The Heroes of Sakakino

Chapter 7 Crucible

The final text Eiichi received from Yuuki yesterday had been somewhat unexpected. He'd been hoping for another talk with his rival in an attempt to sort things out, but was really expecting more complications. Yuuki was pretty riled up about Eiichi's relationship with Kotonoha, even if it wasn't any of his business to begin with. What goes around comes around, and seeing as how he spent the entire last semester separating Kotonoha from her love interest, it only made sense the same would start for him now.

He dropped Kotonoha off at her student council meeting and began his short journey through the emptying halls, to room 1-4D.

Understandably, Yuuki was a distant admirer of Kotonoha's and he was only worried about her. Eiichi could only try to get him to see that there was nothing for him to lose his head over, but with Yuuki's fixation on her, this would be useless unless he presented some kind of outside interest. This time Eiichi would talk to him about Roka, but if Yuuki couldn't listen to reason, then he had only one other card to play.

He said he wouldn't tell anyone about Yuuki's secret, and he wouldn't. Even if there was any way he could prove it, he would have trouble living with himself after the fact. Besides, Yuuki had not lied, it had only been that one time he did it, and he was likely never going to do it again, simply the shock of discovery had been enough to send him running. Eiichi could still make a play out of this though. He wouldn't tell anyone, but he could threaten to tell. Yuuki would probably test this, but he could say he only needed to tell one person. Yuuki would be outraged, and probably still wouldn't believe it would fly, however the danger of discovery would be enough to make him back off. Eiichi only needed the power of suggestion to enforce the power of suggestion. He'd tell Yuuki that all he had to do was be honest with Kotonoha about everything that was happening and bring up Yuuki's reasoning behind all of it, and that it would be enough to have her asking all sorts of questions to him, one's Yuuki would have to come up with some good lies for, and just like himself, Yuuki probably hated lying to her. It was his best move if all else failed.

This meeting area Yuuki had set up was a little more last minute and remote than where they'd talked last. Still, he found it kind of strange for Yuuki to be asking him to talk in what would likely be a more crowded setting. Maybe he had a few things to do before they could get started, Eiichi didn't mind, he could wait.

He arrived at his destination, expecting to see a few students still cleaning house and packing their things, with Yuuki among them, awaiting his attendance. His eyes were greeted with empty rows of seats and not a single Yuuki to be seen.

The door had already been open and after making his entrance, he looked idly over the vacant room.

He must've been early, but for a time when classes were just emptying, this space must have been cleaned out rather quickly. Yuuki said this was his class, so naturally Eiichi assumed he'd be here. Maybe he was using the facilities. Or, he had forgotten, but that would be careless of him, though Yuuki was a pretty careless guy. He didn't think well of Eiichi, so maybe this was his way of adding insult to injury before bringing everything to a close. The thought irritated Eiichi a little, but if Yuuki wanted to behave spitefully, that was on him.

The area was quiet, with the dull mutterings of clubs in other nearby classrooms.

Maybe he'd left a note. Eiichi walked over to the sensei's desk, placing a set of fingers on its edge and scanning over the surface. It was clean, there weren't even books or stray papers on it. He turned and looked at the seats in the room again, looking for stray notes. There was nothing.

This made sense, if Yuuki had wanted to notify him to expect his absence, he would have just texted. There was nothing left to do but wait. If Yuuki was going to show, he should be here any minute.

Someone stepped through the doorway, but it wasn't Yuuki.

Hair of a deep blue shade hung in loose bangs over turquoise eyes, with long strands flowing in a living surface of serene tides. The eyes felt over the room and him with an air of savory analyzation, rose pink lips pursed in cool amusement. The uniform hugged her willowy frame of harmonious waves, a black Sakakino vest cradling her mild and balanced bust, stockings slipped over a pair of athletic thighs. She stood looking around the room with hands clasped behind her skirt, in an almost playful fashion, like pretending he was invisible.

Like a force of nature, her presence demanded attention without request and exhumed only the uppermost qualities of feminine proclivity. Her stance that of stoic confidence, moving with the grace of a bird in flight.

Eiichi stepped away from the desk, "Uh, is there going to be a club meeting in here?"

He got his answer when she turned around, slid the door shut, and turned off the lights.

His vision became an immediate haze of green shadows over a black backdrop. "Oh boy…" aware of his current predicament, his hands instinctively raised a little, weakly establishing his personal space in the dark. She had not been close enough for him to pick up a reading, but now he didn't really need her to be.

"Hello Eiichi-san…" a watery voice sounded from the green shadows. "I didn't expect to find you here."

"Uh-huh…" he pivoted, swerving his hands through the empty space.

"It's good that I found you here, because I wanted to tell you something I've been meaning to for a long time…" her voice came from the direction of the front desk nearest the door.

Eiichi blinked his eyes repeatedly, trying to make them adjust faster.

"I haven't been able to stop thinking about you…" she was closer.

He could feel her output now, and if he could ignore her before, he couldn't now. It was not invasive, poking and grabbing at him, like the numbers of others he'd experienced. Instead of trying to pull him to her, it merely called to him, whispering in his mind what it desired, stimulating his curiosity, inviting him to explore with it, to seek more.

He backed up and bumped into the desk behind him, his hands white knuckling it for balance.

"I've always wanted to talk to you alone like this, because I never thought any other time would be the best way for me to express exactly how I feel," almost right on top of him now, the overwhelming, unforgettable scent of passionflower just under his nose, gripping his essence.

Eiichi breathed deep, his eyes getting wider with every word, his senses disobeying the frantic commands of his mind. He leaned back over the desk as far as he could.

Her reasons for being here were apparent, but she'd successfully set those aside, letting her own desires take the wheel, but not allowing them to drive too far.

Much to his dismay now, his eyes finally, at the most strangely inconvenient time possible, had adjusted and he could make out the capriciously daring face in the shadows, inches away from his and getting closer. Much like her output, she didn't touch him, driving his anticipation mad, making him want her to. Her hands remained clasped behind her skirt, leaning toward him, her head tilted in a posture of curios desire.

His spine shivered. He closed his eyes and could see shimmering rays of sunlight beneath a wavy surface.

"I know it's only our first time meeting, but I've always had to admire you from afar because you were always with other people when I saw you," strands of her ocean blue hair brushing over his chest. A hand raised, making its way to his neck, "I like you a lot Eiichi, and I really wish I could get closer to you, in a more intimate—"

"Yuuki put you up to this, didn't he?" he had to say it, he couldn't take anymore, it came out with more desperation in his tone than he wanted to let out, his chin turned to the side, trying to look away.

She stopped and stood up calmly, a dash of surprise in her expression, "Wow, you're sharp."

"I have that way about me…" taking his window, he inched along the edge of the desk and made for the door.

"W-Wait!" this was possibly the only rise anyone could've ever stirred out of her.

Eiichi thrust the door open, and charged out into the hall panting, unleashing some of the pent up ardor conjured by his seductress, "Alright, come out here you little runt! Is it really too much for us to have a civilized conversation!?"

He half expected it, there was no one, say for a few students staring at him some distance away.

Chest huffing and feeling pretty worked up, he turned around to see the girl exiting out of the dark room.

"He's not here, he only sent me," her voice cool again.

"So it was a setup…I just wanted to talk, and he pulls a fast one on me."

"He only means well."

"I find that really hard to believe," a little irked with this.

Her mind was an enigma of both disappointment and satisfaction, not at all phased with him turning her down, as if she had been expecting it, hoping for it.

Eiichi breathed a little easier, "Would you be willing to tell me just what he has planned next?"

"There's only one way you could get that out of me Eiichi-san…"

He gulped and forced a step back.

She was serious, but something revealed itself to him that it hadn't before. Though she wanted him, she also didn't want him. She was aware to actually break those physical boundaries with him would only bring about shame and guilt on them both. She wanted him, but she knew there was someone important in his life, and her concerns not only stretched to him but this person as well. In hurting them, she would also be hurting herself. Truthfully, all her advances had been her living out a fantasy as far as she was willing to take it. What confused him was wondering how far she had been willing to push herself.

She ran a hand through her pacific hair and the turquoise eyes fixated on him, "Eiichi, for what it's worth, I only went through with it to get to talk to you. I really meant everything I said."

Was she a ghost? How could a girl like her attend this school without his knowledge?

"I know…um, have a good evening."

"You as well…"

He couldn't take his eyes off her until she was gone.

Finally, he was left to configure the situation. As effective as this direct, and admittedly arousing attack had been, Eiichi was able to come to a conclusion. Yuuki was running out of ideas. Throwing such an alluring personality at him after all the rabble from before was his attempt at a checkmate, to get Eiichi into a position where he would have to back out on Kotonoha. What was there after this? That had to be the best he could do. Makoto wouldn't have lasted half a minute under those circumstances, only a girl like that would've crushed him into dust with a single word, before he could lay a finger on her.

It was time to get serious, Eiichi had to talk to Yuuki, even if it had to be through text only, he'd just put up with it.

Just as he was reaching for his phone, it went off.

There was a text from Roka: 'I need to talk to you about something. If you'll wait, basketball practice will be getting out early. I really need to talk to you.'

Now? It had to be now of all times?

He clenched the phone and looked to the ceiling, shutting his eyes. It would be better than dealing with his current problem, hopefully. He'd have to notify Kotonoha she'd be waiting for him this time.

He tapped on the pad: 'I'll be there in a few.'


He entered through the gym the same way as last time. Girls in uniforms with duffel bags had already been exiting in their little groups. Inside, there were basketball supplies still laid out on sides of the court, a few members carrying things here and there, among them was Roka.

He walked up to her and could already feel waves of despair. She looked up to see him and turned to look at the few that were left with her, "Give me a few minutes, I volunteered to clean the rest so they could take off early. When they leave, we can talk." Things had not gone well.

Eiichi found some bleachers to sit on, wishing he could use his ecig right now to cut the tension a little.

"See ya later Roka!" a few minutes later they'd gone and Roka came walking out from the set of doors toward the storage room.

Expecting her to walk up and sit next to him, she motioned for him to follow her.

She led him right into the storage room like before. After he walked past her, she used her foot to set a small brick in way of the storage door so it wouldn't close all the way and set off the auto-lock.

"It's better in here, in case anyone comes back, I don't want them to overhear this…"

He stood by, turning his head up from the floor, "What happened?"

Roka walked around him, her head low so he couldn't see the look of shame upon her face. She stopped at a corner of the clutter in the center of the room and faced Eiichi. Her tension rose.

"I…I screwed up!" she thrust her fists down and turned away, pacing around the pile of goods in the middle to a side of the cramped storage room.

"Whoa Roka, what do you mean?" Eiichi stepped forward.

Roka stood on her side of the room, chest heaving, her tense arms jerking with the start of every outburst, "We had another fight…"

"Okay, just calm down and tell me exactly what happened," already picking up distorted still images of Yuuki in the library from her output.

"I met him in the library yesterday," she paced, her voice distressed, "I did everything you told me. I apologized to him and he actually apologized back, but then, when I tried to talk to him about the other stuff, he just clammed up!" her voice getting raspy. "He kept poking around on his phone and wouldn't even look at me!"

His breathing was getting heavy as well, but he risked walking over to her side of the clutter, he hung his hand on a large, standing foldout table, "Okay, okay, you have to calm down…"

"He just kept blowing off everything I said until I couldn't take it anymore! I just wanted to talk to him and he wouldn't hear any of it!" her eyes glassy, her fists beginning to shake.

Figures this would happen, Yuuki had set his eyes on Eiichi to get rid of him and now because of that, she was suffering. He must've been too focused on his little game with him to pay any attention to her. People and their petty games.

She dropped down, her butt landing on a large, rolled up mat. Knees together, her fists landed and stayed there. She shook and stared at the clutter in front of her, "I yelled at him…right in front of everyone…I called him a girl, again!"

Eiichi stayed where he was, fighting a wave of dizziness, "Oh Roka, why did you do that…"

"I don't know! Okay!?" she looked up, the streams already running down her red cheeks. "I lost control again, and I did it again…" her chest spasmed, making her head dip down momentarily.

Eiichi needed to sit down, he figured he might as well, if he kept standing he might fall over. He plopped down in the space next to her on the mat.

Her shoulders jumped a few times, little whimpers escaping, before she leaned forward, burying her face in her hands, letting out one long, sorrowful gasp.

"You're just frustrated, I know…" he could remember a dark classroom, a young man on the floor slumped against a wall, the knuckles of one hand torn and bleeding, silently crying into his knees, ready to give up, "But you have to ask yourself, why are you crying?"

She didn't answer him, but then she felt one hand rest on her back. She turned immediately and nearly tackled him with a hug, burying her face in his coat, releasing all of her woe.

"What do I do…" her raspy voice struggling to speak.

"Sh…sh…" he smoothed her purple strands, his other arm around her back, considering how peculiar this situation looked, but what was bothering her was more important.

"How could I…hurt him like that…" she shuddered.

"Why are you crying?"

"I don't know…"

"That's not a good enough answer…you make fun of him for his appearance…you put up this wall of callousness, but every time I've seen you, you haven't been able to stop talking about him…why are you putting that wall up…Roka…why are you crying?"

She was trying to hold it in. He could feel the two sides fighting inside of her, a profound, unexpected attraction, being held back by fear of judgmental looks and opinions.

"I…I love him…" that's what he was looking for. "He's a stupid, scrawny pervert, and I love him!"

Her sobbing intensified, her petite form seizing under his arms.

"That's it, it's alright…"

He held her tight until she calmed down.

"What am I supposed to do?" she loosed him, wiping her eyes. "I keep screwing things up. I told him I never wanted to see him again…"

"I'm going to tell you a little truth. You may've heard it before, but I think you need to hear it again – you're a hothead," leaning into his words. "But guess what, so am I."

A little laugh escaped her and she sniffled, "No you're not."

"You weren't around for the mess I was in last year, I'm pretty sure for a short time people thought I had a screw loose."

Her red face gave a little smile, "So…the popular, cool guy Eiichi has a temper…"

"Mhm, and so do you, fortunately it only seems to come out when you're around him. He was in the wrong first, you tried to be patient, and then you made your mistake. But in a way, you could say he provoked you."

"Because I'm this way, why would he ever want to be with me?"

"You'd be surprised, there are guys that actually look for that in a girl. It means you care. There's no shame in it, you just need to take better care of yourself. The thing to remember about us hotheads is that we don't just get angry. We are easily moved by our emotions, we just feel more than others. When we hate, we really hate, and when we love, we really love."

She wiped her eyes, fighting another wave.

"Don't worry about Yuuki, I'll straighten him out, just give me a day…or two."

"You'd do that?"

"Yeah…"

"W-What will you say to him?"

"He and I've been having some differences of our own. I'll talk to him for you and it may help us to see eye to eye as well."

"Just, please don't tell him about this…"

"Are you kidding? He only needs to know what he needs to know. Someone has to beat some sense into him so he'll hear you out, and I'd be happy to do it, especially for a friend."

She looked down at her hands and rubbed them together in unison with her knees. Again, she tackled him with another hug, "Thank you…"

He returned the affection, "I know it's asking a lot, but try to cheer up a little and find something to distract you from this. Your basketball season is coming to an end, you shouldn't finish it this way."

"Okay, I'll do that," she whispered.

"If you'd like, I'll invite you over sometime. I think Kotonoha and my brother would love to meet you," one more troubled spirit for the Kuzoka household to welcome with open arms.

"That sounds good…"

Eiichi thought he heard footsteps from outside the door.

"Hey, we better get outta' here before someone sees us and thinks we're doing something we shouldn't be," this would make two close calls in one day, he was hoping it would be the last of it.

"You're right," she released him and stood.

Getting up, he followed her out, "Actually, if you want, I can wait outside after you get changed and we can go meet Koto. It must be driving her nuts that I keep showing up late. We could walk you home, at least part way," maybe her being a third wheel wasn't the best idea, but it wouldn't be for that long, and it was better than her walking home alone.

She had to think about it a moment, and then she smiled again, already looking a little more chipper, "Sure!"

"Besides, I kind of need you to talk to my brother sometime," he stepped over to the door and opened it for her, "I think he has a thing for your senpai."

"No way…" she turned.

"Yeah, I've only been able to tell him what she's like though."

"I have a few pics on my phone…" still sniffling a little, she pulled her cell out of her basketball shorts, "See? This one is when we were at the café across the street."

"Oh man, wave this in front of his face and he won't leave me alone until I give up her number."

Giggling some now, "How old is your brother?"

"Um, we'll talk about that on the way back…"


Out of breath, Otome shoved the door to an empty classroom open and slammed it shut. The lights were out, only a dim purple light from the evening outside crept through the windows.

Gasping, her chest heaving, she leaned up against the wall next to the door, staring bewildered into nothingness. She actually ran all the way from the gym to the main building, not really knowing where she was going.

She saw it, she saw the whole thing, she saw Roka and Eiichi in each other's arms. She had finished getting changed and was leaving when she heard their voices from the storage room. She recognized Eiichi's and while wondering why he would be in the gym, looked through the crack in the door to see…

Her mouth closed, her chest expanding.

Why would he be there? Why would he be with Roka?

Gulping down dry passages of air, she gritted her teeth, her vision getting blurry.

He was supposed to be with Kotonoha. Why was her chest hurting so much?

She lifted a hand, forcefully wiping her nose, trying to hold it back.

Every time she saw him, he'd been with Kotonoha. He didn't love anyone else, not even her, so why?

It started as a whimper. Shaking, her face jerked down, a gust shot from her clenched teeth, making a tensed sound, eyes wincing. She sank down to the floor in the shadows, hiding her face in her knees. Her cries echoed through the empty room, she didn't care if anyone heard, she didn't care anymore.

She had wanted him for so long now, knowing it would never be, and now… He was so good, actually kind. She thought they had so much in common, she hoped that one day he would understand her. If anything ever happened, she thought she might have a chance. She just wanted him to actually see her, but he always looked down on her because of what she did. She hated herself for it. And now, he was cheating on the one he supposedly loved. She wanted so badly for it to be her. She knew it was wrong, but how could she deny it now. Because he never would made her only want him more, but now, that had all been destroyed.

The crying quieted down, slowly. In the dark of the room, there was very little sound. Birds of spring could be heard chirping outside in the evening light. There was not a stir.

It started as a soft sort of hiccup.

"Heh…"

The room was quiet again. The girl in the corner kept her face hidden.

Another one…and more. Like short little breaths that became louder, growing into throaty chuckles. She gasped, unable to control herself, Otome's shoulders jumped rhythmically, her hands tensing on her knees.

"Hehehe…"

Her head whipped back with wide daft eyes, mouth gaping, white teeth, releasing a shriek into the emptiness. A tirade of cackles attacked the silence around her. She convulsed and hugged her knees close as the frenzy took control.

"Ah!-ha!-ha!-ha!"

How could she have been so stupid? How could she have been so blind? It was all so ridiculous once she really looked at it. She'd only been kidding herself, she could have taken him any time she wanted! She had been wasting her time fawning over him. She thought she had found something special, something she thought she would never see in another person, but just like all men, he couldn't control his urges in the long run. It only made sense!

The violent uproar lost its vigor with remaining, drained ejections. She gazed at the ceiling in a dazed euphoria, and then wiped her eyes, grinning out a few more chuckles, feeling very relieved.

She couldn't even remember why she had been thinking about him so much. He had tried to play the noble role, but really, he was no different than the rest of them. He hated Makoto, and yet he was just like him. If he wanted another girl so bad, he should have said so in the first place. He must be so tired of Kotonoha. Despite their happy little couple status, she was still such a prude to him, though she was always talking with the other guys. Otome knew she was no different.

She would show them, whatever she did, she would be doing them a service, freeing them from their stuffy little lives. She could have taken a picture! And posted it for all to see! Oh that would have been perfect! Maybe if she went back they would still be there…

Likely not. Her mistake was she had allowed her emotions to carry her away. She missed a perfect opportunity, but no matter. She didn't have time anyways, she had to be home soon, but that was alright, she was already getting some ideas.

She would get him back, the way he got her.

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