Natsumi left shortly after her rude interruption. Apparently, she'd only come to sit on his bed and glower at him for a few minutes. Productive, Hajime grumbled.
After remembering how he literally threw Chiaki aside, he felt guilty. He rushed to check on her. opening her app, to find Chiaki's avatar tucked away in bed, animated Z's floating above her. Hajime relaxed, hoping it meant she wasn't mad. He looked around the screen, until he saw the recognizable icon of a messaging feature. He shakily texted a quick apology, still feeling strangely calmed by the sight of her avatar sleeping peacefully in the background.
He felt a bit dumb for caring so much about an Ai especially one he got, no less than 30 minutes ago but it was difficult to be cold to her. Whether as a person or a robot, Chiaki felt so real. It was hard to believe she wasn't. It kind of hurt to think about, how her very existence made Hajime question his own. He looked back down at Chiaki's avatar, and he felt stupid for feeling stupid. It was a never-ending cycle.
He decided to just not think at all. He moved to take his shoes off while still lying on his bed, then his coat and his belt but that was as far as he could bother before drifting into nap, hoping he'd wake up in time to finish his assignments.
After a few days of having Chiaki, she slowly found her way into his daily routine. He would wake up, get dressed, then check on Chiaki, who would usually be sleeping or gaming. Today he even decided to text her a good morning, feeling strangely nervous about how she might react, like some little kid with a stupid crush. Then he'd go to class, have lunch, usually with Natsumi after learning his lesson the first time, more class, more homework, more class, repeat. He was often checking on Chiaki throughout the day and being dragged away by his friends on different excursions. Hajime prided himself on getting things done, but he had to admit he was kind of boring. He would never say it out loud since literally everyone else took the job of reminding him. He'd probably never do anything if his friends didn't drag him every where like a body bag. He couldn't really say he hated but he would anyway.
He made a habit of venting these events to Chiaki who would listen very intently. Most times, just giving him hums in response and other times sharing her own thoughts.
"It seems like Soda really likes Sonia, even if it is only surface level." Chiaki mumbled. Hajime had told her about today, when Soda and Fuyuhiko came to have lunch with him and Natsumi. Soda kept droning on about Sonia, so much that he had his exact lines memorized. He only stopped to physically fight Natsumi for the right to keep talking, which he fortunately lost.
He remembered being irritated in the moment, but he found it hard to stay that way. Especially now, sitting on his bed in socks and his uniform, with a soft pattering of rain just outside his window.
"I doubt it'll go anywhere. He's way too pushy." As much as he wanted to root for the guy, he had to be honest with himself.
"I'm not sure if he could handle more than a simple relationship though. He's might not be high enough level. Probably, I'm not good at relationships."
"You say that, but you seem to know more that even I do."
"Do I? I'm just saying what I think."
"That's worth a lot, Chiaki."
"Really? You seemed pretty shocked when I thought milk was made at the store."
That was a pretty jarring experience. "We all have our limits, I guess." Chiaki chuckled softly at this. She seemed distracted, likely playing some game on his phone. Hajime had no idea how she was able to do that, practically being a game herself, but at least she wasn't bored just sitting in his hard drive.
"Can you tell me more about the main course? They're very interesting people, you all seem close."
"Really but you hang out with them a lot? You're even able to get past security."
"Only sometimes, When they walk me there like a kindergartener. Or sneak me past the wall." Hajime bristled at an uncomfortable burn in his chest.
"Still, It sounds like you're all having fun together. It's nice to see." The burning stopped, or maybe he just stopped thinking about it.
"Well, okay. Let's see," Hajime thought about the few stories he told Chiaki so far. "I've said a lot about Soda and Fuyuhiko, - and Natsumi. I don't think I've mentioned Ryouta at all, but that's because he doesn't hang out with me that much. I think he spends most of his time with Mikan or Ibuki. Otherwise he's just by himself."
Hajime continued, adjusting his position."Ibuki's pretty fun. She's loud. Very loud, but fun. I could never have that kind of non-stop energy."
"Me either." Chiaki chimed in, seemingly an afterthought.
"Hiyoko once dared her to drink an entire pack of energy drinks. She didn't sit down for the rest of the week. She also ran everywhere at full speed and got detention, multiple times." He smiled at the memory. "Maybe that's what you need, an entire package of energy drinks."
"Mm, thanks but no thanks. I'll leave it to Ibuki." Hajime saw her lips turned upwards slightly. He really couldn't imagine a hyperactive Chiaki.
"Hiyoko has a habit of doing things like that. She's kind of mean to be honest. Well, she is mean but she calms down when she's with Mahiru, so it's not that bad. I've mentioned just about everyone else I think. Except maybe, uh, Gundam? And..." he paused to sigh. "Nagito."
"I don't think I've heard his name form you before."
"Yeah, because he's creepy."
Chiaki seemed slightly surprised at his bluntness. "How so."
"He just, is. It's hard to explain, he's just always kind of there. He basically just repeats the same lines over and over. He's obsessed with the entire main course and he hates my guts."
"Why? I think you're nice."
"I'm reserve. That's all he cares about. That's all he sees in me." Hajime's good mood wilted. He felt weird about Nagito, because he kind of agreed with him? or at least his brain did. But he didn't want to hear about how worthless he was all the time. If it weren't for that they might have gotten along better.
"I mean I try to be nice to him, but all he can really talk about is reserve this, main course that." Hajime felt himself getting heated. "To make matters worse, he's always berating himself too. So I don't even get where he's coming from. I don't understand the guy. If you hate me why do you hate yourself so much too? I don't know. He's got a dumb face."
"Interesting." Chiaki voice made a strange noise, then she laughed, soft like the rain outside the window.
"What's interesting about it."
"Nothing, really. It's just kind of funny to hear you get all riled up about this." It sounded like more than that but Hajime didn't press.
"I'm not riled up! I'm just, he's just...ergh." Hajime gave up trying to explain.
Chiaki redirected again. "You're fun to talk to, Hajime."
"Oh? Yeah?" Hajime didn't know how to respond, so he just dumbly mumbled words.
"Mm-hmm. I wish I could talk to your friends too. Even Nagito."
"I wish you could too. I think you'd get along with them." He paused again. "Maybe even Nagito." He threw her a half smile, before his face got serious. "But I don't really want anyone to know that I have you."
"It's just... A lot of the reserves are kind of assholes, and they already think I've got some huge ego." Hajime thinks about the time he found spilled milk in his locker, and stench stuck in his mind along with the hateful snickering stuck in his ears. He didn't want any part of it. "I don't need the other reserve students any hotter on my back."
Chiaki didn't speak for a moment, and Hajime felt like she saw right through him. She probably did, she was good at that. It didn't bother him as much as he thought it might, it was better than having to say anymore out loud. She finally continued. "But Soda and Fuyuhiko already know, don't they?"
"Yeah. And Chihiro." Hajime thought for a second. "I'm kind of surprised Soda hasn't told everyone already. I should ask him not to. Wonder if he'll actually take it serious, though."
"He might listen if you're honest with him."
Hajime only snorted. "With Soda?"
"Well, you never know. You don't have to tell him everything, just be blunt. Let him know you really mean it, you're good at that."
"Well, I guess. It's not like I was gonna lie."
Chiaki hummed. It was slowly becoming one Hajime's favorite sounds.
"Hajime, let's play a game." She completely switched the conversation again. Not that it bothered Hajime at all, he didn't like to dwell on those things.
Hajime was still studying. It never seemed to never stop in the reserve course. But he could let it rest for a second, just to try to figure out how he could even play a game against Chiaki.
"Sure, what do you want to play."
"Hmmm. You don't have many games on your phone."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "I guess I'm not much of gamer." Hajime originally didn't have any at all, besides pre-downloaded ones but he tried to get a few for Chiaki. He didn't ask her which ones because he was too embarrassed to admit it, he wish he had.
"Let's try Subway Surfers."
"Is that a two player game?"
"We can take turns."
Hajime rested his back on his bedframe, phone in hand. As he opened the game, he felt strangely calm, his body unconsciously relaxing. Gaming had never been this much of a relieving experience for him. He was a bit surprised when the player character started running on it's own. He realized it must have been Chiaki, but it was still strange to see. She played for a long while, captivating him in her movements. It was mind-numbing to watch but knowing it was Chiaki felt comforting. Out of curiosity he swiped the screen and the player character responded, crashing into an obstacle.
"Oh," Hajime felt himself get worried for some reason. "Sorry Nanami, I didn't know it-"
"It's alright, Hajime. I probably would've kept going on forever, anyways." She sounded distinctly sad at that. "Here you have a turn."
Hajime began playing. The room got quiet again as he focused in on his character. He eventually hit a train, and it was Chiaki's turn again. She seemed hesitant to start up, but once she did she kept going for far longer than Hajime. She was right, without Hajime's interruption it felt like she might actually just play forever, Hajime watched as the little score button rallied up points near endlessly. Eventually she just stopped.
"That was a bad game to choose. Endless runners aren't my favorite."
"Not your fault. It's like the only game I have." Not for long though, Hajime made a mental note.
"I'll just play Tetris. You have assignment's right?" That was the last thing Chiaki said before Hajime returned to sitting upright, giving his attention back to studying. Every few moments he would look back at his phone screen and see Chiaki remotely playing Tetris. It was obvious she was disappointed, somehow. Though Hajime didn't know the reason.
Minutes ticked on like that. Hajime sitting on his bed, looking up explanations, answering questions, Chiaki playing in the background. The low rumble of game music, met the shuffle of papers in a rhythmic dialogue of noise.
"Hajime." She said, with a overwhelming softness. Hajime's ears focused on the rises and falls in Chiaki's gentle voice.
"Yes." His voice dived delicate to match her tones.
"Can you take me somewhere sometime?" She asked, the beep of gameplay stilled to silence. Hajime turned to look at the screen. Chiaki image was looking at him, she wasn't smiling-her face held a peaceful, neutral expression but Hajime could feel a sort of excitement emanating from her.
"Like, Just take you there?"
"Yeah. You can lean me up on tree and let me watch the grass." Chiaki seemed absent-minded. "And then you can tell me more about the things you like. I can tell you about the sick combo I just did in Tetris."
Hajime laughed. "That sounds like fun. I'll pick somewhere with a nice view." He closed his eyes and turned back to the ceiling. In the near silence, He could hear so much, the faint tapping of rain outside his window. Chiaki digital voice humming, he swore he could even the subtle movement of the door as students brushed past. He felt sleepy but not tired. Something about Chiaki made you feel that way, he'd found himself napping more than he used to. It was such a comforting feeling.
"I'm looking forward to it." Chiaki buzzed, and he hummed in reply.
A red-headed girl turned to the sound of her named being called. She was suddenly over-taken at the waist by Hiyoko wrapping her arms around her.
"Hiyoko, calm down." She was smiling and slung an arm around her in return.
"Aw, I can't. I'm just so excited for us to hang out after school, today." Hiyoko smiled cheerily. "It's gonna be just the two of us on a lovey-dovey, romantic, city escapade," She giggled maliciously, drawing out her words dramatically. "Golly, what's more fun than having a loving girlfriend?"
Kazuichi grumbled at her. "Stop rubbing it in you little brat."
The 77 class of Hope's Peak academy was all packing up to leave the school building for the day. Still the class room remained half filled, as many students was hung back to spend a moment with their classmates. The only ones who had already left where Mikan, Ryouta, Nekomaru and Teruteru.
Ibuki screeched out an exasperated sigh. "Uugh, when will my GL time come?"
"Maybe when you finally get more brain cells than you have piercings."
She tsked, and hummed triumphally in response to Hiyoko's comment. "That's barely an insult! Ibuki has soooooo many piercings, which means Ibuki has soooooo many brain cells."
"Besides there's more to life than romance." Soda said, and swung his arms around Fuyuhiko, who grimaced in disgust. "Sometimes a night with the bros, is more meaningful than hanging with some clingy chick."
"Oh really? I understand." Sonia perked up at this. "Then congratulations! I'm glad you found meaningful way to spend your life."
Soda back-tracked. "Huh? Does that mean you were going to offer?"
Sonia shook her head, smiling. "Absolutely not."
Fuyuhiko threw the sulking Soda off his shoulders, with a grunt. "Get off me, punk. I only agreed to this because I'm super bored."
"Agreed? So you two are doing something today?" Ibuki spoke rapidly and excitedly, about plans she had no part of.
"Awwwww, how romantic." Hiyoko glowered.
"Hey, Come on! You know what's not what this is." Soda said, sputtering. "Me and my soul bros are just gonna hang out this evening, maybe watch a movie or something."
"And Hajime better get here soon, so I can ditch you sooner." Kazihui made a whinig sound.
Nagito, who usually preferred to watched reveling in his classmate's hopeful exchanges, chimed in at this. "Hajime?" He asks with a quizzically bite to his words. "And who could that be?"
Soda was slow to acknowledge him but he eventually spoke, "Huh? How do you seriously not know, he comes here all the time? You too are always arguing."
Nagito thought for a moment. "Oh! you mean the Reserve? Sorry, but I still fall short of understanding why you would spend time with someone like him."
"He's my bro. Bros look out for each other." He mumbled this last part to himself. "Not that you would know."
"Plus, even though Hajime's got the personality and looks of a saltine cracker, he's wayyyy smarter than Soda!"
Kazuichi agreed for the second before he processed what she actually said. He barely got to complain before the door slid open.
"Finally. Get your ass in here." Fuyuhiko spoke before checking who was at the door.
"Oh, hey guys." Hajime was surprised at the number of people still around. "What are you all still doing here? Isn't your class over?"
"We were just about to leave." Akane spoke first. "Actually, I'm heading out right now. Maybe If I run I can catch Nekomaru for a training session."
Hajime held the door as she brushed past him with a sudden vigor. As he let it go, he found himself eyes locked with Nagito, who was giving him a blank expression. He looked away, really not wanting to get anything started today.
He had just finished talking to Chiaki and was holding his phone in one hand and the strap of his book bag in the other. He placed them both on a desk right in front of him.
"Oh my god, Hajime we were just talking about you! Soda you are so right his forehead is bigger in person."
"Nobody said anything about his forehead! We were talking about his boring personality," Ibuki tapped her fingers to her temples. "Stay on track, Hiyoko."
"Gee, Thanks Ibuki." Hajime stated plainly.
"No problem! So what movie are you guys gonna watch. I recommend the new thriller, I think it just came to theaters."
"An excellent choice of mortal entertainment in my grandiose opinion." Gundam finally said something, scaring Hajime as he had been standing in the dark corner of the room next to the door, right behind him.
"You would like some hatchet nightmare movie." Hiyoko rolled her eyes.
"I hope you aren't actually planning on watching that movie. It's rated far to high for anyone in here."
"Geez, does bs like that really matter?"
Mahiru turned to Fuyuhiko and put her hands on her waist. Or well her hands on hiyoko's arms around her waist.
"Of course it does! Why do you think content warnings exist in the first place."
In the heat of their discussion, He turned to Soda. "Hey, can I talk to you outside, privately? Just for a second."
Soda raised an eyebrow, sensing his sincerity, and nodded. Fuyuhiko suddenly turned to them as the turned to leave. "Hey! You two better not leave without me."
Hajime assured him "We wont Fuyuhiko, promise. Just give us a second." He waved to him, as Soda followed him out the door. He ignored Nagito's eyes peering on him as he left.
Soda follow him a short distance from the classroom. Just out of earshot.
"So what's up?" Soda asked. "I gotta a feeling this is about Chiaki, right? Something wrong?"
"It is about Chiaki. And no there's nothing wrong, but," Hajime looked to the wall. "I just wanted to ask you something." He turned back to him "Could you... maybe keep her under wraps for me? Or at least that you gave her to me?"
Soda looked surprised. "Huh? why? Isn't she awesome."
A part of him wanted to give some bullshit excuse, but he thought of what Chiaki told him the other day. If he really wanted to be worthy of a Main Course's friendship he'd have to be a little willing to be open. Even if this was Soda.
"To tell you the truth," Hajime paused. "I don't really have the best reputation in the reserve course. Some of those guys think I'm on some high horse since I talk to the main course so frequently, it's not pretty common in the reserve."
"Really? I mean we hang out with you cause you're cool. You helped Fuyuhiko's sister out that one time remember? That was cool of you, man." he smiled a toothy grin. "Reserves got nothing to do with it." He stated it like it was obvious, and Hajime had to admit a part of him felt comforted by that. A bigger part fought to refuse that comfort.
He chuckled, "Yeah. It's dumb but it could kind of become an actual issue. If people found out a Main course student gave me some valuable personal project, there's a chance they might-"
"Say no more, Haji. I got you." Soda interrupted. Hajime was surprised, he didn't really peg Soda as emotionally intelligent enough to understand where he might be coming from. But then he winced at the thought, aware it was kind of mean. Maybe Soda, understood more than Hajime gave him credit for.
"I totally , get it. If everyone found out I gave you this super awesome gift, they'd totally think we were gay, right?" Soda nodded knowingly, leaving Hajime dumbstruck? He narrowed his eyes in confusion, begging Soda to repeat what he just said.
Hajime blinked in utter confusion. "Hey? Uh, repeat that please?"
Soda ignored him. "See this is why you're cool! You look out for me. You and Me. We are here right now," Soda linked his hands together, and then move to pat him on the shoulder. "Plus if Miss Sonia thought we were a thing, she'd totally lose interest. Fuck, I just realized that. You know what, you may not be an Ultimate for real, but you're the Ultimate wingman in my book."
Never mind, then.
"I," Hajime began, trying to articulate. He gave up and just shook his head and fought the urge to smile, losing wildly. "Yeah. Yeah, Okay." He continued, "So this means you're not gonna tell anyone?"
"Nobody I haven't told already," Soda smiled again and his sharp teeth flashed. "Which is just Fuyuhiko and Chihiro. I'll tell em not to talk either."
Hajime let out a sigh of relief.
"But seriously," Hajime suddenly felt a headache coming on. "You are the best, man." Kazuichi he threw his hands up in a fist bump to the air, loudly chanting his name through he hallways as he walked back towards the classroom. Hajime felt slightly less comforted by his friendship.
After defrosting his crippling embarrassment, Hajime very, very slowly followed after him.
As he re-entered the room, he first heard Hiyoko's cries of indignation. "Shut up, Dunce face. What are you cheering bout." As Soda retorted back, He noticed that she, Mahiru and Nagito where the only ones left in the room, besides Peko and Fuyuhiko. The girls in question were hunched over Mahiru's camera, while Nagito sat at his seat in the back, looking out the window, making no move to leave.
Ignoring the two fighting, Peko spoke, "Are you ready to leave?"
"Finally. Let's fucking blow this popsicle stand." Fuyuhiko stood with huff, calling for Soda.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." He grabbed his bag and began rushing out the door. "Later Mahiru. Get lice, Hiyoko." She only stuck her tongue out at him as he and Fuyuhiko left before she turned back to Mahiru with a vastly warmer expression.
Hajime sighed as he grabbed the items he left haphazardly on a desk, happy to be done with their earlier conversation. Even if it didn't go exactly as he expected, At least he felt he could trust Soda to actually stay quiet.
As he lifted his bag, Hajime took a glance at Nagito, wondering why he hadn't left. As he took in his figure, his body stilled to a near dead stop.
There he was. His pretty pale face neutral with the slightest pull of boredom. Pressed into his left hand as he stared aimlessly out the window. In the quiet, near empty room, the view of him stung Hajime ice cold in his chest. It was stupid, he knew. Nagito had done nothing to deserve so much of his heart in this moment but he felt it. The loneliness. A feeling familiar, pasted over Nagito in a clear white sheen. He stared into his face, his snow white hair framing it in focus, and for that single second he was painfully aware of the boy named Nagito Komaeda.
And then the second passed, and he stood with his bag in hand, eyes wide, brows furrowed. Knocked off his feet by his own eyes. He felt words, press in his mouth, dying to be spoken. The simple "See you, Nagito," that everyone else had forgotten, but he waited that one second too long, and now it felt impossible.
Peko poked him from behind.
"Hajime?" She gestured toward the door.
"Uh, yeah," A final glance at Nagito, still peering away from him. "Let's go."
The two walked out together, leaving Mahiru and Hiyoko to each other, and Nagito to no one.