Tsuruko felt that Yukiatsu had been acting strange lately. He was becoming harder to read, and he didn’t share his thoughts with her nearly as much as before. But when she thought about it reasonably, it was probably the natural thing to do.
In a way, she supposed they had both been acting out roles from before. He was the smart, popular, likeable guy - the object of affection for nearly every female in their class and grade. She was the quiet childhood friend - the ultimate Ice Queen.
But it was thanks to Menma that that had changed. They both become more at ease with who they are, and reconciled themselves. The burden of their resentment, envy and regret have fallen behind them. It wasn’t only Menma’s spirit that was set free that day, it was hers and Yukiatsu’s too.
With Yukiatsu also free of his wounds, he no longer had to be looked after by her. No longer did he have to be the centre of her attention.
Her eyes swept around the classroom. Yukiatsu was talking amiably to a few girls, with several of his male friends snickering behind and next to him. Probably teasing him.
If Yukiatsu was so popular, maybe she could pick up a thing or two from him. She had been trying to be a little more open lately, but she considered her social skills rusty after many years of disuse. Her eyes could already see through people, maybe she could learn to say the right things as well.
“Tsurumi-san.” A foreign voice suddenly rang next to her. Tsuruko tore her gaze away from her childhood friend to notice another boy standing next to her.
He was perhaps as tall as Matsuyuki was. His hair was dark and neatly parted. His eyes were clear blue and had a smart, polite gleam in them.
His name was Mogami Hibiya. The top student in their year, tying with Yukiatsu in academic smarts. Good looks, grades and manners, he was much like Atsumu, though he wasn’t nearly as popular. He was more like Tsuruko, quiet on the side and extremely focussed. She had spoken to him on occasions before.
“May I speak to you for a moment?”
She studied his expression closely with her sharp, green eyes. She nodded. “What is it?”
He gave her a crisp smile, before casting a discreet glance into the classroom behind her. “Not here, Tsurumi-san. Would you mind if we talked somewhere more quiet? Perhaps the rooftop?” Seeing her hesitance, he lowered his voice in assurance. “It won’t take too long, and I promise I won’t do anything to upset you, Tsurumi-san.”
That’s right, Mogami was the class leader, wasn’t he? Tsuruko thought. He was a model for everyone.
“Alright then.” She accepted.
They walked together out of the classroom and climbed the stairs to the roof. The sky was a swirling blue. The clouds a white, thick cottony sheet stark against the sky’s backdrop. It was windy, but the sun managed to make things warm.
“What do you want to talk about, Mogami-kun?” Tsuruko asked.
For the first time since he struck the conversation, Mogami hesitated. “Tsurumi-san...Are you - Are you and Matsuyuki Atsumu dating?”
“Huh?” She asked, dumbfounded.
“It seems you’re always together. People have talked about it, and I’ve been wondering to...uh” Mogami quickly added, becoming more flustered as he spoke. “May I have an answer regarding your relationship status?"
Could it be that you have a crush on Yukiatsu too? Tsuruko thought and couldn’t suppress a smile. “We aren’t dating, Mogami-kun. Matsuyuki-kun is a free man.”
“I see.” Mogami said, sounding relieved.
Tsuruko couldn’t recall how many times she had had this conversation before. Granted, Mogami-kun was the first guy to confront her about her mysterious relationship with Matsuyuki. His question had surprised her, for she had expected him to ask something less cliched. Now it seemed that the only reason anyone would seek her out was because of Matsuyuki. Was her worth tied down to Yukiatsu? Was she really nothing without him?
Tsuruko began to feel a little frustrated. Not at Mogami-kun - of course, he’d given her no reason to. There was no one to direct her frustration at but herself.
Thinking about this brought a frown to her visage. She wanted to leave, but Mogami-kun still had quite a few things to say.
“Tsurumi-san, would you hear out my feelings?” He started, very seriously. Hmm, why would Mogami suddenly want to bare his feelings to her? They weren’t particularly close. Then she remembered that like her, Mogami had few friends. Though he was still well-liked, he had never been close to anyone in their class. Perhaps Tsurumi was as good as any other.
She decided that she would listen, because she was curious of what he had to say.
“For the longest time, I confess I’ve been watching you, Tsurumi-san. In the past, you’ve always acted very distant. But even though you didn’t get along with anyone apart from Matsuyuki, you held out on your own and never let anyone put pressure on you. I thought it was very admirable, truth be told. You probably know, I’m not very assertive.”
“Lately, for some reason, you seem much happier than before. More...at ease around others. That’s when I realised,” He paused, looking directly at Tsuruko, whose eyes had continued to widen as Mogami went on.“that I really enjoy seeing this side of you. I like to see you smile. And I’d like to get to know you.”
“Tsurumi Chiriko-san, I like you!” Mogami suddenly declared, bowing in a very sincere, gentleman-like manner. “I promise to treasure you always. Please go out with me.”