It was a day just like the others. During lunch-break, in Tokofushi Middle School's infirmary, Hades-sensei was serving tea to his beloved students, which this time happened to be just the four regular visitors: Ashitaba, Fuji, Mimasaka and Kaburagi.
As they were all chatting happily, after two quiet knocks were heard, the door slid open, revealing a petite woman, a tall and buxom one and a casually-dressed man.
"Good morning everyone! I've bought you a few guests" said Mitogawa-sensei as she walked into the room.
Following the principal, were Hades-sensei's childhood friends Niburu and Keiichi.
"Itsuhito, tea" commanded rather than requested the older woman.
The students were sitting in the two sofas, Fuji and Ashitaba in the one closer to the door, and Mimasaka and Kaburagi in the one closer to the desk, while Hades-sensei was on a chair at the head of the table.
As the guests approached, Ashitaba and Fuji got up and left the seat to the just arrived three, then the two classmates sat on a bed, the one Fuji labelled as his. Ashitaba sat composedly on the right, occupying only a small portion of the edge of the bed while Fuji threw himself all-over the mattress, occupying even Ashitaba's half.
As they all sat down, Hades-sensei went to pour more tea. It didn't take him much as he always had more tea than necessary ready as he wanted to always be ready in case more students wanted to pay him visit.
"Hello everyone" "Hey there, students!" greeted the other two adults who sat each on either side of their former teacher.
And when the students finished to greet them back, the nurse placed three cups of tea on the table and while he was at it, he also refilled his students' half-drank ones.
When he sat back down to his chair, he looked at Keiichi "They have names, you know? Don't call them 'students'" scolded the pale man.
"It's fine, it's fine. They don't mind" brushed off the dark-haired man while he happily drank his tea.
"…Keiichi…" Niburu's eyes were scolding and disapproving "And how do you do when you have to call them?"
"How you ask…Student no.1, no.2 and so on…"
Hearing his self-proclaimed friend say that, a dark shadow fell over the nurse "How dare you…to call my students like that…you…" Hades-sensei's overwhelming aura scared Keiichi to death, after all it was quite rare to see the man angry.
"It's fine sensei, we don't mind at all" called out a quiet and rather high-pitched voice that belonged to the meek Ashitaba, who was now currently sharing his bento with his blond friend.
Hearing his student's voice, Hades-sensei snapped out of his dark mood and simply left Keiichi alone.
As peace once again descended into the room, Mitogawa-sensei spoke up "So, do you really call them by numbers?" asked almost too innocently the woman.
"I do, Chitose-chan" nodded humbly the tanned man, fearing a scolding if not worse, from the principal.
"That's right! I remember that once he called me student no.4!" said enthusiastically Mimasaka, no harm behind his words.
The wonder woman called Mitogawa Chitose hummed, seeming to be pleased with the discover. "So, if you call them by numbers, does that mean that each of them corresponds to a number?" questioned the woman.
"That's an awful way to say it Chitose-chan! But yeah, they each have their own. Why?"
This time a smirk could be clearly seen on her face.
«Hm~ I wonder who no.1 is» "Then why don't we try to guess who no.1 is? Let's do it everyone" she ordered rather than proposed.
"Oh! I like that. Sounds fun!" agreed Mimasaka, and while Kaburagi didn't say anything, she was thrilled as well. She wanted to know who student no.1 was, after all that meant that it was the one closest to sensei.
And even if not to the same extent, even Ashitaba and Fuji were curious, and seeing everyone agreeing to her idea, Mitogawa-sensei announced proudly "Well then, let us find out Itsuhito's no.1!"
They all finished their lunches and put them away, now paying full attention to the game.
Hades couldn't really agree with his former teacher's idea, because for him his students were all the same, there was no no.1 in his eyes, but as the students seemed delighted with this so we just didn't have the heart to ruin their fun.
"So, if Mimasaka-kun is no.4 then unfortunately, he's not the one we're looking for" reasoned quite bluntly the principal.
"Well…if it's of help, once Keiichi called Ashitaba-kun, Fuji-kun and Kaburagi-san by students no.1, no.2 and no.3. Though as he called them together, I don't know who he was addressing by each number" said the scary-looking man.
"I see, that was a very helpful piece of information Itsuhito. Then let us all bet on who we think Student no.1 is!" said as the petite woman clapped her hands together.
"Haha go ahed, when you're done, I'll tell you who guessed right" laughed happily Keiichi as he made himself more comfortable on the sofa.
Ashitaba, Fuji and Kaburagi looked at each other. They all wanted that title, but somehow, they were very embarrassed.
"The ones playing are just the three of us, aren't we? After all Itsuhito, you won't join us, right?" eyed slyly the woman, looking at her former student.
"Yes. I don't want to ruin your fun, but as for me the students are all the same, I'm afraid I can't take part into this game" said apologetically the man.
This affirmation of made the students upset. They were both glad and sad by what he said, after all that meant that he didn't dislike anyone but also that none of them held a special spot. The disappointment of not being the no.1, but the relief of not having a number at all were conflicted feelings, because even if differently, more openly and/or consciously, they all loved their sensei.
Seeing the mood getting kind of awkward, Keiichi tried spoke up.
"So who's going to start? No.4, why don't you go first?" asked the tanned man, patting the boy's shoulder from across the table.
"Ok! So I totally think that Fuji is no.1!" announced doubtlessly the chubby boy.
This surprised everyone, who would have guessed that out of the three possible candidates Mimasaka would actually pick his proclaimed rival and friend?
Even Fuji was caught out of guard by this, a very light and almost invisible pick blush adored his cheeks. He didn't expect to be nominated fist, and even if he couldn't tell why, this whole situation was embarrassing him. "Why?" he asked his friend back, his voice was quieter than usual, and he wasn't looking anyone in their eyes. He was clearly embarrassed, but be quickly hid it but faking to be sleepy and threw himself back onto the bed.
Ashitaba chucked, because it was more unique than rare to see the usually composed Fuji flustered.
"Well…" started Mimasaka, by rubbing his chin and making a thoughtful face, wanting to build a bit of suspense.
"Even if by just a tiny bit, Fuji's the one more handsome among us, right? So isn't it the norm for the most good-looking one to take the first place? I mean, no matter what we, who are the coolest, just seem to be destined to be at the top!" laughed proudly the boy.
Everyone was quite dumbfounded. Such reasoning was so insensible that it almost made sense…almost.
Fuji who during his classmate's speech got up from his laying position, was now resting his head on Ashitaba's shoulder. The reason? Because though Ashitaba was slender his shoulders were unexpectedly soft, because Ashitaba himself said that he didn't mind, and because it seemed that Fuji's chin fitted just fine into his friend's smaller shoulder.
The blond boy sighed face-palming himself. Everyone said that the was handsome and stuff but he surely didn't think so, to himself he was just normal so he couldn't get Mimasaka's reasoning.
And in the middle of his laugh said boy stopped and came to a realization "Oh! But I also think Fuji is the no.1 because he's the one who spends most time in the infirmary, which means he's the one who spends most time with sensei!" and satisfied with his speech, Mimasaka finally sat back down.
"Well, it's true that Fuji-kun spends a lot of time here. He even brought his stuff over" agreed Hades-sensei as he pointed behind Fuji and Ashitaba, where all kind of stuff which belonged to the lazy boy could be seen.
"I see…not bad Mimasaka-kun" complimented Mitogawa-sensei "Then, what do you think?" asked as she appointed her former female-student.
"Well…I don't know the students well and their relationship with Itsuhito, but there's one thing I know for sure…Keiichi likes girls, very much so. And with such a cutie like her here…" continued the woman as she got up and sad on the armchair of the other sofa, leaning impossibly close to Kaburagi "…do you think he wouldn't notice her? He always put women first so I think that this time it's no exception as well" finished the blond beauty as the sat back into her seat.
Then once again, Hades commented "Well Kaburagi-san is the only girl who always comes here. There are other girls but they don't come as often" smiled the man half-happy and half-depressed, thinking about his missing popularity.
Kaburagi almost fainted, firstly because the woman she didn't know all that well was pressing herself too close to the girl, making her nervous and uncomfortable and then after hearing her beloved sensei say such a thing, she felt herself lose consciousness, though she could just barely keep her cool.
"As expected of my student" said proudly Mitogawa-sensei. Then she cleared her voice and spoke just a bit more loudly so everyone could hear her better "I guess now is my turn. So…my pick is Ashitaba-kun" said the woman as she smiled at the plain-looking boy.
Upon hearing his name, Ashitaba entered his panic mode "Mitogawa-sensei…W-Why? Why me? Are you sure? Shouldn't you choose someone else?" Ashitaba started to stretch his uniform from the nervousness, a habit that some found annoying and others cute.
The woman smiled fondly and sweetly at him "Yes I'm sure, Ashitaba-kun. And I've told you many times, have more self-confidence. As for my reason for picking you…firstly I'd say it's because as everyone probably knows, you're my favorite out of the students of my school. That, and because I think you and Itsuhito interact with each other a lot, even out of school. Niburu and Keiichi, both of you have seen Ashitaba-kun with Itsuhito while they weren't at school, haven't you?"
At her question, both adults nodded, confirming her statement.
"The first time we met each other was also not during school hours, didn't we? So that's why I picked you, because if it were up to me, I'd give you first place"
As she concluded, the room fell into a solemn silence. The only sounds which could be heard were Ashitaba's quite sniffles as the dried the tears that formed themselves in his eyes.
The meek boy was surpassed, happy and shacked by the principal's words, in fact his voice was trembling "T-Thank you Mitogawa-sensei!"
In reply to the boy's words of gratitude, the woman simply smiled at him once more.
This time Itsuhito didn't say anything, he just commented quietly between himself «It's no surprise that Mitogawa-sensei had a soft spot for Ashitaba-kun. Unlike me she's not afraid of hurting the students by making preferences. And well, it's true that Ashitaba-kun and I meet an awfully lot out of school...»
"Now that everyone has made their bet, I shall tell you who this student no.1 is!" announced Keiichi as cheers followed his words.
"So for starters…I'm sorry Niburu-chan but your guess is wrong" said the tanned man apologetically.
"…Why?" asked the blondie half-surprised and half-annoyed, though her face showed none of that.
"Because you know…as the gentleman that I am, I like women…but Niburu-chan, you're the only one for me! I have eyes for none other than you, so this lovely girl here, unfortunately, is not student no.1!" said, almost shouting, Keiichi.
"I see…that's a pity" commented Niburu while looking at Kaburagi, who said instead "It's fine, please don't worry about me! Of rather, maybe it's better this way" «I don't know what I would have done if I was really sensei's no.1…my heart probably wouldn't have been able to take it!»
Then Keiichi faced Mimasaka this time "No.4…Mimasaka-kun, you and I shared some adventures during winter-break, so let me tell you that I think you're be best!" the man extended his arm and made his hand into a punch. Mimasaka laughed and lightly punched his fist against the other's "Thanks ossan, you're cool too!"
After lowering his hand, the man said "Your guess was…" he let some suspense built up, while everyone was holding their breath "…wrong too. Sorry"
What followed Keiichi's words was a long and deadly silence, an almost eerie one.
Then suddenly a pair of hands could be heard clapping…it was Mitogawa-sensei, "Congratulations Ashitaba-kun" said kindly but proudly the petite woman.
Her words shook Ashitaba awake and he snapped back to reality. Then his face brightened and he hugged Fuji from the joy. The blond scolded him with a flat-toned "Laugh or cry, pick one idiot" but hugged his friend back nonetheless.
When Ashitaba let go of his classmate, he got off the bed and run to the nurse, wrapping his arms around the man and hugged him tightly.
Apart from the initial surprise, Hades-sensei then placed his hands around the boy and hugged him as well, caressing his small back.
Everyone looked at them warmly, it was such a sweet scene. And needless to say, no one had anything to say about Ashitaba being no.1, in everyone's opinion no one deserved that title more than the meek, hard-working and selfless Ashitaba Iku. The boy was the one who cared most about the scary-looking nurse that at first everyone avoided, so Keiichi didn't even have to say why Ashitaba took first place.
As he held the student who opened up to him first, Hades Itsuhito reflected…«If being called my student no.1 makes him this happy…maybe it's not such a bad thing...»