The Axis of Solitude

If form, in itself, is the object of desire, then function must necessarily bow out with grace.

Time for club activities.

For a number of people who spend their lives speaking without speaking, this club is the only place of refuge.

I, too, count myself amongst these people. That goes without saying.

"Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon."

I dropped my bag onto the floor and took a seat as I returned the greeting that had been offered to me. A greeting from the beautiful girl who was now seated opposite me. A high school boy and a high school girl, together in a room. A situation that has been seen in many light novels, to be sure, but none of those story-like developments were going to occur today. This was not a place for hot-headed arguments. Nor was it intended to be a place for romance, even though I could not deny the possibility, however minute, existed. As for battles, explosions, and the like...Why bother even entertaining those impossible ideas?

This place - this classroom -is a place for refuge. Nothing more than that, but certainly nothing less than that as well.

Both for her, and myself. And for the others who aren't present for today.

"And what do you have to say today?" The girl closed the book she was reading and placed it gently on the table.

Shizuki Rin. I have known countless guys who have fallen for her. And similarly, countless girls who can't stand the sight of her. She shines too brightly for them. Quite ironic considering her dark, raven-colored locks. That astonishing, breath-taking beauty of hers...

It doesn't reach me.

That is not to say that I truly can't understand her beauty. Take, for a moment, this crude analogy of mine. It is possible for a person wielding a sword to hit someone else standing on the same level as him. But what if that same target is in fact somehow in the air, or digging under the ground of the sword wielder?

Whether you have the most skilled swordsman in the world, or an completely inexperienced novice - the result is the same. The wielder of the sword, and the target - the existences of those two people are on different levels. There is no common point between them.

And so the same applies for me. It has nothing to do with Shizuki. There is no common point between me and her, that's all. That beauty of hers might as well not exist to me.

The irony of it all, of course, is that this characteristic of mine is precisely what she is seeking.

"I have nothing to say, Shizuki-san. Please feel free to confide in me if you wish to do so, however."

"Ah. Thank you."

She nodded and smiled, but said nothing further.

Kindred spirits. That was the way to describe everyone in this club in a single phrase. And in the company of a kindred spirit such as her, I found myself quite at peace.

Neither of us said anything else for the rest of the day. We passed the time in silence - but not in solitude.

Here, at this certain prestigious high school that I am attending, there exists a special club by the name of the Social Research Club. If nothing else, it is special simply because it is not a club at all. There are no real club activities, nor does it have a budget. There is no club president, nor any kind of executive position.

What I can't deny, however, is that it does have a purpose. Its continued existence could be partly be attributed to its status as the brainchild of the teacher in charge as its advisor, but it would not have survived until now with the backing of a mere solitary teacher. The best way to explain the benefit of the club is to say that it is a club that is of use.

Even someone like me will admit that.

As for what exact purpose the Social Research Club serves -

"Yo, Amagiri."

I looked up at the person who had greeted me, and narrowed my eyes.

Who the hell is this guy?

To be exact, it's not like I have no idea whatsoever who he is. He's definitely one of my classmates. However, it's only been a week since the start of my year as a second-year student, and I'd never seen this guy before in my first year. It's only to be expected that I wouldn't remember him in the span of a single week.

"Sup," I replied.

"Heading to club activities? Most of the 'go-home' club members would have left by now, I think!"

I couldn't help but stare the wide grin stretched across his face. Just what was so amusing about a statement like that? It was really just meaningless. It didn't do any harm, but it had no worth, either. Just pointless small talk.

"No, not really. I'm just hanging around. I don't belong to any club, I just don't like rushing back home. Besides, Tanaka-sensei did end the lesson late, you know."

This is not a rule or anything like that, but most members of the Social Research Club don't usually admit that they belong to it. In the first place, the club doesn't do any kind of recruitment drive, and most of the student body have no idea that it even exists. Most members find their way there thanks to the advisor.

Besides, the kind of person who would join the Social Research Club isn't one that would explain all of these details to other people. It simply isn't worth the effort.

"Ah, I see, I see. That's true. By the way - "

What? You're still going to keep talking? Annoying. Noisy. What are you even here for anyway? Honestly, just get out of my way.

Of course, no normal person is going to say that, regardless of how they actually feel. And this guy - whoever he is - is just trying to be friendly. He doesn't mean any harm, and there's no way he knows what I'm thinking. He's not a mind-reader. The least I can do is try to be cordial.

"Is that Shizuki Rin I see over there?" he said.

I turned my head.

The girl in question was indeed standing next to a window a fair distance away. She was reading a book as usual, but the mere sight of her was enough to draw a lot of attention from the other students in the corridor. Only someone like me could have failed to notice the chain effect her presence had on her surroundings.

She was, in all likelihood, looking for me.

I put on a smile and said, "So I'm not actually the person you're looking for, huh?"

Even if I wasn't in good spirits at all myself, it posed no difficulty for me to put on an act otherwise. There's nothing special about this; everyone does it.

"No, no, don't get the wrong idea!" the nameless boy replied hastily. "I was just wondering if you actually knew her. I've heard rumours, but..." he trailed off hopefully.

Amongst the myriad reasons that cause me to be bothered by others, it would probably not be an exaggeration to say that Shizuki Rin's existence ought to be at the top of the list. She was, after all, a person that many people found difficult to approach. However, due to various reasons - like our joint membership in the Social Research Club - we have been seen talking together a few times, and I have come to be known as an acquaintance of hers. As a result, there would occasionally be random people showing up who want to find out more about her.

It irked me to have to have to do something that did not benefit me, but I decided to give the nameless boy the information he was looking for anyway. He looked like the persistent sort.

"We met before when we were younger through some relations of mine. We don't know each other well at all, but she comes over to greet me sometimes. I guess she feels that it's her duty or something, but honestly it's just such a drag," I replied, shaking my head.

Of course, since my goal is just to escape from this guy, there was no reason for me to tell the truth.

"Ah, how polite of her."

Another one, as I like to call it, bites the dust.

I've seen this happen too often to not understand his feelings. Just looking at his expression was enough to tell me that he had fallen for her, just like all the other guys who came before him.

Well, none of that has anything to do with me. I can't understand the way he feels, anyway.

"I suppose I'd better go greet her. If you don't mind - ?" I tilted my head in her direction.

"Oh! Well - " he paused for a brief but perceptible moment. "No, of course...See you tomorrow, Amagiri."

I excused myself and headed over to Shizuki, who was still nonchalantly reading her book.

"Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon."

"Do you have nothing better to do?" I lowered my voice to a whisper.

She very obligingly followed suit. "Actually, yes, that is the case. There's no one in the club room right now, and I doubt that anyone else plans on coming later. I thought that I could rely on you to show up, Amagiri-kun, but..."

"My last class ran over time."

"I see. Well, there is no harm in coming over here and checking, is there? And I get to meet you earlier too, Amagiri-kun!"

She opened her eyes very wide and clasped her hands together.

I raised an eyebrow and lowered my head, staring at my feet. I'm tired of these antics. Just listening to those words saps my strength.

"Don't bother, your charms don't work on me."

"Hm. Thank you."

It would have been rather a strange reply if it had been said by anybody else, but those words of gratitude sounded quite sincere to me. They were certainly much more sincere than the nonsense that she had been blabbering on about just before. Shizuki Rin was a kindred spirit of mine, after all. At the very least, we understood how each other thought.

"Well then. I'll see you in the club room, Amagiri-kun."

I nodded. Of course she would. Ever since I joined the club, there hasn't been a single day where I haven't been there.

I returned my voice to its normal level and said, "Well then. See you tomorrow."

"See you tomorrow."

And we both went our separate ways after that. There are many paths that lead to the same place, after all.

Up until now, I've been beating around the bush, but to be direct, the purpose of the Social Research Club is very simple. It is a gathering of broken people. Or at least, that's how I view it. I'm sure some of the other members view it differently. In my view, those people just don't know they're broken. Similarly, those same people probably think that I'm the most messed up person to ever exist on this Earth. Who knows? Well, whatever. At the end of the day, the result is the same, so there's no merit in thinking too much about it.

We're all broken.

It's not like we all underwent the greatest trauma in the world. Nor were we tortured beyond the limits of human imagination by some sick person. It's nothing like that.

Every human, through their journey in life, will have to face obstacles, roadblocks, stress, worry. That's only normal. Everyone will have to face some troubles. No matter the rich, the powerful, the well-known, the gifted, the fortunate, the poor, the sick, the hungry, the talentless, the cursed people - there's no such thing as a person free from troubles.

Of course, the weight that each person has to bear is naturally different. We all lead different lives. But the crux of the matter is that none of us have led a life that could be really be considered as out of the ordinary, or disadvantaged, or ill-fated. The real difference lies within each of us.

To put it in a word, we are weak.

To face the same kind of difficulty, the same kind of trouble that everyone else does - we can't do it. We ended up broken from the strain. Be it myself, Shizuki Rin, or the rest of the club members - that holds true for all of us. Each of us has a different story, but the end result is the only thing that doesn't differ.

And that's why we gather in this place. To talk to each other, to know each other, to lick each others' wounds, to receive acceptance from each other, to find some peace. Because only we can do this for each other.

If us broken people can at least find some peace amongst our kindred spirits, then that's enough reason for this club to exist.

Or, at the very least, that is how I view it. I wouldn't know how the others think.

That's why - just like I'm doing right now - I open the door to the clubroom. Every day. Because if I step inside, maybe one day, salvation will be waiting behind that door.