"Hokudai?" Mitsuo said, then tried not to blush when he heard the obvious dismay in his voice.
"What's wrong with Hokudai?" Ichi asked.
"It's just so far away! Why would you want to go to a university in Sapporo when there are dozens of closer schools?"
"They have a good soccer league there."
"What, you mean there aren't any good soccer leagues in the Kanto region?" Mitsuo demanded incredulously.
Ichi shook his head. "No, there are. But..." He trailed off.
"But what?" Mitsuo asked when it became obvious that Ichi wasn't planning to finish his sentence.
"I just want to go somewhere new. Try something different."
Mitsuo felt himself deflate with Ichi's words. Hasunuma, who'd been oddly quiet ever since Ichi had made his announcement, put an arm around his waist, and Mitsuo leaned into the comforting embrace.
"I guess I can understand that," he said, even though he couldn't, really. Attending college would be more than enough of a life change, to his mind. Was it truly necessary for Ichi to go halfway across the country, as well? "It's only... I really wanted the three of us to go to school together. We'd have a lot of fun, don't you think?"
"Yeah, it would be great," Ichi said softly, and Mitsuo growled a little in frustration.
"If you really think that, then why are you leaving?"
"Because I want to," Ichi snapped. "Can we just leave it at that, please?"
Before Mitsuo could answer, Ichi had stormed out of the room. Mitsuo blinked. "Um...Hasunuma?"
"What just happened?"
"You mean, other than you taking Ichi literally when he was trying to be sarcastic?"
Mitsuo frowned and tried to dredge up the exact wording of their conversation. Less than a minute later, he had to concede defeat. "When was that?" he muttered.
"When he said it would be great if the three of us went to the same school."
"What? But it would be great. We're all best friends--why wouldn't we want to go to college together?"
"Maybe Ichi has his reasons for thinking otherwise," Hasunuma said diplomatically.
"And you know what those reasons are," Mitsuo said.
Hasunuma made a non-committal noise.
"And you're not going to tell me."
The non-committal noise was a little more committal this time.
"Right," Mitsuo said, throwing his hands up into the air in exasperation. "Why should I expect you to talk to me, after all? It's not like you've ever managed to do it before when it counted."
"I have to preserve an air of mystery somehow," Hasunuma said, his voice fond, and Mitsuo pretty much had to kiss him for that.
"I don't suppose you know what's going on with Ichi?" Mitsuo asked Yoshida, the most recent ghost to latch onto him.
"Now, is Ichi the tall, handsome one or the shorter, pretty one?" she asked.
"Errr..." Mitsuo said.
Yoshida laughed. "No, sorry, that was just a joke. I know which one's which."
It wasn't an especially funny joke, but Mitsuo didn't say so. He was slowly learning tact when it came to dealing with ghosts. Instead, he smiled politely and said, "So, do you know what's wrong with him?"
"Hey, I'm not the psychic!" Yoshida said, and burst out into laughter again.
Mitsuo gritted his teeth and resolved to move her along to the afterlife as soon as possible.
At last, she calmed down, giving one last hiccuping sigh. She shrugged. "Maybe he's just taking the break-up hard. Boys do sometimes, you know."
"Why, yours," she said, giving him an odd look. "Weren't the two of you together?"
"No! Hasunuma's my first boyfriend."
"And, besides, Ichi's straight."
"Oh, Mitsuo," Yoshida said, once more breaking into peals of laughter.
Mitsuo made a face and walked away. Rude, yes, but far better than whatever he'd say to Yoshida if he had to listen to her laugh at him for even a second longer. Fortunately, she was too busy rolling on the ground and pounding the pavement with her fists to follow after him.
The conversation with Ichi was brief, which was about all that could be said for it. Mitsuo stared at his knees the entire time, and when he said, "It'll all turn out okay," at the end, Ichi answered:
"Yeah. Of course," bleakly enough that Mitsuo's throat tightened in sympathy. He left the room quickly after that.
"So, I talked to Ichi," Mitsuo said.
Hasunuma looked up from his homework. "Yes?"
"Yeah." Mitsuo picked up the pen on the edge of Hasunuma's desk and fiddled with it. "How come you didn't tell me he had a crush on me?"
"You're going to get ink all over your hands," Hasunuma said. Mitsuo glared pointedly at him, and he sighed. "I didn't say anything because it wasn't my secret to tell."
"Mmm," Mitsuo said. There was a long pause. "So, what do we do now?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, we can't just pretend that we don't know. ...Can we?"
The pen was in pieces on the desk by now. Mitsuo reassembled it quickly, glancing at Hasunuma from under his eyelashes. He didn't say anything.
Hasunuma's eyes narrowed. "Mitsuo, do you want to break up with me and date Ichi?"
"No!" Mitsuo took a deep breath and tried to make sense of his confused emotions. "I just don't want Ichi to be lonely the way I was before we..."
Hasunuma laughed suddenly, and Mitsuo tilted his head to look at him. "You know, there is a very simple solution to this problem."
Hasunuma raised an eyebrow.
"oh. Oh! But won't that be...weird?"
"As opposed to all the other elements in our lives?" Hasunuma asked delicately.
Mitsuo considered the evidence and admitted to himself that Hasunuma had a point.
Hasunuma took his hand. "I like Ichi, too, you know. Not in the same way that I like you, but I don't want him to be lonely, either."
"But wouldn't that make you...jealous, or something? At least a little bit?"
"Not if I were there, too."
"Oh." Mitsuo's stomach quivered a little at the thought. Hasunuma and Ichi, curled around each other in bed, all dark hair and eyes and pale skin and perfect features... And then he imagined himself in the bed with them, Ichi's warm hands on his skin and Hasunuma's kiss against his mouth. The nervous, vaguely nauseated feeling went away. Mitsuo smiled. "Okay. Maybe that wouldn't be too bad."