Chapter 8

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Me and [l/n] start drawing. Or rather she starts drawing. I almost feel bad for making her draw both of our portraits. Yare yare, I guess I'll have to make up for it somehow.

I draw some perfect circles to stay occupied, glancing up at [l/n] periodically to avoid suspicion. After awhile I get bored and decide to draw her for real. I don't really know why, it only occupies me for a few seconds before it's done.

I look down at the page. [l/n]'s face holds the same look as it always does, a strand of hair resting a bit farther down on her forehead than the rest, just above her expressionless eyes. Her mouth is relaxed except for the corners which hold a slight downturn, and as usual, one of her brows is more tensed than the other. Something I've noticed she does when she's focused. That or irritated. Teruhashi might have been a bit harsh calling her plain. Her face is... Decent.

I'm starting to understand what [l/n] meant by subtle expressions. Hers are hard to read at first glance, I can't stare at her like this to her face, but being able to focus on her expression through the drawing makes it a little easier to see what she's feeling. She seems...

"Hey."

No matter the volume, [l/n]'s voice still manages to catch me off guard. Her brow downturns slightly out of hesitation, and she doesn't look at me.  "Are you... Okay?"

I feel my brow raise at the unexpected question, but try to dodge it.

'If you're talking about yesterday, I'm  fine. Like I said, it was just a headache.'

Her face deadpans. "That too, but that's not what I meant."

I spare her a glance. 'Then...?'

She resumes her sketching, but keeps talking. "It just looks like something's bothering you, I don't know."

Am I really that obvious?

'What are you even saying? I always look like that.'

"Then something must always be bothering you. At least when you're around me."

My body goes tense. 'For someone who doesn't talk much, you sure have a lot to say around me. Have you even said a word to anyone else?'

She shrugs. "I normally don't talk to people I don't know or like unless I have to. I had to communicate to help with our project, that's the only reason I talked to you at first. But talking to you isn't bad. I don't mind it now."

I don't really understand what about me makes me good for conversation. I'm usually dry with my words. 'I hope you don't think we're going to be friends or something.'

[l/n] raises a brow. "I just said I don't mind talking to you. Don't get ahead of yourself."

'Whatever. You almost done?'

[l/n] looks down at the page in front of her. "Just about. Now are you going to tell me what's bothering you, or are you going to keep dodging the question?"

'Tsk. You're persistent, you know that?'

"Not as persistent as you are stubborn."

'And you're not?'

She sighs. "Whatever, it's not like you're obligated to tell me anything."

She suddenly holds out a page to me, wordlessly changing the subject. "Here, an average portrait like you wanted. It'll get you by. If you want to modify it to get a perfect C that'll be up to you."

I take it from her hands. It's as she said, an average looking portrait of herself. I can't modify it anyway, but I don't think I'd need to even if I could. It seems like she already tried to aim for the exact middle like I wanted. That alone might've been difficult. '... Thanks.'

She gives a nod of acknowledgment. I expected her to show me the portrait she drew of me as well, but she tucks it in her folder instead.

Not long after everyone finishes, Teruhashi trots up to us with a smile. It's friendly as usual, but it almost feels eery. "Hey you guys! How did your portraits go?"

She looks at [l/n]. "Aw did you tuck yours away already? But you're so talented, I wanted to see your work!"

I see now why [l/n] was in a hurry to put her portrait away, but it seems her efforts went to waste. She hesitates before she opens her folder, pulling out the page to hand over to Teruhashi.

As she examines the page, Teruhashi's expression flattens. 'I knew I was better, but I set my expectations too high. Anyone in this class could've done that. Maybe she doesn't have a thing for drawing faces?'

Not quite.

'Still, I guess it does look like Saiki. Wait, maybe that's the point! She drew him with average effort on purpose because he is average! It makes it even more accurate than if she made it look nice. It looks more like him than when I drew him! She beat me after all!'

This is just sad. You're looking into it too much.

And I know me appearing average is kind of the point, but did Teruhashi have to rail on my appearance so much?

Teruhashi hands the portrait back to [l/n]. "It looks just like Saiki! Good job [l/n], you completely captured his essence!"

[l/n] raises a brow but says nothing. She's good at reading emotions, but these thoughts in particular are too specific to understand unless she were to have telepathy like me, so I understand her confusion at Teruhashi's reaction. And for whatever reason, she also seems displeased about the "essence" part.

After [l/n], Teruhashi turns to me next. "What about you, Saiki?"

'Whether he drew a portrait this time or not, I'm still curious.'

I wordlessly hand the portrait over. I'm honestly not sure how Teruhashi will react.

She stares for a moment, a complicated expression making an appearance on her face. 'So Saiki did draw her. To be honest, his isn't all that impressive either. He must've been afraid to draw me average-looking so he didn't draw me at all, but [l/n] isn't all that impressive-looking, so he felt comfortable drawing her. I understand now.'

Again, looking into it too much. Yare yare, I should've known this wouldn't go over well. Although I suppose I'm better off than [l/n], even if she doesn't know it. The only good thing that came of this was that Teruhashi bought that the portrait was mine.

[l/n] did me a favor, but she might've unintentionally made things worse for herself because of me. Great, now I really owe her. She's stubborn so she might refuse, but I think I know how to work around it and return the favor.

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