There are perks to working as a Cosmic Rescue cadet; you get your own ship and you get to travel around in space, do awesome missions like rescuing trapped passengers, and party in the moon base. While the reason why I joined Cosmic Rescue was because of my idol, Nanjo Satoshi, the heroic cadet who sacrified himself and yet miraculously survived, I won’t deny that those perks made me want to stay here.
Of course, there are the cons too; having to pick up space debris and constant medical check ups are so boring! I hate having to do any formal tasks, I just want to have fun and be a hero. Heroes don’t have to sit and study, or take exams for that matter. Every cadet has to take an exam every 4 months, usually quizzing us on emergency procedures, boring physics, and mindless historical facts that I – for one – don’t care about right now.
But lately, my superiors have been telling me to buckle down and study harder so they can promote me to something better. I don’t know what could be better than what I am now though; would I be flying better ships? Would I get to rescue more people than I already do? If it’s a desk job, then no, thank you. I’m fine with where I am now, I’m fine with the jobs I’m doing now (aside from the occasional debris collecting), and I’m fine with the crew I have now.
Eguchi-san decided it would be best if he tutored me, after all, I wouldn’t be bothered to study by myself, and Nanjo-san was busy studying with that Kaori chick… I always knew there was something between those two, but they’ve never publicly admitted it. Besides, Eguchi-san is a self-proclaimed genius, that’s why he’s our engineer after all, so there’s no reason why I would decline his offer.
Well, there are other reasons too but…
“Oi, Azuma, are you paying attention?”
Oh yeah, that’s right, he’s been telling me all these answers and I haven’t listened to a single word. I feel pretty bad asking him to repeat everything, but before I do, he groans from across the table, flipping the pages back to where we started. Ah, I guess he already knows.
“Stop fantasing about your hero stuff and study damnit,” He rubs his temples and points at me almost instantaneously, “I want you to do well for this exam, got it?”
“But Eguchi,” I groan, “I’ve been doing okay so far… I’ve never been close to failing.”
“I don’t care, as one of your seniors, I want you to succeed!”
“O-Oh, well I guess it’s nice you ca—“
“By the way, speaking of seniors, you need to respect yours! It’s Eguchi-san, not Eguchi.”
All I can do is laugh weakly in response, it’s a bad habit I suppose; I guess it’s because Eguchi-san looks like a child that I forget he’s actually older than me. Even when I first met him, I called him “Ryou” and he flipped out. To this day, I still don’t know the reason why; maybe it’s a complex? Lately it seems that Eguchi-san has been trying to look older in front of the staff… some say it’s because he wants to impress Officer Tachibana, to which I say that’s ridiculous! He looks too much like a little brother to be her boyfriend, or even her husband. Even if they tried going out, I’m sure it would end badly.
I don’t mean to be so pessimistic about it, it’s just…
“Do you get it now?” He asks me, pointing at the solution he had spent the last minute writing out. Ahh, I haven’t been paying attention again, he’s gonna kill me…
“Uh, yeah I do! It’s just a simple substitution right?”
“Are you just making stuff up now…”
I can tell Eguchi-san has had enough of me now, I’d be pretty annoyed too if I had to deal with someone like me here. I decide to work on a couple of equations that I actually know the answers to, knowing all too well that Eguchi-san is watching my every move. Every stroke, every number I write, every line I finish; he’s watching me and it’s actually freaking me out a little. I don’t understand why he wants me to do so well in this exam; I might get moved up and therefore leave the crew. Does that mean Eguchi-san wants me to leave then? Maybe he wants this annoying brat to leave so he can do his work properly, but he always seems to enjoy my company...
I don’t understand.
“Wow, you managed to complete 3 pages so quickly!”
“I’m surprisingly good at equations…” Even though I don’t look like I am. Eguchi-san is genuinely surprised; I guess he’s never actually seen me study to know what I’m good at and what I’m bad at.
“But then there’s the complicated stuff you’re terrible at… not to mention all the fact memorising…”
“Ugh, I want to take a break.”
“Already? God, Azuma you are so annoying sometimes…”
Hm, what can I say? “I’m sorry”? It’s not like I purposely bug Eguchi-san (well okay, sometimes I do) but I have my reasons why I’m not paying attention today…
“Do you want a drink, Eguchi-san?” I ask instead. All he does is nod and starts reading an engineering book; he really is a genius. As I walk (well, dash) to the cafeteria, I can hear girls whispering my name and giggling as their eyes can’t stop following me.
“Sawada-san, are you busy right now?” A girl asks me, shyly fidgetting with her physics books.
“Oh, err, yeah I am… sorry.”
I’m pretty sure Eguchi-san would be angry if I took too long, especially because of a cute girl. The last time something happened because of “a girl,” I was floating in space about to die, but at the end I managed to her and a couple of cadets along the way. Maybe Eguchi-san won’t be as mad this time. When I return with the drinks, he’s still at the desk, concentrating on that book and only periodically letting out a little yawn.
Ah, he’s so cute.
Wait, did I just think that? Well… Eguchi-san is really cute, especially with that face he has. His high pitched whiny voice, while annoying at times, is really cute too.
“Oi, Azuma! What are you doing just standing there?”
Speaking of that voice…
“Oh, sorry!” I yell and place the drink in front of him before returning to my seat. I never noticed how long Eguchi-san’s fingers were until now. I feel like a creep just staring at my superior but I can’t seem to avert my gaze. He looks at me, then looks away, before I suddenly feel something heavy hit my head. Eguchi-san frowns at me and waves a rolled up book in my face.
“Stop staring at me! It’s creeping me out.”
“O-Oh, sorry… I just…”
Ah crap, I can feel my face burning up, and I think Eguchi-san can see it too. Suddenly, he slumps back and smiles; I want to tell him that doing that only makes things worse.
“It’s okay. I was just worried…”
He starts taking a sip of his drink and… was it just me, or did I see him blush a little…
“Eguchi-san… this might be really random but, have you ever gone out with anyone?”
He almost spits out his drink when I ask that, but it’s only normal to have that reaction. To be honest, I have no idea why I asked such a ridiculous question. I guess the encounter with the girl and all these crazy thoughts I’ve been having are messing with my brain right now. I can see him being a little nervous but at the same time, annoyed at me… so, the usual.
I don’t expect him to answer me anytime soon.
“I don’t understand why you asked me that, but… I haven’t.”
“Eh, really? But I would’ve thought you were really popular!”
He laughs and plays with the eraser in front of him, “People know me, yes, but it’s not like they know me. I’m not like you; good-looking and really social.”
“Everyone likes you because you’re so passionate about everything.”
“How many people have you gone out with?”
“Eh?” Well that was unexpected, “Umm… maybe two?”
“See? I’m not surprised… and you’re younger than me too…”
I can tell he’s getting pretty upset, so I decide to quickly change the subject; it’s my fault this conversation ever existed anyway. I point to an equation, looking at Eguchi-san for some advice; he takes it and runs with it.
“I- I still don’t understand it…” I nervously admit after he explains it to me at least twice. It’s at this point that Eguchi-san, who I am sure is completely fed up with everything I’ve said and done today, gets up from his chair and stands beside me, leaning in as he writes the solution right under my nose.
Ah, his face is so close to mine. Too close! But wow, his eyelashes are so long, I knew he was cute but I never realised how pretty Eguchi-san wa-- gah, Azuma stop that!
“Azuma, I really want you to do well in this,” He whispers and pats me on the shoulder, “That’s why you have to pay attention and focus.”
“You do realise I might end up with a new crew if I do really well.”
There’s a slight grip on my shoulder, and that’s when I think that maybe – just maybe – Eguchi-san knows. The expression on his face is still the same, but his finger has been stuck on the same line for the past minute or so.
“Well… how do I put it… I feel like you deserve more in Cosmic Rescue. You should be in a higher position so you can do more ‘Cosmic Rescue’ stuff… even if that means not being with me and Nanjo-san.”
How can he just… with a straight face…
“But I don’t want to!” I slam my hand on the desk, startling Eguchi-san and knocking my pencil onto the floor. As much as the idea of being more than just a cadet sounds interesting and exciting, being one without Eguchi-san or Nanjo-san is just not something I want to experience. They’re my mentors, my friends, my idols…
They’re one of the main reasons why I love being part of Cosmic Rescue.
“I’m happy where I am now, Eguchi-san. I’m happy being here with you and Nanjo-san.”
“I’m sure you feel the same way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well why else are you still here and not being an engineer for the space base? Clearly you are qualified enough to work there.”
He looks away for a moment, slowly bending down to pick up the fallen pencil; almost instinctly, I bend down as well, our hands accidentally brushing against each other’s. Eguchi-san blushes, and all I can do is look away while my other hand starts picking at my lip; it’s another bad habit, and I’ve told myself to stop, but whenever I’m nervous, it happens. I look back at Eguchi-san and to my surprise, he starts picking at his lip too.
Ugh, this time I can’t stop looking at his lips.
“W-Well… I like the idea of being in a ship… wo-working on the space base seems boring…”
“Besides, it’s fun hanging out with you and Nanjo-san. Nanjo-san has been my friend for a long time, and you… well…”
“I haven’t known you for that long, but I really like—“
I don’t think he realises just how red his face is becoming now.
“I… really like knowing about you? I don’t want to leave you two… I guess you could say I’m happy being with you and Nanjo-san…”
Ugh, my chest hurts, and my heart is beating faster and faster. It’s true that Eguchi-san and I haven’t known each other for that long, me being Nanjo-san’s personal fanboy and Eguchi-san being his best friend probably doesn’t make our relationship any closer either. Still, I think Eguchi-san is one of my closest friends since joining Cosmic Rescue, so the idea of being promoted and ultimately being separated from him is too much for me.
I guess you could say I want to be with him (and Nanjo-san) forever.
I want us to be a team, forever.
“E-Eguchi…” I whisper. He lets out a chuckle and reminds me again to respect his elders; it’s like he will never get over that as long as I’m with him. I gently brush my fingers against his warm cheek, my eyes fixated on his. My heart is beating even faster than before, each touch sending a shiver down my spine. He does nothing, he says nothing, but I can tell that – in his mind - he doesn’t know what to do.
I want to kiss him. Badly.
“What are you…”
I pull him in and when our faces are just close enough, I pressed my lips against his. Whatever he was trying to say to me was unaudible, muffled by a kiss that he is unfamiliar with. I didn’t care that there were probably people nearby, noticing two male cadets spontaneously sharing a kiss; I didn’t even care if people decided to make a big deal out of it. But as I feel Eguchi-san starting to tremble in fear, my heart starts to sink and my mind begins to race. What had I done…
“Azuma, I… I’m scared…” He whimpers and looks at me.
“I- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—“
“N-No, it’s just… I don’t know what to do… what… should I do…”
I smiled, I don’t care if he’s my senior, I think Eguchi Ryou is the cutest person I have ever met. The way he fidgets nervously with his vest, and the way he bites his lower lip while his cheeks turn more and more red by the second… he really is an adorable person.
"It’s okay,” I whisper and pull him in, “I’ll tell you what to do…”
And with that, I kissed him a second time.
I passed the exam with a average marks, not too high, but not too low - something normal for Sawada Azuma. Other cadets were offered promotions and most of them took it without hesitation. Nanjo-san was picked too, but he declined; he felt that being with Eguchi-san and I was more “beneficial” to him than any higher position job. As for Eguchi-san? He is a genius after all! He purposely made mistakes so he could avoid getting an offer.
Still, Eguchi-san demanded that we have more study dates from now on.