Ibushi was tending to his garden, even though it was his birthday. All was fine and dandy when, suddenly, something caught his eye.
He went pale and sent a mass text to everyone in his contact list.
"What I'm saying is that there's no way Arima-san will care about which shade of green we'll use!" Ryuu growled, growing impatient.
"Arima-san is an amateur gardener, Zaou!" This time it was Akoya, equally aggravated. "He knows very well the difference between forest green and olive green!"
"Maybe we should just use lime green?" Yumoto gently suggested.
"Lime green is just olive green in a lighter shade." Ryuu huffed. "But whatever. At this point you guys can use chroma key green and I bet he won't even care."
"Maybe pea soup green is more adequate." Io smiled.
"I agree with Naruko-kun!" Akoya smiled sweetly.
"But that's an ugly color!" Yumoto protested.
"No, it's not!" Io got defensive. It was his own hair color, after all.
"I'll have to agree with Yumoto. It's ugly." Ryuu rolled his eyes. He loved Io, but sometimes he wishes he could just dye his hair a slightly different shade of green.
"Ryuu, how could you betray me like this?" Io was incredibly upset with Ryuu's lethal honesty.
Suddenly, all of their phones rang at once.
Yumoto was the fastest one to pick up his own phone.
"Ibu-chan-senpai sent me a text!" Yumoto widened his eyes. He never gets texts from anyone, and getting one from Ibushi, on his birthday, made him feel special.
"He sent it to me too." Ryuu also checked.
"Same." Akoya nodded.
"Guess he sent it to all of us, pretty much." Io nodded as well.
"He's asking us for help!" Yumoto shouted, reading it. "OH NO! HE'S IN DANGER!"
"Snail problem again, huh?" Ryuu chuckled.
"That's no laughing matter, Ryuu-senpai!" Yumoto snarled, angry at Ryuu's chuckle. "It could be a giant snail!"
"I thought he was going to say that phobias are serious business, but that's too much to expect from Hakone-kun, huh?" Akoya sighed.
"Well, that too!" Yumoto pointed at Akoya. "I'm not dumb, you know!"
"Pointing is rude." Akoya furrowed his eyebrows. "Get that grubby finger somewhere else."
"Well, the others are buying Arima-san's present, maybe they can help?" Ryuu wondered, a bit to himself, in fact.
"Yufuin-san is with Kinugawa-san and Kusatsu-san, though." Io remarked. "He probably will complain and say that we can solve it."
"But I don't wanna." Ryuu glared at Akoya. "Gero, you go. Isn't he your boyfriend or anything like that?"
"He's not!" Akoya protested. "Besides, I can't let you choose some hideous shade of green for the decoration! It would completely clash with that living room's drab walls!"
"I'll go." Yumoto sighed, seeing none of this would get anywhere if he didn't volunteer. "And Akoya-senpai, my house isn't drab! Jeez!" He then ran away to Ibushi's house.
"It kind of is!" Akoya yelled... Until he saw Goura, who was listening to it all. He sweatdropped. "I-in a completely charming way, though!"
"I'm sorry I can't offer a better house for my visitors." Goura sighed, a bit upset; he was back from the kitchen, where the VEPPer were helping him bake the birthday cake. "Business hasn't been going well and still didn't pick up as of yet. So, we didn't have enough money for redecorating."
"Sorry to hear that..." Akoya then felt terrible for ever commenting such a harsh thing. Goura could've chopped him in half, but instead, he simply looked devastated and heartbroken over his financial issues. Inequality was a harsh mistress.
"I'm just saying I know better than you what Arima likes." Kinshirou arched an eyebrow. "And a flower-patterned hoe? Seriously? That's the second worst hoe you can give to him."
"And what's the worst one, then?" En asked, not suspecting to be dragging himself into a trap; it was Kinshirou, after all.
"Hmm... I wonder. Don't you, Yufuin?" Kinshirou stressed En's surname a bit, to then smirk. To En, that smirk was more than enough to mean that the president has been speaking too much with Io and has learned his ways of implied roasting.
Atsushi giggled a bit in the background; it was nice to see Kinshirou getting a bit less uptight at times.
Suddenly, their phones rang at the same time.
"Text from Arima." En and Kinshirou said, in unison. They then looked at each other with slight disgust for the synchronization.
"He's asking for help." Atsushi read it. "He doesn't say what, though."
"Let the kouhais take care of it." En shrugged.
"It's probably snail-related again. I'm not going." Kinshirou crossed his arms.
"If he sent it to everyone, Yumoto probably already went there anyway." Atsushi shrugged. "By the way, what do you guys think about that flower pitch?" Atsushi showed a flower pitch he chose.
"Pretty good." En nodded, smiling.
"For once, I have to agree with Yufuin." Kinshirou also smiled.
It was the most hideous shade of neon purple, with weird greenish beige blobs on it. But when it was Atsushi holding it, neither could bring themselves to disagree with him.
"Can you guys stop agreeing to all of my choices, though?" Atsushi sighed. "I chose the ugliest pitcher available to see if you were going to agree with anything I'd choose and boy, you two failed that test real hard." It's not that Atsushi liked being confrontational; it's just that it was going to be a present for someone else.
"Well, we can't help but agree." En shrugged. "You're usually the one with the better taste here anyway."
"Besides what Yufuin said, or at least on his own count, I'd feel bad about disagreeing with you after... Well..." Kinshirou sighed.
"It's okay." Atsushi smiled. "I don't mind if you disagree over gift choices, Kin-chan."
"Atchan, how can you be such a good friend?" Kinshirou got teary-eyed at Atsushi's consideration.
Yumoto already reached Ibushi's house, concerned about his friend. He found him fainted by the garden, with some snails slithering by.
"I can't believe it was snails all along." Yumoto sighed, picking the critters away from his garden by the shell and putting them in a pail nearby; then, he put it upside down. "That'll do, I think. Sorry, but my friend is a bit afraid of you!" He then rushed to wake up Ibushi, shaking him lightly. "Wake up, Ibu-chan-senpai!"
Thankfully, he woke up.
"Yumoto-kun?" Ibushi looked around, then stopped his gaze by his garden. No snails. "Where are the things?"
Yumoto pointed to the pail, looking unamused. He thought they were kinda cute, but why did Ibushi have to be so terrified of them?
"Thank goodness. Thank you too, Yumoto-kun." Ibushi sighed in relief. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I stepped on one of those again, and in my own birthday..." He shuddered.
"Are you afraid of stepping on them, Ibu-chan-senpai?" Yumoto raised an eyebrow, worried; he still avoided saying their name out of respect, though.
"Well, I'm afraid of the things because I... I stepped on one..." Ibushi covered his face, on the verge of tears. That's one heck of a personal thing to confess, but he kind of had to. Yumoto basically saved his life there, and he should at least know why.
"That's reasonable..." Yumoto sighed. "I'd probably feel terrible if I stepped on one, too."
"It felt horrible... The consistency... The shell cracking..." Ibushi began to cry, and Yumoto hugged him in reassurance. "I was just a child... No child should pass through it..."
"It's okay, Ibu-chan-senpai. It won't happen anymore. You're careful now. And you got friends who'll try their best to protect you." Yumoto tightened his hug a bit; he was rather patient since last time, when he tried to heal En's phobia by showing him a cockroach. It didn't work at all and he actually felt bad. But instead of doing the same to Ibushi, who got it much worse, he'd rather just comfort the guy. Don't wanna risk accidentally causing a lethal heart attack to one of his only friends in the whole world, after all.
"That was a close call, though..." Ibushi siged, hugging back. "I'm very thankful that you helped me."
"You were already fainted, though." Yumoto arched an eyebrow.
"I could've been dead, though, and that's why I'm thankful." He smiled, teary-eyed.
"Um..." Yumoto dropped the hug, looking away. How was he going to convince Ibushi to go to his own house for the birthday party after that, though?
"Are you okay, Yumoto-kun?" Ibushi looked concerned. "I'm aware you find them cute, so, I'm sorry I've offended you..."
"That's not it." Yumoto sighed; no offense taken, though. "I want to help you calm yourself down." Not a complete lie, but not a full truth, either. "Hmm..." He had an idea that could cover both fronts. "How about we take a bath at Kurotama? Taking a warm bath may help you relax!" He grinned. "There's nothing slimy by the bath, either! I clean it up everyday and can be sure of it! And it'll be on the house, too, since it's your birthday! What do you think?"
Ibushi chuckled. Yumoto was one of the most gentle souls he has ever met. "I'd rather pay full price, though. I know how hard things have gotten to you and your brother."
"I refuse!" Yumoto protested. "It's your birthday! Let me be the one to pamper and spoil you for once!" He pouted; it was his idea to throw that surprise party in first place.
"Half-off, then?" Ibushi winked; that was his way of reaching a compromise.
"... Fine, then." Yumoto sighed, getting up; though, he was smiling. "Half price. But the first fruit milk is on the house!" He grinned; fruit milk wasn't too expensive, so, there would be no way he could complain.
"Okay. Deal." Ibushi nodded, getting up as well. "With such a gentle patron, how can I refuse that offer? I'd be a moron if I did." He then fluffed Yumoto's hair, smiling. The blond giggled. "By the way, have you gotten taller? I don't recall having to reach a bit higher to ruffle your head."
"Yes, I have!" Yumoto proudly grinned. "Maybe I'll be taller than Kin-chan-senpai! Maybe taller than you! As tall as an-chan!"
"But if you get taller than me, I won't be the tallest anymore." Ibushi pouted; he was being a bit facetious, but at the same time, he'd rather hug someone shorter, even if only slightly so. And considering the fact Yumoto was pretty much the only friend of his who was loving enough to outright hug him...
"Okay. Then, I'll be as tall as En-chan-senpai! Better?" Yumoto winked.
"Not by much, but that's already something." Ibushi chuckled; that was really cute. He thanked everyday for at least some of friends being so cute.
"So, let's go!" Yumoto practically shoved Ibushi to walk.
"I'm going, I'm going!" Ibushi got a bit startled by Yumoto's gesture, but not very surprised; that boy loved physical contact, didn't he? Thank goodness he did, though. Sometimes, not being able to hug your friends can suck.
As they were arriving at Kurotama, Yumoto sent a message to the others, as to prepare themselves. Ibushi noticed he was doing something on his phone, but pretended to not pay mind to it.
Once they arrived, they went to the dressing room.
"It's been a while since I last took a bath at Kurotama, I think..." Ibushi whispered, taking off his shirt.
"Yup!" Yumoto nodded; he kind of missed his former senpais at times, but college can be evil. "But now you're here again!" He grinned, taking off his own shirt as well.
"Maybe I should visit more often..." Ibushi sighed, looking away. He felt he was being a bad friend.
"It'd be great, but..." Yumoto sighed as well. "Your studies are important, too..."
After that, both finished undressing in silence.
After that bit of awkward silence, both entered the bathing room. Ibushi sat by the pre-bath showers, with Yumoto following him shortly after.
"Do you want me to help you wash your back?" Yumoto asked, grinning; maybe that would fight the awkwardness a bit.
"Oh, sure?" Ibushi smiled. "That would be nice, thank you."
"Your back is broad like an-chan's." Yumoto smiled as well, as he began to lather Ibushi's back with liquid soap.
"Oh?" Ibushi blinked, surprised. "Is it, really?"
"You're not as strong as him, but it's still a beautiful back. Sometimes I wonder if I'll look cool like you or an-chan." Yumoto rinsed Ibushi's back as he spoke.
"Who knows?" Ibushi replied, rinsing his own arms and legs. "To be honest, I'm sure you'll turn out to be handsome, even if you don't end up like your brother or myself."
"I could become pretty like Akoya-senpai!" Yumoto had a huge grin on his face, as he finished washing Ibushi's back and began to clean himself. "He's so pretty, I could die!"
"He is, isn't he?" Ibushi chuckled, still cleaning himself. "If you became as beautiful as he is, I don't know how I'd deal with all my closest friends being hot."
"Kin-chan-senpai is also really good-looking, isn't he?" Yumoto giggled, rinsing his own feet. "Actually all of you senpais are heartthrobs! If I was a girl, it'd be hard to choose which one I'd try to date!"
"If you were a girl?" Ibushi looked at Yumoto, confused. "I thought you were gay?"
"Well, I am, but you guys aren't, I think." Yumoto sighed, looking away. "So, I respect you guys. And even if any of you happened to be, I don't know if I had the courage to get flirty, either."
"Maybe some of us are, too. Who knows." Ibushi winked. Unlike Yumoto, he didn't mind being casually flirty.
"Are you also gay, Ibu-chan-senpai?" Yumoto's eyes widened in surprise.
"Hmm, who knows~?" Ibushi let out a hearty laughter.
"You do." Yumoto narrowed his eyes. He didn't like when Ibushi withheld personal information like this. He may be the birthday boy, but it doesn't mean he can just do everything willy-nilly.
"Got right through me, didn't you." Ibushi sweatdropped. "Let's just bathe..." He said, going to the bath.
"You still didn't answer my question!" Yumoto protested, also entering the bath.
"You still haven't unlocked that level." Ibushi shrugged, already in the bath.
"I literally saved your life today!" Yumoto puffed his cheeks.
"And I'm thankful for it. But hey, you unlocked some of my backstory after that, didn't you?" Ibushi smirked a bit.
"Well, yes." Yumoto pouted. "But I wanted to know if I'm not the only one. Feels alone to be the only one who likes guys, or that at least is open about it."
"I honestly admire your bravery on leaving the closet." Ibushi sank a bit in the water.
"I only did so to you guys, though." Yumoto looked away.
"Thank you for trusting me enough for it." Ibushi smiled sweetly.
"So, you could trust me enough for it, too..." Yumoto's gaydar may be broken, but Ibushi was being too facetious for it to not be the case.
"Hmm. Maybe, I think." Ibushi closed his eyes and sighed. "But it's my birthday. I don't know if it'd be okay to come out in such an important date."
"Well, you kindasorta just did." Yumoto giggled. "Thank you for trusting me."
"No problem." Ibushi smiled, his eyes still closed. "In a way, it's good to know you're not alone. So... I think it's a present for both of us, to have someone relatable around."
Yumoto wanted to hug Ibushi, but got hesitant. Better do so after the surprise party.
As they left the bath, Yumoto checked his phone. Everything was ready.
Ibushi, who was drinking some fruit milk, could spy a little and realized what was happening. He only smiled a little, but wouldn't want to ruin all their work.
Then, then they finished getting dressed, Yumoto clutched his stomach in an overdramatic gesture.
"Augh, my stomach is rumbling!" It wasn't too much of a lie. "I think I'll go grab something to eat at home... Maybe some onigiri!" His acting was horrible, and Ibushi couldn't help but giggle. "You're invited, too!" He practically pulled Ibushi by the arm. So much for subtlety.
When they got inside the house, everyone shouted.
Then, everyone hugged Ibushi. He was already faintly aware of what they were planning, but he couldn't help but get teary-eyed at the collective hug.
"Wait, you guys did it all for me! Why, though?" He actually expected them to wish him a happy birthday, but not with a party.
"It was Yumoto's idea." En smirked, ruffling Yumoto's hair. "We couldn't say no, considering how downcast he has been feeling lately."
"I wanted to make sure Ibu-chan-senpai would have a big grin on his face! He has always been so cool, I couldn't help it!" Yumoto grinned. "Besides, if it wasn't for Kin-chan-senpai and Akoya-senpai, I couldn't have done it at all!"
"So, it was your idea all along, huh?" Ibushi grinned as well, hugging Yumoto. "I can't believe how much you care!" He smiled to Kinshirou and Akoya, his eyes still watery. "I love you, guys."
"It was the least we could do for a friend." Kinshirou smiled back.
"Besides, you deserve the fanciest party!" Akoya smiled as well. "But we couldn't be too fancy without ruining the surprise. So, we did what we could."
Suddenly, two familiar voices shouted in the most extra way they could. In clear and loud English, even.
"HERE COMES THE BIRTHDAY CAKE! LUCKY YOU!"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BIRTHDAY BOY! HAPPY YOU!"
It was the Beppu twins, carrying the cake they helped Goura bake. It was huge, almost as big as a wedding cake, was decorated with candy flowers and leaves, and simply looked delicious.
"Did you bake this?" Ibushi asked.
"Of course!" Akihiko beamed proudly. "We helped Goura-san make the best birthday cake he could, because he really wanted to impress!"
"We couldn't deny anything our dear Goura-san could ask to us!" Haruhiko was equally proud of their garden-themed cake.
"... It isn't poisoned, right?" Ibushi sweatdropped.
The twins looked at each other, aprehensive; of course Ibushi wouldn't quite trust them yet, all things considered.
"Why would we poison something Goura-san wanted to bake?" Akihiko replied.
"Besides, he'd want to eat it as well. We don't want to poison Goura-san. That would be stupid." Haruhiko completed.
"Well, you already got a history of giving us altered foods..." Ryuu pointed out.
"It was once!" Akihiko protested.
"And it wasn't poisoned! It only had a relatively high dosage of capsaicin! Not enough to kill a human!" Haruhiko fumed.
"Besides, we already apologized for that!" Both shouted, in unison.
"It's ok, it's ok..." Ibushi awkwardly rubbed his temples. "I believe you."
"Maybe we should've have put a love potion in it just for fun, though." Haruhiko smirked.
"Haru, you know that would likely backfire and we'd have Yumoto-kun wanting to smooch everyone." Akihiko replied with a concerned expression.
"Oh, drat. You're right." Haruhiko shook his head. "I was being stupid all along..."
"It's okay, Haru..." Aki hugged his twin. "We all mess up sometimes..."
"Aki, you're the best..." Haru hugged Aki back. "So forgiving... Truly following Goura-san's footsteps..."
"... So, let's eat it or not?" Kinshirou asked, sighing at the twins. And people thought he was the extra one.
"Of course!" Yumoto grinned, getting the cake cutter. "Ibu-chan-senpai, you get to choose who's going to eat the first slice!"
"Hmm... How about you, though? You organized that party, right?" Ibushi suggested.
"I only had the idea, though." Yumoto shook his head. "Akoioryuu-senpais did the decoration and Enatsukin-senpais went to choose the presents. An-chan and brothers-senpais made the food."
"Well, it's a good decoration." Ibushi looked around. "I love all the different shades of green and how well they contrast with that rose-like red." He smiled; Akoya, Io and Ryuu couldn't help but high-five each other for agreeing to disagree and just throwing all greens they had available.
"See? I said throwing some red would help!" Yumoto smiled.
"I never disagreed with it." Akoya nodded. "It was Zaou who disagreed."
"Well, I thought it'd be a bit too much, but turns out it wasn't." Ryuu chortled.
"Either way, good choice, boys." Ibushi then gave the slice he just cut to Yumoto. "Well, Yumoto-kun, you still deserve it."
"I feel honored!" He smiled sweetly, chomping on the cake shortly after. He got frosting on his face, though.
"Ah, Yumoto-kun, you got frosting on your face." Ibushi wiped it with his thumb, absentmindedly licking the frosting he just cleaned shortly after. "Hmm, that tastes good. Congratulations to the chef."
"Thank you." Goura smiled; sure, he was going to clean Yumoto himself and found Ibushi's gesture to be rather unusual, but if it meant he liked the cake...
Yumoto, in the meanwhile, tilted his head a bit. He didn't even realize he was making a mess of his own face while eating the cake. "Oh! Thank you!" He grinned.
"Hey, could you just use a handkerchief next time?" Ryuu asked. "That was kinda weird."
"Ah, I didn't realize." Ibushi chuckled. "Sorry."
"How come that was weird, though?" Akoya asked. "I mean, Arima-san can be a bit on the doting side, right?"
"Well, it looked like something I'd do with a girl on a date!" Ryuu protested. "And they're two guys!"
"Not that Hakone-kun would mind it." Akoya interjected.
"Yeah, but doesn't Arima-san mind?" Ryuu raised an eyebrow. "I mean, you said he wasn't your boyfriend, so, I assumed he's straight."
"I don't know." Akoya shrugged. "And it's none of our business, either. If he is and decides to come out, though, I'll support him." He smiled.
"Coming out?" Kinshirou butted into the conversation. "In this society, men liking men is frowned upon."
Ibushi looked aprehensive.
"But I believe certain social rules must be changed. He has my support, much like Yumoto-kun always had." Kinshirou completed.
Both Yumoto and Ibushi sighed in relief; Kinshirou has never stated his opinion on Yumoto coming out, which made things awkward for a while.
"But would they date each other, though?" En asked. "I mean, Arima's dating pool is slightly larger due to college, but Yumoto's is more like a tiny puddle."
"W-wait!" Ibushi got seriously flustered at the suggestion. "L-let's eat the cake and then we can talk about dating pools, okay?"
"But how about the presents!?" Yumoto was feeling rather awkward with that conversation as well; just because two guys happen to be gay, doesn't mean they must date each other. Not that he'd mind, but that's not the focus right now.
"Ah, yes!" Ibushi felt equally awkward due to En's lack of filter. "The cake, then the presents! Then we can discuss anything of the sort!"
Then, everyone ate cake; though, it was so big, there were a lot of leftovers. Chances are everyone would eat cake for breakfast next morning.
After that, they sat down on the floor so Ibushi could receive his gifts.
"That was delicious." Ibushi had a satisfied smile to his face. "The red velvet, the chocolate and the vanilla complimented each other rather well. And the tansan senbei pieces..."
"See? I told you we should put tansan senbei pieces in it." Haruhiko grinned.
"Well, of course my little brother was right. We always are." Akihiko winked.
"Where do I even start, though." Ryuu interrupted the sibling bonding just to point out that no, they weren't always right.
"Shut up, Zaou!" Both yelled at once.
"Jeez, no need to be so furious." Ryuu half-groaned, half-sighed. Even after so much time, those two still had a bitter temper.
"Guys, don't fight! We still have to give our presents to Ibu-chan-senpai!" Yumoto didn't want a fight to ruin Ibushi's party.
The twins looked at each other, then back at Yumoto. "Fine," both said, "We'll have a truce for now." Sometimes it was creepy, how well they synchronized.
En, Kinshirou and Atsushi brought the presents the whole group intended to give to him, but Yumoto apparently had a little something extra in a seemingly soft wrap.
"Here, Ibu-chan." Atsushi handed him a box. "We chose it as nicely as we could."
Ibushi opened the box. It was a complete mini gardening kit, in a flower pattern.
"It's so cute." Ibushi smiled, admiring the cutesy flower print. "Thank you."
"See? I told you flower pattern would be the best choice." En smirked victoriously.
"It was 2 against 1." Kinshirou huffed. "Besides, Arima is always thankful for good and useful gifts anyway." He crossed his arms.
"I made one too!" Yumoto practically shoved his gift to Ibushi. "Look! Look!"
Ibushi opened it as well. It was a wine-colored cable knit sweater. It appeared to be handmade.
"It was a lot of work, but I wanted to give you something special, even if we never had a party!" Yumoto had a huge grin on his face.
Ibushi was moved. He doesn't recall ever getting anything handmade by someone close to him. He smiled, hugging Yumoto shortly after.
"Thank you, Yumoto-kun." He whispered, ruffling the blond, fluffy hair on Yumoto's head.
"No problem!" Yumoto hugged back; hugs were always good.
"So, about that dating thing..." En smirked.
Yumoto, without dropping the hug, turned around to look at En with an unamused face; one that Ibushi himself was already sporting.
"En-chan, I don't think that ship will become canon as of yet..." Atsushi tried to stiffle a giggle.
"Says the one who pairs me with Ryuu." Io sighed.
"Well, you two have more chance of becoming canon!" Atsushi got startled by Io's comment.
"There's no way we got more chances than the two guys in our group who actually like guys!" Ryuu protested.
"Just because we're gay doesn't mean we must date each other." Yumoto shook his head.
"Though, to be honest, whoever dates you got excellent taste in boyfriends, Yumoto-kun." Ibushi winked.
Yumoto dropped the hug and looked away.
"Did he get embarrassed!?" Akoya put his hand over his own mouth in shock. "Arima-san, did you manage to get Hakone-kun to feel embarrassment!?"
"I can feel embarrassed after a compliment! Jeez!" Yumoto's cheeks were rather pink. "I mean, I'm not used to getting compliments of that kind!"
"Arima-san, do you think I'm dateable?" Akoya asked, wanting a compliment as well.
"Well, after a few changes in attitude, maybe." Ibushi shrugged.
"So, it means I'm beautiful, right?" Akoya flipped his hair, feeling proud.
"Sure, sure." How awkward.
"Gero-kun, are you also gay?" En asked.
"And why would it be of your business, Yufuin-san?" Akoya asked, with a proud expression. "Wanna date me?"
"Nah." En shook his head. "Dating is a pain in the ass."
Kinshirou was pleased to hear it; it meant En wouldn't try to muddle Atsushi's purity in a sexual way.
"I'd rather do one-night stands, to be honest." En smirked at Akoya, who got completely speechless; he was in shock with how direct En was.
"DON'T TOUCH ATCHAN!" Kinshirou protected Atsushi, who just chuckled.
"Calm down, Kusatsu. I was joking." En was back to his usual expression.
"Thank goodness." Akoya sighed in relief.
"I mean, you're more my type anyway." He winked at Kinshirou, who basically froze at En's response.
"Can't anyone take a joke around here?" En sighed. "Io, can you?"
"I'd have to charge to listen to your jokes, Yufuin-san." Io replied.
"So cold." En pouted. "Atsushi?"
"Sometimes you can go too far, En-chan." Atsushi shook his head, still trying to recover Kinshirou's senses; Ibushi was staring at En with an extremely displeased expression.
"Eh, I guess." En then noticed Ibushi's almost murderous look. "Sorry, Arima. Didn't intend to ruin your birthday."
"You didn't. But you caused Kinshirou to freeze, which is almost as bad." Ibushi still stared at En.
"I'm fine." Kinshirou replied. "It was just too unexpected... And honestly, rather vulgar. But that's all."
"See? He's fine." En smiled. "You don't need to make me pay for my hypothetical crime."
"You're safe. For now." Ibushi then put his pointer and his middle finger before his own eyes, to then gesture them at En. "But don't think I won't be watching you."
En just shrugged. There wasn't any better response he could give.
Io was the first one to get up.
"I need to check my stocks at home, if you don't mind." Io adjusted his hoodie. "The party was fun, but I can't lose more money."
"Now that you say it, I need to go out with those girls I said I would." Ryuu got up as well. "Three of them at once, can you believe it?"
"You disgust me, Zaou." Akoya had an unamused look to his face. "But I'll have to leave, too. I have to make my weekly skin treatment, you see."
"What? They were okay with it!" Ryuu protested; it only rendered a sigh from all the others. "And weekly skin treatment? How is it?"
"I'll never reveal my secrets to commoners like you." Akoya smirked. "But Naruko-kun can have it."
"I'm a commoner, too. So, no, thanks." Io refused. If Ryuu can't have fun, he ain't going to do so, either.
"Well, if it's your choice..." Akoya shrugged.
"Now that everyone is leaving, so I shall." Kinshirou followed his kouhais. "I need to study for an upcoming test."
"I don't wanna leave. I don't wanna study." En whined, as Atsushi basically shoved him to the door. "Studying is a pain..."
"En-chan, you need to." Atsushi shook his head.
"Why do all of our tests have to be on the same day?" En whined once again. "Only Arima doesn't have to make any tests this week. Lucky."
"I don't know, En-chan. But you don't want to drop out, do you?" Atsushi asked, trying to stiffle a giggle.
"Actually, I wouldn't mind it. Maybe I could become a NEET, too." En replied.
"I refuse to be friends with NEETs, though." Atsushi was sharp on the deliver. "So, study."
"Why you gotta be like this..." En pouted, but took his merry way. Falling from Atsushi's grace must be the worst feeling in the world, and he didn't want to experience it.
"I'm going to clean the kitchen." Goura moved to the kitchen, with two blue haired comets dashing to follow him.
Only Yumoto and Ibushi were left in the living room.
Silence. Not really awkward, but just silence.
Suddenly, a sigh interrupted it.
"Yumoto-kun, is anything the matter?" Ibushi asked.
"Next year you'll be an adult, right?" Yumoto asked. "You'll be 20..."
"Well, yes." Ibushi nodded. "But why are you sighing?"
"I'll still be 17 by then." Yumoto pouted. "I won't even get to be in that awkward phase between teenager and adult until my birthday, which will only be by the next year. I feel we'll be lightyears away from each other in a lot of counts."
Ibushi widened his eyes. He didn't realize Yumoto got concerned over this sort of question.
"Well, it'll be only two months and a half..." Ibushi smiled forlornly. "Besides, I don't think that would influence a lot in our friendship. Just because I had to feign maturity and pretend I grew up a bit faster than most guys my age, doesn't mean I have everything together or that I can't be friends with a former kouhai of mine."
"It's not only you, though." Yumoto looked away. "I mean, yours is a bit of a special case, since we share something very important in common... But you're the youngest third year. En-chan-senpai, Kin-chan-senpai and Atsushi-senpai are all older than you, and I feel they're also getting farther away from me each and every moment. And then, the other senpais will graduate this year and I'll be all alone. I don't know how I'll make new friends, either. Fate is what made us become friends in first place."
Ibushi hugged Yumoto; he couldn't bear seeing him cry. Much less while it's still his birthday.
"One more thing we got in common, then." Ibushi whispered. "If I didn't meet Kinshirou again, I'd probably remain friendless, too."
Yumoto sighed, retributing the embrace. Though, he didn't know for sure if he had anything else to say.
"Even if we don't study in the same place, doesn't mean any of us will abandon you." Ibushi kept the hug; it was a bit of self-comfort as well. "I know I can't speak for the others, but I'm at least speaking for myself here. You won't be alone."
"Do you ever feel like you don't fit, though, Ibu-chan-senpai?" Yumoto asked, sighing a little bit more. "Like you're the odd one out, that everyone already got their own arrangements while you're just drifting by and orbiting like an extra accessory to the group?"
Ibushi didn't want to think about that uncomfortable truth. Even back when he was in the Student Council, he sometimes felt like he wasn't quite tuned to Kinshirou's and Akoya's brainwaves as he thought he should be. They were vastly different from each other, but got more in common amongst themselves than with Ibushi. Or at least that's the thought Ibushi wanted to suppress, but resurfaced every once in a while.
"Guess so." Ibushi nodded. "Though, maybe we're not the only ones. The VEPPer might feel a disconnect. Yufuin might have been feeling one, too. And so might Akoya, or Kinshirou, or even Naruko-kun or Zaou-kun. I think that may be a common thought."
"I don't mean it like that and you know it." Yumoto pouted. "I mean... I don't seem to belong to any group."
"Old Defense Club." Ibushi replied, chuckling. "Much like I'm from the Old Student Council."
"I don't mean it like that, either." Yumoto sighed, shaking his head. "I mean... Brothers-senpai got each other. Then there's the Enatsukin-senpai group and the Akoioryuu-senpai group. But where do we fit?" Yumoto asked.
Ibushi's stomach sank a bit; he dry swallowed. Yumoto exposed something he didn't want to see. Something he didn't want to realize.
"I don't know." Ibushi shook his head.
"I mean, you could go either with the other college-senpais, or with Akoya-senpai, but there's not a well-defined group for you. And I'm through and through the odd one out. The only one who's currently a second year and etc. You get where I'm going?"
"Not quite." Ibushi sighed. "I mean, I do, but at the same time, I don't."
"And we can't even form a group with each other because we got that awkward age difference thing going on." Yumoto groaned.
"You know age won't matter once you're in college, right?" Ibushi couldn't help but chuckle.
"but I still got a bit more than a year until then!" Yumoto shouted. "What will I do in the meanwhile?"
"We could try to know each other a bit better?" Ibushi suggested, a bit hesitatingly. "This way, we may already become best friends by the time you're in college."
"That's a good idea, but..." Yumoto looked away. "But what if I annoy you? What if you get tired of me?"
"I've dealt with Kinshirou and Akoya trying to take over the world for a good half of the school year." Ibushi chuckled. "I had to deal with Zundar and his disgusting eating habits, too. I think you're rather sweet near having to deal with an alien hedgehog eating... Those things..." He went pale with the memory.
"Ibu-chan-senpai, hang on!" Yumoto suddenly got very concerned, cupping Ibushi's cheeks with his hands. "They're not here! Don't worry! And that guy is already back to space, too!"
Ibushi put his own hands over Yumoto's, breathing deeply and slowly grounding himself back to reality.
"You're right. Thank you once again." Ibushi smiled.
"There are none of those things here." Yumoto smiled back. "You're safe. Relax."
"But they're still by my garden, under that bucket..." Ibushi looked away. "What if they managed to escape somehow?"
"You can stay here for the night, then." Yumoto whispered, reassuringly. "We can finish taking care of them tomorrow, okay? It's your birthday. You deserve to sleep well. To not worry about anything."
Ibushi held Yumoto's hands, smiling.
"Thank you." He whispered back. "You're a true friend, Yumoto-kun."
"Just doing my best to make sure Ibu-chan-senpai feels safe." Yumoto grinned, his cheeks getting slightly pink from both the gesture and the compliment.
"Goura-san, that's not fair!" Akihiko protested.
"Are you going to just let it happen?" Haruhiko pouted. "You never let us stay for the night, but that guy can?"
"I'm sorry, but he got a reason to be here." Goura picked up an extra futon, as well as some clothes from his own wardrobe. "Besides, Yumoto still doesn't feel safe with you two around."
"Well, he saved our lives!" Haruhiko crossed his arms. "He very well should!"
"We deliberately tried to kill him while knowing he was Scarlet for almost half a year, Haru." Akihiko sulked a bit. "It's understandable that Arima-san has earned his grace a bit faster. Also, it's the guy's birthday. Yumoto-kun wouldn't want him to feel unsafe around snails or something like that."
"If he doesn't want to feel unsafe around snails, why does he have a lawn garden, then?" Haruhiko shook his head. "He should just keep bonsai trees instead. More practical, snail-free... And honestly, way more aesthetically pleasing, too."
"Each one to his own, Haruhiko-kun." Goura took two more futons and some old clothes from when he was still a teenager. "You can stay here for tonight, though."
"Eh!?" The twins got surprised at Goura's sudden agreement. "Why?"
All Goura could do was smiling. Though, it wasn't his usual pure and wholesome smile; it had a bit of a darker twist in it.
"Aki-nii-san, what is Goura-san planning?" Haruhiko whispered to Akihiko.
"I think he might be a bit jealous over Arima-san sleeping in the same room as Yumoto-kun." Akihiko replied, whispering as well.
"You think he called us so we'd stop anything weird from happening?" Haruhiko asked, still in a whisper.
"Yes." Akihiko nodded in agreement.
"I've heard you two." Goura was right behind them. So much for stealth. "And... Yeah, more or less. I'm sure Arima-kun wouldn't attempt anything, but it's Yumoto who might be growing up a bit too fast for me to catch up..." Goura was on the verge of tears. "Soon, he'll find himself a boyfriend, and then a husband, and then will move away from here..." Goura began to cry. "He's growing up too fast!"
The twins patted Goura's shoulders, trying to comfort him.
"It's okay, Goura-san." Akihiko reassured. "Everyone has to grow up someday."
"Yumoto-kun is growing up healthy, that's what's important." Haruhiko completed. "And as long as he chooses someone good, there's no problem, right?"
"You're right, boys." Goura nodded. "I need to accept that Yumoto is becoming an adult and that he'll get interested in adult things..." Goura was back to crying though. "But I can't! I held him as a baby! He was the cutest baby in the world! I can't accept that he's going to become an adult and do adult things with a guy!"
"That hypothetical guy was also a baby once, though, wasn't he?" Akihiko blinked, surprised at how sincere Goura was.
"Yeah, his parental figures would probably think the same." Haruhiko nodded.
"I... I'll behave." Goura took a deep breath. "I won't disrupt every single one of their conversations."
The twins nodded in agreement.
"... Just this one, though." He said, giving the VEPPer the clothes they'd use as pajamas and picking up the futon and clothes intended for Ibushi. "I mean. To lend him those clothes."
Once Goura left, the twins sighed dreamily. To them, Goura was so lovely.
"Here they are." Goura put the futon and the pillow on the floor and threw the clothes he picked to Ibushi. He then left, his face as unamused as when he entered Yumoto's room.
"I think Goura-san might be a bit..." Ibushi felt killer vibes coming from Goura. "He looked to me like he was a shoebill the whole time."
"Jealous? Overprotective?" Yumoto shrugged. "Yeah, he has been like this lately. Ever since that one incident."
"... Incident?" Ibushi was afraid of asking, but he had to.
"Nevermind that, okay?" Yumoto laughed heartily, but that was an obviously fake laugh.
"... Is it what I'm thinking it is?" Ibushi narrowed his eyes, smirking. "Maybe he's concerned that you're growing up because he caught you doing a grown-up thing?"
"Y-you dummy!" Yumoto shouted and threw a pillow on Ibushi; his face was completely red.
"It's okay, Yumoto-kun." Ibushi chuckled. "You're 16, that's the worst age for teenagers. Our hormones get out of control. I was like that when I was your age." Ibushi stopped to think for a bit. "... Then again, I'm 19 right now and I'm still somewhat like this."
"Too much information!" Yumoto threw the other pillow on Ibushi, giggling. It was reassuring to know it was a normal thing, though.
"Another one!?" Ibushi threw the pillow back at Yumoto. "Not fair!"
They started a pillow fight, to which the twins observed from a distance, since the door was left ajar.
"Are we sure we aren't dealing with two kids?" Akihiko asked.
"Two kids who touch themselves at night, you mean." Haruhiko smirked.
"I didn't want to be reminded of that, Haru." Akihiko sighed.
"Twins gotta suffer together, Aki." Haru cackled.
Once the pillow wars were settled (Yumoto won it by tickling Ibushi, who protested that it was cheating), all five people present in the house went to sleep. The twins slept hugging Goura, with huge smiles on their faces. Yumoto and Ibushi ended up hugging each other in their sleep, but were too tired from the pillow fight to even notice or realize it.
To Ibushi, that was the most fun he ever had in a birthday.
All thanks to his friends.