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After thinking about it for long enough, Keigo came to the dull conclusion that this, all of this, probably, was normal. They were at school, weren't they? Hotbed of emotions that was. If there was any time for wayward and misdirected indirect passion, then now was that time. And he considered this, and considered it, and in the end it became something almost like a mantra. This is fine. This is normal. This is what is expected of us.

Rationally, of course, he knew that there was no way that that was possible. Uninhibited emotion was one thing, but this... this was quite another.

He walked to school with Akihiro, but Akihiro was quiet. Keigo knew that this wasn't like him, knew that this was most likely that Nishimura's fault, knew that Akihiro was not the kind to reveal that kind of strain so early in the school day. And so their walk remained in silence, they reached the school grounds, they parted ways. Akihiro to his classroom, Keigo to the Student Council building.

Keigo never knew quite what to expect each morning, but the knowledge that there was always going to be something to expect weighed down on him with a heavy feeling in his chest whenever he opened the main gate to approach the silent, still building. No matter how early he made it to school, Yoshikuni would always have got there first; that was routine and expected of him. The day would be influenced by Yoshikuni's mood; happiness was not an option these days, not for as long as Takumu remained a pupil of Seirei Gakuen (and of course, their year would graduate long before that loss became a risk). Sometimes, Yoshikuni would be in one of his morose moods. Keigo would find him sat in his office staring out of the window, would find him about as responsive at Akihiro (but would feel more responsible for Yoshikuni's mood, as silly as he knew that was). His day would be coloured by the knowledge of Yoshikuni's mood, by knowing that somebody he admired and (somehow) cared for was unhappy. And there wasn't anything he could do about this, he knew this, but that didn't stop those colours darkening.

Perhaps Yoshikuni's mood would be on the rebound and he would be energetic in his cruelty; those days were always the more interesting, all the more overwhelming, all the more depressing. The days on which Yoshikuni's mood was low were a reprieve from those where it wasn't, those days on which he would draw them down further and further and further and further

Keigo pushed the heavy door of the Student Council building open, wondering what kind of day today would be.

To think of it, Keigo knew that it hadn't been that long since they had both been in the first year of Seirei Gakuen, back when things had all seemed so much more innocent. However, perhaps even for that fact alone, those days felt a very long way away. Back then, nobody had known of his feelings for Yoshikuni - even he hadn't known of his feelings for Yoshikuni, not in a strict sense. He knew that this other boy was one who was capable and admirable, marked at the top for every mark going and effortlessly capable of achieving the best of whatever it was he wanted to dedicate himself towards. So impressive yet so humble, Keigo barely dared approach him but saw others do so wanting help with their homework, wanting that last point explained, wanting some other kind of advice, and he would give it with a smile. Keigo had never particularly been interested in anybody for any reason before that, but found Yoshikuni's presence so bright he could hardly dare look.

Then there had been that time, back in their first year, just as the Student Council elections were taking place. When Keigo had found Yoshikuni in front of the Student Council building. When he'd dared speak to him. When, for the first time in his life, he'd dared say something that frightened him. As incoherent (but overpowering) as his feelings had been, he'd barely known what to say; in the end, his fractured thoughts had formed words and Yoshikuni had only waited patiently for him to speak.

"... Whatever you do, I want to support you in it--!"

"I want to stay by your side, whatever you choose to do. I want to be able to be of some use to you, if I can be. I--... I'm only a normal first-year student, but... if I could help you... in any way... then... I want to be able to..."

There, then, Yoshikuni had accepted those words. Had accepted Keigo's haphazard feeling. Had been willing to put his trust into Keigo, to see if he could really be trusted; having that weight of responsibility had driven Keigo through those years since, so that he could become somebody Yoshikuni could trust, somebody Yoshikuni could rely on, somebody Yoshikuni would need.

He'd never really known how he meant that, though. Only that, as much as his feelings had been back then, he'd wanted to be by Yoshikuni's side. He'd wanted to share in that light, in that glory. He'd wanted to be allowed to be overwhelmed, to have permission to admire. And so Yoshikuni had taken him onto the Student Council, and he'd become part of Seirei Gakuen's elite. He knew he wasn't quite as dazzling as some of the other members of Student Councils past, but he was still determined to prove himself. Other members perhaps got by on their looks and social status, but Yoshikuni worked hard and he was determined to work hard too.

And so he did. He always did. He'd never considered the Student Council before Yoshikuni suggested it, and once he was in, it was too late to think about backing out. He was a member of the Student Council, wasn't he? A very admired position. The thought that other people might admire him as much as he'd admired Yoshikuni seemed quite strange, although he knew it was perfectly possible. The eyes of the school would be on him, but his sights would remain on Yoshikuni.

Akihiro would often tease him on how obvious he seemed; he didn't allow much to fluster him, but he couldn't help it with that topic. He didn't like taking Akihiro's comments because he didn't know what to think of this himself; he certainly admired Yoshikuni, but Akihiro seemed convinced that it was more than that. Was it? If so, then what was it exactly...? Was it the kind of thing that could be measured as 'exact' in the first place? He didn't know. He couldn't figure it out. He didn't like not knowing, but didn't know what else he could do.

And then, years after those first, nervous feelings, came Takumu. It had been strange to watch Yoshikuni's downfall, steps away and second-hand. Takumu broke him, and Keigo could only watch.

Could only watch, and realise how similar those feelings were. As much as he had been dazzled by Yoshikuni, so too was Yoshikuni by Takumu. Yoshikuni told him later, in confidence, that he had never been interested in anybody before he had been interested in Takumu and Keigo had listened, nodded, and despaired. Unlike his situation, however, Takumu was active and aware and, also, had the capability of being quite vicious if he wanted to be. Keigo had never known what his feelings were and Yoshikuni had never seemed to consider them anything worth doing something with, but Takumu was aware of Yoshikuni's feelings and knew exactly what to do. Keigo had felt numb in those months where Yoshikuni had been happy, where he'd be taken to the side and confided in because Yoshikuni trusted him more than anybody else, trusted him to speak of his happiness alongside Takumu. Somewhere along the line this had all slipped out of his fingers, and Keigo didn't know where precisely that had occurred. Yoshikuni's happiness was something he both deeply understood and something he absolutely couldn't comprehend... and he couldn't understand that, either.

He never told Akihiro of any of this. He never told Yoshikuni. He never told anybody. And then things between Yoshikuni and Takumu fell apart and Yoshikuni confided in him again but different this time, deeper, more desperate, and Keigo felt numb once more; he couldn't forgive Takumu for hurting Yoshikuni so, but it was also that behaviour that had sent Yoshikuni to his arms for trust and comfort. He hated Takumu (and he would say this simply, because he meant it) and yet was thoroughly indebted to him. Again, here was something he just couldn't understand.

Yoshikuni was destructive in his depression, pulling everybody he could down with him. Somehow, the Student Council had ended up falling in line. Somehow, Yoshikuni was training up that Aihara in the first year to be the successor of the Student Council, once their year graduated in the spring. Somehow, Akihiro had got wrapped up in the Student Council's punishments. Somehow, so too had Shin.

For all the time Shin spent in the Student Council basement, it seemed as if he had his own agenda for his presence there; Keigo would ask Yoshikuni, sometimes. Why did Shin keep coming back to them...? Yoshikuni was rarely stumped for an answer, but he didn't know that one.

"... I really don't know. He just... keeps coming back? Some people are just like that, Katsuragi. Some people have strange tastes. Perhaps that's his reason? I can only speculate, though..."

Keigo would ask Yoshikuni if he could take charge on those days; Yoshikuni didn't particularly care, and so let him. Yoshikuni wouldn't let him touch Takumu, but here was a target freshly prepared and waiting for him. How could you hurt somebody who enjoyed the pain, though?... Keigo didn't think about it too hard. Perhaps even Shin had a point at which too much was too much. Perhaps, if he tried hard enough, he'd find it. And Shin would bleed and smile and that's clearly not enough. Keigo would leave Shin in the basement and walk home with Akihiro.

Akihiro hated what the Student Council did. That was clear and it was obvious. And sometimes, he would be angry over what Yoshikuni had done; past wounds, dried blood, scars left. Keigo would listen silently and Akihiro would accept that silence, accepting Keigo as part of the Student Council but set aside from all of that. He understood how strange and horrible it all was, after all. He was stuck in a bad situation, torn between friends and duty. Akihiro understood that, accepted it, forgave it. Keigo kept silent and wondered how long it would be before Shin ever said anything. Found it curious that he never had to this point. Wondered if Shin was trying to do him a favour, somehow. He resented Shin for slowly taking Akihiro away from him, but this feeling didn't seem to be mirrored; at the very most, Keigo supposed, Shin probably didn't see him as enough of a threat to express concern over. Maybe. Perhaps. Akihiro seemed to have enough problems trying to understand Shin, Keigo wasn't even going to try to bother.

Everything seemed to hang together by such a fine thread; it would only take the most delicate wayward slice to ruin everything, and then what...? Keigo didn't know and wouldn't allow himself the time to consider it. They lived by that thread. They weren't allowed to think about those possibilities. Or perhaps, he would think, this was only his concern; between Akihiro and the Student Council everything was such a balancing act, but that was a situation particular only to him. As far as Yoshikuni could be believed, he seemed to think that the apocalypse had already come and gone. Shin seemed to encourage his slow path to destruction, and Akihiro felt constantly helpless. Shin had not yet broken everything, but Keigo felt it only a matter of time. At that point, could he take back Akihiro as he had done Yoshikuni...?

Even then, even now, those two figures shone bright in an endless darkness. Everything else seemed to be falling down around them, but Keigo would still look to Yoshikuni and - despairing - see the boy he had admired what felt like so long ago. He would still look to Akihiro and see the person who, before and beyond anything and everything else, was his dearest and closest friend. In there, he supposed, was still an innocence. He was not as cruel as Takumu or as broken as Yoshikuni and so, for now, he could continue. They would graduate in the spring, and that would draw a close to their page in Seirei Gakuen's history. What would happen afterward? He had no way of knowing. None of them had any way of knowing.

And so, Keigo supposed, he would endure. He felt nothing like the student who had once confided his feelings to Yoshikuni so earnestly, but supposed that a lot had happened (to all of them) since then. He would endure, because he could think of nothing else to do.