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I had never made chocolates before but since I was spending time at the Home Economics club that Saturday with Fuuka I thought it would be nice to give it a try (I mean, I already mastered muffins and cupcakes so it shouldn’t be a problem at all). We were about to eat them but we thought that it was best to give them away to our friends, so we made some cute little bags with chocolates. Mine were blue with a simple lace ribbon and I thought they looked rather cute.

-“This is a good practice for Valentine’s” -I said beaming at our creations. Fuuka giggled and agreed.

-“But we still would give them away to our friends so it makes no difference” -She stared at me for a moment and then bluntly asked -“Do you have anyone you like?”

Fuuka had become more and more confident but still her question took me by surprise. Blushing wildly all I managed to say was -“W...What makes you think that?”

-“Ah, so you do!” -Was Fuuka’s words to my reaction and giggled more -“It’s alright, I won’t push you to tell me” -Her eyes were kind and earnest. -“But when you are ready to tell me, I’ll be happy to encourage you.”

I smiled warmly towards her and nodded. To be honest, between those friends, I had been thinking more often of one person in particular and I knew that I wanted him to be closer than what we were at the moment.

---

After packing up the little giveaways and the rest of the chocolate that hadn’t been used, I started my way to the dorms. Lost in my thoughts, I was approached by Junpei on the way to Paulownia Hall.

-”Hey there cutie, what’cha up to?” -He said on his usual cheery voice but I didn’t expect him so he startled me. -“Whoa, easy, it’s just me.”

He beamed at me. He looked very happy actually.

-”Did something good happen?” I asked.

-”Not yet, but I bet it will! I have a really great feeling about it. Say, you wanna go get something? Today it’s on me.”

I gratefully accepted, since I was starving. Tasting chocolates is good, but it’s never as good as a warm bowl of ramen. He asked the special for both of us as always and we chatted about many random things. It had been a really long time since I was able to go out with him like this, it was funny but time after time that I had tried to approach him it looked like other people intervened. There was also that time when Junpei met Chidori… I still felt guilty sometimes of how jealous of her I had been before she passed away. But I really didn’t want to remember that. Today was another day, and he had come looking for me. So I was pretty glad.

On the way back home I spotted a sale on a stationery store. I remembered that I had seen a cute origami box as a wrapping for chocolates on a magazine before so I asked Junpei to wait me for a second.

-”I didn’t know you were into that, but it does look like something you’d do. Heck, actually it’s almost like anything is something you can do.” -Said Junpei looking at the nicely cut sheets of papers.

-”Do you like it?” I asked.

-”I guess, a little bit. But it’s best if someone else does it for me.” He grabbed a set with a traditional crescent pattern in red with blue and brown accents. I took a golden one and matched it.

-”Nice taste, it looks great.” He said and gave them to me. It didn’t take much to decide on them and after buying the two sets we walked home.

-”What’ll you do with that?” He asked.

-”It’s a secret!” I answered back grinning and running away to the dorm’s entrance.

-”Hey, that’s not fair! I wanna know!” He called at me, and went to reach me.

We entered noisily into the lounge but one single glance of Mitsuru-senpai, who was reading a book on the sofa, froze us.

-”We’re back...” I said softly.

-”Welcome back” she answered.

It was a bit embarrassing to admit that even though my courage had been building up slowly throughout the year, there were certain things that I could not confront yet. After taking our stuff into the bedrooms, we moved towards the kitchen and started rummaging around looking for something to drink.

-”Whew, that was scary, I thought I’d freeze on the spot” -said Junpei, trembling and hugging himself like it was the middle of winter. I giggled and poured some snacks on a bowl to eat while I made the rice and curry.

-”Nothing fancy today, eh?” -Asked Junpei.

At first, as there was no one to cook at the dorm each one of us made their own meals, soon we noticed that it was far economic to make a meal for all instead of each buying their stuff. So we started taking turns on cooking and Yukari was the treasurer until Fuuka arrived and took her place, since she said her food was still not good enough to eat, a statement to which I silently agreed. So if one wanted something else and personal we’d get that by ourselves.

-”Yeah, I’ve spent too much time on the kitchen already.”

-”Eh! I wonder why!” -Said Junpei with one of those looks on his eyes that clearly said he wouldn’t stop pestering me until I gave in and told him what he wanted. I looked back with the eyes that said I wouldn’t give in for even an inch, but that didn’t stop the battle.

-”You made chocolates at the Home Economics classroom and were making a fuss about next valentine’s, you can’t deceive me ‘cause I went past there and heard you! Now spit it out and tell me who you’re gonna give them to!”

-”They’re gonna be for everyone, I never made them thinking of a single person.” -I stated as firmly as I could afford and used the curry as an excuse to avoid his piercing eyes and look directly into the pot pretending that it was requiring all of my attention.

-”Aw, C’me on! Okay, let’s do this, I start with a bunch of names and you just have to nod me when I reach the right guy. Please, don’t thank me, I know how shy of a girl you can be at some stuff.” -His self-sufficient tone really annoyed me but I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.

-”Not even if you said the right one I’d nod!” -I retorted as stubbornly as I could.

-”Ah! I knew it! There IS someone!”

I have to admit that I had been caught red handed on that one so I only looked away from him with a snort but my blushing might have given me away because he pushed me even more.

-”Well, I know some girls are very picky about this Valentine’s stuff but I’d never thought you’d like it as well. Well, you’re a festival lover so maybe it applies the same way with this stuff? What kind of guy is it? I bet I know him, it must be Sanada-senpai, he’s the one that gets all the girls crazy and you spend a lot of time with him.”

-”I spend a lot of time with you too and I don’t hear you saying your own name” -I retorted.

-”Yeah well, that is that and this is this I say. This is about who you like, not who you spend your time with.”

I knew he had been feeling rather awkward since he knew I liked him but maybe this was his way of helping me think of another more ‘decent guy’ than himself. I sighed loudly so that he could hear my complaint but it didn’t affect him at all.

That is the problem when you get to know your friends a bit too well, you know when they are serious but I was rather enjoying the chat and he had noticed it. Akihiko-senpai was really attractive indeed, but I had always thought that for some reason he tended to feel uneasy when he was close to a girl. Or at least that was the impression he gave me, there were certain moments when we were together where he specially seemed to have trouble to keep up the conversation and got embarrassed, I found those times to be rather funny but I had never laughed at him because I thought he might get insulted.

I don’t think I stayed silent for a lot of time but it was apparent that my mind had drifted away because Junpei had fell silent looking at me as well.

-”Say, Junpei, what do you think about Valentine’s?”

-”Me? Well, it’s not bad if you get chocolates from a girl. But you look like a loser if you don’t get any so I don’t like it a lot... Besides, the only chocolates I’d like to get are one’s I’ll never receive...”

I had stepped on a landmine without notice and the room began to feel stuffy, it hadn’t been my intention but I just couldn’t try to casually wave it off. I cannot tell how much time we spent in that awkward situation, it could have been five minutes but it felt like a whole hour. Finally I reached a small plate and took a bit of the curry to taste it.

-”It’s good!” -I said in a low voice.

-”What? Is it? Lemme taste...” Junpei had reached close to me and was attempting to get my little plate with what was left of the curry in it.

-”Hey! Get off! It’s for tomorrow, you can’t have any right now!” I moved my hand to the opposite side trying to get it as far away from him as I could.

-”Aw please, just a little bit! All I want is what’s in the plate, come on, you know I love curry!”

We struggled for a bit dangerously in front of the stove but as he is taller than me he ended up getting the plate and eating the morsels of potato with curry.

-”Aaaah! I can’t believe you! It’s for tomorrow, I told you!”

-”Eeeeh! It is really good! You did great with this!” -I still was feeling angry but I loved being complimented about my cooking so I couldn’t stop blushing because of the encountered feelings while he laughed at me.

-”You two look like a pair of newlyweds!” Yukari stated while entering the place with Akihiko-senpai, who was looking at us rather reproachfully.

-”Ah, Yukaricchi! Come on, come on, this tastes great!”

-”Wha...! No! Don’t pay attention to him, he’s eating tomorrow’s dinner!” I started to struggle again to get the plate back while he laughed heartily at me.

-”You two, stop making a ruckus in the kitchen, it’s not something a grown up would do.”

Akihiko-senpai was generally calm looking but at the moment it was more like he was containing himself from a burst of anger, which was something rather scary. Both Junpei and I stopped our game and while giving up excuses I finished up cooking the meal and Junpei left for his room. Even Yukari was spirited away from there due to his mood.

Akihiko-senpai stayed at the kitchen almost as if he wanted to make sure none of us started again. Even after Junpei had left he looked crossed and uneasy. After doing the dishes I approached him with a glass of tea.

-”Uhm... What’s wrong?” -He looked at me as if he didn’t really know me before answering back.

-”No, I... Well, it doesn’t really matter... It’s just that I never thought this would happen but as I think about it more and more...”

I really didn’t understand what he was talking about but I remembered that when I started making a relation with him, there were times he used to speak out loud as if he was talking to himself so maybe this was one of those times where he had to make up his mind before explaining a thing.

-”You know? I have been training with heavier weights, it will be quite helpful when fighting against the shadows.”

His rather obvious change of the subject got me unguarded but it was helpful. I standed up quite suddenly with a loud ”Aaaah!” that startled him.

-”Senpai, get ready, we must go to Tartarus tonight!” And after leaving him I went out searching for Fuuka, remembering that Theo had called that same morning to tell me that there were two people inside Tartarus. Topic that I had forgotten at that moment of the day since it had not been a pressing matter on my mind, I could only go at midnight into the tower in the end.

The movement in Tartarus was rather uneasy that night, but I had to scan like twenty floors because there were two people missing between them according to what Theo had informed me before. Since I really didn’t want to stay that much time in it (nor that I could, in the end we just had an hour) my first choice for the party was Koro-chan, he was a dog and could help us find them faster. Maybe it looked like I would set off right away because Junpei stepped on my way.

-”You can’t go on just with Koro, you know you need me!”

-”I wasn’t gonna leave without you, moron.” -I said smiling and then addressed Akihiko-senpai.

-”Senpai, your persona excels in thunder-based attacks. Would you come tonight?”

-”Of course, let’s do this.” -Was his simple answer.

It was true that he was a great choice for those floors, but truth be told, I thought that he desperately needed to vent off some anger.

We found the first person just after three floors and came back without a problem but this time now we had stepped up twelve floors without a sign. Unlike some other floors these were rather large, Akihiko-senpai was looking somber and for some reason the air was tense between us, Junpei was not making his usual comments and even Koro-chan felt that something was wrong with us. That, added to the fatigue made us sit down for a second to regain some breath.

-”Did you hear that?” -I asked, hearing some sort of footsteps getting close.

-”What? I can’t hear a thing. You sure you heard something?” -was Junpei’s answer.

Akihiko-senpai’s answer was kind of the same as well. I said I’d go take a look while standing up.

-”Don’t go too far, if something happens call us and we’ll be right there.” -Was Akihiko-senpai’s answer.

At that moment I didn’t fall into account of the fact that his reply had been rather odd until much later, he usually was adamant about not getting separated but at that moment I was more worried about the steps. I walked slowly further down the hall and after giving a couple of turns following the steps I sat down and thought of Pharos, It would have been nice to have him by my side, but that was not possible anymore. I missed him and for some reason I began fantasizing about what sort of conversation we could have had at that place...

-”Pharos? What are you doing here?”

-”Don’t you remember? I’m always by your side.”

I could have been taken aback since I rarely saw him outside the bedroom.

-”But how is it that I heard footsteps this time?”

-”You didn’t.” -Could have been his puzzle-like answer.

Then it dawned on me that maybe all I really wanted to do is get away from that tiring situation. The Pharos I had imagined in my mind smiled with a conspiracy look.

-”There are also times when you unknowingly do things you couldn’t do otherwise I think.”

I smiled back at him.

-”Yeah, you’re right. Thanks for showing me this.”

-”Well then, I shall be going.” -And he disappeared from my imagination like he always used to do. Despite knowing he wasn’t really there, I somehow felt that I was really close to him.

I cannot really tell what sort of conversation they started while I was gone but when I came back the guys were facing each other having a strong argument. Koromaru was on his guard looking at them growling rather upset as well, as if their emotions were channelled through him. He was the first one to see me and went towards me with a pleading look. I started to pet him in order to calm him but apparently they still hadn’t seen me. Akihiko-senpai’s face was red in anger, something that I never imagined I’d ever see.

-”In the end you would sell us all just for regaining her. You’re a traitor after all!”

-”You think you know everyone’s mind, right!? Well, I wouldn’t mind betraying you of all the others!” Junpei spatted back.

-”What about our leader then, huh!? You’ll stop following her because of that...!”

-”Don’t you even dare talk about her like that!” Junpei now definitely looked like wanting to engage in a fight. But then he took himself aback.

-”Ok, fine. You want to hear me say it, right? Well then, so be it. I don’t care!”

Akihiko-senpai, though angry, shot an eager look at Junpei. Junpei took a deep breathe and then...

-”I don’t care about our leader one single bit! She could be gone tomorrow and I wouldn’t care at all!”

Akihiko-senpai fell silent looking sharply at Junpei and all I could do was stare at them as if a bufu attack had frozen me, a sharp pain throbbing in my chest.

A second later, Koro-chan barked and sensing something behind me I turned around to hit the shadow with my naginata, but I had been too late and the shadow threw me away to the place the guys were. Taken by surprise, the guys and I got a fairly good deal of attacks before we could get on our feet and come back at them, thankfully it all ended well and after a couple of media casts we were ready to keep on going.

-”I told you to call us if anything happened, why you didn’t...”

-”I got hit first and didn’t get much time!” -Was my answer, cutting into senpai’s lecturing speech. -”We better get going to the next floor fast before anything else happens, I’m tired of this.”

For some reason it was me the one who was getting angrier now and it was obvious to the others. Thankfully we found the other missing person right at the next floor and went back to the dorm after taking them to the police. All of us were feeling upset on the way back home for very different reasons, so it wasn’t hard to avoid the rest of the group and I tried to look twice as tired in case Aigis or the others wanted to ask questions. Fortunately it looked that they had taken it as if we were just really tired so I felt bliss when I threw myself away onto my bed and fell asleep.