"Tennoji told his girlfriend at St. Blossom that he saw a girl at Osaka." Kadoma paused in front of a boutique on their way back from the barber shop. The bottom of her ears showed in the reflection from the stenciled window although not as prominently as Nakao's new geometric cut.
"By now the rumor must have also spread through our sister school, so much for damage control." Nakao tried to ignore the cute sundresses on display as she pushed her friends arm "Too bad the captain of the Karate Club likes to gossip."
"Come on guys" Ashiya prodded them to catch up "The dorm heads won't be able to keep this from the Dean even if Nanba and Himejima could be swayed." She frowned at how quickly two years of deception unraveled.
Kadoma shoved both hands in her pockets "Considering all of our close calls it's surprising that it took this long."
"Seriously, I was certain it was going to be at the annual winter dance." Nakao glanced from one to the other "Not while changing clothes after practice, Kadoma."
"Hey Nakao, how would you feel if-"
"Sorry, Kadoma." She knew what Ashiya was going to say and exactly how she'd feel about it "I didn't really mean that."
"But what are we going to do?" Kadoma's brows furrowed in worry.
"Take one for the team." Ashiya declared as though it was quite obvious.
"I know that should be me so I'll-"
"No." Nakao put his hand on Kadoma's arm to keep her from running to Kujo. "You both are loved and protected while I'm still ignored or brushed aside so it will be me."
Ashiya shook her head "That's stupid Nakao. They will ask you why you were changing out of a karate uniform when you're not in the club."
"What will Kujo think of my integrity if I don't step up and be a man about my mistake?"
"Um, Kadoma?" Ashiya smiled "I was changing with you so don't say 'be a man' so casually. Kujo is going to have a hard time covering for you next year."
"That is exactly why I have to confess."
"No, that is why I'm going to leave you my masculine contoured vests when I go." Ashiya gave her training partner a half smile.
"Ashiya!" Nakao balled both hands into fists "You can't leave Sano now that he knows your secret and returns your feelings."
"You're such a romantic" Kadoma grinned at her "If Nanba ever looked past the surface…"
"Well, he won't. He made that clear during the winter dance so I'm going to confess and be done with this charade."
"Please don't Nakao." Ashiya looked from one to the other "It's becoming too difficult for Sano and me to hide our feelings. I'd be found out before graduation anyway so please let me do this."
"Tell me your love is strong enough to survive a year apart." Nakao's eyes became wet.
Kadoma looked scared "He'll follow you, right?"
Ashiya grinned giving them two thumbs up "Don't worry about us. I already know which college Sano is applying for, just in case."
Kadoma nodded "Then we won't say anything."
"Send us a picture when your hair grows out." Nakao sounded disinterested now that they reached the school gates. "I won't keep an eye on him for you."