Chapter 4:

Secrets Unveiled

The Sound of Love

During lunchtime, the classroom became quieter as most students left to enjoy their break. As the movement subsided, I opened my lunchbox containing the meal prepared by my mother.

"Mmm, onigiri!"

"Yuuji, do you want to trade one of your onigiri for a takoyaki?"

Airi offered promptly.

"Why not?"

As we shared our food, I noticed that Haru, sitting next to us, was eating silently, unlike his usual outgoing self. His serious, reflective gaze revealed that something still bothered him.

"Why does Haru seem upset?"

I asked Airi, whispering, trying to understand the reason behind his change in behavior.

"I think he still hasn't gotten over the defeat in the tournament, but I can understand him a bit. He easily made it to the finals and ended up losing in a humiliating way."

"I can hear you guys talking about me, you know?"

Haru spoke apathetically, looking down while picking at his food with his chopsticks.

"Since you're paying attention, want to trade your piece of karaage with me?"

He didn't respond, and Airi simply took the karaage from him. Surprisingly, Haru remained silent, focused on his own thoughts. Seeing him so quiet was unusual; he'd usually be ready to respond with a tease or express his frustration. However, at that moment, he just stayed still, showing no sign of his usual reactive nature.

Before I could ponder more about the situation, Airi interrupted, taking her first bite of the karaage.

"I remember you saying you were busy with work, Yuuji."

"Ah, that's true... I've been busy these past few days."

I vaguely replied, trying to come up with a plausible excuse for my absence at the tournament.

Airi raised an eyebrow, showing her suspicion.

"Weird. After the tournament, I went to the store to look for you, but you weren't there. Mrs. Yamazaki told me you had the day off."

It seemed like my lie had been discovered.

"Well, I actually forgot I had the day off."

I tried to deflect the situation.

Haru looked at me, now more interested. He and Airi exchanged glances as if communicating telepathically.

"Do you believe that, Haru? Because I don't."

After agreeing, Haru crossed his arms and looked at me skeptically.

Their mischievous smiles made me uncomfortable. I knew Airi and Haru well enough to understand that they wouldn't give up until they found the truth. They were persistent like that.

The pressure inside me grew with each passing moment.

How could I possibly explain that I was teaching Kurokawa to play the guitar? She was an admirable girl, but her intangible aura created a kind of fear in those who wished to approach her.

The idea that she didn't relate to just anyone fueled the fear of rejection, and many preferred to admire her from afar, keeping her on an inaccessible pedestal.

That's why deep in my heart, I felt it was better to keep our relationship discreet. I didn't want to expose her to judgment or speculation from others, fearing it could disturb the delicate harmony we had found by sharing our moments together.

The idea of revealing this secret to Airi and Haru seemed so unlikely and absurd that I felt trapped in a labyrinth of contradictions. Would they understand? Would they judge me? I wasn't sure how they would react to knowing about my connection with Kurokawa.

My words got stuck in my throat.

"By the way, Muramatsu told me he saw you walking home with Kurokawa yesterday."

Damn you, Muramatsu! Why did he have to say that to Haru?


Airi almost fell back. Her wide eyes reflected her incredulity.

"Now you definitely need to explain this."

"Wait, do you really believe what Muramatsu said?"

"He seems much less suspicious than you right now."

"I'm not going to stay here listening to this..."

I stood up, planning to escape the awkward interrogation.

"You have no escape!"

Airi got up faster than me and blocked the door, preventing me from leaving.

"Quick, Haru, block the other exit too!"

Haru rushed to fulfill Airi's request.

"Explain this properly, Yuuji. You have nowhere to run."

I needed to find a way to escape from this uncomfortable situation. While Airi blocked the door, my heart raced, and I had to do something.

I ran towards her and quickly pretended to go one way. With a sudden impulse, she threw her weight to try to stop me. I took advantage of that fraction of a second to turn in the opposite direction, catching her off guard. I passed her with agility, feeling the adrenaline pumping in my veins as she struggled to recover.

My feet carried me through the packed hallways where people gathered, giving me a temporary advantage. I knew I couldn't let my guard down because Haru seemed to be getting closer, chasing me with surprising speed.

As I ran, I felt the wind brushing against my face, my breath echoing through the hallways. Each beat of my heart propelled me forward, desperately seeking to escape the imminent capture.

Without Haru noticing, I went up the stairs of the building.

I reached the rooftop and, with a last burst of energy, closed the door behind me, leaning on it, relieved and breathless. A feeling of temporary victory filled my chest.

As I caught my breath, I saw Kurokawa sitting next to the wall, staring at the blue sky. Her curious eyes met mine, and a mixture of surprise and confusion reflected in them.

"What happened, Tanaka?"

I tried to catch my breath as I explained the situation.

"A-Airi and Haru found out that we're going home together."

A puzzled expression appeared on Kurokawa's face.

"Do they know you're teaching me to play the guitar?"

I shook my head negatively, trying to find the right words.

"Not yet. I ran away while they were interrogating me."

"And what's the problem if they find out?"

Kurokawa's question caught me off guard, and I couldn't immediately come up with an answer. My mind was flooded with doubts and insecurities.

"I always thought you might feel uncomfortable if I went around talking about what we were doing... You're a well-known and admired girl at school, and I didn't want people to start speculating about our relationship, I thought maybe you'd prefer to keep our friendship a secret to avoid misunderstandings and gossip."

A soft laugh escaped Kurokawa's lips, filling the air with a charming melody.

"I can't believe you ran away from them because of that!"

Kurokawa struggled to contain her laughter, while a radiant tenderness filled her eyes.

Embarrassed, I sat down and leaned against the door, covering my face with my arm, trying to hide my awkward reactions. Kurokawa couldn't help but laugh at my side.

"You're really silly. Why would I care about that?"

I took a deep breath, composing myself. Her reaction made me realize that I was the only one worrying about it and that my thoughts were just mere assumptions. I couldn't hold it back and laughed along with Kurokawa at the situation.

"Well, I guess I should head back now."

I said as I opened the door I came in through, getting ready to leave.

"Don't worry about it, Tanaka."

Kurokawa interrupted me, looking directly into my eyes. I felt like her words were coming from the depths of her soul.

"You're the first person I've been able to talk to sincerely, and I hope you can keep helping me."

I responded with a sheepish smile, unable to find the words to express what I was feeling.

Upon arriving at the classroom, I found Haru and Airi finishing their meals, chatting animatedly.

"It looks like you couldn't bear to hide."

Airi teased me as she saw me entering through the classroom door.

"Wait a minute, did you guys eat my food?"

"Nobody told you to go running around!"

Disheartened, I sat down in my chair, letting out a sigh of frustration. It was hard not to feel guilty for not telling the truth to my friends.

Haru, on the other hand, offered me some of his karaage.

"Don't be so upset. Take it."

I felt a comforting warmth as I accepted.

"Are you okay, Yuuji?"

Airi asked with concern in her eyes.

"Yeah, I'm just a little tired."

"Yuuji, you know you can count on us, right?"

Airi nodded, agreeing with Haru's words.

Maybe it was time to open up a little more. After all, trusting my friends was essential, and they had shown countless times that they were willing to support me.

I shared all the details with them. From the encounter at the instrument store to the lessons I had been giving to Kurokawa. I also explained why I hadn't told them anything before.

"I understand now. That's why you were so worried about hiding this."

Airi smiled gently.

"Yes, I didn't want to cause her any trouble..."

"You know we're here to support you, no matter what."

Haru patted my shoulder, showing his support.

A genuine smile spread across my lips, grateful for their understanding.

With this newfound sense of relief, we resumed our usual conversations and playful banter, as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

At the end of the day, we bid each other farewell with friendly waves, and I headed toward Mrs. Yamazaki's store.

As I passed through the school gate, I spotted Kurokawa leaning against the wall, her eyes fixed on me. A radiant smile formed on her face, and my heart leaped in my chest with a mix of joy and comfort.

"Hey, Tanaka!"

"Hello, Kurokawa."

I greeted her back, feeling a little relaxed by her side now.

As we walked together, Kurokawa seemed completely unaware of my true intention of going to work. She seemed to think I was going home. So, I thought about teasing her a bit.

"Are you looking forward to the lesson today, Kurokawa?"

"Of course!"

Her smile was contagious, and I found myself smiling too.

"Actually, Kurokawa, today I'm going to give you a very special lesson on how to become a good instrument seller!"

Her eyes widened in surprise, but then she laughed at the unexpected situation.

"Are you kidding me?"

"A little, maybe."

I replied, laughing as well.

"But seriously, today I have to go to work. But don't worry, I can still give you some tips at the store, just like we used to do."

Her eyes lit up at my proposal.

We continued walking together, feeling the gentle touch of the wind on our faces and hearing the sound of our footsteps echoing through the streets, creating a melody with each step. The orange glow of the sun reflected in our eyes as we exchanged glances, and a silent harmony seemed to arise between us.

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