Haru and Miyu, two good friends as well as ex lovers, walk along a long pavement path that lead all around the academy. Initiating their conversation from a other wise silent and awkward walk, Miyu made some friendly banter about the fights they have had since arriving. Regarding the way they fought, the intensity or lack of in their opponents, and other things in relation.
"Looks like we're the only two to have won for team Japan today, huh?" Haru commented.
"Definitely never thought I'd hear that... Can't believe Shibata-san lost!" She replied.
"It is a strange thought... Hey look, let's sit at that bench," he suggested, pointing ahead to a nearing bench.
The two sat down, Miyu making sure there was plenty of space between the two. Despite attempting to make it appear subtle, there was almost another person's width between them, and he had definitely noticed...
It went silent briefly. Miyu, bored and sensing the unwanted tension, she starting swinging her legs back and forth from the bench, when Haru finally spoke.
"So, the three of us advance onto the next round," he looked her way. "Can't believe Momoka got eliminated like that."
"Aimee's a really good fighter," Miyu responded. "I'm pretty sure she's won all of her fights since being here, just like Shibata had."
"Yeah, but Momoka was just as good of a fighter," he passionately replied. "She trained under the same teacher as all of us, had some of the best teach her outside school, and never stopped giving it her all."
"I know, I know," Miyu interrupted. "Did you forget that I was her friend too?" She chuckled. "I've known her longer than I've known you..."
"... Y'know, I've been thinking about you a lot."
He... He did it again. And so out of the blue? Why must he... persist!
"Not this again," She spoke her mind, officially giving up on sugar coating any longer.
"Please Miyu," He shuffled closer to her, briefly placing his hand on hers before having it quickly slip away. "Just hear me out!"
"I don't want to hear it, Haru!" She exclaimed, luckily avoiding drawing any attention as they were completely alone.
He managed to get hold of her hand once again, keeping it with a firm grip as she turned and faced him in response. He looked deeply into her eyes, making sure she was looking directly back.
"I miss you..." He muttered, drawing in to her.
As he slowly leaned in towards her, she felt this undying, and painfully familiar, urge. Before she knew it, she found her attempts to slip from his hand fade, as she followed suite and leaned in towards her ex. Her eyes started to close, but as they did so, she noticed something that was not a familiar sight...
She couldn't see him. Her eyes were closed, but for as long as she could remember being in love, she would always be able to see the one she loved as she kissed them inside of her head. But he wasn't there. She couldn't even picture him when trying to remember his face by force, and it was then when her decision was made final.
She opened her eyes. She pulled her hand out of his weakened grasp, and she moved as far back as she could, barely managing to keep her balance on the edge of the bench. She tried to speak, but nothing came out. Her throat felt tight, like someone was strangling her. She faced away from him, and as did he, as she closed her eyes and took deep breaths.
Calm thoughts... N-Good thoughts... Happy thoug-...
As her eyes closed and her breathing starting to return to a healthy pace, a memory that was as close as nearly forgotten replayed in her head, as if involuntarily. She crossed her arms, holding them tightly and pressing them into her stomach, she sat as if an observer inside her own mind, to the memory that decided to replay...
~Before Miyu managed to get into Kongo no Kadai, by working through the entirety of the summer holidays, one of the three jobs she worked was as a waitress. At an average sized restaurant, young 15-year-old Yoshida wore an apron and served a variety of customers.
Though in Japan it was frowned upon for high school kids to be working a job, she had luckily landed herself a job at the establishment due to the owner being a long time friend of her old teacher. That summer holiday, Miyu decided she wasn't going back to her ordinary school, and that she was going to pay tuition to the school she wanted, no matter what.
One day, after already having been introduced to Haru through Momoka, he happened to come by and sit at one of the outside tables by himself. Completely embarrassed by her crush appearing where she worked, she ran out of sight and into the staff room, where her manager quickly caught onto her absence.
"What are you doing in here?!" The manager asked her, startling by how fast he had caught on.
"I-I ah," she stuttered. "There's someone out there that I can't serve..."
"Can't serve?" He questioned, opening the door slightly, glancing through and identifying the customer. "Why not?"
"He-he um... I just don't want him to see that I'm working!" She replied, all flustered.
"Yoshida-chan," her manager's tone deepened. "When accepting your application, you promised me that you wouldn't have any problems working and being seen her no matter what. You've served old classmates that laughed at you, parents and other family who thought it was strange at your age, and no matter what you ALWAYS worked without ANY problems. So what could it be about this boy that makes him so special?"
She struggled to conjure up any words. She stuttered on several different letters, changing and taking multiple breaths whilst her face got brighter and brighter.
Eventually, the manager figured out the reason and was ashamed of his younger employee. Nonetheless, he made sure to tell her that she HAD to serve him no matter what, other wise she would be out of the job. With no other available option, she left the staffroom and nervously approached her crush.
"W-welcome to Shuzuki's kitchen," she started with her go-to-introduction. "Can-can I take your order?" She asked, hiding her face behind her small notepad.
"Ah yes, please may I hav-... Miyu, is that you?" Haru recognised her, making her hiding attempt look even sillier than it already was. "You work here?"
"Y-yes..." she replied, avoiding eye contact whilst taking the appearance of a ripe tomato.
It wasn't until after his first time visiting that he quickly became a regular at the restaurant. Often, mostly around the times Yoshida would be allowed her breaks, he would turn up and order them both something to munch or drink during their conversations.
During an iconic visit that Miyu vividly recalled, during one of Haru's regular visits, he pointed out how he thought he had seen her working elsewhere the previous day. After explaining where and at what time he thought he saw her, stating he didn't bother to check with the employee, Miyu made a confession...
"That was me..." She replied, wrapping both hands around her hot cup while she stared down into the liquid. "I work there on the weekends, whereas I work here through Monday to Thursday."
"Working two jobs? A student?!" He questioned in astonishment. "That must be insane for you, how do you even cope only having one day of the week to yourself? Without work."
Her lips puckered as she directed them to one corner of her face, looking away before back at him, with one hand messing with her ponytail coming out from her hat.
"A-Actually, I also work at the karaoke bar on Thursday nights and Friday day times..."
"A-a karaoke bar?!" He raised his voice again, in great confusion. "How can they allow you to work somewhere like that?"
"Well, it's Momo's Uncle's place, so even though I'm under-aged he lets me work there," she smiled nervously, taking quick note of Haru's disturbed and possibly worried look. "Oh, but it's really not that bad! I'm not allowed behind the bar of course, so I just sit in one of the Karaoke rooms and help people when they come in with friends or what not. Y'know, help choose a song, sing along with them and just try to make sure they have a good time!"
She continued to increase the already overly sized grin on her face, noticing that Haru's expression hadn't really changed. She quickly realised that what she had said to try and defend herself could be mistaken for 'other services', and quickly rectified the situation.
"Don't worry, nothing dodgy ever happens!" She giggled. "Though some drunks come in sometimes and get weird with me, we have a bouncer outside the room who kicks them out when I press a little button on the wristband I wear while there. He's British and his name is Steve, and he buys me ice cream every time someone tries to make me uncomfortable!"
With her cheeks physically aching from laughing and smiling, she opened her squinting eyes in hope that his expression had changed. To her surprise, he appeared to be desperately holding in a promptly let out chuckle. Releasing the built up breath she had been anxiously holding in, she asked him what was so funny as his light laughter turned into hysterics.
"So..." He finally spoke, pausing to calm himself down. "You can sing, huh?"
"That's all you got from that?" She laughed, lightly slapping his hand as he chuckled another time.
"But in all seriousness," he toned himself down a notch. "Why are you working so many jobs and so many hours? You must barely get any time to go out, see friends or have any fun."
"This is fun!" She replied in a accidental high tone. "Serving people is fun. Karaoke is very fun! Helping people decide what to buy on the weekends however is not..."
She paused for a moment, looking deeply into Haru's eyes, completely changing the atmosphere between them as she placed both hands flat on the table.
"I'm... I'm trying to save up so I can afford the tuition fee for Kongo no Kadai."
"Oh really? You probably already know, but me and Momo have already been accepted there," Haru replied. "Why are you paying for it yourself?"
"Well, my parents don't exactly support my dream to compete in OA..."
She went on to explain how unsupportive her family had became, ever since her Uncle passed away. Even after convincing them to at least go and talk to the headmaster of the fighting school, they continued to refuse and insist she continued at a normal school. With the expense being so high, and the pay for someone her age being so low, she decided to work as much as she could so she could afford the cost before the end of summer.
As they approached the middle of their summer holiday, Haru came in for a casual meal. He ordered, chatted with Miyu briefly but was quickly off once finished. Leaving without saying farewell to Miyu, when she started to collect his plate and cup, a letter was tucked underneath.
With her name on the letter, she opened it up on the spot and inside was her 'tip'. The tip was a huge amount of money, enough yen to give her the remainder of the fee total. She jumped for joy on the spot, not believing her eyes as she counted the money a second time.
Thanks to Haru, she was able to enrol in the school, quit her weekend job and decrease her amount of shifts at the restaurant. Seeing as she promised her acquaintances' friends and family that she'd work over the whole summer, she continued to work at the restaurant and Karaoke bar, but managing to get more time to her self throughout the weeks.
It was also thanks to his tip that the two of them were able to spend more time together, building and setting their relationship in motion just in time for entering their new school...~
"A-Arigatou... Haru..." Miyu said aloud, giving no sort of context to her ex sitting beside her, though he didn't give any response.
Without even shifting her head his way she started to cry. She didn't want to, she told herself that he didn't deserve it. Haru wasn't someone she should be crying over. On top of everything else; her friend being eliminated, her unofficial new boyfriend told her he was leaving the next day, and now Haru.
"It's not fair..."
With all competitors gathered before the stage, and the cameras all rolling, the highlights from round 3 to 6 were all shown on the big screen. Everyone enjoyed the highlights, some laughs and chattering occurred during certain clips, but not anywhere near as much as the first showing.
Once the presentation had finished, the announcements of the competitors who had been eliminated for the 6th round were made. During the listing of the names from countries, Momoka grabbed onto Miyu's head and squeezed, startling her slightly.
She turned to her friend, and on her face was a smile. A big cute 'don't worry' smile.
How can you smile Momo? Why're you so okay with this? After training so much and showing such clear dedication for all these years... Why quit so easily now?
With all names having been listed, and the Founder thanking all of the eliminated competitors, and wishing the best of luck to those still going, it was all over. While all competitors and camera crews departed from the area, Miyu turned and saw Callum at the gate.
She approached him, and with his luggage at his side and a bag in his hand, they spoke away from their friends. They briefly spoke about the presentation, avoiding the main topic as long as they could, but Yoshida couldn't hold it in forever...
"So this is it..." Callum said, finally getting to the main topic.
"Will I ever... see or he-ar from Callum again?" She asked.
"Mochiron," he replied, handing her a sheet of paper.
On the sheet, not only his Skype name but his mobile number. She held the sheet with both hands, staring down, and though she could feel a smile on her face, she saw a tear plant onto the paper. As her hands began to shake and the paper slowly crinkled, he grabbed hold of her arms.
As she looked directly up, he took a step towards her, flattening her hands against his stomach as kissed her. As his hands moved from her arms to around her back, she wrapped her arms around him whilst encouraging the kiss, and Haru walked away from their friends who had been waiting on the side.
Susumi's hands were balled up between her chest, watching the two as she was fixated on her small friend. While losing herself and her grip tightened, Momoka grabbed her wrist and asked if she was okay, noticing the tension.
"I-I'm fine," she released, forcing a smile toward her friend.
"I hope we can see each other again," said Callum. "Maybe, when you beat this competition you can fly and meet me in England? I'll be watching you the whole way from home."
The two walked to the OA airport entrance hand-in-hand, where they originally got their scan on the first day. With their friends shortly behind, waving Callum goodbye, the two turned to each other and said their official goodbyes.
After sharing one last kiss, he picked up his luggage and entered the building, along with some of the other eliminated competitors. Once he was gone it all hit her at once. She pulled out the sheet again and looked at it one more time, bringing back the tears she had not moments ago.
As she tried to cover her face with one hand, still holding the sheet in the other, she suddenly received a big hug from behind. Expecting it to be Momoka at a time like current, she turned to receive the hug with her head onto her friends shoulder, only to see that it was Shibata. Standing taller than her, she embraced the hug anyway, moaning aloud as her muffled voice disappeared into Susumi's chest.
And it was over like that... Callum left and immediately I felt far more lonely the second I knew I may not ever see him again... But my friends were there for me, like they always have been. The first half of the OA competition was over, and 29 competitors had already been eliminated. With only 12 competitors left, the competition was about to get far more intense than we could've ever anticipated...