Chapter 58:

Unexpected Passion

Couple That Can't Touch

Vacations ended and classes resumed a week after Otsune and I reunited. We messaged often to reminisce about the past and talk about the present. Finally, a year's long worry had lifted from my shoulders. The next step was to reunite the entire family, but it still was too soon for that.

Even though Suzuka and I discussed what happened between us after we found Hisaki and Sae-san kissing, neither of us was exactly sure of how we ended up in that situation. We only knew that we were about to kiss and that Hisaki and Sae-san had practically become a couple. However, they didn't want to accept it.

All the students were called to the school's gymnasium during the first class for announcements. Since we came from our classrooms, only Sae-san and I stood together in the middle of the court, which filled up quickly.

The first announcements were minor, but they were saving the big ones for last.

"There are three more things I want to say," the principal spoke through a microphone on the stage. "Sports Day is a little more than a month away. It will hold tournaments for all our teams, meaning they are going to start practicing soon."

A lot of people clapped, but not everyone.

It sounds fun for them.

The principal continued, "Team members, make sure to organize your time as efficiently as possible. Team advisors, don't overwork your students and help them make the best decisions."

And it sounds like a lot of work as well.

"Three weeks after Sports Day, the Cultural Festival will take place."

Practically everyone clapped.

"As usual, clubs are going to prepare exhibitions related to their topic. Unlike the Club Fair, you don't need to demonstrate that you're the best; the Cultural Festival is merely for fun. Also, a few universities have already confirmed their assistance, so I recommend you visit their booths for more information about them."

Universities come to the school to promote themselves? That's good. Maybe I'll get a better idea of what I want to do in the future.

"Last but not least, an exclusive announcement for the third-year classes. Two weeks after the Cultural Festival, the annual camping trip will take place."

Only the people at the back of the gymnasium clapped and cheered.

Annual camping. Just like we do.

"Remember that, even though it is a small gift from the school for your hard work, you'll still have some classes during the camp."

"Aw," some people uttered in disappointment.

"You'll receive more information about it as the date gets closer. For today, that would be everything. Please return to your classrooms in an orderly manner. I wish you the best of luck."

After clapping as the principal walked off stage, everyone headed back to their classrooms.

Having skipped the first class of the day, the rest of the classes went by normally. A couple of teachers talked about their vacations, while others didn't even mention them.

The bell chimed for the break to begin. Sae-san and I walked out of the classroom together and ran into Suzuka, Hisaki, Hashimoto-san, Rem-san, Kawahara-san, and Tarō-san at the stairs. We headed to our usual spot in the garden.

Once we arrived and stood beside the railing, Sae-san asked,

"What do you think about the announcements?"

"Nothing much, really," Hisaki answered. "I'm only excited about the camp. I might be able to see a few animals."

"You love animals, after all. Meanwhile, I hate bugs."

As soon as they glanced at each other, they blushed and snapped their heads away. Only Suzuka and I knew about their kiss, so everyone else was confused about their sudden reaction.

"I'm excited about the Cultural Festival," Tarō-san said. "I'll be able to show off more of my origami."

"I agree," Kawahara-san added. "Cooking under pressure is fun."

"We don't know if we are going to have another restaurant yet," I replied.

"You're right. Anyway. Maybe I can convince them to exhibit one of my experimental dishes."

"I doubt they'll accept. Rem-san, are you excited for Sports Day?"

Suddenly, she and Hashimoto-san started gesturing with her hands for me to stop. When Suzuka looked at them, they stopped and smiled.

"O-Of course, it sounds very fun," Rem-san answered.

What were they doing just now? Now that I see her, Suzuka's been out of it since we arrived.

Everyone continued talking about the announcements and their vacations, except for Suzuka, who stared thoughtfully at the ground. I stood beside her and placed my hand on her shoulder.

"Yes?!" she shouted. "Did you just touch me?"

"I only touched your clothes, don't worry. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I just…." She sighed. "I feel like this every time there are sports tournaments. I wish I could compete."

"I see. But there were tournaments at the Club Fair and you didn't look this thoughtful."

"I did while I was at home. Luckily, while I was here, I was too distracted by Rem's tournament and being with you for it to show. Still, I'm sure I looked a bit sad. Maybe you still didn't know me enough to notice."

"Maybe. I wouldn't have noticed now if Hashimoto-san and Rem-san didn't tell me to stop."

"They did?" she laughed.

She then looked down at the ground again. Preoccupied, I asked her,

"Suzuka, do you really want to compete?"

Confused, she answered, "I do. But I'm not crazy. My ankle would fall off if I did."

"What if you had another ankle?"

"What? Wait, you mean…"

"Compete in my body."

She stared at me in silence. "I don't know. Walking in another person's body is already weird. And shouldn't we avoid swapping as much as possible?"

"We have more than a month to practice. Yes, we should avoid swapping, but we're going to do it only for that. I think it's a worthy sacrifice."

Her sadness turned into a smile. "Let's do it, then!"

After that, she joined everyone else to chat. We talked for a while before we felt hungry and headed to the cafeteria to buy food. Except for Kawahara-san and Tarō-san, who brought their lunch from home.

We returned to the garden, ate, and finished a few minutes later. Then Hashimoto-san checked the time on her phone.

"There are only five minutes of break remaining," she said. "Should we head back now?"

"Sure," Rem-san replied.

As everyone was about to leave, unexpected guests arrived at the garden and approached us: Sae-san's ex-friends. Everyone stood in silence. The mood instantly became heavy.

Out of nowhere, the three of them bowed in front of us.

"We didn't have the courage to do this until now," Oshiro-san said. "We are sorry. For everything we did. Me, especially. Riko and Kanna were only doing what I told them. Therapy has helped us a lot and we've learned from our mistakes."

Everyone remained speechless, while Sae-san stared at them with a piercing glare.

"We're not looking for forgiveness, we just feel this is the right thing to do," Oshiro-san continued. "I don't even know how I can pay you back. I could only think of one thing. Araki-san, are you still looking for your passion?"

Puzzled, I asked back, "What about it?"

"Remember my offer to take you to every club to try everything? It was true. Let me help you."

"The teachers still trust you?" Hashimoto-san questioned with her arms crossed.

"Obviously, they were extremely disappointed, but they saw it as a normal mistake to make for someone young. And they have been happy with our progress, so, yes, they still trust us."

Thoughtful for a moment, I replied, "Sure."

"Koji, are you really sure?" Suzuka asked, worried.

"I don't think she's lying. Still, I'll keep my guard up."


"Thank you," Oshiro-san said. "Let's meet here after the club meetings are done this Saturday."


"We'll leave you alone now. Sorry for bothering you."

As soon as they walked away, Sae-san's glare switched into a troubled frown. The heavy mood lifted, but it was still a little weird. We did our best to lighten it before heading back to our classrooms.

Nothing happened for the rest of the afternoon. Once the school day was finished, I returned home with Hisaki, showered, ate, and relaxed a little before heading to the arcade to work. Since vacations had ended, I only had to work half of the time. Fortunately, they were also flexible with the schedule, so, if I suddenly needed to arrive later, I could.

The week flew by. Even quicker than usual now that I had a job. Among other things, I kept thinking about Suzuka's birthday. It was still two months away, but I wanted to give her the best gift possible. Sadly, I couldn't think of anything.

Saturday arrived and the club meetings finished in a blink. I hadn't contacted Oshiro-san since she offered to help me, but I still headed to the garden. To my surprise, she was already waiting for me.

"Araki-san. I was starting to think you didn't believe me and you weren't going to come."

"It was a possibility, but I'm a man of my word. So, what are we doing?"

"Since you're in the Cooking Club, we'll skip that one. Is there another club you want to skip?"

"Music. I've already had a taste of playing instruments and I know it's not for me."

"Sure. Is that everything?"

I nodded.

"Let's not waste any more time, then. Follow me."

Cautious, I walked beside her. I kept my guard up for anything she said or anything that might happen around me, but she didn't say anything and the hallways were practically empty.

The first club we arrived at was the Science Club. We stepped inside and Shimamura-sensei quickly asked why we were here. Oshiro-san explained to her and I told her a little about myself. She agreed to show me the experiments and creations they had in the room and she told me more about the club. Sadly, as much as I was interested in science, I didn't feel excited about it. I apologized to her for wasting her time, but she didn't mind since she was helping out a student.

Oshiro-san and I headed to the other club on the floor—apart from the Cooking Club. We stepped inside and Tokugawa-sensei immediately asked why we were there. Opposite of Shimamura-sensei, he seemed quite angry. He always looked angry anyway. Oshiro-san answered and he refused. She kept trying for a while until he agreed to teach me a little about acting. To summarize, it was hard and I was bad at it. He told me that I could improve with time but, since we were already halfway into the year, there was no time.

Disappointed because there was only one more club to try, Oshiro-san and I headed to the Art Club on the next floor. I didn't know the teacher, but he kindly welcomed us. Oshiro-san told him about me and asked him to allow me to paint something. He was hesitant at first since the materials were quite expensive, but she managed to convince him. He placed a canvas on an easel, prepared the paint for me, and taught me a little about painting. Reluctantly, I grabbed the brush, dipped it into a color, and began painting.

I didn't know what I was doing. I kept brushing around the canvas with random colors. Strangely, every line I painted felt connected to my emotions. As if I was transforming them into something visible. I kept doing it until I noticed that the canvas was almost completely covered with random lines. They didn't even make a shape, but I felt liberated.

When I stopped and turned around, Oshiro-san wasn't there anymore and the teacher was sitting at the desk. He asked me how I felt and it was very hard to explain. Yet, he understood and eagerly taught me more about painting.

For once, I finally felt like I had found something. A lead towards my passion. I was excited about it and I knew what my first project was going to be: a gift for Suzuka. Since I couldn't swap clubs this far in the year, my only option was to use my free time to practice more. Luckily, I knew a very good painter who I knew would gladly teach me: Sora-san.

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