The Heroes of Sakakino

Chapter 6 The best laid plans

And so it began.

It was after school the next day, Kotonoha and Eiichi were seated at one of the broad oak tables in the library, homework and exam books in front of them. Considering their setting, Eiichi was already feeling on alert, and couldn't help casting the occasional glace to the left and right when he figured Kotonoha wouldn't notice; looking for the boyish stalker.

"How can you not like Jim Gaffigan?" Kotonoha said while scribbling on her assignment.

"Uh—It's not that I don't like him," going back to his work and the conversation, "It's his stupid voice, it ruins his jokes."

"How can you like someone and not their voice?"

Suddenly, without warning, introduction, or even asking permission, two shapely girls pulled up seats on both sides of Eiichi, leaning in really close to him.

"Eiichi, our club is doing a photo shoot in a few days and we want you to pose with us."

"Yeah, could you please model for us?" said the other with a clinging hand on his arm, pulling him close.

Their words were lies, but their affections were not, Eiichi could feel each pulling on either side of him like he was a chew toy.

"W-Wait, what!?" he panicked.

"Oh come on Eiichi, it'll be fun!" one hung on his shoulder.

"All the girls would love to have you on and everyone would finally get to meet you."

"Whoa hey, wait!" Eiichi's distracted eyes turning to Kotonoha.

Kotonoha, a passive stare on her face, couldn't help watching the scenario.

One leaned in so close her chest pressed against his arm, pretending the third party across the table wasn't there, "Don't be mean Eiichi, you'd be doing us a big favor."

"Please come."

Kotonoha blinked, "If you're busy right now Eiichi, we can do this later."

His head turned all the way, "No! Wait, Koto-chan!"

Kotonoha closed her book and stood, "I'll text you later." She turned and began walking off.

Eiichi stood, the two sirens still clinging to his sleeves, "Koto! Wait up!"

"Oh, come on Eiichi!" they pleaded.

"Please, you're probably not even in a club," he gathered his things as quickly as he could and rushed off.

After he was able to console Kotonoha, they'd decided to head home.

"I don't know, maybe it's something in the air…" they were walking over to the footlockers.

"That was just very strange," Kotonoha pondered.

Eiichi flustered, "Uh, you know fan girls, no sense of personal space. People just need a hobby," as he undid his combination and opened the door.

A tiny square wall of pinks and ruby reds greeted their eyes. Slips and envelopes toppled out of the locker and on to the floor, painting the air with a mess of strong perfumes. A pile of valentine colored confetti lay before Eiichi's feet. A few snickering bystanders peeked out from around the locker walls.

Kotonoha blinked passively again, "Has this been happening when I wasn't around or something?"

Eiichi looked at her with an uncomfortable smile, "It's probably just a fad…"

The next day, right after getting to school, they were only able to kiss each other before separating for class when Eiichi was attacked by a crowd of girls pressing in close, Kotonoha left standing to the side.

"Eiichi, there's an animal benefit after school today, you like animals, right?"

"Of course he does! He's such a kind hearted guy…"

The crowd made such a big fuss in the hall that students stared while passing by.

"Man, Eiichi, that lucky, lucky bastard," he overheard a griping male student.

"Koto-chan!" Eiichi looked, dazed and drowning.

"I'll see you after class…" she walked away.

'Dammit Yuuki…'

Later, when the between classes bell rang, Eiichi didn't leave the room. Kotonoha appeared in the doorway and saw him at his desk with his head in his arms. Running up to him, she didn't have to say anything.

"I'm not leaving. Why're you here?" his muffled voice sounded from the sleeves of his coat.

"I came to see if anything else was happening. I'm sorry about earlier, I was…"

"I know…"

"Come on, let's get something to drink," she patted his shoulder, "It's all a coincidence, or probably some kind of prank. If you let it get to you, you'll become a shut-in for sure."

It wasn't, but he had to play along. He couldn't tell her, no matter how badly he wanted to.

The paranoid couple were able to make it to the vending machines unmolested. On their way back, Kotonoha decided to accompany Eiichi to his class.

"Why didn't you hang around?" he asked.

"I wanted to get you out of there, but it was for an animal benefit. How would that've made me look?"

They rounded a corner and were met with an awfully gaudy sight.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me…" the wide eyed Eiichi nearly dropped his melon soda when his arms fell to his side.

Off to one area of the hall before them, a group of girls were huddled together, there had to be at least ten to fifteen of them. The one's in front held up a banner in their frisky hands, that nearly covered the width of the hoard, with Eiichi's likeness in a chibi caricature, giving a wink and holding up twin victory fingers. Emblazoned in bright red lettering were the words 'Eiichi Fan Club'. Above their heads, two girls near the back held an additional, narrow, light pink banner declaring the groups affections in more red lettering and decorative hearts.

"Hi Eiichi~!" their synchronized, feminine voices sang, with a few consecutive woots.

At this point, Kotonoha and Eiichi didn't want to go this way, but his class was just a few doors down from the group. He wanted to ask her if she would mind bringing his homework to him for the remainder of the year, but after taking one look at her, he realized now was not the best time.

Kotonoha's surprise had turned to a blushing, vexed grimace. Eiichi could feel her protective jealousy burning a hole in his right lobe, and in the background of her conscious he could faintly hear a vicious ranting of questionable terms that he wasn't even aware she knew the meaning to. Her fists shook next to her hips and Eiichi thought he could see a tension mark on her forehead. It was actually happening, Kotonoha was pissed.

'Mine!' She grabbed his hand, leading him around the crowd of giggling, cooing girls that blew kisses as they passed. Eiichi could sense their combined eyes and erotic emotions feeling him up. Resisting, he leaned to Kotonoha's side.

"Maybe it's because I'm leaving soon…" he muttered, the group now behind them.

"Just keep walking and pretend nothing happened," she clenched his hand.

Shifting eyes, watching every skirt clad student in the hall, Kotonoha and Eiichi crept down the stairs from their hiding place on the roof, where having lunch had been a must. Conversation had been exhausting at first. Eiichi did his absolute best to keep to himself everything that had conspired up to this point, but Kotonoha was already beginning to notice something was off. She never asked him any direct questions, nor were her suspicions directed at him, but she was on to something. People could say what they wanted about her, but Eiichi understood her inner workings better than anyone, and 'dumb like a fox' had come to mind more than a few times. The most obvious proof to her was that with all these girls pawing at Eiichi, he'd not disappeared off someplace like a certain dead someone.

'I noticed you were getting pretty furious there,' he'd said.

'I know, I'm so sorry, I hope that didn't hurt you too much…'

'It's okay, you kept your cool, like I knew you would.'

She giggled, 'At least it's not happening to me, you'd turn the place upside down.'

'Oh, there'd be blood in the streets,' followed by more lenitive laughter.

Feeling a little better after their rendezvous and ready to face more of whatever met them for the remainder of the day, Eiichi pondered on their way down about just where Yuuki was getting these girls? No matter what he had told them, they had to get bored eventually.

Just at the bottom of the stairwell, another sight met them that was not at all what either were expecting, and this one caused Eiichi to grow tense and vicious.

Taisuke, oblivious to their presence, had come walking through the halls among the clusters of students. His head of brown, combed back hair bobbed over the tops of the others.

Violent thoughts running through his head at a lightning pace, Eiichi watched him closely, glaring. He could feel Kotonoha's soothing hand on his clenched fist. He swiveled his head to see she'd been watching as well.

They had seen Taisuke a few times since the festival, and a few times he had noticed one or both of them and made a practice of avoiding them. It could have had to do with what happened before and during the festival; what happened between the two of them, Sekai and Makoto, or a combination of the two. Taisuke had not bothered Kotonoha nor Eiichi, but the couple still kept their mutual awareness of him, and this was really not the time to have to see him.

Class was about to start, they just had a few more before getting through the day. Eiichi imagined the elation he'd feel right then might be so intense, he'd actually rush to grab Koto's hand after the last bell and then run her out of there like the place was about to explode.

"I'll see you later, hang in there," she squeezed his hand.

"You too."

They broke off, Eiichi at a brisk walk, the halls just beginning to clear. Though before he could make it to class, he met yet another troubling sight, this one he'd been more acquainted with.

Otome was on her way down the now empty hall, headed in his direction, a small stack of files clutched over her chest, her legs moving her forward at a light jog, she was going to be late. He must've spooked her, because her head turned in his direction, not ten feet away, and she brought one foot forward too quickly, tripping herself. The files scattered all over the floor as she landed on her hip, her hands splayed out.

Absolute shame consumed her, how could she have allowed this to happen in front of him, especially for someone on the basketball team.

"Dammit…" he overheard her hiss to herself.

When they had first met, she behaved very audaciously. She was still this way, even more so as a means of venting her grievances, but not so much when she was around him. Eiichi had received varying unspoken, and fearful opinions aimed at him from the outputs of the people in her clique, however it was apparent that Otome didn't feel this way. Most of them felt that he and Kotonoha had some involvement in the deaths of Sekai and Makoto, but it couldn't be helped. They had been involved, but Eiichi didn't put that knife in Sekai's hand, and Kotonoha didn't whisper in her ear to go ballistic. It had all been a product of Sekai's warped thinking, Kotonoha and Eiichi just happened to be next up on her hit list. They'd all been thinking it though, but not Otome. Makoto had been an old friend of hers, and she was still suffering the grief of his death, especially after being as close to him as she was, but it never once crossed her mind that Eiichi had been to blame. However, through all her emotions, Eiichi couldn't make heads or tails if her siding with him had been based on rational thinking or romantics.

Otome had bottled up her feelings as well, causing her to behave in ways that were most unlike her whenever he was present. What he had done to her plans had been embarrassing to a most high degree, and yet she continued to regard him with this high admiration, coupled with an almost unbridled drive to jump his bones. He figured she was still his enemy, in a sense, because she'd never apologized for what she tried to do, but this did not stop him from wanting to help her.

He knelt down and began sweeping the loose pages into disorderly stacks.

"I-Idiot! The bells about to ring, you're going to be late!"

"Either pick up what you have there, or I'll just leave and you can do it by yourself."

It didn't matter how harsh he was with her, it was only more of a turn on. He knew he was taking a risk, if he collapsed because of her output, he'd be in some real trouble. There was no accidental touching of the hands with a following fixation of dreamy, glistening eyes, only silence between them and paper shuffling. Eiichi stood, handing a few folders to her.

"Thank you…" her frustration had toned down, allowing her to trip out this little line, keeping her eyes timidly to the floor.

"Don't mention it, seriously," he had started to walk away.


He turned around, "What?"

She still couldn't look at him. He definitely knew there was something she wanted to tell him, something that would explain the fluctuating desires, affections, and frustrations that had to do with the recurring pain in her chest, something she'd whispered into a tear soaked pillow on some nights. He couldn't go on disliking her, not if she was like this. He'd been very angry with her before because of how she treated Kotonoha, and what she tried to do, but people could change, it happened all the time, in very subtle ways.

She blinked at the floor and he saw her eyes curve up toward him, only to fall back down, "Nothing…"

"You take care of yourself and stay out of trouble," he'd pencil her in for another day, but he didn't have time now. Talking to him may be like waving a piece of kibble in front of her, but he didn't have any better ideas, and talking with him might allow her some closure.

Maybe she'd been right, he was starting to sound like a cop.

Yuuki paced slowly through the halls after school, his head tilted down in a look of dim contemplation set behind the broad rims of his glasses, curled fingers and an extended thumb supporting his chin. Outside, it was evening and orange rays were just beginning to shine through the vacant windows of the halls.

The day's siege had gone well, or so his few informants had told him, and everything had worked out as planned. Eiichi had been looking rather overwhelmed and Kotonoha quite steaming. He figured he could count on her desires to avoid conflict to cause her to flee at the shock of every outrageous situation, thus leaving her alone to only question what Eiichi's true motivations were. However…

"Why is she still with him!" the side of his fist smacked against the wall.

It was almost as if his efforts weren't even making a scratch! Eiichi's integrity had been under constant attack while in front of Kotonoha, making him look more and more like the sleaze Yuuki knew he was, but the attacks seemed to be hurting Kotonoha more than anyone. On the surface, things looked like they were working out, at least for a while, but every time they were spotted now, one was not without the other. They were holding hands on an almost constant basis, keeping an eye on each other like they were on some elementary school field trip. They were actually growing closer! What was this!?

He removed his throbbing hand from the wall, gripping it with the other, "Minor setback…"

Brainwashing could have been the catalyst, if he remembered, Makoto had been pretty convincing with his methods, or at least good at hiding them. Or it could have been that Kotonoha had a very clingy nature. With as flawless as she seemed, not even Yuuki could say that she was perfect. Still, he was setting his expectations too high, it wasn't going to happen in one day. He'd have to show Eiichi that he wasn't going to let up, or do something intense, to make him really sweat. But for now, he'd take a break, he had library duty.

When inside, he approached the unoccupied front desk and could see the small clutter of papers and folders on it that awaited him. The guys he worked with had a mutual respect for him, but they really needed to step up and stop leaving him all the slack.

He smoothed his hands over the forms and folders, absentmindedly arranging a set of files that needed to be backlogged before the end of the week. The library was quiet as usual, say for the noise he'd caused by sending those girls on their mission after Eiichi yesterday. There'd been a lot of commotion then, he could remembering their voices echoing and everyone staring as he sat by, quietly.

Yuuki snickered while setting some folders in an inventory basket under the desk. He couldn't help priding himself with that one, they did such a good job. It did hurt him to see Kotonoha so upset though, but she'd have to bear a little longer. Things were going to happen one of two ways, Eiichi gives up, or Kotonoha gets fed up.

"Um, Ashikaga-san…"

He looked and saw Roka standing on the other side of the library desk. He must've been too busy to notice she'd come in.

He didn't say anything at first. Chie had been pestering him a lot about apologizing to her, but he'd been too busy to deal with that. Considering the dire straits Kotonoha was in, Roka could wait. There wasn't even a guarantee that she would be accepting enough to become friends, after what she'd said, so why should he bother?

Roka just stood there, the strap of her tote bag slung over her shoulder and gripped in both hands. Looking awkward, she didn't say anything either. This look was ridiculous for her, but Yuuki couldn't forget how irritating she had been.

He straightened out a stack of papers on the top of the desk by stamping them down, maybe a little more rigorously than was needed, "Come back to make fun of what I look like more?"

Her eyes widened before blinking back to their half opened slits of dejection, "No…"

"Well, I'm kind of working right now. Don't you have practice today?"

She shook her head, "We have the day off, since the season's almost over."

He continued to arrange more papers, not for any real reason.

"I want to…"

"Yeah?" not looking up.

She was quiet again, and he had a lot on his mind, why couldn't she just say what she came here to say and leave?

"I want to apologize for what I called you. I'm sorry…"

He stopped, not really expecting that. At least she was kind enough not to actually say it.

Standing up straight, he looked at her, "Thank you…"

More awkward standing. Yuuki scanned the desk, with nothing left to do there.

"I'm…um, I'm sorry too, for what happened, and for yelling at you…"

"It's okay," she said with a tiny smile of pardon, but her voice quivered a little, "I suppose it was an accident. I yelled at you a lot too."

She seemed like the very active vocal type, but she remained quiet, even after this little exchange.

His phone vibrated. Yuuki was supposed to keep it off while on duty, but this was one rule he didn't typically follow, and today he had a reason. It could have been from anyone, but there was a particular contact he'd been looking forward to hearing from. Taking out his phone, he found himself pleased to see it was.

'The fan club was an interesting touch. Laying it on a little thick, don't you think?' the message displayed with Eiichi's name above.

"So, um…do you like books?" Roka's voice called him away from the business at hand. Technically he shouldn't be texting either, but this was too good for him to pass up.

"Yeah…" he began tapping on the keypad: 'To be honest, it wasn't really my idea. I can't be held responsible for their actions. I merely told them to embrace their imaginations.'

"W-Well…what kind of books do you like?"

"Why, do you read?" looking up.

Roka withdrew, "N-Not really…"

"Hm…" he got another text: 'I'm not budging.'

"I guess I read this and that…" he tapped on his phone, "They released the final Harry Potter volume last year…" tapping, "So I'm waiting for the translation to come out here."

"So, what's it about?" she brightened up.

"You don't know? It's kind of a big deal," a sprinkle of condescending in his voice.

There was a stir from her he noticed out the corner of his eye, "I'm sorry, I didn't know it was that popular…well, maybe you could tell me about it sometime. W-Would you…want to meet for lunch?"

While she was talking, he'd stopped to think about something, tilting his head up from the phone. Only half of what she said reached his ears. He began tapping again, "Um…I'm kind of busy right now…I have to go check the bins pretty soon, I can help you later if you–"

"Would you put down that stupid phone, and listen to me for one second!"

He bolted up, startled from the sudden change in volume. Students in view of the desk looked over their tables and turned in their seats, one even stepped out from an aisle.

"To think that I even tried! You act smart, but really you're just an idiot!"

"Who's the idiot! I'm trying to work here and you're yelling at me!"

"Yeah! You're working! While texting someone! You're just like a secretary, because you're such a girl!"

She said it, she actually said it, this time in front of people.

Yuuki's blank face turned a pasty shade, the light glaring off his glasses, hiding hurt eyes. And then he reeled back at her, "Just like I thought! You came here to make fun of me again! I guess that apology didn't mean anything then! Well you're so aggressive, you might as well be a boy! Ha! How do you like that!"

Roka looked hurt, and Yuuki thought his words had hit home. But for a moment, she lifted her hand to her lips, like trying to stop herself, then she broke her look of shock and barreled forward with everything she had, "I didn't come here to do that! But you won't take one minute to listen! I just wanted to talk, but you don't care at all because I'm not the same! I'm not like her, okay! I'm not like Kotonoha! But you can't get over that she's already seeing someone! I shouldn't have come here in the first place!"

"Then why don't you leave! The door's right there!"

"I will! I hope I never see you again!" turning away.

"The feeling is mutual!" Yuuki leaned over the desk.

She flung the door open and was gone.

The arrogance of that girl! Yuuki, shaken, looked and could see the students in the library were snickering amongst themselves, casting glances at him.

Ignoring them, he turned back to the text he was about to send: 'You're pretty persistent. Would you be alright with meeting me after class for a negotiation? I might be willing to ease up, maybe we could come to an agreement. My room is 1-4D.'

He pressed the send button.

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