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It's Just a Rumor, Right?

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“Have you guys heard the rumor about the Midnight Channel?” Chie asked before class had started.  Chie had short, brown hair in a bob cut and always wore a green jacket with yellow stripes over her school uniform.  For girls the uniform consisted of a black blazer with white stitching and a yellow ribbon around the collar, along with a black and white checker pleated skirt.  The boys wore a black blazer and black slacks that also had white stitching.  Chie, Yukiko, Yu, and Yosuke all sat around each other in the classroom and had taken to chatting before class and during breaks (and even during class if they could get away with it). 

“I can’t say that I have,” Yu replied, his voice smooth and collected.  His hair and eyes were both gray, and his hair hung down into his eyes but was styled to sweep to the side just above them so he could see.  He wore a white dress shirt under the blazer, but had the collar popped and the buttons loose around the collar and bottom as a small act of rebellion.  He had a confident, unaffected presence that immediately attracted the attention of most of the second years when he arrived; he had moved to Inaba at the start of the school year to stay with his uncle while his parents were working overseas.

“Is it that soulmates thing?” Yosuke asked, his foot tapping in time to the music he had going in his headphones.  They were red and orange, and he had them resting around his neck so he could listen to the music and the conversation simultaneously.  He wore a white shirt with a red v-neck collar under his blazer and had dyed messy orange-brown hair that he parted down the middle so his bangs swept to each side. Yosuke had moved to Inaba in the middle of the semester the year before; his father came to run the Junes department store that had just opened up, so he got heckled by a lot of the locals who thought Junes was trying to steal local business.  The three of them were the closest things he had to friends in the area.

“Really Chie?  This again?” Yukiko, her best friend sighed while flipping her long, black hair over her shoulder.  Yukiko wore a red cardigan over her uniform and kept her hair pulled back with a red headband.  Yukiko’s family owned the Amagi Inn which was a famous onsen in the area due to how long the family had been running it and how well they maintained it.  She was also popular in school, although she ignored most of the attention and preferred to hang out with her childhood friend Chie.

Chie was the resident tomboy and was obsessed with kung fu movies.  She was also in tune with the town gossip and was the first to know when something was going on.  “Yes, it’s the soulmate thing.  And, yes, I’m going to explain it because Narukami-kun doesn’t know about it.”  She then leaned forward in her chair in order to set the scene.  “The rumor is, if you look at a tv when it’s turned off on a rainy night at midnight, you’ll see your soulmate!”

Yukiko rolled her eyes, while Yosuke snorted.  “That’s such a lame rumor,” he complained.  “There’s no way that’s for real, right guys?”

He looked over at Yu and Yukiko.  Yukiko looked like she agreed, but Yu just shrugged his shoulders.  “Can’t hurt to try it out, right?” Yu reasoned.

Chie grinned.  “Yeah, Yosuke, can’t hurt to try it out,” she grinned.

“Hey, why does Narukami get respect while I get the rude treatment,” Yosuke complained, noting that Chie had used an honorific with Yu, while he got first name treatment by them not long after moving there.

Chie shrugged.  “I guess I feel like he deserves it more?” she replied, causing Yosuke to sputter in annoyance.  She laughed before answering honestly, “I mean we still don’t know Narukami-kun really well.  It would be weird to call him by his name.”

“It won’t bother me,” Yu replied.  Both Chie and Yukiko blushed lightly at the comment, and Yosuke gagged at their reaction.

“Alright then, Yu-kun,” Yukiko replied with a slight giggle, while Chie nodded in response.

Their conversation was then interrupted by their teacher’s arrival and the start of class.  After classes were out for the day and they gathered their stuff to head home, Chie made them all promise to give it a try that night since it was supposed to rain in the evening.  “Yeah, yeah,” Yosuke said before stalking off while holding his bag over his shoulder. 

He had to go straight to Junes after class for work that day; he worked part time for his dad so he could have extra money to spend on music and videogames.  He was mainly stuck in the produce department helping to keep it stocked – a difficult job to do during the pre-dinner rush when they always had special deals on the produce.  After he wrapped up his shift, he headed home to eat dinner and to pretend to work on his homework.  He instead wound up listening to music while flipping through the week’s Shounen Jump, wishing he were back in the city where he used to go out and hang out with his friends.  They had quickly fallen out of touch since he moved here, and he spent most of his free time alone, only occasionally hanging out with Chie and Yukiko when they invited him into town.

He was interrupted shortly before midnight by a text message from Chie, asking if he was awake and reminding him he had to check the Midnight Channel.  Yosuke scoffed before setting down his book and resting on his bed with his hands behind his head.  He watched the television idly, focused more on the current song that was playing.  Thus, he almost missed it when the tv suddenly crackled on with static as it hit midnight.  Yosuke blinked in surprise, especially when a shadowy figure came into view.  Yosuke squinted his eyes, and as he watched the figure began to grow clearer until he finally recognized it.  It was the new kid, Narukami Yu. 

‘What the hell kind of joke is this?’ Yosuke wondered, pulling out his phone to send a text message to Chie about how this joke wasn’t funny.  There was no way his soulmate was a dude, especially not that new guy.  He was kind of jealous of Yu because everyone seemed to immediately like him while Yosuke got mainly scorn or indifference because of his dad.

Before he could send a text, however, he got a disappointed message from Chie who said that while the static had appeared, she hadn’t seen anything.  Yukiko chimed in the group chat that she hadn’t either, and Yosuke suddenly didn’t know what to think.  ‘Why did I see Yu then?’ he thought, wondering if maybe their prank was just very elaborate.

“I told you it was lame,” Yosuke texted back.

“Maybe it just means we don’t have soulmates,” Chie replied while including the deep sigh emoji. 

Yosuke noticed an unknown number in the chat, and he realized that Chie had probably included the new guy.  “What about Yu?” he messaged, suddenly feeling curious.

No one messaged for a few moments, and Yosuke had a feeling that Yukiko and Chie were curious as well.  After a few minutes, Yu finally replied.  “I did see someone,” was his response, but no matter how many questions Chie and Yukiko asked him, he refused to give any details.

Yosuke was in too much shock to respond at first, wondering who it was Yu could have seen.  ‘What…if he saw me?’ Yosuke though, before shaking his head.  This all was just an elaborate prank, and he’d worry about it tomorrow in class.  Instead, he sent a message aimed at Yukiko and Chie telling them to knock it off and that maybe Yu had a reason he didn’t want to say anything.  “Can’t you respect a guy’s privacy?” he messaged.

He then got a separate text message from Yu’s number thanking him for his help and asking if it was ok to save his number.  Yosuke ignored the slight blush on his cheeks and replied, “Sure,” before quickly saving Yu into his contacts.  He then flipped his phone shut before tossing it on his bedside.  ‘I should probably try to get some sleep,’ he thought, before going to go brush his teeth and get ready for bed.

The next morning before class, Yukiko and Chie were already there asking Yu about what he had seen.  “Could you tell who it was, or was it just the outline of a figure?” Yukiko asked.

Yu met Yosuke’s eyes as he walked up to set his things down at his desk which was situated behind Yu’s.  Yu quickly looked away, before saying honestly, “I could tell who it was.”

Yukiko and Chie gasped in awe.  “Really?” Chie asked.  “Then why won’t you say who it is?”

Yosuke grumpily sat down.  “Maybe he doesn’t want some weird rumor spreading around about them,” he said.  “Or thinks it may be inconvenient for the other person.”

Chie turned to look at Yosuke, looking irritated for a moment before a thoughtful expression suddenly crossed her face.  “You know, Yosuke, you never mentioned if you saw someone or not,” she said pointedly. 

Yosuke blushed furiously before pulling out one of his textbooks to hide behind.  “I didn’t,” he grunted, ducking behind the book and putting on his headphones.

Chie immediately pulled Yukiko aside and they began whispering furiously until the teacher arrived. All morning Yosuke found himself staring at the back of the new student, unable to get what he had seen that night out of his head.  There was no way Yu had seen him too, right?  In fact, Yosuke had been tired last night and probably imagined it anyway.  He got his answer later, when Yu approached him during the lunch hour, asking if he could meet him up on the rooftop to eat.  Yosuke’s kneejerk reaction was to refuse, but the quiet transfer student’s steady gaze caused him to falter. 

“Yeah, ok,” he found himself replying instead, heading to the cafeteria to grab himself something to eat before heading up to where the rooftop was.  He found Yu already out there, sitting on a metal part of the roof that he was using as a bench and eating homemade food.  Yosuke vaguely knew that Yu was staying with his uncle who was a detective and figured that he didn’t have time to cook, so asked, “Did you make that yourself?” while sitting down with his onigiri and drink from the vending machine.

“Yeah,” Yu replied.  “Is that all you’re going to eat?” he asked nodding at the onigiri.

Yosuke shrugged.  “Mom refuses to pack my lunch – says I’m too old for that.  And I kind of suck at cooking.”  He took a bite – it wasn’t anything special, but it at least filled his stomach.

“So, why’d you want to meet me anyway?” he finally asked.  Yu was carefully pushing food around in his container and paused thoughtfully.

“Did you really not see anything last night?” he asked, and Yosuke hesitated to reply.  He wanted to outright lie like he had that morning, but part of him felt like it would be wrong.  He began to jiggle his leg, arms crossed as he looked across the rooftop.  He had already finished his onigiri and still felt pretty hungry.

Finally, he responded.  “I may have seen something,” he admitted.  To his surprise, he suddenly something in his peripheral vision and turned to see that Yu was trying to hand it to him.  “Dude, I’m not going to steal your food,” he said after realizing it was one of Yu’s containers.

“I’ve already eaten plenty,” Yu said, pointing to the already empty container sitting next to him.  “I know you’re still hungry.  Next time I’ll make enough for both of us.”

Yosuke felt his cheeks warm, before hesitatingly taking it.  Yu had an extra pair of chopsticks that he handed over, and Yosuke carefully took them before picking up a piece of the ginger pork and popping it in his mouth.  “Wow, you can really cook,” he said in amazement.  “Are you sure you want to share this with me?”

Yu laughed and nodded, looking pleased.  “Please, help yourself,” he said, and Yosuke quickly inhaled the rest of the food.

“You know, I was going to refuse your offer to share your lunch with me.  But I don’t know if I want to anymore,” Yosuke said good naturedly.  He then tapped his chopsticks on the empty container.  “So…what did you see?” he asked, carefully avoiding the gaze of the gray haired boy sitting next to him.

Yu leaned back, studying Yosuke carefully.  “I think you know,” he replied calmly.

“Well, I can’t be sure until you tell me, right?” Yosuke grunted, arms crossed.  He had swapped moving his leg for tapping on his arm instead.

“I saw you,” Yu said simply, still watching Yosuke for a reaction.  Yosuke’s shoulders slumped and he looked down before turning to face him.  While Yu was all grays and calm, Yosuke was bright with expressive brown eyes.  Those eyes currently bored into Yu’s searchingly, and he found it was his turn to lightly blush.

“I saw you too,” Yosuke finally admitted, before running a hand through his hair in frustration.  “What does that mean though?  And why didn’t Chie or Yukiko see anything?”

Yu shrugged his shoulders.  “I’m not sure,” he replied.  “I don’t think we should think too much about it though.  Just use this as an opportunity to become friends?”  It was now Yu’s turn to look away nervously, and Yosuke stared in surprise.

“You want to be friends?” he asked, his voice coming out with a slight squeak.  “You’ve got the whole class after you, and you want to be friends with…with me?”

Yu nodded.  “You’re the only one here who treats me like a normal human being,” he said honestly.  “It’s…refreshing.”  He paused.  “I’ve never had anyone act that way before.”  Yu normally kept his distance from people since he moved around a lot with his parents’ jobs, but Yosuke had managed to catch his attention due to the familiar, laid back way he treated him.

Yosuke thought for a few moments, before nodding to himself.  “Hey, if you’re going to cook lunch for me, I think the least I can do is be your friend,” he joked, before holding his fist in front of Yu.  Yu studied it for a moment before grinning and bumping his fist against Yosuke’s in return.  They still weren’t sure about the soulmate thing, but they were sure this was a tentative step to a real friendship.