The first thing he had tried was clasping his hands together and puppy-lipping Manjyome in an attempt to break his stubborn barrier.
"Please, Manjyome-san," Juudai pleaded, making sure to add in the respectful –san suffix that the other boy so often desired to hear. "There's no one else to go with and you're the last person I know!"
Manjyome snorted derisively at his comment. He had pretty much lost count how many people the brunette had been able to befriend throughout all their adventures. Nobody else to go with, right. The possibility of that ever occurring was right next to the likelihood of Juudai arriving to class on time.
"I refuse." He crossed his arms and closed both eyes, resting his head on the wall behind him. "Go find somebody else to harass."
"There's nobody else!"
"Of course there's somebody," Manjyome snapped back, opening one eye furtively. "What happened to your other companions? Kaiser's brother…and that koala guy…"
"Shou and Hayato are asleep. They're dead tired." Juudai paused before helpfully adding in, "Ayukawa-sensei made them do forty laps around the court."
At this news, he quirked a thin eyebrow. Those two were always getting in trouble weren't they? If it wasn't being kidnapped, drowning in pools, or getting their souls stolen—then it was getting in a mess with teachers.
"What happened? They didn't hit a ball in anybody's eye, did they now?" he asked waywardly.
He was hinting that his friends might have had a repeat performance of Juudai's previous accident which resulted in a Cyclops Chronos and very awkward dueling stakes concerning fiancées.
But Juudai shook his head.
"Junko and Shou were doing stuff and they knocked over a cart of tennis balls. Then Principal Sameshima tripped on one and Junko ran away and Hayato came over so Ayukawa-sensei thought it was his doing," he ended with a frown.
From the sounds of it, Asuka's friend was flirting with the midget who picked a great time to show off to a girl and ended up looking like a fool. Not that Juudai had a clue what any of that meant.
Juudai opened his mouth halfway before closing it.
"…don't be nasty, Manjyome," he pouted. "Just because neither of them are here doesn't mean you can say bad things about them."
Manjyome narrowed his eyes. Juudai got the message instantly and shook his hands in front of him in self-defense, bobbing his head up and down.
"I mean, -san, ah, yes!" he corrected quickly. There was a pause. "Anyway, it's pretty late and stuff so I can't go see anybody else like Fubuki or Asuka…and I don't want to go by myself! You know I hate being alone…"
Manjyome flickered open both eyes and stared at the brown-haired boy. "Why do you want to go so badly? You already ate at twelve."
Juudai blinked and placed a finger on his lip. "Well…there's nothing else to do," he replied such honesty that Manjyome had a hard time believing he was lying.
Anyway, he had learned from past experiences never to doubt Juudai's stomach. With much difficulty, Manjyome heaved himself off the bed and dusted his trenchcoat off. He glanced at the other boy who immediately stopped pouting and looked eager. He repressed himself from scowling at Juudai.
That magical word brought an immediate, "Woo-hoo!"
Juudai grinned happily and ran out the room.
"Come on, Manjyome—I mean, -san, I mean…let's go!" he yelled and waved an arm at the reluctant Manjyome to follow him.
Manjyome sighed heavily and dragged his feet towards the door. Their relationship was so improbable. This time around it was a simple request to accompany Juudai to the dining hall for lunch, but there were other times where Manjyome wondered why he ever put up with Juudai in the first place.
"Manjyome! Come with me and Shou to skip stones across the lake!"
"Will you share your dessert with me? Hayato snuck some of mine when I wasn't looking…"
"Hey, hey, Manjyome? Can I have your Armed Dragons? Trade for it? Buy it? Please…they're so cool!"
But no matter how many times he rudely rejected Juudai's invitation and no matter what the situation was and whether it was easy or a considerably harder task, Manjyome ended up being persuaded by Juudai to tag along with his group of friends. Sometimes it was because he couldn't bear to decline and then have it ignored again and other occasions, Manjyome simply complied to get Juudai to shut the heck up.
Juudai wouldn't take no for an answer. He refused to listen to any of his excuses, complaints or insults and kept pressing forth until the raven-haired boy finally caved in. Basically, Manjyome had no choice. He could barely call their relationship consensual, let alone label it as 'friendship.'
"Who eats lunch at four-thirty?" Manjyome abruptly called out as he struggled to keep up with the other boy's velocity. Juudai glanced behind him and shrugged.
He rolled his eyes. Typical answer.
Apparently the brunette saw his skepticism because he slowed his pace until was walking side by side with Manjyome.
"The cafeteria doesn't serve supper until six so even if you don't technically consider it lunch, the food still is!" he explained, beaming.
"You're a freak."
"I'm just a growing boy."
Before he had a chance to retort back, Juudai rushed forward and opened the door.
The cafeteria virtually empty with its only occupants being a small group of students sitting at a table in the corner. No surprise, though. After all, who in the right mind would eat lunch at four-thirty in the afternoon?
"What are you getting?" he asked offhandedly as Juudai grabbed a ceramic bowl from the counter and scooped some rice into it.
"Rice, fish…ah! And I heard there's fried shrimp today!"
Manjyome watched as Juudai rushed around, taking random bowls and plates and filling them with an assortment of food until his entire tray was crammed to the edge with the cafeteria's cooking.
He then followed the other boy to their traditional table, the one they—well, Juudai always sat at. He, Hayato, and Shou always shared the same table every morning, every lunch, and every dinner. Manjyome had his own reclusive table in the back.
As they sat down, Manjyome felt an uncomfortable lump rising in his throat. If memory served correctly, he was sitting in the exact seat Shou sat in every day.
This is stupid; he had desperately wanted to say. I don't want to be with you, I don't want to see you, and I wish I wasn't sitting in front of you like I'm a replacement of one of your dorky friends.
Juudai gave him a sideways glance. "Are you going to eat anything?" he asked between mouthfuls of rice.
Manjyome looked up at him. He bit back a yell.
"Unlike you, I actually have a scheduled food plan," he replied instead. Then, as if on cue, a low rumbling came from the pit of his stomach. Juudai snickered, his eyes twinkling with glee.
"Your stomach says otherwise. Deny it all you want, but you're hungry, heh!"
"I'm not hungry," he shot back defensively. "I just have an abdomen problem."
But the twinkling in his eyes didn't vanish. "Sureee. Have some, it won't kill you."
Juudai held out his bowl of rice and chopsticks to him which Manjyome pushed away.
"I don't want your filthy food. Just finish up eating so we can go."
It was futile, he realized, because a moment later Manjyome felt the tips of a pair of chopsticks probe the side of his face. He flinched as a sticky piece of rice stuck to his cheek.
"Eat. You look anorexic," Juudai insisted.
He tried again. "Here comes the chu-chu train…"
Manjyome merely scowled and turned his head away. Because of this, he failed to see Juudai frown.
"If you don't eat, I'll steal your cards and toss them down the toilet."
"For the last time, I said—ulp!"
Juudai had taken this advantage to shove his rice-filled chopsticks into Manjyome's open mouth. He drew back, smiling through closed eyes.
"Now, was that so hard, Thu—"
Apparently it was to Manjyome because in an instant, he snatched the bowl out of Juudai's hands and slammed it upside down on his head.
Juudai's body froze, before he broke down and his whole frame shook. He looked utterly helpless as his shoulders drooped and entire face cast down. The rice bowl on his head and the pieces of grain collecting around his shoulders were certainly not helping, nor was the sudden snickering from the group of students at the other side of the cafeteria. Manjyome shot them the deadest glare he could muster up. They quieted down instantly.
"…I…I wanted to eat that…" Juudai mumbled almost inaudibly.
Dammit, registered in Manjyome's mind. He hadn't meant to make Juudai cry. Now it looked as if it was too late to change anything and that nothing he said would stop those brown eyes from welling up in tears.
"…Manjyome, all I wanted to do was to help you…you didn't need to…"
Manjyome watched him staggeringly, completely unknowing of how to handle the situation. Well, if words had no effect then he would have to try something else. He did the first thing that came to mind; Manjyome wrapped his arms around Juudai's torso into an awkward hug.
"Stop trying to embarrass me," he muttered into his ear. "I'll never forgive you for this."
Juudai blinked though his tears. He stiffened for a few seconds before relaxing into the other boy's arms. He felt Juudai's body loosen up and Manjyome let go of him. At least he seemed better now. But the rice was still stuck in his shaggy hair which had to be removed if Juudai planned on to continue staying with him.
"We're getting you cleaned up." His finger shot in the direction of the door. "Go outside."
He scowled. Did Juudai have to question everything he said? "Because there's a lake out there. We can wash your hair in the water."
Juudai's lip trembled, and he shook his head, asking, "Why don't we just go back to my room?"
"The lake's closer," he snapped. "Now let's go."
Manjyome grabbed his arm and dragged him outside before Juudai could say anything else. Alright, so 'the lake's closer' wasn't the real reason he had. The real reason was because Manjyome didn't want Juudai bouncing into his room in his messy state while his friends were still there. He vaguely imagined what their reactions would be.
"Aniki! Aniki! What happened to your hair?"
"Yeah, it's all covered in white stuff!"
"Oh, Manjyome shoved my lunch on my head."
"Wah…how could Manjyome-kun do something like that?"
"Man, what a creep. I mean, think about all that wasted food!"
"Heh, don't worry about it, guys. He hugged me and said he was sorry."
Manjyome could care less about Shou's panic-stricken gasp and Hayato's indignant reaction towards his misuse of food, but if Juudai had confided the two that he had actually HUGGED the brunette, well then…heaven knows how that would eventually turn out…
"…be careful, be careful!"
He snapped back to reality and looked down. Red sleeves were flailing around and nearly smacked him in the face. Manjyome growled as he tried to restrain Juudai from panicking.
"I am being careful!" he reassured hastily.
He planted both arms on Juudai's head and submerged it into the water again. There was a gargling noise and air bubbles rose from the water. After a small struggle, his head came back to the surface and he gasped for air.
"I just wanted the rice to be washed out—I didn't ask for a full head-shower!" Juudai protested wildly, thrashing around again.
"Most of your hair is sticky so stop whining."
"You dunked my whole head into the water!"
Manjyome scowled. "What else was I supposed to do? Do I look like your hair-stylist?"
"MANJYOME!" he shouted in such a demanding voice that the other boy actually stopped and listened. Juudai sputtered some water out of his mouth before fiercely gazing back at Manjyome with something that could be classified as a glare.
"Look. I understand you're not that fond of my existence, but please—stop attempting to drown me."
There was silence for a few seconds. Manjyome's eyes narrowed and his grip on the brunette's hair tightened because Juudai closed an eye and winced.
Manjyome didn't loosen his hand. Why am I feeling this way? That moment Juudai had glared at him, he had received a shock of fear. Fear? From this slimeball? That was just disgraceful. It was better not to think about it.
With a single, solid shove, Manjyome pushed Juudai into the lake. He rose from the grounds and dusted his hands off as he listened to the satisfying sound of a body plunging into the water.
"Have fun swimming by yourself," Manjyome replied briskly. "I'm leaving."
A hand shot out of the water and latched onto his ankle just as he was about to turn around. With a disheveled cry, Manjyome was dragged into the lake. Once in the water, the hand released his ankle and Manjyome immediately swerved around, ready to pounce on Juudai had he not been out of arm's reach.
Manjyome shot a deadly glare at the Osiris who somehow managed to swim faster than he did despite being scrawny, well not that scrawny (the Amazoness cage-match revealed that Juudai wasn't as sluggish as he looked). Even from the distance of the bodies, he was able to make out a huge grin plastered on Juudai's face and something that sound suspiciously like 'Gotcha!' was shouted at him.
This served to thin his patience beyond measures. The spiky-haired boy stabbed a finger in his direction.
"You! Dropout boy! I will get you for this!" he yelled as Juudai stuck out his tongue.
Manjyome pulled off his sopping wet trenchcoat, flung it by the lake's edge, and dove into the water.
He didn't know how long he tried to chase after Juudai and pierce his eyes out in return for pulling on his pant leg, but Manjyome realized it was quite late because the golden sun in the sky could only observed as a semicircle as it slowly dipped down and hid behind the hills.
It was getting late and he had accomplished nothing except for fruitlessly draining his energy. Manjyome brought his fists down into the water out of frustration only to receive a splash in the face from the blow.
Juudai waved from the other side of the lake, but Manjyome just turned around and wadded his way out of the lake without looking back. Once his feet were back on solid ground, he began wringing out his clothing. Manjyome felt chilled to the bone due to all the water dripping from his body. A moment later, he heard soft splashing noises behind him and glanced around to see a soaked Juudai treading out.
"You tired already?" he asked naively, plopping down on the ground. He made no motion to dry himself off.
Manjyome didn't reply and merely scowled, returning to the wringing out of his trenchcoat. It wasn't as drenched as the rest of his clothing but it was still damp from the first unexpected impact.
When his clothing was nearly dry, Manjyome felt that something was missing. Juudai was awfully quiet. He looked around again to see the brunette…err…
"Stop staring at my legs," Manjyome gritted out between clenched teeth. He felt a blush rise to his cheeks and quickly fought to repress it from showing on his face.
Juudai snapped out of his trance by Manjyome's harsh criticizing and looked at him blankly.
"Eh? Oh, right, sorry Manjyome…" He gaze trailed down to his legs again. "…it's just that you have really thin legs. I mean it, you should start eating more."
By now, Manjyome's face resembled the shade of a tomato. "I DON'T CARE! STOP STARING AT ME!" he roared.
Juudai continued to stare at him.
Manjyome clutched his head with an indignant cry and began banging it against at nearby tree—though that didn't help his condition because a moment later, when he turned around with an additional bump on his head, Juudai was still staring at him. Juudai cocked his head to the side in curiosity.
"Ryou's graduating this month."
He instantly stopped his frenzied spazzing. Manjyome warily stole a glance at him, unable to see how Juudai can be so calm. "So what's your point?"
The brown-eyed boy shrugged. "I don't know. It just seemed kind of sad, I guess. School goes by so quickly."
He snorted at Juudai's sentimental thinking. "Yeah, ok, whatever, I don't care," he shot back.
A look of hurt flitted on his face for a split second, but it was gone so quickly Manjyome wondered if he just imagined it. Juudai then said something that completely caught him off guard.
"Manjyome. Why are you being so hard to talk to all of a sudden?"
He stiffened. Juudai never really got a clue, did he? Dense as always…
But Manjyome faltered in his words when he saw Juudai's face. He was concerned, apprehensive, and had a troubled expression that didn't suit him. Manjyome exhaled softly, allowing his anger to dissipate into the sigh.
"I'm tired…ok?" he finally grumbled in a resigned tone. "Being next to you saps all the energy out of a guy."
He rolled his eyes back and let his body descend to the ground with an earthly thud. A few seconds later, he felt Juudai land next to him.
"So what are we doing?" Juudai's voice whispered into his ear.
"Resting," he replied shortly. Manjyome rolled over so that his back was visible to the other boy and shut his eyes close, letting his mind wander on other thoughts. His peace and quiet didn't last for very long because a few minutes later, Juudai tapped him on the shoulder.
"I see a cloud."
He growled and shrugged of Juudai's touch with a tetchy jerk of his shoulder. Who cared? Manjyome didn't waste his breath stating that condensed water vapor was not worth rolling over his back for and that Juudai was an idiot because people saw clouds all the time. His eyes shut tighter.
"That one over there looks like a fish."
"I don't care."
"That one's like a wheel."
"Shut up, dropout boy."
"And the one over there? Yeah, it looks like a fox…"
Manjyome opened both eyes. What was the point of telling Juudai to stop if he never listened? With a heavy groan, he sat back up and shot a cross glare at the brunette. "Hey dimwit. It's seven at night—there are no clouds."
Juudai looked back unwavering. "Sure there are. The clouds are just dark and blurry," he replied causally and pointed to the steadily darkening sky.
Manjyome scanned the heavens. He hated to admit it but Juudai was right, there were some clouds still floating around even at this time at night. They were not the pasty white balls resembling cotton-candy fluffs that would be visible in the broad daylight, but more so in which the clouds had a shadowy underlining of golden plum that clashed with the crimson-red sky.
The sky resembled a canvas. A ripped and torn canvas with bloody streaks of paint angling in haphazard slants, but it was a beautiful canvas nonetheless.
"What does that cloud look like?" Juudai's voice interrupted his musings. A finger pointed to one of the numerous fluff-balls in the sky.
"It looks like a cloud," he stated flatly. This received him a soft chuckle.
Manjyome gazed at it for a few seconds before uttering, "A duck."
Juudai's face cracked into a smile. "Now you're talking! That one looks like a tree!"
"That is a tree, you idiot."
Manjyome actually felt himself relaxing as he searched the skies for more distinguishable shapes. Upon finding another, he nudged Juudai and jerked his head at the direction of the cloud.
"What do you think of that one?"
He pointed to a peculiarly shaped cloud.
Juudai bit his lip and placed a finger on his chin, squinting it at. "…a Kuriboh eating a giant marshmallow?"
Slightly thrown off by his answer, Manjyome glanced up at the cloud again. "Hmm. The winds changed it a bit."
He sat on the ground in pondering silence, craning his neck around to find a suitable cloud, when Juudai's cheery voice broke into his thoughts again with, "You see those u-shaped wisps?"
Manjyome gazed in the direction of Juudai's finger. "Mm-hmm…"
"If you tilt your head to the side they kind of look like the roof shingles on our dorm." Juudai changed his view by twisting his entire body to his right so that the side of his cheek was now smushed on the ground. A moment later, Manjyome smacked his head.
"You're turning your head in the wrong direction," he replied tonelessly and turned his own head upside down. "To your left."
Juudai proceed to do the same. "Ah. Now they look like scales," he exclaimed.
"And you see those little cloud strands?" Manjyome asked, pointing to some curvy white threads.
He blinked and nodded. "Yeah, yeah, they're like antennas."
"Exactly. The curls in the back look like a tail."
"Yup. And you know, that bit of fluff that's sticking out with two holes in the middle reminds me of a mouth and nose."
"True. Those disconnected wisps are legs and claws."
"It looks like…"
"…a dragon," both of them finished in union.
"An Armed Dragon, really," Manjyome added in after a moment's thought.
The two stared at the other for what seemed to be an eternity of silence. Then—though unexpected on Manjyome's part—Juudai suddenly began to crack up. His laughter thoroughly confused Manjyome because he saw nothing funny about the situation at all.
Juudai draped an arm over his shoulder and chuckled into the crook of Manjyome's neck. "Great minds think alike, ne, Manjyome?" he asked playfully.
"That can only be said true if there are two great minds thinking alike," he mumbled back. Manjyome removed himself from the brunette's hold and lay down again, placing his arms behind his back and crossing his legs.
Juudai towered over him. "Mine and yours?"
He snorted. "Try again."
"Mine and this dandelion's?" he inquired teasingly.
A moment later, Manjyome felt a flower land on top of his face. He frowned and his eyebrows knitted together in irritation, but he said nothing and the dandelion fell off with a twitch of his nose.
"Meh," was his only reply. "Don't bother mentioning yourself if you can't figure it out."
"Alright, fine then. Your and this dandelion's mind think alike."
Manjyome sat up and gazed at Juudai, quirking a brow. "Do dandelions even have minds?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I've never been a dandelion in my life."
"Che." Manjyome lightly punched his arm and his lips twisted into something of a genuine smile.
Juudai returned the gesture and winked. "Should we be going back now?" he asked, gesturing to the fallen sun.
"Maybe a bit later."
Manjyome fell back onto the ground again and let the darkness engulf him as he closed his eyes. It was surprising how much of his motivation had changed within a matter of a few hours. He felt tranquil, refreshed and wet from the unexpected dive in the lake. Manjyome cracked open an eye and glanced at the boy next to him. Juudai was absorbed in his own thoughts and was unconsciously humming a theme-song to some T.V. show, bobbing his head to the beat as he plucked the petals of the dandelion. Then he smirked, letting his eyelids shut close again. It was peaceful.
For the first time in his life, Manjyome was quite glad he was with Juudai.