[EDITED with slight changes, because the errors were just too eye-cringing.]
Disclaimer: I don't own Persona 3. :/
-Early Morning, Dorm, Shinjiro's room-
"Tch, I look like a pansy."
Shinjiro scornfully glanced at his reflection with a shrug. Then, he undid the top buttons of his polo shirt. He decided that it looked better that way; not that he cared much about how it looked to begin with. It was a lot easier to breathe when the damn thing wasn't suffocating him. Then, he frowned at the pathetic excuse of a tie which had taken him the entire morning to do. Unbuttoning his shirt had caused the useless piece of shit to untangle, so he had to re-do it all over again.
His thoughts then wandered to why was subjecting himself to this: her face appeared, along with the one phrase she repeatedly kept saying. "Senpaaai, PLEASE!" It was like that for several days. The girl just didn't know when to drop it.
Eventually, he gave in. He had to, since she threatened to eat a lot of junk food if he didn't agree with her request, despite how unreasonable it was. Tch, ridiculous. Now that he thought about it carefully, it's not like it'd be his fault. It would have been her own damn problem, since she was the one who voluntarily chose to eat the junk.
He found himself wondering about what on earth had possessed him to go along with her demands. Just how did he get himself into this mess? Why did he agree to her stupid request so easily? Much more than that, he wondered why he did accept. He wasn't thinking right. He clearly must have been out of his mind.
A loud, impatient thumping noise from behind the door broke him out of his thoughts.
"Knock! Knooock!" Shinjiro frowned, recognising the voice straight away. Well, speak of the devil. "Senpaaaai! Are you ready yet?"
What the hell was Kaori doing waiting around for him? She wasn't his goddamn babysitter. Besides, he has gone to that hellhole before. It's not like he was going to get lost. Hell, Shinjiro was confident that he knew the whole area of Tatsumi Port Island better than she did.
"Tch, just go on without me. I can walk there myself. I know the way, idiot."
"But I don't want to! I want to wait for you so we can walk together!" Despite being hidden behind a door, she still sounded as cheerful and enthusiastic as ever.
"Bullshit. You just want to make sure I don't skip."
"Haha, then I guess I'd just have to drag you back, wouldn't I?"
"Yeah, yeah..." Shinjiro replied dismissively, his elbows leaned lazily against their wooden frame of communication. "You got nothing to worry about, I ain't the kind of guy to back out on an agreement."
"I know, senpai. You're too kind for that!" Kind? Tch, was she stupid or something? Then again, Shinjiro found it difficult to disagree after practically hearing the smile in Kaori's voice. "Anyway. Sooo~ If you've got time to talk, then that means you're ready, right?" Before he could open his mouth to protest, she jovially sceamed: "Well, I'm coming iiiin~!"
Scarlet eyes widened immediately upon seeing the scowling face of Shinjiro, whose fists were tightened with disapproval. He was clearly not amused. "What the hell is the matter with you? You can't just go barging into someone's room like that!"
"But I warned you I was coming in!" Kaori chortled. Her ruby eyes glimmered, fixated on the area just below his jawline.
"What?" His curiousity got the better of him. "Have I got something on my neck? What the hell are you staring at?"
"Your tie. I don't think you've got it on right~" she mused. She then extended a hand to his collarbone, intent on fixing his shirt collar. "Here… let me help!"
"Hey, cut that out!" The older boy's cheeks flushed into an embarassing colour. As if it was an automatic reflex, he swatted her hand away from his neck. "Who said you could go around touching people! ? I don't need your help, I can do this myself."
"Owwie," she yelped through watery puppy dog eyes, nursing her hand. "It hurts! Senpai, that's so cruel and mean! I... I was only trying to help..."
For the first time in a while, Shinjiro felt flustered with what to say or do. "Shit! Sorry, I, I didn't mean-"
Her lips curved upwards in a matter of seconds. "...JUST KIDDING!" She interrupted in a happy sing-song voice, then broke out into hysterical laughter.
"Tch, idiot..." was Shinjiro's sharp reply. He didn't like to be made a fool of, though, he felt like he kind of deserved it; especially after pushing her off the way he did.
"Relax, senpai. I was just going to help, you didn't have to be so tense about it." The brunette explained, as she tiptoed and reached for his tie.
"Shut up. Who said I was tensed?" Shinjiro snapped. "It's all your fault. You just had to barge into my room and grab my neck."
"It's not my fault you took so long." Kaori childishly stuck her tongue out at him. "I was really worried, you know."
It seemed as though it took forever for Kaori to get the tie straightened. Feeling uncomfortable with their proximity, Shinjiro seized her wrist. Kaori tilted her head towards him with bewilderment in her eyes. "Nagisa, let's go. I don't wanna waste any more time."
"But... I'm not done yet."
"So what? I don't wanna wear it."
Kaori puffed her cheeks in protest. "Why not! ?"
"'Cause it looks stupid." Shinjiro shrugged. "What kind of moron would be okay with wearing these?"
"Hmmm…" Kaori paused for a while. "Well, I've never seen Junpei with it on. And I haven't heard any of the teachers complain about it. I guess it's okay!" She smiled cheerfully, discarding the small fabric on top of his bed.
Shinjiro sighed. "Man, I can't believe I let you talk me into this."
"C'mon senpai! Don't look so gloomy. I've been eating more healthily like I promised, so you should do this too! This is for your own good! I'm not doing this to torture you… I just don't want you to get expelled!"
"So? You know I don't give a shit about that. Why should you?" Shinjiro countered, then sourly glanced at the mirror once again. "Hmph, you didn't have to take away my clothes. You know nobody's going to give a crap about what I'm wearing."
"But you always wear the same thing!" Kaori placed a hand on her hip, still smiling at him. "Besides, it's your first day back! We wouldn't want you to get in trouble for something stupid like not wearing the correct uniform!"
"Tch, 'we'?" He snorted. "Does it even matter? You've seen everyone else in this dorm. Do any of them look like they're wearing the right uniform?"
"Well, you've been away from school long enough. Maybe wearing the correct uniform might make it easier for you to get used to being at school again!" She smiled brightly, flashing him a thumbs-up gesture.
"Do you have any idea how dumb you sound?"
"Besides, it's almost summer!" Kaori continued, ignoring him. "With that pea coat and hat, don't you ever feel like you're in a sauna or something?"
Shinjiro frowned. "I really don't want to do this." He commandingly pointed a finger towards the door. "Get out."
"Huuuh? Whyyy?" Kaori wore a long pout.
"I'm changing back to my normal clothes."
"Buuuuut, I took them away, remember~?"
"Tch, anything is better than this."
"Ohhhh, senpaaai, PLEASE~!" Kaori pouted further, if that was possible. "Can't you just bear with it… for meeee~?"
Shinjiro turned away from her, at an attempt to hide the bright red hue on his cheeks. "…Fine, whatever."
"Yaaay!" Her sunny disposition returned. "ALRIGHT! Let's go have breakfast, senpai! I'm staarving!" She shouted, dragging her displeased senpai with her.
-Early Morning, Dorm, 1F Lounge-
"...What?" Shinjiro asked- more like, demanded- the other residents of the Iwatodai Dorm. Was it really that shocking to see him in anything else besides the pea coat?
"Oh, um, it's nothing, Shinjiro-senpai." Fuuka replied. "You just look completely different with your uniform on."
Mitsuru chuckled. "I think we made the correct decision of appointing Nagisa as the leader, don't you Akihiko?"
"It, um, It really... suits you, Shinji." Akihiko said in an amused fashion.
"Shut up." Shinjiro retorted grouchily. "I didn't ask for your stupid opinion."
"Senpai, don't get all grumpy... Akihiko-senpai was just giving you a compliment!" Kaori took a seat from across the cap-wearing Junpei. She looked around the cream painted room, then realised there was a missing face. "Hmmm... Where's Yukari?"
Junpei shrugged. "Oh. Yuka-tan already left. She was in a hurry. Something about an archery club meeting, I think?"
"Oh, right! Okay, thanks for telling me!" Kaori smiled. "I guess I'll be seeing her later, then."
"Anyway, Akihiko-senpai..." Junpei's curiousity was obvious to everyone in the room. "You talk as if this is the first time you've seen Shinjiro-senpai in his uniform. I thought you guys went to school together back then?"
"Well, that was different." Akihiko scratched his head. "I've never actually seen Shinji without the hat. Not even back when we were kids."
Mitsuru let out a nostalgic laugh. "That's right. Before, I had a lot of difficulty with convincing Aragaki to wear the proper uniform. Come to think of it, I couldn't even convince him to attend his classes punctually."
"Tch, can't you guys find something else to talk about?" For someone who usually knew how to handle his emotions, it was pretty clear that Shinjiro was irritated. It was just too humiliating. At that very moment, he felt like wanting to crawl inside a small, quiet hole.
Unfortunately, the rest of the dorm members carried on with their conversation, oblivious to how uncomfortable Shinjiro was with all the attention. He couldn't stand listening to them anymore, so he let his brown eyes wander around the room. Anything to distract him from their babbling.
He spotted Fuuka standing near the stove. He glanced at her warily. He could tell she didn't know what she was doing. It was too obvious from the way she was fumbling with the pan. He walked up to the younger girl, going with his instincts.
"What're you making, Fuuka?"
"Ah! Shinjiro-senpai!" Startled, the teal haired girl faced him. Shinjiro cursed as Fuuka clumsily splattered messy yellow liquid across his shirt. "Oh no! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" She bowed down several times and set down the wooden spoon. Then, her hand swiftly grabbed a tissue.
He then accepted the tissue, and wordlessly thanked her. "So, what're you making?" Shinjiro repeated.
"Well, I decided to follow your advice the other day on how I should master the basics before I experiment on my own recipes." Fuuka smiled at him gratefully. "So today, I'm cooking eggs."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
An impatient sigh escaped from Shinjiro's lips. The more she asked about the obvious little things, the more he didn't like it.
"What kind?" He enunciated, considering the possibility that she couldn't hear him properly over the sizzling of the oil. When the expression of her face didn't change, he elaborated further, "You know... is it fried, scrambled?"
"Ohhhh, you mean you can cook egg in different ways?" Fuuka raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Wow! I didn't know that…"
The alarm signal went off loudly in Shinjiro's thoughts. Well, he certainly hadn't expected Fuuka to be that stupid. He took one hard look at the pan... and let out an inevitable shrug, a hand placed over his face with irritation. Whatever it was, he was confident that it wasn't edible and it definitely didn't look like an egg. It was mostly filled with cooking oil, accompanied by bits of charcoal floating at the base.
"Fuuka. What is this shit?"
As soon as Shinjiro uttered the words, everyone else at the dinner table dropped whatever conversation they had and directed their full attention towards him once again. Great.
"Huh? What's the matter, senpai?" Fuuka bit her lip. "Is something wrong with it? Was there not enough oil? Did I not heat the egg enough?"
Normally, Shinjiro would have scolded her and pointed out every blunder she'd made. But not today. He just didn't feel like it. He didn't want to waste his breath in explaining everything that was wrong with her dish. Instead, he silently gave her a look of disappointment hoping she would take the hint.
Then, he sauntered over to the counter and poured himself a glass water, because he really needed to cool down.
"Aw, cheer up Fuuka!" Kaori broke the long silence, beaming happily at both of them. "You did your best. There's always next time! Senpai here will help you get better!"
Shinjiro nearly choked on the water. "H-hey! What the fuck? Couldn't you at least ask me if I'm okay with it first?"
Kaori didn't say a word. Instead, she rested her head on her hand. She then batted her eyelashes and sent a broad smile in his direction.
"Alright, fine…" Shinjiro cursed inwardly, as his whole face reddened. For some unknown reason, he just couldn't resist that look. "I guess you can just watch me again, Fuuka. But this is the last time…"
Kaori heard the sound of an object shifting nearby. As she looked for the source, she spotted Ken sitting quietly next to Junpei. He seemed to be in an intense staring competition with the ground.
"Heey, Ken-kun! Are you alright?"
"Oh, Kaori-san. Y-yeah, I'm fine." The young boy gave her an awkward stare, then shifted his eyes to the wall beside him. "Uh, I think I should probably leave now. I don't want to be late or anything..."
"But you haven't even eaten yet! It's alright. I'm sure Shinjiro-senpai doesn't mind." Kaori wasn't sure if she imagined it, but she could've sworn she saw Ken's eyes darken.
"It's okay. I'm not that hungry," Ken meekly replied, eyes hidden under wavy bangs. "I'll just go buy something at school." In one fluid motion, he reached for his school bag. "Goodbye, everyone…" He bowed respectfully, and then dashed towards the door.
Kaori placed a hand over her lips with concern, wondering if she had said anything to upset him.
Junpei didn't miss their exchange, and flashed Kaori a reassuring grin. "Don't worry, Kaori-tan. I'm sure it's nothing. The kid's just probably got something on his mind."
"Hmmm… I hope so." She really meant it. Lately, it didn't seem as if Ken liked her very much and she was afraid that it would cause problems with working together in SEES.
Mechanical footsteps broke Kaori's train of thought. "Good Morning."
"Morning, Ai-chan." Junpei greeted Aigis with a flashy smile.
The mechanical maiden took a quick scan around the room, then asked in her usual monotone voice. "Why is Shinjiro-san attending school today?"
Junpei shrugged, still not believing it himself. Even now, he wondered how Kaori managed to boss Shinjiro around. It was something the icy Mitsuru-senpai couldn't even accomplish. Women can be scary sometimes. "I guess it's because Kaori-tan asked him to, Ai-chan."
"Woof, woof!" Koromaru barked enthusiastically.
"Ah. So Shinjiro-san is complying with a request in order to satisfy Kaori-san... I comprehend."
"I-it's not like that!" Shinjiro stuttered nervously, cheeks reddening once more. "I just didn't want her to get fat. That's all!" After hearing how stupid he sounded, Shinjiro mentally wanted to shoot himself. Hell, every time Kaori was around, it tend to happen a lot.
"...Fat? Do you mean obese? Does Shinjiro-san dislike obesity?"
"Um, no, Aigis. That's not it," Akihiko intervened, noting the giant vein popping out of his best friend's forehead. "He just wants Kaori to stay healthy. Athletes need to eat the correct food so they can maintain their stamina."
"I see. So, Shinjiro-san thinks Kaori-san looks fine the way she is?"
Akihiko hung his head, defeated. He couldn't help with that kind of question. "Sorry, Shinji... You're on your own."
Shinjiro's face was covered in an unflattering shade of red. "Ugh. Fuck this! I'm out of here." In an attempt to disguise it as anger, he threw the cooking ingredients to the side with a great amount of force. He then stomped violently towards the door.
Kaori hurriedly grabbed her backpack and followed him outside. "Hey, senpai! Wait! We haven't even had breakfast yet!"
"Have I said something wrong?" The brunette heard Aigis ask just before she closed the door.
-Early Morning, School Gates-
"Ugh." Shinjiro was far from happy. In fact, this day couldn't get any shittier than it already was. The hellhole in front of him hadn't changed since the last time he was here. To make matters worse, he was completely soaked to the skin. He got caught in the horrible rain, as soon as he got off the bus. If only someone hadn't taken his coat and beanie away.
"I already said I was sorry, like, a million times, senpai." Kaori shrugged, holding her backpack over her head to shield herself from the rain. "How was I supposed to know it was going to rain today? But hey, aren't you glad we went to the bus station early?"
Shinjiro continued to sulk at her in response. He slowly walked ahead of her with his hands tucked inside the damp pockets of his school trousers. The splashing sounds his footsteps made didn't ease his frustration one bit.
"Y'know, you could've at least brought a bag with you, senpai... just so you could shield yourself from the rain, too."
He pretended that he hadn't heard her, just wanting to be alone with his thoughts for a moment.
"Do you want to get under my bag, too? You're soaking wet, senpai."
He sighed in annoyance. Couldn't she see that he wasn't in the mood to talk?
"I guess I really should've brought an umbrella. From now on... I'm just going to count on my woman's intuition to tell me the weather!"
That statement of hers was far too ridiculous for him to stay quiet. "... Hmph, idiot. As if that's going to work."
"Hehe, I knew you couldn't stay mad at me for too long if I just kept talking to you. You're so predictable, senpai!"
"...Whatever. Just get your ass in there." Shinjiro held the door to the school open, gesturing for her to go first. Kaori flashed him a cheerful smile before going in. This triggered his cheeks to flush into a deep crimson colour- an annoying occurence which happened far too frequently for his liking.
All eyes in the room focused their attention on the two SEES members as soon as they entered the building. Their fellow classmates began whispering to each other, curiously glancing at Shinjiro and Kaori as they were making their way to the faculty office.
Shinjiro scowled dejectedly. More eyes looking at him. Great, just what he needed.
"Ah, who's he? New guy, maybe?" They walked past a couple of seniors, their eyes studying Shinjiro intently. Although, he was pretty sure he had no idea who the hell they were. "But, I think I've seen him somewhere before, though..."
"Kyaaah! The new guy is sooo cute. Aww, it's no fair. Why does Nagisa always get the hot guys?" It was two girls this time, one blonde and the other one was a brunette. They were glaring venomously at Kaori as she walked past them. As much as he wanted to say something, he didn't. He knew that starting shit with them would only cause more trouble for Kaori.
"Heey, check out the guy walking with Nagisa-san. You think they're, you know, together?" Whatever happened to two people of the opposite gender walking together, without others assuming whatever they want? He frowned. Normally he didn't give a rat's ass as to what other people thought, yet it bothered him a lot that people saw them that way.
His first day back at school, and he absolutely hated it. Especially because of the annoying, unecessary attention from all the morons he didn't even know. This was one of the main reasons why he stopped going to this stupid school. He'd seen the way girls flocked pathetically around Aki; and he'd been glad he didn't have to deal with anything like that.
Unfortunately, that was a much happier time. Back when there was nobody to order him around.
The older boy took one glance at Kaori. If she was bothered by her classmates' gossiping, she certainly knew how to hide it well. "Senpai, just wait here. I'll be right back, I want to go buy some food. I'm starving!"
Moments passed, seconds ticked by, and Shinjiro tapped his food impatiently. Just how long was she going to take? Surely, buying food wasn't that time consuming. He was bored of waiting, so he looked around the room to kill some time. Anything he could focus his attention on. Then, he spotted a couple of male faces grinning lecherously behind the lockers, their hungry eyes suspiciously glued towards Kaori's direction.
"Don't you think Nagisa-san looks mighty lovely today?" It didn't take rocket science to figure out who they were talking about. Because they were too 'preoccupied', it was pretty easy for Shinjiro to position himself behind them without them realising.
"I really hope she leans down and grabs one of the melon bread on the bottom row. I'm curious to know what colour under-"
"...Don't even think about finishing that fucking sentence." He glowered at them, anger rising in his veins.
Both guys panicked at the sudden hostility directed towards them. "Uhhh, We... um... that is-"
Shinjiro tightened the grip on his fists, the outcome would depend on the stupidity of their answer.
"Sorry! We're really sorry!" They begged, not willing to be the recipients of his wrath. "We didn't know she was your girlfriend. It won't happen again!" Faster than the speed of light, they fled from his sight and collided with Kaori. The insane amount of food she was carrying had caused her to lose her footing.
"Ow! W-Woah!" she yelped. But fortunately, Shinjiro reflexively seized her arm before she made contact with the ground. "Whew! Thanks, senpai!" she smiled, dusting herself off. "Sheesh, I wonder what that was about."
Kaori didn't get a response. Shinjiro was silent, lips forming a thin angry line.
"Anyway, I'm back!" Kaori announced, carrying twenty packets of melon bread with both her hands. Consuming it all at the same time was obviously not a healthy choice, yet he couldn't find the energy to scold her. "I was going to order some more, but this was all they had..." She trailed off, biting her lip disappointingly.
This time, he decided to speak. If he prolonged his silence, he knew she was going to start asking him annoying questions. "Right... yeah. Listen, I'm going to go find Aki," he said, shifting away from her. "You just get to your class and forget about me, alright?"
"Senpai... are you okay?" She asked, concern evident in her voice.
He turned around slightly, brown eyes meeting with her ruby ones. He caught a hint of sadness in the way she looked at him. The intensity of her gaze caused a deep feeling of anguish inside his chest.
So he did the one thing he always did when he wanted to avoid a problem.
He lied. "...Yeah, just fine."
-Morning, Classroom 3-F-
Tch, it was really starting to tick him off. He just couldn't seem to get the incident from earlier out of his mind. It didn't even matter how much he wanted to. In fact, it was as if everything about today was designed to torture him.
First, he had unwillingly agreed to cook for everyone again.
Then, there was that ridiculous question the robot had asked him in the morning. 'So Shinjiro-san thinks Kaori-san looks fine the way she is?'
And finally... that smile. That stupid smile of hers that always made him feel... like an idiot. Strangely, he meant 'idiot' in a good way.
The two morons from earlier had royally pissed him off for obvious reasons. His reaction wasn't anything unusual. That's what Aki and Iori would have done if they were there. Any guy would have reacted the same if they were facing a similar situation. Any guy would have wanted to strangle the living daylights outta those bastards for the shit they tried to pull...
... At least, that's what he wanted to tell himself.
Just why did it bother him so much when they called Kaori his... girlfriend? Not to mention what those other guys said about them being 'together'. He wasn't so sure himself. It's not like it was even true. Okay, so maybe he looked out for her sometimes. Maybe he found it easier to be his usual self around her. At times, it was a little difficult talking to Aki, and he's known that guy longer than anyone else.
Still, it didn't mean anything. She was just an acquaintance, an annoying dorm mate... a good friend. Besides, there were more important things to worry about. He didn't need to worry about useless things like a girlfriend. That obviously meant that he didn't want her to be his... girlfriend... right?
She wasn't exactly little miss perfect. She had annoying qualities, too. She was a klutz, a crybaby, loud, whiny, childish, nosy, stubborn, pushy, insensitive, greedy and a little bit of a glutton. He especially hated how she always always had to get her way. It was something he had always hated about her.
But strangely enough, he didn't hate her for it...
...Tch, even his thoughts were starting to get all sappy. It was all her fault.
Thankfully, an elderly coarse voice distracted Shinjiro from his thoughts. "Now, let's ask a random question to see who has been paying attention." Mr. Ekoda's eyes wandered around the sea of faces, hunting down an unfortunate victim. "Let's see... Who should I pick?"
A lot of students in the room avoided eye contact with him, in fear that they would be chosen. Then, Ekoda's eyes lit up after spotting a familiar unruly face he hadn't seen in almost a year.
"Ah, Aragaki!" The teacher wore a fake smile. "Let's give this to you as a sort of 'welcome back' gesture. Who founded numerology?"
He didn't know, and didn't really care. "Fuck if I know. Who gives a shit?"
Shinjiro's rude behaviour didn't come as a surprise to his classmates. They carried on, as if Shinjiro hadn't dropped the f-bomb towards a teacher.
"Hmm... well... that's kind of disappointing," Ekoda carried on calmly. "But I can't exactly say I didn't expect it. Well... you know where to go."
Shinjiro abruptly stood up, flipping off Ekoda before making his way outside the door.
-Lunchtime, Classroom 2-F-
Kaori breathed in a long refreshing yawn, then groggily rubbed her eyes. "Ahhh, that lecture sure took it out on me!"
"You? Tired?" Yukari raised a sceptical eyebrow. "You're just messing with me, right?"
"Haha, you see right through me!" Kaori chirped. "Yeah, I was just kidding. I'm so excited for lunch! Gosh, that lecture made me feel so hungry."
Yukari blinked at her friend with perplexity, failing to find the connection between Mr. Edogawa's lecture about magic circles and food. "Kaori... No offense, but I don't think I'll ever understand how your mind works."
However, it turned out that Kaori hadn't been listening. The pony-tailed brunette was already busy rummaging through her backpack. "Hm? You say something, Yukari?"
Yukari sighed. "Never mind."
"YES! ALRIGHT! Finally found it~!" Kaori beamed, triumphantly holding a packet of melon bread.
"What're you getting all worked up for?" Yukari asked. "Didn't you buy, like, ten of those earlier?"
"Nah, I bought twenty," Kaori replied, happily chewing her food. "And this is my last one."
Yukari looked at her, dumbfounded. "Seriously? How can you eat like that and still not add a few pounds? I am so jealous!"
"Hmm..." Kaori paused, as if in a reflective mood. "I dunno. I never really worried about things like that."
"Still, I'm jealous," Yukari said with a small pout. "But, it doesn't mean you should get careless with your diet. There's still a chance you could end up getting fat someday."
Kaori shrugged, not appreciating the nagging tone Yukari used. "You're starting to sound like senpai, you know that?"
"I do not!" Yukari scoffed, lightly pushing Kaori on the shoulder. "Just be glad I don't obsess with training as much as he does."
Kaori blinked once, baffled. She had actually meant Shinjiro, not Akihiko. However, she was kind of relieved. She decided not to correct Yukari, since she didn't really want to talk about anything related to Shinjiro at the moment.
So, she changed the topic. "Anyway, how'd the archery club meeting go?" Kaori asked, wolfing down what was left of her bread.
"Ugh. Don't remind me." Yukari heaved a sigh. "It was such a waste of time. I even woke up a lot earlier than usual. But it just had to rain a few moments after the meeting started."
"Psh. You think your morning was awful? You should try being Shinjiro-senpai's companion when he's moody." Kaori had unwillingly verbalised her thoughts out loud.
She bit back a hesitant frown. Why couldn't she stop talking about him?
Fortunately, Yukari didn't seem to notice her inner turmoil. "Hmm... I don't see why you should complain. Weren't you the one who dragged him here?"
She really didn't want to talk about him. But despite that, her lips automatically moved. "Yeah, I know. I guess it is kind of my fault for taking his clothes away. But still, I don't see why he was so annoyed about it. It was just a little rain!"
Kaori didn't want Yukari to get the wrong idea, so she added: "You know, it's not what you think. I only asked him to come back because I didn't want him to get expelled."
Yukari's face twisted into a naughty grin. She didn't miss the shade of pink on Kaori's cheeks. "Who said I was thinking anything?"
"W-well, I, uh..." Kaori stammered.
Luckily for Kaori, the sound of mechanical footsteps came by. "Good Afternoon, Yukari-san, Kaori-san. Would you mind if I join you?"
"Hey, Aigis!" Kaori greeted. "Come have a seat with us?"
Aigis grabbed a seat close to them. "What were you discussing?"
"Kaori's little crush on- Ow!" Yukari was interrupted mid-sentence, as someone pinched her arm.
Kaori smiled nonchalantly. "We were just talking about the weather! Y'know how it's been raining like crazy since this morning?"
Yukari rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. Kaori, just admit it. You're practically in love with Shinjiro-senpai."
"Love?" Aigis pondered seriously. "Kaori-san has strong emotional feelings for Shinjiro-san?"
Kaori slammed her head against the desk in defeat. "Aigiiiis! Not you, too!"
It was one of the rare moments where Aigis looked genuinely upset. "I am sorry, Kaori-san. I am incapable of understanding human emotions... especially 'love'."
Guilt struck her after hearing how hurt Aigis was. "It's okay, Aigis. Don't worry! You didn't do anything wrong!" Kaori smiled cheerfully at the blonde. "But can we please talk about something else now?"
"Why don't you want to talk about him?" Yukari pushed, determined to find out what her friend was hiding. "Are you mad at him? Did he do something?"
"Yukari," Kaori hissed. "I don't want to talk about it anymore. Okay?"
"Alright, alright!" Yukari shrugged at Kaori's stubbornness. "We'll talk about something else."
"Kaori-san... Can I ask you a question regarding Shinjiro-san?"
Yukari waved her arms defensively when Kaori had glared at her. "Hey, don't look at me. I didn't tell her to say that."
Kaori sighed heavily. She wasn't exactly willing to hurt Aigis' feelings once again. It seemed like the subject of Shinjiro was an inevitable thing, no matter how much she wanted to ignore it.
"Why did Shinjiro-san get angry this morning? Did I say something unforgivable?"
Kaori pondered for a while, a little lost for words. To be honest, she wasn't exactly sure what happened herself. She had expected Shinjiro to respond to Aigis' question with indifference. Something along the lines of: 'Hmph, whatever... Why would I care about something as stupid as that?'
The more she got to know him, the more different he seemed. If anything, it felt as if she was getting to know him less. She frowned, remembering how she'd called him 'predictable', when in reality, she didn't know anything about him at all...
"Don't worry about it, Aigis. Senpai's just like that." Kaori smiled weakly, not sounding too convinced with her own answer. "He's a little hard to read, I guess."
Then, the feelings of doubt resurfaced. The exact feelings she'd been trying to supress by avoiding the topic of Shinjiro altogether. Perhaps forcing him to return to Gekkoukan High wasn't the best idea. Just before they parted, he had acted... different. The only image she could picture was how solemn he looked. She constantly wondered about what happened, and why he acted that way. He was always distant, but he had never looked so... lonely before.
It had hurt to see him like that.
Kaori wanted nothing more than to ease the negative feelings he tried to hide. She just wanted to make him smile genuinely for the first time, to hold him..
The girl's cheeks flushed a dark crimson colour, as she gave have a violent shake of the head. No, what on earth was she thinking? It was too... wierd! She couldn't allow herself to think of her senpai that way.
She kept telling herself that she was just being a good leader. A good leader always looks out for their team mate! Her desire to know more about him was because... she was just curious about him, that's all! And as for forcing him to come to school, well... there was nothing peculiar about worrying for the future of her friend! Mitsuru-senpai would've done the same thing...
Oh, who was she kidding? Maybe she knew it all along. Maybe she just didn't want to admit it to herself. Maybe Yukari was right. Maybe she really did have feelings for...
"Go to hell!" A familiar voice bellowed from outside. Then, a violent crashing sound came shortly after. Instinctively, the girls stood up and dashed outside to see what was going on.
"Aragaki! Get back here!" Ms. Oinushi was desperately calling out to the boy. "You are in a lot of trouble, young man!" Her efforts proved to be futile as he trudged down the stairs angrily. He clearly didn't give a shit about how many people he was crashing into.
-Almost the end of lunchtime, School Gates-
Kaori ran behind him breathlessly, her entire body feeling completely moist due to the heavy droplets of rain plummeting on her. "Senpai! Wait!"
Shinjiro didn't even make an effort to look back, let alone give some sort of sign that he heard her. He continued to march forward, trudging along the floody pavement... away from her. She felt her stomach twist a little, as the sound of his footsteps splashing across the pavement became a little faint.
"Please come back!" She screamed louder, pleadingly, almost in the verge of tears. He was moving further and further away from her, almost out of sight. He was unreachable and her cries were falling on deaf ears. The distance between them grew, causing an aching painful feeling in her heart.
Due to the slippery pathway, she stumbled forward as a result of sprinting too fast.
All of a sudden, she heard him stop. She sighed in relief as the sound of his footsteps became clearer once again. She felt his warm hand grazing her cold wet shoulders, helping her get back on her feet.
After lifting her legs from the ground, she looked up to see his scowling face. "You idiot! You didn't hurt yourself, did you?"
But it didn't matter. Seeing that scowl was proof that it really was him. Despite the drenched feeling resonating in her body, she smiled warmly at him; feeling very relieved that he came back.
She bowed down to him politely. She didn't usually do it, and she wasn't sure what possessed her to. But it seemed to be the appropriate thing to do at the time. "I'm fine, senpai. Thank you for coming back."
"Hmph. Since when were you so damn polite?" He asked coldly, head turned away from her.
"Senpai... please tell me what's wrong. Did something happen?" She replied to his question with another question, concerned with the way he was acting.
"...You! That's what!" She wasn't offended. She knew him well enough to know that he wouldn't say something like that just to be an ass.
"I... I punched someone in the face." He continued. "On my way to the faculty office, some bastard had the gall to show me this-" He shoved a crumpled photo of herself in her gym uniform.
"Just what the hell were you thinking? Strutting around wearing this kind of shit. I mean... it's none of my business what you wear. But don't you ever think, you idio– mmph."
She wasn't sure how it happened. One moment, there she was, listening intently to his every word. Then the next moment, she found herself swiftly wrapping her arms around his neck; inching her face closer to his and losing herself into this slow passionate kiss they were now sharing. At everything that was happening now, she felt her heart drumming heavily against her chest.
She felt him wrap his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him. He deepened the kiss; she could feel that he shared the same hunger and yearning she had for him too. He ran his hands down her hair, continuing to graze his lips over hers... Nothing else mattered. In that short moment, they were the only two people who existed. They completely ignored anyone and anything around them, save for the small droplets of rain showering from the sky.
They broke the kiss, startled by the sound of the school bell. Usually, Kaori was never late for class, but this time... she didn't mind too much.
Just before she made her way back, she smiled sweetly at him.
"See you back at the dorm, senpai."