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Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 29/6/15]

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:52 am
by swampie2
Sharp-O wrote:“Tell me why you’re drinking again, Akio.”
Ohh dear.

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 29/6/15]

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:11 am
by Sharp-O
swampie2 wrote:
Sharp-O wrote:“Tell me why you’re drinking again, Akio.”
Ohh dear.
Oh dear is correct :lol:

Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 5:40 pm
by Sharp-O
Chapter Thirteen: Jokers Wild


I snatch the bottle of cheap sake out of his hand and pour it out in front of him. “Wha? Hey man, don’t!”

“Shut up.” Stay in control. The burning is still there. I hate feeling this angry.

“But tha’s--”

“Shut the fuck up, Akio,” Stay. In. Control. “Why are we here again? You knew what this day meant to me but instead of being here with Ritsu, I‘m babysitting you.”

He watches the last drops of alcohol drip from the bottle like I’d kicked his dog. Good. I hope it hurts.

“I’m sorry, Taro…” He mumbles.

“What are you sorry for?” I scold, tossing the bottle in the recycling and walking back. Akio shifts listlessly on the bench, his eyes are blank, he’s not focusing on anything. Don’t make me slap you, you stupid son of a--

“Can I as’ you summat?” He tilts his head in my general direction but not at me. I pinch the bridge of my nose in frustration. “Sure…”

“Y’know how a-a line ish point to point, right? Well ish it shtill a line if you go to a point off to the shide to reach it? Or ish tha‘ a trian-gull?” His garbled speech is not helping his case if he’s trying to make a point.

“I’m not here to discuss geometry with you, Akio. I’m here to take you home.” I breathe a heavy sigh.

“Ooooh! So tha good guy Taroo hash come to save his poor broken friend. Bet you feel pretty good about yourshelf, bein’ tha big damn hero all the fuckin’ time…”

“Nothing about this is good, Akio. For either of us.” He manages to stand, surprisingly. Where’s his cane?

“So suddenly you’re an expert on wha’s good fer me? D’y’know wha I think? I think fuck you!”

“We don’t have time for this…”

“No, no, no we gots all the time. Becoss I’ve got summat to tell youse.” He’s changed again, this one more apologetic, desperate. Pitiful. I look around and see his discarded cane.

My mind wanders to the first time I found him drunk. It was halfway up the hill to Yamaku. He’d somehow managed to convince someone to buy some rancid, cheap, sake. He was hammered, going on and on about his deadbeat alcoholic dad and how being born disabled made him less in his dad’s eyes. I could relate. So I hauled him back to school and we eventually became friends. This has happened a few times since then, any kind of setback seems to drive him to drink. Being genetically predisposed to alcoholism it didn’t help. He’s fragile in more ways than one.

“Do you remember the last time we did this?” I ask idly. I don’t even care what his answer is, I’m just hoping he’ll pass out soon. I retrieve his cane from the bushes.

“Valentines. Lasht year.” He stands in place, swaying gently from side to side.

“Good. Then you should remember how long I sat with you on the roof, listening to your tale of unrequited love for Molly. Was it Molly?” I collapse his cane into it’s three component parts and placing them in my messenger back. Good thing I brought it, really.

“Yerr…” He’s slumped down on the bench again. Hopefully he’ll run out of steam soon.

“And do you remember the time before that? The red-head in the wheelchair?”

“Fuuka… She wash great.”

“And the one before her?” I press on.

“I shee a patturn formin’” He slurs.

“{Exactly}! The same damn pattern every time you don’t have the balls to take the first step when it comes to your feelings. And every time we come to this point, you say the same damn thing. Do you remember what THAT is?!”

“I say…” Seems he remembers. Good, then maybe he realises how thoroughly disappointed I am.

“You say that you won’t pull this shit again. And yet here we are. I assume this is about another girl?” He closes his eyes to avoid me, so it is.

“Who?” Silence. “Who is it, Akio?” He slumps face first into the hard wooden bench. Fine by me.

I reach into my pocket to retrieve my phone.

[Found our {Missing Ace}. Going to take taxi back to Yamaku. How is everyone?] I text to Ritsu. Please don’t call, I don’t think I could handle that right now...

[A bit shaken up but more concerned than anything. We’ll be heading back too then. How are you?] Good question, Rits.

[Tired. Gonna hit the hay once he’s dealt with. See you tomorrow?]

[Sure thing. Love you.] A faint smile creeps across my lips. That’s the first time she’s said that, even in a casual way.

[Love you too.]


I managed to find a taxi to takes us back to Yamaku but it burned through all the cash I had on me. Plus what little change Akio had. I thank the driver, who offers an understanding smile and nod before driving off. I carry Akio through the grounds on my shoulders. I think I’ve had more cardio work-outs in the past few weeks than I have in three years and I'm not even winded. In your face, Nurse!

“Heh.” Good, I’m getting my sense of humour back

When we reach the boys’ dorms, Akio begins to stir. “I’m so shorree, man…”

“I know.”

He manages to hobble into his room with my support. I prop him on the edge of his bed as I go into the bathroom and grab a glass of water for his night stand. I kneel down in front of him to retrieve his cane from my bag and remove his shoes. I place them neatly in front of his bedside table.

“Okay, your shoes and cane are here and you have a glass of water there. Take slow sips.” He barely mumbles a thank you. I close my bag but tumble backwards as Akio falls on me. “Yer too good ta me, Taroo. Hey. I gos to tell yoo…” He slurs.

“God damn it, Aki--mmph.” And just as suddenly as he fell on me, Akio slumps face first into the cord carpet, unconscious. I carefully creep backwards along the floor, retrieving my bag. I don’t take my eyes off the sleeping Akio as I close the door.

I pull out my phone.

[I need you.]


It’s an arc, right? A point reaching another point via a tertiary point is an arc, not a triangle... I keep saying it in my head, trying put the pieces of the twisted logic puzzle Akio presented me with together. It doesn’t make sense.

“Secret night-time meetings? People will talk~” She says with an amused tone, taking a spot next to me on the bench, heavy shadows cast around us by the lamp above us. The cool night air is the only thing that’s soothing me but now she’s here, I hope that will change.

“Thank you for coming... I really appreciate it.” I sigh. “How are the others?”

“Ranging from confused to concerned and everything in between.” She replies honestly.

“Something happened… Something that I can’t make sense of.” I’m still chewing through the puzzle in my head. I just don‘t get it.

“What? You didn’t smack Akio, did you? I know I wanted to…”

“No… He…” It doesn’t make sense. “Akio kissed me.” The disgruntled ‘huh’ is not the reaction I expected.

“Didn’t know he swung that way.”

“You’re telling me.” Her genuine laugh is music to my ears.

“Hell of day, then?” She offers and I can’t help but chuckle.

“Got that right. Things have been a blur recently and now this. A lot of things have changed…” I shake my head, rubbing my face.

“Seriously, how the fuck am I meant to react to this? Love triangles are such a fucking cliché and now I‘m smack in the middle of one. It‘s fucking bullshit!” My temper’s flaring.

Hey! This isn’t your fault, Taro... You just got dealt a shitty hand, is all.” You can say that again.

“What am I meant to do?” Please help me.

“I can’t answer that for you, big guy.” Her voice is delicate and low. “ButI figure you’ll face this just like everything else that life has thrown at you… You’ll lead with your heart. That big, adorable, dorky heart of yours. It might hurt, but you won’t stop, and you’ll give everything you’ve got, until you make things right…”

Her powerful words hang in the air like a microcosm of her thoughts. For the first time in a very long time, I wish my damned right hand would move as she delicately places her bandaged stump in it’s palm.

“Thanks, Miki. I needed this.”

It had to be her. She understands the struggle. When we both enrolled in Yamaku, we were much different people to now. Circumstances were different. As were our outlooks; She was angry, I was depressed but we were still very much in sync. We lashed out because we couldn’t control anything. Just like Akio…
Do you know what happens when two lost, troubled, one-handed individuals meet? They give each other a {helping hand}.

“Us one-handers gotta stick together, right?” She laughs and I join her with what little energy I have. “But I don’t think I’m the person you should be talking to… The fact that I’m here instead of Ritsu worries me, man.”

“I know, and I’m sorry that I dragged you into this. I just needed an opinion from a friend, someone outside of this… situation. Someone I trusted.” I offer a weak smile.

“Needed a wild card, eh? Well I have been described as wild before.” She laughs, getting up and stretching before taking a few steps forward. “You know I’ll always have your back, Taro, but you’ve got to promise me something, okay?”

I nod slowly as she looks back over her shoulder, a wistful expression across her usually confident face.

“I know I’ve joked about it… But don’t go breaking any hearts, big guy. Especially your own.” And with that, she’s gone.

I lean back and let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t think I’ll have any choice…”

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 6:45 pm
by swampie2
Only criticism I can offer it that I thought Taro had met with Ritsu, and read that whole part thinking it was her. I don't know if you intended that, but that's how it came across. Perhaps I missed a sentence though :lol:

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 6:49 pm
by Sharp-O
It was an intentional misdirect :wink:

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:18 pm
by Mirage_GSM
Yeah, well, such intentional misdirects are a bit questionable in first person narration, but as**/ long as you don't overuse it...

I have greater misgivings about Akio's alcoholism. Somehow he seems to be able to get access to alcohol on a semi-regular basis, and that's kinda hard without older siblings who would buy it for him - or the cash to convince a store clerk to commit a felony...

Not sure why Taro places so much weight on a kiss by someone who was obviously dead drunk. I've been kissed by a drunk friend before - she was female but we've never been romantically interested in one another before or after.

This goes all the more for Akio whose crushes seem to change almost as regularly as his underwear ^^°

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:33 pm
by Sharp-O
I thought it would be a nice little swerve to what could have been a rather boring scene and, because it's in first person, I felt it perfectly reasonable that Taro himself didn't need to identify Miki until he said her name. :)

As I established in Taro's monologue, Akio has convinced strangers to buy alcohol for him before so it's entirely conceivable that he did so again.

As for Taro's reaction to the kiss, it's shock. After spending the past hour or so being pissed off, for Akio to turn around and kiss him would come as a major shock.

EDIT -- Big ups to Munchenhausen for providing the first piece of fanart for the series! You can find it in Chapter 8: Sleight of Hand! Thank you, sir!

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 5:05 am
by Alpacalypse
Okay, I somehow managed to miss out on commenting on three other chapters this time.
Time to rectify that!
Midnight Snack
*nonchalant whistling*
What, me? No, I didn't react to that at all, what are you on about? Hahahahaha! shuddup
Anyway, not bad, but I don't really consider myself a h-scene critic of any description, so take anything I say with a pinch of salt. :wink:
Perchance to Dream
While I do agree that solving an issue of persistent nightmares would take much longer than one therapy session, I appreciate that it was more to show some of Taro's issues than be a plot-point in and of itself, so I'll let it slide for now :wink:
That little bit with Ritsu fussing over him and Taro asking her out was rather amusing, too.
Good chapter! :D
It's all Fun and Games...
The majority of the chapter, with the date and all that, was fun.
Then Akio drinking happened. Oh dear, oh dear, this is going to end badly for everybody. :(

Now, newest chapter; I would have commented more on Akio's alcoholism, but that was quite the curve-ball you threw at the end there - didn't see it coming at all. However, he was completely drunk, so I dunno whether you're actually going to play this as a love triangle in that way.
Also, Miki > Ritsu for comfort - potential cheating hazard?
Anyway, while the story did just get a whole lot less fun, it got a whole lot more interesting. I am intrigued.

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:53 am
by Mirage_GSM
As I established in Taro's monologue, Akio has convinced strangers to buy alcohol for him before so it's entirely conceivable that he did so again.
Uh... No.
If something unlikely happens once it can be dismissed as coincidence.
If it happens on a semi-regular basis - as seems the case with Akio - you have to come up with a better explanation than "he got someone to buy it for him"
You try getting a complete stranger to procure illegal goods for you and tell me if it was easy to find one.
And then try it in a town where everyone knows that a kid your age is probably from that school for the disabled up the hill for whom alcohol could interfere with any number of medications...
And then try it in Japan...

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 11:10 am
by Sharp-O
Alpacalypse wrote:Okay, I somehow managed to miss out on commenting on three other chapters this time.
Time to rectify that!
I think you were spot on when you compared me to a printing press :lol: It has been mentioned to me that my output might be a tad overwhelming for some people and believe me, I'm not trying to outdo anyone or step on toes, this is just my writing work ethic so I apologise if I'm writing too much :oops:
Alpacalypse wrote:While I do agree that solving an issue of persistent nightmares would take much longer than one therapy session, I appreciate that it was more to show some of Taro's issues than be a plot-point in and of itself, so I'll let it slide for now :wink:
It's super funny how most people are assuming that his problem is solved by one session/one good night's sleep. Not everything is wrapped up in one chapter :roll: Glad you got what I was going for, Al! :)
Alpacalypse wrote:Now, newest chapter; I would have commented more on Akio's alcoholism, but that was quite the curve-ball you threw at the end there - didn't see it coming at all. However, he was completely drunk, so I dunno whether you're actually going to play this as a love triangle in that way.
Much like Taro's backstory, Akio's backstory and mentality are being handled piecemeal (and so will Ritsu's) so things will be explained in the upcoming chapter. Whether that will be a good enough remains to be seen.
Alpacalypse wrote:Also, Miki > Ritsu for comfort - potential cheating hazard?
Anyway, while the story did just get a whole lot less fun, it got a whole lot more interesting. I am intrigued.
I really liked the idea of Miki and Taro sharing a bond! I think of them as friendly rivals because their personalities, gender and even functioning hands are opposites of each other, they just happened to meet at the right time and become firm friends. As for cheating hazard... Do you think Taro is capable of such a thing? :wink:
Mirage_GSM wrote:Uh... No.
You seem to take my veiled references to avoid spoilers as me not giving forethought to my own story so I'll make this clear: That is not the case. I have the exact course of events, leading all the way back to Akio's childhood, plotted out and made crystal clear in the next chapter. I sometimes write to build intrigue and suspense, so if you don't understand something, you can be damn sure I'll probably have an explanation for it within the story at some point. Patience, Mirage. Things will be made clear. :wink:

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 11:52 am
by Alpacalypse
Sharp-O wrote:As for cheating hazard... Do you think Taro is capable of such a thing?
Oi dunno *shrug*
I tend to speculate an awful lot when it comes to these things. It usually ends up going nowhere.
Sharp-O wrote:I apologise if I'm writing too much
Nah, you're fine. It's good that we have a writer who's both reasonably talented and dedicated to his work.
I just forgot to comment for whatever reason :oops:

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 12:07 pm
by swampie2
Sharp-O wrote:I apologise if I'm writing too much :oops:
It's great to have chapters this often, with slower updates I usually have to re-read chapters to remember where I am ;P

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 12:08 pm
by CaptainFalcon
I gotta say before I started reading this I wasn't sure what to expect, Taro is someone that has barely crossed my mind within the KS world. But your portrayal of him is excellent and i'm enjoying the story more and more as I go along. Consider me hooked and a fan!

Re: Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 1/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 2:16 pm
by Sharp-O
Al, Swampie, thank you for your continued support *bows*

Cap, thanks for reading and commenting! I'm glad you're enjoying the story and I hope you'll enjoy the future updates! :D

Monomyth: Taro Arai's Story [Update: 3/7/15]

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:31 pm
by Sharp-O
Chapter Fourteen: Three of a Kind

Ritsu didn’t break in this morning. Can’t decide if I’m happy about that or not. I slept surprisingly well, but emotional exhaustion will do that. Yesterday’s events weigh heavily on my mind and heart, the malaise making my morning routine unnaturally sluggish and the walk through the eerily silent grounds feels like a Sisyphean task.

I step through the door of Class 3-3, the atmosphere is sombre and the silence is deafening. This must be what Shizune lives with everyday. I think I respect her a little more now. Despite there being no classes today, this little meeting was arranged. A debriefing of yesterday’s events. I slowly make my way across the front of the classroom. Lezard is squatting near Ikuno, both avoiding eye contact with me. Miki offers me a small fist bump on my way past her, a small gesture of solidarity that is much appreciated. Suzu gives a smile as weak as my own. Conspicuous by his absence is Akio, no doubt nursing a hangover. I hope that’s all it is. And then there’s Ritsu. My wonderful Ritsu.

She steps out from behind her desk, taking measured steps towards me before curling her arms around my chest. Instinctively, my arm encloses around her shoulders and holds her tight against me. I don’t know what to say. There’s so much I want to say. So much I need to.

“Ritsu, I…” She shakes her head violently against my chest.

“Don’t you dare say you’re sorry. It’s not your fault. You have nothing to be sorry for!” Her voice is quivering, on the verge of tears. My heart is breaking and I say the only thing I hope will reassure her.

“Thank you for a wonderful date, Ritsu. I’d love to go again soon.” I feel her legs buckle and I gently follow her down, kneeling with a crying girl in my arms.


Eventually, Lezard and Ikuno make their excuses and leave. I don’t blame them, this is no doubt going to be very awkward. Suzu is dozing peacefully on her desk and Miki is sitting patiently. Very unlike her but I know she understands the gravity of the situation and, hopefully, my appreciation for her presence. Ritsu has dried her eyes but hasn’t left my arm.

“I think I‘m okay now…” She finally speaks up, standing under her own strength. She sniffles once and looks me dead in the eyes. “What happened yesterday?”

I sigh and get to my feet before perching on a nearby desk. “I don’t fully understand the whole story. I don’t know what kicked off with you guys bu--”

“Essentially, Akio was stood up.” Miki speaks up, turning towards us. “When we met up, he was expecting someone to be there, but they cancelled at the last second. Put him in a shitty mood for the rest of the afternoon.”

Ritsu asks the obvious question. “Who was it?”

“Haruhiko, the space-case in the front corner. He’s in the track club with me. Akio would have had better luck with the club captain if you ask me…” Miki offers, which only confuses Ritsu but I speak up before she can.

“That makes sense in hindsight. I think Akio is bisexual.”

“Wait, what?” Ritsu’s sceptical look says it all. “How could you possibly know that?”

I breathe a heavy sigh. “Because Akio kissed me last night.”

Ritsu stumbles backwards into a desk. That’s about the reaction I expected. “W-what?”

“When I found him last night, he was saying some nonsense about a love triangle, or what his drunk brain could best describe as a triangle. It didn’t make sense until later. There’s definitely a lot of conflicting emotions rolling around in that glass skull of his but that triangle stuff… The only way I can think of interpreting it is that he’s crushing on me.” If this was any other day, this would sound ludicrous but today… it feels all too possible.

Ritsu is stunned into silence, her face switching between a half dozen emotions at once and none seem adequate to suit this… bizarre situation.

“So he’s depressed, gets plastered, spills his guts about unrequited love and does something stupid, that about the size of it?” Miki recaps, more for Suzu’s benefit, who’s just returned to the land of the living.

“It’s happened before…” I idly mention.

“Hold the fuck up!” Ritsu finally seems to have found her words. “How is Akio bi? Since when? Why did he never tell us?” Good questions, none I have answers for.

“Because that’s who he is. He realised he was bi a little after Valentines last year and because he was worried what you guys would think.” Suzu declares, answering all Ritsu’s questions with surprising insight.

“Valentines? …When I talked to him on the roof!” I exclaim, the realisation hitting me like a tonne of bricks. I turned someone bisexual. There’s one for my personal achievements list, I suppose.

“I assume he told you all this?” I turn my attention to Suzu.

“Yeah, just before the festival…” Suzu responds rubbing sleep from her eyes. “He took me aside after a lit. club meeting and… came out. I don‘t know why he thought I was the best choice to tell…” Her eyes lower to her dainty, swinging feet.

Miki and I offer a “Huh” in tandem.
“But why not tell us? He’s our best friend.” Ritsu asks, sounding utterly defeated.

“How do you tell your two best friends that you have feelings for one of them while they‘re dating the other?” Suzu ponders aloud. “Awkward.” Miki responds.

I close my eyes and breath a heavy sigh. “This is so messed up.” I can’t help but laugh at the ridiculous situation I find myself in.

“How are you not freaking out more?” Ritsu justifiably questions me.

“Because I’ve kissed guys before?” The girls all gasp.

Joking!” I need to relieve this tension somehow… “But to be honest, it’s… shocking? Bewildering? I don’t think I know the word for it. I don’t think I’m even bothered by him being attracted to me, more that he didn’t feel that he could talk to me about it.” I furrow my brow. “What about you?”

“I… I think I’m the same. I just want to talk to him. Get this all cleared up.”

“I don’t think I’m nearly sober enough to even begin to clear this shit-show up.” A voice calls from the doorway and we all turn our attention towards it. “God, you all look how I feel…” He rubs his head and takes a seat near the front, still a distance away from us.

“Morning, glass jaw.” I try my best to smile. At least he’s mobile.

“Mornin’ everyone.” He doesn’t look at me. Silence fills the class room again for what feels like an eternity.

Akio clears his thought and instantly regrets it has he clutches his head.

“Okay. I guess for starters, I should apologize to Miki and Suzu. I apologise profusely for my inappropriate behaviour and if I offended either you guys or Lezard and Ikuno. It was inexcusable.” He bows deeply to the girls. They take a look at each other before giving him a nod. Looks like they’re not going to weigh in on this. Probably for the best.

He turns to me and Ritsu and sits quietly for a moment, formulating the words in his head.

“I guess I should explain myself, huh?” He meekly smiles. “You guys already know about my Dad… How he drank himself into a hole after losing his job and started beating me and my Mom, because I was ‘brittle’ and ‘weak’... My Mom and I eventually left to go live with my Aunt and cousins in the city...” He takes a deep breath. “You remember my cousin, Renzo?”

“The one who helped you move into the dorms? I think so…” I have a vague recollection of some 20-something guy with a shaved head.

“He’s the one who’s been buying me booze. After we moved in with my Aunt, me and Renzo would hang out all the time. Kinda fell into some bad habits with him… Underage drinking was just the tip of the iceberg but when I enrolled here, that all kinda stopped.” His eyes are becoming watery, conflicting emotions and memories churning inside him like a storm.

“But I guess I’ve got more of my Dad in me than I thought… It’s hard to build healthy relationships when your baseline is an abusive fucking mess. Any time I had a crush, I’d hold back because I was afraid I’d be just like my Dad but then something would happen and I would hit the bottle just like he fucking would.” Bitterness, regret, inadequacy: all tied into memories of his Father. I recognise the feelings in his words. I’ve felt them all.

“Renzo works as a store clerk in the city so when I… want to drown my sorrows, he sneaks something to me. Not sure how he gets it past his boss…” He admits, slamming his fist on the table. “But that doesn’t fucking matter because I’m to blame for my own shitty actions and I’m sick of hurting the people around me. I refuse to be a slave to my Dad’s demons…” He reaches aggressively into his pocket and tosses his phone to me.

“Taro, delete all of Renzo’s contact info and block his number for me?” He hangs his head and clenches his fist, resolute to allow me to do so. I solemnly nod and do as he asks, closing his phone with a snap that echoes around the room.

“Thanks…” He breathes a heavy sigh of relief.

“No problem.” I toss the phone back to him. He places it back in his pocket and stares at the floor. C’mon, man.

“I guess it’s time for my grand finale…” He rises from his chair, leaving his cane rested against the desk. He takes a deep breath and raises his head, his eyes red raw and water stains running down his cheeks. “Taro… Ritsu… I am bisexual and… As Taro already figured out, I realised after he talked me down off the roof. I guess when you play hero like only Taro can, even a guy’s gotta fall for him, right?” He cracks a half-smile then shakes his head. I guess he was listening in this entire time…

“But he’s my best friend and I didn’t know if I could compromise our friendship like that. Not when I hadn’t even… come out.” He turns his gaze towards Suzu. “Thanks for being understanding, Snuzy. I knew you would be.” All eyes turn to the blue-hair narcoleptic who visibly shrinks at the attention. “I didn’t do anything.” is all she can muster.

“When Haru blew me off…” He considers it for a moment, chuckles to himself and shakes his head. “When Haru didn’t show up for our little hang-out, it destroyed me. I’d gotten up the courage to actually ask him out that day and he didn’t even show for the confession. The rest, you guys all kinda know. I guess I defaulted to drinking in some… fucking stupid attempt for attention.” His eyes lock with mine, full of regret.

“And now I’ve gone and fucked up the truest friendships I've ever had; I betrayed Taro’s trust in me by trying it on and Ritsu’s for kissing her boyfriend… and I have no fucking clue how I’m going to clear this up with you two but…” He furrows his brow, as if to stare down the grief he’s feeling.

“I’ve already arranged a meeting with Miss Tsunemori to discuss counselling. It’s nothing big but… It’s something I can do. Everything I did yesterday was shitty and totally out of line and I hate myself for it! I’m so sorry…” One last apology escapes his lips before he slumps back into his chair, exhausted. I think we all are.

Silence again, except for the sniffles of tears being held back, a floodgate waiting to be opened. C’mon, Taro. Think. Think about the guy in front of you. All you’ve been through. I can’t be angry at him. No, I can, his drinking is a real sore point for me and he fucked up my plans and hurt Ritsu’s feelings…

I turn to Ritsu and she’s hugging her own arms, eyes closed in a vain attempt to stop her tears. I look to Miki and she looks me dead in the eyes. Everything she said last night floods into my mind. Lead with my heart. Make things right. Never give up.

I get up off my perch and walk around the desks towards Akio. “Get up.”

Everyone is on edge but Akio acquiesces and stands slowly, ready to receive whatever I have for him. I’m going to give him everything I’ve got. I wrap my arm around his shoulder and bring him into a hug. I grip the material of his shirt tight to make sure he stays there.

“Now you listen to me; I am still fucking pissed that you turned to drinking instead of talking to me. I hate that you still feel you can’t come to me, especially with something like this. I love you like a brother, Akio, and I would do everything I can to help you, you stupid fuck.” I breath a heavy sigh, the tension in my chest subsiding and my tight grip turning to a reassuring clasp of his shoulder.

“That said, you‘re taking a positive step in seeing Miss Tsunemori and if you’re willing to take that big a step to help yourself... Then I‘d be a real asshole if I didn’t forgive you.” I smile genuinely, holding his shoulder.

“Even though I slipped you the tongue…?” His inappropriate gag means he’s feeling a little more at ease but that doesn’t save him from a sock in the arm from Ritsu.

“You’ve fucked up, Akio, and we still have a lot to talk about. Together. But…” A soft smile curls on her face. “I’ll always accept you for who you are because who you are to me is my friend. First and foremost.” She’s tearing up again.

“Th-thank you, guys...” Akio sniffles.

I grab them both and pull them in. This is definitely the weirdest couples day we’ve had as a trio… But if we play our cards right, we’ll get through this, like Ritsu said.


Akio wipes snot from his nose and coughs. “Hate to cut the mushy stuff short but I think I need to see the Nurse about this hangover. Which’ll be fun…” He bemoans, slinking out of the room after a goodbye hug from Ritsu and a wave from me. Miki carries Suzu out on her back shortly afterwards, throwing me a knowing smile before she leaves and me and Ritsu are left alone in the class room.

“God damn… it’s not even 11am and all I want to do is go back to bed…” I admit, Ritsu agreeing with a yawn. Her hand creeps into mine. We look at each other with weak smiles.

“Nap time. Definitely nap time. Then maybe the Shanghai?” She asks.

“It’s a date.” I laugh as best I can and pull her into a tender kiss. “Napping first though.”

Between the mental and emotional exhaustion and being more than happy to while away the small hours cuddling and watching movies on my laptop, me and Ritsu never did manage to make it to the Shanghai.