Summary: No matter how patient and kind and understanding a person is, there would come a time when he would just snap back. Aya had always devoted her time for him…at least until she learned he liked Ran. Deciding it was futile to love a man who does not love her back…it's time to move on…

AN: Hmm…this is my first try on Supergals so please go easy on me here. Anyway…it seems Aya x Rei pairing is famous eh? I love the pair…anyway…ignoring some certain scenes in the manga, the story starts right after the time when Rei admitted he liked Ran…

I might insert some other scenes from the manga itself…from time to time that is…

Anyway, the story would focus on the two of course. So it would be like starting anew for the two…

Disclaimer: I do not own Gals. I wish I do.

To say the least…it hurts…terribly…the pain is all-consuming that she could only look at him…yet she remained calm to hide her tears and pain…

He likes her friend…

So it had been Ran all along…and the possible reason why he dated Aya is because he felt sorry for her…

Pitiful…

So this is how it feels like to have your first love shove it in your face that he loves someone else…

It's so painful…

And she wanted to forget. But on second thought, she might as well face it head-on. She must not be this weak again…she has to show to him and everyone else that she could be just as strong as Ran and Miyu…and the way to prove that is not to run away or cry…

888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

She did not attend her class the following day much to Ran and Miyu's astonishment. Aya had always been the studious one among the three and she never actually took her studies for granted…so it puzzled them that she just took a day off from class without any reason at all…

Not that they have asked her any reason anyway…it was just like…something else…it felt in fact…when they called her, she was always out of reach. And somehow, Ran had an idea of who to blame. If Aya did not appear, then one thing is for sure.

Rei made her cry again.

"That jerk!" Ran hissed as she fled from the room while Miyu tried to stop her friend from suddenly attacking someone.

"Ran, wait a minute – "

"I don't have a minute. Rei must have to make sure he did not make her cry again or this time I will break his face," she said in anger.

"But we can't even be sure if – "

Ran whirled to her friend. "Miyu, Aya did not call us or did not even show herself for today so something must be wrong and I worry about her."

"You're right of course but don't you think it's a little too rude to just accuse Rei for it? I mean – "

"It's always been that guy that's making her act this way so its probably him this time again," she said and ran off leaving Miyu sighing. She decided to just wait at the usual place where the group usually hangs out together.

Rei groaned upon hearing the cantankerous number 1 gal in Shibuya calling out his name. The last thing he needed right now is to have any arguments with her for something foolish again.

"Otohata!"

"What now?" he asked in boredom. "You don't have to shout you know," he said as he perused the CD's.

"What did you do to Aya?" she demanded angrily and Rei could only look at her.

"Excuse me?"

"What the hell did you do to Aya that she did not appear today just after Valentines," she said, her eyes warning him to answer her truthfully.

Rei shrugged while trying to remember what he just said yesterday. Oh yeah…something about Ran.

Ran, already furious grabbed his collar. "Answer me."

"I don't have any obligations to answer you, moron," he said. "Besides, whatever is between me and Aya remains between just the two of us."

She released him and gave him a dagger look. "You did not hurt her again, did you?" she asked.

He shrugged as he already knew the answer to that. "I really can't understand why you have to hurt her," she said and marched off leaving Rei sighing to himself. Now what did Aya do this time? And must she stage a disappearing act again?

888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

Miyu and Ran blinked as they spotted Aya running in a hurry towards the school gate. What surprised them is the fact that Aya had just…cut her hair…and she looked…different…talk about changed…

She's still pretty of course and in fact she looked prettier now. And she's wearing pants? Aya usually wears skirts but this time…it looked different…

"Aya?"

She spun around and smiled. "Oh hey," she said cheerfully as she held her bag.

"Am I really seeing what I am seeing?" Ran whispered.

"What?" Aya asked with a confused look. "I don't look bad with it, do I?"

Miyu shook her head and smiled with relief. She was beginning to think something wrong happened to her. "Oh no…you look terribly…cool…"

"Thanks. Sorry I was not able to call up yesterday."

"Did something happen?" Ran asked, wanting to make sure everything is perfectly fine.

Aya nodded. "Of course…why do you think something is wrong?"

Ran shook her head. "Nothing. I just thought Otohata did something again."

Aya just gave a wry smile. "I've no idea about that. Anyway, why don't we step in? We'll be late and unlike you Ran, I'm not so creative to span a story for an excuse."

Ran grinned, her eyes showing mischief. "Hehe…I've a new excuse this time," she said as she rubbed her chin.

"Fine but don't drag us with you," Miyu said and started walking towards the gate with Aya while Ran was left devising another story in case the first one would not work out.

From time to time though, Miyu would cast Aya a glance to make sure everything is really alright but nothing about her indicated any problem at all. In fact, she was as usual, sitting primly in class and participating in every bit of a discussion.

And as usual, she would always be praised by their teacher who often gives snide remarks towards Ran to motivate the latter and just be as serious as Aya when it comes to studies. But the usual effect is nil.

Later that afternoon after class, they do their usual routine and hang out at the snack house where Yuuya, Tatsuki and Rei were already waiting. And if Miyu and Ran were surprised at Aya's new appearance, so are the men though Rei did not give any sign at all.

"Aya! My…you look…" Yuuya could not find the words to say so he only grinned while Aya smiled.

"Hey second-place," she greeted with her two fingers.

"Ayappe, you look wonderful with that hairstyle…" Tatsuki commented as Ran chose a seat next to him. Miyu had already sat down beside Yuuya so it left the vacant space beside Rei. Aya just sat down casually.

"Hey Otohata-kun," she only said with a casual smile that was unnoticed by the group. Rei gave her a look and scrutinized her under his usually cold eyes then he shrugged.

"Yo."

"So what do you plan for the weekend?" Ran asked everyone.

"I've got a date with Yamato," Miyu said in her lovey-dovery mood while Ran waved her off.

"Have you planned something for the group?" Yuuya asked and took a bite from his pizza. Rei was busy reading a book already while Aya was playing with her drink.

"Yep. Tatsuki promised that we would all go to the beach, all expenses paid," she said then turned to Tatsuki who sweatdropped.

"I did?"

"Yeah…remember?" she asked and the guy could only nod.

"Yeah sure…"

"You can bring Mami-rin along, second place," Ran suggested.

Yuuya nodded. "Sure, there is no problem with that."

"How about you Aya?" Miyu asked and Aya gave a thoughtful look.

"I'm not sure…I have a part-time job this Saturday and Sunday. I'll be selling carnations for the Mother's day."

"Eh? Aren't you spoiling the fun?"

Aya smiled graciously. "Not really but I have already given my word to the owner," she took a sip from her drink then stood up. "Anyway, I hate to ruin this but I have to go. I still have something to do."

This time, all eyes turned to her in question. They are starting to doubt this sudden change in her but she did not mind actually. She took her bag in a hurry then waved at them.

"Bye."

"What's with her?" Ran muttered then glanced at Rei. "Aren't you supposed to walk her home?"

Rei took his eyes from the door then turned to her. "What am I, her bodyguard?" he asked though he already stood up.

"You're supposed to be her boyfriend so shouldn't you be acting like one?" Ran chided and Rei shrugged. He might as well follow her. Everyone knows that she's a walking disaster – that Aya. Someone must always have to look out for her from time to time.

It was actually a surprise not hearing from Ran or Miyu that Aya had been crying like she usually does whenever he hurt her…he wondered if she took what he said easily…normally, Aya would ran off and cry while Ran would come and chide him about what he just did.

Yet this time…he was honestly surprised Aya kept it all and acted well…in fact…too well that he doubted her…

He spotted her on the plaza as she walked timidly this time. Heh…no matter how much she changed…Aya would always be the feminine type among the group…she could never change that…and that was just fine…

"Aya," he called as she turned left. Surprised, she still managed a smile. Okay…this one here is totally not Aya…

"Otohata-kun," she acknowledged in a casual manner and she did not stutter now…

"Are you going home already?" he asked as he tucked his hands on his pocket.

"Yeah."

"I'll walk you home," he volunteered but she shook her head while she continued walking and she noticed that she does not look at him more than five seconds already.

"I can manage…I really can," she assured him and he stopped and stared at her. Sensing that he stopped, she too did and turned. They were a couple feet away… "I've something I'd been meaning to tell you yesterday but I have been quite busy so…if you don't mind…can we talk?" she asked and he gave his usual answer – a shrug.

Rei chose a spot away from the crowd and sat on the bench. "You seem to talk a lot more," he commented. "And you never stuttered now."

She only smiled bitterly.

"So…" he prodded when he noticed how she struggled in her internal debate.

Aya took a deep breath. "Thank you so much for all the time you have given me despite my annoying social awkwardness and all," she started and Rei rested his chin on his palm, his face blank as he stared at her. What is she driving at?

Aya took a step forward towards him then bowed a little. "I'm giving you back the freedom I've taken from you."

His expression did not change as he just stared at her. "Aya…"

Aya did not yet raise her head and continued prattling. "I know I have given you a lot of trouble so I am really sorry about all those."

This time, Rei stood up and tucked one hand in his pocket while the other held her shoulder. He smiled wryly now as he felt her tremble. Good gad…she's trying to act strong in front of him without breaking a tear and she's doing well with it in fact…

"Why are you bowing your head?" he asked instead.

She raised her head in embarrassment. "Oh, well. Sorry about that," she said again with a cheeky smile. "I truly hope we could be friends though. And I really hope Ran feels the same way for you."

And before Rei could answer her, she already ran off.

"Hey Aya!"

But the gal did not look back and Rei sighed. Was she serious? And was that even Aya talking just a while ago? But he would admit, he admired her courage to stand up and not shedding one tear…though what she said sent a pang inside him…

Ran…

Alright…he knew it…it had something to do with what he told her last Valentines…she asked if he liked Ran and he only answered yes…though he does not know if it meant something really…after all, he was never a man who fancied anyone anyway…

But he was unaware like he always was…that what he said had actually hurt her terribly and she was only forcing herself to act strong in front of everyone…changing her hairstyle was her own way of vowing to change…

Never to be weak…never to be a crybaby…

The new routine followed and despite their confusion, the group seemed to have gotten used to it already. Little did they know that with every passing day, Aya is starting to drift away from them…gradually in fact so they were not able to notice it…

They were unaware that as time passed by, Aya is spending less and less time with them. She always had a reason now…a tutorial, a part-time job and she needed to study as well…they were also unable to notice that Aya had stopped confiding in them and kept things to herself…

But of course, those were Aya's front. At home, she is the usual weak girl who would cry when hurt…but at least, no one knew about that…

Or at least she thought no one noticed…but there was Rei…

Though it had puzzled him, Rei did not actually inquire about the change nor did he speak his mind about the matter when the group gathers without Aya. Whenever she said that she had a part-time job, he made it a point to check on it just to make sure…

And well…Aya was not lying about those jobs…she looked so independent in a short span of time that Rei wondered if she's fine…if everything is fine for her…

And then there was a rumor that started…Rei's boyfriend was Ran…Ran was oblivious about that actually…as Rei walked down the streets, he was robbed by the girls to the corner and though annoyed at it, he could not do anything to drive them away.

"Is it true that you are Ran's boyfriend and not the monkey one?" one asked with shock…

He only stared at them but did not answer as he tried to brush them away.

"How true is that?" another one asked with apparent disbelief. The number one guy is the boyfriend of the number one gal in Shibuya…it was a news his fangirls could not accept…

"Will you get out of my way?" he said coldly. Being famous is something he never enjoyed. Your privacy is being invaded so suddenly and without even notice…and what is it about Ran and him that suddenly got around people?

"But Otohata – "

"Just mind your business," he said gruffly then left the girls weeping exaggeratedly at the indirect admission from Rei that he is indeed Ran's boyfriend. Rei was about to turn left when he saw Aya walking from across the street with her head bowed.

He stopped and observed the changed gal. He wondered how she took the rumor that was suddenly spread around the area. He had a bet that's what got her upset now. And he does not know what to make of that.

After all, they have already broken up some few weeks ago and seldom encounter each other. It would seem Aya is trying to minimize the possibilities of her seeing him and the group. And for the life of him, he is annoyed with that.

Talk about getting stronger…yet she's still weak…and still a coward…

He saw her tripped but she stood with a faint smile as she came face to face with the three sisters who often annoyed Ran.

Rei crossed the streets to see what's gonna happen now that Aya would have to deal with the three on her own for the first time. It should be interesting…

Aya sighed as she dusted her pants. Yeah…she's wearing pants…

"So…you think you can be like Ran now that you have changed your appearance?" one asked with a smirk.

Aya just smiled mildly. "I've no idea what you are talking about."

One of the three crossed her arms then smirked as well while studying Aya who merely stood in front. "Heh…I've heard about this rumor, Hoshino…so Kotobuki stole your boy huh?"

Aya's smile did not falter as she stared at the three then she shrugged. She's not like Ran who would take everyone's bait…and she was not the old Aya who would immediately ran off and cry.

She shrugged. "Who knows…it must be true…" she said nonchalantly though she tasted bile in her mouth. Rei cocked his brow at the remark.

The third one circled Aya then shook her head. "Just look at you Hoshino…you think you can be like Ran if you dress that way…you think Otohata really liked you?"

Aya moved one step towards the two others. "No. I never thought I could be like Ran," she admitted. "But this is not the reason why I changed myself."

"Oh?"

"My reason has nothing to do with you so why don't you beat it and go annoy somebody else?" she suggested.

"Grr…you're starting to act like Kotobuki – "

"No," Aya shook her head. "I'm starting to act like someone else," she bowed once much to the three's astonishment. Despite their rude behavior towards her, she never lost her charming side still…she's still so polite…

Then Aya remembered something. She gave the three a bitter smile. "And about your last remark?" she said with a thoughtful look…the three waited with anticipation…this could be something important…

"So what about it?"

Aya's smile was now small…in fact it was bitter…but the three never understood that…besides, Aya's face revealed nothing…

"Yeah I agree with you about that…though I would admit I once made myself believe that Otohata-kun did like me a bit…but guess I was wrong."

The three's eyes widened in shock and horror. "You mean Otohata really liked Kotobuki?!!! Why her of all people?!!"

Aya just smiled at them. "Because Ran is a charming person. See ya," Aya said and ran off. As she spun around, she closed her eyes and tears fell down. She thought she could deal with it but she was fooling herself…she thought it was okay now that Rei is free from her….yet it still hurt…

Rei remained motionless on the spot he had chosen a little while ago. He felt somewhat numb…and he felt a kick in his gut…

Yeah I agree with you about that…though I would admit I once made myself believe that Otohat-kun did like me…but I guess I was wrong…

And for once, Rei hated himself for being a jerk. It was really obvious from the way Aya talked that she was deeply hurt by his admission…did he never really liked Aya at all despite the years that passed by? Something is wrong…there's something wrong about that yet he could not find what it is really…

"For you to have dumped a brave girl like her, you could be a real jerk you know," a voice said from behind and Rei just glanced at Yuuya who was staring at the direction Aya had run off.

"How long have you been there?" Rei asked with indifference as if he heard nothing a little while ago if only to save himself from getting a lecture from Yuuya.

"Quite long enough to catch what Aya said," he said then turned to him. His eyes held a little disappointment. "I may always act like a dope…but somehow I notice…Aya is a close friend and I care for her Rei…"

"Your point?"

Yuuya sighed. "You just screwed everything up. One day…you'll realize what you have just thrown away. And if that time comes, you'll find yourself hard up in picking it up again."

Rei choked and gave his friend a smirk though the words did hit him in the core. Not that he would ever admit that to his best friend…like hell he would…

He whirled and started to walk away while Yuuya frowned. "I'm serious Rei."

"Yeah sure," he said nonchalantly. "And just so you know, I don't know how to pick it up…" he stopped then glanced over his shoulder. "The fact of the matter is…I don't know where I had thrown it…so I don't know where to pick it up…"

Yuuya shook his head as he watched Rei walk away. He wanted to ask what really happened between the two. If the others have noticed it, they kept their mouth shut just like him. Aya and Rei might think that they would not notice but hell it is becoming pretty obvious that they don't go out together again…that Aya is not so much hanging out with them…that Rei seldom joins the group too…

"You know Rei," he murmured to himself. "Sometimes, you are just too cold and heartless and insensitive to notice."

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Ran glanced at Aya who was busy packing her things up. She could not take it anymore…she could not take the silence anymore…something is definitely not right…Aya is starting to move farther away from them…

"Do you think, Aya is alright? Miyu is worried," Miyu said as she stood beside Ran and they both waited for Aya. They would not let her get away this time like she usually does. Ran is intent in finding out what is going on inside her head.

"Aya, come on now," she called out to the black-haired who raised her head with an apologetic smile.

"I'm sorry I'm taking long," she said as she packed the last book in her bag.

"We're hanging out there again okay? And no excuse this time," she chided. "Yesterday and the other day, you were not able to join us and I would not take no for an answer now. You got me?"

Aya blinked at Ran and gave an amused smile. "Of course."

Ran nodded her head in glee. "Good. Now let's – "

"Miss Hoshino," their teacher called Aya thereby cutting off Ran's statement.

"Mr. Nakanichi…is there something you want?" Aya asked kindly.

"Oh come on Nakanich – " Ran was cut off when the teacher slapped his paper on her head like he usually does.

"Kotobuki – "

"Ouch," Ran groused as she rubbed the top of her head. "That hurts."

But the teacher did not pay her attention at all as he turned to Aya seriously. "The principal needed to talk to you."

All three gals looked at each other with one thought in mind: what did she do?

Sensing the panic, Nakanichi smiled warmly at his best student. "There is no need to worry. Just go there and talk to the principal."

Reluctant, Aya nodded her head and turned to Ran and Miyu. "I'm sorry. I'll just catch up later okay?"

Ran crossed her arms. "Make sure you do or I will not forgive you," Ran said seriously then grinned at Nakanichi. "Bye Nakanich."

As Ran and Miyu walked outside the school, the latter would glance at her friend from time to time while wondering if it was okay to tell her about the rumor.

"Is there something you wish to tell me?" Ran asked while staring at her newly painted fingernails.

Miyu sighed. "Actually, I was wondering if you are aware about the rumor going around."

Ran laughed a little. "Hello? Like I ever cared for a rumor," she said with a shrug. Miyu stopped and looked back at the school.

"Actually, you might care this time…it concerns you, Rei and Aya after all…"

"Now that sounded interesting," Ran said and turned to her. "So what about it?"

"Rumor has it that you are Rei's girlfriend. I wonder how this is affecting Aya," she mumbled while Ran's eyes widened. It would have been easy to brush it off if Aya had not been involved…but Aya is involved…and knowing Aya, she might have gotten hurt by it…

"What? That's ridiculous…there is no way Otohata could be my boyfriend. You know very well it is Tatsukichi," she said seriously.

"Yes I know…I'm just worried about Aya's reaction to this. Do you think she have heard about it already?"

"I don't know," Ran said with a determined look. "Guess I will have to wait for her here and explain to her before she might hear about it…"

Meanwhile, Aya stared at the principal with a dumbfounded look then she gulped. "So what do you say about the offer Miss Hoshino?"

"But why me?" she asked in a choke.

The principal leaned on his chair and studied the gal in front of him. He offered a warm smile. "You have always been praised by Nakanichi and when the program came…he was the one who recommended you. You've got high marks in everything…the program is requiring each school to send out a representative to Meishou High and study the behavior of the students there. It was actually a recommendation from Meishou itself as it prepares for its accreditation. Your research paper would be submitted to the department of education for a review."

"I'm really not sure I can do it – "

"Of course you can. You and three other students would be transferred to Meishou and study there for two months. You have a paper to finish and whoever gets the best research would be granted a scholarship to the state school. This is an opportunity you should not miss."

Aya only gulped. Study in Meishou for two months? She's not sure she is up to it when she is trying hard to avoid Rei. If she agrees, it would mean the chances of crossing paths with him is high…and well…she does not know how to act towards him…she can use her usual front of course but…

"But I thought Meishou is an all-boy's school?"

The principal nodded. "Yes of course but the reason why we would be sending female students as reviewers there is to study their behavior relevant to the sudden change of environment. Meishou's new president is studying the possibility of opening up the school for both girls and boys and no longer an exclusive boy's school."

Raising up her chin, she smiled cheerfully. "I'm honored sir."

As she walked outside, she wondered what awaits her now that she would be studying in Meishou for a while.