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“We’re not competitive.”

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Gen and Ichiro have always been competitive, enjoying the thrill of trying to beat each other at almost everything they do. Whether it is something conventional, like a running race or seeing who can get a date first, or something a bit different, like eating contests and seeing who can stay awake for the longest, you can pretty much always find them trying to one-up each other, often with ridiculous results.

Not long after joining the Breakers, the rest of the team discover this fact too. The two of them hurtle around the locker room after practise, and only stop running around when Shou says, “What are you doing?”

“Yeah, I don’t wanna sound like your mother,” Haru says. “But… it’s kind of dangerous to run around in here. You don’t want to—”

Before the sentence is even out of Haru’s mouth, a thud echoes around the locker room.

“Shit!” Gen yells, wincing.

“What happened?” Kazu cries, racing over to him.

They all find Gen slumped on the floor whilst Ichiro kneels beside him, both of them groaning in pain.

“We… kinda crashed into each other,” Gen says, rubbing his shoulder.

“What did I say?” Haru says, sighing.

The two friends get to their feet, both of them wincing.

It turns out they were seeing who could run fifty laps of the locker room the fastest, only to run straight into each other. Kazu, Haru and Shou all look at each other, wondering why the hell their teammates are so stupid.

---

A week or so after that incident, Haru and Kazu sit together in Chinese class, struggling to pay attention. Things only get worse when Ichiro, sat beside them as always, starts making rather annoying sounds. He keeps wriggling in his seat and fidgeting, his breathing is heavier than usual and he occasionally makes wincing sounds.

Eventually, Haru turns around him his seat and whispers, “Ichiro, please stop it. You’re distracting us.”

Ichiro looks up, and Haru stares at him. His friend is red in the face and grips his pen so hard his hand trembles, and basically looks rather uncomfortable.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

“Yeah, of course I am,” Ichiro says, smiling. “Sorry.”

And when Haru turns back around, he and Kazu share a glance. Something must be going on. Ichiro is either sick or in pain, or, more likely, he and Gen are doing some ridiculous contest again.

He and Kazu run into Ichiro again in the cafeteria at lunchtime, this time with Gen. They sit side by side at a table, Gen shoving a whole rice ball into his mouth as Ichiro fails to do the same. Ichiro spits his rice ball out and says, “How the hell is your mouth so big, man?”

Gen can’t talk, the rice ball making his cheeks bulge like a hamster, but he smiles.

Haru shakes his head at this stupid scene, but then focuses on Ichiro’s body language again. Just like in class, his face is flushed and he sits with a sort of hunched posture, as though he has a stomach ache. They haven’t been having an eating contest, have they?

Once Gen has eaten the rice ball, he gasps and says, “I win.”

“Oh shut up,” Ichiro says, but he smirks.

Haru glances at Kazu, who grins and says, “They’re very competitive, aren’t they?”

“We’re not competitive!” Gen calls, having heard him say that.

“Uh, I think you are,” Haru says, eyebrows raised.

Still, he and Kazu sit down opposite the pair, and start to eat their lunch. Just like Ichiro, Gen keeps fidgeting in his seat, and his body language seems tenser than usual. Something very weird is going on, isn’t it?

Haru watches as Ichiro picks up his bottle of water and takes the tiniest sip – but when he sees Gen staring at him, he takes a big swig. They look at each other, and Haru wishes he could decode their facial expressions. Just like him and Kazu, these two know each other inside out.

“Are you two okay?” Kazu asks. “I only ask because, well, you seem a bit weird today.”

“You haven’t done anything to hurt yourselves, have you?”

“Why’d you say that?” Gen says.

Haru shrugs. “You keep wincing and look uncomfortable. You’ll be okay for practise later, won’t you?”

“Sure we will,” Ichiro says, and he nudges Gen. “This’ll all be over long before then.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gen says, nudging him back.

“Well, you’re gonna bail soon, right?”

“No way. I can wait much longer than you.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Then prove it,” Ichiro says, and he slams a new bottle of water on the table in front of Gen. “You can manage this, right?”

Gen frowns. “What, all of it?” But then he smiles. “Of course I can.”

As Haru and Kazu stare, Gen opens the bottle and starts gulping it down. He finishes it in a few seconds and gasps, wiping his mouth.

“See.”

“What on Earth is going on over here?” Shou says, appearing with a tray in his hands and a frown on his face.

“We don’t have a clue,” Haru says, shrugging. “Ask those two.”

Shou stares at Gen and Ichiro, and sighs. “You two need the bathroom, don’t you?”

“Huh?” Haru and Kazu say, and Gen and Ichiro stare at Shou with wide eyes.

“What?” Gen says.

“You’re clearly desperate to urinate,” Shou says. “So I suggest going before you pull a muscle.”

Haru stares at Shou. And then at Gen and Ichiro, who have started jiggling their legs under the table. And then it hits him. “Are you two having some kind of pee holding contest?”

Going red, Gen and Ichiro give him a thumbs-up.

“You got it.”

He sighs. “You idiots. Honestly.”

But, to be honest, it doesn’t really surprise him. These two totally seem like the sort of people who would play a ‘who can hold their urine for the longest’ game; after all, they’re totally competitive.

“So just go to the bathroom and call it a draw,” Shou says. “I won’t be impressed if you miss practise because of a UTI.”

Gen and Ichiro look at each other, and say, “Fine.”

But then Ichiro looks at Gen. “Hey, race you to the bathroom.”

And the two of them jump to their feet and hurtle out of the cafeteria with distinctly awkward gaits, leaving Haru wondering what the hell he has gotten himself into.