Chapter 6:

Never Ever Start A Fire

Where The Sky Meets The Land

The time has come! The days when I really hoped to vanish in no time! Everyone, literally everyone, has acknowledged my unwillingness to participate in this timing. It was what I've been evading since I was in elementary school. Nevertheless, those days were most awaited by students because it meant we wouldn't study much and spend more time on preparing and practicing.

Practicing? Yes, practicing! I disliked practicing! Especially when I imagined myself getting drenched in beads of sweat and overused energy storage. I didn't want all those! I preferred myself reserved from dirt and dust. I loved cleanliness, therefore sport festival was undeniably not my thing!

Did I mention sport festival? Yes! There would be an annual sport festival held two weeks from the announcement date. The students were already enthralled by the excitement. The boys loved polishing their skills to shine during sport festival, while the girls would grab this opportunity to target someone.

Both sides were entangled in one mission - To find their own so-called destined pair. How did I know? How could I not know?! It has been lingering around me ever since I was in elementary school!

"Please loosen those furrows, Riku. You're scaring everyone."

I grunted in disapproval. My mood was tarnished since our homeroom teacher announced about the sport festival half an hour ago. Even when he began lecturing us about our playful learning lesson, I could not digest even one word from him. My mind rotated over how I could run away from that event.

The first day of my hellish days began! Our class president rose from his seat and stood on the platform. Our teacher has left the class and the teacher for our next subject hasn't arrived yet, hence our class president took over.

"It's our day to shine, everyone!" He kicked off cheerfully.

The whole class cheered in unison. Definitely there were excited for the sport festival. Sora looked at me with his delighted face. I've already mentioned the reason to Sora, so I didn't think I should repeat it myself. He pulled a pout.

"We have sports, as everyone is fully aware. There are 20 sports in total, and each of the classes is free to participate in how many sports from those enlisted," the class president briefly described the names of the games involved for them. "I have the game schedule with me. Feel free to choose, as long as each of us join at least one game."

Others might not notice it, but I did. In fact, it was possible that even Sora saw what I've seen. The class president was staring at both of us at the back of the class, telling us to not abscond when we were obviously needed for those games. It was always a tradition to force me to join - These classmates have known it long ago. Therefore, the stare that the class president sent off reminded me to that tradition.

"I repeat. At least one game. Each of us."

Surprisingly, the entire class shifted towards both of us. So, that was it! They didn't veil their hatred towards us at all, transparently displaying their displeasure by glaring at us. Did they complot this? I never wanted to know.

Yet not to Sora. He turned restless as the intensified cold stare our classmates delivered mercilessly. He kept on fidgeting with his hands, basically panicking by the unnecessary attention. It was my first time seeing him in terror like that.

Wait. The class president said each of us should take part in at least one game, didn't he? Did that count Sora in? But, Sora has admitted that he was sick. The Mio girl didn't tell anyone about that?

Was she not listening then? I doubted that. She did hear Sora, but she didn't reveal it to anyone yet. Or worse. She recreated her own version of story. The second opinion was confirmed by my observation on the classmates' treatment towards Sora.

I really wanted to curse that Mio girl so much!

"I can play."

Please. Never ask me why I offered myself like that. Even I ogled at my own words, so did Sora and the others. Some of the girls covered their gaping mouth, but still most of them widened their eyes in disbelief. Sora tugged my sleeve, querying whether I was serious or I was cracking a stupid joke. My twitching lips conveyed my hesitation, thus Sora face palmed himself.

"The self claimed prodigy of our class, you are," the class president clapped his hand, merely in contentment but obviously to mock me. "You're going to play?"

I disliked his behaviour towards me. Sora beside me gulped in restlessness. "Yes, I will."

Our classmates whispered among themselves. It was indistinct, so I couldn't catch up what they were discussing about. Sora stared at me meaningfully. His shining eyes implored me to take back what I've said.

However, it was all too late.

"Then I will put you in badminton. Male, single. Is it okay for you?"

"Didn't you say we could choose whatever game we want?" I asked in dissatisfaction. I've already had soccer in my mind since it was the only game I learnt to play.

The class president crossed his arm, smirking at me. "The condition doesn't apply to you, Riku. What's with the frown?"

I felt my breathed went heavy. This wasn't the kind of cooperation that I've imagined. This was selfish! "I want to change! I'll play soccer!"

"Do you think we want to team up with you, Riku?" Suddenly one of our boy classmates rose and intervened. "We've already formed a soccer team, without you, since last year. Join other games then!"

His exclamation was supported by other boy classmates, believably they were the mentioned soccer team. The mockery hit me quite hard, but I held my fists, bracing up to the desire that I wouldn't falter easily. Sora was already pallid. Maybe he has predicted something, but he didn't want to divulge it to me.

I did, too, and refused to tell him, too.

I inhaled deeply and let it out slowly to calm myself down. "All right, I will play badminton. But I want to request something."

They turned silent, anticipating what I would ask for. It wouldn't be too much, I thought to myself.

"I want you to exclude Sora for the sport festival. Just let him help for background stuffs like administration and charity. Sports are not good for him."

"For what? So that you can count on him to run away together? Heh! Not gonna happen!"

"What?" I ogled at him. His accusation was beyond my expectation. I never thought of running away ever since the announcement regarding the sport festival was made.

I admitted that I've been ditching the festival since I was a middle schooler. Nevertheless, I didn't think of it that day. I just wanted to protect Sora so that the occurrence during our first encounter wouldn't repeat. He was just lucky that he didn't have any other injury on that day. But, would he be that lucky on the next incident? No one knew, even him.

"I don't mean that at all," I tried defending myself, or indirectly Sora too.

However, those cynical eyes by our classmates perturbed me a little too much. My throbbing heart muted me from uttering out anything, and my ringing ears deafened me from perceiving Sora's calling. I should at least defend myself, but I couldn't.

Somehow I got the image. My eyes desperately find someone. That someone who has been told about Sora's condition. It took less than ten seconds to find her since she had distinct hair colour compared to other girls. Once our gaze met, she immediately turned away, averting from exchanging glances with me. I gritted in irritation.

"You!" Without hesitation, I pointed my index finger towards her position. Based from her reaction, I knew she was aware that I meant her, "You do know about Sora, right? Didn't you gossip about Sora from the day he revealed about him?"

"What? What? What now, huh?" The class president raised his voice to imitate mine. "Are you putting the blame on someone else?" He trailed to the direction I aimed my finger to. "You wanted to gain trust from Mio?"

"That Mio girl knows about Sora!" I frantically yelled, "You've told everyone about Sora, right? I saw you gossiping right after you met us personally last time!"

"Yes, she did," The class president clearly backed her up, "She told us that Sora played games till late at night, and he tended to sleep in the day. Since you guys are so close, you covered him, Riku."

Even Sora rose from his seat, gawking in disbelief. He wanted to make thing clear, yet he couldn't. Feeling like there was a lump blocking his voice from coming out.

"What rubbish are you talking about, class pres?" I complained, purely disheartened. Our own classmates were defying us. "Sora's health doesn't let him doing everything just freely!"

"So are you saying that Sora is sick?"

"Sora already told that Mio girl about this!"

"Then, do you want to say that she lied to us?"

"Indeed!" Along with upraised roar, I thumped my palms on my desk, shocking everyone in the class. "Sora's mother has informed me that he can't really participate actively in games or sports!"

If this argument reached Auntie Junko, I swore to myself that I would ask for her apology.

"On what reason? Tell us now!" It was my very first time seeing our class president became that agitated.

I flinched, panicked by the class president's intimidating aura. My furrows almost instantly dissolved, leaving only shivers and fright. "I've promised her not to tell anyone about it-"

"Because it isn't true at all, right?" Out of the blue, the Mio girl yelped from her seat, switching the attention from me to her. "That day, Sora, you were just pretending so that I wouldn't scold Riku, weren't you?"

"He didn't lie! He never lies!" Realizing the hatred changed course from me to Sora, I must protect him from this mess. "Sora is not well! He needs plentiful of rest! That's why he sleeps frequently!"

"Oh, come on! Even with all these glares on you, you still attempt to lie?" The Mio girl jeered at us, which triggered my ferocity too much.

"What has gotten into you guys, huh?" My tormented heart disheartened me to the point that the only emotion overpowering me at the moment was sullenness. "How could you do this to us? As if we're not your classmates?"

"Classmates? Why brought it up now?" The class president also jeered at us, proudly without a bit of guilt. "Have you ever considered us as your classmates all these while?"

Another male classmate of ours rose to add spices into the quarrel. "You never covered us sleeping in the class!"

Everyone except Sora and I guffawed at us. They really disregarded us as their classmates. My promise to Sora was really on the brink of spillage. What kind of mess was this? I've never anticipated for this though.

The students' chortle faded gradually when they noticed Sora lifting up his hand in the air. I shifted to him.

"I will join one sport."


I was about to grab his forearms when he continued, "It's fine, Riku. It'll be fine." Then, with teary eyes, he faced affront, meeting every single pair of eyes which stared at him with variety of emotion. "I would like to divulge one fact," He inhaled in between lines. "I'm not sick. I'm healthy, completely. So I can play."

The overwhelming desire within me enforced an urge to stop Sora, but my stutter ruined everything. I could have blocked Sora from creating more deceiving stories, but I was too petrified that I turned mute. As for Sora, it was displayed effortlessly on his face that he did it almost unwillingly.

I knew it. Due to the awful situation we were in, instead of convincing everyone that he had a disorder, he just nodded to the false assumption. He could have judged from how I was continuously rejected, therefore he opted to such conclusion. My heart sank in darkness. I failed to protect him.

"All right, Sora. Thank you for your cooperation," the class president was all smiles as if there was nothing happened to all of us a few minutes ago. "Then, I will put you in running competition. Is that okay?"

Sora's nodding in agreement finished the discussion. Plus, the teacher for our next subject has already arrived at the most exact time. Everyone acted like normal, pretending to listen obediently to the teacher. Meanwhile, Sora and I were actually isolated from everyone. Unwillingly.

I glanced at the quiet Sora. He was paying his fullest attention to the lesson. It wasn't what he was doing. It was what he has done. Running competition?

You must be kidding me, Sora!

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