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It took every nerve in Chuuya’s body in order to keep him from throwing the nearest chair he could find.

He glared at the three pieces of manila paper, which were neatly joined together by long strips of clear scotch tape. How easy it would be to just tear it all down and forget about the results of some stupid placement exam. He spotted Tachihara’s name towards the end of the list and was not surprised. After all, instead of studying or accepting Chuuya’s generous offer to tutor him, he went out drinking every night with Gin and Professor Hirotsu, thinking that Chuuya didn’t notice. Drinking away with friends is fine and all, but there was no way in hell Chuuya would throw his scholarship away just for a night of booze (although he often marvels at the amount of self control he has).

 But it wasn’t his roommate’s low score that troubled him.

 It was the neatly written kanji of another person’s name just above his, at the top of the list.

 Dazai Osamu.

 Dammit, he cursed internally. It was supposed to be his name at the top, for fuck’s sake. Instead he had to settle for second place, almost making it but not quite. Countless nights spent huddled in his study corner, thriving on energy bars and coffee and three hours of sleep every night for a week—and all those amount to second place?

 “Ne, Chuuya, congrats!” someone beside him cheered, giving him a pat on the back. He knew that it was sincere, but he couldn’t stop the creeping feeling of jealousy worm its way all over his body. Chuuya, after all, was nothing but a perfectionist—a competitive one, at that. His competitors tended to cower in fear at how aggressive and gung-ho the redhead could get; this aggression manifested in violent tendencies and loud outbursts—a fearful sight to behold. 

 He’d heard of Dazai Osamu—who hadn’t? He was the handsome, genius prodigy that everyone adored. Contrary to popular belief, Chuuya couldn't stand to look at his face, no matter how handsome the school populace thought he was. Despite his outstanding grades, Chuuya claimed he was an idiot. He didn't quite have the evidence to prove it, he just loathed hearing every single word that came out of his mouth. People often were blinded by his 'charms'. Never mind the fact that he was also a suicidal jerk wrapped in bandages all the time. Never mind the fact that he annoyed Chuuya to no extent, his existence a continuous reminder of how much Chuuya is lacking. Never mind the fact that he placed first on the rankings even when Chuuya tried his hardest to beat that smug fucker.

 “Aw man,” Tachihara grumbled beside him, scratching the back of his neck (it’s a nervous tick, Chuuya noted, that he only does when he’s ashamed of himself).

 “I did offer to tutor you.” he snorted. His roommate chuckled.

 “I’ll take you up on that offer next time then.”

 Chuuya smiled, but still felt his blood boiling, so he stepped away from the crowd of students that was trying to search for their names on the (now crumpled) manila paper.

 

-o-

 

Needless to say, it’d been hard to focus in class. One would think he’d have gotten more motivated to aim for first place, but the exact opposite happened. Now he lay on his dorm bed, his homework left open on his desk. Akutagawa stood in his doorway, arms crossed, with an unamused expression on his face (but then again when did the boy ever show any emotion other than disgust, indifference, and anger). “You’re shameful to look at.” He said plainly, not bothering to sugarcoat his words. Chuuya wasn't offended. That’s why they were friends. Akutagawa was very straight to the point and down to earth. Chuuya could be when he wanted to, but at the moment, he chose to lose himself in his emotions for a while.

 Chuuya simply covered his face with his pillow. He deserved to throw a tantrum, it was his damn room anyway.  

 “You know, people would have killed to just pass the exam.”

 Chuuya groaned in reply.

 “You’re being overly dramatic about this.”

 “Aydonfrikefefflingforchecknbeft.” Chuuya mumbled into his pillow.

 “What?”

 Exasperated, Chuuya threw his pillow at the younger boy, but he caught it before it hit his face.

 “I said, I don’t like settling for second best.”

 Stepping into the room, Akutagawa gingerly placed Chuuya’s beloved pillow at the foot of his bed, and sat at his desk, arms still crossed. “Okay, but refusing to go out of your room unless it’s to go to class or buy necessities isn’t the way to go.”

 “Just let me wallow in disappointment for a while, Ryuu, then I’ll be good to go.”

Akutagawa sighed again and stood up. “Fine. Tachihara, Gin, the others, and I are going drinking tonight in celebration. Are you in?” 

Chuuya tensed up immediately, quickly answered, “No, sorry, I’m helping Ane-san with some stuff at her studio.” Akutagawa shot him a skeptical look, as if he didn’t believe him, and Chuuya fought the urge to scoff. Please. As if he’d skip out on a chance to drink and indulge himself in a nice glass of wine (or beer, seeing how little funds he had left for the week). He really did have important business to attend to, which did involve Ane-san...so it wasn’t a full lie. It wasn't the full truth either—he just withheld some important facts.

The younger boy took one last look at him and shrugged. “Take care of yourself.” he said, a rare show of emotion, before closing the door.

It was odd, whenever his underclassman dropped by to check up on him. It was usually the other way around. Chuuya often kept Akutagawa in check whenever he’d go on rampages, whenever he came back from a desperate attempt at trying to get Dazai Osamu’s attention. Seriously. Dazai tutored the boy once for a measly philosophy class, and now he’s hooked? Chuuya mentally rolled his eyes at how far his friend had fallen. Not that he was one to talk, though, wallowing around his dorm room in self-pity. Because of Dazai, nonetheless. 

 But then there were times like these, when Chuuya slipped ever so slightly, and Akutagawa was there to lend a hand. For that, he’s thankful beyond words.

 

-o-

 

Ane-san’s studio looked small from the outside, and shared a building with a Chinese restaurant and a bookstore that sells novels older than Chuuya and Kouyou’s ages combined. The white paint of the dilapidated two floor complex had started to peel due to the springtime rain, and the flowers that Kouyou planted on her windowsill had started to bloom. An arrangement of red camellias and white roses, Chuuya noted. His and her favorites. It was half past six in the evening after a stressful day, yet Chuuya was raring to go. He slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and climbed the creaky staircase that lead to the hallway of the studio.

In contrast to its dull exterior, the hallway was obviously well taken care of. On the side of the studio was a mural made of sprawling cherry blossom trees as far as the eye can see, its branches creeping into the cracks in the walls. Kouyou-ane-san had commissioned her lover to paint it for her, back when they were still dating. Now...now, the two didn’t talk about it. Chuuya idly wondered how it must feel to have a legacy of your dead lover staring back at you every morning as you walk into work. Kouyou truly was one of the strongest people he knew. He adjusted the strap of his bag and stepped into her studio, but not before wiping his rain-soaked sneakers on the mat outside the door.

The studio had a waiting room with a window where you could watch the dancers practice. Or rather, it was also a place where dancers waited before their next class with Kouyou. Currently, there was no one in the waiting room, but there were two lithe figures practicing inside the studio. Izumi Kyouka was way more advanced compared to other girls her age, and for good reason. She meticulously attended ballet lessons and Chuuya had a feeling she even practiced at home. The 13-year old was already excelling at pointe shoes and pirouettes, but when he was her age, he was still struggling to stretch his foot up to the second barre during barre exercises.

He set his bag down on the bench and watched Kyouka perform her final curtsies and bid goodbye to Ane-san. He took out his ballet flats and wore them, sprinkling leftover rosin from yesterday’s practice on the floor. As he shuffled to get the white powder all over his shoes, Kyouka stepped out of the studio and waved, face blank. (She, in that way, reminded him of Akutagawa and his emotionless greetings). She grabbed her clothes and made her way to the restroom to change into casual attire. Meanwhile, he walked into the studio and smiled at Kouyou in greeting.

He loved her studio.

The walls inside were painted similarly to the mural in the hallway, except with more muted colors and less patterns. Despite the many sprawling flower decals and decor, it still retained a professional atmosphere. The colors complemented the grey sheet vinyl floor. Kouyou sat at her small desk at the corner of the room, CDs piled atop it, along with a pot of green tea. Today she wore her ballet tights and a flesh colored leotard, her hair tied into a clean, tight bun. She had been teaching the whole day, yet she remained as elegant and well-composed as ever, not a hint of exhaustion or frustration etched into her features. He bowed to her, signalling the start of their private rehearsal.

“So, Chuuya-kun,” she started, placing her teacup down on her desk. “Let’s start rehearsing your next recital piece.”

 

-o-

 

Screw self control, Chuuya was going to throw a chair at Dazai Osamu’s smug face, and he didn’t care about the casualties. He didn’t care if his arms were sore from the endless repetition of the same part of his piece over and over again. He didn’t care if the soles of his feet burned from dancing the night away. He didn’t care about his aching body, not when a brown-haired, bandage wasting, suicidal maniac sat atop his desk, fifteen minutes before the start of their Calculus class, a suspicious wad of short bond paper in his grasp. “Chu~u~ya~!” he singsonged.

“What the hell are you holding and what the fuck are you doing on my desk?” he asked, storming in the empty classroom. This was wrong. Everything about this situation was wrong. Chuuya was always fifteen minutes early to class, whereas Dazai was usually fifteen minutes late (but still didn’t get half-cuts or low grades—life truly was unfair). Yet there he was.

“Heh, wouldn’t you like to know~”

He had no time for Dazai’s little games, so he lunged for the papers. Dazai was quicker though, and dodged him by stepping away from his desk—causing Chuuya to ram into it. He winced in pain.

“But since you’re oh so curious, it’s just the results of the placement test. But printed. The official copy.”

“So what, you just came here early to wave it in my face? To brag about it?”

Dazai laughed, a bright sound that sounded more like screeching to Chuuya’s ears. He lounged across the professor’s table from behind it, his chin perched atop his hands. “Hm. Maybe.”

“You bastard— ” he started, as he chased the bandaged freak around the lecture hall, bounding up stairs and sliding across tables at ungodly speed. They traversed all the corners of the room, even to the very back. Unluckily for him, though, Dazai was even faster. “DAMN YOUR LONG LEGS!” he cursed, as he quickly formulated a plan to trap him into a corner. He hated that he was always one step behind (and in this case, quite literally). Every time he thought he had an edge, an advantage over that smug bastard, Dazai always seemed to one-up him. He always seemed to win.

Dazai hopped towards the professor’s table again, humming his (stupid ) song all the way. He stood behind it once more, holding the papers high above Chuuya’s reach. However, as Chuuya reached for the papers across the desk, Dazai slammed them on its surface in record speed, just in time for the redhead to knock over a cup of coffee and spill it all over the official placement test results.

 “Fuck! Since when was there--”

 “Ahem.” In the doorway stood Professor Kunikida, holding a mathematics book in one hand and their entire lives as students in the other.

Chuuya was screwed.

 And it was all Dazai’s fault.

 Again.