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The Master Equation

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Inui Sadaharu was a tactician by trade. Day in and day out, he would crunch numbers and compile data on everything he observed, calculating all possible outcomes and accounting for any scenario that would come his way. These skills were invaluable to the Seigaku Boys’ Tennis Team, where he was both a Regular of the team and the manager. Inui had a knack for getting this information, even if it was in unconventional or borderline illegal ways. He seemed to have information on everyone he crossed paths with, including the entire student body at Seigaku. The amount of information he would have on particular people would depend on whether or not they caught his interests or posed a threat to his goals.

Someone Inui had a very keen eye on one particular classmate by the name of Kajiwara Fumiko. She was the bold and outspoken student council treasurer and also the class rep for Inui’s homeroom. She was a model student and one of the many girls that swooned over his friend and captain of the tennis team, Tezuka Kunimitsu. It was this exact reason that Inui had to keep his eyes on her, alongside monitoring everyone else on his radar. Fumiko was a threat that could derail Seigaku’s entire chance at winning the Nationals that year. Not only was she romantically interested in his captain, but she also had many opportunities to work closely with him compared to the other girls that would fawn over him. Inui had to do everything in his power to neutralize the threat before the tournament began. 

What Inui could not factor into his calculations was the fact that the Kajiwara Fumiko he saw was a front. In actuality, the girl was cunning and she knew how to manipulate people whenever she saw fit. She didn’t even like Tezuka in the slightest; it was an act she had put on so she wouldn’t feel left out whenever her friends would talk about him. Her eyes were set on someone else entirely and she knew exactly how to get his attention, even if it meant using his friend to help her stay in his sight. 

It first started with Fumiko asking Inui for small tidbits of trivia on Tezuka. She knew this was a rather innocent question to ask to most eavesdroppers but would provoke Inui to seriously pay attention to her.

"Inui-kun, may I poke your brain for a second?" she asked the taller, bespectacled boy.

"That depends. What is it you wish to know? I do not disclose things about others if I do not gain anything in return," he answered. 

The girl pulled out a small jar from her school bag and handed it to Inui. "Umeboshi extract. Said to be the most potent form of naturally occurring sourness in existence."

Inui was fascinated by the specimen that was now in his possession. "This is the missing ingredient I need to complete my next drink!" His eyes narrowed as he stared down at the girl. "What's the catch?"

Fumiko plucked the jar back from his dangerous hands. "Tezuka-kun's favourite colours. You can have that in exchange for this."

He was confused by her request. "Out of all the information I possess, you wish to know what colours Tezuka has a particular preference for?"

"That's right," she nodded. "Tezuka-kun's favourite colours. All you need to say to get this tiny jar of stuff," she taunted as she held up the bottle and waved it around between her fingertips.

Inui swiped the jar from her hands. "Green and blue, though he has a 72.3% chance of picking blue if he was forced to make a choice."

Fumiko smiled devilishly. "Thank you for the info, Inui-kun. I shall use it to my advantage."

"Just what do you plan on doing with that information, Kajiwara?"

"If you want to know, you'll need to pay up," she demanded as she used her hand to gesture for Inui to cough up money in exchange.

"Name your price."

"Tezuka-kun's number."

"Out of the question. Do you take me for a fool?" he accused.

"Then your number," she responded. "Your personal number in exchange for what I plan to do with the information."

Inui took out his data notebook and tore out a small piece of paper from it to write his number on. He handed the note to the girl. 

"This is real, correct? If you're playing a trick on me, consider the deal off," she said as she studied the number before putting it away in her bag.

"Deception is below me, Kajiwara. Now, what is your motive with this information?"

Fumiko took out her phone and started typing out a text on it. "I'm late for the council meeting." She put her phone back in her pocket. "Thanks again, Inui-kun!" 

Inui watched her run out of the room in a flash. "Hey! You haven't lived up to your end of the deal!" he called out. 

Just as he began to curse under his breath, a notification on his phone went off. He pulled it out of his pocket to check the message he had received. 

' I'm going to make Tezuka Kunimitsu fall in love with me ' read the text from an unknown number.

The tennis team's tactician began to panic. A romance between Tezuka Kunimitsu and Kajiwara Fumiko was a disaster waiting to happen. Even in the best case scenario, the relationship would only have a 2.5% of success, according to his calculations. Regardless of what happened between the two Student Council members, the situation would cause the entire Boys' Tennis Team, and possibly the school, to implode if he did not intervene. For the sake of the team and their chance at winning the Nationals, Inui had to think of a master plan to stop Fumiko before things escalated any further.

He booked it to the school library to grab all of the reference texts he would need to help him calculate the best course of action to take and any of the consequences that would arise. The math had to be correct with no margin for error. Seigaku's chance at the National title was on the line and he was the only thing that could keep them on track. He sat himself down at one of the larger tables available for studying and pulled out all of his fancy calculators. He spread out all of the reference books he tore off the shelves and frantically flipped through the pages to find what he needed. Many of the students in the library were staring at Inui as he lost his mind, but were unsure of what was going on.

Inui was pulled back into reality by Oishi Shuichirou, who had come to the library to see what he was up to.

Oishi looked at the disaster the bespectacled data master had created. "Inui! What are you doing?"

Inui looked up at the concerned vice captain with a crazed look in his eyes before turning right back to his notes. "Strategizing. We have a new enemy upon us and I must neutralize the threat."

Oishi's eyes widened in horror. "What other school is a serious enough threat to warrant this amount of work, Inui?"

"Not a school, Oishi. Someone within this school."

Oishi was even more confused than before. "How could there be a threat within Seigaku?"

"You don't understand the first thing about war, Oishi. We must purge the heresy within our ranks before we fight others. I need to do this."

Oishi felt his head start to spin in confusion. "Inui, I'm not sure what's gotten into you, but you need to stop."

"Is winning the Nationals not important to you, Oishi? Last I checked, you still intend to keep your promise to Tezuka," he snapped. "This is the only way I can assure our victory."

"Inui, it's almost 7 PM. If you don't leave the library, the headmaster is going to call the police and forcibly remove you." Oishi gently patted his friend on his back. “Go home for the day. I’m sure whatever threat there is, we can find a way to deal with it. I promise you this.”

Inui sighed. “Perhaps a change of scenery will help me figure this out.” He hastily packed his things up before running out of the library, leaving the mess of reference books and without as much as a ‘goodbye’ to the confused vice-captain.

In his bedroom at home, Inui was loudly typing away on his computer, trying to compute more outcomes to some of his many plans. As he worked into the night, he had come up with several plans of action to neutralize the threat; each with varying degrees of success and legality. First, he would find a way to make Kajiwara Fumiko lose interest in the stoic and serious captain. If she didn’t see a reason to like him, then he would no longer need to invest time into this operation. It was the quickest and most efficient way to deal with the girl. If that didn’t work, his next plans for action include framing her for a crime, convincing her to transfer schools, kidnapping her or signing her up for additional work around the school. The last of these grand schemes was he had to make her fall in love with someone else. This plan was a last resort, as there are very few people within the school that would likely be compatible with Fumiko and it had the lowest success rate out of all his schemes.

“Kajiwara Fumiko, just what exactly is your motive?”

Inui continued to look up any and all information he could find on the girl on the internet. Whatever information was out there more or less backed up the image Inui had of the girl, which was not helpful to him in the slightest.

“A girl with this clean of a record is bound to be hiding something!”

“Sadaharu, it’s almost the middle of the night! Go to sleep,” his mother yelled from her bedroom. “Don’t make me turn off the circuit breaker to your room.”

Hearing the threat from his mother caused the boy to quickly shut off his computer and crawl into bed to sleep. His dreams that night were filled with ways to try and make sense of his plans. He had to act quickly. By the time he had formulated his plans in his sleep, his alarm went off. Daylight had just started to break through the horizon, meaning it was time for him to get ready for morning practice. 

After arriving at the courts on campus, Tezuka had what seemed like an annoyed face upon laying eyes on the team manager.

“Inui, you owe me 200 laps for skipping practice yesterday afternoon.” Tezuka crossed his arm. “There better be a good explanation for it.”

“I am merely neutralizing a threat to our victory, Tezuka. That requires proper planning and execution,” Inui calmly stated.

“Just what is this threat, Inui?”

“Kajiwara Fumiko.”

“The treasurer on the council?”

“Don’t question it further, Tezuka. It’s my job to handle this. As the team’s manager, it is my duty to protect the captain from any and all threats to his life.” Inui slid himself into the club room to drop off his bags before emerging out to begin running his laps.

Fuji Shuusuke noticed the confused look on Tezuka’s face as the captain approached him. “What was that all about, Tezuka?”

Tezuka removed his glasses and started rubbing his eyes. “Don’t ask.”

Fuji was amused. “Inui has lost his mind, huh? How interesting.”

“Get back to practice, Fuji,” Tezuka said in a slightly threatening tone.

After classes had ended for the day, Fumiko approached the disheveled Inui with another offering for information. She sat on top of his desk and dangled a fancy package of green tea in front of him.

“The world’s most bitter green tea ever cultivated. Contains over 40 times the amount of tannins compared to the standard concentrations found in Shizuoka-grown Sencha,” she stated in a matter-of-fact way. 

Inui took the package from her and studied it. He opened up and stuck his nose into it, inhaling deeply to study its aroma. The intensely grassy scent of the dried leaves distracted him briefly from the fact that the girl wanted information from him. 

“For today’s exchange, I think I would like-”

“No. No more information on Tezuka,” Inui interrupted before she could finish. He handed the tea back to her. “Thanks for the offer, but my data on Tezuka is confidential.”

“Aw, that’s too bad,” she said in a fake sympathetic tone. “Whose information isn’t off the table, then?”

Inui took this as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. He pulled out a hidden data book containing information on all of the rival schools and their players and handed it to the girl. “I have four other copies. You can keep that in exchange.”

Fumiko took the book and flipped through the pages, noting that the book contained a lot of rather private information on several good looking tennis players from nearby schools. “What is this? Some catalog on all eligible bachelors my age? Inui-kun, I didn’t realize you were gay and a stalker.”

“I can assure you I am not,” he said unfazed as he pushed his glasses up. “Take your pick. All of these schools would be fantastic choices for you if you’re considering a career in law or business. Not too late into the year to transfer.”

The girl got off of his desk and tossed the bag of tea to him. “Thanks for this! I hope you didn’t mean to write down all of your data too, since this notebook contains all of that info as well.”

Panic slowly began to sink in on his face. Just as he was about to leap at the girl to take the notebook back, Tezuka walked into the classroom.

“Kajiwara-san, are you ready to go?”

“Yes, Tezuka-kun,” she responded cheerfully. “See you, Inui-kun!”

“Kajiwara, wait!” Inui exclaimed. 

“This can be discussed later, Inui. Kajiwara-san and I are going to be late for the council meeting.” He gestured for the girl to lead the way to the Council Room, shutting the door to the classroom behind him. 

Later during afternoon practice, Tezuka handed Inui back his notebook, which the other boy instantly yanked out of his hand and began frantically flipping through it. The pages containing the information on the rival school players were torn out, but Inui’s own personal data remained.

“Do take care not to lose your data next time, Inui,” Tezuka stated coldly.

A creepy smile began to form on Inui’s lips. “Of course.”

Inui wholeheartedly believed he had won this mind game without realizing he was just making the first move in a very long strategy game.

Shortly after Seigaku’s victory at the Tokyo Prefecturals, Inui was as confident as ever going into the Kanto Regionals. He believed that he had thwarted Kajiwara Fumiko’s plans of making Tezuka fall in love with her the month prior, as she had not come back to him with another trade offer. Due to the constant amount of surveillance he had to keep on her, he had neglected to collect data on the opponents in the upcoming Kanto Regionals. The number of days leading up to the Regionals were dwindling slowly and he knew he didn’t have enough time to establish surveillance and collect intel. Unluckily for him, the person he least expected had exactly what he needed.

On one of his lunchtime visits to the school’s archives, Inui came across Tezuka and Fumiko looking over some of the school festival budget files from previous years. He realized that his prior plan had failed to waiver her interest in his captain. The girl was hanging onto his left arm as the two discussed some discrepancies between receipts and reported expenditures. Inui knew Tezuka’s arm was likely still injured and that her being so dangerously close to it was a threat to their chances of victory. He had to act decisively to remove her at all costs.

“Tezuka, Kajiwara,” he greeted. “Preparing for the cultural festival already? It’s a little early for that.”

“Oishi noticed some anomalies in last year’s budget. Kajiwara-san and I are checking over the numbers just to be sure,” Tezuka firmly responded.

Fumiko pointed to a line on the page they were staring at. “That’s the anomaly, Tezuka. Last year’s Kendo Club underreported the amount of funds they used for their booths.” She continued to scan down the page, seeing more and more misreported values. “Seems like a majority of the sports clubs last year under- or over-reported the funds they used for the festival. Tennis didn’t, so I guess we won’t need to yell at your treasurer.”

“The chances of Nishi-kun making a mistake would be 3.47%,” Inui confirmed. “Speaking of the club, Tezuka, I would like to discuss something with you in private.”

Tezuka raised an eyebrow. “Alright.” He turned towards his treasurer. “Excuse us.”

She smiled warmly at the boys. “Come back quickly, Tezuka-kun,” she said in a cute and endearing voice.

As Inui shut the door, Tezuka immediately removed his glasses and began rubbing his tired eyes. “Make this quick, Inui. I have a considerable amount of work to do,” Tezuka sighed.

“Tezuka, I’ll handle the budget reconciliation for the festival. I’m heading this year’s festival planning committee as the chairman anyways. It would be for the best if you focused on preparing for the upcoming regionals instead.”

“If you insist on this matter, then I will hand it off to you.” Tezuka crossed his arms. “Now, what is it that you need to speak to me about?”

“The data on Hyoutei is incomplete. I need your permission to miss practice today to collect the rest.”

“Denied. Not up for debate.”

“But, Tezuka-”

Tezuka held up his hand to tell Inui to shut his mouth. “I will remove you from the starting roster if you skip any more.”

Just as the argument between the two players was about to heat up, the student council vice president came running up to the both of them, interrupting the conversation.

“Tezuka-kun, the headmaster needs to speak with you in the Council Room now,” the slightly winded vice president said.

Tezuka nodded and started heading towards the room, leaving Inui standing alone in front of the Archives Room. The door behind him swung open and Fumiko dragged Inui back into the room. 

“Sounds like we’ll be working closely together until we figure out where this money went,” she taunted.

Inui turned around to face his new colleague. “I am only doing this to protect Tezuka from you, Kajiwara,” he threatened.

The girl gave him an innocent look. “Protecting Tezuka-kun from me? Why would I ever hurt the legendary captain of the Seigaku Boys’ Tennis Team? That is counterintuitive to my goals, Inui-kun.”

“The same legendary captain must not fall in love with anyone if we are to win the Nationals this year. Distractions, such as trivial romantic relationships, will derail all of the progress we have made.” Inui leaned in until his face was inches away from Fumiko’s. “Until then, I will keep my eyes on you.”

She could see right through his “brilliant” plan and decided to call him out on his bluff. “Oh? But I heard you’re missing data on the other teams participating in the regionals. How can you possibly keep an eye on me when you also need to keep your eyes on your other enemies?”

Sweat began to drip from his forehead when he realized she was right. Inui was stuck between two impossible situations and she knew it. 

Fumiko shook her head in a condescending way. “How about we exchange information, Inui-kun?” She pulled off a notebook from the shelves and handed it to him. “I collected some data for you on the other teams. This should fill in the gaps that your data currently has. I even included the lineups for each match as well so you can strategize where to place everyone.”

Inui took the book and flipped through the pages, noting that Fumiko’s notes on all of the Tokyo-based schools were extremely detailed and contained all of the data he would normally collect and more. He looked up at the girl in disbelief. “How did you get this?”

“I collected it myself,” she smirked. “After all, I would do anything for Tezuka-kun.”

Inui felt a vein pop in his head. Kajiwara Fumiko was an even bigger threat than he originally calculated. Not only was she going after Tezuka’s heart, but potentially his position as the club manager as well.

“You can have everything in that book for a small price,” she stated as a mischievous smile grew on her face. 

The bespectacled boy closed the book of data and handed it back to her. “No. I refuse to negotiate.”

“You haven’t even heard what I wanted,” she huffed. “All I wanted was for you to call off your attempt to frame me for messing with the numbers in last year’s festival budget.” She grabbed Inui’s uniform collar and pulled him down to her eye level. She cupped her hand over his ear to whisper into it. “I know it was you who changed the numbers to make it look like whoever managed the books last year embezzled thousands. Seeing as that person was me, it would cause quite a lot of issues on my part, especially when I would never dream of stealing from the school. You’re going to need to do better than that to get rid of me, Inui-kun.”

A chill went down his spine as a million questions swirled around in his head. How she found out about the manipulation and the fact that she knew it was him was beyond terrifying. He felt a lump in his throat as he gulped. “F-fine. Consider it done,” he replied shakily. 

Fumiko let go of him, shoved the data book into his hands and pushed her way past him. “I’m glad we could come to an agreement. I expect everything to be reversed in three days' time so I can report it to the council.” She waved at him before leaving the room.

Inui wanted to crush the data book in his hands in anger. “Kajiwara Fumiko…” he hissed under his breath.

Three of his plans had now failed. He was running low on ideas, especially after he had to axe the plan to get her kidnapped due to complicated legal reasons. The only thing left on his list before his last resort was to find a way to sign her up for something that was both time consuming and far away from Tezuka as possible. The only issue was the only opportunities currently available had to do with the upcoming school festival, meaning she would have to be working in close proximity to himself. He had little chance to think about his next course of action with the Hyoutei match just days away. He had to set aside his scheming in order to prepare for his upcoming match against the Ootori and Shishido pair; a match he would otherwise not be prepared for if it weren’t for the data Fumiko had collected. 

Though the Hyoutei match ended in Seigaku’s victory, it came at the cost of losing their captain to a newly discovered shoulder injury. As he could no longer play in the condition he was in, Tezuka had no choice but to fly to Kyushu for treatment in order to be ready for the Nationals, if Seigaku could make it far enough to claim a spot. This situation was not factored into Inui’s calculation, as he was never made aware of the injury despite his careful observations of the Regulars. It was a critical blow to Seigaku as a whole, but this only motivated the others to work twice as hard to make up for the loss of their captain.

In terms of the student council, Tezuka’s prolonged absence posed problems for their function. With the school festival just a few months away, the council did not have much time to regroup or find a replacement. It was decided that the vice president would act as the president during Tezuka’s absence and the others would have to pick up some extra tasks in order to keep functioning. This meant that Fumiko would have to double as both the treasurer and be the council representative on the school festival planning committee. This was not much of an issue, seeing as she would have to approve the festival budget anyways. Upon hearing the news, Inui was elated with the prospects of having to work close to his sworn enemy. Fumiko gave off the impression that she was less than amused to be stuck in her position.

After one of the planning meetings adjourned for the day, Inui and Fumiko had to stay behind to discuss some logistics with the faculty before they could proceed with ordering supplies for every club and class that requested something for their booths. After going through the line budgets in detail with the headmaster and several teachers, it was already dusk. 

“How unfortunate,” Fumiko remarked. “If you were not so insistent on the contingency budget being this large and complicated, we could have been out of the room hours ago.”

“The chances of something going wrong that would warrant us to use that budget is 96.24%. I am merely factoring all options, Kajiwara,” Inui said in an act of defense. “For once, I will agree with you that it is unfortunate that the meeting went until dusk.”

“We finally agree on something and it’s completely unrelated to anything important,” she sighed as she pulled her shoes out of her locker and slipped them on. “Are you heading to the station? We can walk there together.”

“Yes, I am.” Inui swung his tennis bag over his shoulder. He gestured for Fumiko to lead the way.

As the two walked in the looming darkness, Fumiko decided to bring up Inui’s sudden change in behaviour now that Tezuka was no longer around.

“It seems you have stopped your operation to prevent me from making Tezuka-kun fall in love with me,” she laughed. “Do you really think he’s safe from my influences and charm now that he is in a completely different prefecture?”

“Of course not,” Inui lied. “I have a new plan that will work without fail.”

She could sense that Inui was bluffing, but decided to go along with it. “Is that so? I look forward to your next brilliant plan to stop me from my goal that isn’t illegal or dangerous.”

Inui knew he was cornered. Kajiwara Fumiko easily dismantled all of his schemes in front of his eyes without breaking much of a sweat. Asides from straight up murder, he was down to his last resort plan of making her fall in love with someone. This was a tall order, especially for someone as unsettling as him to pull off. His options of people to set up with her were very limited since he had no clue if anyone in the student body had a crush on her. At home, he went through every male student profile he had gathered and narrowed down the list of potential candidates to three people. The first of which was the captain of the Boys' Volleyball Team, followed by the bassist in the Light Music Club. He triple checked his calculations just to make sure that these two candidates were better than his third and last option. What Inui failed to factor into his plan was whether or not the other two candidates were in relationships already. Since he had become so hyper-fixated on making sure Fumiko would not make further advances on Tezuka, he became unaware of the fact that the volleyball captain was in a relationship with a girl from the school's dance club. His hopes were crushed even further when he walked in on his other candidate making out with the Light Music Club's openly gay drummer. There were no other choices left for him. He had to bite this bullet if it meant saving his team's chances of winning the Nationals.

In the downtime between the end of the Kanto Regionals and the start of the Nationals, Seigaku was slated to run their annual cultural festival. It was the same festival that Inui and Fumiko spent the better part of the year organizing. Tezuka had also returned from Kyushu during this period, meaning Inui had to go back to his bodyguarding duties to keep her away. This proved to be a rather difficult task when he had his committee duties to attend to as well. Tezuka was not helping matters either, as he requested Fumiko fill him in on what had occurred during his absence. Inui needed more than just his own eyes on the situation and had to ask his teammates to help him out. Out of all the Regulars, the only ones willing to put their lives on the line were Fuji and Momoshiro. Kikumaru and Echizen both knew better than to mess with their captain, Kawamura and Kaidou were in charge of running the Tennis Club's booth to even get involved and Oishi had council matters to attend to. Fuji wanted to see what the fuss was about and decided to join in on the fun. As for Momoshiro, Inui had to blackmail him into doing it with some embarrassing pictures he had found of the younger boy.

"Inui-senpai, if I'm hearing things correctly, you want Fuji-senpai and I to keep Tezuka-buchou away from Kajiwara-senpai?" Momoshiro was scratching his head in confusion. "Why?"

"Kajiwara Fumiko is the biggest threat to our chance at winning the Nationals. We must keep her away from Tezuka at all costs," Inui informed the two. "If you do this for me, I will grant you immunity from my juices for the next month."

"Deal!" Momoshiro exclaimed. 

"I'm rather fond of them, though," Fuji lamented. "I am interested in knowing why you believe the treasurer is somehow a threat to our victory, Inui."

"Yeah! What's up with this girl anyways, Inui-senpai?"

"Tezuka must not fall in love with her at all costs. If he does, our chances at victory will drop to 4.06% and I cannot allow that to happen. I must stop this now."

Momoshiro looked at the data master with disbelief. "I am not getting involved in this mess. Inui Juice immunity or not, it will not end well for me when Tezuka-buchou catches me. I'm going to go enjoy this festival." The younger boy walked away from the meeting without a second thought.

"Momoshiro! Come back!" Inui called out in frustration.

Fuji patted the dejected boy on the shoulder. "Cheer up, Inui. I'll play along with your weird game."

"It is not a game, Fuji. She is a serious threat and we have to neutralize it before it gets worse."

"You sound like an assassin trying to plan his next hit on the Crown Prince," Fuji laughed. "Keep Kajiwara away from Tezuka? That can be done." 

The smiling and unsuspecting boy disappeared into the crowds to go look for the two council members. Upon reaching his own homeroom, he spotted the VIP and target he was after. Tezuka and Fumiko were resting on a bench outside of 3-6 as they went through some paperwork.

"Tezuka! Kajiwara-chan!" Fuji waived as he walked towards them. "What a lovely surprise to see you two together."

Tezuka nodded at his fellow teammate in acknowledgement. "We were just discussing the budget that was allocated to your class for the photo studio."

"I think it was a bit excessive to request two top-of-the-line DSLR cameras for the whole operation, but Tezuka-kun disagrees," Fumiko stated. "Regardless, they are rentals, so I do expect them to not be broken by the end, Fuji-kun."

"I will let my class rep know, Kajiwara-chan," Fuji laughed. 

Tezuka stood up from the bench they were sitting on. "Thank you for the update, Kajiwara-san. If you'll excuse me, I must attend to other matters now."

"That's alright. Make sure you find some time to enjoy the festival while it's here, Tezuka-kun," she replied as she waved goodbye.

Once Tezuka was out of earshot, Fuji sat down beside the girl with a mischievous grin on his face. "How did you do it?"

"Do what, exactly?" she asked in an innocent tone.

"You have Inui all worked up over you. I must say I am very impressed that you're playing him like a fiddle. It is very amusing."

She laughed. "I thank you for your compliments, Fuji-kun."

Fuji chuckled to himself. "I've never seen Inui so fixated on one person before. It makes me worry that he's not focusing on the other teams."

"You needn't worry about the other schools. I've been collecting intel for a while now. Of course, I've been selling this info back to Inui, for a premium," she beamed with pride. "He might not realize it, but his obsession over me is the real reason why your team is at risk of crashing out of the Nationals."

"I figured. It's nice to know that there's someone else looking out for our best interests," he admitted. "Promise me you won't go overboard with it?"

"All of this playing around with Inui-kun ends the moment your Nationals run begins. I'm not going to jeopardize everything you've done by toying with your tactician even more than I already am."

Fuji laughed. "But after the Nationals?"

Fumiko gave the boy beside her a cheeky grin. "Let's just say he'll be even more worked up after the Nationals than he was before."

The resident genius of the Tennis Team stood up from his spot on the bench. "Thank you for the lovely insight, Kajiwara-chan. I shall go make my report to Inui, but I'll make it a little spicy just to keep things entertaining."

As Fuji walked into Inui's peripheral vision, the taller, bespectacled teen rushed over towards him head on. 

"Fuji, what did you find out?" he demanded.

"She's definitely in love, that's for sure," Fuji said in a bemused way. "You need to focus your efforts on our opponents; not some girl in our school that poses no physical or psychological threat to Tezuka."

“That will not happen unless I can ensure the Kajiwara Fumiko threat has been neutralized.” Inui let out a tired sigh. “I have no other choice.” The boy started storming towards the school with his sights on the Council Room.

“Inui, you cannot seriously be thinking of committing a crime just to get rid of this girl,” Fuji huffed in disbelief.

“What I’m about to do is worse than murder, Fuji!”

The borderline deranged teen bolted through the hallways, pushing everyone out of his way as he headed straight towards the Council Room. He flung the door wide open, catching Fumiko alone and off guard. He lunged towards the girl, causing her to fall on top of the table and him to fall on top of her.


The boy pushed himself up with his arms, but continued to loom over the now terrified girl. He was breathing heavily and looked like he was out for blood. “You…”

Fumiko shoved him off of her and got up. “What is wrong with you?”

Inui tumbled towards the ground as she stood over him. “Today is the day I finally stop you, Kajiwara Fumiko.”

“Did you have to commit borderline sexual harassment to say that?” she said as she jumped back onto the table and sat down on its surface. “What is your grand scheme now? I have matters to attend to and I’d rather not be interrupted.”

He picked himself off of the ground and dusted off his clothes. “You will not win over Tezuka’s heart. Not on my watch.”

“Yeah? I got that part figured out, genius,” she replied in a sarcastic tone. “Cut to the chase, Inui-kun. These receipts are not going to archive themselves.” 

Inui slammed his hands down on the table and stared at Fumiko right in the eyes. “I’m going to make you fall in love with me instead.”

Her annoyed and confused expression slowly began to change into something more relaxed and amused. She reached up to caress his cheeks gently. “Is that so?” she said in a rather seductive manner. 

For the first time in what seemed like his entire life, Inui’s face began to fluster as he froze up.

She leaned forward and kissed him flirtatiously on the lips. “I will patiently await your next move to waiver my loyalty and dedication to Tezuka-kun, then, Sadaharu.”

Following the explosive confrontation during the cultural festival, Inui was more determined than ever to sway the heart of Kajiwara Fumiko towards him. With the Nationals now at Seigaku’s doorsteps, the training and game schedule kept the team extremely occupied. Thanks to their win at the Kanto Regionals, the team had received a first round bye and were free to observe the other teams playing. This was valuable time for Inui to collect data, but also another opportunity for Fumiko to continue her attempts at going after Tezuka. Though risky, Inui decided to invite her to observe the first round matchups and teach her how to take better data. It was a rather obvious ploy to allow him to observe her more closely, but Fumiko decided to play along and pretend she didn’t know what was going on.

“Walk me through your logic, Sadaharu. You say you want me to fall for you instead of Tezuka-kun, but you’re going to do that by keeping me close to him and making me observe him.”

“Precisely.” Inui adjusted the glasses on his face. “Although, I don’t remember giving you permission to call me by my given name.”

“Are you just dumb or am I missing the whole point of this exercise?” she asked rather rudely.

He let out a sinister chuckle. “You do not need to know the full details. What fun would that be?”

She sighed. "Am I correct to assume that if I help you collect data on these other teams, then you are giving me permission to get close to your beloved captain?"

"Yes," he lied. "You are assuming correctly."

"Just when I was beginning to think that you were intelligent…"

Inui continued to face the courts before him, scribbling down data on some of the players from Shitenhouji. At the same time, he kept glancing over towards his “companion”, noting down any changes in behaviours or other noteworthy observations that would give away important information on her intentions. The night before, he had compiled a list of behaviours that would indicate just how in love a person was. This was a simple case of getting to know his enemy, as he had to take stock of how far the romance had advanced between the two. 

Tezuka was more or less an open and shut case. Now that the Nationals had begun, all he could focus on was winning the next game and nothing else. Regardless of the progress made between the two, nothing more would happen until Seigaku either won the whole tournament or crashed out. The only thing he was unsure of was whether or not Tezuka had any interest in Fumiko. If he did, it would complicate his plans, but he had to take a chance with Tezuka prioritizing tennis over a frivolous relationship.

Inui watched as the girl closely observed the opposing teams around her, writing down anything useful into her notebook. Whenever Tezuka would come into view or approached them to talk about something, she would jump back slightly and twirl her hair between her fingers. When she was being spoken to by the captain, she stuttered over a few words in her response, but it would only be noticeable to someone who was paying close attention to her mannerisms. Her body swayed to and fro and she would laugh nervously at some things Tezuka would say. When they were alone together, her demeanor flipped completely and she would continue her careful observations of the players around her after letting out a small sigh. Inui was convinced that she was completely smitten. 

He was confused as to what exactly Fumiko saw in Tezuka. At a glance, Tezuka was almost certainly not her type. He was very good looking, athletic and diligent, but extremely serious and silent. Most of the people she associated with were loud and vocal about their opinions and thoughts. She didn't seem to enjoy being around other serious people and didn't believe grades were the most important thing in the world. She would normally disagree with Tezuka on many matters related to student governance. He stretched his imagination thin trying to deduce a reason for her attraction to his friend. The more he thought about it, the more confused he became. There was simply no logical reasoning for all of this effort that he could think of.

As he let himself become more distracted by his thoughts, he didn't realize that the girl he was supposed to be monitoring had disappeared from his line of sight. A shrill scream snapped his attention back to reality.

"Let me go, you disgusting creature!"

Inui swung his head around and saw Fumiko struggling to free herself from the grip of another school's tennis player. Tezuka had also been observing the situation and ran up to the girl before he could.

" This is bad, " Inui thought as he continued to observe the situation.

"Let go of her," came the stern command from the Seigaku captain. "I will report this incident to the tournament organizers if you do not."

“Stay out of this!” the other boy yelled back, completely ignoring the threat. “This bitch has nothing to do with you, Seigaku’s Tezuka.”

Tezuka stood his ground and continued to deescalate the situation. “You are engaging in unsportsmanlike behaviour. I would suggest you let her go before you disqualify your entire team from the tournament.” 

Fumiko looked over to Inui. The absolute terror in her eyes had struck a chord within the tactician’s heart and he couldn’t look away. “Do something, Sadaharu!” she pleaded.

Without hesitation, he started yelling at the top of his lungs as he ran towards them. The loud noise caught the attention of the boy enough for him to loosen his grip on the terrified girl. Tezuka instantly reached out and pulled her away from the threat and into his arms. The loud yelling caught the attention of some tournament officials, who were now making their way towards the commotion. 

“Are you alright?” Tezuka whispered quietly to her. 

She nodded as she continued to cling onto his team jacket. “I am, thanks to you, Tezuka-kun.”

Inui watched the two from where  he was standing. “ Shoot! She’s in his arms! This is very bad for my plans, ” he thought.

A tournament official approached the two, looking to talk with the captain. “Tezuka-kun, may I have a word with you?”

Tezuka nodded. “Stay with Inui. I’ll be back, Kajiwara-san.” 

As Tezuka walked away, Inui slowly approached her from behind. She turned around and placed herself within his arms, visibly shaken by what had happened. A few tears trickled down her face.


“How embarrassing…” She wiped away her tears as she tried to hide her face from the bespectacled boy. “I’m crying in front of the person I didn't want to see me in this state.”

“There is an 89.5% chance of someone crying after an upsetting situation. This reaction is to be expected.” Unconsciously, he wrapped his arms around her small, shaking frame. "I can tell you with certainty-"

“Sadaharu, please, just shut up,” she pleaded. “Tezuka-kun would just stay silent in this situation. If you’re seriously going to compete against him, at least learn his mannerisms.”

Inui did as she commanded and shut his mouth. He felt his chest tighten as he continued to hold onto Fumiko. Something in him didn’t want that moment to end, but Tezuka’s return quickly changed that. He felt his mood sour slightly as jealousy began to plague his busy mind.

“Kajiwara-san, I spoke with the organizers. You do not need to worry about that player anymore,” Tezuka informed her. 

“Thank you, Tezuka-kun, but I think I’ll sit the rest of the tournament out. After all, I’ve collected all the data Sadaharu needed,” Fumiko said rather defeatedly. “I’m fairly confident that you will win the championships.”

Inui knew he wanted to celebrate. This was a major victory in his war against Kajiwara Fumiko, but he couldn’t help but feel disappointed. “That’s too bad, Kajiwara. Thank you for the help today. Without you, I wouldn’t have all of this wonderful data to ensure our victory.”

“I’m not throwing in the towel yet, Sadaharu. You’re going to need to try a lot harder than that to make me give up,” she smirked. 

Later that night when he was reviewing the data he had collected, Inui was also crunching numbers related to Fumiko. He had to confirm whether or not she actually was in love or not. Using a complex set of equations and parameters, he began to quantify each of the small gestures and assign values that would better help him understand how in love she was. The further he went, the more he wanted to stop. It was pretty obvious to anyone that she was in love without needing to assign a numerical value to it, and yet, that fact caused him a great deal of discomfort.

“The probability that Kajiwara Fumiko is in love with Tezuka is 100%...”

He didn’t want to accept this. He had to make her change her mind, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to until the tournament was over. Frustrated, he shut off his computer and crawled into bed to try and sleep off his foul mood.

Following Seigaku’s win at the Nationals, there were quite a number of monetary loose ends that the club needed to tie up. Unfortunately, the club’s budget did not contain enough funds to cover the amount of unexpected costs of several hospital visits, various property damages and a spontaneous yakiniku eating contest between five schools. Sitting in the Student Council Room were the most egregious offenders from the Boys’ Tennis Team, along with the club treasurer, Nishi Hideto, and a very cross Fumiko. The amount of papers scattered across the tables was enough to make anyone’s head spin.

The student council treasurer leaned forward and placed her clasped hands on the tabletop. Her unamused expression had not changed from the moment the meeting started. “I don’t know what to say about any of this.”

“That makes two of us, Kajiwara-san,” Nishi agreed. “The hospital visits can be filed with the school’s health budget, but claiming all of these visits all at once is very alarming.” He slid over the receipts for some of the visits across the table.

Fumiko glossed over the receipts and medical reports as she picked up her small bottle of ibuprofen and swallowed two pills. She started rubbing her temples to try and soothe her raging headache. “So, Tezuka-kun almost destroyed his elbow again , Kawamura-kun somehow survived being blasted into the stadium seating several times and without breaking any bones, and Sadaharu...” She looked at Inui’s strangely bandaged head with his glasses sitting on top. “I don’t even know where to begin with this one.”

Kawamura Takashi laughed nervously to try and ease the tension. “M-my apologies, Kajiwara-san. I got a bit too carried away with that match.”

“Uh-huh…” She turned her attention towards Tezuka and gave him an expression that just said ‘really?’ as she shook her head in disbelief. “Tezuka-kun, do you have anything to say about this?”

The stoic captain pushed his glasses up his face. “It would be a conflict of interest to say something, seeing as I am also the president. I offer my deepest apologies, Kajiwara-san.”

“Maybe we should all just take a deep breath,” Oishi said as he tried to deescalate the situation. “It’s perfectly normal to get injured in a sport, Kajiwara-chan.”

“I find it hard to believe that tennis can damage a teenage boy’s body enough to warrant all of these hospital visits,” she snapped back. “If this was the American Football team, I wouldn’t be questioning these expenditures because it’s a contact sport. What kind of tennis do you all play?”

“You needn’t concern yourself with technicalities, Kajiwara,” Inui interjected. “What happened has already happened. I offer my apologies for the trouble that I have caused.”

Fumiko took a deep breath. “Right…” She stacked the medical paperwork together into a neat stack and set them aside. “Thankfully, the budget for unexpected medical costs has been collecting dust for the past decade. I’ll forward those receipts to the administration for processing.”

Nishi sighed. “Moving on from that,” he slid over the reports on property damage caused by the team during the tournament, “these are the next items on the agenda.”

Fumiko picked up the reports and began flipping through the thick stack of papers. “A whole overhead light fell on top of the court during Echizen-kun’s match and no one was injured? And the game still went on?” The amount of disbelief she was feeling at the moment was insane. “Is this really tennis?”

The boys all looked at each other, trying to silently signal for one of them to say something. They were all unsure of how to explain what kind of tennis they played to the girl, who was now getting more and more heated.

“The amount of damages that this team is liable for is staggering, to say the least. No amount of money within the school’s actual budget will be enough to cover this,” she stated. “Thankfully, it seems that someone has already paid for all of these damages prior to this meeting. He just called the school earlier this morning to tell me this. I believe he mentioned his name was Atobe? He was extremely conceited when I spoke with him, but it seems like he paid for all of it in full.”

A small vein popped in Tezuka’s head upon learning what the Hyoutei captain had done. “I suppose I must go thank him later on behalf of the team,” he grumbled under his breath.

Nishi’s visible stress was diminishing with every resolution reached. “What a relief,” he groaned. 

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Nishi-kun. There’s still one more staggering expenditure that we have to go over,” Fumiko pointed out.

The boys started sweating visibly as Fumiko slid over the excessively long receipt from a local yakiniku restaurant. She glanced down at it before looking back up at the boys with a blank expression that terrified all of them.

“I offer no explanation for what happened, Kajiwara-san,” Tezuka stated.

“This is a 1.5 million yen bill for raw meat that you cook yourself. I didn’t even know it was possible to eat that much between the nine players on the starting roster.” She turned her attention towards Nishi. “Why are you trying to take responsibility for these idiots and their actions, Nishi-kun?”

“Believe me, this was not the bill I was expecting either. Ryuzaki-sensei was equally as angry as you are now, Kajiwara-san,” Nishi responded.

“I do not need my feelings to be validated, but I appreciate the gesture,” she smiled in a threatening way. “Boys, whose genius idea was it to host an eating contest at a restaurant that did not offer an all-you-can-eat option with four other schools also participating and eating about 75% of what was on this bill?”

All of them looked at each other, trying to silently accuse one another of conjuring this idea. Nishi sank further down in his chair, trying to stay out of this situation.

“Tezuka-kun, you’re the captain of this team and the president of this council. Were you not thinking logically? Why would you ever approve of this?”

Tezuka was silent, as he could not refute Fumiko’s points. He couldn’t even muster an apology for his lapse of judgement.

“Kajiwara-chan, it was not Tezuka’s fault,” Oishi said, trying to defend the captain. “I’ll take responsibility for what happened. I got carried away as well.”

“I can hardly believe that the so-called ‘yakiniku magistrate’ is the sole person responsible for this,” she groaned. 

“Well, Kajiwara-san, the other schools just kind of invited themselves. The restaurant owner just put everything onto the one bill since no one said anything,” Kawamura explained. “In hindsight, I should have said something, but I was too busy watching over the ones who collapsed in the parking lot out front.”

Fumiko slammed her head onto the table in defeat. “I’m speechless. I truly do not know what else to say,” she muttered as she let her head rest on the hard surface. “Just, leave. All of you.”

“Kajiwara-chan, please just let us-”

“Stop, Oishi-kun.” She tilted her head enough to glare at the vice captain. “Nothing any of you imbeciles say will change the fact that I am angry. I need time alone to think about where to find this money in the school’s budget and your club funds.”

Kawamura and Nishi immediately stood up and hastily apologized before bolting out of the room, leaving Oishi, Tezuka and Inui remaining with the fuming girl. Oishi stood up and walked over to her, gently placing his hand on her shoulder in a strange attempt to try and comfort her. Tezuka, on the other hand, walked over to one of the cabinets and pulled out a box of small candies and placed it in front of Fumiko. The girl poked her head up and slowly reached into the box, pulling out a few candies and shoving them into her mouth. Her sour mood instantly changed into a softer, more zen demeanor. Inui was fascinated by how the small pieces of sugar and food colouring could change her mood that quickly and wondered what else they contained.

“Better?” Tezuka asked the girl.

“Yes, very.” She smiled warmly at her fellow council member. “Thanks, Tezuka-kun.”

Inui reached for one of the candies and studied it closely. It looked like nothing more than a simple strawberry-flavoured milk candy. He pushed his bandages apart, exposing his lips, and placed it in his mouth and found that it was exactly what it looked like.

“Kajiwara-chan, I know 1.5 million is a lot of money, but I can assure you we’ll find a way to pay it,” Oishi reassured. “The club must have some sort of emergency funding or leftover money somewhere.”

“Relax, Oishi-kun. I sorted all of it out before we even started this meeting,” Fumiko laughed. “I just wanted to give you guys a hard time. Ryuzaki-sensei specifically asked me to yell at all of you on her behalf. Your debts have been paid in full since the headmaster has a particular bias to this team and found the money somewhere in the budget.”

The three boys all let out a collective sigh of relief upon hearing her words. Tezuka cleared his throat. “If it has been sorted, then I will not need to take up any more of your time,” he said to his two teammates. “Kajiwara-san and I will handle the rest, including the ‘thank you’ to Atobe.”

Oishi bowed profusely at Fumiko as he shuffled his way to the door. “Thank you again, Kajiwara-chan.”

“Save your breath, Oishi-kun. You sound like a broken record.” She waved at him as he left. “And then, there were three.” She turned to address Inui, who had been studying the small box of candies and scribbling down notes the entire time. “It’s just sugar and some other chemicals that make it taste like artificial strawberries, Einstein. No need to overanalyze it.”

She must really enjoy these… I’ll make a mental note for later, ” Inui remarked. 

Fumiko jumped up and hugged onto Tezuka’s arm. “Tezuka-kun knows exactly what to do when I’m grumpy. I’m so lucky to be able to work with someone like him.”

Tezuka cleared his throat again. “I appreciate the compliments, Kajiwara-san, but…” his voice trailed off.

“Oh!” She let go of his arm after she realized it was his injured one. “Sorry about that, Tezuka-kun.”

“That’s alright.” He shuffled past her towards the door. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said before leaving the room.

The girl plopped herself back in her chair and pulled a pen out of thin air to begin filling out the forms she would have to submit. “You’re free to leave, Sadaharu. Meeting’s over.”

“Just because the Nationals are over does not mean this war is over, Kajiwara,” Inui informed her. 

“Oh? Still trying to stop me from making your precious captain fall in love with my alluring beauty? You really do not give up easily.” She sighed as she continued to scribble down information on the sheets before her. “You guys won. Why does it matter if I pursue a relationship with Tezuka-kun now?”

“It would be unwise, Kajiwara. You know Tezuka is leaving for Germany at the end of this school year.”

“And? Is there something that forbids me from dating him, other than your insistence that he’s not the right guy for me?”

Fumiko’s words hit him harder than he realized. Why was he so obsessed with keeping her away from Tezuka now? Why did it matter now that they had fulfilled their mission of winning the national title? He began to fret over his intentions and why he was doing this. 

“Hello? Sadaharu, are you still with me?”

Inui stood up from his seat and left the room without saying anything else, leaving Fumiko confused but relieved that he was now gone. Now alone, she set her pen down on the table and crossed her arms as she leaned back in her chair.

“How much longer until you realize your own feelings, Inui Sadaharu?”

Valentine’s Day had reared its ugly head once again, causing all of the girls to become worked up about the types of chocolates they would give to the special boys in their lives. Despite the Nationals being over by that point, Inui was still fixated on trying to stop Fumiko from her goal of winning over Tezuka’s heart. Knowing that she was definitely planning on giving Tezuka chocolates on Valentine’s Day after secretly following her the other day, he had to intercept the package before Tezuka received it. The operation had to be as discreet as possible, where he would swap the expensive chocolates she had bought for some generic chocolates instead. He would then return the expensive chocolates to her and tell her a contrived story of how Tezuka rejected her feelings but told Inui to tell her instead. This was the final nail in the coffin based on his calculations. Once this switcheroo was completed, he was certain that Fumiko would give up on her pursuits. 

On the morning of, he made sure to wake up extra early in order to make it to school before anyone else could get there. He memorized her extremely detailed schedule down to a T and knew she would be early that day to deal with some more paperwork related to the council. By the time he had arrived, he was certain that she had already placed the box of expensive chocolate on the captain’s desk in his classroom. What he was not expecting to find was Tezuka already at his desk that was overflowing with chocolates from other girls.

Inui looked through the classroom door window and hesitated opening it. He continued to watch Tezuka as the stoic boy went through all of the various chocolates that were placed on his desk. The moment Tezuka’s hands picked up Fumiko’s box, he calmly slid the door open, causing the captain to turn in his direction.

“Inui, good morning,” Tezuka greeted.

“Good morning, Tezuka,” he responded. “I think there may have been a mix up with our chocolates this morning.” He held up the giri chocolate he had bought yesterday, but wrote down Tezuka’s name on it instead of his. “This one was left in my shoe locker, but it’s for you. The one in your hand was meant for me.”

Tezuka raised an eyebrow at how suspicious Inui was acting, but handed the box over to him regardless. He knew better than to not ask questions to save himself from the mental gymnastics he would have to do to justify his teammate's actions. “Thank you, Inui.”

Inui snatched the box away from Tezuka and quickly made his way out of the classroom. He ran straight towards the Student Council Room, where he caught Fumiko leaving the place to head to their own classroom.

“Kajiwara, hold on a second,” he called out as he approached her.

“Sadaharu, what could you possibly want with me this early in the morning?” she asked, clearly exhausted.

He held the box out to her. “Tezuka asked me to return this to you. He cannot return your feelings for him.”

She gave him a less than amused look. “Those weren’t the chocolates I had given Tezuka-kun.”

“These were on his desk this morning. I watched you buy these three days ago in Shinjuku.”

“Are you admitting to stalking me, Sadaharu? Regardless of what you say, those are not Tezuka-kun’s chocolates,” she simply stated.

“This doesn’t make sense.”

Fumiko felt her eyes roll into the back of her head. “Sadaharu, did you even bother to read the tag?” she asked in a condescending tone.

“Why would I need to read it?” The boy slid his fingers between the folded gift tag to open it and began to read it without thinking. “It clearly says-” He froze in his tracks as he studied the kanji over and over again in his head. “This is my name.”

“Yes, genius. Now, what does that tell you about that box of chocolates?”

“Then why did Tezuka have them if they were meant for me?”

The girl laughed. “Honestly, Sadaharu, has it never crossed your tiny brain that you’ve been tricked? That I knew you would try to swap the chocolates I bought for Tezuka with some cheap chocolates you bought yourself because you wanted to save me from being rejected? I appreciate the gesture, but I knew Tezuka-kun would reject me.”

Inui was now more confused than ever. “I don’t understand. Surely, my calculations could not be wrong.”

“Your calculations are completely useless, you fool. I was never in love with Tezuka-kun.”

“But that’s impossible!” he exclaimed. “My calculations proved to me that you were in love! If it’s not Tezuka, then who?”

She groaned. “Who do you think, birdbrain?” A light pink blush began to surface on her cheeks. “It was always you, Sadaharu.”

The gears within Inui’s head began to spin around until everything clicked. The more he thought about all of the situations he had ended up in with Fumiko, the more he realized they were elaborate plans to get him to focus on her. The constant trades she would make in exchange for his own information and data. The fact that she collected data for him on the rival schools under the guise of doing it for Tezuka’s sake. The flirtatious kiss she had given him when he boldly declared he would make her fall for him instead. They were all small steps to make him fall in love with her; not an attempt to steal Tezuka’s heart. She knew exactly how to manipulate the situation to make Inui become more and more jealous of Tezuka, which benefited her in the end. The only person she was a threat to was Inui himself.

“I was wondering when you would figure things out. Honestly, for the famous strategist of the Boys’ Tennis Team, it took you almost a whole year when the rest of your teammates figured out within a day or two,” she huffed. 

“You…” He lunged towards her, pinning her between his body and the wall of the hallway. “You deceived me this entire time…”

She reached up to cup his face in her hands. “Yes, and I wouldn’t put it past you if you reject me now.”

“Reject you? Out of the question.” The blush on his face had deepened. “I'm afraid that the probability that I have completely fallen for you is 100%, Kajiwara Fumiko.”

Fumiko was speechless as she stared into Inui’s emerald green eyes. The taller boy lowered his head until his lips were mere inches away from her’s. He hesitated to close the gap between them, but she leaned forward and did it for him. The kiss was different from the one he remembered from the cultural festival. This one was more gentle and conveyed a feeling that Inui couldn’t explain no matter how much he thought about it. It was warm, sweet and inviting and he wanted more.

So, this is what love feels like, ” he thought.

The two slowly started to back off of each other. Fumiko couldn’t help but smile. “Personally, I would have preferred milk candies in exchange for the chocolates, but a kiss will suffice for now,” she said playfully. 

“Bold of you to assume I haven’t thought about that, Kajiwara.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box of the candies in question and handed it to her.

The girl burst into laughter over the simple gesture. “For once, you are ahead of me!” She accepted the small box and gave him a light peck on his cheek. “Too bad this will be the only time you’re ahead of me, Sadaharu.”

Inui gave her a small, defeated smile. “Mind game or not, my feelings for you will not change. I love you, Kajiwara Fumiko.”

Fumiko wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her forehead onto his. The two students closed their eyes as their lips slowly met once again. Though he had yet to quantify everything he was feeling at that moment, Inui was happy with himself. Even though he was manipulated into playing a major role in an elaborate story, the outcome was more than he could ask for.