by Oshin A.
A love story between an emotionless girl and devious yet charming boy.
| CHAPTER 1
It was a beautiful windy morning, with the beautifully curved pink sakura petals getting gently plucked from the tree branches and taken away in the scented wind. Yuki looked around the concrete entrance of their high school at the newly admitted first years, some twitching with nervousness, some with hopes of growing out of the comfort blanket of their middle school lives, some were already making friends, probably the ones who were sitting alone in the last 3 years, afraid of being that person, some covering themselves as the breezy wind still sent leftover chill from the past winter.
Then, she saw him. Probably unaware of the train wreck that he was going to cause in her carefully balanced, distilled life, carefully put together after years of self-discipline and compromises and selfless actions. Her first impression of him was that he was a brazen conceit who had no interest in being involved in anything. He was standing with slightly slumped shoulders, drooping eyes like he hadn’t slept for years, ruffled hair like he hadn’t bothered to set them right, staring at his phone screen and probably playing some childish game.
Among all the freshmen boys she had seen that day since morning, he sure seemed different. Like a different shaped cloud in a sunny sky. “Naruse Shou?” she spoke out loud, in a demanding voice that she had long given up on to correct. “Yeah?” he answered without looking up from his phone. She noticed that she had overlooked his size, like when you’re too focused on something trivial to see the bigger picture. She thought he was pretty tall for his age and she noticed with irritation that he answered her without looking up from his phone which was such a poor display of manners to your upperclassmen. “You’re Naruse-san from Class C, right? You are to wait in the classroom until the opening ceremony begins.” She said in a callous voice, and handing him the ribbon badge that all first years were required to put on, which made them look like these students were prizes that were to be won or were being classified as a newly product on sale. “Uh-huh” he said in a bored voice in a too informal tone. Yuki was convinced that he didn’t have a shred of manners for his upperclassmen unlike other first years that were looking at their upperclassmen with respect and even awe, imagining themselves in their shoes, next year, doing this ceremony to new faces.
As Yuki was standing there with his intended ribbon in her palm, he outstretched his palm without looking up from his game, and a shrill and excited voice of a girl suddenly filled up the air behind Naruse, shouting in a surprised yet excited exclamation, “Naruse, is that you?! We haven’t seen each other since middle school! How are you?! Which class are you in?!” as she was coming from behind him, pushed his slumped back with her palms, she couldn’t see Yuki and the next thing Yuki knew was that the outstretched palm of Naruse was on her left breast. There was silence that lasted 10 seconds around them which was broken by Naruse as he finally looked up and met her eyes and said, “Pretty big,” in a musical deep voice that was somewhere between bored and tired.
If he or the people who witnessed it were expecting some outburst, they were in for disappointment because Yuki considered it wasn’t even worth mentioning. What made Yuki this different from any other girl who would have shouted or even cried due to embarrassment if something like this happened to them, was her family. Everybody is influenced or rather remodeled into the person they are by how they grew up. Yuki was the eldest child of the Machida Family, but with triplet brothers and twin sisters, she had to grow up too fast and look after them, so she gave her ice-cream to them when they dropped their own, worked hard to keep them happy and gave up her needs for her siblings. Even when she was five years old, during a fight between her sisters, when they accidentally broke the mug that her late grandmother, who she loved very much, gave her, she learnt to keep it together and helped pick up the pieces of her most prized possession, hence she doesn’t do crying and screaming or expressing anything for something this trivial. Like a broken doll still trying to play her roles and sacrificing herself for the ones she loves.
Months passed like running rabbits, and the second term started in the warm mornings of September and the new scene called for the whistle screams coming from the gymnasium, filled with sound of huffing breaths and basketball hitting the furnished floor and the squealing of shoes. “Last ball!” Yuki shouted and the final basket called the end of shooting practice. “That’s it for shooting practice! Next we’re working on defensive drills! Pair up!”
Pairs of widened eyes and red, exhausted faces, wiping their sweat with their uniforms looked at her in disbelief. “Eh?! So tired...Manager, when do we rest?” asked Abe, a first year, fanning his face with his sweaty hand. “Abe-kun, you should focus more. The winter qualifier is just a week away and as for the break, after 8 minutes and 43 seconds.” She said looking at her stopwatch and wrist-watch at the same time. “Geh. So precise.” He said groggily, walking away.
“How scary…” said someone from behind Yuki and she looked back at him with bored contempt, at the arrogant first year looking at her with a scorned look. “Yuki-sempai, you always have such a firm look on your face. It’s only your breasts that should stay that way.” She was used to his absolute non-existent manners and non-seriousness in everything he said or did. “Shut up, Naruse. Stop loitering and get into position.” She said with a firm voice on a frigid face. He jogged away with a careless shrug and a childish and innocent tone of agreement.
Machida Yuki was the manager of her high school basketball team and whatever she did, she had a habit of committing to it whole-heartedly, with no room for other priorities, in this case, this club was it and even the likes of Naruse Shou would not deter her and she would stand unmoved and focused on her job.
The Winter Cup, or All-High School Basketball championship, was arriving soon and although their high school wasn’t supposed to participate but a qualifying high school dropped out and Yuki’s high school club entered the competition and Yuki was focused on trying her best to make sure the club does its best in the tournament. Their school had been getting better with years but they weren’t all prodigies or extremely talented. “Ah, it’s slippery here…” came a voice from the court. Yuki looked up and rushed there with a dry mop. She was admired and feared by almost all the members of the club for her dedication, dependability and tenacity in the club affairs. She was commonly referred as the ‘Big sister’ like she was a mafia boss. But right at the moment she was referred to as the ‘human jet mop’ and she cleaned the wet floor with an inch of the mop’s life.
A musical laughter filled the air, a sound that Yuki had memorized and sometimes played in her head at night, a laugh and the smile that followed it, from the other side of the court and was approaching her with a warmth that was unique to the voice that it belonged to. “You’re amazing! Working hard as usual?” Here was the reason she decided to become the manager of this club. She looked up at the smiling face of the team captain, a third year. “If you replace me on the court, we’d would definitely win, no?” He said, with a little tilt of his neck as he placed his basketball on his shoulder. “Kido-senpai…” Yuki said with an unnoticeable blush spreading across her face and her ears started to warm up. “What are you saying, senpai? As the captain you need to keep it together.” She said with a blank stare. He raised his right hand and patted her head and laughed. “I know, I know. I’m just kidding!” His sight was something, but his touch was indescribable. Like the difference between watching a tornado on television and being swept away by one in reality.
He went back to practice and Yuki was mopping the floor unnecessarily now, but with a little more force than before. Inside her head she was reprimanding herself for getting a hold of herself and letting her emotions get in the way during practice. “Ah, Captain, I’ve never seen you wear that wrist-band before. Is it a gift?” asked a first year. “Yep. It’s from my girlfriend.” Yuki froze and the mop wooden cracked a bit from the overwhelming pressure resulting from shock that was radiating through her body. A couple other members heard this and gathered around him, like bees finding a nectar filled flower that they missed at the first time. Exclamations and inquiries filled their curious questions and mild congratulations. “Is it that cute girl? I heard rumours…That rabbit-like cutie? Seriously? Since when?!”
He looked embarrassed but happy like his happiness was palpable from his skin and was surrounding him slowly. He was awkwardly scratching his face with obvious flattery. “Yesterday. She told me she liked me and then we started dating… That’s enough about me! Go practice!” He tried to sound tough but he was still embarrassed and his voice turned squeaky with joy.
Yuki was staring there with a blank looking face, like a canvas waiting for the painter to pick up his brush and paint her expressions on her long frozen face. She thought the pain in her chest was her heart shattering but it was just lack of oxygen, she breathed in and felt better but the aftermath was still stinging like a light burn that felt like the first time she got burnt when she first made dinner for her sister when she got sick and no-one was home.
She was recalling his first memory of him, and the moment she fell for him. She was carrying the map equipment that some boys had to deliver in another classroom but she volunteered to take the responsibility when she saw they had other important affairs to do. She was moving carefully through the crowded hallway and someone bumped into the box and she looked up at saw Kido-Senpai, with a smile and an apologetic look in his eyes as he held the box from falling with a single hand. “Close call!” He said with relief and then disbelief coloured his tone when he saw the box and then Yuki. “Woah! What’s with all this stuff?” He was a second year back then. Yuki apologized but exclaimed as he took the box from her hand and asked her where she was taking the box. “It’s no problem! I can do it myself!” She said with agitation and a stretching hand to receive the box back. “This is too heavy for you. Where should this go? Let’s go together.” He said gently but with a voice that emphasized that he wasn’t going to let this go. Yuki just looked at him and that was when she fell for him. Sometimes, simple acts of kindness can change everything. She found out that he played in the basketball team and asked the coach to let her be the manager. She wasn’t driven by desire to conquer him or be his girlfriend. She just wanted to be near him, as long as she could see him and talk to him, that was enough for her.
“This is what happens when you do things with an ulterior motive: Retribution.” Was what she thinking as she sat in the club room by herself cutting articles of the other participating teams in the tournament from magazines and newspapers. “Kido-senpai has a girlfriend…No, I knew that he was popular, since he’s so nice…” She thought, repeating the thought to convince herself of the reality and her dream colliding and reality winning the war. “ Rabbit-like cutie? What kind of person is that? “ She thought of this unknown girl that she couldn’t even picture that was the now the sun of his solar system and the current black hole of hers. “I always thought that being in a sports club would mean that there’s no time for dating. I can’t believe that I’m being like this.” She thought as her hands stopped cutting the article about some new prodigy in a school in the next district. She sat so still for a moment and then she raised her hand and covered her eyes as the tears started falling but a voice came from the opened door, “Yuki-sempai, why are you crying?” said a tall shadow over her head, with the same musical deep voice that she loathed.
She sucked in her tears that just reached the edge of her eyelash. “I’m not crying.” She said in a matter-of-fact voice but she said it with a nervous disposition. “Woah, what move did you just use? It was super effective. An optical illusion? Senpai, what are you doing here? It’s already so late.” He enquired in a mildly fascinated tone like he was truly interested in what was occupying her time and energy. “I was looking at the articles about the other teams. What about you? Why are you still here?” she asked him in a flaccid tone. “I was going out to eat with Abe but then I realized that I’d left my wallet.” His name was being called out from somewhere outside with a frustrated shout. “By the way, I just saw the captain and his girlfriend kissing right outside the club room.”He said in a bored voice but there was something underneath it this time.
Yuki was startled and suddenly looked towards that direction even though she couldn’t see them and then Naruse said, “Just Kidding. “ and Yuki realized what that tone was underneath his reporting bored voice. Amusement. “ Da-damn it.” She thought as she looked at him very slowly, like she was an old clock and she moved her head like a rusted clock hand, towards him, realizing what he meant and what she had done.
“Wow. So, even Yuki-senpai has things that she cries or gets worked up over…” …” he said in a mild tone as he bent down to retrieve his wallet. “But,” he continued,” liking the captain in that kind of way…it’s kind of weird…” Yuki faced him and started to speak, “No…it’s not…” but he replied, cutting her off with a sarcastic remark, “How funny. Bye. See you tomorrow.” As he closed the door and left the room with a frozen Yuki, more than usual, with her explanation stuck in her throat and finished her sentence, “ …FUNNY AT ALL.”
The next day during class she was thinking about how everybody in the club would react to her crushing on their captain, and more importantly, how Kido-senpai would react. Naruse would have told everyone by now, was what she was thinking. She pictured Kido-senpai looking at her with revulsion by misunderstanding her motive for joining the club. She would tell him the truth about her motives, make them crystal clear to him, that she just wanted to be beside and then reprimanded herself for thinking about such pointless things when there were more pressing matters approaching like the Winter Cup. Even now, she was bound to put the club, she felt dedicated to ,ahead of herself just like she did every time to the things and people she cared about and this wasn’t certainly the time to be pushed around by a brat like Naruse.
During practice, she was watching the defense and attack standoff between a third year and Naruse and he scored a basket despite the challenge thrown by the senpai and girls cheered his name as he scored. “Senpai, you call that guarding?” he said, obviously aggravating his senior. “Watch what you say.” Said the upperclassmen with half irritation and half-humour. “Hm. If Kido-senpai and other third years team up with Naruse, we might be able to win the qualifier.” She thought while carefully observing members with any signs of reacting to the knowledge of her discovered secret. So far, everybody was acting normal. Suddenly, a hand pierced the air from behind her and kido-senpai was standing behind and looking at her data notebook with wonder and respect. “Woah, the manager has to do something like this? That’s amazing! Let me see! When did you make it?” he asked in an excited voice, like it was a homework that someone had done behind his back for him. Yuki looked down at the hardwood floor with fresh embarrassment and a day old sadness, wondering what she should do because the pain in her chest started stinging again. Naruse came up to them and said in a Did-you-know voice, “It’s not only that, captain. Last night, Yuki Senpai…” Yuki panicked and acted on impulse and grabbed his uniform collar and dragged him outside gym.
“Ouch!” He exclaimed as Yuki pushed him into a wall and grabbed his collar, forcing him to bend towards her. “You, what the hell were you going to say?” she asked him in a frosty voice, bordering on rage. “I was going to say,” Yuki-senpai stayed back last night to collect info about the other teams.” He said innocently and somewhat, truthfully. But Yuki wasn’t going to let it go so easily. “Look, I’m asking you nicely. Could you mind you own business and shut it?” He looked at her and then, as if suddenly understanding what was happening, said, “Ah, you mean about the time you got dumped and cried about it?” Yuki flared up like a firework. “Don’t talk about it. Don’t you even dare say something about it.” He said nonchalantly, like he was bored again, “ If you want me to keep it a secret, I can, but…Let me touch your boobs.” She flared down and shut him down like a frozen blizzard, “Don’t get cocky.” He whispered in a bored voice, but with somewhat amusement, “How boring. And yesterday you were upset too…” Yuki was starting to turn away but turned around and asked in a disinterested voice, “Is badgering your senpais that much fun for you?” He sat down and replied in the same disinterested voice, “Whatever. Maybe I want to see what other faces you make…ONLY because it’s interesting.” Yuki went back to the gym, thinking what she always thought about him, that he wasn’t interested in being involved in anything.
After practice, it was lunch time and Yuki realized that she forgot her lunch, so she decided to go to the canteen and on the way was thinking about the events that occurred in the past week and how much turbulence was created in her distilled life lately and how exhausted she felt, when she came across two people sitting on the bench in the ground. Kido-senpai and his rabbit-like cutie girlfriend, were having lunch and were conversing happily and slightly awkwardly and when Yuki saw his girlfriend, her immediate thought was that she lived up to her reputation. She was unfathomably cute. But then she felt the pain, slightly stronger than before, in her chest, and suddenly something fell on her head from above. It was a magazine and she opened it to see a naked lady lying on a red silky sheet. “Ah, Yuki-senpai. That’s mine.” Came a voice from above and Naruse was outstretching his hand, with a packet of sweet bread grasped between his lips like a kid, to take back the magazine and behind him Abe was freaking out that Yuki saw the magazine. “What are you guys doing up there? You’ll get hurt. Hurry up and get down.” She said while rolling the magazine and handing it back to the borrower’s outstretched hand and the owner crying in the back with embarrassment. “I heard there’s no club today?” asked Naruse, looking directly at her. “Even though we don’t have practice today, the coach is coming tomorrow, so don’t be late or do anything stupid.” He was still looking at her and shrugged his shoulder and said, “OKAY.” Yuki walked away hoping that Naruse didn’t see her expression when she looked at Kido-senpai and his girlfriend. But even if he did see her face, she was trying to convince herself that it was all okay and the fact that he has a girlfriend doesn’t change anything, she just wanted to stay by his side from the start and that she had already given up from the start.
Even though there were no club activities that day, Yuki decided to paint the cheering banner for the club’s upcoming tournament. A curious voice asked an even more curious question from the doorway, “Yuki-senpai, why do you like the captain?” She looked back at Naruse with a dead stare. “Didn’t I say to rest today? What are you doing here?” He looked at her and said, “That’s MY line.” Looks at the banner and says, “Your writing. Nice. Message. Scary.”
She starts working again and says absentmindedly, “I’m making our cheering banner. Even though it’s small…Our team doesn’t have an official cheer group. Until after the tournament, I’ll do anything I can to help.” He sits down on his toes and says,” Senpai, do you think we’ll win tomorrow’s qualifier? It was a fluke that we advanced.” Her frosty voice was back again. “What do you want to say?” He said, “You just don’t want the captain to leave, right?” And Yuki, without thinking, in a state of hazy dedicated mood and exhaustion collection on her mind, said, “So what if I don’t?” then she realized that she had blurted out the truth. Nothing could take it back now. It was indisputable. She had acknowledged it out-loud. “And during lunch, you didn’t look too good when you saw the captain with his girlfriend.” Ah, he did see. “Senpai, if you like him, you should go and tell him. “ She was growing frustrated by the second. “That’s obviously impossible.” But Naruse kept pushing her towards the edge. “Why? Is it because he has a girlfriend?” She put her paint-brush down and faced him with a serious expression. “Naruse. Not everybody’s the same as you. We can’t just blurt out what we want to say like little kids. Sometimes, you need to hide how you really feel. Sometimes, you’re put in circumstances where you just have to give up and let go.” She repeated what her utmost beliefs have been and the life lessons she followed and all that she believed in.” You don’t know anything so, don’t say whatever you want.”
Yuki recalls the mug that her grandma gave her for her fifth birthday and how it was in pieces after a short while, and how she accepted it and just let it go. She pictured Kido-senpai with his girlfriend, an after-image of their lunch conversation that she witnessed and said that she’ll let it go, too. Just like the broken mug.
It was club activity period and the coach came to meet the students, he was a short, sturdy old man, who always messed up the vowels in the names. Yuki was looking at Kido-senpai and thinking that tomorrow at the match might be the last that she’ll see him. Some girls cheer for Naruse and ask him about the match tomorrow and wish him luck but then Naruse turns and looks at Yuki and she abruptly turns away. Yesterday after her preach, she realized that she must’ve sounded pretentious and reprimanded herself for losing her head over a first year. The practice ended and Kido-senpai started heading out. She called out to wish him best of luck but before she could finish it, she saw his girlfriend standing in the doorway, waiting for him and he was walking to her but it looking like he was hopping.
Yuki just stood there, looking at them, then a voice whispered at her ear, “Caught you staring. “ Yuki gets startled and scolds him for standing behind her creepily. He says in a bored voice, “You’re the one being creepy. Also this is my locker. “Then after an after-thought, he asked her in a somewhat serious voice, “So, Yuki-senpai, do you ever smile?”
“Huh?” She was taken by surprise. “I’ve seen you laughing, I’ve seen you crying, but I have never seen you smile.” Well, she felt like she was bound to give her defense to a baseless curious question, “That…if something good happens, I will smile, you know.” But Naruse was already walking away, talking about the food he was going to buy. Yuki was thoroughly irritated by being used by someone as a specimen and vowed that she would never smile in front of that brat even if they won the match tomorrow.
The next day, as the club members were on the court, the match was about to start and Yuki started to feel adrenaline as well as nervousness pick at her stomach and going all the way to her wind-pipe. She saw Kido-senpai’s girlfriend down in the cheering stands, but steered away from the thought and concentrated on the game. During the half-time, they were twenty points down and there were only twenty minutes left. The match began again and Naruse was playing with even more energy and the point gap was narrowing, and Yuki was acknowledging his skills despite keeping the grudge alive. Suddenly, she saw Naruse on his one knee. He twisted his ankle. “Naruse. You twisted your ankle. Hit the bench, I’ll switch someone in.” Yuki said, looking at the substituted player. “I didn’t twist anything. No need to switch.” He said, rising and returning back to the court. Kido called out to him, “Hey, Naruse, if you’re really injured you should---“ Without turning around, Naruse said, “Shut up.” Kido said, “What? Shut up? You turn around and say that to my face!” but Naruse wasn’t listening to him, he kept talking, “If I’m subbed out, aren’t we going to lose? And if we lose, aren’t you going to retire?” He wasn’t talking to Kido but to Yuki, this time. “If it’s like that then you’ll always have that expression on your face.” Yuki was just staring at his retreating back with a shocked face bordering on amazement.
She thinks of his question yesterday asking whether she smiles or not, and if he was doing this, despite being in pain, just to push her around for kicks? The ball got stolen, and there were just ten seconds left and all the members were exhausted and there was no chance that they’d win with no possession, but suddenly, Naruse jumped up and took the ball and landed on his two feet and started guarding and aiming for a three pointer, Yuki wondered why he wouldn’t give up even when there was no chance they were going to win, but watching him try so desperately, something moved inside her chest and she got up from her seat and lost control that she had mastered over the years and shouted, “Naruse! If you let go of that ball, then I will spank you! Despite if we win or lose, don’t let go of that ball! ” He looked at her from across the court, open-mouthed, but there were horrified faces in the cheering stands, amused faces, shocked faces of the club members and Kido-senpai was staring at her. Yuki realizes that she was never ready to let it go, she is always scared, she’s really scared of fighting so she always pretends to let it all go. Naruse runs across the court and even though scores, but they lose the match. Then, Yuki realizes what happened in the moment of weakness and she turns ice-cold and sweaty all over. She can’t stop thinking and regretting saying something like that in Kido-senpai’s retiring match. She prepares herself to say goodbye to her peaceful youth and walks away quietly to the changing room.
Meanwhile on the court, Kido-senpai was walking away but somebody calls him. “Captain…” Naruse says. He sitting down on the ground whilst covering his face and laughing hysterically. Kido looms over him and says, “Oi. You’re creeping me out. Are you really alright?” Naruse keeps on snickering but says while laughing, “No,” and covers his face in exasperation, “I’m in trouble.”
“Are you an idiot?” Yuki looks at him with a dead stare, “Your ankle is really swollen.” He whines like a child, “It really hurts!” She talks like a strict mother whose child came home with a twisted ankle and all she cares about is making him understand that his carelessness is the cause of the pain he is now. “Of course it does. Just look at it!” She sits down and starts bandaging his swollen ankle. “Where are the others?” he asks, to break the silence. “In a meeting. After that, we’re going to the hospital.” “What? Why?” he asks, in a tone which indicates he already knows why. “For you, of course.” Then after a thought, Yuki adds, “Don’t ever pull something like this crazy again.” He just looks at her for a silent second, and then says, “But…didn’t you say that you were going to spank me?” She looks at him, all cold and carefully dangerous, “Enough. Shut up and forget about it.” But he continues, clearly having fun, “But I heard that a good spanking can make me feel good.” She starts walking out, “Shut up and go to the hospital.” But, he starts again, “Ah, senpai…” and she, enraged like a lioness on fire, turns around and shouts, “WHAT?!” and as she turns her head, Naruse was already there, with both his hands stuffed in his jacket’s pockets, his hair falling on his forehead, bending towards her and he kissed her on the lips. He, then, pulled back, but not fully, he bends enough to be on her eye-level, and looked at her, directly in her eyes and says, “I’ve fallen for you.” Like it’s an irrefutable fact and it needs no explanation. Like it was a conclusion of a really complex maths equation. Like it all made sense. But it didn’t. Not to Yuki. She just looked at him, with the most expressionless face, edging on disbelief, and thought, “…Oh God.”