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A Broken Game of Telephone

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_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

“It’s lacking something,” Ken said as soon as he put the manuscript down. “If Suzuki is leaving, even for just a week, I think you can expound on their feelings before and while he’s leaving. That’s where the emotional weight of this scenario is.”

“Ah.” Nozaki nodded in appreciation. While writing this chapter, he focused on what would happen after Suzuki went to the student council camp without Mamiko. He wanted to show the tension from the situation of the protagonists being in two different prefectures. He saw no reason to add more to the couple’s goodbye.

As expected, Ken-san found a way to make the chapter better. Ken-san was truly the most adept of editors. He always knew what Nozaki was lacking. Together, they made the best team.

“This is a whole arc. Don’t rush the chapters,” Ken added.

“Thank you for the advice, Ken-san.”

Now, all Nozaki needed to do was find inspiration and references for this. He worked best when he based his characters on what his friends do in real life, after all. It made the lines feel authentic and made their romantic progress organic.

Luckily, he had the perfect pair in mind.

 

“Are you sure you have everything?” Mikoshiba poked at the hockey bag in front of him. It was full, but Nozaki understood Mikoshiba’s worry. Mayu had no sense when it came to things he truly needed. There was a big chance the bag was filled with hockey paraphernalia and nothing else. “Have you charged your phone? Did you bring your charger?”

“Still charging,” Mayu said, not even bothering to look up from where he was laying on the couch.

“I bet you’ll forget it and leave it charging tomorrow,” Mikoshiba said with narrowed eyes. “Phones aren’t needed in hockey, right?”

Mayu did look up then. He looked serious when he agreed, “Yes, it’s not.” But before Mikoshiba could retort, he added, “I won’t forget.” His gaze was heavy with hidden meaning.

Nozaki surreptitiously took a photo of his expression. Sakura had changed his camera’s setting to turn off the flash specifically for situations like these. In his notebook, he jotted down ‘I won’t forget something so important’ accompanied with a doodle of Suzuki’s face.

Mikoshiba blushed to the tips of his ears as he looked away. Nozaki took another photo.

Eyes darting here and there as if panicking, Mikoshiba abruptly stood up and exclaimed that he had something he needed to get from his room. He ran out, his footsteps loud in the quiet room.

Nozaki watched all of this with rapt attention, all the while scribbling on his sketchpad. Living with his brother gave him all the inspiration he needed.

He didn’t realize why he was inspired whenever he spent his afternoons with his brother and Mikoshiba until he mentioned this to Sakura. She explained that it was because their feelings for each other were akin to a shoujo manga couple. (“You know,” she had said quietly, raising an eyebrow. “They like each other. The way Mamiko and Suzuki do.”)

He was conflicted at first. Mayu was his precious little brother, and Mikoshiba was his precious friend and the living embodiment of Mamiko. They were too important. But Sakura had convinced him that they should let the relationship grow naturally and simply watch over them.

If watching over them gave him new and exciting plot points for his shoujo manga, well, that was just a bonus.

As he was thinking that, the door slammed open. Mikoshiba walked back with a purpose, a small clear plastic box in hand. His face was red from both embarrassment and running around their dorm. He was even shaking a bit—the perfect image of a shoujo manga heroine gathering the courage to do something for their love interest.

“It’s your turn,” Mikoshiba said. “Take care of it.”

He raised the box until Mayu took it from him. Nozaki finally saw what was inside: a hockey puck with white tape around it, his own handwriting proclaiming it “Nozaki M’s 100th goal” on one side and “Mikoshiba’s 100th assist” on the other.

It was proof of their shared milestone.

Wakamatsu had called it a ‘gift of destiny’, and Seo had called it ‘sentimental trash’. Nozaki was inclined to agree with the former. It really did seem like fate when Mikoshiba passed the puck to a waiting Mayu during their last game of the season. Whenever Nozaki thought of that moment, he could not help but imagine confetti falling from the skies and sparkles appearing around the two as they hugged. It felt like a magical moment. It felt like something you would only see in drama finales or romantic movie endings.

“Mm,” Mayu hummed as he took the box and placed it in his bag. “I will.”

Mikoshiba smiled softly and sat down on the floor, his arm splayed beside Mayu on the couch.

 

The next day, Nozaki finished four whole pages, scanned it, then sent it to Ken-san.

This is really good, was Ken-san’s reply. You’ve got the soft yearning down perfectly. Good job.

Nozaki rejoiced. He got a good job from Ken-san! This was a cause for celebration. He would have to treat Mikoshiba and Mayu out for dinner soon.

 

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Mikoto-san

Have a safe trip!

Make sure to make RomanU proud :)

Score ALL THE GOALS

You didn’t forget your phone, did you? :|

Me

I didn’t forget

Mikoto-san

>:(

If you have your phone, REPLY!

Me

k

Mikoto-san

aahhhhh you can be so annoying sometimes!!!

Have fun!!! Don’t forget me!!!

Me

I won’t forget

Sleep well, Mikoto-san

 

 

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_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

Being the assistant manager to the Roman Royalties Hockey Club was all part of the plan. Chiyo became a fan of Nozaki the moment he helped her up when she fell down the ice during her first try at ice skating. It was love at first sight. Applying for the assistant manager position was an obvious step to get closer to him.

Being an assistant to a shoujo manga artist was not in the plan. Chiyo had the stupid idea to confess before she got the assistant manager position, and used the words I’ve always been your fan as if it was normal to be a fan of the manager instead of the players. That series of bad choices led to a very unfortunate misunderstanding.

Nozaki, alias Yumeno Sakiko, took her to his dorm room and showed her his manuscripts. (It was—fortunately or unfortunately, Chiyo was still not sure—not a euphemism for anything.)

Now, almost two years in, she was not only the assistant manager but also an assistant illustrator.

She wasn’t complaining, though. She spent entire afternoons with Nozaki, in the rink and then in his room. It was a dream come true.

 

Being a relationship advisor was definitely not part of her dream, though.

“He’s driving me crazy,” Kobayashi complained, glaring at Mikorin’s direction. “Today is already the worst. I don’t need to see him pining over his boyfriend.”

Hori, the captain of their team, placed his hands on his hips and gave Kobayashi a stern look. It was amazing how he could make himself look big and scary despite swimming in his goalie gear. The huge pads were a funny contrast to his small stature, but his aura was scary enough that opponents never noticed. No one in the team made fun of him either (except for Kashima who had no sense of self-preservation).

“Don’t say that. Ma-Mikoshiba is delicate,” Hori said, stuttering over the name as usual. “I’ll talk to him.”

Chiyo immediately raised a hand to get their attention, eager to stop Hori before he could add to the damage. Their captain was level-headed and the most mature member of the club, but Mikorin was his blind spot. He was either too pushy or too protective, and neither helped when Mikorin was in one of these moods.

“I’ll do it!” she offered. “It’s my duty as assistant manager, right?”

Besides, she was the one who watched the Mikorin/Mayu relationship blossom. She knew how to handle it by now.

 

Approaching Mikorin when he was hiding by the benches was akin to approaching a scared street cat. There were even tall piles of pucks around him like walls built for his protection. Whether it was protection against Seo’s blunt opinions or Hori’s ill-advised meddling, she wasn’t sure.

“Hey, Mikorin?”

There was no response, but she could see him peek through the gaps to look at her.

“Do you want to eat dinner with us? Coach will treat us for the win today. You did really good.”

It took a few seconds for him to react, and his voice was shaking when he asked, “Even if I passed to that guy in the other team?”

“You’re just not used to playing without Mayu-kun,” she soothed. Honestly, she didn't want to remind him of his boyfriend’s absence, but this was important. Every player made mistakes. Changes in the lineup always brought about these types of issues. “No one’s fast enough to catch your passes.”

Mikorin curled in on himself. “For a second there, I thought he was Mayu,” he admitted quietly. He sounded ashamed.

“He did look a bit like Mayu-kun, didn’t he?” Chiyo was not going to mention the fact that their jerseys were different colors. Nope. She understood Mikorin’s longing. She missed Nozaki too, after all.

“Kobayashi’s pissed at me, isn’t he?”

Chiyo frowned and turned towards the others to glare at Kobayashi. She could see Hori do the same.

Kobayashi paled and hurried back to the locker room.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “He’s just annoyed that there weren’t many girls in the stands today.” And he’s jealous you’re in a relationship, she added in her head.

Mikorin didn’t reply.

“They’ll be home soon, you know? The Team Japan Camp ends tomorrow.”

“...I know,” Mikorin said, after a few moments. “Mayu told me.”

“We should keep morale up so they’ll come back to a good atmosphere, right? You’re our ace now without Kashima-kun and Mayu-kun here.”

As soon as she said the word ace, he visibly perked up. She did a quiet victory fist pump.

“Really?” he asked, peeking at her from the top of his hockey puck barricade. It made him look even more like a street cat in a cardboard box.

“Yeah,” she confirmed. “Of course. Mayu-kun trusted you to hold the fort, didn’t he?”

He smiled brightly and stood up, nodding to himself. “Of course, of course. I should guide all the lost lambs, right? I’m an ace and a senpai. I need to be there to praise them.”

“Right! You should change so we could go to the restaurant already!”

Chiyo watched, satisfied, as Mikorin ran to the locker room.

 

Despite not wanting to be a part of their relationship drama (if you could even call it that), Chiyo was still invested. She had a front-row seat to their relationship: she was there when they first met two years ago and she had watched them go from acquaintances to lovers. She was even there when Mayu first asked Mikorin out.

(It was shocking when she first realized what was happening. Mikorin had turned red when Mayu asked if they could go out together to look at some art Mayu was interested in. Chiyo didn’t even know Mayu was interested in art. He never showed interest in anything other than hockey, his brother, or Mikorin.

Later, she figured it was an excuse to finally ask Mikorin out. She really should have seen it coming.)

Besides, Mikorin was the basis of Mamiko, the main character of Nozaki’s shoujo manga. Mikorin’s growing relationship with Mayu had added depth into Mamiko and Suzuki’s relationship. Their continued happiness was vital for the manga’s success. And the manga’s success was vital to her relationship with Nozaki-kun.

Above all of that, she was invested because she saw how much Mayu made Mikorin smile. Mikorin was her best friend now, aside from Seo, and she only wanted what was best for him.

She only joined this team to be with Nozaki more, but she guessed it wasn’t that bad being able to help Mikorin with his relationship, too.

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Me

When’s the last day?

Mayu(mayu)

Tom

Me

We’re going up against NittaiDai.

Kobayashi said you should text him back.

Good luck today! ヾ(≧∇≦)ゞ

We won \o/

Mayu(mayu)

I saw. You got a goal.

Congratulations, Mikoto-san. You did well.

Me

Thank you (灬ºωº灬)♡

Mayu(mayu)

9

Me

9 what?

Did you get 9 goals in the practice game Σ( ̄□ ̄;)

Mayu(mayu)

Arrive

Me

OH! You’ll arrive at 9am? Or pm?

Mayu(mayu)

pm

Me

Do you want me to wait for you?

Mayu(mayu)

y

dinner

Me

lol you sound sleepy :p

You probably want take-out, huh?

I’ll get your favorite meal!

Mayu(mayu)

tnx

 

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_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

It was extremely unfair if you asked Kobayashi.

The crowds were back today, now that their aces were home from their elite camp. Groups of girls crowded their rink, some even holding banners professing their love. Majority of them were for Kashima, of course. Kobayashi had already given up on understanding why the single most popular member of their team was a girl (?) who flirted with other girls (???). The one time he tried to ask about it, Hori-senpai had glared at him so hard that Kobayashi could feel his soul leaving his body.

So, no, that was not what he wanted to complain about.

The most unfair thing was the number of girls who had banners for Mayu.

Mayu!

That lazy-ass guy who had a boyfriend!

He was in a relationship with their teammate! And even if he wasn’t, he was too lazy to even care about the fans screaming for his name! He never even smiled at them or looked at them. Kashima was famous because she doled out fanservice like candy, but Mayu was nothing like that.

What did they see in him?!

Sure, Mayu had gotten academic awards during their first semester, but that was only because Mikoshiba, Sakura, and Nozaki tricked him into thinking he wouldn't be able to join the hockey club if his grades were less than exemplary. When he realized it wasn’t true, Mayu had gone back to being an average student. Mayu slept through classes more often than not, even more than when they were in high school.

And sure, Mayu was objectively good-looking, and his boyfriend was the same way, but that only meant they were compatible and will never break up, right? They were perfect for each other, no matter how annoying it was to watch.

None of the girls (or boys) who buzzed around the arena with We Love #4 Mayu! had any chance with him.

Maybe that was the appeal. Maybe because he was handsome, smart, athletic, and out of their reach, everyone wanted Mayu even more.

“Maybe I should get a boyfriend, too,” Kobayashi muttered, looking at the stands where a girl was trying to get Mayu’s attention.

“W-what?!” Mikoshiba suddenly appeared at his side, eyes wide. “You— I didn’t know you were interested in—”

“I’m not!” Kobayashi replied defensively. “Not that there’s anything wrong with being interested in boys,” he added because he knew how sensitive Mikoshiba could be. And how protective the entire team was. “Liking boys or girls is fine. I’m not judging.”

“Right,” Mikoshiba said, looking confused now. “Sure. But uh. Why did you say that, then? I thought you were looking for a girlfriend?”

“Social experiment,” Kobayashi said, shrugging.

Mikoshiba looked even more confused.

Kobayashi sighed. “Nevermind. I think Mayu’s waiting for you.”

Lighting up in that way he only does when Mayu is mentioned, Mikoshiba glanced down the ice to see Mayu standing by the net, staring at their direction. He was idly lining up pucks in front of him with his stick.

“Yeah,” Mikoshiba said. “I’ll— uh. Go.” He hurried down the ice, waving at the people in the stands as he did. He bumped Mayu’s side, then stole one puck from Mayu’s pile, carrying it as he did figure-eights around that side of the ice. Mayu followed after him with a puck of his own, as he always did.

Kobayashi could see the front-row fans taking videos of it, whispering amongst themselves and squealing in glee. He knew they found Mayu and Mikoshiba’s pre-game ritual adorable. Even he could see how beautiful it looked, the way they moved around each other as if they were dancing.

They looked lost in their own world, Mikoshiba calming down and relaxing as he forgot the presence of the audience. The heavy competitive spirit around Mayu lessened but in its place was comfortable ease that made his movements more fluid. They made each other better in ways that no one else could.

Ugh. Even the usually flashy Mikoshiba ignores the crowd whenever he’s around Mayu. Why can’t those fangirls see that?

 

They won the game 3-2 in overtime. Mayu got the winning goal from a Mikoshiba assist.

“Mayu-kun! Mayu-kun!”

Kobayashi glanced at the seats near the tunnel where three beautiful girls were leaning on the railing to get Mayu’s attention. As per usual, Mayu was too engrossed in discussing the game with their other teammates to notice.

“Do you have a girlfriend?!” One of the girls shouted. The other two laughed and teased their friend, shoving at each other.

Mikoshiba looked up with a frown. There was dejection written all over his face.

Damn, so there are people who can’t see the obvious, huh? Kobayashi thought. “He’s taken,” he said when he walked by them, quietly saying it so that Mikoshiba doesn’t hear. He knows how easy that guy could get embarrassed. “Don’t get your hopes up.”

 

The worst part about this was that for all his complaints, Kobayashi knew that this was his fault. They wouldn’t have started dating if it wasn’t for his meddling. Mikoshiba would never have asked Mayu out if it wasn’t for The Mamiko Incident.

When they were in high school, Mayu drew illustrations to help their teammates visualize how to get better goals. They were very risque (as per their requests) but they were also professional-looking. Kobayashi compiled and posted them in a blog. Mayumayu, he’d put as the name. He had the brilliant idea to pretend Mayu was a girl. It was the best way to appear approachable to the girls he wanted to meet.

In the same way, Mikoshiba (for reasons Kobayashi still didn't know) posed as a college girl named Mamiko.

Kobayashi introduced the two to each other in a bid to meet college girls through Mayu.

Instead, all he got was a betrayal.

He had followed Mayu when he agreed to meet with Mamiko, and he saw how Mikoshiba (blushing to the roots of his hair) explained the situation. Mayu took his hand to calm him down and asked if they could still continue texting. Mikoshiba muttered something Kobayashi was too far away to hear, but soon after, Mikoshiba dragged Mayu to a couple’s café.

And that was that. The rest was history. A sad, tragic history where Kobayashi met no normal single girls and where he had to watch as all the cute girls in the audience pined after his best friend who was so obviously in love with his boyfriend.

Life was truly unfair.

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Mikoto-san

Wanna eat lunch? My treat

You did well ^^

Let your senpai reward you :D

Me

ok thank you

Mikoto-san

Hey

One of my classmates asked for your number

Me

no

Mikoto-san

She’s really cute! Do you want me to introduce you?

You’re in college now! It’s ok to date sometimes

Meet new people!

Me

no need

Mikoto-san

lol you’re fine with who you have?

Me

mikoto-san is enough

Mikoto-san

ah

Me

mikoto-san?

?

 

 

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_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

Mikoshiba-senpai and Mayu had the kind of relationship Hirotaka was aiming for. They were comfortable around each other, and they made each other better. Mayu earned higher grades because Mikoshiba motivated him for class, and in return, Mikoshiba’s skating form improved due to Mayu’s continued coaching. Mikoshiba relaxed around people when Mayu was around, and Mayu would go out whenever Mikoshiba invited him. Being together made things easier for them. It made them step out of their comfort zones and deal with things together. It was admirable.

Which was why it was difficult to watch them be on bad terms.

Not that it was obvious, of course. Mikoshiba pushed himself to smile and practice despite the general air of awkwardness around him, and Mayu tried to talk to him despite Mikoshiba making excuses to do something else.

It did not feel good to see their star couple acting like this.

“Did they finally break up?” Seo asked, watching Mikoshiba hide behind their manager as Mayu passed by.

Hirotaka gasped and raised both hands up. “Don’t say that! I’m sure it’s just a fight!”

“I mean, that’s where it starts, right?” Seo said with a shrug. She sounded bored, as if this was not an emergency of epic proportions. “Mikoshiba’s real sensitive, isn’t he? I bet he’ll dump Nozaki’s lil bro soon.” She snickered as if she found the thought hilarious.

No.

This was the first time they had a fight like this! They wouldn’t break up that easily, right?

 

“They’re still being weird,” Hirotaka whined a few days later, pulling at Hori-senpai’s sleeves. “Captain! Do something!”

“What am I supposed to do?” Hori asked, annoyed. He glared at where Mayu was still practicing his stick work. “If Mayu broke his heart, then all we can do is support Ma-mikoshiba.”

“Who said Mayu-kun broke Mikoshiba-senpai’s heart?”

“What else could have happened?” Hori raised an unimpressed eyebrow at him.

“Mikoshiba-senpai was the one running away from Mayu-kun! Mayu-kun kept on approaching Mikoshiba-senpai, didn’t he?! We’re not sure it’s Mayu-kun’s fault!” Honestly, Hirotaka thought for sure that Mikoshiba was hiding something from Mayu. It was the most probable reason for his unusual behavior.

“He should have tried harder,” Hori huffed. “If he was the one approaching, that meant he was the one who did something wrong, right?”

“You can’t be sure of that!” Hirotaka argued. “Maybe they just need to talk it out! I can make them talk!”

“Sure,” Hori said. “Meddle all you want.” He sounded dismissive, like he was already sure this won’t work.

Well, Horitaka had an arsenal of shoujo manga materials to help him understand love problems. If there was anyone here who could help, it was him.

 

Practice showed no improvement with regards to their star couple. On the ice, Mayu was in perfect form and was able to complete drills easily, but as soon as the coach whistled to stop, Mayu drooped and trudged towards the benches as if the only thing he wanted was to sleep.

Mikoshiba was worse. He was twitchy and missed a few passes. His emotions were always obvious on his face, and it was affecting everyone in the team.

Hirotaka had to move fast. He skated towards Mikoshiba.

“Hey,” he greeted. “You okay?”

“Fine.”

He did not look fine.

“If you have a problem, I’m willing to listen, you know? You’re always so nice to me, senpai. The least I can do is help when you’ve got something on your mind.”

Mikoshiba’s eyes immediately watered, looking up at him with a helpless expression.

“We should go to the locker room,” he said, gently pulling at Mikoshiba’s arm.

As soon as they arrived at the empty locker room, Mikoshiba started talking. It was like a dam bursting after days of keeping it in.

“I don’t know how to act!” Mikoshiba exclaimed. “Mayu told me something and I was so confused that I started avoiding him but he kept trying to talk to me and I didn’t know what to do so I ran away and— And I panicked and then—” He flailed his hands around as if to explain the convoluted mess this had become. “He probably hates me now!”

He whimpered. “Mayu’s my— Mayu’s important. I don’t want our relationship to change just because I’m like this.”

Hirotaka still had no idea what the fight was about, but he knew what to say, at least. This happened all the time in shoujo manga. As the self-declared friend of the protagonist, he had to gently urge them forward.

“Senpai,” he said, “Mayu-kun wouldn’t understand what you’re feeling if you don’t talk about it with him. Rather than fearing this uncertain future you think will happen, isn’t it more important to hold on to what you have? It’s important, isn’t it?”

Mikoshiba was quiet for a while. And then, “You’re right,” he said, with a resolute nod. “I’ll talk to him.”

Hirotaka sighed in relief. Thank god for shoujo manga.

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Me

I’m really sorry.

Mayu(mayu)

It’s ok

Me

But it was really mean of me!

It’s not good senpai behavior!

I know you said it was fine but it feels like idk

I should make it up to you?

Mayu(mayu)

Dinner

Me

That’s fair! :D

I’ll come by your room in 20 minutes!

Mayu(mayu)

See you later, Mikoto-san

 

 

_  _/ _/ _/

_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

Things were finally back to normal. Nozaki-kun was back from hockey camp, Mayu and Mikorin had made up, and the team was doing well in the standings. If they won against Tsukuba Tigers in their back to back games, they would have a sure spot in the playoffs.

Everything was going well.

Better, even.

The past few days, they didn’t realize Mayu was not at his best, because he still focused and never made mistakes. Now, though, they knew. They knew that the lover’s quarrel was holding him back. It became obvious as soon as Mikorin made up with him and Mayu scored a hat trick the next day.

It became obvious when Mayu started accumulating points in a streak. If he continued like this, he might have a chance at breaking the school record. Maybe even the league record. Mikorin was right there with him, too. Even though he didn’t have a point streak like Mayu, he already had more points this time than he had all of last semester.

Kobayashi complained about the enthusiasm of his line mates but it was obvious he was basking in the glory too. Their line was the most productive line in the team.

“This is good,” Nozaki hummed at Chiyo’s side as they watched Mikorin, Mayu, and Kobayashi celebrate another goal. “Really good.”

“Yeah,” Chiyo agreed. “If we win tomorrow, we’ll clinch our spot for the playoffs.”

Nozaki blinked. “Oh,” he said. “Right.”

“You weren’t talking about that…?”

“I was thinking about the next chapter of Let’s Love.”

Ah. Honestly, that made sense. Nozaki was not as invested with this team’s success as she was. He was here for the reference materials more than anything else.

“New inspiration?”

He nodded. “I’ll probably finish the draft tomorrow. Do you want to come over and help with inking?”

She smiled. “Of course!”

 

Surprisingly, Mikorin and Mayu were not in Nozaki’s room when she arrived. They usually hung around here whenever there was a new manuscript to be worked on. Instead of the two, Hori-senpai sat in front of Nozaki, already working on the backgrounds.

“Good evening, Nozaki-kun, Captain,” she greeted, sitting down beside Hori. She prepared her area quickly, already used to picking up pens and compiling the pages at her side. “Mayu-kun’s not helping?”

Nozaki shook his head. “He went out with Mikoshiba.”

“Seemed like a date,” Hori added, smiling down at the page he was working on.

“I’m glad they made up.”

“Yeah,” Hori said. “I heard Seo talking with Kashima about locking them up in the storage room if they didn’t stop sulking.” He shivered. “Glad they made up before that happened.”

She laughed. Seo would say that, and probably even really do it if she got annoyed enough.

“Locked together…” Nozaki murmured, eyes shining like he was daydreaming about a plan.

“You can’t lock your brother and Mikorin in a room just to get reference photos,” Chiyo said, knowing the kind of trouble Nozaki could get into when he latched on into an idea.

“I can lock you two inside one,” Hori offered jokingly. “Don’t you have the keys since you’re the manager?”

“Sakura,” Nozaki said, suddenly serious. “Do you want to join me?”

Of course!, her stupid heart shouted. “What?” her slightly-smarter brain asked.

“Let’s do it.”

“Wa-wait! You really want to get locked together?” Hori asked, leaning forward as if he could not believe what he was hearing. How was he not used to Nozaki’s impulsive decisions yet?

“It’s a learning opportunity,” Nozaki said. “Ken-san said I should always use those.”

She doubted Ken-san was thinking about this type of situation when he said that, but there was no point arguing with Nozaki when his mind was made up. She sighed and accepted her fate. One of these days, Nozaki would definitely drag her into a storage room and it would be exhilarating and frustrating in equal measures. She was used to that feeling now.

How come Mayu got all the romantic sense? How did Mikorin get so lucky?

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Mikoto-san

Thank you for joining me :)

Dinner was fun!

Me

treat you next time

Mikoto-san

Oh???

But I’m the senpai! Don’t worry about it!

Let me pamper you ^^

Me

tnx

Mikoto-san

Were Sakura and Hori still in the room when you came back?

Me

yes

Mikoto-san

I should have went with you then :’(

Me

rest

Mikoto-san

fiiiineeeeeee

 

 

_  _/ _/ _/

_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

Kobayashi already had 1 goal under his belt in this game, plus an assist on Mayu’s goal. They were up two points to Tsukuba Tigers’ zero. Both teams were fighting for a spot in the playoffs and it showed. Their plays were aggressive, focusing on speed and hits rather than a stalwart defense.

The Roman Royalties were better, though. Mayu was in perfect form. Kashima’s competitive spirit burned brighter the longer Mayu was in the spotlight. Hori continued being the stable foundation of their team. Seo and Wakamatsu chipped at every weakness they could find.

Tsukuba was being forced into a corner. And as cornered prey did, they desperately fought back with a one-minded focus on escaping this trap the Roman Royalties set on them.

With desperation came irrationality.

Sato, a hulking defenseman, skated towards Mikoshiba at full speed despite Mikoshiba having already passed the puck towards Mayu.

The loud collision was followed by fearful silence. Mikoshiba fell flat on his back on the ice.

Before the referee could even call for the stoppage of play, Mayu was already rushing towards Mikoshiba’s side.

“I’m fine!” Mikoshiba said, sitting up with a groan. “Nothing’s broken, I think.”

Instead of walking away to the penalty box or saying a grudging sorry, Sato glared down at the two with a haughtiness Kobayashi could recognize. It was the look of someone whose pride was bruised. Weak men often sported that expression around Mayu. Faced with a superstar, their ugly insecurity surfaced.

“Can’t take a hit?” Sato sneered. He stood there with no remorse whatsoever. “Need your boyfriend to kiss it better?”

Mikoshiba paled, expression twisting as if those words were a harder hit than what he was dealt with earlier. He was about to retort as he shakily stood up, but Mayu was faster.

Their ace, their number one forward who had never initiated a fight because he found the tradition a liability and an unnecessary risk, dropped his gloves and tackled Sato to the ground.

Kobayashi froze.

At the side, he saw Seo jumping the boards to join the fight, a manic smile on her face as she wielded her stick like a baseball bat. Wakamatsu followed after her as usual but he had a muted expression that spoke of a willingness to join the fight if needed. Hori skated from the other end of the ice, his gloves flying off as he rushed to the growing circle of fighting players.

An expression of panic was on Sato’s face as he raised both of his arms to ward off Mayu’s punches.

Kobayashi slowly skated around the fight, deftly dragging a dazed Mikoshiba away from the ice. His teammates could handle this. He had another job to do.

 

Mikoshiba was quiet all through the check-ups. His expression remained unchanged: eyes unfocused, brows furrowed, and lips turned down in a frown. Kobayashi wanted to stay by his side to make sure he was fine, but the game would start back soon. With things as they were, his unbiased thinking would be essential for their powerplay to stay intact.

Mayu was a force on his own but temporary lapses like this were too rare for him to shake off easily. Kobayashi had long since taken the mantle as Mayu’s voice of reason. This was going to be the hardest situation yet.

He came back to see their coach, captain, and manager all pushing Mayu to stay on the bench. One of their trainers was wrapping his wrist with tape.

“What happened?” Kobayashi asked Sakura.

“We think he sprained his wrist while fighting,” she answered, her eyes darting from Kobayashi to Mayu to the ice where Kashima was leading the powerplay. “He’s trying to get back,” she added, giving him a pleading look she only ever used when she was at the end of her patience.

With a sigh, Kobayashi went straight to Mayu. The others readily moved to the side to give him space.

“Mayu,” he said with a tone like he was talking to a troublesome child, “Mikoshiba needs you at his side. Is the game more important than making sure he’s fine?”

It worked.

Of course, it did. Mayu cared about three things: his brother, hockey, and Mikoshiba. And out of those three, Mikoshiba needed him the most right now. Their team was winning even without him, and he could not help with a sprained wrist anyway.

Kobayashi could see the moment Mayu remembered Mikoshiba’s expression earlier. His anger dissipated but the sharp focus remained. He nodded then stood up without another word. As soon as their trainer finished taping his hand, he walked off to the tunnel towards their locker room.

“Thank you,” Sakura said. She handed him a towel and his water bottle as they sat and waited for his turn on the powerplay.

“It’s nothing. I’m not sure why you didn’t say that.”

Sakura grimaced. “I don’t really understand Mayu-kun as much as you do. He looked…”

Yeah. Mayu only showed that kind of stubborn fierceness when pushed too far. Kobayashi had only seen him look that way once before, and never this much. She must have been frightened to approach the usually expressionless Mayu when he looked like a panther ready to pounce.

“He’s the same guy,” Kobayashi huffed. “His priority is still his boyfriend.”

“That’s true,” Sakura said with a laugh. “I should have known that. He did fight for Mikorin. Sato-san looked traumatized.”

“He deserves it.”

The coach called for the next line. Kobayashi pushed all thoughts of their star couple off his mind and focused on getting a goal to avenge his linemates.

 

They won the game 5-1 with two goals from Kobayashi, two goals from Kashima, and a goalie goal from Hori. Their captain was determined to make their win as decisive as possible. And having a goalie score on you was one of the most embarrassing things a team could experience, so that worked in their favor as well. Hori really wanted the Tsukuba Tigers to suffer.

“Good job,” their coach said as soon as they were in the locker room. “The playoffs will start in a week. We’ll know who our opponent is as soon as tomorrow’s game ends, so you can come by tomorrow but only to discuss strategies. No one is allowed on the ice, okay? Rest up. I know you all need it.”

There were groans of protest from the others but they all understood it was necessary. Today was grueling in all kinds of ways so they needed a cool down.

“How’s Mayu?” Kashima asked.

“It’s just a wrist sprain. He’s lucky he didn’t break a finger, that kid,” their coach sighed heavily. “He’ll heal before the playoffs if he listens to the doctor.”

“How about Mikoshiba-kun?” Sakura asked, noting down everything on her clipboard.

“He got a nasty bruise but nothing broken. We thought he might have a concussion, but he was just…” He grimaced. “He’ll need rest, anyhow. Make sure he doesn’t come back here for at least three days.”

Sakura nodded.

Kobayashi waited until their coach left before he quickly took off all his hockey gear and ran for the showers. The sooner he finished changing, the sooner he would see the situation with his own two eyes. He knew they were fine, but he wanted to see it for himself.

With the speed by which everyone else changed, it was obvious they were thinking the same thing.

 

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

 

Mayu(mayu)

Mikoto-san

Where are you?

Me

I’m fine!

Passed the concussion test and all

They brought me to the main infirmary

Did we win?

WAIT I JUST HEARD FROM COACH

WTF MAYU

Don’t text!!!!!!!!

I’ll go to your dorm room!!!!!!

 

 

_  _/ _/ _/

_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

Hirotaka thought he’d seen it all when it came to Mikoshiba and Mayu. They were tactile and openly sweet with each other. They walked to classes together and Mikoshiba waited outside Mayu’s class when it was time to go back to the dorms. They ate out together often. Their hockey was like magic, the way they always knew where the other was. Their chemistry on and off the ice was obvious to everyone around. They were practically a married couple.

Apparently, there was another level to it.

He should have known. This was a common shoujo manga plot point, wasn’t it? An injury towards their beloved brought forth feelings that were usually hidden and suppressed.

Despite being comfortable with each other, Hirotaka had never thought of them as ‘lovey-dovey’. They jumped from ‘friends’ to ‘old couple who had been together for at least a decade’ without anything in between.

Mayu’s injury seemed to have clicked on a switch called ‘honeymoon period’.

“Seems useful,” Seo said, stopping by Hirotaka’s side to watch the couple as well. Mikoshiba was sitting on the bench with Mayu leaning on him. On Mikoshiba’s lap was a handmade bento that he was picking at to feed Mayu. “So that’s why little Nozaki keeps Mikoshiba around.”

“Come on, senpai. It’s sweet.”

Seo frowned. “I didn’t say it wasn’t,” she said. “I’m just saying having a boy toy makes things easier.”

Hirotaka gave up on arguing against that. Seo’s thinking was too different with… well, anyone, to be honest. As long as she said it far away from Mikoshiba, it was safe.

He continued watching as Mayu sleepily opened his mouth and as Mikoshiba fed him the last bite of an onigiri. Mayu chewed on it with closed eyes. Mikoshiba stared at him, his entire face bright red. The image was too soft, too intimate somehow, that Hirotaka had to look away.

 

It wouldn't have been a big deal if only the team noticed. They were all used to the two being affectionate and loving in their own way. Their most avid fans had their own conclusions, but most of the others only saw Mayu and Mikoshiba as inseparable best friends. Hirotaka thought it was willful ignorance.

No one could ignore the way Mikoshiba walked with his arm around Mayu’s waist now, though. No one could ignore the way Mayu laid his head on Mikoshiba’s lap when they sat in the courtyard.

In the cafeteria, Mikoshiba bought two lunch sets and fed Mayu with his own chopsticks.

Most of the team members—except for Sakura, Nozaki and Hori—started sitting in another table because of how awkward they felt around the lovey-dovey couple and the attention they garnered from everyone.

“He’s doing that because Mayu-kun can’t use his dominant hand,” Hirotaka heard one girl say as she passed by them with her friends. She huffed and rolled her eyes before walking out of the cafeteria.

Kobayashi laughed wryly. He elbowed Hirotaka and whispered, “Mayu’s ambidextrous.”

“Ambidextrous?” Hirotaka blinked. He also thought Mikoshiba was only feeding him because of Mayu’s sprained wrist. It was an embarrassing thing to do, after all. He could not imagine Mikoshiba doing it for no reason.

“Yeah,” Kobayashi said. “He started using his left hand when we were in elementary because he got tired of using his right hand.”

That… would be a ridiculous story from anyone else, but this was Mayu. It made perfect sense that he became ambidextrous because he didn’t want to use his dominant hand for a while.

“Then why…?”

Kobayashi snickered. “Why else? He finally found a reason to get spoiled by his boyfriend.”

“Ah. Usually, Mikoshiba-kun is too embarrassed but with Mayu-kun injured…”

“Yeah. Exactly. His true colors came out.” Kobayashi laughed some more.

“It’s cute,” Hirotaka said, smiling. Those two really had the most admirable relationship. He resolved to watch over them and support them from now on, too.

 

As with every new thing that happened with their team, it only took three days for everyone to get used to the couple’s new dynamics. Being flexible was one of their team’s prized strengths. With someone as unpredictable as Seo and someone as impulsive as Kashima, they had to be flexible both on and off the ice.

Unexpectedly, it was Mikoshiba who never stopped being awkward. He was finally permitted to practice on the ice with the team so he spent less time fussing with Mayu, but perhaps precisely because of that, Mayu wanted to be spoiled more when they met after practice.

It seemed to be too much for Mikoshiba.

This assumption was confirmed the next day when Hirotaka saw the older man sitting behind a tree in the courtyard, head tucked in between his knees. He seemed to be hiding.

“Uh, senpai? Are you okay?”

Mikoshiba startled, looking up so fast that the back of his head hit the trunk he was leaning on. His cheeks and ears were red. His eyes were wide with surprise.

Hirotaka kneeled down beside him with slow and careful movements. It felt like he was approaching a skittish kitten who would bolt away at the slightest noise. Vaguely, he wondered where Mayu or Sakura was. Mayu and Mikoshiba had been attached at the hip this entire week. Sakura, on the other hand, was always beside Mikoshiba when he had these moods. This was her expertise.

He considered himself a primary supporter to the MayuMiko couple, though. He would do his best to help them whenever they needed it.

“Wakamatsu-kun,” Mikoshiba said, voice wobbly.

“What happened?”

“I think something’s wrong with me.” Mikoshiba groaned as if in pain then hid his face between his knees again.

Hirotaka shuffled closer in worry. “Are you sick? Are you hurt?”

Mikoshiba shook his head and sniffed. He seemed to be crying now.

“Uhhh, senpai?” Hirotaka wondered if he should call someone over. This was way above his expectations.

But then he thought about his beloved shoujo manga and his self-proclaimed role as the protagonist’s helper. This was a key moment. Mikoshiba needed that push forward so that their love story could continue smoothly. Hirotaka was being given an important role. He needed to be strong for them.

“I told you, didn’t I? You could always tell me if you have problems. I’ll listen, okay?”

It took some time but Mikoshiba did look up with a dejected expression. Hirotaka sat beside him properly and waited him out.

“I think something’s wrong with me,” Mikoshiba repeated. “Mayu was injured because of me and he’s having such a hard time and yet I—” He sniffed and his voice wobbled even more. “He’s having a hard time but I feel happy.”

“Happy?”

“It’s unfair,” Mikoshiba continued without acknowledging Hirotaka’s confusion. He was on a roll now. “I’m the reason he’s hurt but I’m taking advantage of his vulnerable state to— I’m a bad person.”

It was then that Hirotaka understood the issue. Like a lightning strike, images of different scenarios passed through his mind until it settled into the only possible conclusion: the usually shy Mikoshiba was enjoying having an excuse to be tactile with his boyfriend, but that enjoyment was stained by the fact that his boyfriend got hurt because of him. It was a complicated issue worthy of a whole arc.

“I shouldn’t be near him,” Mikoshiba said. “It would be best if I avoid him, right?”

“No!” Hirotaka gasped and shook his head vehemently. “That is the opposite of what you should do!” He understood where Mikoshiba was coming from but avoiding the love of your life was the number one no-no when it came to these situations! It would only lead to unnecessary drama!

“But…”

“I’m 100% sure that he wants you to be on his side always!” Hirotaka insisted. “You help him so much! I don’t think Mayu-kun would survive without you, honestly.”

“Isn’t that bad?” Mikoshiba asked. “If I’m making him dependent on me… When I…” He groaned and hid his face in his hands.

Hirotaka felt like crying. They love each other so much but they want to have a healthy relationship! How admirable! His respect for their star couple grew more and more the longer he knew them.

He placed a hand on Mikoshiba’s shoulder and said, “The two of you get to decide what is good or bad. It’s a relationship, senpai. You shouldn’t decide that yourself and push him away. Won’t he get hurt if you ignore him?”

Mikoshiba’s eyes widened in understanding. He nodded and took a deep breath.

“You might be right. I should… I should talk to him.”

“Good luck, Mikoshiba-senpai!”

 

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Mikoto-san

What kind of ice cream?

Me

choco

Mikoto-san?

Where did u go?

Something happen?

Please reply

Mikoto-san

Sorry :( I had something to do! I gave Nozaki-kun the ice cream

Don’t worry! I’ll see you tomorrow?

 

 

_  _/ _/ _/

_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

When someone suddenly grabbed her arm and dragged her into an empty storage room, Chiyo was fully expecting it to be Nozaki fulfilling his plan of locking themselves inside a room. Her heart was beating fast as she looked up in anticipation—

Only to be immediately disappointed.

“Mikorin?”

He looked down at her with wide panicked eyes. It was an expression Nozaki would love to get a picture of, the perfect mixture of helplessness and purity. Chiyo resisted the urge to take out her phone.

“What is it?” She pitched her voice as gentle and calming as possible. “Did something happen?” She had noticed that Mayu didn't watch the team today and that Mikorin didn't rush off back to the Nozaki’s dorm room as soon as practice ended. Everyone noticed the weird behavior. Kashima was going to ask Mikorin about it but Waka told her to let it be for now. ‘Sometimes, the best thing we can do is watch over them,’ he’d said with a zen-like expression.

Chiyo shook her head and focused back on the situation at hand.

“What did you want to talk about?”

“I think I’m in love with Mayu,” Mikorin blurted out—as if this was news; as if this was a revelation and not the conclusion you’d get after spending five minutes with them.

She stared at him and waited for more explanation.

There was none.

“So?” She urged.

He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and stared back at her. It seemed as if he was waiting for a different reaction.

“Of course you’re in love with Mayu,” she said. “He’s your boyfriend.”

He stepped back and hit his back on the pile of boxes behind him. Eyes wide, he shook his head vehemently as his face increasingly turned red. He flailed his arms around like that would add to his point.

“What?” She was starting to worry about his weird behavior. Did he hit his head during practice?

“He’s not my boyfriend!” Mikorin exclaimed, somehow turning even redder.

“What?” Did he have amnesia?! “Mikorin, let’s go… We should have your head checked. The nurse is still—”

“Nothing’s wrong with my head! What’s wrong with yours?!”

Chiyo froze at the panic in his voice and in his movements. This looked like the kind of reaction he got when he was overwhelmed and embarrassed. It was a normal reaction for him. Which meant he thought he was saying the truth.

“You’re dating Mayu,” she repeated. “Everyone knows you’re dating Mayu.”

“I’m not dating Mayu!” He insisted. “Why would you think that?!”

She… she was speechless. She didn’t know where to start. The entire campus thought they were dating. The entire college hockey league thought they were dating. How did Mikorin never figure it out?

“Mikorin,” she said, quiet and careful, “you’ve been going on dates every week for almost a year now.”

He opened his mouth, then closed it. Then said, “We eat out! As friends!”

“You planned your schedule around his and you walk him to and from classes.”

“Because he’s lazy and he’d fail if I don’t push him to class!”

“You spend more time in his room than in yours.”

“You spend as much time there as I do!”

She groaned, already getting tired of his weak reasoning. “Well, I’m trying to become Nozaki-kun’s girlfriend! What’s your excuse?!”

“I—” He stopped, face going all wobbly as he tried to think of a response. Completely overwhelmed, he crouched down on the ground and groaned into his hands. “I wasn’t trying to become anything,” he said. “I just liked staying there. I went there even before Mayu started going to this school, didn’t I…”

Okay, now she felt bad for shouting at him.

She took a deep breath to calm down and sat in front of him. It was not entirely his fault that this confusing scenario happened. Maybe they all jumped to conclusions.

“You’re right,” she said. “But you’ve been spending more time with Mayu than any of us.”

“He’s my best friend,” he whispered weakly.

“Is he?” She always thought she and Nozaki were his best friends. In Sakura’s opinion, Mayu’s interactions with Mikorin were too different to be put in the same category even before they started ‘dating’. There was always a tension between them. “You really think he’s your best friend?”

His answering mumble was too quiet to be coherent.

“What?”

“He’s important,” he said.

“You’re in love with him,” she said, because that was the point of this conversation, wasn’t it?

“He’s an important friend and I don’t want to weird him out.” He was looking down on the floor with the most heartbreaking expression she had ever seen on him.

A part of her felt bad for him and wanted to give comfort.

A bigger part of her was screaming ‘Weird him out?! WEIRD HIM OUT?! After everything?!!!’

She took another deep breath.

“You think he’ll be weirded out that you like him?” After he spent this week napping on your lap every chance he could get? After texting you every day when he could not be bothered to reply to anyone else? After he risked himself and gotten injured just to fight an opponent that made you feel bad?

Chiyo was calm. She could do this. She would not shout again, even if this is the most ridiculous conversation she had ever been in.

“I’m sure he doesn’t like me that—”

You know what? Actually, no.

She could not be calm.

“Mikorin!” She leaned forward and put her hands on his shoulders. She looked him right in the eyes. “Shut up!”

He gaped at her in shock.

“He likes you! You like him! Everyone knows this!”

“But—”

“No!” She exclaimed. “Mayu definitely likes you! Confess now!”

He moved back and away from her as much as he could, his earlier shock and confusion replaced with fear. “Uh, Sakura…”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Confess. Now.”

“I can’t just confess out of the blue!”

“You’ve been dating for a year!”

“We weren't dating!”

“Confess! Now!” She gripped his arms and shook him violently. “It’s the only way to fix this!”

“We’re at the start of the playoffs!” He shouted as a last resort. He looked pale as if he’d seen death. “I’ll confess when we win the championships!”

That made her pause.

Although she was sure they loved each other and this would only end in their star couple finally being together officially, she was not sure their team would understand the change. She herself was having a hard time understanding how this happened. It would make Hori angry to realize that Mayu never confessed despite being that tactile with their Mamikoshiba. She didn’t even want to know how Kobayashi would react. That guy might have a heart attack. They needed him in the lineup if they wanted to win.

She needed this championship. She needed this team to reach the top.

She scooted back until she was leaning on the door. Immediately, he clutched his chest and took huge heaving breaths.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll help you.”

“Help me…?” He still sounded shaky. “Confess?”

She nodded. “We’ll do it right this time.”

It was time to reap the rewards of being a relationship advisor.

 

With Chiyo’s guidance, things went back to a relative normal. Mikorin was overly conscious now and he blushed every time Mayu touched him, but everyone was used to his usual level of embarrassment. No one noticed any difference. If Mayu noticed, he didn't say anything.

Although awkward about the whole thing, Mikorin was enamored with the idea of planning a proper confession.

“I can use all the skills I’ve learned!” he proudly proclaimed. “I’ll sweep him off his feet!”

She wondered about that as she watched Mikorin stutter through a reply to Mayu’s question.

Is this going to work? she wondered.

Then, seeing Mayu's fond expression, she shook her head and smiled. They were literally dating already. This was for formality’s sake.

And more importantly, for her enjoyment.

 

Mayu was cleared to practice the morning before the start of the playoffs. As if no time had passed, he did stick drills and took shots on the goal with no lag or hesitation. It was as if the injury did not happen at all. The news lifted everyone’s moods.

With their ace back in top form, Seo on the hunt for blood even more than usual, Wakamatsu defending the top line like an angel of death, and Kashima vying for their captain’s attention through competing with Mayu, it was no surprise when they breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Mayu continued his point streak as if he never left, and the Mayu-Mikorin-Kobayashi (lovingly called MaMiKo line by the team) continued leading the team to victories.

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the final round was the polar opposite of that trend. The Waseda Warriors already watched their plays with their trademark analysis and figured out how to best counter them. They put their most hard-hitting defensemen to shadow Mayu, provoked Seo to take as many penalties as they could get away with, and fought for the puck near the net to crowd Hori and piss off Kashima.

They lost their first game 5-1, with a lone goal from Wakamatsu.

It was the last few weeks of the season and they were all running on fumes. No matter how good their team was, there would come a time when their tremendous talent would falter too.

But Chiyo was hopeful.

She could feel something coming. It was that anticipation right before a good plot twist in a book. Their superstars were being countered, but there was someone the Waseda Warriors could not account for.

Shoujo manga protagonists had rules of their own.

On their second game, Mikoshiba Mikoto scored a hat trick and spent every celebration hugging Mayu with all the love and affection in that big heart of his. Hori, seeing that determination, stayed strong in his net and never let any goal past him.

Tactics and analysis went a long way in sports, but Chiyo trusted the power of Mikorin’s passion. It was that crossroads where Mikorin had to choose whether to back down or rise up to the challenge. It was his moment to shine.

And because he was their inspiration, their muse, it was their moment to shine as well.

This was their championship.

 

Every time Mikorin was on the bench, Chiyo would look at the back of his neck where a thin silver chain could be seen peeking through his jersey. She would watch as he placed his palm above his chest as if gathering strength. His eyes sharpened with focus.

“I’ll confess when we win the championship,” he had said.

When not if. He had complete trust in their capability to win, and he was betting on it for his confession.

His relentless desperation for one more goal, for one more win, felt like a bid to prove himself.

She watched proudly as he stole the puck and went on another breakaway.

 

 

If you asked her what the most memorable part of winning their first league championship was, she wouldn't answer ‘the winning goal’ even though the tricky play Seo and Waka did to pass the puck towards an awaiting Mayu was truly a beautiful goal. She wouldn't answer ‘the moment Captain Hori passed the trophy to a sobbing Kashima’ even though it was a memory she would always hold dear.

She would not answer ‘the hug Nozaki-kun gave me’, despite how happy that made her feel.

No. Rather, it was what happened after the trophy had been passed down to every player and the announcer called on the team for one last award.

The team lined up beside the chairman of the league, Hori skating towards the podium to put the trophy back on the makeshift table on the ice. They were all sweaty from exhaustion but the joy in their faces shone through.

“In recognition of his outstanding performance in the regular season and the playoffs, we would like to present the Most Valuable Player award to…” The chairman paused for effect, smiling at the audience. “Mayu Nozaki!”

Everyone cheered for their MVP.

It was what everyone expected.

What they did not expect was for Mayu to skate back towards Mikorin’s side as soon as he got his medal, or for him to take it off immediately and place it around Mikorin’s neck with a soft smile and a whispered phrase only the two could hear.

The moment was picturesque.

Everyone thought it was the peak of romance.

Except for Chiyo, who watched in avid fascination as Mikorin shakily unclasped the necklace around his neck and plucked it from under his shirt. His fumbling, sweaty hands shook as he presented the simple silver ring on the necklace.

It was as if everything was in slow motion as the chain slipped and Mikorin reached down to catch the ring with his quick reflexes.

The action forced him to kneel on one knee.

He was kneeling on one knee on the ice while he was holding a ring and facing Mayu.

The crowd screamed.

The announcers screamed.

The team screamed.

It was chaos.

“Oh shit,” Chiyo heard Kobayashi exclaim, “Mikoshiba’s proposing?!

 

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Me

Did you like it?

Mayu(mayu)

I do.

Me

>///<

Did you know everyone thought you were already my boyfriend?

Mayu(mayu)

Mikoto-san

I’ve been dating you for a year

Me

WHAT?!

 

 

 

_  _/ _/ _/

_/¯¯¯¯¯\_

 

--- EPILOGUE ---

The first thing Nozaki noticed was Sakura laughing with tears in her eyes as she watched Mikoshiba propose to Mayu. She must have felt happy for them. It was an important moment, possibly the most romantic moment in their lives. He raised the camera he was using to capture their celebration and instead took a picture of her laughter.

Then, he turned towards the couple who were now talking quietly with their heads close together.

“A round of applause for our MVP! Congratulations! Looks like he didn’t just win a gold medal today, but a silver ring as well!” The announcer sounded excited to tell everyone about the situation. Nozaki could relate. This was a joyous occasion that should be immortalized and told in stories for everyone to hear.

Mikoshiba looked like he wanted to shout something or react to the announcement, but he was soon distracted when Mayu leaned in to capture his lips.

Nozaki smiled and took more pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

Five months after their win, Mayu was once again standing in their dorm room with luggage on hand. The training camp he was invited in was more prestigious than last time, as it came from a professional hockey league in the US. He would be gone for more than a week.

“Did you bring your passport?” Mikoshiba was fussing over Mayu’s things as usual. “Are you sure you brought everything?”

Mayu nodded, looking halfway to sleep.

“You didn’t forget anything?”

Mayu frowned and put his luggage down, watching Mikoshiba for a few moments. “I forgot something,” he said.

Mikoshiba blinked. “What is it? We have to get it now. Coach will drive you to the airport soon.”

Without another word, Mayu stepped forward to give Mikoshiba a tight hug.

“What—”

“I’ll miss Mikoto-san,” Mayu said quietly. He pulled back and kissed a frozen Mikoshiba on the forehead.

Mayu was already walking away when Mikoshiba unfroze and shouted, “Don’t forget to text me!”

(His expression when he closed the door and touched his forehead gingerly was enough of an inspiration for at least two new chapters. Ken-san would be so proud.)

 

♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡

Mikoto-san

Have fun!

Don’t forget me!!!

Me

I won’t forget

I love you

<3

Mikoto-san

akfbdsdad.,.zXVsdnksdv

I love you too<3