Chapter 31:

Nurse's Office!

Be Yourself, Ayane-chan!

With it being so late, we were the only ones inside the nurse’s office, with all three of us waiting for Satoshi to wake up. Seeing Satou tapping his foot with his arms crossed, too, it was clear to me how boring he found the act to be, so I decided to start a conversation.

“I didn’t think my punch would be that effective.”

Satou’s tapping stopped, as he leaned forward on his chair.

“Now I know why you feel comfortable beating my dumbass.”

“To be fair though, Satoshi-kun got me bad too,” I said as I looked at my hand in the sky.

“Yep. That’s why you’re lying down with him.”

Oh yeah right. I purposefully left out that part. With my face going red, I responded.

“I’m just glad I didn’t faint.”

“I’m more so shocked you didn’t. How are you this strong?”

“Playing fitness games.”

Satou put his hand on his face, trying to desperately hide his disappointment in me.

“Why is it always video games?”

“Because I like them.”

“Okay, virgin.”

I almost wanted to get up, but I refrained, clenching my fists as I used my mouth to fight back instead.

“You know that response stopped working, right?”

“Well, it’s not like either of you are headstrong enough to do that.”

“Shut the hell up.”

Winking after his insulting statement, I just wanted the conversation to end, and it did. Satou and I just stood there as we waited. By waiting, I just meant me, as Satou just had to open his damned mouth again.

“What was up with Satoshi-kun? I still don’t get it.”

With his hand touching the top of his head, he needed answers.

“He started a fight with me.”

“You know I have eyes, right? Just, how did it sprout up?” he asked with his massive hand covering his face.

“He thought I was screwing with him, so he took offense to it.”

Satou put his hand on his chin before responding.

“Why though? He should know you’re not the type to have an ulterior motive.”

“He was incapable of seeing that.”

At this point, Satou stretched his head.

“I still don’t get it. How could someone as logical as Satoshi-kun be dragged down by such emotion?”

“It was because he couldn’t become a mangaka.”

“Huh!? Are you serious? All of this because of that?”

He couldn’t hold in his chuckle by the end of that statement. It wasn’t even close to a laugh, though. If anything, that showed his disbelief more than his mocking joy. I could only respond appropriately.

“Yeah… Yeah…”

With my more exhausted response, Satou took on a similar demeanor. Leaning back again, he took a deep breath and held his hands together.

“I wish he felt comfortable enough to have told me all of that.”

“Same here. I wished I was a better friend.”

Hearing this, Satou put his head back up.

“Why use the past tense?”

“Because I hope to change.”

Leaning back again, Satou looked away from me.

“So that’s why you’ve been talking to me differently.”

I got off of my bed in the office, surprised that Satou would say such a thing.

“I thought nothing changed.”

Satou looked back at me.

“It’s because we both share our pride and stubbornness. I don't think Satoshi-kun can handle the same banter, though. I didn’t know I was making him uncomfortable.”

“Neither did I. I’m just glad he told me something before something bad could’ve happened,” I said as I held my hand on my neck.

“I am too. I think he’s a good friend,” Satou said with a smile.

“I agree.”

I sat back down, looking at where Satoshi rested. He breathed deeply in his unconscious state. For the first time I’d ever seen him, he looked like he was at peace. All of the expectations and responsibilities, while they had not been removed, had at least dissipated. It felt almost fascinating seeing it, although nothing about my expression could change. Tugging onto the cloth of my legs, I couldn’t let go of my guilt. I felt like I could sit in that feeling forever, but it ended once Satoshi opened his eyes.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“In the nurse’s office,” I told him.

“There’s no way that punch hurt that bad,” Satoshi said while pinching his forehead.

“I kept on telling you guys I was strong.”

“To be fair though, it is pretty hard to believe that you are, given your laziness.”

“I hate to admit you’re right. Although, you’re not too bad yourself. That punch hurt like a bitch.”

“Well, I gotta lift if I want to keep my appearance.”

“Why am I the only one with a weird workout method?” I asked, hiding my face.

“Because you’re weird.”

“No, I’m not.”

Out of nowhere, I heard the sounds of Ayane’s laughter. I didn’t even remember she was there. My blood once again boiled as I realized that my friends had stopped me from remembering the cutest being in the universe… ignoring the fact that it’s clearly my problem if it happened twice.

Stuck in this pathetic mental rant, I forgot to open my mouth, with Satou doing the heavy lifting. Looking down, he leaned at the front of the seat, speaking in a quieter tone.

“Hey, Satoshi-kun. I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“Being a shit friend, really.”

“I… didn’t think you’d apologize like that.”

Satou finally gave Satoshi eye contact, standing taller than he did before, although he couldn’t quite sharpen it.

“C’mon, I’m not that bad. Next time you’re feeling troubled, I’ll be there to listen to you. If people judge you for wanting to draw manga, I’ll punch the shit out of them!”

Slamming his fist into his hand, Satou’s usual energy had come surging back through him; an energy so infectious that Satoshi finally sat up again.

“Thanks, but I can punch them on my own,” he said while doing the same pathetic motion.

Satou laughed at this, being excited to come back with a response of his own.

“You’ll need someone with the balls to do it, though.”

“I guess you’re right about that.”

Satoshi finished the conversation with a smile on his face. Granted, the two of them hadn’t spoken since the summer, so the room grew quiet for yet another moment. With none of the three of us having anything to say. Satou didn’t even make any of the annoying fidgets that he tended to. Granted, he was still the first one to say something, needing to break the silence more than anyone.

“So, what’re you gonna do now, Satoshi-kun?”

Satoshi, put his hand on his neck, looking down. He didn’t appear confident in what he was about to say.

“I’m gonna draw manga.”

“You should,” Satou and I said in unison.

Satoshi tried to get up, but he couldn’t keep his balance. It ended up being Satou who prevented his fall, as he held onto him.

“Don’t worry, Satoshi-kun. I’ll bring you home.”

“Thank you.”

With Satou now facing the door, he said his final words of the day.

“Alright, Yuuki-kun, Ayane-chan, I’ll be taking Satoshi-kun home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

With my friends out the door, I now looked at Ayane. I still couldn’t believe that I’d be returning to her house tonight.

Now, I stood at a point of indecision. I loved Ayane, and always would, but I didn’t know if I could properly prepare myself for what could come next. After realizing what I’d done to Satoshi for all those years, I realized that I’d only barely made it unscathed. If I had to be forced to reflect on myself for the sake of my relationships, then I didn’t know if I could stay sure of keeping them.

However, those worries would wash away, if not for just a little moment, when Ayane laid on my lap like a pillow. Stroking my fingers in her hair, I realized something more important than anything else. If I could keep her, then all of the pain, struggle, reflection, and improvement would be more than important.

If I said that to my past self, he’d mock me, but I mean it more than anything else. Even if he’d think it was a joke, I’d just be glad it wasn’t.

“I love you so much, Ayane-chan,” were the last words I spoke before we left the school’s campus late at night.

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