Nobuta, Shuji and Akira

He left and that dumb soymilk drunkard followed him, proclaiming undying friendship. Start anew, indeed.

Kusano (henceforth-named soymilk drunkard) moved in with his family, stole his shabu-shabu, copied his hairstyle and nearly turned his precious Koji into a mindless zombie with his 'kon'.

Needless to say, his mother loved him like the psycho spawn she never had.

Everything was fine. Everything was dandy. He started shedding that facade of his, started acting like the real Shuji. Akira kind of helped, actually. His geekiness and overall I-don't-give-a-damn-I'm-a-flying-bird attitude just made it all so real. He didn't have to pretend anymore.

He could say no.

Until she showed up. Kotani Nobuko showed up at his school.

Smiling.

She sat next to him at lunch. Him, Akira, and some guy with a half-grown moustache.

She opens her lunch bag; asks him how he's doing, whether Akira finally volunteered for therapy yet.

He can't answer; too busy staring.

She'd cut her hair slightly shorter; it hangs around her face like the most prized frame in the world. Her eyes are actually glittering. Her cheeks a contented red, her mouth quirked upwards. He has no shame in admitting that she's glowing. No joke, glowing.

It's only until Akira shoots her a 'Hey! Nobuta says Akira is crazy! Akira doesn't like Nobuta anymore...", and Nobuta shoots him a glare that he remembers that people change, but some part of them remains the same.

Nobuta isn't shy anymore, but she is still the same old Nobuta with the Golden heart, just as he doesn't say yes all the time and bungles up yet still help in a way. Just like Akira isn't weird anymore.

Akira 'kons' half-grown-moustache man. Well, almost.

He smiles at Nobuta and says he's doing fine, and Akira doesn't qualify for therapy because he's stopped calling dog poop Picasso.