Kousei Arima was enjoying a peaceful February day as he walked towards his favorite cafe in town. In his ears were a pair of old earbuds blasting a pop song he had just transcribed into sheet music for work. As he tread the familiar path, Kousei zoned out, enjoying the cheerful music and the bliss of the crisp winter air. That's when a swift kick to the shin snapped him back to reality.

"Ow! What the hell!" he cried, clutching his hurt leg and hopping on the other.

"Dummy, I called out to you three times and you ignored me!" replied a sharp feminine voice.

Kousei looked up and saw a familiar face. The girl before him had light brown eyes, and similarly colored chin length hair protruding in every direction. Kousei recognized this as his childhood friend, Tsubaki. Her face was twisted into a angry glare, not uncommon for the lively young woman. As Kousei took out his earbuds, he noticed Tsubaki's face soften exponentially.

"Listen, Kousei, I. . . I wanted to talk to you about something serious," she said, her voice and hands shaking. "It is Valentines day, and with a new year about to start, and us moving to high school soon, I wanted to be upfront with you about how I feel."

Tsubaki nervously held out her hands, both firmly grasping a small box. Kousei hesitantly accepted the package and opened it. He gasped at what he saw. It was a batch of homemade Honmei-choco, the kind you give to your true love. "I don't understand, Tsubaki, what are you trying to tell me?"

Tsubaki's jaw nearly hit the floor. She curled her hands into fists and began beating on Kousei's head. "How dense are you?! What do you think it means! It means I love you!" Tsubaki stopped her barrage and shrunk back into the nervous girl next door she was a minute ago. "I love you, Kousei Arima, and I think I have for a long time. I know you've always thought of me as just your bossy older sister, but you mean the world to me."

It was Kousei's turn for his jaw to drop. All this time, he had never considered the possibility of Tsubaki as a romantic interest. This was all too sudden. Not knowing what to say, he decided to do the worst thing imaginable: run away. Kousei bolted past the surprised girl, leaving her to cough on his dust. "Wait," Tsubaki cried out, "at least give me an answer!" Instead, Kousei kept running until he was sure he lost her. Then he spotted the cafe he was looking for in the first place. This looks like a good place to lay low while I collect my thoughts.

After rushing inside the cafe, his ears picked up the all too familiar sound of a piano. Even more recognizable than the piano itself, was the style of the pianist. The song was advanced, and pianist poured a tidal wave of emotion into every note. It felt tender and affectionate, but the music also sounded on edge, like the one playing felt anxious about something. Looking at the patrons of the cafe, he saw that they had ceased eating to gaze in wonder at the musician. Some were even brought to tears. Kousei didn't need to see the passionate pianist's face to know her identity. Looking over confirmed his suspicions. A girl his age, dressed in red and with long dark hair, was emptying her heart into the music. This was Emi, Kousei's old rival and recent friend. As Emi's song came to its end, several customers applauded the crimson pianist. A couple of little girls ran up to her, presenting gifts of flowers they had picked nearby. Emi graciously accepted the flowers before noticing Arima. For a moment, Emi's face appeared even redder before she smiled at Kousei and approached him. "Nice to see you, Kousei. Here, take a seat with me," she offered. Kousei and Emi sat across from each other and began a conversation.

"I didn't expect to see you in my audience," Emi started. Her voice was calm and cold, a jarring change from the emotional performance she just gave.

"Oh, I only came in near the end. From what I heard, and by the entire building's reactions, I'd say you did great."

"Thanks. I was just hoping to show something to the kids who were interested in taking up piano, I didn't think I'd reach all the adults too."

Kousei chuckled, "How could they miss it? You put so much passion in your music. You can reach anybody."

At this, Emi blushed and looked down. "Could I reach you?" Emi asked, her voice a whisper.

"What?" asked Kousei, not catching Emi's question.

"Nothing. Look, there's another reason I started playing at this place. Besides just wanting to make some kids happy, I mean."

Kousei leaned in, intrigued.

"I saw your very first performance. Back before your style became so mechanical. Your playing moved me to tears, Kousei. You showed me the power of music. I dropped all other hobbies to become a pianist. I want to reach people like you reached me," Emi explained, her voice becoming more erratic the further into her story she went.

"Wow Emi, I'm flatter. . ."

"That's why I'm here," the crimson musician interrupted, her volume rising. "I wanted to catch you today, and I heard you frequent this place."

Where did she hear that?

Emi then held out a small box. Kousei opened it, and saw home made chocolates. His eyes widened at the realization.

Oh no.

"Kousei, your playing didn't just make me fall in love with the piano, it made me fall in love with you. Would you go out with me?"

Twice in one day? I don't know how to deal with this! Kousei stood up and bolted out of the cafe. When he turned around, he saw Emi in hot pursuit. "You make me see sunflowers, Arima! SUNFLOWERS!" the girl cried out. She looks like an angry bear! I gotta get out of this situation! Kousei tried to escape Emi by taking many twists and turns around nearby buildings, hoping a confusing path would throw her off his trail. Eventually, Kousei was confident he had lost Emi. As he leaned against a wall to catch his breath, a high pitched voice caught his attention.

"Sensei? What are you doing here?" asked a young blonde girl.

Kousei turned around and saw his student, Nagi, staring up at him confusedly.

"It's a long story. You?"

"I was looking for you, actually. I know we don't have a practice scheduled today, Sensei, but there was something I wanted to confess."

Please don't say. . .

"I know this is a cliche, but after all the time we've spent together, I've fallen in love with you, Sensei Arima!" cried Nagi, holding out a box.

Even the jailbait is in love with me!

Following his usual strategy, Kousei decided to flee the scene, with the girl at his heels. After putting some distance between himself and his latest suitor, Kousei turned around to see if he had lost her. Unfortunately, this only led to him slamming right into another body.

"Watch where you're going, man!" shouted a familiar voice as Kousei lay dazed on the sidewalk.

Kousei looked up and saw none other than Takeshi, his most fierce competition.

"Oh geez, please don't tell me you're gonna confess your love to me, too!" said Kousei.

"What? No way, dude! I'm not gay. I even have a girlfriend. And what do you mean by 'too?'"

"Sorry, it's just that everyone has been confessing to me. Tsubaki, Emi, even Nagi. . . oh." Too late, Kousei realized his mistake.


Kousei ran for his life, believing that if he could reach his house he'd be safe. Unfortunately, he took one wrong turn and ended up in a dead end. No sooner had the futileness of his situation sunk in, then Kousei's four pursuers had caught up with him. They all shouted over each other, making threats, promises of love, or in Tsubaki's case, both. At this point, Kousei knew there was only one way to get out of this situation.

"ENOUGH! I already had a girl I loved, okay!" shouted Kousei, silencing the others. "I loved Kaori. She gave music back to me, helped me play in a whole new way, and made me a better musician as well as a better person. Without her, I'd still be mopping by myself, never having touched the piano again. She was the one I loved, and she's gone. It's way to soon after her death to even think of chasing other girls right now. So I'm sorry, but I'm not going out with any of you." Kousei began panting, out of breath from his speech.

Tsubaki was the first to speak. "I understand. I hope we can remain friends," she said before leaving for home.

Emi left saying nothing, but having an unmistakable look of disappointment on her face.

"This is gonna make practices kinda awkward, huh?" said Nagi.

"Let's just pretend this never happened," replied Kousei.

"Deal," finished Nagi before departing.

Kousei buried his head in his hands. Ironic. I'm supposed to be great at interpreting people's feelings through music, but I couldn't even tell that four girls this year, counting Kaori, had fallen for me. I'm so dense.

"So, uh. . ." said a sheepish voice, causing Kousei to look up. "Just so we're clear, even if you weren't in the middle of the whole 'grieving over a dead girl' thing, you still wouldn't touch my sister, right?"


The End.