).
Hope everyone's looking forward to the Tanabata Festival.