Noon had struck, meaning it was time for a thirty minute lunch break. As always Ryuuji slowly got out his bento box as his friends approached him by scooting their desks together. Today, it was going to be Ami, Taiga, and Ami's friends joining Ryuuji for lunch. After getting settled, they thanked for their food and were about to dig in when the transfer student confronted them. His eyes just focused on Ami as she looked down at her food, uneasy by the aura the transfer student was giving off.
"Well, well. I didn't know you were in this class, Kawashima."
Ryuuji and Ami's friends looked at Ami as she continued to ignore Hakuoh.
"Kawashima, it's kind of rude to not introduce me to your friends," he said as he caught a glimpse of Ryuuji, the only boy in this group of girls.
A couple seconds passed, and then Ami extended her hand towards Hakuoh in a presenting manner.
"This is Fujita Hakuoh," she softly said. "He used to work at my set."
"And?" inquired Hakuoh in a voice Ryuuji and Ami could only hear.
"We…were going out."
Hakuoh tilted his head slightly down.
"Pleasure to meet you all," he said with a small smile.
Nanako looked at him and formed a small smile. Maya smiled noticeably and it looked as if she was going to pounce on the man for a handshake.
"I'm Kashii Nanako. Nice to meet you."
"I'm Kihara Maya… Wow, this is too unreal. You really worked with Ami and dated her."
"Yeah. I get that a lot when I introduce myself."
Hakuoh then noticed the other girl sitting next to Maya. She was much shorter and almost looked like a doll.
"Is that really a high school student? Looks like a middle school student."
Taiga narrowed her eyes and sent a death glare to Hakuoh.
"What was that?!"
Maya faced Taiga with a nervous face and put her hands up in front of Taiga's face to calm her down.
"Taiga, I'm sure he didn't mean it. He's new."
Hakuoh rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
"Listen…I, um, didn't know. Please, forgive me."
"See, Taiga. It was a misunderstanding."
Taiga crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair.
Maya heaved in relief and looked back at Hakuoh.
"And she's Aisaka Taiga… So, about dating Ami… What was it like? How was it? Why didn't it work?"
Hakuoh cracked a nervous smile.
"A little too personal, don't you think?"
Maya thought about it and slightly leaned back in her seat.
"I guess you're right. It's just that…you and Ami were…dating."
Hakuoh sighed and smiled.
"I can tell you this much. It only lasted for a week. It was just…um…you know how famous people are. They date and then they break up because they are bored. Besides, I was too…kind-hearted."
"What's wrong with too much heart?" asked Nanako.
"As I said, I was kind-hearted at the time. I knew that the relationship wasn't going to last because of how we communicated and stuff. So, before it got too serious, we both agreed to cut it off…even though I might still resent it."
"So does that mean-" began Maya.
"It doesn't matter now. Things change…"
He faced Ami.
Ami just stood silent and nervous. She looked around the group. Maya and Nanako awaited her answer to Hakuoh's question, Taiga seemed she was not interested on this guy's question, and Ryuuji looked at her with a somewhat concerned face. She looked back at Hakuoh and faked a smile.
"That's right, Fujita."
Hakuoh looked back over at Ryuuji. Maya noticed Hakuoh's stare at Ryuuji and was waiting for Ryuuji to apply. Unfortunately, Ryuuji seemed either too dense or deep in thought to introduce himself. Even Ami seemed uneasy to introduce Ryuuji. It was most likely the fact that Ami's past boyfriend and present boyfriend were facing each other. She decided to introduce him.
"And this is Takasu Ryuuji. He's going out with Ami."
Once Ryuuji heard his name, he snapped out of his trance and formed a content face. He looked at Hakuoh and noticed his eyes held a grudge towards him. It was probably from the first impression he left yesterday at the arcade.
"Hi, um, sorry."
"That's quite alright. Deep in thought, hm?"
"You know that you seem like a nice guy. Very suitable for Kawashima. She always loves nice things."
Unnoticed by everyone, Taiga quivered a little at Hakuoh's last sentence.
"So, how long have you kept up this act with her?"
"Act?" wondered Ami, butting into the conversation between the guys.
"Between you and that guy…Takasu."
Ryuuji grew worried as his eyes widened a would this guy say the relationship between him and Ami was an act? Did he figure out? Who knows? He could have. He was able to locate Ami and transfer into the same class as her, proving he could obtain knowledge. He probably even gathered information about the fake date yesterday. He was at the arcade, so it could have well be that Hakuoh was spying on them. Ryuuji looked at Ami and saw her slightly tensed face.
"An act? Wh-Wh-Why would you call Ryuuji and I d-dating an a-act?"
Hakuoh cracked a smirk.
"Relax, Kawashima. It's just an expression."
He chuckled a little.
"Oh-h… Uh, I just never heard it before," Ami replied with a smile of relief and then faced Ryuuji. "Say Ryuuji, come with me to by drinks."
Ryuuji nodded. The couple left the classroom. Hakuoh looked from the door Ami and Ryuuji exited and looked back at the touching desks. Maya and Nanako smiled at him, but Taigia just looked at him with either angry eyes or uncaring eyes. Hakuoh could not really tell the difference. Feeling slightly uneasy by her alone, he decided to make an excuse to pardon himself.
"Sorry. I need to…take care of some personal things."
Taiga turned her head towards her and looked at him with the same eyes he was confused about.
"Do you need to use the restroom or something?"
Maya and Nanako faced Taiga with a did-she-just-said-that face.
"Um," started Hakuoh with a surprised face, "yeah. If you excuse me…"
He tilted his head slightly as to bow and then left the room using the back door of the classroom.
"Uh, Aisaka, wasn't that a bit rude?" asked Maya.
"I think he was a bit rude, comparing me to a middle school student," she said and then whispered to herself. "And saying that thing about Ami loving nice things."
You can't blame him, thought Maya.
"Besides, I feel a bad aura around him… I sense it!"
Where did that come from, Nanako wondered in her mind.
As the three girls in the classroom talked amongst themselves, Ryuuji and Ami had reached the vending machines. Ryuuji pressed the button of the vending machine. A canned tea for him dropped out of it. He grabbed the beverage and opened it. He took a sip and looked over at Ami. She just had a worried expression as she stared at her opened juice can.
Ryuuji soon felt Ami's hand cup his hand and grip on it ever so tightly.
"Kawashima, what are you-"
"Just let me," she snapped at him. "Just…let me hold your hand."
Ryuuji felt her hand tremble as her expression changed from worried to upset.
"That bastard," she whispered. "He made it so that he was innocent of our breakup. He acted nice enough to fool my friends. He hid his true feelings towards me. He made himself seem like a genuine guy."
Though Ryuuji did not like the guy, he could not help comparing him to her. Without thinking of the consequences, he densely opened his mouth.
"Kind of reminds me of someone."
Ami's eyes flushed with red. She turned towards Ryuuji with a scornful face and was ready to throw her drink at him.
"Dammit! This is serious, Takasu… Why…why would you even say that?! You know how much it hurts that you just said I'm like him. I'm nothing like him. Nothing…nothing…noth-noth-nothing."
Ami looked down at the floor, thinking of what she just said. She realized that Ryuuji was right, though she did not want to admit it. Hakuoh was just like her; putting on another face. Ryuuji sighed.
"Sorry, Kawashima, but you and he have this facade you show people that are just acts. I can tell he was lying. From yesterday to today, his personality didn't change. He was cold-hearted when I met him, and he's still cold-hearted to me. Besides, he kept on smiling towards you every time he made something up, probably seeing how you would react. Kind of weird if you ask me. Anyways, you both have your acts you show off to people. Kawashima, you can tell the truth. Your friends will believe you, and once you expose his real self, he will leave you alone, and then we wouldn't have to keep lying under all this pressure."
"You make it sound so simple," Ami dully said.
She looked up with watery eyes, which Ryuuji flinched at.
"He knows me. The real me too. Even though I tried to hide it for the most part, it would slip out of me and he caught it, but he didn't care. That's why I started dating him in the first place. If I tell who he really is, he will do the same to me. It will hurt my reputation, Takasu. I would lose all my friends, I would be labeled as a liar, and I wouldn't be able to show my face again. That's…that's my life, Takasu. If I expose him to the world, he's fine…but I'm not if it's the other way around."
The water in her eyes formed tears and dropped to the floor. Ryuuji just watched her cry for the first time. He did not know how to respond or help her in anyway. After she cried for a few seconds, she wiped her eyes with her arm. She looked up at him.
"You know," she whimpered. "You're supposed to hug your girlfriend when she cries, idiot."
Ryuuji looked down at her shoes.
"Sorry," he softly said. "And I'm also sorry about what I said earlier."
Ami shook her head.
"No. You're telling me the truth, though I don't want to hear it. That's why you're a good person to me."
She faced him and formed a small smile.
"It's like what they say: truth hurts."
"Kawashima and Takasu. So here is where you two have been."
Ryuuji turned around to see Hakuoh walking towards them. He had a friendly smile on his face from the distant, but as he got closer, his face became more serious. However, he was still able to keep a content face.
"So, you two are actually dating? For real?"
Ryuuji nodded, gripping Ami's hand to show Hakuoh more proof to his answer. However, Hakuoh was not impressed. He closed his eyes and sighed, tilting his head back a little.
"Seriously, just stop the acting."
Crap, thought Ryuuji, he did figure it out.
"What acting?" asked Ami. "Like I said before, this isn't an act. We are dating."
"P-lease. Spare me the details. It's like how it was at your hometown. After we broke up, you decided to date someone in hopes of me leaving you alone. Luckily, I found out that was an act."
Another act with a random guy, thought Ryuuji. Did Kawashima do this before?
"That's a lie. When I broke it off with you, I didn't go on any dates. The first date I had after you was with Ryuuji, and it was the best date I had."
"You forgot to add 'so far'. Anyways, there's no way that you two are a real couple. What kind of boyfriend makes his girlfriend cry?"
"You saw that?" inquired Ryuuji.
"I'm as sharp as a falcon."
He got closer to Ryuuji face in order to taunt him.
"Say, Takasu. Have you ever tasted Kawashima's lips? Hm?"
Hakuoh smacked his lips.
"They taste like strawberries."
"Stop lying," Ami demanded coldly.
"Lying? You criticize me when you are lying as well? C'mon. Pretending to be a couple when you're not."
"It's not an act. We are a couple. It's not an act."
Hakuoh backed off from them and put his hands on his hips. He sighed.
"Fine. If it's not an act, I'll put it to the test. Here's the deal, Kawashima. If you win, I will admit you are a true 'lovey-dovey' couple. If you lose, your reputation as everything falls. Not showing up is the same as losing. Meet me at the schoolyard at the park you usually wait at for your 'boyfriend' around five. Good luck to you. You'll need it."
With that, Hakuoh turned around and started walking back to the classroom. Ryuuji and Ami just stared at him for a few seconds and then faced each other with anxious faces. Ami then raised her hand to her mouth and bit her nail.
"Damn him," she muttered.
"Well, he figured it out. So, what now?"
"What do you mean?"
"If he figured it out, then what's the point of being a pretend couple?"
Ami flinched at his words.
"The point… The point is to show him we're a real couple."
"Huh? But we're not."
"We have to be."
"If we don't, he'll expose all my secrets, and I'll have no one as my friend anymore. Please, Takasu. We have to. We have to convince him."
"Alright, but I still wish that you show-"
"No. I can't show my true colors. People will reject me."
Ryuuji started to walk forward down the hallway, but he stopped when he was a few feet ahead of Ami. He did not face her as he opened his mouth.
"Just know that if you show true colors to the world, you would not be completely alone. I will still be your friend. And I bet Taiga will be there for you too. Just know that she and I will never reject you."
Ami stood still as Ryuuji's words were sown into her heart. With what was going on just in those past minutes, she just felt a rollercoaster of depressing emotions…hurt, angry, fright, nervous, frustration…but just by hearing Ryuuji's words, those emotions were overshadowed by happiness. She formed a small smile and reached out to grab his hand. She saw his cheery smile and smiled genuinely back at him. The two then headed back to class. Ami still kept her smile.
Thank you, Takasu.