Chapter 3: Change.

Common Honorifics:
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.

We arrived at school and headed straight to the classroom together.
As soon as she stepped in, everyone’s faces burst into color and the class was alive once again.
One after another, our classmates flocked around her as if they’d been waiting for it.
With a smile on her face, Suzuka answered everyone while I quietly slipped out of her circle to go back to my seat.

Even if I stay there, I wouldn’t be able to talk with her.
Not even by standing right next to her, since people with something to say would always interrupt.

My seat was conveniently located at the very back by the window.
I sat down by my desk, took a heavy breath, and just looked at Suzuka.
She was still surrounded by her friends and hadn’t come near her seat.
She still had her bag on her, yet she continued to talk with them without a sliver of annoyance showing up on her face.

As I absentmindedly pondered if that was one of the reasons she was popular, someone sat down in the seat right in front of mine.

“Good morning,” I greeted briefly.
Hearing my words, they half-turned their head and answered, “…Morning.” I haven’t talked much with her, but she’s someone I’ve known since I was in elementary school.

It was Mayumi Kuraki, and she stood out from Suzuka in a different way.
Because of her appearance, she’s the subject of many rumors and is kept at a “safe” distance from other girls.
Although there were guys who came up to her because of that same reason, she rarely dealt with them and is usually left alone.

Sometimes she seems to skip class somewhere and is nowhere to be found, but this is how our mornings together usually go.
When she’s here, not many people walk our way and the seats by the window become a quiet haven.
I occasionally find myself liking this serenity since I feel I can calm down and sort my mind out.

As I sat there looking out the window, I thought about how Suzuka and I could spend Christmas together.

“Hinata! About the aquarium, Miki and Ai are coming as well! I got my friends right away!”

“T, that was fast.
We can’t go on a date anymore…” I muttered that last part.

“What’s wrong? Aren’t you gonna hang out with a bunch of girls? You’re not happy?”

“I’m sure there will be more boys to come.
With all those girls, you’re sure to invite some boys, right?”

“I’m impressed! You know me so well!”

“I’ve known you for over a decade now.”

During lunch break, Suzuka came to sit next to me with her lunch box in hand.
We always ate in the classroom together, as well as with some of her friends.
Apparently, she’s spent all morning talking to a lot of people, and now there are a lot of them who’ll also go to the aquarium with us.

Now having a date was thoroughly impossible.
I sigh inwardly, but then prep myself up.
I mean, we can still be together, right?

“But is it okay? I mean, wasn’t it a date just between you two?” Said Miki, my classmate, and her friend.
She also came over here with a lunch box to eat with us.

“Of course it’s fine! I mean, the more the merrier! Right, Hinata?”

“Haha, yeah,” I forced a laugh, depressed Suzuka didn’t pay me any mind.

Nothing was out of the ordinary.
It was a morning like any other.
This is how my days with her usually went, and how they’ll keep going… Or so I thought.

I took classes as usual, ate lunch with her as usual, talked with her friends as usual, and we’d go straight back home as usual.
We both weren’t particularly involved in any clubs, so as we were getting ready to up and leave, she walked up to my seat.

“Are you ready? Do you wanna go somewhere today?”

“Hmm? You want something sweet again, maybe?”

“Oh, you sure know what you’re talking about! Of course!”

She went back to grabbing her stuff looking satisfied with my guess.
We’ve known each other for quite a long time, so apart from when her friends invite her, she usually hangs out with me.
It’s in those outings when she goes down on some sweets.

“Amazing, Hinata.”

“You two are like a couple, aren’tcha?”

Classmates around us marveled at our synced conversation.

“I know right~? I’m not your childhood friend~!” She bumped her shoulders on mine, rendering a resounding ‘yay!’ inside my brain.

“Well, she doesn’t know where I wanna go, though.”

“Ugh, you promised not to say that!”

I quipped sarcastically, but inside I felt like a party was thrown for being called a couple, and to have her rub my shoulders in a flirty way like that.
Well, that’s because it felt like we were recognized by those around us.

Most students went to their clubs after school, so Suzuka and I are often alone together.
Just as I was ready to leave for home, something happened.

This was the turning point for our usual routine.

“Is Ichinose-san here?” I turned to look at the unfamiliar voice, only to spot a handsome man standing right at the classroom’s entrance.

That’s Taniguchi from the next class.
He’s the ace of the baseball team, number four there, and boasts an instagrammable physique he surely worked hard on.
His short hair, unshaven, compliments his sharp face.
While he’s said to be popular with the girls, he’s never received a confession from anyone.

What does Suzuka think of a guy this handsome? At this point, my gut was telling me some bad stuff.

“Ah, Taginuchi-kun.
What’s wrong?” She asked.

“Oh, good, you’re still here.
If you want to, I’d like to go out with you for a while after this.” His slightly nervous demeanor only made my gut churn further.
At that moment, Suzuka seemed to sense something as well.

“Something you can’t say here?”

If it’s not too much trouble for you, I’d like you to come with me.”

“…Okay, sure,” she thought about it for a bit, but in the end, she decided to accept Taniguchi’s offer.

“Sorry, Hinata.
Today’s a no-no for me, you can go on first.”

“…No… problem.
I’m off.”

As soon as I tell her I don’t mind, she grabs her stuff and leaves the classroom with Taniguchi.
A little later, the whole classroom began to buzz.

“Hey, hey, it’s gonna be a confession!”

“That’s for sure! I mean, don’t you know there’s a rumor Taniguchi-kun liked Suzuka for the looongest time?”

“Oh my! Is this the birth of a beautiful couple?”

“So I guess Hinata-kun was just her friend after all.”

I quietly slipped and left the classroom, letting all the uproar behind me.
I struggled to fight my emotions, to keep them inside and not let them show.
Even though I was the first one she invited out, even though I had done it myself, she still went with a different man.

Holding these bursting feelings was an impossible task.
Taniguchi just came out from the side unannounced.

Is it anger? Sadness? Jealousy? Is it her fault? My fault? Taniguchi’s fault? I gradually lost myself to a whirlwind of emotions, caught in the eye of the storm.

Afraid that I might take these feelings out on someone else, I hobbled out of the school.


Due to all that, I didn’t pay much attention to a certain someone’s gaze I felt through the classroom window.

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