MC had her eyes and ears alert for the entire day. She recently got a new haircut over the weekend and now her hair was in soft shoulder-length waves. Most of her batchmates noticed her new appearance but her attention was solely focused on a certain someone's opinion.
She spent the entire school day taking occasional glances at Taki in between classes. But every time she tried to catch a reaction from him, he was always chatting with his friends.
It's already dismissal time and she STILL hasn't heard from her friends or from Asahi, Taki's closest friend who was acting strange the whole day, about Taki's opinion.
She would ask Asahi, "Did he notice yet?"
"Come on, Asahi, you know exactly what I'm talking about..!"
"What do you think?" he said with a laugh, barely giving off any hints about Taki's reaction.
Her disappointment caused her to be a bit sulky, especially when she snapped at Tsubaki, one of her classmates who simply said, "Hey cutie!"
She remembered the way Tsubaki took a few steps back before he sauntered off completely when she glared at him.
From a distance, she saw her friends Hina and Makoto wave her over.
"MC! Over here!" Hina called out.
"What's up?" MC asked once she approached them.
"Shouldn't we be the one asking you that?" Makoto said, gesturing to his friend's haircut. "Did Taki notice yet?"
"I don't think so..." MC mumbled with a sigh.
"I'm sure he did, how can anyone miss a change like that?" Hina pointed out. "Your hair was way longer back then, and no offense, messier."
"Thanks for the encouragement..." MC said dryly.
Suddenly, they heard a group of guys cheering and yelling at the football field.
Makoto rolled his eyes and said, "Looks like they're at it again..."
"The soccer team?" MC asked hopefully, knowing that Taki was a part of the soccer team.
"Come on, let's go cheer them on!" Hina squealed as she dragged both of her friends to the field.
The three friends hid behind the bleachers as they watched the soccer team gathered around Taki. Some of their female classmates were also there, especially Ayane, who had a huge
obsession crush on Taki. She was always glaring at MC in class for some reason.
To make things even more annoying, she always calls Taki 'Babe' even if they weren't together. And Taki just brushes it off with a smile and a laugh.
"What's that slut doing here?" Hina hissed.
"When there's Taki, there's Ayane," Makoto acknowledged with discomfort.
"Wait guys, they're saying something..!" MC shushed her friends as she listened in on the soccer team's conversation.
"If you lose, you're going to do it," Asahi, Taki's best friend, laughed as he tossed the soccer ball to Taki. "I got the timer here with me, so you have no escape from this."
The latter caught the ball and said, "Alright."
Then, Taki started juggling the ball with his feet confidently. The small crowd around him was impressed. Even MC still couldn't believe his skills.
No matter how many times she watches Taki, she still can't calm her racing heart that's beaming with pride at how perfect her crush is.
"Let's have a closer look!" Hina declared. But before MC could escape, her friend had already dragged her and Makoto all the way to the field in front of everyone.
Taki's eyes locked with hers, surprising them both. She could hear her heart pounding erratically in her chest, making it hard for her to breathe.
Their moment was cut short when Taki lost control of the ball, accidentally kicking it higher in the air...
...until it hit MC in the head.
"Oh my gosh, MC, are you alright?!"
"Hey, what happened bro?!"
"It's not even a minute yet!"
MC stood up and rubbed the spot where Taki unintentionally hit her. He was frozen in his place. He just hit the girl he liked. Well shit.
Asahi started speaking amusedly. "Dude, what on earth made you lose focus—"
He stopped speaking when he saw MC and her friends standing awkwardly in the field. Soon, Asahi bursted into laughs along with the other soccer team members, except Taki, who looked really nervous, and Ayane, who was glaring ominously at MC.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to hit you..!" Taki babbled.
"I-It's fine, don't worry about it," she assured him.
"Hey, MC!" Asahi called out from the group. "Since Taki hit you, shouldn't he make it up to you?"
A chorus of excited squeals and cheers rang through the group, leaving a puzzled MC.
"What's going on..?" MC asked him.
"You don't happen to have anyone accompanying you home right now, would you?"
She turned to Hina and Mako, who suddenly shouted, "ABSOLUTELY NO ONE!"
"W-What?! But I thought—"
"Sorry MC! Mako and I are gonna drop by the strawberry latte shop Ayumi promised to treat us to!" Hina said before she tugged on Mako's hand to leave.
Asahi grinned and said to MC, "Don't worry, MC, someone's kind enough to walk you home."
He gave Taki a little push closer to MC, causing him to awkwardly bump into her.
"Sorry..!" he apologized again.
Ayane's eyes were blazing with pure jealousy. "What's this about?!" she screeched at Asahi.
"We just had a bet with our dude Taki," Asahi shrugged before he continued, "that if he loses, he'll walk home with the 'prettiest girl in the school.'"
MC glanced at Taki, whose face was red up to his ears. Her own crush just thought she was the prettiest girl in the school?!
"W-Who on earth came up with that?!" MC squeaked.
"Well, Taki was the one—"
"Hey, shut up, Asahi," Taki mumbled, interrupting his friend.
"Okayyyy. So, what are you guys waiting for? Sun's going down, don't tell me I didn't do you both a favor!" Asahi said, pushing Taki and MC all the way to the exit of the soccer field. He tossed Taki's things over to him before he saw both of his friends off with a smirk.
"Sorry about dragging you into all of this...and for kicking the ball at you earlier," Taki said sheepishly as he and MC walked out of the school. He didn't know how to explain the entire situation to her, not when he was the one who accidentally stared the whole thing by blurting out MC's name when Asahi asked him who was the prettiest girl in school.
"Thought you'd say that! Hey, have you asked her out yet?"
"We're not that close yet, she might reject me..!"
"I know just the thing to push your relationship forward!"
So they made another bet with the soccer team. He was secretly happy he wasn't able to juggle the ball for a minute even if it meant staining his reputation to walk home with MC.
Except for the part where he hit her.
"Oh that? Don't worry, it doesn't hurt anymore," she answered softly, bringing him out of his thoughts.
"Are you sure?" he asked, checking the back of her head.
"...yup," she answered, averting her eyes from him.
Taki noticed how nervous she was. Was she mad at him? He couldn't keep his eyes off her no matter how hard he tried. She always looked beautiful to him, but the sunset's faint glow brought out a radiance he doesn't get to see from her often.
He knew that their town was small and that they'd be by MC's house in a few minutes. So each second passed by with him growing even more nervous. Was he just going to waste his chance by keeping silent all throughout the walk?
After debating on it lots of times, he 'accidentally' brushed his fingers against MC's briefly, before retracting them so she wouldn't notice. However, the second his fingers touched hers, it was like a jolt of electricity between them. The contact surprised MC to the point where she stopped walking and stared wide-eyed at Taki. Oops.
Thinking fast, Taki casually offered, "Hey, MC, let me carry those for you, those look heavy."
"It's fine, really—"
But before she could protest, Taki had already taken her bags out of her hands. They were a little heavier than he expected.
So they continued walking through the town, until they stopped by at the local park.
"Hey Taki, do you want to take a break?" MC offered as they passed by the entrance.
"Okay, thanks," he replied, before they sat together on a nearby bench.
The small space between them made MC's stomach flip. To break the silence between them, she said, "I'll be right back! Just gonna buy something real quick!"
Taki watched as she dashed off to one of the park's stalls. She came back carrying two servings of steaming takoyaki.
"This is for you," she offered one to him. "Careful, it's hot."
"Thanks MC, I'll pay you back later—"
"Oh no! It's okay!" she stammered before accidentally blurting out, "Spending time with you like this is enough..!"
Taki stared at her, wide-eyed. MC realized her mistake and shoved some takoyaki into her mouth. She made another mistake by not letting it cool off first, so the spicy sauce made her cheeks burn.
Taki did his best not to laugh at how adorable MC was acting. He took his water bottle from his bag and handed it to her.
"Here," he slipped the cold bottle in between her fingers.
"T-Thanks..." she mumbled. But before she could take a sip, she realized that if she drank from Taki's water bottle, she'd have an indirect kiss with him.
The thought of that made her heart pound so hard in her chest it was about to explode. Thinking on impulse, she brought the bottle to the swollen part of her head.
"Does it still hurt?" he asked, inching closed to her until he was only a few centimeters away from her.
"It just needs some ice, but it will go away soon," she laughed half-heartedly, trying to ignore how close Taki was sitting next to her.
Out of curiosity, he suddenly asked, "Do you go here often?"
"Yup! The food here is just so delicious, I couldn't resist stopping by to have a snack before heading home!" she spoke enthusiastically, before taking another bite of her takoyaki, a bit more carefully this time. "What about you, Kozaki?"
"You can just call me 'Taki,'" he said with an amused smile. "After all, we've already met back in seventh grade, right?"
"Y-You...you remember that..?" she asked.
"Of course. Is there a reason why I shouldn't remember the girl who comforted me on the first day of school?"
That's right...when MC was still a freshman at their high school, she first met Taki, who was in a different section, at the rooftop. She hadn't made much friends back then, so she was a bit scared to have lunch inside her classroom. That's when she saw Taki gazing at the sky above them. He had a gloomy expression on his face. When she approached him, they talked for a while, until their lunch period was over.
She had learned that his mother died a few days ago, so she told him, "I'm sure she's still looking after you. No parent would want to leave their child."
That's when they started looking forward to meeting each other again in school, even if it's just a glance.
"Why didn't you talk to me anymore after that?" Taki asked her.
"Were you mad at me?"
"No! It's not that, it's just that I..." when she regained her voice, MC confessed, "I was too shy to approach you."
"Because you had your other friends with you, and I didn't want to interrupt..."
After she explained everything, except for the part where she developed a crush on Taki, he smiled at her and said, "If it's alright with you, I could hang out with you after class."
"Okay!" she said giddily as her cheeks turned pink from excitement.
After a long conversation at the park, the sun could barely be seen by the time Taki walked MC home.
"Well, this is my place," she quipped before taking her bags from Taki. "Thanks for accompanying me."
"I should be the one thanking you," he told her. "I had a lot of fun today."
"See you tomorrow, Taki!" she said with a wave before she unlocked the gate to her house.
"You look even prettier today," Taki mumbled sheepishly.
But MC heard every word and she swore she was going to have another heart attack.
"T-Thanks," she replied before she ran towards her home and inside her bedroom.
She dove straight into her covers and squealed into her pillow.
It was one of the best moments of her life.