That evening Aki was seated on her bed working on her homework (she had chosen to do it in her room instead of at study hall). She was working on math homework and not enjoying it much at all.
There was a knock on the door. Aki looked up.
"It's open!" she called. The door swung open to reveal a very cheerful looking Leiko. "Oh, hi…" Aki put her math homework aside.
"Hello Aki," said Leiko cheerfully. Aki blushed and looked down at her black shoes.
"Hi to you too," Leiko came over and sat down next to Aki on the bed.
"Your athletics are improving," Leiko commented. Aki smiled. She really had felt as if she could fly earlier when Leiko had smiled at her.
"You really think so?" Aki asked.
"Yes I do," Leiko reached up with one hand and brushed Aki's hair away from the side of her face.
"Don't you have homework right now?" Aki blurted out without thinking.
"Yes, of course, but I wanted to see you instead," Leiko reached over and clasped Aki's left hand in her right one. The touch made Aki shiver and yet at the same time she feel all warm inside. Aki glanced over at a smiling Leiko.
"So…um what's your home like?" Aki asked. She was genuinely curious about the kind of life Leiko led.
"Well, my parents own a large mansion in Ralia in the southern part of Ansa. We take trips to the sea every summer."
"Me too!" Aki cried excitedly, "it's wonderful. The sand is warm and the sound of the waves is so magical." Leiko smiled dreamily.
"Yes it is." She removed her hand from Aki's and placed it on the side of the sophomore's face. "Just like you." The sentence was drawn out and spoken like a poem. Aki felt herself smiling. No one but her parents had ever told her that she was beautiful before, net even Ayumi and Yuriko and certainly not in the way Leiko meant it either.
Leiko leaned closer and gazed into Aki's eyes intently. "I really am infatuated with you Aki. I really think you should know that just in case…you decide"—Leiko looked genuinely sad—"that you don't want any part in this." Aki was surprised that Leiko was being so open and honest with her of all people. Leiko must really be in love with me a lot to be this honest, Aki thought. "Oh Aki," Leiko wrapped her arms around the black haired girl and held her tightly. Aki felt rather uncomfortable but didn't dare pull away. She didn't want to hurt Leiko's feelings, she just felt they were progressing just a little bit to fast, she would have preferred that they either talked or sat together with their hands clasped in silence.
At last Leiko let go and Aki sat back and tried to hide her discomfort.
"Are you alright, Aki," Leiko asked. She seemed genuinely concerned.
"Well….um….I really like you," here she blushed, "but I think we're moving too fast." Aki felt even more awkward than before.
"Too fast?" Leiko asked, "You don't want me to hug you do you." Leiko looked momentarily sad.
"No, I mean yes, uh….I…." Aki trailed off and reached for Leiko's right hand. She squeezed it tightly hoping that would convey her unspoken meaning. Leiko seemed to understand because she smiled.
"What's your home life like?" she asked. Leiko squeezed her hand in return.
"Oh we live in a large house on the most eastern border of Ansa near a lake." Leiko nodded.
"And do you spend lots of time there?" she asked.
"Uh-huh." Aki glanced over at her alarm clock and gasped. "It's already 8:50." Aki reached over and picked up her unfinished math homework.
"Oh, dear, I suppose I should go…I've got a few essays to write before bed." Leiko withdrew her hand and gently stroked Aki's face. Aki blushed.
"Good luck with those essays," said Aki shakily. Leiko left Aki's dorm room and Aki went back to her math homework.
For the next few weeks Aki and Leiko would visit each other in their respective dorm rooms after dinner. Needless to say, rumors began to fly around about them. Some said that Aki had somehow bespelled Leiko to like her while others thought that perhaps Aki had some hidden talent the older and more vindictive girl wanted to exploit. But several students guessed the truth.
"They're in love," Anaka Meto said to her freshmen friends. "That's what I think. Leiko Aneki and Aki Tenou are in lovvvvvve." Her friends laughed.
But luckily for the couple, no one believed Anaka Meto's stories. Aki and Leiko could at least work under cover with, "I'm trying to help Aki with her math homework" which was somewhat true. Aki did have trouble with the subject. But on the flip side, Leiko had to now deal with "whining brats" who thought that she would be willing to help them with their homework.
Later in the week Leiko was sitting in art class drawing a picture of Aki in a sun dress. Her friends, Aseko and Kimiko were sitting near by.
"Leiko, let me guess," Aseko commented, "you're drawing the sophomore brat again right?" Leiko sighed and added a bit more black to Aki's hair.
"Why? She's just a sophomore. We're much, much better than her." Kimiko added. She had long black hair with blue highlights and cruel blue eyes. Aseko had dark green hair and large blue eyes. She was the kindest of the trio with Kimiko being the absolute cruelest and not to mention the most vain. Excluding Aki and her two friends, Yuriko and Ayumi, Leiko was good and nasty to the other underclassmen, just not Aki and her friends.
"You know she's not even that pretty," Kimiko commented. She was drawing a rather lopsided mansion on her piece of paper.
"Yes she is," Kimiko made a face.
"Even prettier than me?" Leiko did her best to school her face into a blank expression.
"Of course not," she lied, "you're the prettiest girl in school and not to mention the most popular too." Kimiko smiled and settled back to adding a lawn to her lopsided house.
While Kimiko was physically more beautiful than Aki, there was an inner light in the younger girl which was absent in Kimiko. Kimiko was a vain, snobbish and shallow-minded girl. Aki was just Aki, kind, loving, friendly and more beautiful than Kimiko would ever be unless she got a personality switch.
Aseko was busily doodling little stick figures on her paper instead of actually working on any type of project. There was only one good word to describe Aseko, she was lazy. She would only do work if there was a slight chance that things would go in her favor. So now she just sat there (probably daydreaming about some boy she hadn't looked upon in months) and drawing random pictures on her paper.
"Well anyway do you want to go pick on the freshmen after class?" Kimiko asked.
"Nah, I'd rather lie around in bed," commented Aseko.
"You always want to lie around in bed, Aseko," Kimiko shot back.
"Yeah and you always want to stare at your pretty face in the mirror."
"Quit it you two," Leiko added the finishing touches on her picture of Aki. Kimiko gave Leiko a dark look but her look transformed itself into an open glare when she saw the finished picture of Aki. Leiko had drawn the younger girl in such a way that she looked even more beautiful than Kimiko.
"That sophomore brat looks prettier than me!!" Kimiko half-shouted.
"She's got a point," Aseko added in a bored voice. Kimiko grabbed the picture out from under Leiko's right hand.
"You made that bitch prettier than me!" Leiko reached over and attempted to snatch the picture back but just then their teacher Daughter Ami took the picture from both of them.
"What are you doing?! This is a masterpiece!" she breathed. She gazed in awe at the picture of Aki and smiled. "May I put this up on our bulletin board for show?" Leiko was speechless. She knew she was a good artist but she had never thought that she'd be good enough to have her art hung on Daughter Ami's prized bulletin board. But on the flip side, it was a picture of Aki Tenou. And not only a picture but a glorified picture of the younger girl. Upperclassmen were to despise the younger students. Leiko's name as a properly liked (and feared) junior would be ruined. Then an idea struck her.
"You can put if up if you leave my name off of it," Leiko stated simply.
"Your name? Why? Don't you want everyone to know you made this wonderful piece of artwork?" Leiko shook her head.
"Leave it out," She put on her best imperious face and stared at Daughter Ami. The art teacher looked uncomfortable but eventually nodded.
"Alright, I'll leave your name off." She went back to the front of the room holding the picture of Aki as if it were a precious stone. Kimiko glared at Leiko.
"So, you don't want the little sophomores to know you drew a picture of one of them hmmm?" She smiled nastily at Leiko.
"Precisely." Leiko packed up her art things and got to her feet. At that moment the bell rang. Kimiko grabbed her art things and flung them violently into her bad and stormed from the room.
"You realize she'll probably tell everyone she can to get revenge right?" Aseko might have been lazy but she was far from stupid.
"Yeah, I know. We just need to find a way to keep her mouth shut." Leiko sighed.
"I know, draw a picture of Kimiko and make her look even prettier than you did for the sophomore brat." Leiko nodded and ignored the slight towards Aki. She and Aseko headed for their next class in silence.
Aki, Yuriko and Ayumi were walking to Etiquette when Yuriko gasped and pointed. The other two girls looked in the direction of Yuriko's finger.
Aki stared in awe at the picture of herself which had been tacked up on the Art Bulletin Board. She looked like a goddess, her shoulder length black hair sweeping around her angelic face. Her large eyes were brimming with love and affection.
"Wow…." Ayumi just stared. "You looked like a super model from La Clara only better!" She laughed and bounced up and down on the balls of her feet with excitement.
"What I want to know is who the hell drew this?" Yuriko commented.
"I have no clue," Ayumi grinned, "but it's certainly awesome huh Aki?"
"Y-yeah….yeah….it is," Aki knew that Leiko could draw very well but not this well. Aki was one-hundred percent sure Leiko had drawn the picture even though there was no name.
"Duh!" Ayumi laughed. Yuriko made a face.
"And we'll be late for Etiquette you two. Daughter Larako hates tardiness." Yuriko led the way with Aki and an exhilarated Ayumi bringing up the rear.
That night, Aki was the one to knock on Leiko's door. Leiko openned it and Aki went inside.
"Leiko, um….I have a question." Leiko gestured for Aki to sit on her bed as usual. Aki glanced over at Leiko's work desk and saw another sketch this time of an impossibly beautiful girl.
"Who's she?" Aki blurted out. Leiko sighed.
"I know that's not what you wanted to ask me in the first place but I'll tell you anyway. That's my former friend Kimiko Hazukai who, if I don't draw a certain picture for, will tell everyone she sees that I drew that sketch of you."
"Oh, then you did draw it…" Aki blushed.
"Of course, who else would draw such a nice picture of a wonderful girl huh?" Aki laughed and went to sit beside the older girl.
"So she wants you to draw a picture of her?" Aki asked.
"Yes," Leiko smiled disgustedly, "And I have to portray her image even more beautifully than yours which I think isn't fair but on the other hand, I don't want to be known as the lone junior who associates herself with sophomores…" She sneered in a rather nasty manner. "So I suppose I'll draw her stupid picture," she finished.
"But I'm a sophomore," Aki stared at Leiko.
"You, Aki"—Leiko put her hand on Aki's shoulder—"are the lone exception to the Older Classmen Hate the Younger Classmen Rule." Leiko smiled.
"Obviously I am, but can't you be nice to the other sophomores?" Aki asked.
"Other than your two friends, no, I can't I'm a junior and," Leiko smiled, "I'm supposed to hate underclassmen." Aki sighed.
"But you were a sophomore once…" Leiko laughed.
"Of course I was and I picked on the freshmen just as much as I now pick on the sophomores." Her laughter was wholesome and rich almost like melted chocolate.
"Now enough on the Rule, how have your classes been today?" Leiko moved her hand from Aki's shoulder to her face. Aki shivered at Leiko's touch but didn't pull away.
"They were fine." Leiko smiled. Aki reached up and pulled Leiko's hand away from her face. Leiko looked momentarily hurt but covered it up with a very face smile. For a moment the two girls sat there awkwardly neither of the moving.
Just then there was a rather loud knock on the door.
"Hey Leiko! I hope you're already finished with my picture because if you're not you know what's coming to you!" the speaker sounded—if possible—nastier than Leiko at her nastiest.
"Yes Kimiko," Leiko called through the door, "I'm almost done."
"Then why did I hear talking?" Leiko froze.
"Because, I um….was talking to myself…about your beautiful picture."
"Well, quit talking and get back to work or the whole school will know about your fixation with a certain sophomore twit named Aki Tenou!"
Both girls heard footsteps as the third girl walked away.
"Was that Kimiko?" Aki asked.
"Yes," Leiko sighed and went to sit at her desk. She picked up her pencil and began to work on Kimiko's sketch.
"Should I go?" Aki asked somberly.
"No, of course not, I just have to finish this damn thing." Leiko's pencil scratched on the paper. Aki just sat quietly and gazed at the older girl as she worked. Aki wanted to run her hands through Leiko's soft dark blonde curls. The very thought sent a tingling sensation through Aki's hands and arms. Such long, soft hair, almost like honey…
Aki was on her feet. She went over to Leiko and suspended her hand just over the other girl's soft tresses. She stood like that, undecided. Should I touch her hair or not…I really want to but…what if she gets mad? Such thoughts chased themselves around in Aki's frenzied mind. So beautiful and soft and—
Kimiko was sitting outside Leiko's door listening to Leiko's pencil scratch on paper. She had walked away loudly so that both girls—yes she knew that the sophomore brat was in there with Leiko—would think that Kimiko had left. Then, as quietly as she could, Kimiko had tiptoed back and to her delight neither girl had noticed her.
"Aki!" Leiko half yelled.
"Sorry, sorry, I just wanted…" The brat trailed off.
"Oh, that's ok, it's just you made me mess up that's all." Kimiko wondered what the Tenou girl had wanted to do, "It's ok, I can fix it."
"I'm sorry," the brat whimpered.
"Here," said Leiko, "my hair is lovely now isn't it?" she sounded extremely happy. There was a moment of silence.
"It is nice Leiko," murmured Tenou, "so soft and curly." Both girls burst out laughing. Kimiko made a face. OK, do I even wanna know where this is going? she asked herself, do I really wanna know.
"And so, is yours." Leiko commented. Tenou giggled.
"Hey that's my hair." Both girls started to giggle. I am so out of here, Kimiko thought. She got up and tiptoed away.
Aki and Leiko were playing around with each other's hair and giggling madly. At last their giggling subsided and they both took a seat on Leiko's bed. Aki blushed.
"Seriously though, I need to get back to drawing that picture, and from the looks of it, the final bell will be ringing soon."
"Ok, good night Leiko," Leiko stroked Aki's face with her hand.
"Good night Aki, sleep well." She got up and openned the door for Aki. Aki had one last glimpse of Leiko sitting at her writing desk working on Kimiko's picture as she closed Leiko's door. She returned to her room to find a disgruntled Ayumi and Yuriko sitting on her bed.