Mio and I have yet to change into anything when the door opens. The first one through, stunned at the entrance with his mouth agape is the captain of the Kendo Club, Shinohara Gouda.
"Oi, Gouda. What gives? You're blocking the way!" The other members say from behind him.
My heart is beating so fast, I feel like it can jump out at any moment. Mio glances at me with what-the-hell-do-we-do look, but I'm just as stunned as she is.
Then the unthinkable happens.
"Sorry, guys. Lockers are a mess right now, so let's just change at the gym's lockers." Gouda finally says, and then shuts the door.
The two of us are left speechless, unsure of what to do. Mio pokes my cheek and says, "Quick thinking, charming him right there. If it were up to me, I wouldn't mind getting my brains screwed out with a gangbang."
"I didn't do anything. I think Gouda just saved us."
… Did he? Now Gouda knows I'm a girl. I can't tell if this is good or bad.
"He saw us, right?" I ask.
"Us? I went invisible."
"And you didn't think to make me invisible, too?!"
"It was instinct." She shrugs. "Besides, I have to touch you for it to work, and you weren't anywhere near me."
After Mio got changed, she went to fetch my backpack so I could finally change into my jersey. Kendo practice begins without much of a hassle, but the whole time I'm left worrying about what Gouda is thinking.
Fortunately, one of my worries is unfounded. Yuuto, just like Rika, didn't seem to remember anything about that night. In fact, he looks a lot more motivated in kendo and is taking practice more seriously than before.
The entirety of our club activity is just taking overhead practice swings. Coach wants everyone to go back down to the basics as we get closer to the tournament. The goal is to remind us the fundamentals, build arm strength, and increase our stamina.
Surprisingly, I'm able to keep up with the team. Most of the members, with the exception of Gouda and a few third years, had to tap out by mid-practice.
"Heh, Saeko might have a knack for this after all." Coach praises me. "Isn't that right, Gouda?"
Captain looks a bit distracted and replies with a half-hearted, "Yeah…"
If there was any telltale sign that his mind is on what he saw earlier, that was it. I can't even bask in Coach's compliment because I'm freaking out so much.
Eventually practice comes to an end with nothing significant happening. As the members are leaving for the day, I'm once again left to clean up the room. Mio uncharacteristically chips in to help, too.
"Yo." Gouda taps on the open door, and my heart drops.
I should have known he was a matter of time. Oh, god. What do I do? Should I charm him? Do I get Mio to charm him??
"H-hey, Captain…not, uh… heading home yet?"
He lowers his duffle bag on the floor, looks at Mio, and then finally at me. "Let's not beat around the bush. Saeko, you're a girl?"
I gulp hard. Mio's taken a back seat to this and is watching from the other side of the room. I know we can make him forget, but…
Both my heart and mind want to be truthful for once.
I take in a deep breath, "Yeah."
"But we've changed together before. You piss standing up and…" Gouda wracks his brain over trying to make sense of my situation.
"D-don't think too much about it! I— I used to be a boy, yes. But certain things happened and now I'm like this."
"Things you can't tell your club captain?"
Gouda and I have been in kendo together from the beginning. Many of the third years dropped in these three years, but we didn't. Sure we don't hang out like Kana and I do, but having supported him over the years gave us a special bond. I can see the hurt in his face, I might as well have betrayed another best friend.
"Gouda, I really am sorry—"
"Saeko!" He suddenly exclaims. His face hardens, like a man with a newfound purpose. "I don't know what's come over me, but hear me out."
What? What the heck is he going to say?
"I'm aiming for first place at Hyogo, and if I do… let me take you out on a date!"
"EEEHHHHH?!" My mind goes blank. I don't know what to say. Has Gouda always felt that way about me? "I… uh, don't know… are you— eh??"
"You don't have to give me an answer. Just think about it!" He grabs his duffle bag and bolts out of the club room.
A pat on the back brings me back to my senses. Mio grins at me, half-amused and half-annoyed. "So you get to fuck classmates, but I can't?"
"Aaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!! Why is this happening?!"
I've been screaming internally the entire way home.
Did Gouda swing that way to begin with? No, that doesn't make sense. Otherwise, he wouldn't be interested in me as a girl now. Is it because of my effeminate features that made him attracted to me over the years? First Kana, now Gouda. How many other boys at school feel this way?!
"I'M A BOY, GOD DAMN IT ALL!"
"No use screaming that anymore." Mio pinches my lips shut. "So whatcha gonna do about him?"
"Turn him down, obviously!" I exclaim.
"But it sounds like it's gonna be fun! You'd get to spend the entire day as an actual girl, on a date with a not-so-bad looking guy."
I've never even been on a date before. The most romantic experience I've ever had— leaving aside the copious amounts of sex I've been having— were playdates when I was in preschool.
But Goulda looked so serious about it. I know he has relationship experience, another thing I was jealous of when I was a boy. There's a good chance he knows how to treat a girl well on a date, so maybe—
Why is the idea of going on a date getting me excited?
Mio puts a finger to her lips and says, "If you weren't going to fuck him, I would have."
"Nnh… do my warnings go through one ear and out the other?"
"How could I resist? He was dripping with lust for me until he saw you naked." She complains.
"You keep using that phrase 'dripping with lust,' but how can you tell?"
Mio points to her nose. "How do you tell if something smells good or stinks?"
"I don't know how lust is supposed to smell."
"It's not something you huff out unless you're zeroing in on it. Try sniffing Kana or Hatsumi next time, and you'll see what I mean."
When we get inside the house, the familiar sizzling of food being cooked on the pan sings to my ears. "Hatsumi?"
I throw my shoes off, and race into the other room to see my sister in the kitchen. It's a comforting feeling seeing her back. These last few days it's like I had lost something close and just couldn't find it.
"Sis, we're home!"
"Oh. Welcome back." Hatsumi doesn't turn around, and her usual cheery voice is absent. "Dinner will be ready soon."
"Are you feeling alright, Hatsumi?" I ask.
She turns around almost not expecting me to have asked. "Ahh… I'm fine, really!"
There's no way she looks fine.
"I saw you and Kotaro downtown— oop!"
Shit. Crap. I didn't mean to just blurt that out.
"You saw us? What were you doing in Tsukiji??" She asks suspiciously.
"Er, I didn't have club practice on Thursday, so I took Mio into the city!" It's partially true, with a few omissions.
"It's nothing. Kotaro and I are just going over a rough patch." She suddenly throws her arms around me. "Hehe. Was my little brother worried about me? You're so sweet!"
I let Hatsumi do with me as she pleases this time, seeing as she probably needs it more than my selfish wish to avoid her affections. When I really think about it, my sister's only ever shown me love. Even when she's down, or when our parents forced her to goto Uni instead of chasing her dreams, especially now since mom and dad left her to take care of everything.
Despite all that, she's always found time to take care of me. Making me dinner and breakfast everyday, wishing nothing for my happiness. All the while I've been rejecting her.
If I… told Hatsumi that I turned into a girl, would she still accept me…? Like how Gouda accepted me?
A week ago, I was selfishly trying to avoid her. Now that I'm seeing her less and less, I just want to confess I'm not the same little brother Saeko she knew. I've been hiding and lying so much that I didn't bother considering how that could affect Hatsumi.
"Saeko?" Hatsumi grabs my face, "You're crying. Did I worry you that much?"
I didn't even realize that hot tears started streaming down my face. Even now, when she's going through her own problems, she's worried about me.
"Sis…" I take a few steps back. "The truth is, I've turned into a girl."
"What? Don't be silly! Cheering me up with a joke like that is—"
I shake my head and pull off my shirt, then unwrap the towel from my chest. Hatsumi gasps as soon as she sees, the shock on her face is clear as day.
"I kept it a secret for almost a week now, but I don't want to lie to you anymore… I'm sorry."
Just when I think the silence couldn't get anymore unbearable, when I think the tears wouldn't stop coming… Hatsumi draws me into a hug, the same warm embrace she'd given me when I was younger.
She strokes my hair and says, "Oh, my little brother, it must have been tough keeping it a secret for so long. It doesn't matter what you've become. You will always be my little Saeko."
"Hatsumi…" The tears wouldn't stop. I didn't care anymore and for the first time in ages, I cried into my sister's arms.
That night, dinner tasted a little burnt.
And Mio had disappeared for the rest of the evening.
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