Chapter 3:

This Isn't a Date, I Swear! (Part 2 of 2)

Somehow, I fell in Love With My School's Biggest Gal!

        “Woo! That was a good haul!” Aki proclaimed happily as she cradled the giant penguin that Sora gave her.  They had spent over an hour playing the crane games and came away with quite a few wins. Aki had walked out with half a dozen stuffed animals, in addition to the penguin, and a bunch of sweets. Sora had won a couple of licensed figures and keychains. Bookmark here

         “Yeah. I still wished that I could have won that Ripple figure, though.” Sora had played the machine eight times, but failed to achieve success. He had elected to quit before he went broke. Bookmark here

          “But you got all those One Piece figures, right?" “Yeah. I really like the katakuri one and the rare, wedding-dress version of Nami is pretty, but I don’t really like the one I got of Law. It looks like it’s a cheap knock-off. It’s painted. And horribly at! There’s no way this thing could be officially licensed! Damn lying machine!” Bookmark here

             “Why don’t you just buy the Ripple figure yourself? That machine is so challenging that it might be cheaper to just flat out pay the 22,000 Yen.” “Do I look like I have that sort of money? I don’t have a job and I usually burn through my weekly allowance right away.” Bookmark here

                “Oh. Well, what do you want to do now?” “You wanted to try out the new dancing game, right?” Sora asked. He had no clue what else to suggest. He didn’t want to have Aki roll her eyes at his suggestions. What other stuff at the gaming center would a girl like to do? Bookmark here

                 “Yeah, let’s go!” Aki playfully ran ahead. Sora sighed and followed suit. While Aki’s energy was hard to love, it was also hard to hate. He was slowly getting acclimated to itBookmark here

                   They had to run down six extremely long flights of stairs to reach the first floor. “Yes! No one is playing! Come on, let’s do a duel challenge!” Aki said as she laid eyes on the Dance Star set. Bookmark here

                  “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait just a minute!” Sora protested as Aki began dragging him towards the game. “When did I ever say that I was going to play?” “Well, duh! This game isn’t a challenge when you’re just playing against a computer algorithm. It’s too predictable! I’ve rarely ever played against someone before. Not many people are comfortable challenging random strangers to play a game. Of course you’re going to play with me!” Before Sora had realized where had happened, he was already being hauled up the steps of the dance platform. Bookmark here

                 “Wah! No, Aki-Chan! I-I don’t dance! I’m not good at games like this!” “Well you don’t have to be good at it! It’s supposed to be fun! Come on, try it!” Aki shoved Sora onto one of the two dance pads. “Why me?” “Bookmark here

                    I’ll pick the song!” Aki bounced over to the giant touchscreen monitor. “Lets see…two player duel…medium level…hmmmm, what song do I want?” She scrolled through the options while Sora felt like he was about to pass out.Bookmark here

                     How could he get himself out this? The room was full of gamers and people were bound to look once they heard music coming from the obnoxiously loud speakers! With his poor athletic skills, he was going to fall flat on his face! As Mirho constantly pointed out, the only running he ever did was when he was late for school. This was going to be so embarrassing!Bookmark here

                 “Got it!” Aki darted over to the other dance pad. “It’s on!” She smiled at him. “Don’t worry. Just do you’re best, okay, Sora-Kun?” “O-okay…” Sora nodded wryly. Bookmark here

The countdown has begun! Your game will start in fifteen seconds! The game announced.Bookmark here

                  “Hey, look over there! Someone’s doing a dance battle!” “Let’s watch!” Sora glanced backwards. A cluster of elementary-aged girls had gathered around the raised platform. “Ooh! That girl is so pretty!” “yeah! I wanna look like her when I grow up!” “Me too, she’s so hot!” “Where did you learn something like that?” “I hope she wins!” “Yeah!” “Me too!” “Me three!” Bookmark here

                  Sora turned around with a hot face. Bookmark here

Three…two…one…begin! Bookmark here

                   The screen blinked to life. The music began playing. It was some upbeat, cheery song. The voices sounded familiar. It was probably some idol group who had done some anime theme music.Bookmark here

                    The arrows began rolling and Sora tensed up. He had to pay close attention! He clumsily jerked his body to hit the right sensors. Bookmark here

Bad! Bad! Bad! Good! Good! Bad! Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay! Poor! Okay! Bad! Poor! Bookmark here

                     Sora felt increasingly frustrated. No matter how hard he jerked his body or how fast he moved, he couldn’t keep up with the machine! He was horrible at this!Bookmark here

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Okay! Okay! Awesome! Okay! Awesome!Bookmark here

                    How was Aki doing so well at this? He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Aki wasn’t even breaking a sweat! He had to admit, though, he was impressed. She wasn’t just trying to hit the keys. Her movements were fluid and natural; relaxed, unlike his. She put her whole body into it, turning, jumping, spinning, and moving her arms and head to the beat. She wasn’t just trying to win the game, she was actually dancing and enjoying herself! As the little girls had said, she looked beautiful and cool. Her long hair floated around her like a curtain and her jewelry tinkled lightly as she moved. Her chest bounced as she moved, but not in an exaggerated or inappropriate way and, somehow her skirt barely moved! Bookmark here

                       ‘You need to just calm down and not worry about impressing anyone.’ Sora mentally lectured himself. ‘Aki-Chan won’t judge you. She just wants someone to have fun with. You are taking this way too seriously! You should just calm down and enjoy yourself.’Bookmark here

                       Sora focused his attention on the slightest of his movements. He forced himself to stop moving so forcefully and instead moved gently, like he was trying to scoop up air, and in time to the beat of the music. He put his whole body into his motions instead of trying to slam his foot down on the right sensor. Bookmark here

                     Sora cracked a smile. It was hard, but this game was actually kind of fun!Bookmark here

Good! Good! Good! Good!Bookmark here

                    Now he was getting more positive ratings than negative ones. Aki smiled at him and he smiled back. The two proceeded to dance even harder. Finally, the last notes of the song faded out.Bookmark here

Player 1, Score: 10,000 points! Player 2, Score: 7,989 points!Bookmark here

               “Yes! I win!” Aki spun around and did a victory jump for the large crowd that had gathered to watch them. Loud applause and cheers resounded through the room. Aki was right. The game was so much fun! As the two came down from the platform, Sora couldn’t help but stare at Aki.Bookmark here

                 She was quickly surrounded by the crowd of little girls that had initially came to watch them. Bookmark here

                   “You’re amazing!” “Your dancing is so cool!” “I wish I was as pretty as you!” Aki blushed in embarrassment as she patted each of the kids on the head. “Aww! You guys are so sweet!” She smiled at the children. “I was just playing for fun with my friend. It’s nothing special. You don’t have to be like me. Just be happy and live life to the best of your abilities, okay?”Bookmark here

                     ‘This girl really is something else.’ Sora observed. ‘She’s…really quite sweet. Those kids adore her and they’ve only known her for five seconds! I don’t know what to think about Aki anymore. She’s… so different from what I thought she was like. Maybe everyone just judged her by her by her appearance instead of getting to know her. I don’t know why she dresses the way she does, but I don’t think that it reflects who she really is.’ He watched her cheerfully waving goodbye to the children. ‘Huh! She’s actually pretty cute!’ He smiled to himself.Bookmark here

              *                                                                         *                                                          *Bookmark here

                      “Mmmm! Yum!” Aki moaned in bliss as she swallowed a spoonful of parfait. “This is perfect!” She exclaimed. The two were sitting at a small, window-side table at the Penthouse Café on the top floor of ACE Games. It offered an amazing skyline view of the city and great food. The view was even better now that the sun had set.Bookmark here

                         "What did you even get in that thing?” Sora raised his eyebrow at the strange mis-mash of colors. “Strawberries and custard and chocolate and matcha and pocky and-“ “Geez! Too many flavors!” Sora blanched. Aki was weird! “But it’s good!” She insisted. “I love sweets!” “I noticed.” He stirred his coffee. Unlike his eccentric friend, he had ordered coffee with cream and sugar and a chocolate-banana crepe. He preferred to keep his snacks simple.Bookmark here

                        “Humf!” Aki pouted. “Your loss!” “So, did you have fun here today?" Sora changed the subject. “Yeah!” She smiled with a pufferfish-like mouth full of parfait. “I’ve never really had any friends to play with me here so it was nice to have you with me!” Bookmark here

                         “You don’t have any friends, Aki-Chan?” Sora could believe it. With the sort of reputation she had, it wasn’t that weird that no one would want to hang out with her. “Well, I have a couple, and we do come here sometimes, but they aren’t into gaming and anime like I am. They're fine with it and tease me a lot, but you get it. We have the same interests. It’s more fun to be with you because you get as excited about games as I do!” Bookmark here

                        Sora’s heart fluttered in his chest. “Uhh, thanks! It’s nothing! To be honest, I only have a couple of friends, myself, and they aren’t all that…they aren’t too nice. They tease me about being a nerd, too, but they aren't nice about it the way your friends are."Bookmark here

                          Sora wrestled with his curiosity. He had suddenly remembered what had brought them together in the first place. The fake love letter…he didn’t know why, but he really wanted to know what Aki had been planning to do about it when she came to the roof. She obviously wasn’t going to try and seduce Mirho. Did she have a crush on him like all the other girls at their school? His fear eventually lost the battle. Bookmark here

                         “Hey, Aki-Chan. Weren’t you supposed to meet someone earlier? I’m so, so sorry! I distracted you and your friend is probably upset with you now!” Sora acted flustered and panicked. Bookmark here

                     “Oh, yeah. You didn’t distract me. I wasn’t meeting a friend.” Aki blinked, her spoon still her mouth. “You weren’t?” “No.” Aki pulled her schoolbag onto her lap and pulled out the letter that Ryo had written. “I got this from a boy in our class. A confession letter. It’s from Mirho-Kun. He asked me to meet him on the roof after school.” Bookmark here

                      “Mirho-Kun?” Sora asked, feigning surprise. “He’s one of my best friends! Everyone at school loves him, but I never realized that he had his eye on anyone! You’re lucky! All the other girls at school would rip each other’s throats out to be Mirho’s girlfriend!” “Eh, I wouldn’t say I was lucky.” Aki folded her hands and flashed a brilliant smile. “I was planning on turning him down.”Bookmark here

                        “What?” Her answer was to be expected, but Sora still felt shocked. How was Aki so immune to his friend’s charms and popularity? He couldn’t help but feel a bit relived, happy, even, at the revelation.Bookmark here

                       “Yeah. I’m not interested.” Aki shrugged. “I’m not going to date someone I’m not in love with. Mirho-Kun is nice enough, but he seems so artificial and fake. There really isn’t anything of substance to like about him. All the things that everyone likes about him are so empty and meaningless.”Bookmark here

                      ‘Wow, burn!’ Sora though. Mirho’s charisma, athletic abilities, and blond pretty-boy status were what the class president prided himself on. Although, to be honest, Aki was right. He was a nice guy but, on the inside, all he really cared about was making himself happy. He wasn't aggressively selfish, but he wasn't great at showing empathy or being selfless, either.Bookmark here

                      “I…I’ve never had a boyfriend before.” Aki admitted shyly. “But I know that when I do, he’s not going to be anything like Mirho-Kun. I like guys with good hearts, you know? People are kind and not involved in all the horrible stuff going on in the world around them, people who want to help others. I want a guy who doesn’t want me just because he thinks I’m hot, I want him to actually care about me. I also really want a guy who’s a nerd like me!” Aki giggled.Bookmark here

                 Sora blushed at the fact that Aki would share something so personal with him. Yeah, this girl was definitely not a slut or anything in that vein. She was too pure and silly. Bookmark here

               “Oh, it’s late! The store’s gonna’ close soon, and I still need to go get grandma’s groceries!” Aki suddenly exclaimed. “I’m sorry, Sora-kun, but I think I need to get going now.” She stood up. Bookmark here

                 “It’s okay, Aki-Chan.” Sora assured her. “I-I really had fun today. Thank you for bringing me here. I really…really wish that my friends were more like you.” Aki turned around and blinked in surprise.Bookmark here

              “What? We are friends now, Sora-Kun!” She announced. “Really?” Sora’s heart throbbed like a drum. A girl called him her friend! He hadn’t scared her away! Bookmark here

              “Really?” “Yeah! You’re fun to be around and you’re nice! I really want to spend more time with you!”Bookmark here

                “M-m-m-m-me too, Aki-Chan!” Sora stuttered out. “Yay!” Aki smiled and gave him a little wave. Bookmark here

                “See you in class tomorrow, Sora-Kun!”Bookmark here

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