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7 As the Sakura Bloomed

The remainder of Hinata's day, following his conversation with Mei-chan, was fortunately uneventful. Although, Akira kept his distance as they worked their businesses. It was just as well there weren't many customers to walk in on their silent stand-off.

Hinata closed up the shop and parted ways with the man without saying goodbye. As much as he wanted to apologise for their morning spat, his experience of Akira's stubborn silence meant his apology wouldn't be accepted yet.

The setting sun brushed the evening sky with fierce red, orange and blue streaks over the familiar path and green countryside back to his home. Squawking from a playful school of thrush birds flying along the warm autumn winds caught his attention. He paused his walk and closed his eyes to breathe in the cosy scent of sweet flowers.

His mind wandered to a day when he saw similar birds fly about falling pure and white cherry blossom flowers on his first day at his middle school in Tokyo.

He had been running late due to his morning duties at his parent's shop and found himself dressing on the run with a slice of bread in his mouth for his breakfast. It would've been just his luck to find himself locked out of the school's gates and miss his Entrance Ceremony, thus scoring a black mark on his school record before he had even stepped foot in a classroom. His heart had thumped painfully against his heaving chest when he slid through the closing gates, making school in the nick of time.

"You almost scored a warning mark on your attendance record." Chuckled a young teacher who was a pristine image in his fresh dark brown suit, spiff trimmed short hair and neat tie that was positioned precisely at the center of his shirt's spread area.

Hinata figured the teacher was a newlywed. He had certainly that soothing and happy-go-lucky vibe going on.

"Well thank you for slowly closing the gate, so I didn't." Hinata had wryly thanked the teacher.

"Ohno-sensei, can you lead this almost late comer to where the others are?" said an older teacher with moulted leather patches to the elbow areas of his grey-tweed jacket opened to reveal his slightly crumpled grey shirt.

The young teacher politely accepted the order with a nod.

"Come on. Like, 'the butterfly is perfuming,' let's get you to your ceremony," Ohno-sensei said with a welcoming smile.

Hinata followed Ohno-sensei across the unfamiliar classroom blocks and main courtyard to where all new students were lined up out front of the school hall.

It was a congregation of boys in the standard black no collar jackets and pants; girls in black and white sailor type shirts and A-line pleated skirts. He entered the waiting crowd and mingled with a couple of boys he knew at the back of the line, which slowly inched forward into the hall. The line moved past a row of benches where seniors were pinning ribbons to jackets or shirts.

His eyes had been transfixed on a graceful dance of rich pink sakura petals moving delicately about the air to fall around Eiji, who had been monotonously pinning ribbons with little enthusiasm and care. His huffing and groans between pinning had made Hinata chuckle with a thought that his senior was cute.

So when his turn for a ribbon found himself before Eiji who had accidentally pushed the ribbon's pin too hard near his heart and pricked him, he felt destiny had dealt him a hand. Especially when both their eyes lingered on each as he massaged blood flow back into Eiji's hands. His heart had been stolen by his senior at that moment, but he realised he was a guy so was intent to do nothing about it.

Destiny had made sure they were in the same club. Hinata had tried to be just a junior interested in archery, especially when Eiji was treating him like everyone else.

He was boy. It wasn't possible for boys to fall in love with each other, right? Over and over his mind had questioned the impossibility of being in love with his senior. When one of his childhood friends had told him that it was wrong for men to love other men in _that_ way, he had convinced himself he was going through a troublesome phase.

He didn't want to cause Eiji any trouble, so he relied more on others for archery practice and advice. He would bury his crush and be content to love him from a distance. Especially when it seemed his senior was going through some troubles that was affecting his performance. He wasn't keen to add more on top.
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During a training camp they had found themselves sharing an awkward moment of stillness and shortness of breath as they stared into each other's eyes with longing. His conceit made him think that perchance he could be part of Eiji's problems.

Casting aside rights and wrongs and going with his aching heart, he faced Eiji straight after his national win. He had prepared his face for a punch and his heart for a break, but he should have prepared his lips instead.

"Destiny." Hinata sighed. "You're too cruel."

He opened his eyes and continued his way home alone.