Sometimes I wondered how the rumours spread so fast, by the time we got to class, from the looks everyone was throwing at us, I knew they heard. I wouldn't suspect Alice of starting this word, she looked like she didn't care, but I couldn't tell the same about Hamada sitting next to her. I thought she would truly hate me, but she was looking at me with a worried expression.
As she walked past to get to my seat, she grabbed my hand. My first impulse was to pull away because it wasn't pleasant in any way, but her grip was firm, and she only whispered that she would help me. I don't know why she wanted to save me, she probably thought that Konya was forcing me into something and blackmailing me.
I could see in his eyes that when he noticed it, it was as if he was ready to attack. Anyway, he seemed to want to fill up his bar very quickly today, but I knew he was only holding back because of me. Konya ran a hand through his hair and sighed heavily. It couldn't work on the principle that I wanted to help him anymore, it was already my duty, and one that I would have done without hesitation. I already had my knight in shining armour, I didn't need anyone else to save me.
"No need," I replied to Hamada with a polite smile. "I know I behaved terribly towards you, and I hope you can forgive me someday."
I hated having everyone's attention on me, I didn't feel comfortable then, but this time it was about helping someone important to me. I went back to Konya and asked if everything was okay. He looked at me, clearly suffering and fighting with himself. I put my hand on his head and leaned in a little, so only he could hear me.
"I know it's hard, but fight, so you can rule it, not letting it rule you," I whispered. "Also, your highlights have faded a bit."
"Right," he chuckled. "Do you like them so much that I should refresh them?"
"It's your hair." I smiled. "But I don't mind. Always an extra challenge, while drawing your handsome face."
The bell rang, I didn't care what others thought, Tatsuo's mood was clearly better. Daisuke had been watching us from the beginning and looked worried.
"You know Hamada won't take rejection that easily," my friend murmured. "I'm worried about you, even though it's fun to watch you two together. Also, Konya doesn't attract people as much as it used to, so I have to include someone else as a mascot in my plan."
"You haven't forgotten about it?" I was surprised.
"Of course not, but after all these years, when I noticed that he changed, I didn't think that we could become friends again. And you went even one step further." He grinned at me, and I glared at him.
Konya was hiding somewhere during breaks, I understood him, it must have been a bit easier to bear it that way. He also said that he didn't want me to see him like this, so I didn't force him, I gave him the space he needed, but I was ready to be there if he wanted. I hid myself in the art studio, remembering our first meetings in this very place.
This is where Yuko, a third-grader who was also the president of the club, found me. I always liked her because she had a gentle disposition and her works had a lot of calm and magic. Also, her comments were on point, but it never felt like criticism, I valued her opinions very much.
"I've been worried about you lately, Sugiyama," she said, sitting next to me on the windowsill. "You didn't do much lately and you always had something to present. I was afraid you hit an exceptionally thick wall of art block."
"You could say that," I nodded, the curse had indeed worked that way, though I didn't care much about it now. "I'm slowly getting back in shape."
"I'm glad." Yuko smiled. "I've heard interesting rumours today, have you found a rather unexpected Muse?"
"Yes," I replied, leaning my head against the window. She could understand it.
"That's great news," she whispered. "It won't be an easy road, but I hope you'll make it. In the meantime, I expect a few more great works from you before I say goodbye to this school."
Yuko jumped down gracefully from the windowsill, but before she left I called her one more time and thanked her, bowing deeply. For everything, for understanding and not being critical, and for being a wonderful pal in general. I hope I managed to convey it in one word. The girl beamed and waved goodbye. I decided that when things calmed down somehow, I'd ask Alice to see if her other half was around.
This conversation gave me a lot of positive energy that I wanted to share with Konya. However, before class, my face dropped when I saw him arguing with Hamada. All I could see was her fierce expression, and never in my imagination did I think I'd see such a terrifyingly malicious smile on her beautiful face. Even in Tatsuo's version, this gesture did not have such overtones. Now I was almost sure she had provoked him somehow. I couldn't hear what they were talking about, but when Hamada noticed me, she decided to cut the discussion short.
"We'll see," she announced loudly, her voice resolute, and turned on her heel.
Tatsou turned to me, he was so angry but disappointed at the same time that he let himself be provoked. I walked over to him and took his hand into mine for a second, at least, I could give him that much support.
"I know, I know," I said calmly. "Do not worry."
The day was too intense in every way, and I was emotionally exhausted. I didn't think it would cost us so much. You fight for your own happiness while causing such a fuss when no one should care as long as you haven't hurt anyone. I hoped that this was the end of explaining and talking, and although I knew that the most challenging part with my mother was ahead of me, I wanted to delay it a bit. The school will give us enough of a hard time for a while.
Time to think of something nice for a change. Since you were a couple, you had to go on dates, so I had to plan one, or at least find out where Konya might want to go. A long, romantic walk would probably be enough for me, but I decided it had to be something special. The hopeless romantic in me resonated.
I was just heading down the corridor to exit with Tatsuo when a breathless Daisuke caught up with us. He took a moment to catch his breath and looked over uncertainly. I asked him to tell me what was going on, all the high spirits that planning the date had given me suddenly vanished. We didn't need any more trouble.
"Goda-sensei asked that if I manage to catch you, to tell you to come to him for a moment," he said anxiously. "Should I wait for you?"
"No need, anyway, you have a shift at the store today, right?"
"Yes, indeed." Daisuke scratched his head. "I can only wish you good luck."
"You think we're in trouble?" Tatsuo asked, frowning.
"Probably not as much as we can't handle them," I announced and moved with a fighting step toward the teachers' office.
Now my rebellious nature, which I had recently discovered in myself, prevailed. A rebellious romantic, a wonderful combination, I mentally laughed. Goda-sensei was waiting for us with a smile, I expected a rather disgusted, disappointed expression. I'm surprised it's doing well so far. The old man looked at us for a moment without saying a word, we waited for him to tell us why he asked us.
"I've heard something," he began, choosing his words carefully. "I don't want to say that it's disturbing about the situation itself. However, I cannot ignore some voices that there is something other than mutual sympathy behind your behaviour."
"I guess who might have suggested that," Tatsuo said, clenching his fists. "But that's not true. What's between us is truly sincere."
Goda-sensei looked at me, so I only confirmed my boyfriend's words, I had nothing more to add. The teacher smiled and clapped a few times, watching our surprised faces.
"Alright then," he said, his expression suddenly serious. "Just remember that study comes first, then dating. I see worse results for either of you, and we'll talk differently. You can go and just behave as befits."