„Shuuji."

Shuuji turned around to face the girl who called him.

Nobuta stared at him. She gulped.
„..."

„What is it, Nobuta?"

„..."

Shuuji became kind of impatient.
„Listen. I don't have very much time right now, so if it's not that important, can we talk later, please?"

„Oh... ok."

„I'm really sorry. Gomen!" And he rushed away. He did look like he was in a hurry.

Well... it wasn't like she could talk with him about this, after all.

'Maybe this is what they call girls' talk. So I need to talk with a girl... but who... Aoi-san is...'

She couldn't think of any girl to confide in. She didn't have a best girl friend like any normal girl had and she doubted that she could talk about her feelings with just anyone.

There was Shuuji's ex-girlfriend. Well, she has never really been his girlfriend, but she was the only other girl beside Aoi she could think of. But seeing her might remind her of how she was rejected by Shuuji and this would only complicate things. She wasn't even sure if she could talk to Uehara Mariko, the most popular girl in school, and tell her about her feelings. Would she even be interested?

Nobuta thought of herself as a bother again.

But nonetheless...

„Uehara-san."

it happened only on an impulse, but when Nobuta and Mariko crossed paths in the hallway of the school the next day, Nobuta called out to her. She regretted it immediately.

Mariko turned around and saw Nobuta standing there and looking at her. She walked towards her and stopped in front of her.

„Kotani-san? Did you call me just now?"

Nobuta nodded. „Umm, I...."

„Well, whatever it is, I'm in quite a hurry right now, so-"

„I need your help!" Nobuta shouted out loud, breathlessly.

Mariko was surprised. Kotani Nobuko needed her help?

„I don't really know if I could be of any help to you..."

„You could. You definitely could!" Although all this was already too embarassing for Nobuta, she didn't want to let it go just now. . She told herself that she had to keep insisting.

„...please. I swear that I won't ever bother you again after this. I just... need to clarify something...."

'Clarify something? What does she mean? Does she perhaps talk about Shuuji?''

„Alright, I'll help you.", she decided at last.

Nobuta looked up, relieved and thankful towards the beautiful girl.

„So, what is it you need my help with?", Mariko asked. They were on the school's rooftop, where she, Shuuji and Akira normally met. It felt weird, being here with Mariko now.

„A-actually I.... don't know if I can talk to you about this..." Nobuta stuttered. Somehow, she has lost her confidence.

Mariko looked at her. So was it really about Shuuji...?

„Now, Kotani-san. Didn't you yourself say that you needed my help? I'll try my best, I promise."

She smiled at Nobuta, hoping that the girl would speak out what she wanted to say.

„O-ok."

„Wait. Let us sit down, okay?"

Mariko pointed at the stairs and sat down. Nobuta did the same after hesitating for a second.

„So, what is it?" Mariko looked at her.

Nobuta looked at the floor, her hands clenching her skirt. „It-It's about my f-feelings."

„Your feelings?" Mariko was shocked. She didn't have feelings for Shuuji, did she??

Nobuta gave a nod. „I... suddenly have feelings I'm not familiar with and I don't know what they mean, so... so I thought that perhaps y-you could tell me...." Nobuta felt like dying. 'She will definitely laugh at me. How could I have told her this? I'm-'

„Those feelings. Could you describe them to me?" Mariko had a completely serious voice. She didn't laugh. So, maybe this wasn't a mistake, after all.

„Umm... this feeling, it's kind of painful. I don't really know if I can describe it correctly..."

„Just say what strikes you most. What is the most noticable aspect of this feeling?"

„The pain... in my chest." Nobuta clenched her fist on her chest as if she could feel the pain this moment.

'So it's what I thought...' Mariko thought. „So you feel a pain in your chest. Where exactly?"

Nobuta placed her hand right above her heart.

„Your heart, huh... Well, what other symptoms do you have? Like, does your heart beat faster than normally?"

Nobuta nodded.

„And does your face feel hot all of a sudden?"

Another nod.

„And... do your hands tremble?"

Yet another nod.

„Do you feel really nervous when you have this feeling?"

Nobuta nodded again, wondering how Mariko could know all this.

„Well... it should be clear, then."

Nobuta looked at Mariko, who stretched her arms in front of herself.

„You're in love."

Nobuta's eyes widened in shock. How...

„H-how do you know?"

„Well... I have the same symptoms as you when I'm with Shuuji."

Nobuta gasped.

„Why are you so shocked? Don't tell me that you feel like this around Shuuji, too." Mariko sounded angry. She couldn't believe it.

But Nobuta shook her head vigorously.

„Wh- not?" Mariko was bewildered. Just when she was sure...

„But who is it, then?"

Nobuta looked down again. She became terribly red.

„Oh, sorry, I shouldn't have asked!"

„K-..."

„Hm?"

„Ku-..."

Ku?"

„Kusano AKIRA", she finally managed to burst out. She still shouted Akira's name and he wasn't even around.

„K-Kusano-kun?" Mariko had to try hard not to laugh. It wasn't that she found it funny that Kotani was obviously in love with Kusano. It was just that she wanted to laugh at her own stupidity. How could she have thought even for a second that there could be something like this between Kotani and Shuuji? ...Well, ok, she had been quite concerned at several occasions in the past, but one should learn from one's mistakes, isn't that right?

„Wow." Mariko sighed.

Nobuta looked at her from behind her hair, which partly covered her eyes, because her head was bent down. „Wh-what?"

„I just didn't expect this. You and... Kusano, eh?"

„..."

„So, how is it? Does he like you, too? Did he, by chance, confess to you already?"

Nobuta's face burned. She nodded.

„He did??? Well, that's great, isn't it? Ahh~, I'm envious..."

„S-sorry..."

„What? Why do you apologize? It's not like it's your fault or anything...

So, what did you respond when he made the confession?"

„I... said I like him, too."

„Waahhh, you did?? But I thought you weren't sure about your feelings?"

„I wasn't, but... somehow, I didn't want to disappoint him..."

„So that's how it is. Then he must be really important to you, huh?"

Nobuta nodded.

„You're really lucky... being loved by the person you like..."

„I-I'm sure that... s-someday, he will realize that you are an important person to him, too! And then he will come to you and you can talk about your feelings with him, just how I could talk about mine with you!" Nobuta tried the best she could to cheer up the girl who helped her.

But Mariko sighed. „Yeah, that would be nice...."

„I-I'm sure about it!"

„Mm, you're right." Mariko smiled at Nobuta. „Thanks."

„No... I have to thank you! Th-thank you very much!" And Nobuta bowed her head towards Mariko.

„I'm glad I could help." She stood up. „Well... I think I'll be going now. Homeroom starts soon. And good luck with Kusano-kun." Mariko waved goodbye and headed down the stairs.

Nobuta quickly stood up. „You, too, good luck!", she shouted after Mariko. But she wasn't sure if she still heard it.

Later that day, Nobuta met up with Shuuji and Akira on the rooftop. Shuuji had asked them to come. He said he had something important to tell them.

When Nobuta's and Akira's eyes met, both started blushing madly and they immediately looked in different directions. They haven't seen each other since their confessions.

Shuuji looked at them. He didn't know about anything. „What's wrong with you guys?" He looked at each of them alternatingly.

Ahahaha! Just what is it??" Akira moved his arms up and down in a funny way, trying to hide the fact that he was nervous.

Nobuta stood with her back facing the boys. She looked on the ground, totally silent.

Seriously, what is it with you? You're even weirder than usually."

„You really shouldn't talk like this about your friends, Sh-uu-u-ji-kun." Akira stretched out his arms and was about to hug Shuuji and Shuuji was about to push Akira away, as Nobuta began to speak.

„S-so what was it you wanted to tell us?"

Shuuji suddenly fell silent and his gaze became distant. He went up to the guardrail and looked at the horizon.

„I'm gonna move away soon."