“Really, Aoi, it's only polite.”
“I know, Onii-sama, but I already thanked Fujiki-kun for that time I collapsed. I don't see why chocolate is necessary as well.”
“Calling an ambulance for a potentially life-threatening situation garners more thanks than just a verbal thank-you, wouldn’t you agree?”
They stared each other down, Akira with his arms crossed and Aoi with a pout, until with a huff, Aoi threw her arms in the air.
“Fine! I’ll give him the chocolate.”
Aoi walked slowly through the different aisles of the grocery store, dragging out the list crumpled in her hand by walking back and forth across the store to get each and every item. Unfortunately, she was running out of items after an hour, so she decided to give up the ghost and walk into the red and pink section devoted to the next day.
It took a while of wading through hearts and paper cards before she got to the back where the wall of chocolate loomed. Not wanting to waste any more time than necessary, she grabbed a small red box and tossed it in the basket, turning to navigate the maze of commercial love out as she did.
Another struggle against cupid later, Aoi walked over to the registers. There was a bit of a line, so she moved to stand behind a tiny old man carrying a load of beach supplies. An odd choice at this time of year, but she wasn’t about to judge.
The line crawled, hardly moving due to the people wrestling a ridiculous amount of red and white lace out of their shopping carts. Finally though, the person at the front wrestled their purchase into bags and Aoi took several steps forward, only for a hand at her elbow to pull her back against someone’s side.
“Aoi-chan! What a surprise seeing you here! How has school been going?” Ema’s chatter filled her ear, and she pulled Aoi out of line to keep talking. There goes her chance at checking out.
Aoi lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “There hasn’t been anything worth noting. You?”
Ema laughed at that. “Oh, you know, same old adventures but in brand new places and different people.” Ema took the chance to loop their arms together, tugging Aoi back among the aisles she had just escaped.
Aoi let out hums and nods at the right times as Ema talked, walking through the store like she owned the building. She still kept stealing glances at the registers every time they were in sight, but for the most part she was content with just walking around the store listening to Ema. The older girl was always fun to hang out with.
But of course, the little red box was too glaringly obvious to ignore for long. Ema let out a gasp when she saw it, plucking it straight out of her basket. “Aoi-chan you little devil! Why didn’t you tell me about your little crush?!” Ema paid no attention to the heads turning their way, but Aoi couldn’t focus on anything else. “Oh don’t worry, Nee-san will give you some great advice on what to say! You’ll sweep him off his feet!”
Even more heads turned at her loud exuberance. “Ema, that’s not it. These are thank-you chocolates for the classmate who called the ambulance for me that time.” She paused, thinking it over. “And I doubt anyone could sweep him off his feet, that kind of thing goes right over his head.”
Ema’s eyes rolled. “Of course, he’s a boy after all. But~” Ema elbowed her in the side, “you’re so cute that he won’t be able to resist!”
Aoi huffed, shoving Ema’s shoulder away. “Stop it. I don’t even like him. We’re just in the same club at school.” She turned around towards the front of the store. “And if you don’t mind, I should probably get going-”
“Wait wait wait! Aoi-chan, didn’t you say this was the boy who saved your life?” Ema had a hold of her elbow again, and was frowning as she turned the little box over in front of her face.
“He called the ambulance, yes, but you’re exaggerating. Why?” Aoi pulled her arm free, making a swipe at the box still held by Ema.
She only took a step to the side to dodge, still with that frown. “Aoi, these are such generic chocolates though! Did you just grab the first box you saw?”
“And what if I did? They’re perfectly good chocolates, they’re in a red box, and there aren’t a lot of them. There aren’t any problems with my choice.” She felt a weight settle into her stomach though, and took a step back even though she didn’t know what she was wary of.
Ema clicked her tongue. “Nope, this sort of thing requires more consideration than that. Come on,” She grabbed Aoi’s shoulders from behind and started steering her back to that dreaded corner. “I’ll help you pick out the perfect box of chocolates!”
The next few hours were spent going through the pros and cons of each box on the shelves.
Yusaku was not expecting confetti to shoot at him when he opened his shoe locker that morning. It was so unexpected, in fact, that he swung his bag up as a shield before it registered in his brain that the small pieces of paper were not a threat.
Further down the row of lockers, Takeru glanced up at the sound and let out a laugh at the color dotting Yusaku’s uniform. “Wow, they’re going at you from the gate, huh?” He patted Yusaku’s shoulder as he walked past, bag in hand. “Good luck Yusaku, hope you make it through the day!”
Yusaku blinked, looking after Takeru in confusion for a few more seconds before turning back to his multi-colored locker. There was a party popper rigged up on top of a pink box, clearly the source of the rainbow coating the front of his uniform. At the reminder of the flecks, he patted his shirt down as he grabbed his shoes out from under the container, eyeing the pink atrocity like it would explode again. You never knew, with what his life was like it actually might.
He tried to figure out the strange phenomenon as he walked to class, studiously not looking at the other students in the halls as per usual. Until he turned a corner to be met by a rather enthusiastic couple.
In his hurry to focus on anything other than what had just scarred his eyes, he noticed that several of the girls in the hallway were also carrying little boxes bags in similar colors to the one that he had found in his locker.
Oh no. That was today.
He ducked into the classroom while still avoiding all eye contact with anyone, especially the few who had taken hesitant steps in his direction as he passed. As long as he gave them no openings, they would give up. It had worked in middle school after all, so it would suffice here as well.
He approached his usual spot in the last row, only to stop and stare. There were two more boxes, red and white this time, at his seat. This did not bode well for how things would go.
His predictions had turned out to be right, unfortunately, if what he was looking at now was any indication. There had been one box (brown cardboard with designs drawn in marker on the lid) in his gym locker when he went to change, and now that gym was over there was a gold box inside as well. The earlier box had been stabbed with a pencil and his once-folded uniform was crumpled in a messy pile.
Unfortunately he had to change into the disgraced garments, but he left the later box and the pencil in the trash, putting the earlier box in his bag as an apology for someone having their gift be treated so poorly. He might not like the holiday, but it seemed rude to try and sabotage someone else like that.
There was one more box in his seat for the next class, and after lunch there was one more. He didn’t know if his bag could last until school got out.
Overall he was just grateful that no one had wanted to risk giving him chocolate in person so far. His glare and Shima’s volume had their uses in the most unlikely ways.
Finally, the horrible day drew to a close with the last bell and Yusaku was immediately packed and standing from his seat, turning to the door with a haste that he usually reserved for Hanoi’s mass attacks on Link VRAINS. A grip on his shoulder stopped him before he could take a step though, and Shima was suddenly very useless.
“Fujiki! Where are you running off to! The club is meeting today, and the prez has a super great meeting planned, come on!” And Yusaku found himself being dragged out and the wrong way down the hallway, to the clubroom instead of the front door.
At least he could count on avoiding all the girls who had been eyeing him like a meal for the last few minutes of class. He shrugged out of Shima’s grip, but kept walking beside him. Apparently that meant that he had given Shima his undivided attention all of a sudden, because he went from boisterous conversation starters to continuing his rant from earlier as soon as Yusaku fell into line.
“You’re so lucky Fujiki! I can’t believe that you got so many chocolates today, I guess that your personality can be useful sometimes!” Shima bellowed as he walked to the door of the clubroom.
“That depends on the definition of lucky…”
Shima just laughed, opening the door. He greeted the prez and other members as he made his way to his usual spot towards the front. Yusaku tried to edge his way into the back corner that he always lurked in during these meetings, only to find his way successfully blocked for the first time that day.
“Fujiki-kun, can I talk to you for a moment?” Zaizen-san asked. She had her feet planted firmly, and the gazes of the rest of the club at her back. There was no way to get out of this one, it seemed.
“Sure.” He stepped to the side, allowing her to lead the way out of the room.
Zaizen-san took them up a set of stairs and around a corner, then stopped to turn back to him. “Here.” She thrust a silver, cellophane-wrapped box at him. “My brother insisted that I give you chocolates today as thanks for helping me out before.”
Yusaku blinked, confused. That was over half a year ago, and hadn't Zaizen-san already thanked him for that? He made no move to take the box, instead asking what was on his mind.
She huffed. “That's what I said too, but apparently that wasn't good enough for him.” She shook the box, still holding it out to him. “Please just take it, you can throw it away afterwards but if I bring it home it will be troublesome.”
Good enough for him. “Alright then.” He took the box from her, shoving it into the side pocket of his bag since there was no room left on the inside.
They both stood there for a moment, neither sure what to say. Yusaku took the initiative and turned on his heel. “Well, I'll be going then. Have a nice day, Zaizen-san.”
She came up beside him and walked towards the staircase as well. “Mind if I join you until we get off campus? Going back to the club after that is a bit…”
He shrugged. “I don't mind, let’s just get out before Shima can drag me back.” She nodded, and the rest of the way out of the building was silent. Some people stared as they walked through the courtyard and whispered behind their hands, but they quickly left them behind at the gate.
“See you, Fujiki-kun.” Zaizen-san said as she turned to the left.
Yusaku nodded. “Yeah, you too.” He went right, swinging his bag up over his shoulder.
Finally free of the school, a black and purple head popped out of his bag. “Despite being no fun at all, people seem to like you, huh?”
“Are you sure you want me to take these, Yusaku? They were for you, after all.”
“Yeah, Yusaku-chan, you can’t just discard the feelings of those girls so easily~”
“None of them actually gave them to me in person, so they never gave me any feelings to discard.” Yusaku tied the apron behind him. “Also I don’t really like sweet things. So you two might as well enjoy them.”
Takeru turned one of the boxes over in his hands, worried. He’d turned down a couple boxes that had been presented to him earlier, because they weren’t from people that he had feelings for, or even knew. It felt weird to accept these now.
Yet, when three of the boxes were shoved into his hands, he took them. Kusanagi-san got two as well. Ai poked his head up out of the duel disk, eyes curved up over where his mouth should be. “What about the other boxes, Yusaku-chan? Keeping those for yourself~?”
Takeru looked over at Yusaku, raising an eyebrow. The other only sighed. “One of them was vandalized when I left it in my gym locker, the other was thank-you chocolate from Zaizen-san for helping her out a while back. Out of all of the ones I got, they’re the only ones that wouldn’t be too awful to keep.” As logical as normal, and unusually considerate.
But, there was a part of that explanation that made his stomach tighten. “Zaizen-san gave you chocolate?”
“No, go back, someone vandalized a box of chocolate that was in your locker? Is the rest of your stuff alright?” Kusanagi-san broke in.
Ai piped up, “Oh yeah, she stabbed the top of the box with her pencil as soon as she saw it. I was super glad that she didn’t look in the bag where I was, but Yusaku-chan’s uniform-” Yusaku slapped his hand down over Ai, face twisted up like he’d eaten something really awful that he wanted to spit out.
He cleared his throat, now looking like he had swallowed whatever it was. “I’ll be getting rid of this uniform when I get back to my apartment.”
Takeru shifted, putting his arms onto the counter. His question still hadn’t been answered, but he guessed that it could wait. “You should tell the school. That’s something that they need to know for security and stuff.”
Yusaku frowned at him. “Lots of people broke into lockers today. One more complaint isn’t going to matter very much.” And well, that was true.
“Just get a lock for now, and if anything else happens then you can start worrying about this person.” Kusanagi-san piped in. “One thing you should worry about though is white day, seems like you have a lot of gifts to return.”
Yusaku sighed. “At least I don’t have to make them, that would take too long. I’ll just take an extra programming job this month to pay for the chocolate.” He grabbed the tongs and threw some hotdogs on the grill, focus redirecting to the food. “What is even good about chocolate, anyway? It’s so… “
“Chill out, geez, Yusaku-chan you need to learn how to take a joke, I’m just trying to train you to respond like a human being.” Ai crossed his arms with a pout.
Flame decided to add his two cents. “That may be so, Ai, but please don’t make such jokes around Takeru. He can’t handle them either.” Everyone turned to look at Takeru, who quickly covered up his burning face.
“Aw.” Ai drooped. “Sorry, Takeru-chan, I’ll try not to embarrass you too much next time.”
“There won’t be a next time, Ai.” Yusaku warned in a voice that promised a nasty virus if ignored.
“Speaking of things that are going to happen, Yusaku, why don’t you take Takeru with you when you go get the chocolate?” Kusanagi-san interjected. “He’s more familiar with sweets than you are, after all.”
“And I’m sure that he’d be more than happy to help select chocolate for one of his idols, right Takeru?” Flame looked over at him, eyes drawn up in a wicked grin.
Yusaku hummed in thought, turning the hotdogs over. “That would be useful. Would you mind, Takeru?”
Yes, I would. “Sounds good! Hopefully nothing happens in a few weeks from now to get in the way.” He crossed his fingers behind his back, praying to SOL and the Knights like he never had before.
“Don’t worry Takeru-chan, if anything happens then Ai will take care of it!” Ai slapped his tiny fist against his chest as he spoke.
“No, you will come notify us so that I don’t have to take care of whatever mess you turn it into.” Yusaku didn’t even look up from the grill.
Takeru internally sighed in relief at the rapidly escalating argument, glad to get away from the topic of chocolate. There was a quiet chuckle to his left, and he turned to glare at Flame. The Ignis just gave him a smile and shook his head. “Cupid has a tight grip on you, Takeru.”
Takeru tried to will away the heat in his cheeks. “No, he doesn’t.”
“If you say so.” Flame laughed again.
Takeru huffed as he turned away from his Ignis, pretending to focus on the argument again.
Cupid, catching him?