Chapter 2:

「Chapter 2: Haru Nishikawa Prepares His Plan of Attack」

I Fell in Love, Now What?

"So, what's your game plan?"

"Huh, weren't you guys listening? There is no ‘game plan' because she isn't interested in me.”

Sometimes I really thought these two were idiots.

School had ended a few minutes ago and now the three of us, Sora, Yuma, and I were heading to the train station. To be honest, the last few hours of school felt like they had dragged on for days. And the journey home felt like it would take a lifetime.

"Cheer up, buddy," Yuma said as he threw his arm around my shoulder. "You need to wipe that frown off your face. It's not the end of the world."

"It's like they always say, there are plenty of fish in the sea," Sora chimed in after having finished his snack. "It's just like the onigiri I was just eating. You might think that you found something you liked, but if you take the time to dig a little deeper, you'll find a whole new world. If you take some more time to look, you might find something better."

"That's a stupid metaphor. Plus, your little sister makes all your lunches. What if one day she gives you a filling you don't like?" I pointed out.

“That’s just tough luck,” he answered, shrugging it off.

“Either way,” I countered, “it’s easy for you two to say that there are plenty of girls out there. With your good looks, you guys can practically get any girl you like. Sora has lunch with a new girl every other day and Yuma is fawned over by all the first years.” I really don’t know how I ended up as their friend when I was rejected after my very first confession. Maybe dating wasn’t meant for me.”

“That’s not true, you know,” Yuma protested. “Even if some girls would like to have lunch with me, seeing Chizuru by my side is enough to keep them away. After all, she’s the only one for me.” And now, suddenly, Yuma was the one that was love struck.

“I remember when you and Chizuru first started dating. She really hated my guts then.” As he recalled those days, a shiver ran down Sora’s spine.

“Ahaha… No, she definitely still hates you,” Sora admitted with a dry chuckle.

Indeed. When they first made it known that they were together, Chizuru utterly despised Sora. Each time she noticed him near Yuma, she gave him such a frightening glare that he always quietly backed away, even in the middle of conversations. Of course, that continued far into the year. It was a good thing she wasn’t in the same class as us or else the class would be crushed under the weight of her hate. And even though her hate was never directed toward me, I always made sure to be on my best behavior when she was around for fear of what she might do to me.

“What did I do to make her hate me so much?” Sora lamented, downcast.

“She’s never told me, but you must have done something to piss her off. Look at Haru here. She adores him. Says he's like a little brother to her.”

“First of all, her wrath is so terrifying that I’m extra careful when she’s around so I don’t make her mad. And second, why does every girl like to treat me as if I were their younger brother?!!” Seriously, first Tachibana and now Chizuru?! Do I have a babyface or something?

“Haha, your time will come, Haru,” he assured me.

“That’s right. We’ll help you out with winning her over. So how are we going to get you and Tachibana together?” Sora pondered on the question as he stroked an imaginary beard. “Hey, Yuma, maybe if you told Haru how you and Chizuru started dating, he could get an idea for how to win over Tachibana.”

“Actually, that wouldn’t do him much good. He was the one who brought us two together in the first place.”

“Why was I never told about this!” Sora shouted.

“You never asked.”

“Well, I’m asking now, so tell me.”

“Quiet down and I’ll tell you the story.” All his whining was starting to get annoying so I had to step in. “Well, the summer before high school, Chizuru came up to me and asked me to convince Yuma to go to the summer festival. As you remember, he was adamant about not going but I was able to convince him otherwise. The three of us were good friends but you could tell that there was something special about those two even though Chizuru loved Yuma more than he did her. Anyway, as you remember, I showed up with her and looked for any opportunity to leave those two alone. Eventually, I did, and Chizuru was able to confess to him. The end.”

I felt like I said that last part a little too nonchalantly but it wasn’t like it was an extravagant story. On the other hand, Sora seemed like he was genuinely moved by the story. Made me think he was going to start crying.

“That’s so...sweet. I can’t believe you guys never told me this.”

“Yeah, yeah. Just don’t get your snot on me,” Yuma complained as he tried to push Sora away.

“But if Haru was such a saint with helping you, we should try extra hard to help him with Tachibana.”

“I told you guys already. There’s nothing any of us can do about it. She likes someone else.” Among other reasons. “Just let me die in peace.”

“Look, buddy,” Yuma started, pulling me closer. “If we let you die, you’ll never meet the love of your life. We’ll help you by being your wingmen.” Yuma nodded.

“That’s a stupid idea!”

“Just trust the process,” he assured me.

There really was no convincing this guy, was there?

“Well, Haru, White Day is the day after tomorrow. You could buy her some chocolates. After all, she did give you some on Valentine’s Day, didn’t she?”

Ugh, of course, I remember that day. She came up to me with a small box of chocolates and I got all excited only for Tachibana to then turn and give some to another friend of hers. They were only friend chocolates, so to speak.

“This could be the perfect time for you to give her something back. But this time, they will be more than just friend chocolates,” Yuma added. “I’ll take you to the mall tomorrow if you want. They sell really nice boxes of chocolate this time of year. Who knows, maybe that'll get a reaction out of Tachibana."

“I doubt that’ll work but sure. It beats moping around at home. Plus, I can get something to eat there.”

“That’s the spirit!” Sora yelled out as we approached the station.

“Yeah, and it’ll also give me a chance to pick out a gift for Chizuru.”

“Well, sounds like a plan.”

*     *     *

I lived one station away from where Sora and Yuma got off the train, so the last leg of my journey home was always in silence with no one to talk to until I reached Fujisawa Station. There were many other students who used this line and as a result, the train tended to be cramped. I could hear the conversations of everyone within a few meters. The usual stuff; talking about the TV shows they are watching, or discussing what their plans were for tomorrow.

Regardless, I was left alone to my own thoughts, constantly reminding myself of the rejects I had undergone. Though Tachibana was really nice about it, it still hurt me to my core. I really thought I had a chance with her and that she liked me back. After all, we had been friends for a while now and we would often spend time together at school.

But I guess all of that was just in my mind, none of it actually being reality. It was really depressing.

I don't really understand what Yuma thinks will happen if I give Tachibana a gift. Sure, it's always nice to receive a gift, but Tachibana already has her mind made up. It's not like that’ll change.

Who knows. Yuma had said that as if there was any hope for me. Come to think of it, Tachibana had said the same thing as well.

Hmm. Is it actually possible to change Tachibana's heart? How is it even possible to get someone to change their love interests? Though it might not be impossible it's probably extremely difficult. But even if there is a 1% chance, would that be enough for me to take it into consideration?

To make someone fall in love with you. They do that all the time in dramas, don't they?

My thoughts circled in my head. And then something clicked. Why can’t I just make her fall in love with me? Even if she is in love with someone else, she still hasn’t confessed to her. So I still have time. Tachibana said that she would like to confess before the end of the school year. That doesn’t give me much time but I could still have a chance. I already have a solid friendship with her that I can use as a foundation.

And so, right then and there, after having been so swiftly rejected a few hours before, I had made up my mind.

Tachibana, just like how you plan to seduce Suzukuma, mark my words, I’ll make you fall in love with me before that can happen!

Just as the train pulled into the station, it jerked forward a bit as it came to a stop. Because of the momentum, someone ended up bumping into me pretty hard.

"Sorry," I said instinctively before I even glanced at the person.

"N-no, no. It was my fault," replied a shy voice.

It was a voice my mind was all too familiar with, especially since I heard it every day.

As the doors opened, the two of us stepped out and started walking towards the station exit.

Speak of the devil.

"I didn’t know you lived here, Suzukuma."

"A-ah, I—I came this way to… visit a shop," she explained, still with the same shy voice. She even blushed a bit and refused to make eye contact.

"Oh? What shop?"

She froze up for a bit as if she weren't expecting to hear such a question.

"J-Just a...cake shop that I placed an order at," she answered with a stutter.

"Is it someone's birthday?"

"U-uuh, ahh…. I have to go. Excuse me."

And as fast as she had appeared, she disappeared into the crowd.

"I'll just assume it was someone's birthday."

Though Suzukuma was always a shy person, this instance showed it more profoundly than any other time. It was a bit strange. I spoke with her fairly often, but it was always along with the pretext of helping her with her history homework, something that we would sometimes spend hours working on in the library. For her being class president and all, you'd expect her to be a bit smarter, or so the stereotype goes.

But that's neither here nor there. What is here is the constant reminder that I was rejected by Tachibana.

And so my day ended with me moping in the bathtub.

Character Trivia: Chizuru's nickname for Haru is "Haru-chan." She only calls him that when she, Yuma, and Haru are alone.