"Come on, spit it out,"
"You made up the challenge yourself, right...?"
Itsuo stared in disbelief at the large boldened 'DEFEATED' plastered at the forefront of his screen and glanced across at his maker.
Sana flashed an amicable grin back at him and Itsuo felt his stomach turn at the caramel haired girl with glasses that looked like she had never stepped foot out of a library, much less into an arcade.
"H, how...?" Itsuo managed to choke out.
"Haha!" Fumiko crossed her arms and smirked down at him as though she had been the one to defeat him. "You would never guess it, but Sana's family actually owns an arcade manufacturing company as a little side business! So naturally she has a few of these machines back at her home."
"Sometimes I play them to release a little bit of steam from all the studying..." Sana laughed sheepishly.
"A little?!" Itsuo cried. "You completely destroyed me!"
"Video games is like studying," Sana said with a smile. "Once you understand the problem, you can figure out the most effective way to solve it."
"T, that's..." Itsuo said.
"Stop whining," Fumiko tapped her fingers by her side impatiently. "Are you a man or not?"
"Gah! That's no fair!"
Fumiko stuck her tongue out. "Suck it up. Now it's your turn to fulfill your end of the deal!"
"You don't have to if you--" Sana started, but Fumiko held a hand to her mouth, making a loud 'shhh'ing sound.
Itsuo sighed, glancing downwards.
Guess I can't back out of it now... I wanted to tell her first before anyone else, but I also have to hold up my words... Itsuo thought.
"The person I like is..." Itsuo said hesitantly, and both Fumiko and Sana turned to look at him.
"Hey Hikaru, have you ever had a crush on anyone?"
"Hah... you asked me this before, right?"
Hikaru glanced to her side at Aya as they walked around the lively shopping district of Ginza, having finished their meal at the restaurant. The large towering buildings around them all had giant ads stretched out in full view, displaying luxury brands that Hikaru had never even seen before.
"I know, but last time I asked you, we didn't know each other that well!" Aya said, tugging onto Hikaru's arm that she was hugging onto. "I didn't know if you were telling the truth,"
"I, I don't lie..." Hikaru replied, glancing down with a pink blush at the way Aya was holding onto her arm. "Aren't you being a bit too close, Aya...?"
"Haha, it's fine, Hikaru! We just look like two best friends!"
"...You keep saying that but do two best friends kiss each other in public?"
"T, that was only once...!"
Hikaru laughed at Aya's reaction. "Anyways, where are we going next? Should we go find Fumiko and the others? She texted me saying they were at Shibuya."
"Nah." Aya glanced around her at the busy streets, her eyes narrowing in thought. "Hmm... oh! I know! Let's go to the cinema! There's this new movie that came out last week that I really wanted to watch!"
"What is it about?"
"Oh, you'll love it!" Aya replied, dragging Hikaru along to her new destination. "It's about a spy that gets caught up on an undercover mission at the peak of the Cold War."
"I, I didn't know you like movies like that," Hikaru said.
"Haha, I'm hopeless for political thrillers," Aya laughed, embarrassed, "my mother always told me off for watching simpleton things like that at home."
"Your mum..." Hikaru mused. "I've never seen your mum, Aya. What is she like? She sure must be a really amazing person like you!"
"Oh, you're so sweet, Hikaru! Um... my mother..." Aya hesitated for a second, then glanced around. "Oh! Look, Hikaru!" Aya pointed, "the cinema is just across this traffic light!"
"Hah...?" Hikaru pouted, staring at Aya dubiously at her change of topic.
"Can you believe it?" Aya glanced back at Hikaru excitedly. "We're going to the movies together for the first time! This is like the best date ever!"
"D, date...?!" Hikaru stuttered and her face lit up red. "Am I your date, Aya?"
"Of course," Aya laughed, "you're the cutest date in the world, Hikaru!"
Hikaru blushed even more. "B, but, aren't dates supposed to be between a guy and a girl...?"
"No way," Aya shook her head. "Girls can go on dates too. Love doesn't let a dumb thing like gender get in the way, Hikaru."
"S, so, we're dating..." Hikaru said to herself, her eyes spinning.
Ah, sorry, mum and dad! I won't be able to give you grandchildren like you've always wanted! Hikaru thought to herself, dizzily. I think I'm... dating a girl...!
"What are you thinking?" Aya blinked at Hikaru, seeing her deep in thought.
"Ah! N, nothing...!!"
It didn't take long before Aya and Hikaru reached the cinemas that was situated at the top of the shopping complex from across the road.
The line wasn't too long either, seeing as it was a weekday and there was still school tomorrow.
Walking up to the counter with Hikaru in her grasp, Aya smiled boldly at the employee serving the front desk.
"Welcome! How are you this afternoon?" The girl dressed in the cinema employee outfit smiled at Aya, her eyes lighting up upon seeing Aya.
That was the common reaction most people had when they first meet Aya.
"Very well," Aya replied, "could we please get two tickets for the earliest showing for Dawn of Civilisation please?"
"Of course," the girl said, then her eyes flickered to the computer screen in front of her as she entered the details.
Aya started reaching into her school bag for her wallet and Hikaru noticed this.
"Hey Aya..." Hikaru protested, "I can pay for my own ticket. You don't have to pay for me, you already paid for our meal earlier."
"Nonsense," Aya replied, "please just don't worry about it, Hikaru."
Hikaru reached for her own bag, refusing to back down. "No, I insist!"
"Come on, Hikaru," Aya glanced at Hikaru with a frown. Hikaru was scrambling inside her bag, looking for her wallet intently. Aya had already gotten her own wallet out.
"Here, just take my payment," Aya said to the cinema employee as she pulled a gold-tinted credit card out. One that was reserved for the super wealthy.
"No, take mine...!" Hikaru pulled out a regular debit card and pushed it in front of the employee.
The employee glanced down at Hikaru's card, that was decorated in small animal stickers she had stuck on, and laughed.
"Haha... you two are such great friends," she said, "you're fighting like a couple."
Both Aya and Hikaru turned red at that.
"W-w-w-we're not really like that...!" Hikaru stuttered in stunned embarrassment at a lost of what to say, and Aya chimed in.
"So what if we are?" Aya laughed with a blush. "It's a free world, isn't it?"
The girl laughed back in response, though it was clear that she didn't take her seriously. She finished the rest of the payment with Aya's card as Aya used the moment that Hikaru was distracted to offer her card.
Once Aya and Hikaru had gotten their tickets, they walked away from the cinema desk; Aya checking the time on her phone and Hikaru staring at the ground, still in shock at what the girl had said.
"Looks like we have a bit of time before the movie starts," Aya said to Hikaru, glancing up from her phone. "Did you want to walk around the mall in the meantime?"
"S, sure..." Hikaru said.
"Let's go then!" Aya smiled, then was about to lead Hikaru when Hikaru suddenly called out.
"Aya..." Hikaru said, her eyes still fixed on the ground and her face still red.
"Hmm?" Aya turned back to look at Hikaru. "What is it, Hikaru?"
"Um..." Hikaru said, and her eyes shifted to the side in nervousness. "Do you think..." Hikaru started, then hesitated.
"Yes...?" Aya blinked at Hikaru.
"D, do you think... we can ever say that... we're a c-couple publically...?"
Aya stared at Hikaru, turning her words over in her mind.
"Are you upset that we're keeping our relationship a secret?" Aya asked.
"I, it's not that...!" Hikaru blurted out apologetically, her eyes skipping up to glance at Aya. "I mean... are we always going to have to keep our relationship a secret...? For the rest of our lives...?"
Aya blinked again at Hikaru, her face blank.
"Hikaru..." Aya said, and paused. Then her face lit up with joy. "You're saying that we're going to be together for the rest of our lives?!"
Aya ran into Hikaru, crashing into her with a hug and the few number of people around the cinema turned to glance at the scene with bizarre faces.
"I love you so much, Hikaru! I can't believe you said that!" Aya said, all whilst clinging onto Hikaru and rubbing her cheeks atop Hikaru's head.
"H, hang on, Aya...!" Hikaru said, her face flushed bright red and her eyes darting between Aya and the bystanders staring. "There's people around, Aya...!"
"I don't care!" Aya replied, continuing to smother Hikaru. "I'm so happy right now!"
Steam floated out of Hikaru's head from how red she was getting.
Aya pulled away from Hikaru, smiling at her.
"We don't have to keep our relationship a secret if you don't want to, Hikaru." Aya said.
"M, m, maybe we will just keep it a secret for now..." Hikaru said, then added quickly. "J, just until we're ready to tell other people...!"
Aya laughed, then walked to Hikaru's side, hooking her arm with hers. "Come on, Hikaru, let's go!"
"What do you think your mum will say when we tell her about us?"
"Ack...! I don't want to think about that..."
"But she already likes me a lot! I think she would love me to be her daughter in law."
"I should start addressing her as 'mum' to get her used to it."
"Hahaha, just joking!"
The next day at school began with a slow start for Itsuo, as he walked with Hikaru to school like he always did, listening to Hikaru talk excitedly about the movie that she saw with Aya yesterday at the cinemas.
Itsuo laughed, riding along Hikaru's jovial mood.
Then, they arrived at school and Itsuo felt an uneasy feeling hitting his stomach like a punch to the abdomen as he remembered the events of the day before.
A voice sang to their side and Itsuo glanced with a sour face at the unmistakable owner of the boyish yet clearly feminine sounding voice.
Fumiko smiled brightly at the two of them, violet bangs falling over a pair of devilishly playful set of eyes.
"Good morning!" Hikaru returned a cheerful smile, tilting her head with the innocence and naivety one would normally expect from a young child.
"Fumiko." Itsuo said, but it wasn't a greeting. It was moreso an acknowledgement of her presence.
"What's with you, sourface?" Fumiko laughed to Itsuo, as she moved forward to give Hikaru a hug. "You look like you got bitten by a cat."
"You could say something like that." Itsuo replied whilst staring directly at Fumiko.
"My cute little Hikaru!" Fumiko spoke to Hikaru, having already lost her attention on Itsuo. "Gah! I can't believe I used to bully you before!"
"Hahaha..." Hikaru laughed, remembering something she would had much rather forget. "H, how are you today, Fumiko?"
"Great! Anyways, I got something to tell you!"
"What is it...?"
"It's about Itsuo--"
"H, hey!--There's a flying saucer over there!!"
"Haah...?" Hikaru glanced at Itsuo disbelievingly.
"Quick, Hikaru, go check it out...!" Itsuo said, grabbing her by the shoulders and marching her away.
"Just keep going!" Itsuo said, giving Hikaru an encouraging push as he released her shoulders. "Me and Fumiko will meet you in class later!"
With that, Hikaru continued unsurely in search of the 'flying saucer', leaving Itsuo and Fumiko alone near the entrance of the massively overbudgeted schoolyard of Hibiya High. Despite the grounds being scattered with flocks of students, no one was within earshot to Itsuo and Fumiko due to how spacious the place was.
"You promise you wouldn't tell her!" Itsuo said to Fumiko as soon as Hikaru had walked a good distance away.
"Relax..." Fumiko said. "I wasn't really going to tell her. I was just playing with you."
"Ha ha, very funny." Itsuo crossed his arms. "There. Now, you've had your fun. Don't try anything like that again."
Fumiko frowned. "Geez... I'm just trying to help you out. Sorry for trying."
This time Itsuo laughed for real. "Help me out? Sorry? Am I speaking to Fumiko?"
Fumiko stared annoyingly at Itsuo. "It's not my fault that you're too much of a wimp to do a thing."
"Yeah, you heard me!" Fumiko rose her voice.
"Who are you to be calling anyone a wimp!" Itsuo snapped back.
"Well, then why haven't you done anything yet?"
Itsuo fell short of a reply and an 'aha!' face spread across Fumiko's expression.
"T, that's because I'm waiting for the right time...!" Itsuo coughed out quickly upon seeing Fumiko's reaction, but she had already caught onto Itsuo's hesitation.
"Aha!" Fumiko said out loud.
"You don't have to say that, I already saw it on your face..." Itsuo grumbled quietly, more to himself than her.
"Listen..." Fumiko lowered her voice, talking in a serious tone. "I actually want to help you out here. I think you and Hikaru will make a great couple."
"R, really...?" Itsuo said, taken aback.
"Yeah," Fumiko replied, "but it's never going to happen with the way that you're going about it."
"Hey, I'm just telling the truth," Fumiko sighed. "Hikaru's now a really good friend of mine, so I just want to help her come out of her shell a little bit. She's always so shy and quiet that it makes me scared that she's going to get taken advantage of once she's graduated from school."
"Fumiko..." Itsuo stared at Fumiko with a stunned expression.
"Me, Sana and Aya aren't always going to be with her for the rest of her life, you know?" Fumiko continued, closing her eyes with a troubled sigh as she placed a hand to her forehead. "At the end of the day, everyone's going to be going on with their own lives. And to be honest, I'm not sure if Hikaru's ready for that. That's why I think if Hikaru had someone to be with her, it will really help her out a lot."
Fumiko opened her eyes, then upon noticing the way that Itsuo was staring at her, shrunk back distastefully.
"W, what...?" Fumiko said.
"It's just..." Itsuo started. "You're a nicer person than I thought, Fumiko..."
"Hah?! What are you saying?! I always take good care of my friends!"
"I just had an impression that you were always thinking about yourself mostly..."
"Are you asking for a fight...?"
"Thanks for sharing those thoughts with me," Itsuo said, "I don't mind accepting your help, but only on one condition..."
"And what is that...?"
"Let me be one to tell Hikaru myself."
Hikaru glanced to her side from her desk and saw a smiling Aya approaching with Sana by her side.
"Good morning, Aya and Sana..." Hikaru said back shyly, noticing that the classroom was starting to fill with students. She still wasn't sure how to talk to Aya when the two of them were at school.
"Good morning to you too, Hikaru," Sana beamed amicably, then glanced around the classroom. "Itsuo isn't with you today?"
"Ah, Itsuo--" Hikaru started.
"Hey, hey, I was thinking about that scene in the movie we watched yesterday," Aya chattered excitedly. "And you know what? It kind of reminds me of the 1914 assassination of Franz Ferdinand!"
"Huh, which scene...?" Hikaru asked, then noticed the eyes around the classroom turning their way.
"The scene at the middle of the movie! You know, the one where Illya thew a grenade at the car and missed?"
"Haha, oh, that one...!" Hikaru laughed uneasily, feeling the stares from around the classroom.
As Aya was about to continue talking, the bell rung, sounding the start of class.
"Ah..." Aya glanced around the classroom, seeing the rest of the class beginning to get in their seats. Aya turned back to Hikaru with a disappointed frown. "I will talk to you later, Hikaru."
"O, okay," Hikaru nodded her head, and forced an enthusiastic smile at Aya.
'Ahh, just as I thought, Aya is attracting a lot of attention! Especially because she just came back to class...' Hikaru was thinking nervously in her head. 'What should I do about it...'
At that moment, Itsuo and Fumiko strolled into the classroom, but Hikaru was too preoccupied with her thoughts to notice.
"Yes," Hikaru replied back absentmindedly, staring down at her notes.
"Are you free after school today...?"
"Do you want to, uh... do something... after school...?"
"Huh?" Hikaru snapped out of her trance and glanced up at the person that was speaking to her.
Itsuo stood at the side of her desk, rubbing the side of his neck uncomfortably with the whole classroom watching the scene excitedly.