There was no point in worrying about it, Shin decided. He steeled himself for the worst and stepped into 3-D's classroom. Being class leader had its perks; it also meant that going unnoticed was all but impossible. The usual din came to a ponderous halt as his classmates stopped what they were doing to gape at Shin's bruised face.
Kuma furiously lumbered to his feet. "Shin!" he said, "did you get into a fight without us?"
"Who could beat Shin?" Noda demanded.
"Those Ara High punks have been causing trouble again," Minami said, cracking his knuckles meaningfully.
"It doesn't matter who beat on Shin," Uchi said. "An attack on one of us in an attack on all of us!" Uchi pushed back from his desk, and pumped his fist in the air. "C'mon! Let's make those bastards pay!"
"Idiots," Shin said, "no one beat me up."
Shin realized that he had made a mistake a fraction of a second too late. Obviously, Yankumi was having a bad influence on him. He'd been smarter before, hadn't he? Shin dropped his bag to the floor, and kicked it beneath his desk with more force than strictly necessary. Class 3-D stared at him. Shin glowered back at them.
"Shin. . . if you didn't get into a fight, why is your face all busted up?" Kuma asked.
"It's nothing," Shin said.
"You have a black eye!"
"And a split lip!"
"I think," Uchi said, "that we know the results of a beating when we see one." The class rumbled in agreement. "Maybe they jumped you from behind! Maybe you were outnumbered! It's okay, man. Some fights you can't win by yourself."
"Unless you're Yankumi," Noda said.
"That's because Yankumi is a freak," Shin muttered sourly, too low for anyone to hear. No normal woman should be able to beat up a group of angry thugs singlehandedly. No normal woman should toss a man across the room when he tried to kiss the hollow of her throat.
Things had been going--not great, not smoothly--but they'd been going up until that point. Shin hadn't minded getting punched in the eye when Yankumi yanked her shirt off with a little too much enthusiasm. He hadn't even minded when she cut his lip when she tripped over her own feet in the middle of their kiss. The final straw had come when Yankumi had all but launched him off of the bed. Shin's tailbone still ached from his awkward fall--and landing--at the foot of Yankumi's bed. He hadn't managed to regain his earlier enthusiasm after that.
He was sore, and he was frustrated, and he still had a class with Yankumi to look forward to. He had enough problems without having to deal with class 3-D's attempts at mothering him.
Shin directed a flat stare in Noda's direction. "Let it drop, Noda," he said. He widened his glare to include the rest of his friends. "It's none of your business. I can handle the problem by myself."
Except that he hadn't even been able to do that, because Yankumi had twisted Shin's wrist while helping him back to his feet. He'd always known that giving into his feelings for Yankumi wasn't a good idea. He hadn't realized that beginning a relationship with her would actually kill him.
A faint "fight-o!" from the hallway caught Shin's attention. He slunk deeper into his seat. He reminded himself that he was cool, calm, collected. He was class 3-D's leader. He wasn't sulking. He definitely wasn't dreading seeing Yankumi again after some of the most spectacular failed sex in all of class 3-D's collective history.
Yankumi limped into the classroom, and directed her cheery "good morning!" towards the blackboard. "Today," she told the blackboard, "is a very special day! We'll be spending the morning in quiet contemplation of. . . our futures! And the importance of education! And the role of education in our futures!"
"Oi, Yankumi," Minami said, "what happened to 'the importance of common courtesy'? We're over here."
"Ah," Yankumi said, "ah hah hah. Correct, Minami! Mutual courtesy is the glue that holds society together." She darted a quick glance over the heads of the students. Her eyes locked with Shin's.
Shin blushed. Yankumi blushed. And then tripped over her lectern as she quickly shuffled back to the safety of the blackboard.
Minami looked back and forth between Shin and Yankumi. He might have been class 3-D's self-proclaimed ladies' man, but maybe he wasn't just all talk. Minami's mouth dropped open. His eyes bulged. He slapped at his desk as he gasped for air.
"Minami!" Noda said, hurrying to his side.
"Shin!" Minami wheezed. "Yankumi! Shin! Yankumi!"
"Ah hah hah hah," Yankumi said. "Change of plans! Pop quiz!"
"Shin," Minami gasped, "and Yankumi."
Maybe the rest of 3-D was getting smarter. Uchi turned to stare at Shin, his face a mask of horror. "Don't tell me you--"
"What?" Kuma asked. "Yankumi saved Shin from Ara High?"
"I don't think that's it," Uchi said. "I wish it was."
Shin was mature. Shin was smart. Shin took a great deal of pleasure in lobbing his pencil at the back of Minami's head.