Arata walked to school as he normally did with Yuriko. While they didn't do this on the way home due to some obligations, it was nice to enjoy an early morning with a friend. Even with someone who occasionally exhibited a silver tongue.
"I hate waking up early in the morning." Yuriko stated as she slouched in her walk. "School's such a drag sometimes."
"I agree with you there." He was feeling the same way. Though for Arata, it was his own fault he didn't get enough sleep. But manga was just too addicting to read and sometimes it would get way too deep into the night before he realized it was too late. "So you're going to be nodding off in class then?"
"How could you possibly assume I'm that kind of lazy student?" She already took offense to his question. The boy wasn't even being serious about it, as he brought it up in jest. "Unlike some poor student, I actually care about my grades." If she was complaining about her lack of energy, then it seemed his joke had perked her right up. "I bet people like you must do that all the time then."
"People like me?"
"Ah." She realized her mistake and immediately went to apologizing. Though her manner in doing so was rather indirect with him. "I mean, not that's there's anything wrong with being an otaku. It's not a problem to me that you're one of them." He didn't even mention being an otaku, so she brought that on herself.
"It's fine." He sighed. "If you don't like it, you don't have to pretend to for my sake." It wasn't a big deal to him if she disliked otakus or insulted them. In fact, he could live with her doing it to him simply because Arata was confident she only did it out of reflex. That her tsundere personality was trying to aim where it hurt to hide away her emotional awkwardness. "I wonder if there's anything coming up soon?" The boy tried to change the subject for them to move on. Fortunately for him, she did have something in mind.
"Actually, I was going to ask you this after school." She began to make her suggestion. "Yurisa's birthday's coming up."
"I see, so you guys are throwing a party."
"If you'd just let me finish…" She muttered. "Anyway, we do have a party planned for this weekend. So I was wondering if you'd be able to come by for a while. You know, since you're her babysitter and she really likes you. It's not like it's for me or anything." Arata wondered if she pulled this shtick with other boys she had crushes on. That must be a weird life to have.
"That's cool with me." He didn't have any plans on that day, as he normally didn't. So Arata was happy to join and wish the little girl a happy birthday. "The others are coming too, right?"
"N-no…" She gingerly answered. "Actually, I was only planning on inviting just you."
"Really? Just me?" That was a little odd to him. Not only did she know him least among the group, but if it was for romantic purposes, shouldn't Yogi come along too? "Are you sure?" For some reason, that was making him nervous over the thought of it.
"I already told you, it's because Yurisa would love to see you there." She repeated again. "Are you so dumb that I need to remind you this is her birthday party? Of course I'm not bringing most of my friends. There's just going to be a bunch of kids running around."
"Heheh." He laughed anxiously upon hearing her reasonable explanation. "You're right, I was just overthinking things." It was a pain to have to consider her feelings on certain aspects of their lives because it was difficult to determine how she really felt at times. Though realistically, most of her thought process was perfectly normal and didn't have romantic details hidden on the inside.
Or maybe she did after all, according to that girl's mind. Sure the obvious excuse of saying that it was for her little sister, and not for her was true. It's just that this now represented an opportunity. Maybe now she could confirm what her true feelings were for him. Though some might wonder if she needed to do that at all, given how long they had been brewing for the otaku boy.
So he accepted invitation and they went through their day as normal. There was the bit when they went to lunch with the others where he was worried about whether or not to mention his solo invitation to the young girl's birthday party. Arata wouldn't want to make anyone jealous about what was to come with it.
"Anyone got any plans for the weekend?" Asked Yogi.
"My sister's birthday party is on Saturday." Yuriko seemed to answer with no worries in her voice.
"Yeah, she told me about that this morning."
"I even invited him to come join." She continued on, eating her rice as she normally did. Somehow, this girl only got flustered when it came to interactions between him or Yogi. So it was weird to see her act so calm, and more importantly, nice when it came to revealing the truth to everyone.
"So, that's what we'll be doing this weekend." He tried to play it cool, since she didn't seemed unnerved about it.
"Sounds wonderful." Said Akiba. "Hope the two of you have fun." She seemed to be fine with this arrangement. Misei and Misao were a little more negative about.
"Lucky for you two, I got stuck helping out some relatives." Yogi was disappointed that he couldn't come even if they had asked. "At least Erina and Akaki are coming along so I won't feel lonely." And Arata could imagine at least one of those three were going to be real happy about it. Also on the bright side, he was glad no one was super upset about the news. Perhaps he was overthinking this like he was with her earlier this morning. That seemed to be what he was getting used to with everything going on around him. Which given the results, was not a good thing to make a habit out of.
Though this wouldn't be the end of this day, nor was it going to be the end of how this birthday party effected him. Since they had plans for the weekend, the pair actually walked home after school this time around. There wasn't much work to be done with the student council, so he left early along with her.
"Sure has been a weird day today." He commented, stretching his back as they walked. "I was getting all worked up for nothing."
"Yeah, you really gotta stop being stupid and think smart for once." She replied in a snide manner. However, there seemed to be something off with her tone. It was as if it was now her turn to be overtly worried about something he might not consider major. Also, just like in fashion of a girl like her, she was holding back from speaking it out to him.
"So much has happened this year, so I guess I've gotten too used to it nowadays." He responded. Indeed, a lot of noticeably bad things had happened to him specifically during their second year of high school. A part of him longed for when he was able to avoid drama like he did during his first year in high school. Back then, it was only Yogi he needed to deal with since that kid was always trying to be his friend.
Yet at the same time, Arata did enjoy the time he spent with everyone. Even with all the struggles that came along with it. There was something meaningful to his life now that people, even harsh ones like Yuriko, were a part of his life. A bit funny to think she was there to make a positive impact on him, when she was also the same one who made him become a recluse in the first place. Things really did go full circle when it came to their lives.
It was even funnier about their relationship, as it was possible they'd run into each other regardless of Erina's blackmail. After all, he was considered the neighborhood babysitter by everyone who lived nearby. In fact, Yurisa becoming one of the kids he'd watch was practically a guarantee. So then… What would be of their friendship without the others? Or would none of it have even happened and she would just be another random person he'd avoid.
"You know, no one else brings this up." She spoke, breaking him out of thought. "But I don't really like that other face you make when you think a lot." Apparently he had another one that was different for a different kind of thinking. "You look too pleased with yourself. You better not be thinking perverted things about me." Of course she would put herself in it. Some might think that it was because she wanted that a little, but it was mainly because she was the only girl in a 50 meter radius.
"Of course not." He replied with a blush. They reached his house, so it seemed that it was time for them to say goodbye to each other. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow."
"…" However, she didn't continue walking on by to her home. Instead, there was more she wanted to say. "Wait." He stopped upon hearing that command. The boy turned his head to see a girl cutely unable to maintain eye contact as she prepared to make a request. "I want to… We should…" The words were a struggle for her to get out as she nervously tried to ask him something. "Gifts… We should go buy gifts together."