.

CHAPTER 3

The Secret Santa's day deadline was getting closer and closer. Some of the guys had the perfect idea for the gift, but not all of them. They wanted to have more time to get the perfect gift for their person; however they cannot ask for help too much or else they would know who the present was for. But even so, they didn't stop practicing for the concert in Albergo di Terada.

After school, they all decided to squeeze in a practice session at Toshizo's house, before his important fencing practice with his team. He was part of the best fencing team there was, and a tournament coming up between his and another university. This is why everyone was hurriedly walking towards Toshizo's car.

—So, Ryoma and I will go with Soji? —asked Shinsaku as everyone walked outside to the school's parking lot. —I don't know if your car is big enough.

—No, you can't. —Soji said before Toshizo could answer.

The others turned to see him trying to tie up his shoe lace but suddenly he lifted his leg in the air towards Shinsaku.

—What? —he asked seeing the untied shoe lace.

—Help me, I'm tired.

—I'm not your servant. Toshizo… help to your friend.

Soji displeased acted as if he didn't care and tied his shoelaces himself. He then explained that the reason they couldn't carpool with him was because he needed to drop by his apartment for something first. Knowing that time is of the essence, Ryoma and the others decided carpool in Toshizo's car instead.

—By the way, —asked Toshizo taking out the car keys from his jacket. —Where is Heisuke?

—Well, Heisou said he has things to do. —smiled Ryoma. —Maybe he will be there.

The beautiful white car was enough to fit the four of them. Toshizo and Kogoro were in front while Ryoma and Shinsaku were in the back, even if Shinsaku didn't like it so much… because his good friend Ryoma was singing all the songs that Toshizo had in his MP3 player throughout the whole car ride.

When they arrived, Ryoma was looking around in the entrance of Toshizo's house. Shinsaku asked what weird thing he was doing now.

—Heisou, he isn't here. —he replied, sounding a bit worried. —Where is he? He never leaves us alone in the practice without telling us.

—He didn't even attend the last classes, remember? —said Kogoro closing the door of the car. —And he even asked us for pay for his food. Maybe… maybe he has some financial problems. Don't you think so?

Toshizo turned to him. He knew he was talking to him so he just sighed and shrugged, not knowing if it were true. Heisuke wasn't rich like Toshizo or Soji but he had enough money to get by: like the time he paid for a packet of new guitar strings for Ryoma and when he helped Shinsaku pay for his bus fare.

—If he comes we will know, guys. —said Toshizo. —And better if he finds us playing, so let's go inside.

The music was indeed fine. Even if Soji wasn't there, the guys tried to play following the ideas that Ryoma had in mind for his song. He didn't like to say it was his song; he insisted that it's the song of everyone, but his friends knew that it was his song because he wrote most of the lyrics, with a little help from Heisuke and Shinsaku.

—Hey! Are you enjoying now? —he sang. —Come, come closer, come closer…

—Stop!

And they did stop. Alarmed, the four guys turned to see the door slam open. It was Soji walking in as he furiously threw his backpack on the floor and took a seat on the sofa. They didn't know what to do. Soji wasn't the type of person who gets angry easily. Besides, only Toshizo and Ryoma knew how Soji acted when he's very angry. The last one came close to him a bit worried.

—Is everything ok, Sochin? —Ryoma kneel at his side to take his hand. —You know you can talk with us, we are your friends.

Soji just sighed.

—Do you want some tea? —asked Toshizo. —I have some chamomile.

—You know I hate that. —retorted Soji, still angry.

—Then…what about Lemon balm? I bet it will help you.

—Put a lot of sugar, please.

Toshizo left his guitar to Kogoro and then walked out of the room.

—Hijizo knows a lot about tea? —said Ryoma. —Oryo knows a bit too, but she is more into poisonous plants.

—Yes, he loves tea. —smiled Kogoro. —Is like his hobby or so. He has some books and likes to taste new flavours.

—But tea will not help at all. —said Shinsaku. —This princess will fall asleep.

—Shut up, Shinsaku, I'm not in the mood to hear you. —Soji closed his eyes.

Shinsaku just get angry a bit too, but decided to just sit at Soji's side to ask why the princess was so angry, which made him a bit angrier. Shinsaku gave up being a good person, and asked him again with his normal voice.

—Cindy, you shouldn't be like this with Sochin. Everyone have days like this.

—No! Not me! —said Soji. —is just… —he tried to breath deep. —I was going to buy the perfect gift for one of you guys but… it was sold out! They didn't have it anymore! And that's not the worse. I went to my apartment and I just couldn't find my favourite pair of shoes.

Upon hearing this, Shinsaku laughed hard. He couldn't believe that Soji was angry just because he couldn't find a pair of shoes.

—You are indeed a princess; Cinderella, that's what you are.

Soji didn't answer this time. His face moved down and didn't turn to see Shinsaku, but he noticed this and was almost saying something when they heard that Toshizo and Heisuke entered. Ryoma didn't wait to run towards Heisuke to hug him… because of this the tea fell from Toshizo's hands, directly onto Soji's shoes and even part of his pants.

—I AM SO SORRY! —said Ryoma still with his hands over Heisuke.

Both, Shinsaku and Soji, rose up. Soji was fuming mad now, he didn't even want to talk. He just moved out the room and his friend wanted to follow him but Shinsaku stopped Toshizo.

—I will go. This princess needs some sweets.

As he left, Ryoma, who was still hugging Heisuke, watched Cindy curiously and then laugh a bit.

—They look like a couple. Always fighting and then being happy again.

Toshizo and Kogoro saw each other. When Ryoma came back to take his guitar from the sofa, the taller of all of them came close.

—Tell me Ryoma, I'm curious. How would you react if they were, in fact, a couple?

—React? What do you mean, Hijizo?

—Yes, like… what would you think if they both really are a couple and they just haven't told you because they don't know how to say it?

—AH! Sochin and Cindy are couple?

—No, no. —interrupted Heisuke. —Toshizo is just asking what if… it isn't true.

Ryoma took a while before fully understanding what Hijizo meant.

—Well, how should I feel? —he smiled —I would be so happy if they are happy.

Toshizo smiled, relieved to hear Ryoma's response, and then tried to say something else but he couldn't get the words out of his mouth. He tried once more and in the third time…

—Ryoma, —Kogoro came closer. —we asked you about this because… Toshizo and I are couple and we wanted to tell you. We just didn't know how.

In that moment, Kogoro gently held Toshizo's arm and smiled. Heisuke and Ryoma saw each other in amazement and grinned.

—I knew it! I told you, Heisou! —he said hugging him harder.

—Yes, yes you did. —Heisuke felt like he couldn't breathe.

—I want to say it to Cindy and Sochin, I bet they will be happy too.

—They already know. —said Kogoro.

Ryoma was dumbfounded; he didn't quite understand why he was the last one to know about the wonderful news. Then Toshizo explained that he really wanted to tell them at the same time but Soji has been bother him all a week, knowing he was dating someone, so he just told him. Kogoro explained that he too told because of Soji.

—Soji decided to tell Shinsaku, and then Shinsaku got angry with Toshizo.

—That would explain why you both were yelling at each other. —said Heisuke… who was still being held in Ryoma's arms. —So, Shinsaku is jealous of Toshizo.

—And Sochin is jealous of Sensei. That's why he was acting like a little baby in front of Hijizo.

After two seconds without saying a word, Ryoma immediately began to laugh. He found it so funny that Soji and Shinsaku, or Sochin and Cindy as he liked to call them, were jealous of Toshizo and Kogoro. At that moment, they came back and entered through the door. Soji seemed to have calmed down, eating a piece of cake topped with cream and strawberries.

—What were you guys talking about? —Shinsaku asked, picking up his bass.

—Sensei and Hijizo are a couple and they just told us. —said Ryoma happily hugging the two of them. —They are so adorable together and all and I'm just happy.

His friends didn't know if he wasn't joking or "pulling their leg", as some tears appeared on his eyes. He was saying how adorable they were and how happy he was for them being together. Heisuke just came close to Shinsaku and Soji, who was still eating.

—Ryoma is indeed happy. —said Heisuke.

—Yes, he is indeed stupid. —continued Shinsaku. —Can we now practice?

—I need to finish my cake. —Soji was more than happier.

With a happy Ryoma crying all over and a happy Soji eating cake, they needed to wait till they finish.

After the long practice with the band, Ryoma and his two friends decided to go out for something to eat. They wanted something new, but the singer wanted to have his favorite food… pizza margarita. Of course, after a little "battle" between the two of them they decided to eat with Otose in her restaurant, but Shinsaku would rather cook something else for him and Kogoro.

—Do you realize that anyone who has Soji or Toshizo as Secret Santa are very lucky? —said Kogoro while Shinsaku was serving both plates.

—Just because Toshizo is your boyfriend doesn't mean we're all lucky. —the bass player said taking the chopstick to eat a hot ramen. —What he gives you as a gift is not my concern.

Kogoro blushed a bit to then see how his friend was adding some chili pepper to his soup.

—No, I mean, Soji and Toshizo have enough money, you know? They can buy anything they want for us without a problem.

—You can too, Sensei. —smiled Ryoma with pizza in his mouth. —You come from a rich family. But you are a bit mistaken. The other day I helped Soji choose a gift, to any of you. —he then realized he wasn't keeping the secret. —Ah! No! I'm sorry!

—You are so stupid, Ryoma. —Shinsaku said a bit angry. —Well, one of us will receive a gift from the princess.

Ryoma explained he was sorry but even like that Soji told him was one of his friends. Kogoro and Shinsaku knew that meant something; everyone was friend of Ryoma in his eyes.

—But Kogoro, —said Shinsaku. —there is another option too: anyone who is the Secret Santa of Toshizo or Soji, have very bad luck.

—Do you think so? —said Kogoro a bit worried. —But why?

—Sochin and Hijizo have everything they want and need. —explained Ryoma. —its kinda sad, isn't? But after all, friendship is all that means.

—You two worry too much. —smiled Shinsaku adding more chili to the egg in his ramen. —Better finish eating that, I want to go and see Toshizo losing.

—Toshizo is great at fencing, Shinsaku. —Kogoro tried to defend his boyfriend. —And it's true; lets finish this and then go see him. I promised to be there and watch him practice.

—You two are just adorable! —Ryoma yelled with a foot on the table. —I want for all of us to have a beautiful and cute relationship!

Suddenly Otose hit him in the head to make him fall. Thanks to this Kogoro and Shinsaku laughed.

—You have a cute and beautiful relationship with the floor, my friend. —As Shinsaku helped him get up, he laugh harder hearing Otose's remark.

It was true what the drum player said with his friends; Toshizo was great at fencing and on every move, he was perfect. Soji and Heisuke were sitting on the benches watching their friend, the first one was eating tofu from a little dish, so his friend asked why it smells so good and if it was delicious. He was curious because, after all, he knew Soji couldn't cook very good. To be honest, he only knew how to make himself a bowl of cereal and sandwiches… and other simple things.

—Shinsaku did it for me. —he smiled. —Sometimes Kogoro buys tofu and you know Shinsaku hates tofu so he prefers to give it to me.

—I see… so, does he know?

Soji became very serious and, for his good luck, Toshizo came close to eat a bit of his tofu. Soji saw him trying to take a bite and acted like a little kid removing his little dish from his way, making Toshizo laugh like only he knew.

—What are you talking about, guys?

—About the Secret Santa, —sighed Heisuke. —I already have the gift but I'm not sure if he will like it… I hope so.

—Well, if is Ryoma, you are lucky. —laughed Toshizo. —It's easy to make him happy.

—At least I can say it's not Shinsaku. —Heisuke looked relieved. —Imagine, he is always in a bad mood and so grumpy. What could he possibly want?

—That grumpy loves shooter video games, especially the ones with a lot of weapons. —said Soji who was very sure of himself. —He is very into weapons. The other day he had a book about old swords in his backpack.

Toshizo and Heisuke listened to the things that Soji knew about what Shinsaku liked and disliked. When he finished, they both just laughed a bit.

—You are his number one fan, aren't you? —asked Toshizo. —You are even more of a fan than Heisuke is with Ryoma.

—Well, he lost the point the other day when he didn't go to our practice. —Soji smiled to Heisuke. —Were you making Ryoma's altar bigger?

—Nope. Sorry guys. —Heisuke gestured some moves with his hands. —It doesn't matter how hard you try, I will not tell you why I didn't go that day. So please, stop insisting.

—Oh well, speak of the devil; look who's here… —Soji rose up.

The other guys were coming close to their friends. Ryoma, like always, hugged them and began to talk with Toshizo, even if Kogoro was holding onto his arm. Shinsaku, Heisuke and Soji sat down again to see how the couple, and Ryoma, were talking about the contest Toshizo was getting ready for.

Not all the people in the gym understood how those six could be friends after having so many fights, especially when Soji acted like an enemy.

Five of them stayed throughout the whole practice with his friend, but slowly, one by one were leaving back to their apartment. As they headed back, they were all feeling nervous and excited at the same time: knowing that they would have the famous Secret Santa and the concert, in the restaurant. However, for the moment, they decided to enjoy the relaxing day before Christmas came.