It was a Sunday evening during winter break. A light dusting of snow was falling outside the window, while inside a heater was keeping the group warm and toasty. A soft murmuring could be heard as a quiet conversation was taking place.
Maeda Hiroshi was laying on the room's sole bed, quietly thinking to himself. He felt very warm and relaxed despite the cold weather, even with the heater and the other people present. If he had to really think about it, that warmth might not have been simply physical.
Looking to his left he smiled. Mana-chan was dozing off as she held onto his arm, her face even more cute now with her relaxed expression smooshed against the pillow. Behind her was Kazuko spooning her and already fast asleep. The star runner had a pleased quirk to her mouth as she snuggled with Mana-chan.
To his right were Akane and Fumika. Akane had her back to him as she held Fumika close, both of them talking softly to each other. Akane's long black hair was as pretty and lustrous as ever. It's scent, so close to Hiroshi's nose, was a reassuring smell.
The blanket kept them decent for the most part but the skin that Hiroshi could see was a pleasant sight to see.
Craning his neck a little, Hiroshi tried to find Haru-chan and Natsu-chan. Over the side of the bed he could see some legs and a bit of someone's torso, the blanket covering most of it. Was that Natsu-chan or Haru-chan? Hiroshi could hear some soft lip-smacking noises coming from them. The twins were off in their own little world again.
Those two were lying on a futon on the floor close to the bed. The bed was big, big enough to have five people close together, but not big enough for seven. The twins volunteered to take the floor since they were more interested in each other anyway, as has always been the case.
Laying back down, Hiroshi couldn't help but marvel at the predicament he was in. He was in bed with six girls-- well, four, but the other two had tunnel vision for each other most of the time.
He was in a strange, unorthodox relationship with six beautiful and amazing girls. And it's all because of this weird black-haired, red-eyed Onee-san over here. Hiroshi thought as he looked again at the back of Akane's head.
Shaking his own head, he couldn't help but smile in bemusement as he remembered how he met her and all her antics up until this point. Seriously, this girl is the strangest person I've ever met, He thought. His eyes then turned softer. And I love her. I love all of them.
Shaking his head again he closed his eyes to get some sleep. And once again he hoped that when he next opened them again, all of this wouldn't have been a dream.
"All I'm saying is that they missed an opportunity with that scene. They built it up so much, but when it finally happened it was so boring!" Gotou was saying. Murata Gotou was a bit lanky for someone his age but had a decent enough face. A shame that he came across as a little brash with the girls. If he had a bit more tact then he might have been slightly popular. Of course, that was disregarding his anime and gaming habits.
"It seemed fine to me. What were you expecting to happen?" Katsuo asked. Takeda Katsuo was a little on the short side and had what Hiroshi heard the girls refer to as a little brother aura. He too might have had some popularity if not for the tendency to trip over his own tongue around girls. Funnily enough, some actually found that cute. A shame Katsuo didn't think to capitalize on that.
"Something a bit more dramatic. Like pumped up music in the background or Temerin and Sonya confronting each other after how they left things. Or even Mashantei busting in with one of his uplifting speeches." Gotou ranted. "Something that would make me think, "Oh snap! Shit is going down!""
"Ahh, yeah I get it. Now that you mention it Temerin and Sonya should have been a bit more tense with each other." Katsuo agreed.
"See?" Gotou said proudly, having won the argument. Because almost everything was an argument with Gotou.
Those two were sitting together at Katsuo's desk near the back of the classroom. Their "discussion" was mostly quiet except for the few times that Gotou would exclaim something. Hiroshi was sitting two desks over to their left and was trying to stay out of their talks for the most part.
"Hey, Hiro," Hiroshi heard Gotou call out. "When are you gunna get around to playing it?"
"Hmm... When I have time?" Hiroshi said, not really wanting to give a straight answer.
"You have plenty of time in the going-home club." Gotou said. Tone as flat as can be.
"Hmm... When I don't have to study?" Hiroshi said, once again trying to dodge the question.
"How often do you study?" Katsuo asked skeptically. "You're already near the top of the class and I've never seen you take your studies seriously you bastard."
"Hey, just because you don't see it, doesn't mean that it doesn't happen." Hiroshi defended. He was actually quite serious when he chose to be. He just didn't want to be serious all the time.
"Yeah, yeah," Gotou said, not sounding like he believed him. "Hurry up and play so that I can talk with someone other than Katsu about it."
"Look, this Knights of Something Something just doesn't seem like my kind of thing." Hiroshi relented.
"It's Knights of Tempered Grace and I completely disagree. This game is way up your alley." Gotou said with conviction.
"What would you know about my alley? You haven't been up there." Hiroshi quiped.
A couple groups of fellow students in the classroom giggled when he said that. The girls whispering to each other.
"Dude... That wasn't cool." Gotou told him, annoyance clear on his face. Katsuo was trying not to giggle himself but couldn't help it when Gotou turned to glare at him. Katsuo laughed a little louder.
As those two were laughing and glaring at each other Hiroshi just grinned and rested his chin on his hand and went back to waiting for lunch to end. They still had a ways to go before the bell rang though.
His eyes roamed around the room lazily. Those two groups of students had mostly gone back to their own conversations now. But one girl caught his eye. She was glancing back at him but her eyes shot forward once she realized he noticed her looking.
She was sitting with one of the class cliques but seemed like she was on the edge instead of being truly included. Why that certain detail stuck out to Hiroshi, he had no clue.
What was her name, again?
She was quite nice looking too. Maybe not all powdered up like some of the other girls, but certainly pretty. She had the expected black hair of just about every Asian, worn short with a couple cute hair clips to control her bangs.
During his observation of her she glanced back and froze seeing that he was still looking. Instead of becoming flustered like other boys his age might, he just waved nonchalantly. She then blinked before waving back a little uncertainly.
Hiroshi smiled at her before going back to looking about the room lazily not noticing, or choosing not to notice the girl looking for a bit longer before turning back to her friends.
Fujiwara. That was it. Fujiwara-san.
A moment later the door at the back of the classroom opened up. Hiroshi turned to look only to see a boy that would have been a pretty-boy that all the girls would gush over if not for the fact that all the girls in school already knew of his flirty ways. Though, he never really took it too far and most were able to laugh off his attempts.
"Hey fools." Fukuda Daiki greeted Gotou and Katsuo.
He also had a mouth on him.
"Oi." Gotou objected.
"Another one that doesn't play games anymore has appeared." Katsuo lamented.
"What do you want, pretty-boy?" Gotou flatly asked.
"What? Can't I hang out with my friends anymore?" Daiki asked dramatically.
"Sure you can. In the class next door, that is."
"Ah, so cold Gotou." Daiki pretended to cry.
"Your friends hanging out with their clubmates again?" Hiroshi asked.
"Yeah, so I'm all alone." Daiki told Hiroshi. He then took a seat in front of Hiroshi's desk.
"Why don't you just hang out with them?" Katsuo asked.
"What? You really don't want to hang out with me?" The fake tears were back.
Katsuo just looked on with a deadpan expression, waiting for Daiki to get over his theatrics.
Daiki sighed. "I'm not really that fond of them. So I make excuses to stay clear."
"What's so bad about them?" Gotou asked.
"I'm not sure myself. They just seem to rub me the wrong way." Daiki confessed.
"And we rub you the right way?" Gotou questioned.
"There's a dirty joke in there somewhere." Hiroshi said to himself. Loud enough for a girl in a neighboring group to hear and start choking on her juice box.
Gotou went back to glaring in Hiroshi's direction. A glare that Hiroshi pretended to not notice.
"I don't know what it is about them. They might actually be really nice, but that isn't the impression I get." Daiki said, smiling at Hiroshi's joke.
"Maybe you're thinking too much about it." Katsuo suggested.
The door at the back of the classroom opened for a second time just as Daiki was saying that. This time a feminine voice called out. "Excuse me? Oh? Daiki-kun, what are you doing here?"
"Akane-san!" Daiki addressed the newcomer. "Err, I'm just spending time with friends."
In fact, just about everyone in the class greeted her.
"Akane-san, what brings you here?"
"Akane-san, how are you?"
The girl got the most welcoming behavior Hiroshi had ever seen anyone get outside of celebrities. However, this wasn't news. This happened pretty much all the time. For this girl was pretty much the older sister of the entire school. Even though she was a second year like him. Even third years liked her.
And it wasn't that difficult to see why. Kurosawa Akane was a beauty. Long sleek black hair with oddly red eyes that she claims came from a European ancestor. Though, Hiroshi had only ever heard of albinos having red eyes. Besides that, Akane-san had the aura of elegance and good behavior. Pretty much everyone admired her, both boys and girls. Not only that but she also seemed very down to earth, making her an approachable person.
Hiroshi expected her to be the sort to get a constant flow of love letters and confessions on a regular basis. There had been many a broken heart in her time in this school, and yet no one ever seemed to be bitter about it.
After smiling and responding to everyone Akane-san turned to address the class representative. "Ritsuko-san, I was told to tell you that there will be a short meeting for all class representatives after school today."
"I see. Thank you very much, Akane-san!" Ritsuko said, simply gushing her gratitude as she gave a short bow.
"It was no trouble at all. Enjoy the rest of your lunch." Akane said, not only to the rep but to all the others who had paid attention to the exchange. They all gave their versions of thanks before Akane came over to Hiroshi's little group.
"You're not switching sides now are you Daiki-kun?" She joked, a pleasant smile on her face.
"Haha, no nothing like that Akane-san." Daiki said, blushing a little at having to address the school's idol. Even though they were in the same class together. "Just spending my lunchtime with friends."
Akane-san looked over the three other boys in the group. She gave each a smile that had Gotou and Katsuo blushing up a storm. When she looked at Hiroshi he couldn't help but feel like he was being assessed and weighed, her gaze lingering longer than with the other two.
"That's fine, as long as we don't lose one of our best runners before the sports festival." She told Daiki with a bit of cheekiness in her tone.
"Ahaha, there's no way that's going to happen, Akane-san." Daiki laughed with her. "There's no way the teachers would let me switch classes like that."
Akane grinned before addressing all four of them. "Well, I'd better leave you to the rest of your lunch break. Bye."
"See you in class." Daiki said.
That was Katsuo, getting flustered that he tripped over his goodbye because he was flustered already.
This time it was Gotou's turn to laugh. ""B-Bye,"...pfft, hahaha!"
"Shut up!" Was Katsuo's retort.
Hiroshi heard a contented sigh come from Daiki. "Aren't you jealous that I'm in the same class as Akane-san?"
Both Gotou and Katsuo glowered at Daiki and his look of happiness. Hiroshi just shrugged.
Oddly enough, Hiroshi had spoken to her a few times already. In fact, she seemed to have sought him out for conversations each time. And each conversation was just a little odd.
Like the time she asked for his thoughts on women in the workplace. Or the time she wanted his opinion on same-sex relationships. Or the time she asked what he thought of men's behavior around women, and women's behavior around men. Or that discussion they had a couple days ago about gender equality in Japan.
Really odd topics for a high schooler to be discussing, but each time he gave her his honest thoughts. And every time it felt like he was being weighed by some invisible scales.
Hiroshi could hear his classmates still talking about her long after she left. They were going on about how pretty she was or how proper and polite she was. But for Hiroshi, it felt like all of that was an act. Which he didn't really blame her for. Everyone had some kind of hidden self that they didn't show the world. It was natural really.
But Akane-san's behavior nagged at him. All the weird questions. The philosophical debates. It even seemed like she was trying to ask others the same sorts of things that she asked him, but they never really got anywhere. Very few people gave a point of view that she tried to analyze the way she analyzed him.
It almost seemed as if she was looking for something.
The day had drawn to a close and Hiroshi was packing up his things. Both Gotou and Katsuo had some gaming business to attend and left without him. Not that this bothered him. It happened enough times already. Even Daiki was probably attending his club.
Not for the first time did Hiroshi consider joining a club. Even this late in his high school career. But then he thought of all the responsibilities that came with club activities and he immediately thought better of it.
He'd much prefer to be free of that stuff. No stressful competitions. No people ordering him around. No tiring training regimes. None of that for Hiroshi.
But that's not to say that he didn't respect those that did partake in that lifestyle. He definitely did have respect for the diligent people who had a club to go to. And it's not like he himself wasn't diligent. Just diligent in a different way.
Although, it was mostly just for his studies.
Other than that, he just wanted a comfortable life. And running across a field or kicking a ball around didn't factor into that.
Hiroshi put his last book away and slung his bag over his shoulder. There were still a few people hanging around the classroom, not everybody in a hurry to get home. Five, maybe six people were still chatting away as they slowly packed their bags.
The days were getting noticeably longer as spring was taking hold. It was looking like it would be a pleasant walk home.
As Hiroshi was gazing out the windows at the nice weather, someone called out to him. "Hiroshi-kun."
He turned towards the voice addressing him, only slightly surprised to find Akane-san standing at the entrance to the classroom. The other students who hadn't left yet also noticed her.
"Akane-san." Hiroshi greeted with a respectful nod.
What philosophical debate will it be this time? He wondered.
"I was wondering if you had some time." She said, as calm and polite as ever.
"I have a little time. What did you need?" Hiroshi asked. He was already expecting her to ask one of life's greatest questions.
"Well, if you don't mind, I had a question for you."
Of course, you do. "Which is?"
She took a moment to clear her throat before asking, "Are you free this Sunday?"
He blinked. Whatever he was expecting to hear, it certainly wasn't that.
"Did Akane-san just say what I think she just said?"
The other students shared in his surprise.
"Uh... By free you mean..." Hiroshi tried to think of all the possible reasons she could be asking that. And none of them seemed right. "Would you care to elaborate?" He asked slowly.
She took a deep breath before replying. "Would you like to go on a date with me?"
"Is this really happening?!"
"Really?! With him?!"
I guess there won't be any debates then. And really? With me?
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