“How did the mixer go?” Nozaki asked, excitedly. A bright white smile on his face and a special twinkle in his eye. Sakura was seated at the table in Nozaki’s main room, also giving the two friends that had just returned to the apartment her full attention.
“It was good.” Mayu said. His face was stoic yet his voice had a hint of excitement and his eyes expressed it. He still held his phone up to his chest, happily, unable to stop looking at his successful number grab.
“Oh. You managed to get a potential judo partner’s number? Impressive!” A big brother’s praise.
“You were able to understand him just from those words…” Sakura said, amazed. “Uh...Mikorin??”
Mikoshiba was standing next to Mayu but had yet to say a word. He was lifeless, his hands at his sides, and his head tilted back. A small groan coming from his open mouth.
Mikoshiba’s spirit had left the building.
It had in fact never even come back with him. It was probably still on the street that the mixer had taken place on. That is...if it hadn’t ascended to heaven already.
“...Did anything happen?” Nozaki tried to get answers out of his brother. He didn't sound too concerned, just curious.
A small voice from Sakura nervously interrupted, “...Nothing...bad happened, right? Like...rejection…? Or maybe...Mikorin accidentally talked too much for his own good...”
Mayu still stood quietly. “No. I did exactly what my brother said. Someone was going to be taken away, so I stood in front of them and said they were mine.”
Nozaki was filled with a new excitement. He sprung up close to Mayu, “And what happened after that?! Did she ask you out? Did you walk her home? Did she confess to you?!” Mayu noticed a notepad now in Nozaki’s hand. That hadn't been there before.
“Un.” Mayu replied. “I walked them home.”
Nozaki excitedly turned up when he heard the good news. “Really?! Then what happened?! She confessed, right? Did you ask if her heart started beating?!”
“No.” Mayu’s expression was still just as listless as before he started celebrating his new potential judo partner’s phone number.
“They are standing right here.” Mayu looked over to Mikoshiba. Mikoshiba was still lifeless, not quite in the conversation.
Nozaki’s excitement died down and his energy went back to normal. He looked over at Mikoshiba too.
“Ah. It was Mikoshiba.”
Nozaki paused. Sakura slowly realized the situation Mikoshiba was in and kept quiet, eyeing Nozaki, hoping he would ask what she was thinking. But Nozaki just stared at Mikoshiba, thinking. His pause was unwavering, until...
“...How was his reaction?! Did he blush? Did he confess to you?!” Nozaki was excited.
A loud gasp escaped Nozaki’s mouth. “No way...Mayu..” His face went stone still and serious before asking, “...Did you reject him?"
“NOZAKI!!!” Sakura interrupted. “Think about Mikorin! Think about Mikorin’s feelings! Please!”
“Huh? What do you mean?” Nozaki couldn’t understand why anyone would feel this was a bad situation. It was a great experience and it would have been great writing material! He wished he could have been there and quickly made a mental note to not miss out on the next mixer.
Sakura's voice broke through Nozaki’s note, “Don’t you think Mayu should have tried that on a girl and not our anxious Mikorin?!”
Sakura had gotten up onto her knees at this point, slamming her hand down on the table at every word she wanted to emphasize. Her voice had gotten a little louder, feeling like she had to defend Mikorin’s honor since the two brothers in front of her wouldn't notice these things in a million years.
Nozaki looked straight ahead at Sakura and flatly said “It’s the same thing.”
Mayu also looked at her, as if claiming the same statement, but not speaking the words aloud.
“DON’T JOKE AROUND!” Mikorin’s soul had made the long journey back to his body. A single finger pointed at Nozaki.
“BECAUSE OF YOU, THIS GUY HERE CLAIMED ME AS HIS OWN...IN A ROMANTIC SENSE. IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY THAT ATTENDED. HOW’S THAT FOR YOUR MIXER?!” Mikoshiba's voice started to crack as if he would cry. His face was covered with both of his hands and he mumbled words through the small space available.
“Even though I was so embarrassed. Even though I was with my school friends. Even though a group of girls had asked me out. Even so!!” Mikoshiba’s hands didn’t move from his face for a few seconds.
“They wouldn’t listen to me, you know! They all just left!” Mikoshiba had uncovered his face and was pouting by himself.
Nozaki gave Mayu a thumbs up and a smile. “Oh. Good job.”
Mayu nodded once in acceptance.
Mikoshiba crossed his arms and let out a deep sigh.
“You know, they already thought Mayu was into guys because he was desperately trying to get that judo guy’s number. Now, there must be no question in their mind. And they must think I ALSO like guys!!”
“Well. Guys and girls aren’t too different. I don’t see anything wrong with it.” Mayu added. He was still clinging onto his phone. The newly acquired contact was still showing on his screen.
Nozaki nodded in agreement. “Mm. Even my little sister says gender doesn't matter when it comes to love.”
“Huh?!” Mikoshiba took a step back, surprised no one was sympathizing with him. He had just been embarrassed by this shoujo manga writer and his little brother! Don’t they care what the people at school would say?
“Sakura! You’re on my side, right? Isn’t it ridiculous?!” Desperate for some understanding Mikoshiba turned to Sakura. She was the most understanding and normal in this room, after all. If she understood, then…
Sakura didn’t reply just yet. She was deep in thought. It’s true that Mikoshiba acted like a girl normally would most of the time…so much that Nozaki could even use him as a model for Mamiko… So she could see how the situation would arise. Mayu isn’t one to think too much about this kind of stuff….he’s the type to just get the job done...and gather results quickly...
Mikoshiba was worried he was about to find out he couldn’t trust a single soul in the room. He stared at Sakura, waiting for a response and prayed it would be a good one. But Sakura hadn’t been listening. She was just thinking...
Sakura looked back at Nozaki, assuredly. “Un. It’s Mamikoshiba.”
“Sakura!!!” Mikoshiba cried out.
He turned to address everyone in the room this time, sure to get his point across. “Damn it!! I have to deal with this at school now! Have some sympathy for me!” He sighed, sitting down on the floor near the table. “I might even get bullied...it’s all over.”
“Mikoto-san.” Mayu called out. He started walking over to where Mikoshiba sat, and sat down next to him. “I’m sorry.” He bowed his head slightly. The top of his head was now at level with Mikoshiba’s face.
Mayu was quite tall already, Mikoshiba thought.
Mikoshiba just sighed as he looked at Mayu, bowing his head unwaveringly.
Sitting back, Mikoshiba leaned on an arm and looked up at the ceiling. “Whatever. The damage is done. Guess I’ll see what happens from here on out. I was the one who dragged you along, after all.”
The room was silent.
“But hey, are you really ok with people assuming you like guys?” Mikoshiba asked.
“I don’t mind.” Mayu replied. He said it so quickly that Mikoshiba was surprised. As if he didn’t even have to think about it.
Mikoshiba stood in the doorway. He was unsure of the reaction his class would have. Had they heard what had happened? What do they think? He tried to think up more explanations for what happened yesterday just in case he couldn't use one of the 30 explanations he thought of last night.
Class was just about to begin. Chatter and laughter filled the classroom as Mikoshiba stood in the doorway.
“Ah. Mikoshiba!!” Kashima yelled loudly. She ran over and swung her arm around his neck, holding onto him and jumping in place. “I hear you’re dating someone now?”
“Who told you that? Of course not...” His eyes wandered around the room, desperately trying to look anywhere but at the group of students that Kashima had just ran up from.
“Those guys over there told me.” She pointed at the group and they all looked away as quickly as Mikoshiba could even shift his gaze.
Mikoshiba’s expression grew cold in an instant. It seems these classmates knew about what happened yesterday.
“They said some of them and their friends went to a mixer with you yesterday, and you got claimed when the mixer ended!” Kashima laughed it off.
“So who is it?!”, She asked.
It was hard for Mikoshiba to stay calm. He started to feel sweat and a rapid heartbeat coming along. Couldn’t class just start already? Kashima’s voice was booming in the classroom and her smile was blinding. Attention was falling on them whether they wanted it to or not!
“No one, no one. Obviously they’re lying. Aren’t you an actor? Shouldn’t you be able to tell when people are lying like that?” Mikoshiba started to speak more maturely, more smart, more assured, more confident, in hopes of getting Kashima off of his case.
“Yeah, that’s how I know they aren’t lying.” She said in a second.
She continued, “But I can tell you ARE lying!!”
“So who was it?” She jumped up and down excitedly, waiting for a response.
Mikoshiba didn’t know what to respond. He felt like he had been found out. He’ll need to come up with an excuse quickly! Wait what happened to the 30 excuses he thought of last night? What were they again? The room heated up and that time slowed down within him.
He looked back at the group of boys, making sure their backs were still turned.
One guy was slightly tilting his head back, trying to pick up on anything he could possibly hear.
Mikoshiba wondered for a second, was this really that big a deal? Why does this make him so nervous? He knows the truth. That’s all that should matter.
Deciding to handle this his own way, Mikoshiba shouted. “This way!”
He pulled on Kashima’s sweater and dragged her to the staircase, where there were less people and less eyes on them.
“Ok.” Mikoshiba started. “Here is what happened.”
Kashima was still a bit stunned after suddenly being dragged out to the staircase but she made sure to listen intently.
“So...Nozaki’s brother tagged along-” Mikoshiba started to explain. He only got so far before a voice intercepted his own, awkwardly trying to steal the scene.
“Uh….h-hey! Mikoshiba-kun!” It was one of the guys that attended the mixer.
Mikoshiba stopped dead in his tracks. He thought this classmate was going to make fun of him. He was going to bully him, wasn’t he? He was going to tell the whole school what had happened and then he’ll have to transfer!
That means he’ll have to meet new people! This was Mikoshiba’s worst nightmare. He can’t handle meeting all new people!
Mikoshiba began sinking into a dark pit of anxious thoughts as he waited to hear the next words out of this boy’s mouth.
“Um...how do i put this...are you….you know…” The boy started.
Am I? Mikoshiba thought.
The boy hushed his voice to a whisper, looking around him and making sure no one was watching them. “Are you still dating that guy from the mixer?”
“Huh?” It was the quickest reaction Mikoshiba had ever had in his entire life. He only said it to keep the conversation from turning awkward.
“Wai-what?” He said again. His initial reaction was a distraction but this time his reaction was genuine! His classmate had asked him so casually!
The boy looked just as confused as Mikoshiba did. His eyebrows slowly knit together in confusion, and his eyes narrowed.
“The boy that claimed you...um...Mayu, was it?” He said.
Mikoshiba was frozen.
“Mikoshiba-kun?” The boy asked. “Are you ok?”
Mikoshiba was still frozen.
“Well, I was only asking because we're having another mixer next week...and it really helped when you went last time...so if you aren't still seeing him...I was thinking...you could join us again for this upcoming one.” He clapped his hands together and bowed his head to show how grateful he would be if Mikoshiba agreed.
Mikoshiba was staring at the boy's head. His scalp and the way his hair fell forward and hung in the air as he waited for a response.
A few seconds passed...and then an idea came to Mikoshiba…
“Yes!", Mikoshiba started.