The Heroes of Sakakino

Chapter 8 As Steel Sharpens Steel

'Alright, no more funny stuff! Meet me outside the cafeteria during lunch so we can settle this like men.'

Eiichi had almost forgotten about this thanks to the light hearted evening he spent with Kotonoha while walking Roka to the train station. Roka didn't talk much about Yuuki, probably because she was too concerned to bring it up that it would bring a damper on their meeting. Kotonoha had been very taken with her and after going their separate ways, immediately pointed out to Eiichi that they were very much alike. He looked at this humorously and figured it must have been his stroke of luck that he wound up being the one to help her, and his misfortune to be dealing with the object of her fantasies at the same time.

He waited outside by the building entrance among the benches, trees and flower planters, wondering if Yuuki was going to show. He couldn't help peering suspiciously at every student passing by, scanning their outputs, just waiting to be approached by someone else not already associated with him. He made the meeting time abrupt so Yuuki wouldn't have enough time to come up with a plan, but he half expected a coy return message stating something about the demand being too last minute and having some other nonexistent errand that needed taking care off. If that happened, Eiichi would hunt him down and drag his sorry ass away, kicking and screaming, it shouldn't take him long. Though it would be a lot of hassle and would make a lot of noise, and might come to blows if Yuuki had any buddies with him, and then Eiichi would be suspended again, and Koto would be angry with him, and he'd probably run into some trouble with his graduation, and blah, blah, blah…

Telling Kotonoha, again, that he wouldn't be around for lunch left her feeling concerned. He was neglecting one of the most important parts of his day to deal with this twerp, and it only frustrated him more. His excuse had been only telling her that there was a matter he needed to deal with alone. Keeping her in the dark made it worse on him as well, but he kept reminding himself just how awkward it would be for him to tell her that Yuuki, her friend since the school year started, has had a mad crush on her, and has been the one responsible for the mob of girls that did everything but rape him. He was temped, oh man was he. It would cut things off right there, but it would only serve to make Yuuki more bitter, and Chie might even come to hate him. And what about Roka? He couldn't do that to her after what he promised. To Yuuki as well, but it was coming, he was going to have to tell Kotonoha sooner or later.

There was no return message and Eiichi was getting impatient. He checked the time and it had only been five minutes. He'd give it another five.

His back had been turned, and from behind him he could feel vapors of malicious intent.

Remembering to not make it look too conspicuous, Eiichi turned around just as Yuuki had been approaching him, just eight feet away. Yuuki's face stared back with a grimace to match his frustrated mind.

"What were you planning on doing just now?" Eiichi motioned with his chin.

Yuuki walked up to him quickly and raised his hands just in time to attempt a shove. Eiichi's arm raised and batted them aside. Yuuki tried again, this time managing it, Eiichi balance himself, propping one foot back, the shove only made him lurch back a little.

"Oh! Oh shit!" a few students had already noticed what was taking place.

Eiichi backed up and kept his distance, circling Yuuki, his arms remaining at his sides, "What're you doing kid…"

Yuuki looked around at the crowd forming, and then rushed forward, raising his arm.

Eiichi figured Yuuki might've taken 'settle this like men' and little too literal. He probably should have said he only wanted to talk, but that had been going around so much lately, he was starting to think people weren't taking it seriously anymore. He waited for the right moment, then jumped to the side and began side stepping. Yuuki threw his overly telegraphed punch prematurely and wound up hitting air.

Yuuki was scared, but determined. This was not some momentary outburst of belligerent insanity. Like with everything Yuuki did, he had a reason.

"Kick his ass Eiichi!" the shouts were already starting up.

Yuuki looked around again, bewildered. Things weren't turning out how he'd planned.

"This is desperate, what're you trying to prove?" Eiichi continued circling Yuuki at a light pace.

"That you're a bastard!" Yuuki shouted. "You may have them all fooled, but you didn't fool me!"

"And so you want to pick a fight now?"

"If I have to!" Yuuki rushed forward.

Eiichi dodged and Yuuki nearly fell into a flower bed.

"I'm not going to fight you kid."

"You have to sometime!" he got up and made for Eiichi.

Eiichi stopped, let out a huff of air and watched the approaching threat, hands in his pockets.

His head whipped to the side when Yuuki's fist made contact with his jaw.

"Ooh!" the crowd seethed and then started back up, the jeering intensified.

Yuuki stood in front of him, panting, arms out and legs tensed in his stance, waiting for it.

Eiichi looked at him, not touching the welt on his jaw, "Happy now?"

Yuuki only panted under the noise, Eiichi feeling his confusion.

Eiichi looked around, expecting a sensei to show up any minute. Figuring he still had an opportunity to make this right, he leaned toward Yuuki, who shut his eyes tight, ready in case Eiichi really was going to do something, "Take a walk with me."

Yuuki's eyes popped open. Baffled, he lowered his hands and looked at Eiichi, "What!?" He probably didn't hear right.

Eiichi raised his voice under the shouting, "Take a walk with me!" And without waiting for a response, he began walking to an edge of the ring of barbaric students.

Yuuki stared at the space where Eiichi had been standing, looking confused and really disoriented.

"Hey!" Eiichi's shout called his attention through the noise.

Yuuki turned to see him motioning for him to follow.

"What the hell!" "Rejected!" "That was ice cold!" disappointed shouts and complaints were called out by the more riled up members of the mob. Eiichi ignored them and pushed his way through the slowly dispersing crowd of students, Yuuki reluctantly following behind.

Hands still in his pockets, Eiichi marched all the way over to the spot where they had their first talk at the back of the main building, Yuuki tottering right behind him. When they made it, he stopped and turned, staring at Yuuki and making him add uncomfortable to his emotional list.

"You're a really smart kid, you know that?"

The compliment, coupled with Eiichi's glare only served to confuse Yuuki more, "After all that, you brought me here just to say that?"

Eiichi ignored the question, "I don't think many people could manage to pull together what you have, just to make things difficult on someone else. That took some planning and social knowhow that I never figured possible for someone who flies so far under the radar like you. But that scene back there," he pointed, "was pretty fuckin' stupid and desperate."

Yuuki irked that he was receiving a lecture from the very person he'd wanted to destroy, "Stop acting like you know so much about me! If I hadn't showed up, you'd still be living the popular life without a care in the world!"

"Oh! Well isn't that the pot calling the kettle black! You think you know so much about me? You haven't taken a single moment to stop and think about just what it is you've really been doing."

"I believe my methods are justified!"

"Justified enough to where you're actually harming others."

"W-What?"

"You should probably know that I'm friends with Roka, and she told me about the fight you guys had a few days ago."

Yuuki, taken aback, remembered the sheer embarrassment of the whole ordeal and could only make his blatant defense, "That's none of your business!"

"And so what I have with Kotonoha is your business? You've got hypocrite written all over your face right now."

"You wanna' talk hypocrite? You've been pretending to be this helpful guy, but why don't you look at all the damage you've caused!? I knew some of the people that were friends with Sekai and Makoto. When everyone found out they were dead, it was horrifying! I learned Makoto had been stabbed to death and Sekai had been bludgeoned to death, and both you and Katsura-san were involved!"

"And that somehow makes us guilty."

"That somehow makes you guilty. I know you attacked Makoto some time before it happened as well. You don't think that sounds a little suspicious?"

"Oh, me and only me! She was involved, but I get the blame. Why is it you're so fixated on me? Is it really just because I'm dating Kotonoha? Are you really that obsessed?"

"You're a horrible person, or else it never would've happened!"

"You wanna' talk to me about horrible people, walk a mile in my shoes! You're just finishing up your first year kid, you haven't touched the cusp of what horrible is. I've seen things that'll make your skin crawl," that one slipped out.

Yuuki, still fuming, spoke low and with harshness, "I also know that when you suddenly happened on the scene, Katsura-san gets depressed to the point of suicidal thoughts, and then suddenly Makoto and Sekai wind up dead. While you and Katsura have been living it up as celebrities, everyone who's ever been friends with Makoto and Sekai has been having to deal with their loss."

He had to get him to admit it himself, "Kid, there isn't much that I can do about that, but nothing is perfect like in video games or anime. All those people you think you know, aren't who they seem. You have some pretty good connections if you know everyone from their little crew, but you never spent enough time around them to really absorb enough."

"I was around them long enough to know about Makoto…"

"And since we're on the subject, what are your thoughts on Makoto anyways? Since he was once such a popular guy with anyone that would open their legs, despite having prior commitments, what is your take on that?"

The hatred surged inside Yuuki, much like the same hatred for Eiichi, only this one had a founding. Eiichi could sense Yuuki had not been a direct witness like him, however out-worldly Eiichi's experience had been, but he'd seen enough to put one, two and three together, and it was enough to send shivers through his spine, "I was not fond of the type of person he was…"

"That's putting it subtly. If that's how you feel, then stop attaching all these traits to me! You keep thinking I'm like Makoto! I'm not Makoto! If anything, you and I have more in common!"

"We have nothing in common!"

Eiichi smoothed out his thoughts, and re-approached the subject, "Ya know, during my short time around Makoto, I noticed a lot of people defending him just like you are. Since you're reluctant to speak your true thoughts, allow me to speak mine…" this was beside him and anyone else, what he was about to say, speaking of a dead man, "Makoto was a lying, possessive, devious, punk," his lips curling over his teeth, "I don't much think that he deserved to die for the things he did, but his actions caused a multitude of suffering. He was one that needed to learn the hard way about what the difference is between a decent man, and vermin. I could not stand by and watch him destroy someone without a single thought, so I grabbed the purest thing I could find, and held on for dear life. With as bad as things turned out, they could've been a lot worse."

He was trying to keep it together, trying to bat the memories away, but they kept closing in, giving him no space to think. Yuuki had him treading into territory he just simply wanted left behind.

Yuuki scoffed, "Tsh, and just how would you know that?"

There was a boom in Eiichi's mind. His hair stood up on his arms and neck as the shivers coursed throughout his body. His hands tingled, his dry tongue pasted to the top his mouth, his vision warping into a tunnel of blurred edges. He blinked and for a moment he thought he wasn't really standing in front of Yuuki at the side of the main building, but on the roof of it.

The sun had gone down hours ago, replaced with a full hunter's moon, alone, with no stars to accompany it. It was cold, colder than he remembered. The wind called to him in its low, perpetual exhale of foreboding. A girl's body lay on the pad in front of him, in a spreading pool of crimson, her stomach had been ripped wide open. It had never happened, and it was so real. Something else was up there with him, but he couldn't bring himself to look at it. There was the flash of a blade, abysmal eyes, and the ringing…

On some nights he would burst from his sleep shivering, not knowing why. He could not be in the dark, and fumbled to turn the lights on as quickly as he could, expecting something to appear as soon as he did. He would check his room before opening his door to investigate the hall, for an intruder that was never there. Then he would make his way cautiously to the kitchen. He would grab a knife from the cutlery block and always kept it in arms reach while he raided the fridge to eat and drink anything he could find, to get the taste of iron out of his mouth.

'You've been acting strange lately…'

There had been days where he was afraid to fall asleep next to her, for fear that this might happen and scare her. One day he'd tell her…maybe…he thought he would…he wanted to…

"Hey…"

"Huh?" Eiichi blinked and his head twitched involuntarily.

Yuuki had been peering at him from behind his specs, "You look like you zoned out there for a sec."

Eiichi stared at Yuuki a moment, then he parted the opening of his unbuttoned uniform, and lifted the tee-shirt.

Underneath, across his abs, was a line of mangled, whitish tissue, about four inches in length, with white dotting from sutures. The stretched skin gave a minimal shine in the sunlight.

To say that Sekai had stabbed him would be an understatement. Given the length of the wound, she had tried to cut him open.

Yuuki's eyes fixated on the ugly blemish, mouth gaping.

Eiichi stared, "It's not your typical high school broken hearts story…Sekai used a kitchen knife to kill Makoto…it was the same knife that did this…we weren't involved the way you think we were…no good deed goes unpunished…"

The thought of Makoto, who had been the one person Eiichi wanted to rid from Kotonoha's life for good, whose blood had become mixed with his own, put a fowl taste of unworthiness in Eiichi's mouth that no amount of hate could remove.

Yuuki's mind had been in a constant stir of conflicting emotions, set in both what he believed and what Eiichi had been telling him, but now, it had become quiet, like when Eiichi first discovered him. Yuuki uttered an airy, astonished word Eiichi thought he'd never hear coming from him, "Fuck…" At this, he thought he was starting to rub off on him a little.

Eiichi lowered his shirt and stood there a moment before reaching in to his coat pocket and producing his ecig. He sat down against the wall of the building, arms on the rest of his knees, looking out at the perimeter of the school. He took a long drag, exhaling the memories, "You call me violent, and that's pretty much true. I am not sorry for what I did to Makoto, I enjoyed hurting him. With how I've gotten to know you, I thought you might understand that…"

He decided right now that he wouldn't threaten anything against Yuuki. If he wanted to keep attacking him, Eiichi wouldn't do anything to stop it, he had nothing left. Yuuki was one stubborn mix of contemplation and beliefs, Eiichi could only read him and hope for the best.

Yuuki stepped over and sat against the wall a space from Eiichi. He rested his arms on his knees just the same, "I didn't know…"

"You never asked…"

Yuuki stroked his hands together and then clenched them, "How did it happen?"

Eiichi took another drag, letting the vapors waft from between his lips, "If you want to know about everything that happened, I will tell you. But there are some things I'm going to keep to myself…"

Yuuki stared off, recapping his memories, "I don't understand how things could've just blown up so quickly. It was so…" Eiichi could feel the shivers in his output. "Just one day they were here, like nothing was going on…and the next…"

"There was a lot going on. Too much for even you to keep track of, you just couldn't see far enough under the veil."

"Actually it was you," Yuuki turned his head. "Before you showed up, I was thinking about doing something about it, but then Katsura-san stopped appearing in the library for a while. I didn't see her for days, and the next thing I know, she had tried to kill herself. I was so blown away by that, I didn't know how to react. I guess that's why I got so angry…" he looked down. "I kept a close eye on you two, but it was hard with all the attention you were receiving, and then that one night…" his mouth rumpled. "When I heard that Katsura-san had been with you when it happened, it scared me to death…"

Eiichi's phone went off, he produced it and checked the message from Kotonoha: 'Where are you? I heard you and Yuuki were in a fight.'

"She was a real trooper…" Eiichi tapped his message: 'Everything's okay. It's not as bad as you think. I'm talking with him right now.' "She's a lot stronger than you think…a lot stronger than I thought… I think she proved me wrong more than anyone. When I thought I had been taking care of her, she was really taking care of me…"

His text tone went off again: 'I'm very proud of you Eiichi, good luck!' with an added smoochy face.

Eiichi smoothed out his voice as best he could, what he was about to ask would spook Yuuki, "I need you to tell me something. Do you have interests in her?"

Yuuki didn't move or look at him, remaining still and staring out at the perimeter wall, but Eiichi could feel his heart sink, and the still remaining fear calling him away from the question. What Eiichi showed him had been shocking enough to make Yuuki realize his resilience. He was just beginning to understand how wrong he'd been, enough to make him more afraid to answer, feeling he didn't deserve the gratification of voicing his own feelings. Even though Yuuki had denied it many times, Eiichi had only been honest with him. He had to be just as trusting.

"And if I told you I did?" he spoke reluctantly.

"Then I'd tell you that's something you'd have to get sorted out, but I'd be willing to help you. It looks like you'd need it."

Yuuki's head lurched back and his face whirled toward Eiichi, "What? What're you getting at?"

"If you like her, and you've been hiding it for a while, it's probably been slowing you down. It's definitely been making you do some wacky stuff. I'm thinking, you need to get that out of your system, stop holding it in."

"You're starting to weird me out now…" Eiichi could sense Yuuki had misunderstood him.

"Just hear me out," Eiichi patted the air, "I know people, okay? I just do, I can't really explain it any other way than that. When someone has a fixation like yours, the best way to deal with it is to express yourself. Keeping it to yourself is only hurting yourself. Why do you think artsy people are so passionate about their work? Because they place their fixations into their work. With your work, the way you've been going around trying to ruin things for me, you've tried to make like your fixation was me, but it was really Kotonoha."

"Uh…yeah?"

"Let's just say you succeeded. People see me as a loser now, Kotonoha hates me for whatever reasons and never wants to see me again. She's alone, broken hearted and on the rebound, now what do you do?"

"I-I guess I just go back to things the way they were…"

"Seriously? That's it?" Eiichi looked, "You just expended time and energy into some master plan to separate us that was successful, even against your own doubts. You've busted your ass and risked your own reputation in the process, and…you just go about things like it was nothing!?"

"Ah…well…I—'"

"Come on man, there's got to be a payout, some kind of reward for your efforts. There's still one more thing you need to do."

"I think my success would be reward enough. Actually, I'd try to help her cope."

"That's how you start, but if you really did this, not just because she's a friend or a stranger in need, but because you love her," Yuuki was feeling awkward, with some added warm and fuzzies at this, "you can't just sit back and let that eat at you. You're obviously a man of action, so you have to take action! What do you do?"

"But I saved her without her knowledge, how would she think I'm deserving of anything? You're methods were more forward and obvious than mine. I just stayed back and hid like a coward…"

"Ah, there's no beating yourself up in this conversation," Eiichi pointed. "What you did, however unorthodox it was, took some brass. Sometimes staying back is the best thing you can do, no matter how bad things get. My dad could tell you some stories, that's if he felt up to it. It takes the most out of someone to do it, it takes a part of you away, but you keep moving." Eiichi took another drag and looked at Yuuki, "You're not a coward Yuuki. In hind side, if I had known you at an earlier time, we could've worked together. Though I'll admit, I was pretty skeptical of everyone back then. I probably wouldn't have the scar…"

"Yeah, but you said it yourself, I went about things pretty odd…"

"Yeah, what made you try something like that anyways?"

"Well it wasn't my idea originally, got that?" Yuuki defended.

"Okay."

"Um…my friends have been kidding around with me about it ever since Junior high. Because…because I'm short and I look…different. I've been picked on because of it most of my life."

"I'm sure the girls took a liking to you."

"They were worse."

"Doesn't mean they still didn't take a liking to you. People have trouble expressing themselves, so they can react pretty viciously. I'm sure the guys picked on you because they were jealous."

"Maybe…I got the idea because some of my friends were messing with me about trying on some of the maid outfits for the school festival last year. One of them was really starting to weird me out, like he was coming on to me."

Eiichi chuckled.

"That's not helping…" Yuuki said blandly.

"I'm sorry man, but movie stars receive a lot of attention and get in trouble all the time for their looks."

"I'm just so glad no one else found out," placing his head in his hands. "You have no idea the stress you put me under after all that. I thought because you were so popular, one word would mean the end for me."

"Yeah, it would've," Eiichi took another drag, "but I've never been popular before, so I wouldn't know how to use it even if I wanted to."

Yuuki shook his head, "Now that I think about it, I realize how stupid it was. I figured, all I needed to do was get close enough for long enough until Katsura-san left you. I thought with any luck that you would…you know…"

"Just how far were you willing to go?"

"Not that far…" Yuuki shook his wide eyed expression.

"Well still, you would've only made Kotonoha jealous to the point where she'd probably pummel you. Oh that would've been funny! You show up to save the girl and it turns out you need saving from the girl!" Eiichi chortled.

"Yeah, just rub it in…"

Eiichi stared whimsically off into the sunlight, "Ah~, my cross dressing younger brother…"

"Shut up…"

Eiichi laughed, satisfied to be able to get a somewhat lighter mood out of Yuuki. He kind of wanted to mention that he had run in to more strange minds than he'd wanted to, and that Yuuki never matched up to any of them, but this would be crossing his own boundaries on what to keep secret. "Hey, we're all a little weird. It's what makes life interesting," speaking for himself as well.

"How did you know, anyways?" the curious question that Eiichi knew would eventually come up, had they ever made it to this point.

He really wanted to tell him, but that was just another can of worms he did not want to open up, "I'm…really good with faces. I'm serious, I never forget a pattern."

"But it could've been a sister of mine."

"Well, I met Chie before that, and she never mentioned a younger sister."

"I suppose that makes sense…"

With questions answered, Eiichi only had more to ask, feeling conflicted that he had to bar Yuuki off from receiving some of his own answers. He was still curious about his new elusive and interesting companion.

"Okay, and what about the girls?"

"What about them?"

"How did you get so many to come at us like that!? That was ridiculous!" Eiichi was actually getting excited for a change.

"Oh yeah…" Yuuki looked away, a nervous smile on the corner of his mouth. "Some of them were very willing to do it, but most wanted something in return…" he buried his head in his arms, "I've got cleaning duty and ad jobs in at least three different clubs for the rest of the year…"

"Wow, you are dedicated," Eiichi eyed him, exhaling more cinnamon vapors. "Let me help you out with those."

"I can't ask you to do that," Yuuki shook his head.

"Give your pride a rest. Yeah, you screwed up, but shit's going to get heavy for you if you don't have any help."

"No, I think it would be better if I paid for my mistakes."

"It's my way of forgiving you. Come on, if I help you, it'll get done in half the time."

Yuuki looked at him, "You'd do that? But I put you through so much crap."

Eiichi nodded, "Yeah, I'll help out. I don't have much else that I'm doing. But I'll have to explain everything to Kotonoha. She's been pretty bothered by what's been going on, and if I don't say something soon, it's going to be world war three."

"She's probably going to hate me now," he shivered.

"Not if I have anything to say about it. Hey, who was that one girl you sent at me?"

"Which one?" Yuuki said with noted humor.

"The one you sent to me when we were supposed to meet in that classroom."

"Oh her—, that was Fujiwara, Manami…" speaking slowly, annunciating the name with notable fuming attraction. Even her name fit her personality, "She's in school dance and the swim team."

Eiichi nodded with wide eyes, 'Yeah, she would be on the swim team.' "How did you get such a smooth beauty to attempt such a lewd thing?"

"We've known each other for a while. Actually, she didn't want to do it at first and tried to talk me out of attacking you. She wanted to respect your relationship with Kotonoha, but she changed her mind and saw it as an opportunity to test your will. She figured if what I was saying about you was true, she wanted to see it for herself."

"Well when you get the chance, tell her she's got a gift. That girl was a mystery n' a half. With looks and grace like that, she should be the popular one. She'd make a superb dancer, or even a model. She had to be the most persuasive one you threw at me," people had always been so predictable to Eiichi, he couldn't remember the last time he ever met such a complex mind.

"Yeah…to be honest, I was pretty frustrated when she told me things didn't work the way I'd planned. She was only supposed to get you to cave and then leave before things got intense. She's actually a very nice person and isn't normally that way. I guess, if you could get past her, you deserve Katsura-san…"

Eiichi looked at Yuuki with fondness in his eyes, "In an odd way, I should be thankful then. What a test, she must've turned into a completely different person when she cornered me."

Yuuki chuckled, "Why do you think I picked her?"

Eiichi tipped his head in reasonable admission and took another drag off his vaporizer.

"How could you've not known that room was closed out from club usage?" Yuuki asked.

Eiichi chuckled, "I guess you got me there. I didn't think you'd be so underhanded to bait n' switch me like that."

"Yeah…sorry about that."

With a lot of unanswered questions out of the way, Eiichi had to get on with the business to address with Yuuki. He still wanted to work with Yuuki and Roka, but there was something in the way that needed to be taken care of.

"So, you have a crush on my girlfriend."

Yuuki flustered, bringing back some throbbing in Eiichi's head, "D-Don't put it so bluntly!"

"Hear me out, I know this is going to sound weird, but you need to express that - to her."

"You're losing me again…"

"I shouldn't have to spell it out for you man."

"No, I think you do…" Yuuki's confusion made him nod in contrast.

Eiichi fiddled with his vaporizer, giving deep thought to what he was about to say, "Yuuki…there's no other way for me to say it…I'm gonna' need you to confess to my girlfriend!"

Yuuki blinked, his head cocking back like something had flown onto the lens of his spectacles. He gave a deeply perplexed look, like Eiichi had been speaking another language. Without changing, he spoke, pointing to himself and then to Eiichi, "Let me get this straight. You want me, to confess my feelings, to your girlfriend?"

Eiichi tossed his hands up, "It seems that way Randy."

"Who-who's Randy?" Yuuki's accent made him stumble over the 'R'.

"Probably better you don't know," giving thought to the idea that he may've been watching too many American TV series.

Yuuki rubbed his head, "This is too weird…"

"I know, I know, but if you feel this strongly about her, it's the only other solution I can think of, unless you've got a better one."

Eiichi could feel the gears working again, Yuuki trying desperately to think up a less far-fetched solution, "But how do I do that?"

"Simple, you just go up like you would to any other girl and tell her."

Yuuki waved his hands, "But, it's not that simple! And Kotonoha is not just any other girl!"

"Okay, this is starting to sound a little unhealthy."

Yuuki let out an exhaustive sigh, "Not like that. Anyways, what would be the point? She obviously going to say no."

He knew Roka wouldn't say no…likely, but he couldn't tell him now. This was a hurdle that Yuuki had to face if they were going to get anywhere, "Think of it as practice."

"Practice!?"

"Yeah, listen, you've got to get over your feelings somehow so you can open your mind up to other possibilities. I know it sounds harsh, but that's the situation we find ourselves in here. You have to get over her, and confessing is a good start. If you don't, these strong feelings are just going to hang around for a lot longer, and if you find someone who wants to be with you, it's only going to pull you away from them. Believe me, there's someone out there waiting for you, and it wouldn't be such a bad idea to be ready for her. I'm going to guess this would be your first time confessing to a girl."

Yuuki blushed with sincere abasement, "Y-You don't know that!"

"I'm only guessing, but you just told me."

Yuuki turned away and grumbled.

"I want you to actually imagine looking Kotonoha in the eyes and saying those three special words."

"This is stupid…"

"Not those. Just, bear with me here," the term being literal for Eiichi.

Yuuki looked out from the wall. His face started turning pink and from inside his minds eye, Eiichi received stills of Kotonoha, her black hair flowing in the wind, gazing at him with her dark and innocent eyes, a very theatrical image that would be typical for Yuuki, being in love, but fitting for her.

"Heart pounding?" Eiichi asked.

"Uh, y-yeah—"

"Palms clammy?"

"Yeah—"

"Shortness of breath?"

"Okay! I get it!"

"And yet you still haven't answered my other question. What would you do? So say it."

Even though in the past week, Yuuki had gone through everything from crippling embarrassment, to gripping fear and burning wrath, he still held back when it came to the very reason he suffered those trials. It was an understandable struggle that everyone dealt with, even while pretending not to.

"It makes you nervous, and to be honest, I don't think it really goes away, but being able to do it a few times will give you a feel for how to go about things. Yes, she's not going to say 'yes', but at least you'll get a taste for it."

Yuuki was very aware of who he was telling this to, and was having trouble bringing himself to say it. Eiichi had high hopes that his frustration wouldn't fly up and cause him to storm off again, running away from his problems. If that happened, Eiichi would turn the tables and become the one doing the pestering.

"I'm sorry if this seems like a lot. I understand you feel pretty weird talking to me about this. But look at it from my perspective, I've had to deal with people fawning over her and giving her looks when they think I'm not looking, for months. Do you really think it bothers me to be talking to you about this?"

"I-I guess not…"

"Good, so say it," Eiichi demanded.

"I thought I already did!"

"You only made the implication. Come on, be a man. Be honest."

Just like with Roka, Yuuki was having trouble bringing it out. Eiichi wanted to see it again, that fire they both possessed that caused them to face their problems head on. It was that ability to take a step out in faith against all odds, in hopes that everything would work out, even if not in their favor. But it was fear that made it very unpredictable.

Yuuki turned his head up and looked Eiichi in the eye, "Kuzoka Eiichi…" blinking and looking away a moment, but reseting himself, "I am in love with your girlfriend, Katsura Kotonoha…"

Eiichi slapped a hand on Yuuki's shoulder and gave him a shake, "Now you just gotta' say it to her, but not so formally, okay?"

Yuuki looked down and breathed. He must've been feeling warm in the face, because the after affect of relief had caused some released strain.

"Why are you helping me out with this?" Yuuki muttered.

"I'm just that kinda' guy."

Yuuki began feeling the pangs of remorse, coming down from his emotional rush had brought back his awareness of everything leading up to this conversation. He looked at Eiichi, "I haven't apologized yet, and neither have I thanked you. You're not such a bad guy."

Eiichi looked back at him, "You're not bad yourself…"

While Eiichi went back to his ecig, Yuuki took his phone out and his output's alarm shot up to a level that put Eiichi back in the pain zone.

"Eiichi! Next period has already started!" Yuuki jumped up in a panic. "How did we miss the bell!?"

"Oh, okay…" Eiichi stood up in his lazy manner, pocketing his ecig.

"How can you be so calm about it!? It rang ten minutes ago!"

"It's cool, we'll catch the next one. We have some time, wanna' head across the street and get something to eat, you kinda' ruined my lunch. We can discuss our plan of attack, it's not over for you yet, kid."

"Plan of attack!? But we're missing class!"

"That's okay, I haven't skipped in a while. Besides, you're rollin' with me now."

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