Both Shiawase Kissa Sanchoume and Number One DX are owned by Matsuzuki Kou. Standard disclaimers apply.
Taking The Lead
Chapter 1: Sighs
Aizawa Hajime sighed as he walked down the deserted late afternoon hallways of the school.
Today was arguably the worst day in the life of the student council president. No thanks to a stroke of sheer bad luck, all three of his colleagues in the student council came down with the flu and weren't able to come to school today.
"Yamane-san I could understand," Aizawa thought to himself when he heard the news in the morning. "But both Ooizumi and Kawashima? That must be a pretty strong bug to take both of them down."
And so the ever-smiling president had to deal with the student council duties alone. Now it wouldn't have been that bad if it was a normal day, but unfortunately for him, it was one of the busiest days of the year. The district and regional competitions for a good number of the various sports and interest clubs in the school just happened to be scheduled close to each other, most of them to be held over the next few weeks. This resulted in a steady stream of requests and complaints to be handled by the student council.
For today, Aizawa had to meet with 8 different clubs and help them with their problems. Alone.
By the fifth club, he was already losing his cool. At the last club, the soccer club, he was already fed up with the outlandish requests that the meeting degenerated into a shouting match between him and the team captain. They would have let their fists do the talking had the club manager not intervened. In the end, they agreed to continue the meeting tomorrow to let both parties simmer down.
"I really screwed that one up," Aizawa told himself as he continued walking towards the lobby of the school. Feeling his sweat starting to drip off the side of his face, he took out his handkerchief with his free hand to wipe it off.
Aizawa's troubles didn't end with the soccer club, though. A few minutes after the failed meeting, he recalled having to submit some papers to a teacher after class. Without to Ooizumi remind him, or Kawashima to order in his stead, he simply failed to do the task.
The whole situation ended with him having to run across the school grounds with a stack of paper in his hands, and still having to apologize profusely to the teacher who apparently has been waiting for him for over half an hour.
"There goes my 'perfect' reputation," Aizawa sighed again when he recalled the incident with the teacher.
He was so deep in thought that when he turned the corner of the hallway, he almost collided with another person coming from the other hallway.
In a normal situation, Aizawa would've looked up to face the person then offer an apology for the near-accident. But he only got to the "look up" part before his brain locked up.
Before him was Arimoto Ichi, the tall tomboyish girl from 2-1.
The same girl who he had (and still has) a crush on for years.
From the looks of things, she was just as surprised as he was and was also ready to give a quick apology. But unlike Aizawa who immediately put on a poker face, she stopped mid-apology, narrowed her eyes, and gave him a somewhat harsh glare.
The student council president couldn't do anything but blink.
"What? I haven't said anything yet..."
After a few moments of glaring at him, Arimoto turned on her heel and continued walking towards the school lobby.
Aizawa blinked a few more times before sighing in defeat.
"She must've had a bad day too," he pondered as he followed the girl.
Arimoto Ichi sighed as she walked down the deserted late afternoon hallways of the school.
Today was one of the worst days in the life of the tall girl. She woke up late, had to take a shower with a broken heater, and failed two practice exams for two separate classes.
To top things off, basketball practice was a lot harder today. The pressure of the upcoming district tournament was already hard enough as it is, and with about half the team sick, Arimoto was on the court the entire time.
Naturally, she and her team mates protested: that approach shouldn't be allowed due to the threat of injuring the players. But with the coach and manager not around (also due to the flu) and the team captain pushing herself to the limit to keep her mind off her recent break-up, their protests fell on deaf ears.
"Oh well, at least the day's finally over," she thought to herself, thinking of spending the rest of the day lazing on the couch watching TV.
"I mean, nothing can make the day any more worse than it is, right?" she looked up as if to ask the gods the question.
As if on cue, Fate decided to step in. By looking up, she didn't see the person who just rounded up the corner. Luckily, she was quick enough to react and get out of the way.
She was about to apologize when he realized the person whom she almost collided with.
Aizawa Hajime, student council president.
The bane of her existence since middle school.
"Oh fucking great!"
While she is infamous for being tomboyish enough that some claim her to be even more "manly" than a good chunk of the school's male population, Arimoto still had her manners. She didn't voice out that last thought, and instead settled with throwing a fierce glare towards the white haired person in front her.
But the person in question just stood there with a blank look on his face.
"Got nothing witty to say, huh? Good for you." she thought as she turned and went back to walking towards the direction of the lobby.
A few seconds later, she could hear a pair of footsteps walking slowly behind her. Arimoto found nothing suspicious about that: she knew that Aizawa was also on the way home and this hallway was the fastest way to the lobby.
What was suspicious was that she was only hearing footsteps.
After about 10 seconds of walking, she still hasn't heard a word from the person behind her.
At about half a minute of walking, she still has yet to hear an insult or a witty remark from the guy. Not even a snigger.
And it was starting to get irritating.
"If he's trying out a new way of annoying me, I've got to say it's working."
By the time she reached her shoe locker, she couldn't help but look back to the person following her.
"I don't want to look at him, but what if he isn't Aizawa?" she thought to herself as she looked back. The thought of giving the cold shoulder to someone who just looks like him felt wrong.
Turns out the person walking behind her really was the white haired sophomore, with his blank look now gone and replaced by his trademark smile.
As he approached, the dark haired girl braced for the inevitable taunt coming from the student council president.
Which never came.
Instead, he just smiled a bit wider and nodded as he passed by as though to acknowledge her presence.
No insult, no sarcastic remark, not even a muffled laugh. Just a smile and a nod.
Looking at his retreating form (his shoe locker was much closer to the entrance than hers) two thoughts popped up into her mind.
"Who are you and what have you done with the real Aizawa?"
"Ok Aizawa, you win. You now know how to mess up with my head without even doing anything."
She shook her head to clear his head of those thoughts and went on with changing to her outdoor shoes.
"Judging from her reaction, I must have really freaked her out."
Aizawa thought about their short non-exchange as he neared his own shoe locker. He knew Arimoto was expecting him to say something witty, say, something about going home late and how that would affect her grades/looks/whatever. But he was too tired; getting into a verbal match with the person he likes probably wasn't the best way to end the day.
When he reached his shoe locker, his thoughts were already onto different topics like thinking of how to deal with the soccer club. His thoughts were interrupted again, however, as he was starting to put on his right shoe.
"Hey.." a figure loomed over his kneeling form. He already recognized that voice so he didn't need to look up to know that the girl he passed by earlier was the one standing in front of him.
(Looking up would've been a bad idea, Aizawa noted, considering her height, her proximity, and her tendency not to notice that he would have a good view of her panties in his position.)
"Yes, Arimoto?" he replied as he tightened the laces of his right shoe.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Huh? Putting on my shoes, I guess?" he stood without looking at her, hands now reaching towards the left shoe sitting on his locker.
"No, not that," she said, completely ignoring the lame attempt at lightening up the situation. "I was talking about what you did in the hallway."
He turned to look at her with a confused look on his face.
"And what did I do in the hallway?"
"Nothing," she replied matter-of-factly, "You did nothing."
"Something wrong with that?" he raised an eyebrow.
"No. But aren't you supposed to insult me or make fun of me like you always do?"
"I just had a really bad day so I didn't feel like doing those things."
Arimoto laughed in amusement.
"Really? Even Mister President here can have his share of bad days?"
In the midst of her laughter, she stopped and seemed to think about something.
"But that shouldn't stop you from teasing me, right?" Her voice started to carry a serious and slightly angry tone.
"I mean, I know you're happy when you're making my life miserable, so why aren't you taunting me right now to make your day better?"
Aizawa gave her a blank look.
"She thinks I'm happy when she's miserable?"
The white haired boy sighed as he knelt down to change his other shoe.
"No, I'm not happy when I make someone's life miserable."
"Especially when that person is the one I love."
Aizawa started to worry when the tomboyish girl didn't respond to his statement. He expected at least a slight rebuttal like "You do enjoy making my life miserable" but all he got was silence. After he finished putting on his other shoe, he looked up to her (taking care not to look up her skirt, of course).
What greeted him wasn't an angry, indignant face, but speechless, shocked and confused face. One that was getting redder by the second.
Then it hit him.
"Oh shit, I spoke that last thought aloud!"
Before he could say anything about his accidental confession, Arimoto put her hands to her face and shook her head.
"I get it, Aizawa," she spoke with her hands covering her blushing face. "You're just messing with me. You knew I was used to your taunts by now so you tried something different."
"Congratulations," she added dryly, hands now leaving her face to allow her to give him an annoyed look. "You really got me there."
It was an opening, and Aizawa knew it. He could just brush off that confession as a joke and no harm would be done - Arimoto seemed to be okay with it, albeit slightly annoyed at the situation.
But he couldn't do it. Even though it was just an accident, even though this was was the least romantic place for confessing one's feelings, he couldn't bring himself to deny what he just said.
And so he took a deep breath before standing up to look directly into the angry pair of eyes.
"No, I wasn't joking."
He saw her gaze waver a bit, and a slight hint of confusion was slowly creeping into her face. A small "bullshit" crept out from her lips, her disbelief still evident from the tone of her voice.
"I'm not messing with your head," he continued, his gaze not faltering.
"While I never meant for those words to slip out the way they did, I really meant what I said."
He paused for a moment, readying himself to say the words he had wanted to say for so long.
"I like you. I've liked you since middle school."
Arimoto's face was now a mix of anger and confusion. She broke her gaze and turned away; the recent developments seemed to be too much for her to take in.
"But you were always making fun of me!" she shot back, desperately trying to deny what he just said. "And you always treat me like I'm some useless girl!"
"That's because that's the only way I could talk to you ever since you thought of me as your rival!" he quickly answered. Years of waiting for this day to come allowed him to prepare for the questions she might throw him.
"And besides, didn't I already tell you back in middle school why I treat you like a girl?"
The dark haired girl looked at him again.
"No you didn't," she answered with full conviction. "All you said was that it was only me that you treat like a girl. You never told me why."
Aizawa wanted to slap his face for forgetting how dense she was.
"What I meant back then was that even though everyone treats you like a guy, I still treat you like a girl."
That facepalm was getting more and more appealing by the second.
"My point is," he answered in monotone to hide his frustration, "I think of you as a person who can be admired and loved as a girl."
Based on her reaction to that statement, it looked like she finally understood what Aizawa was saying. Her face lost all traces of anger and was now a mix of shock and confusion, the same look she got when this all started.
"Time to give the final blow."
"Since you recall what I said that day with the guy who almost pushed you down the stairs, I think it's time for me to tell you about that other thing we talked about that day."
She blinked at his digression to a totally unrelated topic.
"You mean that one thing you want to be number one at?"
"Yes. Glad that you remembered."
"What about it?"
He raised his hand to point at her.
"Huh? You're beating around the bush aga.."
Aizawa interrupted her before she could finish her sentence.
"It's you - I want to be your number one."
After that second confession, things happened too fast for Aizawa to react.
First was the change in the Arimoto's expression. She was even more shocked and confused now than she was when his feelings slipped out of his mouth a few a few minutes ago. There was also another feeling written on her face that he hasn't seen before.
"Is it disappointment?" he thought as he tried to decipher her new visage. "Or regret?"
But before he could finish that thought, the dark haired girl took a few steps back...
...and turned to run out of the building.
"Just great, Hajime. Not only did you screw up being a student council president twice, you also got yourself rejected by the girl you've been pining for for years. In front of your shoe locker, of all the places."
He wanted to scream. He wanted to bang his head on the lockers.
But he couldn't. Being rejected drained what's left of his energy. All he could do was to lean on the lockers, burying his eyes on his arm to avoid tears from falling.
He just stood there in that position for minutes, using all of his remaining willpower to keep himself from crying. He didn't really know why he wanted to cry; he just knew that if he allowed his body to react naturally, he would be reduced to a crying mess.
"Are you alright, President Aizawa?"
An unfamiliar voice brought Aizawa back to his senses. He didn't know how long he was in that position, but he knew that anyone who would see him like that would immediately worry about his situation.
He peeled his eyes off the arm propped against the lockers to look at the newcomer, all the while thinking how to explain why he was standing like that.
"Oh it's you Nakamura-san," the student council president regarded the bespectacled boy in front of him. He immediately recognized the boy as a member of the photography club, and it didn't take much to figure out that the freshman was going home late because he had to develop some pictures for an upcoming competition.
Aizawa straightened up and tried to give the boy his trademark smile.
"It's nothing," he started giving out his alibi. "I didn't get much sleep last night and I accidentally fell asleep after putting on my shoes."
"Hopefully that should explain my bloodshot eyes."
"I see," Nakamura seemed to buy his alibi.
"Well, don't push yourself too hard President Aizawa. A lot of people are counting on you."
And with that, Nakamura said a quick farewell and walked away.
"People are counting on me... "
Aizawa straightened up at the thought.
"I shouldn't be doing this... I'd better save the wallowing in self pity later."
He nodded as if to agree to that last statement.
And with that, it was the white haired boy's turn to finish up his business at the shoe lockers and walked out of the school building.
While walking at the school courtyard, Aizawa couldn't help but think about Arimoto's reaction to his confession.
"I counted on the possibility of her rejecting me, but I never thought she'd run away like that."
In his mind, only one possible reason for her running away.
"She already has a boyfriend."
While it was an unlikely scenario, to the white haired boy, it was the most logical one that that he could think of.
"If she didn't have a boyfriend, she'd just turn me down normally. But with a boyfriend, she'd have to state that fact to me. However, she probably thinks that if she had to do that, I'd make fun of the guy to keep my pride intact."
He seemed to see a flaw in his logic, but he still continued his line of thought.
"Or something like that. Anyway, the point is that she has a boyfriend."
"But who would it be? The guy's definitely not from this school as I've scared away all of them."
He rubbed his chin, still thinking of how Arimoto would have a boyfriend even though he was sure he made her off limits to potential suitors.
"Possibly from some other school? "
"Or maybe it isn't a boyfriend but a girlfr..."
That train of thought was interrupted by an unexpected sight outside the gates of the school.
A certain dark haired student was waiting, head down as if lost in thought.
"What are you doing here, Arimoto?"
The person in question looked up to face him. The expression on her face was different now; there was still a hint of shock and confusion written on her face, but it was mostly replaced by another: that same undecipherable blank look that she had before she ran away.
She isn't replying, but at least she isn't running away this time.
Then a small malicious thought popped up into Aizawa's head.
"Waiting for someone?" he asked, his voice trying to act as normal as possible. Deep inside, he just wanted to confirm his suspicions on whether she has a boyfriend or not.
She seemed to regard the question for a moment before nodding.
"Looks like she does have a lover."
The sadness and anger that he managed to push away earlier seemed to be coming back to him. At this point, Aizawa thought, the best option would be to just exchange farewells and walk away. It's clear that she doesn't want him and that she's already happy with another person. Who is he to ruin her happiness?
But he still wanted closure.
"If it's okay with you, may I know who that person is?"
As with the last question, she seemed to hesitate a bit before giving her answer.
She raised her hand and pointed at his direction.
Since they were standing outside the school grounds, his first thought was that the "boyfriend" was on the sidewalk behind him. But when he looked over his shoulder, he saw that the sidewalk was completely deserted.
Looking back to the dark haired girl, the only thing he could do was frown.
"That would mean she was waiting for.."
"Me? You're waiting for me?"
The dark haired girl nodded.
"Why?" Aizawa started moving closer towards her. He couldn't think of a reason why she would want to talk to him...
Then she started to speak up.
"Sorry about running away from you earlier," she apologized softly. "I didn't know what to say after you said all that..."
"Oh, I get it. She wants to turn me down properly."
Aizawa forced a smile before answering.
"No, it's okay. I shouldn't have brought it up without warning in the first place."
She opened her mouth to continue what she was saying earlier, but quickly closed it. Even though her gaze towards the white haired boy was steady, it was apparent that she was also deep in thought, thinking of the right words to say to him.
After a few moments of silence had passed, Arimoto started to speak again.
"I always thought that you hated me." her voice was still soft and apologetic. This unnerved Aizawa who was used to her incendiary tone.
"But when you said that you..." she paused and turned away, still uncomfortable talking about his confession.
"When you said those things, I realized that I was the one who started it all."
Aizawa opened his mouth to protest, but she shook her head before he could speak.
"You know it's true, Aizawa. I was envious of how you were good at everything and how you made things look too easy. I began challenging you, doing all that I could to make you look bad and bring you down."
"Looking back, you never hated me for what I did. Sure, you made fun of me a lot," she stole him a look, eyes filled with regret. "But as you said, you only did that because I was too obsessed in being your rival and that's the only way you could get to talk to me."
Aizawa didn't understand Arimoto's sudden change in behavior and why she was talking non-stop (though he had an idea that his confession had something to do with it), but he just stood there silently, intent on listening to what she had to say.
"To come to think of it, you aren't such a bad guy after all. You don't tease me as much as you did in junior high... hell, I probably talk trash about you a lot more these days."
"And though I never recognized it, you were always there to help me, like that incident in the cultural festival, or whenever I needed tutoring so I won't be held back."
She stopped talking and groaned inwardly. Still avoiding his gaze, she muttered something about "shouldn't be rambling like this".
Taking a deep breath, the dark haired girl turned her head to the direction of the person in front of her.
"Anyway, now that we've cleared up the misunderstanding between us, this got me thinking that..."
She bit her lip as if she was unsure of what she was going to say next.
On Aizawa's end, the white haired boy was bracing himself.
"Here it comes..."
"What I'm trying to say is, whenever we're not bickering or whenever you help me out, I can't help but feel..."
He continued the sentence on his head as her words trailed on the familiar phrase. He clenched his fist, still bracing for the impending rejection.
But she didn't finish that sentence. Instead she turned away again, sitting on her ankles this time, face buried in her hands for the second time today.
"AAARRRGHHHH! Why is this so difficult?" she groaned.
It was Aizawa's turn to be confused.
"Difficult? What...? Rejecting someone you hate was supposed to be an easy thing to do."
"Unless of course she doesn't hate me..." his thoughts trailed as he continued pondering this unexpected turn of events. He looked down at the dark haired girl, hoping to to find clues.
Her face was deep red, and whatever she was trying to say was either frustrating her or embarrassing her. Or both.
"...no way!" he gasped as a very unlikely possiblity was clawing its way up his psyche.
Instinctively, he raised an arm to her to help calm her down but she waved the hand off.
"No, I can do this," she said reassuringly.
And with that, she stood up, took a deep breath, and stared at him with eyes full of determination.
"I think I like you too."
It took Aizawa a few moments to take in her words. Actually, he didn't get to think about her confession because his brain locked up at the "like" part. In the end, he just gave in to instinct.
He closed his eyes and gave her a genuine smile as he closed the distance.
"I think I like you too."
Arimoto breathed a sigh of relief after saying those words.
"There, I said it," she thought as she studied the now slightly-surprised expression of the confessee. "I hope he reacts well."
"On second thought," Arimoto mused, "I wonder how a guy who just confessed to me would not react well to the news that I like him back?"
Before she continue that line of thought, the person in question started to respond. He closed his eyes, and gave her a rare genuine smile that touched her heart in ways that his fake smile couldn't.
"I'm glad..." he said softly.
And then he moved forward to embrace her.
"Hey!" she exclaimed, now thoroughly embarrassed as he buried his head on her shoulder in public. "I like you but I never said you could hug m..."
Then she realized what really was happening.
"My god, you're burning up!"
She could feel his unusually high temperature through the fabric on her shoulder. His strained breathing seemed to confirm her concerns.
He didn't mean to embrace her - he simply fainted.
"Let me call an ambulance..." she offered as she reached for her cell phone.
"No, no ambulance" he protested, pulling himself away from her. "My house is just a few blocks from here. I could make it there on my own."
Before he could move farther away, he dark haired girl grabbed his arm and scolded him.
"No, you can't! Not in that condition!"
Without thinking, she took the sling bag from his shoulder and placed next to the sports bag hanging on her own shoulders.
"What are you doing?" he didn't move to stop her, but he still didn't understand why she had to take his bag.
"Making it easier for you to walk," she answered as she moved to his side. She then slid her right arm across his back, allowing him to lean on her shoulder.
Aizawa was initially taken aback by Arimoto's sudden boldness, but he eventually understood what she was offering. He complied, putting his left arm across her shoulders for support. Once in place, she put his left hand in hers to better control him as he slowly let her carry part of his weight.
"There..." she took a few experimental steps to make sure that he was secured and that she could really support him. "Better?"
It was only when she heard his answer did she realize how close their faces were.
"ah.. er.." she stammered as she turned away, her face beet red from her confession, his sudden embrace/faint, and now, her closeness to the person she just discovered feelings for. Not really knowing what to say, she said the first thing that came into her mind.
"I could give you a piggyback ride if this is uncomfortable for you..."
"No, this is fine," Aizawa chuckled in spite of his condition. While she knew that she was perfectly capable of doing just that (she's no Takamura-san, but he had seen her lift heavy stuff before), he still found the thought of the tall girl carrying the student council president quite amusing.
Collecting himself after laughing, the white haired boy smiled at the person carrying him.
"Thanks," he said softly. "I really appreciate this."
"Uh.. no problem," she replied as he saw his smile from the corner of her eye. Her mind was still a mess from the crazy developments in the past half hour so she didn't really have anything to say to the person beside her.
In the end, she just sighed. Not a sigh of despair or defeat, but a positive sigh, one that simply concedes that there's no reason to think too much about what's happening - everything was going to be alright.
"Lead the way, President Aizawa."