"Finally!" Jin excitedly thought as he exited his class. He had just completed his last midterm exam of the semester. Nothing too difficult, as he had given himself plenty of time to prepare for his tests.
He whistled quietly as he walked out of the building and onto one of the many campus paths. He quickly looked around and went to his right, making a straight path towards the school fountain.
The weather outside had become more notably colder. The animals lucky enough with fur didn't seem bothered much, but others had resorted to wearing additional layers of clothing just to keep warm. Jin counted himself lucky as one of the few that managed to get a layered jacket, to not look bulky while still being warm.
Leaves crunching as he walked all over them, Jin's eyes were darting around a little bit. There were far fewer students than normal, probably still in their classes taking the tests. He was looking only for one student in particular. Looking at the fountain in front of him, he found her.
"Hitomi!" He called out and waved as he spotted her. She turned and gave a little wave as well. "Sorry that I'm late, my test took longer than expected."
"Oh, don't worry!" she replied. "I was only here for a couple minutes, so I'm not that cold." The pair continued to chat about their tests, the teachers and how they made their tests different than what the reviews covered. It was a pleasant little talk, but one that Jin wanted to change to something more meaningful.
"And I also found this one recipe that came from the Roman times called Moretum, it takes some time but I think we can plan it. We can even make some bread to go with it!"
As Hitomi continued on about the two recipes that she found and a little bit of the history surrounding Roman foods, Jin nodded and followed the conversation, but his mind was still nudging him to simply go for it and say it. "She has to go soon, do it now!" his mind whispered.
After Jin agreed to the idea that she had brought up. A small silence fell between the pair. Jin was thinking about the dozen or so ways that he would start off.
"' Hey, I was wondering how you felt about me?' No, that's too strong, should be something softer. 'Hitomi, I was wondering who you are interested in?' It could work but doesn't sound right. 'Hey, are you interested in dating me?' No, that's also too forward."
"Uh, Jin?" Hitomi asked, breaking his train of thought.
"Hmm?" Jin asked, looking at her. He noticed that her carefree expression was now replaced with one of a more serious nature. If he knew better, he would see that she was nervous. "You said that you had something that you wanted to talk to me about. Something that you had to say in person?" Jin nodded. "Sorry, I was just trying to think about how to best put it."
She giggled softly. "Jin, I've known you for four years and you may be cold, but I know that you mean well when you speak your mind." She reached over and placed her hand on his shoulder, making him even more flustered. "Just say what you are thinking. You're my best friend and I will understand what you mean."
Jin gulped, slightly sweating underneath his jacket. Now it felt too hot for him, and the longer he waited, the more nervous he got. "Any minute longer and I will screw up by saying something stupid. Do it now!" Looking away from Hitomi, he took a deep breath and exhaled, calming himself down.
Composed, he turned to look back at Hitomi, her eyes looking right up at him. From the moment that he saw her, he knew that she would be perfect for him. Human, kind, gentle and sweet, he saw nothing short of perfection in her.
"Hitomi," he began. "I have known you for the last four years. We have spent many wonderful times together as friends, and I appreciate all that you have done for me."
"Thank you, being with you and all our other friends means a lot to me!" Hitomi nodded and smiled. "Jin had never talked about his feelings like this, the university has changed him a lot so quickly!" Hitomi thought to herself.
Jin took his hand up and placed it on top of her hand that rested on his shoulder. "But the truth is, I've always wanted us to be more than friends."
"eh? W-what do you mean Jin?" she asked as her face became red, fully knowing exactly what Jin was meaning.
"What I mean," Jin said, doing everything he can to remain controlled, "Is that I love you, Hitomi."
The silence was deafening. The only sound that was available between the pair was the wind blowing softly.
Even some nearby students recognized what was going on. Some got up and walked away to give them privacy, others looked more intensely into their books, ears perked up to hear what was going on.
Hitomi just sat there in stunned silence. Deep down, she had always known that Jin had these feelings for her. After all, it was natural considering that, as far as she knew, she was the only non-related human woman that he had met. Sure, others existed, but the rarity of humans meant that people could go on for years without laying eyes on another one of their own kind.
She looked down into the fountain next to them as she slipped her hand away from his shoulder. She took a moment of contemplation to think about what she wanted to say. "Jin," she began speaking softly, staring into her reflection on the surface of the water. "I have known for a little while, years, that you have felt this way for me."
Looking back up at him, her sad expression became clearer to him. "And I'm happy that you worked up the courage to tell this to me. But there is a reason why I didn't say anything about it after all these years."
Before she spoke any further, Jin felt like he had been punched in the stomach. He had known that this was a possibility but hadn't taken it seriously. "It doesn't make logical sense for her to say no!" his brain explained. "Don't fret about it!" And yet, the illogical thing that he feared was about to come to life.
"It's because," Hitomi continued, her voice quivering a little. "I love you as a friend."
Jin could have sworn that he heard his heart pop and deflate. Doing all he can to control himself, he continued to make absolutely sure that she was saying exactly what he thought she meant. "And.....only as a friend....right? Nothing more?" He asked, every word slowly and carefully coming out.
She shook her head. "No, as my best friend, you have been at my side for four years. You have helped me through many different problems that I don't think I could have handled without your help, and I know you as well as I can hope to know. You have been one of the greatest things that have happened in my life!"
A single tear emerged and gently dripped down her face. "But, I only feel for you as a best friend, but not as anything beyond that. I'm sorry, but I can't control if I love you or not." She turned awkwardly and the pair stared at the ground for a few moments.
Hitomi was worried about Jin, she had known that the day would come when he would confess his obvious love for her, but she had hoped that it would be in the far distant future. Most of all, she feared to lose him as a friend.
Jin, on the other hand, thought nothing. For four years, he had pinned all of his hopes for love on this one woman, the one person that he could imagine himself walking down the aisle and taking home as his wife. Now, it was clear to him that it could only remain on his head.
Recovering ever so slightly from the shock, Jin suddenly felt a concoction of emotions boiling up inside him. Anger, fear, worry, sadness, and many others all blew up in his mind and swirled around, making it harder for him to think. All wanted him to say something, anything, to respond to the slap in the heart that he had received from Hitomi.
Anger, in particular, wanted him to speak a few choice words with Hitomi, but as strong as they were, he gritted his teeth and fought to control himself. "Nothing good can come from saying these things!" he mentally yelled at himself. The thoughts continued to persist, but he remained strong, holding his tongue and not saying a word.
After a moment of this, he had managed to retain enough self-control to think and speak rationally. Looking at Hitomi with a sadness that made her feel guilty, he nodded. "Thank you," he said quietly. "For answering truthfully."
The pair sat in silence as both tried to think of something to say. Jin broke the silence. "Is there a certain person that you would like to be your partner?" he asked. "No! Not at all!" Hitomi denied quickly. "If I did, I would have told the group and you would have known."
Jin nodded. "True, you don't hide that many secrets." He remarked. "I'm sorry, I know it must be painful-" Hitomi began to speak, but Jin raised his hand. "Don't apologize." He spoke, more in control of himself, but still watching his words with careful attention. "I would be even more hurt if you had lied."
Hitomi nodded, looking awkwardly around them. All the animals appeared to focus among themselves, but a closer look would have revealed, many computers turned off, books upside down or ears pointed right at where the two humans were.
All were listening intently, with the sole exception of the mole rats, who were watching this unfold. Mika the school council president was watching intently, forgetting to sign her paperwork and focusing on Jin and Hitomi.
"I know this may not be a good time to ask," Hitomi said, now fearing what Jin might say. "But, does this mean we can't be friends anymore?"
Considering the question for a long time, Jin thought more carefully then he had ever done with any other that he had encountered. He thought about all the things that they went through, all the friends that they had made, and how close that they had gotten to know each other. Could he live with himself if he decided to break contact with Hitomi?
Finally, Jin spoke up. "No.," he said simply. "I would still like us to remain friends."
"Huh?" Hitomi asked. It was the answer she wanted but was not expecting it.
Jin gave a small chuckle that sounded as awkward as he feared it would be. "Well, I will still need someone to keep me sane with all these animals around." Said animals stared menacingly at him.
"Besides," he continued, in a more serious tone. "You're the best friend that I've had in a long time. I won't let that change so easily even after a little thing like that." Jin said, trying to play off what he had just said a few moments ago and wave it away.
"It wasn't small Jin," Hitomi countered. "It was a huge thing for you."
Jin sighed. "Yes, it was. It was something that I have felt for a while and wanted to tell you, but somehow, I wasn't able to get the opportunity to confess in person."
"I'm sorry that it didn't turn out how you wanted," Hitomi said, saddened by the state of Jin. "Do you need some time to think?" she offered. Jin nodded. "Yes," he affirmed. "I need some time to clear my head. Too many things going on inside it." As he got up and was about to walk away, he sensed that something felt incomplete.
Turning, he saw that Hitomi's face looked worried and concerned for him. "What would she worried about- ah, I see." "Look," he said, going back and sitting down next to her. "I just need some time to clear my head. You won't see me for a bit or hear from me much. But I don't hate you and I won't hold what you said against you. I don't do that to friends." As he said those last words, Hitomi's face lightened up a little bit.
Getting up again, he straightened up and coughed a bit. "I'll send you a shopping list for those ingredients that we will need for next time our group meets up and where they can get them," he spoke a little too loudly. Hitomi nodded as Jin turned and made his way back to his dorm room, his head still spinning with what had happened.
"Why?!? He was the only good human here!" Mika wailed as she watched Jin walk away on the TV. "Madam president, your tears are staining your proposals!" her assistant yelled as she covered her suggested relationship school rules in tears. She yelped and tried to dry them off by flapping them around in the air.
After researching the recipes that Hitomi had suggested, he compiled a shopping list and sent it out to her. She replied with a short thanks. He put down his phone and laid down on the bed, not bothering to change out of his clothes, his mind still occupied by the events at the fountain.
It hurt; he had pinned all his romantic goals around Hitomi. "Sure, it made sense since she was the only human woman around," He thought to himself. "But I didn't consider the possibility that she would not be interested that way. My fault." Strangely, he felt a strange calm after that train of thought.
He was still down, but at the same time, he felt relieved. A question that had been on his mind for more than four years had now been answered. It didn't go his way, and now the next question was, now what? "Too much," he grumbled to himself. "one thing at a time"
He fell asleep, vowing to first clear his mind and recover from this revelation before he thought of the future. "Thank god I asked after the midterms," He thought before falling asleep.
That night, he dreamed that he was caught in a huge rainstorm on a choppy lake in nothing but a rickety rowboat. For the longest time, he struggled to move anywhere at all, doing all he can to wrestle with the water, fighting with it. Finally, he gave up and laid down in the boat, accepting whatever fate the deep waters held for him.
Instead of drowning, he felt a bright light sensation as the clouds parted to reveal the sun. The surface of the lake slowly followed suit, going from raging around him, to slightly choppy, finally calming down to a beautiful, crystal clear surface. Looking up at the sky, Jin smiled and accepted its warmth.