As long as we stay in the classroom, we cannot escape the school caste. If you put all the students in a closed place. It is natural for them to form groups with similar interests and values.
And so it all began. A vague hierarchy gradually blossomed in the place. At the same time transparent ties were created that gave some a strong confidence, and others a pitiful curse to exist.
Even within sports such as soccer and basketball they make a great impression on spectators. Baseball does not have the same merits and is often underrated by the aforementioned. It is quite confusing, and shows too many uncertainties.
But Otaku hobbies are becoming more and more popular in the public eye… It’s okay if you’re a fan of manga, idols, voice actors, or if you just like model trains. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what you enjoy the most in your free time… The biggest mistake you can make is when you take it to the extremes. Because these same hobbies can turn against you.
Your tastes are not to blame. It’s the prejudices that are created around it. That’s the life we live in, we are surrounded by an atmosphere of unquestionable and unfounded prejudices.
It’s great to be able to make a living out of something you love. It’s really beautiful. But, not all that glitters is gold.
It is even more pleasant to have frivolous hobbies. But a hobby is not something to which you should devote yourself out of passion. That which you love and like the most, ends up becoming a curse that makes you feel suffocated because it becomes an obligation.
…It’s not so bad to live on the shadow side. As long as you have an unshakable core in yourself. No matter how you stray from the path. No matter what you think, what others get to say about you. You will always be where you stand.
…Or so we all would like to say.
This is the story of Sou Tsukigase. A first year high school student. He has a heavy hobby that he carries with him like a curse, and he lives with that secret deep inside him without being able to be honest with anyone.
—Sou, would you like to go to Karaoke together?
After classes ended, someone stopped me. As soon as I turned around, I saw that none of my classmates had decided to leave yet, they were all sitting in their respective seats. It was very strange, even so, I decided not to pay attention to it.
The person turned out to be a friend of mine. Naoya Ozeki. He’s a little shorter than me, so my eyes automatically went to his flattened hair.
This morning when he had arrived at school, his hair was standing on end, although there was something rather unusual about it, a white powder appeared on his head due to too much gel. So as soon as I let him know, he quickly ran to the bathroom to wash his hair and returned to the classroom looking like a wet rat.
The whole class burst out laughing at the sight of him like that. As cruel as it may sound, no one did it with the intention of making fun or making him feel bad, but as a funny situation that anyone would have laughed at.
—I think you should avoid using so much gel.
Naoya laughed shyly at my words. He tends to be a guy that everyone in the place likes, and he’s also one of my best friends.
—Going to a Karaoke together? Is that some kind of social gathering? I’ve never been to that place before.
It’s been a few weeks since the start of the school year, and during that period of time, everyone in the classroom has already established their own groups of friends. And I had no desire to go to a Karaoke session with anyone.
—I have things to do. So I can’t go with you.
—H—Hey, wait…! You should come with us.
Naoya spoke firmly as if trying to make his position very clear.
—Hoshino-san insisted that you stay.
—Hoshino-san? What are her intentions with me?
—I don’t know… I think she wants to interact more with people in her class.
The Karaoke invitation turned out to be an inter-caste party hosted by the Ice Empress. Due to the magnitude of the affair, I decided to look around the classroom.
It was then that our eyes met. While most of the girls were chatting amongst themselves because of my disinterested attitude to the invitation. Hoshino-san didn’t seem to mind at all.
In a classroom that had lost the color of its surroundings. Hoshino-san and I stood out in the crowd, looking at each other absorbed in our own world. And that’s when she made her presence known. Shiori Hoshino. The charismatic girl who reigns supreme in this high school.
The reason she is on top of everything is because she is beautiful, and she always dresses fashionably. Her appearance is truly overwhelming. Her black hair is strangely weightless, and her eyes are big and mysterious. She was the perfect example of being a peerless beauty.
The way she is dressed represents both worlds. On top she was wearing a sweater with a very masculine look. While the bottom part she was wearing a fluffy skirt that gave off a lot of femininity.
The balance of her clothes was perfect, it was very elegant and gives an air of sophistication even to those who are not familiar with fashion.
At my high school, students are allowed to wear uniforms, but we can also choose to wear casual clothes to school. Status is everything. Coming in casual clothes is the equivalent of demonstrating your fighting powers among other students. In other words. Here you fight with fashion.
Naoya and I are the kind of people who don’t trust their style or have an eye for fashion, preferring to wear uniforms. In other words, we are the typical shady characters in an open-world video game. In this high school, wearing a school uniform segregates you from the start, making you reflect as a negative person.
As I was lost in thought. I hadn’t noticed that Shiori Hoshino herself had approached me smilingly, and shook my hand. I was so surprised that I didn’t know how to react. And the expression on her face was as if she was saying to me; ‘say hello’.
—Will you join her? You won’t be able to survive in this institute if you go against the ice empress.
Naoya asked me in a brittle voice.
—I really have things to do. I’m not using an excuse to run away or anything like that.
I took one last look at Shiori. She had quite a piercing look on me. Then I turned my back on her, and walked out of the place. I was the only person who had the courage to leave the classroom.
I’m someone who usually rides my bike to school from home. But instead of going in the usual direction, I took a different route that went in the direction of the train station. I parked my bicycle there, and then took the train making several stops along the way. From Saitama I went to Tokyo, and from Tokyo I arrived in Ikebukuro.
The girls in my class usually come to this place to shop for clothes, but… My destination was to go to a fashion store. I detoured down a deserted alley and down into a dimly lit basement of a building where high school students are unlikely to come…. The heavy door opened and light flooded in. From the light, a girl rushed at me.
—You’re late, Onii-chan!
—You’re wrong. I arrived ten minutes before our appointed time.
The person who spoke to me and perched on me was my pretty sister.
I took out my phone to check the time. I was relieved to see that I was able to arrive before the agreed time. It is very polite to arrive earlier at a place where someone is waiting for you.
—But you were slower than me!
—You just got home from school, right?
She is Tsukigase Manaka, my stepsister. She is one year younger than me. She is short, but has great style, a very small face and long legs.
Her eyes are big and bright. It’s natural that we don’t look alike since we are step-brothers…. She is a beautiful girl who seems to have stepped out of a fantasy world. She is someone who tends to express her emotions with ease, and her face is perfect for acting.
I took a huge digital SLR camera out of my backpack, and then left the rest of my belongings at the reception desk.
Manaka had finished her classes before me and had brought a huge tote bag from home. Everything she was going to need for what was coming was in there.
We entered the space we had reserved, and it turned out to be a photo studio specializing in cosplay.
—It’s time to get started on this!
When Manaka opened her carry-on suitcase, she found the garment she had made herself folded. It took her about a month to make it. And it wasn’t until a few days ago that she finished the job. However, a cosplay costume does not end there. It needs suitable content and a stage.
Manaka handed me her wardrobe to hold and started changing clothes. Since it was the kind of studio that didn’t have a wardrobe, Manaka made the change right behind me, but since we’re both siblings, that’s not a big problem… After changing her clothes, she took out her makeup case and then started her facial beautification.
—How do I look, Onii-chan?
Manaka, who had just changed her clothes, stood in front of me. She even wore her hair up with a hair net. It’s quite a useful product if you want to hide your original hair and wear a wig.
After several minutes. Manaka finished her makeup, and expressed a lot of excitement about wanting to get started. Now it was up to me to make that charm shine through better in the photos, putting the responsibility of making her look more attractive on camera and a slight adult sensuality on my shoulders.
The makeup Manaka applied on her white skin did not have much to hide. Rather, it was meant to bring out her big eyes even more, to denote a more outlined nose. And her natural beauty was not enough to live up to a fantasy cosplay photo shoot.
And it was here that everything in my mind disappeared. My classmates, the caste, the meeting at Karaoke, and Hoshino Shiori’s mysterious intentions. That was cosplay for me. My escape from reality, and from doing what I wanted most.
The intensity and direction of the different lights are carefully adjusted to create the ideal shadows. In the center of the place, Manaka begins to dance as if she were a delicate fairy. She was probably the most beautiful woman in the world. I then pressed the shutter of the camera, in order to capture the beautiful world I was witnessing in front of me.
The photos taken are transferred to a laptop, and adjusted in an editing software… Once that process is finished, they are uploaded to the internet under the name of the cosplayer ‘Manamana’. And it turns out that she is one of the most famous cosplayers in Japan.
Her name shines in the world of shadows.
And I was happy like that without knowing it. Normal high school life and the loneliness of youth were commonplace in my life. And… I never imagined that someday I would have to worry about getting a girlfriend.