Turns out, it wasn't hard to track down Nagihiko Fujisaki and Kukai Souma. Popularity comes with its own ups and downs – for example, people always know where to find you, but whether that is a negative or a plus depends on the angle you're looking at.

As for Amu, it was a plus. Lunch had gotten over and she knew a person like Nagihiko would have no problem if a class or two gets missed by them. She, on another hand, was a good student and she cared about her attendance just as much as she did her grades. But she could afford a day off if it meant she would be able to get herself out of the mess.

Besides, her classmates would only nag her about her non-existent romance with the popular and affluent senior, a situation which she'd rather avoid.

When she went straight to his class and made a beeline to the group of seniors who were busy chatting, she wasted no time to ask them about Fujisaki's whereabouts. While they instantly replied, she also received teasing looks. They probably thought she was asking about him as his girlfriend. Ew.

She hadn't bothered to disguise the bitter look on her face that she shot at them as she left. Once she was out of the class, she has regretted her reckless move. After all, they were still her seniors and she could have gotten into trouble for her disrespect.

But that was how she located the address of Fujisaki Nagihiko. Basketball court.

She suddenly felt dumb for not having realized what should have been obvious sooner. He was the Seiyo High's basketball team captain.

When Amu pushed past the entrance doors, her eyes instantly spotted him by his distinctive long indigo hair. He was sitting near the court with his team around him, but Kukai Souma was absent. Strange, her eyes narrowed, from what she heard the duo always are seen together as though connected by hips.

They had yet to notice her but she was cranky over the whole rumour fiasco so she went ahead and made herself noticed; just not in the way she wanted.

The idea was to walk confidently over to them and pull Nagahiko aside so they could talk in private (and she could scream in his ears for being a dick).

She overlooked how life was being unkind to her lately, which was probably why, on her way, she tripped over the slightly upraised platform of the basketball court (which she completely missed seeing) and fell flat on her face, thereby attracting their attention.

She could have sworn the boys were ready to dissolve into laughter at her clumsiness but something stopped them from uttering even a single word. The overbearing silence that followed after her harsh fall left her wishing for death. She was a second away from crying when the sound of footfalls came to her attention, finally lifting the weight of the silence off her back.

She completely refused to look up at his face when she tried to lift herself from the floor.

"I-I'm fine." She managed to sit on her ass and looked anywhere but at him. Not even his sports shoes which looked rich or his sports jersey in which she had no qualms he looked hot.

"I didn't ask." Jerkface. Amu felt a vein throb on her temple but meditated her need to glare at him. In the same disinterested tone, he continued, "but you seriously need to get up. You're embarrassing me."

That was the final straw.

She twisted her neck so hard that she was surprised it didn't came off, and from the odd look he shot her, it was probably concerning, but that didn't deescalate the intense glare she sent him back.

"I'm embarrassing you?! Those are my words, jerkface!" She quickly pulled herself on her feet and jabbed her finger on his tank-top clad chest, hard. "Moreover what the hell are you spouting around the school, huh?!"

They stood quite a distance away from the rest of the team but the sound echoed inside the court so she didn't care even if they could hear her.

Face impassive and showing no signs of offence at her outburst, his eyes moved to her finger and back to her face. She felt her face grow hot. Frustrated, she jabbed again for extra measure.

"Are you gonna talk or you gonna keep up that 'I'm-too-cool-to-talk-you' look?" Amu gritted her teeth and glared harder until it was impossible to do so without closing her eyes.

He watched her for a couple more moments with the same infuriating look. She opened her mouth again to shout at his face when he sighed. Pausing, she straightened up and crossed her arms, waiting for an explanation.

Maybe his way of explaining things involved him grabbing people and tossing them around, but that didn't stop her from scowling at him when he grabbed her upper arm and began to drag her towards... men's changing room. Her scowl fell. What the fuck? Her eyes widened and she shot the look at him which he ignored.

She dug her heels on her floor and tried to detach his hold from her person but his grip was strong and his whatever motives stronger.

"If you seek answers from me, I suggest you move, Amu-san." She stiffened at the unconcealed threat in his voice. Perhaps he wasn't completely impassive at her after all.

Amu wanted answers and if he wanted to give her what she needed inside men's changing room then so be it. The room was vacant when they entered, something she realized when she opened her eyes when her appearance invoked only dead silence in the huge room.

As soon as the door was locked behind them, her back was shoved against one of the lockers nearby. She held her breath and eyed the towering senior, cautiously, ready to knee him in case he tried anything.

"Spit it out."

"W-What...?" Amu shrunk when his eyes hardened. Almost immediately she realized what he was referring. Right, the Q/A session. "r-right... Um... Why did you spread this nonsense rumour?"

She cringed at the lack of hostility in her voice. Now he was going to think her bravado out there was just to amass attention.

"Why steal my letter?!" That sounded better.

He immediately responded.

"It was for convenience." He shrugged, shifting back and out of her personal space. It allowed her to let go of the breath she didn't know she was still holding. Maybe she was turning blue which he noticed and therefore decided to spare her some mercy.

She blinked. "What do you mean?"

His amber eyes reflected lethargy like all these questions were affecting his IQ and she would be lying if she said it didn't cause her to feel stupid but she schooled her expression. He replied, "Didn't Hoshina already tell you?"

She jostled, "but I want to hear it from you!"

"Fine." He dragged his fingers through the locks of his silky hair. Amu absently thought he should consider advertising for hair care products. "You had mistaken my desk for Black cat's."

He paused when she gave him a blank look. From the withering look he passed her, her reaction must've been pretty bad. He waited for the realization of 'who-Black-cat-was' to occur to her. It did, however, belatedly. She felt shame burn in her cheeks.

"We sit beside each other in the class. It isn't necessarily your fault given how we are made to exchange seats every other week. Today it was my desk, so I took it, and therefore I didn't steal it."

His calm response was met with a silence courtesy of Amu who was busy mentally cursing her sad fate and poor timing.

"T-Then... Why use my friend? She only wants help! You can't use someone who is already in trouble but also involve a third party into it." It was a valid response, but not one that could be applied to someone like him.

"I don't care. To me, it's only a simple trade. When she came to me this morning, I already had your letter. It was too good of an opportunity to be missed. After all, how often does it happen that a girl accidentally leaves you a letter and the very same day another girl who is also a friend of that girl seeks your help because otherwise she gets expelled?"

Was he a business student? That would explain his selfish attitude. No offence to other business students.

"That doesn't justify anything, Fujisaki-senpai." She muttered helplessly, her head bowed and hands clenched, uttering his name like it was venom.

"No, but I'm not attempting to justify anything, Hinamori-san." He was good at this; manipulation. She bit into the flesh of her lips as she thought of any possible way out of this.

"Besides," he continued. From his voice, she had a strange feeling that he was smirking at her. "This trade is beneficial for all three of us."

What did he say? She glanced up, confusion clear. "What do you mean?"

"You can get him to notice your existence if you involve yourself with me." She winced at the implication; Ikuto never really looked her way. But it was the same knowledge that has been drilled into her by Utau and Yaya since her beginning stages of infatuation towards the certain dark-haired, dark-eyed boy.

"You want him to return your feelings, yes?" She nodded, after a moment of thought. It was pointless to deny after writing a love letter dedicated to him. However, it really was so pathetic of her to be reduced to...this, but that was what love was; pathetic.

"Then fake a relationship with me. It will aid my motives, your friend will not be expelled, and you'll be able to pay close attention to yourdear senpai. It's the only way, Amu-san."

He was right –

Utau needed her to do this.

She wanted Ikuto to notice her.

But,

"What is your motive?" She eyed him sceptically.

"It doesn't concern you." Yeah, sure, it didn't. She wanted to glare at him but her anger soon grounded, unable to conjure up any resentment.

He had her exactly where he wanted her to be.

"Fine..."

"Fine?" She saw a corner of his lips quirk up. Her mouth set in a hard line.

"Fine." She looked at him squarely in the eye, mustering her hardest frown to convey her displeasure. She was agreeing to play along with his game, but even she had her own conditions. "I will be your pretend girlfriend only until I get Ikuto-senpai to like me back."

He didn't bother to mask his amusement. He chuckled and leaned in until only inches separated their faces.

"Very well, Amu."

...

"What do you expect me to do?"

"Act as a girlfriend would."

"..."

"For starters, you need to drop that glare if you intend to convince people you are indeed my lover."

"But I show my love through my eyes, N-Nagihiko-san."

...

There was that and though it didn't end as Amu had expected, she now had one good reason and motivation to keep up her act. An hour had passed and she was back to her class. Yaya passed her worried glances throughout the rest of the remaining classes but she waved off her concern and ignored the girls who asked her about her boyfriend.

Time flew by quickly and soon they were dismissed.

"So...how did it go?" Yaya caught up to her and maintained her distance, her brown eyes also flickered away from her own gold set whenever Amu would look her way.

Yes, she still was due to apology for her accusations.

"Not well. I am stuck with him until further notice." She let out a humourless chuckle.

Yaya wanted to say something but she stopped herself and look away.

"I'm sorry..." Amu's eyes widened. She also needed to do this.

"...I'm also sorry, Yaya, for earlier." Yaya peeked from under lashes, and when their eyes met, she smiled a toothy smile.

"Truce?" She brought her fists up to her side and smiled wider when their fists connected gently.

...

"Lunch? With you?"

"Isn't that something girlfriends do?"

"B-But I can't! I have lunch with my friends– Utau and –"

"Black cat will be there when I would introduce you as my girlfriend. He will definitely look at you. Now, wouldn't that be nice?"

"I hope you know how much I hate you, Fujisaki-senpai."

"I know."

...

Definitely out of place.

Amu resisted fidgeting under their scrutiny. She never enjoyed being in the centre of attention; that was something Utau liked to revel in.

"From now on, she'll be joining us," Nagihiko announced, calmly. It didn't help how she was super aware of his hand that rested on her waist. Or his voice that pronounced too close to her ears for her comfort. Or his hair that tickled her neck. Or...

"Is this the girl I heard you're seeing?"

"She's the talk of the school. I didn't even know she existed until now." Ouch. Adding salt much, senior?

"Where did you pick her up?" She flinched, a hot flush flaming her face. She was not a prostitute, why were they being so damn rude?!

"Excu–ack!" she started, but the grip on her waist fell to her hips abruptly, distracting her from her objective. She quickly grabbed the offending hand with a vice grip of her own and threw a vicious glare at the owner of the said hand. He ignored her scalding look.

But she knew looked comical with a hot blush on her face and glare to match.

"It just sort of clicked between us. Her name is Hinamori Amu, she's a junior. Treat her nice."

"Wow! It seems our beloved snake is finally collared, by a kid no less!" One of the boys from the other side of the table hooted at the comment, tossing a lecherous grin her way. She looked away quickly and made an effort to not to think about the implications. Luckily, her blush faded.

Who are they calling kid? She was perfectly well-endowed for her age. She looked down...her gaze directly falling on her shoe-clad feet. Trying to act casual, she looked elsewhere. It would be best for her mental health if she never argues with anyone over her development.

Nagihiko didn't bother to reply to that statement; it could be either because he shared her sentiments and knew they were right, or because it wasn't worth his time.

They look their seats in silence; she in the farthest corner and Nagihiko beside her.

"Finally, we meet again." She looked up and saw the familiar brunet. Same emerald eyes and brown hair to match. He would have left the impression of a charming person if it wasn't for the teasing look that was ever-present in his eyes.

"Souma-senpai..." She said, and belatedly added, "um...how are you today?"

He chuckled, eyes glinting in amusement. "As good as ever, pinkie. How are you?

She was about to reply when she felt a leg press against her. She stiffened and sucked in a breath when the leg smoothly snooped in between hers, sandwiching itself.

Her eyes widened when Kukai grinned. The hair on her neck rose in alarm. She now understood why Yaya made a dash the way she did.

"I...I...I am...well...t-thank you." She shifted in her seat awkwardly. She endured until he began moving his leg up. Alarms went off. She inched closer and closer to Nagihiko in her seat, keeping a wary eye on brunet who easily met her eyes with a grin.

Amu broke the eye contact and looked down at her untouched lunch. Fork ready at hand, she tried to pay attention to her food and ate in silence; sooner she finished, sooner she will be allowed to leave.

"What did you see in her, Fujisaki? She's so plain, you could do better." Her face didn't betray any reaction. She could care less about their opinions of her being Nagihiko's girlfriend. It wasn't like she had anything to feel ashamed about – it would be Nagihiko who will suffer their tease and taunts which he so deserves.

But she begrudgingly cared, if simply because Ikuto was amongst them. W She couldn't even actively look for him because she was Nagihiko's girlfriend now.

"Plain?" Nagihiko echoed. He chuckled, amused, and glanced at her. She blinked. What was he planning? She didn't know who she should be warier of – Kukai for his shameless advances, or Nagihiko who has some trick upon his sleeves.

"She may look plain even with pink hair of hers, but I assure you, she's the most adorable person I've ever met."

She decided: Nagihiko.

"Hell yeah, she is." Kukai seconded and leaned back on his seat, eyes on her. A wink was all the warning she got when his leg moved a little up and grazed her thigh.

"Eek!" She dropped her fork and jumped on her seat, gaining all attention in the table on her person. It was later, much later that she realized that they weren't looking at her because she let out that embarrassing shriek.

It was because she was completely huddled against Nagihiko's side. Her hip digging into his and their thighs pressed awkwardly, but that wasn't the worst. It was her involuntary upper body reaction; she was hugging his bare arm snugly to her chest.

"And bold. Cute and bold." Kukai remarked, a Cheshire grin on his pleased face.

She might as well die of haemorrhage with all the blood that was rushing upwards. It would at least spare her the mortification.

"Like I said, adorable." Nagihiko asserted, his lips hovering close to her ear.

...

"You'll drop me home?"

"Yeah."

"Why? I can go on my own."

"Have you ever had a boyfriend?"

"...of course."

"Why do you always ask questions that only an inexperienced idiot will ask?"

"Where do I have to wait?"

...

Amu was sitting on a bench outside the basketball court. She could hear the faint sound of rapid footfalls and cheers from her seat. There was practise session going on and, she glanced at the time that flashed on her phone screen; it read 5:23, was going to be over anytime about now.

She could've waited inside the court instead of hot out in the open, but she doubted she could look at him without the reminder of lunch fiasco. She casually straightened her uniform, preoccupying her mind elsewhere, even as the feeling of heat on her cheeks refused to subdue.

Nagihiko wasn't a psyche reader – she tried to convince herself – he wouldn't be able to tell how uncomfortable she was with him. Not that she was ever comfortable, to begin with. But, uh. Whatever.

"It's all that damned asshole's fault..." What better distraction than cursing the infamous womanizerslashsoccer player of the school.

"Are you done muttering to yourself so we could leave?" A voice spoke, severing her concentration. She was in the middle of mentally conjuring a perfect Kukai-voodoo doll that she could stab until there was no more left of the doll. Tsk, power of friendship may have saved him today, but never forever.

Amu said nothing in response, rather she shot him a withering glare from under her lashes. "It's always me who comes to you. Is it because I'm your girlfriend?"

"No, it's because you're not." Amu ignored his words with an eye roll. He held a hand out. She looked at it questioningly. He gestured her sling bag.

"Why...do you want my bag?" She gave him a dirty look, giving him a once-over warily when he stepped into her personal space.

"I know you've been single all your life, but haven't you also never paid any attention to couples around you?" His insult took a while to register in her mind, but it wasn't because he snatched her bag from her shoulders, his slender fingers briefly brushing the skin on her neck, and slung it against his person.

She closed her gaping mouth and shot him one of her glares that conveyed please go, intercourse yourself. Huffing, she turned and stalked off towards the entrance gates, muttering obscenities under her breath, not waiting for the long-haired bane of her existence who was also her boyfriend within school premises.

...

Nagihiko adjusted the strap of her bag on his shoulder and followed after her leisurely. Even if she reached the gates first, she'd have to endure another waiting session for him, which will only fuel her anger, and not his.

Not that she had options to do much even in her outrage.

When he arrived at the gates, he saw her seething red. Red was her colour – she was head to toe covered in red, always fumed red, and even her hair colour was a derivative of red. He watched disinterestedly as she advanced on him and seized her bag back. Backing away, she snarled loudly, "You're the most irritating guy I've met!"

She attracted eyes on her, and in turn, him.

Normally, if they had been alone, he would have silenced her with one of his glares and a reminder of the dire consequences if she doesn't cooperate. But they were under the scrutiny of pubic where people were passing curious glances at them, and they still needed to leave a strong impression that they were indeed an item.

His eyes brightened at the idea. What was a better way than PDA? The angry look on her face fell when she noticed his look.

"What are you–"

Nagihiko reached for her, quickly grabbed her chin thereby silencing her, and pulled her towards him until she was only a hairsbreadth from his person.

Her gold eyes widened in panic while he narrowed in slight warning, a stark contrast to his next words.

"Yeah, I love you too."

She froze.

Nagihiko felt his muscles relax when he caught a few people attempting to hide their smiles and giggles at what clearly appeared like affectionate lover's banter. Before he could completely revel in the sweet embrace of yet another victory, something distracted him. Under the pads of his fingers, he felt warmth stroking him. Red was clearly her colour in so many ways. As soon as the thought settled, he unhanded her face so fast as though he'd been burned.

He looked over her head for a moment, recollecting his thoughts, before meeting her golden pair with his own.

"Let's go home, Amu." He said, his voice less impassive than one he's used to having.

She nodded jerkily like she had been electrocuted and promptly turned away. He followed after her quietly.

For the rest of the walk, only silence accompanied them.

...

They were standing before her apartment. Her house was just two streets and four blocks away, hardly a 20 minutes walk. However, it wouldn't be farfetched to assume it under the ranks of the hard and strenuous journey, or at least to her that was how it felt. Nagihiko, with his mere presence, not only essentially ruined her day but also thrashed her sweet stroll back home.

"Thank you for dropping me home, Fujisaki-senpai." Amu didn't, couldn't, look at him in the eye. It was even worse than before. For a manipulative bastard, he spouted wrong things at wrong times with wrong people to get the right results.

As for the greeting, it wasn't out of gratefulness or any nonsense – she was only being polite because he was, at the end of the day, still her senior. They were also away from the school so she had no reason to pretend he was her boyfriend.

Already digging in her purse, hands searching for a spare key, she turned around, evading any chances of any eye contact, and began to walk towards the front door.

"Amu-san," She flinched, instantly berating her spineless tendencies, and peered over her shoulder at Nagihiko. He was still standing where she had left him, his eyes seemed to bore into her head. She was grateful to his intimidating – although impressive – height for once, it allowed her to escape his all-seeing eyes.

"Y-Yes?" She cringed, mentally. What was wrong with her today? Also, they were not in school anymore...so why was he still calling her by her name?

"Black cat looked at you when we left the canteen. I believe he is in shock that one of his loyal fangirls have switched sides." Her forehead puckered in puzzlement. There was none of his characteristic ridicule or arrogance in his cool voice. It sounded much like an impassive reminder than anything else.

With that, he calmly turned and left the way they arrived from, disappearing from the view like he was never there.

Amu's eyes widened and shock grew as a realization dawned on her.

Ikuto Tsukiyomi – her longtime crush and the primary motivation behind feigning Nagihiko's girlfriend – hadn't once crossed her mind after the lunch ordeal.

...

Yes, it's been a while and I'm a liar. I'll complete this story soon, thanks to COVID-19 nation lockdown in my country which allows me plenty of time for myself. I want to rid of this awesome story off my waitlist soon.

Three more chapters to go.

Thank you for your super kind support!