I probably shouldn't be posting this after like two years of not updating, but now that I've had the desire to write once again I have found myself being drawn to this story one more time. A big part of the reason why is because this story is honestly so close to finally having an ending. I don't expect anyone to still be reading this, but this chapter especially was a very emotional one for me to write. To those of you still reading, I raise my glass to you. Oh! And check out the cover art someone did for this story! It's the story image.

Quote of the Day:

"This is love. When someone drags you from the wreckage when you have given in, ready to just lie there and die. This is love. When someone, no matter what the cost, shows you there is hope, a choice, that you can put down your gun. This is love. Love Hurts."

— Max Payne, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

Takeru had been feeling the eyes of everyone watching him all day, but it was something that was especially egregious as he waited for Hikari to get out of her dance practice. While his basketball mates had been either polite or uncaring enough to not mention anything about the air of tension that surrounded the love triangle between Ayano, Hikari, and himself, other people in his school had been much less forgiving about the entire situation.

There were whispers about the fact that he and Ayano had been avoiding each other all day. Those whispers turned into gossip, and that gossip eventually climaxed into rumors about exactly what had happened between him and his girlfriend over the weekend. The first rumor he had heard was that Ayano had caught him confessing his eternal love for Hikari. The second rumor concerned the fact that he had apparently found it an okay thing to ask Ayano if she was alright with entering into a polyamorous relationship with Hikari. The worst rumor that Takeru had heard however, the one that hit closer to home than anything else was the rumor that Ayano realized that their relationship would never work due to the fact that even after all this time together, Takeru still couldn't say that he loved her.

As he sat at the top of the steps of the stairwell leading up to the third floor of his high school, watching the door that Hikari was bound to exit any second now, Takeru couldn't help but wonder about just who it was that started that final rumor. The first person that came to mind was Goro, who for months now had been against his relationship with Ayano. The thing was, Takeru couldn't find it in his heart to blame the guy. Goro was Ayano's best friend, and Takeru knew that he would be against it as well if Hikari was in a relationship with a guy who couldn't tell her that he loved her just as much as she loved him. The biggest pit in Takeru's stomach however came when he couldn't decide whether or not said rumor was still only just a rumor.

It was something unsettling that his mind kept coming to as he sat there and waited for Hikari, a lingering suspicion bouncing around in Takeru's head being that maybe the one who had started the rumor was Ayano herself. Would she say something so intimate and accusatory to someone untrustworthy enough to spread it among their classmates? At this point, would she even care? It was a thought that against his better judgment Takeru couldn't stop himself from thinking about.

Whatever suspicions people were now having about the love triangle he currently found himself standing in the middle of, it didn't help when Hikari walked out of the door he was expecting her to, flanked on either side by two girls who were known for being notorious gossips all around the school. When Hikari saw him, the girl smiled as she always had since the day the two of them had met as children. When the two other girls saw him however they looked at him accusingly, before the both of them said their goodbyes to Hikari, walking away and whispering to each other as they went. As Hikari waved them off, they shot Takeru one more harsh glance each and laughed together as they each secretly wondered how the story of Takeru and Hikari would turn out tomorrow. Pushing that thought out of his mind for now, Takeru stood up from his spot at the top of the staircase. Right now, none of that mattered.

She hesitated when she saw him, Hikari not only wondering when this conversation was finally going to come, but also on what would actually be said when they finally had it. She had heard the rumors, and she knew that most of them had involved her in some fashion or another. She had heard that Takeru had confessed his love for her. She had heard that Takeru had wanted to date both her and Ayano at the same time. What really broke her heart though for a reason that she would never be able to place was the rumor she had heard about the fact that Takeru still couldn't tell his girlfriend that he loved her.

Slowly walking to the base of the stairs that Takeru was standing at the top of, Hikari stopped and stared up at her oldest and dearest friend. The sun's rays were gleaming on him through the glass of a nearby window, and she smiled as she stared up at Takeru, not caring if anyone else in the world saw them right now. His hair was shining in the sun, and his eyes were still the same familiar blue that had become her favorite color after all these years. He was beautiful.

"Are you here to confess your love again?" Hikari joked, expecting Takeru to laugh along with her.

He didn't laugh though. Instead, Takeru frowned as he looked away from her, finding it easier for himself to stare into the sun than to look Hikari in the eye. "I need to talk to you in private, but wherever we go there's always someone we know nearby."

"Follow me," Hikari said as she nodded, understanding the dilemma that they were in. No matter where they went, one of the other Chosen were never too far behind. Walking up the stairs, Hikari motioned for Takeru to follow her as she passed him, "I have the keys to the roof."

"Why do you have keys to the roof?" Takeru asked, his confusion actually making him forget for a second the reason why he had even waited for her in the first place.

"Miyako traded sexual favors for a copy of the keys," Hikari said nonchalantly, as if what she said wasn't something that was completely and utterly horrifying.

Takeru's face paled. "Oh my God."

"It's not what you think," Hikari began to wave off once she realized exactly what she had said, "she let the school president feel up Ken's ass. In return, Miyako has keys to the school."

Takeru blinked. "The school president is a guy."

Hikari shrugged, now showing off the copy of the school keys that Miyako had made for her, "Ken's ass knows no gender."

Nodding at the fact that Ken did indeed have a sweet ass, Takeru followed Hikari, hoping as he did so that with any luck they would not get caught trying to trespass onto private property after school hours. Luckily, at this hour of the day the school was mostly deserted other than a few club activities, so when they found the door leading to the roof of their school they had little trouble making their way outside. The breeze was a light one that tickled across their faces, and the sun was shining bright as ever.

"Why up here, Hikari?" Takeru asked, the teenage boy unsure why they were standing where they were at the moment, the infinite blue sky above them almost judging him.

"You said you wanted to go somewhere private," Hikari said with a shrug, dropping her bag to the ground as she decided to lie down on her back, watching the same cobalt eternity that had made Takeru feel small in comparison.

Glancing over at Hikari, not sure what the hell she was doing, Takeru quirked an eyebrow as he watched her for a long quiet moment. "Hikari?"

"Yes?" she mumbled more than responded, any concern of Takeru's somewhere far and far away.

"You're going to get your clothes dirty," Takeru spoke again, not understanding his best friend's behavior at the moment.

If she could have shrugged while laying on her back she would have. Instead, Hikari gave a deep sigh. There was no end to the sky above them.

"I don't care about that," she said as honestly as she learned she could be with Takeru after all these years standing at one another's side, "just talk to me. I'm here to listen if that's what you need, Takeru."

Watching her for a long moment, Takeru dropped his bag down beside where Hikari had dropped hers, not caring about getting himself dirty as he dropped down to lay at her side. He closed his eyes for a second as he did so, and when he opened them Takeru searched the sky for any images he could see in them, almost looking for a sign he could use in the clouds. Finding none however, Takeru glanced over at Hikari, not really sure about whether or not the girl would even be able to help him with the doubts that he was currently having.

"How long are you here to listen for?" Takeru asked, the boy's eyes closing as he imagined himself floating up into the sky and never having to deal with any problems ever again, "We might be here a while."

"Don't be stupid," Hikari nudged the boy beside her, Takeru forgetting about the promise that the two of them had made to one another when they were only just kids, "I'll be right beside you for the rest of our lives if you need me to be."

Laughing, Takeru remembered that silly promise he had made to her when he was just a boy. He smiled at the memory, forgetting his troubles about the rumors that were currently floating around school. There was nothing else that existed right now other than Hikari and himself, the blue sky above them, and the horizon somewhere in between.

"That's all I needed to hear."

As had been the case with most of the last year, Daisuke and the rest of his fellow classmates had been witness to yet another incident in the eternal love triangle between Hikari, Ayano, and Takeru. He remembered how it had all started, at this moment in time from what seemed to be six or seven years ago. It hadn't been that long of course, in fact it had been nowhere near as close, but there was something in the air that sometimes made it feel like that. At first, Takeru had garnered much sympathy from everyone around them, from their classmates to the other Chosen, who saw the pain that Takeru had endured from loving a girl who said that she couldn't love him back in the same kind of way. Now though, it was hard to see how Takeru's way of moving on from Hikari was the right path for anyone involved.

Daisuke saw what had happened perhaps better than anyone else. Takeru had gotten himself involved with a girl and had played the part of someone going down a new lane in life, but Daisuke had never been fooled. He wasn't stupid, no matter what Miyako ever said. He had never been surprised by the rumors. He had never been surprised by the days when he saw Takeru and his girlfriend barely make eye contact with one another, if they ended up saying anything to each other at all. He had heard his classmates talking all throughout the day when Ayano and Takeru had made rather transparent efforts to avoid one another in class and during break, and the forest fire of rumors spread from there. Daisuke knew better though. He knew what was false, and what sadly enough turned out to actually be true.

It was something he had been trying to keep out of his mind as he walked to a rather fierce pick-up game of soccer against a team of soccer mates led by his biggest on the field rival, but it was something that came flooding back when he saw Ayano waiting for her ride just outside the front gates of the school. Before he could figure out what to say, Daisuke found himself jogging towards her with his soccer ball still tucked under his arm, the teenage boy almost forgetting why he even had it in the first place. For some reason, the game he had been looking forward to all week suddenly seemed meaningless.

"I thought your chauffeur would have been here by now!" Daisuke shouted as he jogged up to Ayano, mentally slapping himself for not having been able come up with anything better to say.

"No chauffeur today," Ayano replied as she looked up from her phone, surprised but happy enough to see that Daisuke was still around the school after the last bell of the day, "I'm just deciding where to walk from here."

Looking over at the football field that was just off in the distance from the front gate of the school, Daisuke supposed to himself that it wouldn't hurt too much if he took a few extra minutes to get there. "Not going home?"

"Not yet," Ayano sighed, glancing down at her phone again before seeming to give up on whatever message she was waiting for and tucking it away in school bag, "I feel like I have to go and clear my head somewhere. If you want, you can tag along."

"Motomiya!" A familiar voice screamed and interrupted before Daisuke could give his answer or even think about the girl's offer, "What the hell are you doing? We're all waiting, man!"

Turning to see his second-in-command on the field, Daisuke gave an apologetic smile, the teenage boy perhaps taking a bit more time than was necessary to get to the game everyone on both teams had been looking forward to for the past week. He had been excited too, in fact he still was, until he glanced back at the girl he had become somewhat fond of, her offer to hang out being something that had been on the forefront of his mind since it had been given.

Without another thought, Daisuke's eyes still being trained on the girl beside him, his decision suddenly became clear. "Turns out that I can't play today. I have to go take care of something."

"You're the one with the ball!" His on-field Lieutenant complained.

"Take it!" Daisuke laughed as he tossed his teammate the ball that had been his job to bring along.

"What about the game?"

"I forfeit!" Daisuke shrugged, the game not seeming so important any more after stealing another look at his best friend's girlfriend.

His teammate had left annoyed and maybe even a little angry, his team's chances of winning dropping dramatically since he was no longer on the field to battle along with them, but it was a decision he could live with, especially considering that he was now going to tag along with wherever Ayano had intended to go that evening. Her brown eyes watched him with a strange combination of suspicion and confusion, before Daisuke motioned for her to lead the way.

"I wouldn't have invited you along if I knew that you had other plans," Ayano finally said as she began walking, Daisuke following her lead, the teenage boy apparently not caring what she had planned to do that day as long as it was in her company.

It was a strange thought, yet a comforting one for her. Oddly enough, she had become pleasantly surprised with the kind of person that Daisuke had turned out to be.

Daisuke smiled, perhaps a little bit wider than he had intended to. "There's always another game."

She smiled back at him, but the girl was still largely a mystery to Daisuke. He figured she liked him a little bit, or else she wouldn't have invited him to hang out with her in the first place, and the teenager figured that at least for now maybe that was okay. Anything more would have felt like a betrayal to Takeru, but anything less would have been a strange feeling that Daisuke didn't really like to think about. For the moment, he pushed whatever uncomfortable thoughts he had about the current situation to the back of his mind, Daisuke making small talk with Ayano and pretending as if nothing was bothering him, even as the girl led him through a restaurant that was eight or ten minutes away from his school.

Although he had found it odd that the sushi restaurant had given them a box full of sushi to share when they had entered the restaurant, he found it even more bizarre when the hostess at the front counter showed them to a ladder in the back alley that led to the restaurant's roof. Although he could appreciate the view of the city from the rooftop and the free food even more so, he never quite expected to spend his afternoon like this. What got to him the most however was the fact that for some inexplicable reason there was already a table with a parasol and two chairs ready for them to sit at.

"I'm surprised this sushi place is letting us hang out on their roof just like that," Daisuke said sarcastically, making his way to the parasol's shade, the teenage boy setting down his book bag before sitting down.

"My dad owns the restaurant," the girl replied as she followed his lead, setting the box of sushi on the table between them as she made her way beside Daisuke.

Shaking his head, Daisuke laughed, actually impressed with the nonchalant way that Ayano's family had more wealth than most people could ever dream of. "What I would give to be rich. I'm telling you, if I had money you'd be seeing my noodle carts all across Japan."

"Being rich is nice, but sometimes I can't but feel as if I'm not really normal because of it. Sometimes it makes it a little bit hard to relate to people."

Daisuke snorted louder than he probably should have at that one. "Being normal is totally lame! Rich on the other hand? That way you can make the world go round."

"You're kind of shameless, Daisuke-Kun."

"Shameless?" Daisuke laughed at that one. All throughout his life he had been called that word rather negatively from people like his sister or Miyako, but for the first time he actually smiled at the word. As he glanced over at the girl sitting beside him, he almost felt like it was a compliment. "I can handle shameless. Poor is the thing that I want to avoid being."

"So you're telling me that the only reason why you and I are friends is because of the fact that my dad has a lot of money?"

"Guys usually only want girls for their looks," Daisuke paused as he finally opened up the box of sushi they had and popped the biggest piece into his mouth, "so you better be thankful that I only want you for all your cold hard cash."

"You're an idiot."

"Buddies tell each other the truth," Daisuke shrugged as he leaned back into his chair, "you can't get mad for my decision to get real with you."

What he expected to hear in response to his words was laughter if even just a chuckle, but when he was met with silence Daisuke looked over to see if Ayano was alright. Although she had been smiling just moments ago, there was now an oddly solemn look on her face as she stared forward into the city before them. Maybe he had done or said something to set her off, or maybe she was just somehow reminded of something that weighed heavy on the girl's mind. For some reason, he couldn't help but feel if maybe it had something to do with Takeru.

"Did I say something wrong?" Daisuke said after a long moment, bringing his hand to Ayano's wrist, which was supposed to be a small gesture to tell show her that at least for now he was there for her.

When she instead entwined her hand with his, Daisuke swallowed hard, his heart beginning to beat faster than the sound of traffic that now seemed to be coming from an entirely different world altogether.

"We're friends, Dai, aren't we?" the girl asked, now looking into his eyes, all the while Ayano not knowing how much her words haunted the boy beside her.

"Of course," Daisuke almost stammered over his words, thinking about the way that Ayano had referred to him by.

"I don't think that Takeru and I are going to work out."


Taking his hand away from hers, Daisuke only blinked. He hadn't really known what to expect when it came to him deciding to spend the afternoon with the girlfriend of one of his best friends. The one thing he did know was that he had never expected anything like this.

Dropping her hands to her side, Ayano nodded to herself, whether to acknowledge the bomb she had just dropped on Daisuke or to simply give herself the resolve to continue on, she wasn't quite sure herself, "I can't help but feel like I'm overreacting about the tiny almost forgettable details that I notice about the way that he talks or does things, but at the same time there's a part of me that knows the truth about how this story is going to end."

"This is a story to you?"

"Everything's a story, Motomiya. That is, if you're romantic enough."

It was then that he looked away from her, the reminder of just how painful a thing love could be weighing on his mind. "I haven't felt romantic in a very long time."

"You loved her too, didn't you?"

Although she felt the need to ask it, Ayano's question wasn't really even a question. As he thought about how to answer, Daisuke looked back over to the girl whose eyes were now fixated on him, waiting for his answer. When he was a boy, when he was not too much younger than he currently was, Daisuke had once thought himself to be in love with Hikari. A part of him wanted to wave that time of his life off as puppy love, but as he sat on that copper colored roof with a girl who he didn't know how to feel about, Daisuke knew that he couldn't brush off whatever feelings he once had as insignificant.

"Takeru doesn't love her," Daisuke lied.

"You said it yourself!" Ayano screamed at Daisuke as she stood up from her chair, tired of the falsehoods, refusing to let another boy she cared about be dishonest with her, "Friends tell each other the truth!"

Standing up, Daisuke refused to hear anything else. He walked to the edge of the rooftop, the teenage boy feeling that maybe if he did so Ayano would not ask anything else of him. He looked back at the girl with accusatory eyes, in that moment almost hating her for putting him in the situation of having to witness not only her heartbreak or Takeru's, but possibly even his own as well.

"If you already know the truth, then why are you even asking me?!" Daisuke shouted back, not caring if everybody in the world heard him.

Ayano walked a few steps towards Daisuke, not willing to back down now. "I want to hear someone else say it out loud. I want to hear it from someone who knows the two of them better than anyone else in the world."

As Daisuke looked up at the sky once again, he almost didn't want to admit that Ayano's question was the crux of everything that was going on right now. He remembered as a boy, as a person not much younger than he was today, the affection between Takeru and Hikari being something that he had always feared. A relationship with Hikari, a chance to live out his dreams and his wants together with her by his side had always been a real one, until Takeru showed up at school one day and crashed his world down.

For a long time Daisuke felt that maybe he still had a shot at winning Hikari's heart, but looking back all these years later, he knew that he had never had a chance. There was a while there where Daisuke went through a phase of his life filled with crying and pain and shitty feelings, and even now he couldn't help but wonder if all that suffering was because he had spent so much time lying to himself. When he glanced back over at Ayano, Daisuke decided then and there that he would never lie to her ever again.

His words were harsh, indeed sounding more forceful than Daisuke had meant them to come out, but it was a truth that Ayano needed to hear. "Takeru will always love Hikari. Nothing can ever change that."

For the both of them, the world was silent for a long time. The girl was crying now, as was Daisuke, but slowly and surely, she made her way to the boy's side to watch the horizon that was stretched out for eternity before them.

Ayano reached for his hand again, and this time Daisuke did not let go.

The end is coming soon. I think three chapters are all I need to wrap everything up, which I have a pretty clear idea to how I want to go about it. I don't really want anyone to come off as a villain with the ending I have thought up. The reason being that I sympathize with everyone in this love square. That, and the fact that real life doesn't actually have villains.

I'll see about updating this some time in November. Who knows, it might even be less than a year this time.