In the end Kuri left them to their own devices with another promise to make up with her boyfriend. Noriko felt happy for her brother. Idiot as he might be he still truly cared for Kuri, and as far as Noriko was concerned the two of them made a good couple. That Urufu didn’t get dragged into something dangerous was an added bonus.
Yeah, dangerous, right! You’re just jealous of Kuri. But to be honest Noriko didn’t fear Kuri all that much any longer. Sure sometimes, just like at that café earlier, the tall model made her feel supremely uncomfortable, but those moments never lasted for long.
That was hours earlier. Right now she was panting by Urufu’s side as they climbed Fushimi Inari-taisha, or rather one of the endless gated paths up the mountain. Earlier this day her world had been a green fantasy land of bamboo. Now it was red or orange and made of toris. It was as if the gates stood upon each other.
It was all very beautiful and all that, but unlike Urufu Noriko didn’t have the stamina to climb mountains at a pace like this. Sure, the clubs walking talking sessions did wonders, but Urufu and endless walking was an entirely different beast. He was also clumsy with the small things that Ryu never was.
“Too fast,” she panted. “Wait for me!”
He turned. “Sorry.” Then after just a few more steps he was ahead of her again.
“I said wait.”
“Ah, sorry, you’re slow.”
Really! “You’re an arse.” She loved him, but right now he was a twat.
He did slow down his steps, and with her hand in his, pulling just a little to show him it was hard work climbing the hill, they made it up the next crest. There was kind of a view, but for all the work getting up here Noriko felt a little disappointed.
“I’d like to continue a little more,” Urufu said.
Noriko looked around her. The gates thinned out considerably from here on, and the prospect of climbing even further didn’t appeal all that much to her.
“Not going back?” she wondered.
Urufu still gazed at what view was offered. “If that’s what you want,” he said just to prove that he wasn’t oblivious to her presence. There was something forlorn in his voice that had Noriko swallow the affirmative words that already lay in her mouth.
“What I want? Shouldn’t I be what we want?” He had suggested they trudge on. She gave him another look. Always straightforward he still wasn’t always honest with what he wanted for himself. Could I hope? “Something you know about the mountain?” she asked and gave the hill a little more credit than it deserved.
He smiled, just a thin line, but it reached all the way to his eyes. “There are less people there,” he said, and her heart jumped at his words.
This is where I’m very careful with what I say. She walked to his side and grabbed his hand again. Pretending to share the view with him she thought about the right words. “I’d very much like somewhere less crowded with you,” she decided upon.
“It’s an extra hour,” Urufu said as if he waited for her to change her mind.
She felt wind running through he hair and turned her face to meet him. How he could possibly believe an extra hour spent in relative solitude with him wasn’t worth the effort was beyond her. “My pleasure,” she said and pretended she hadn’t noticed that while her mind was full of him her legs still believed further walking was a supremely stupid idea. Note to self: don’t get angry at him just because you’re tired. She made that note into a promise.
Thank you? Noriko grabbed both his hands. “You don’t have to thank your girlfriend for wanting to spend time with you,” she said and surprised herself with her boldness. It was of a different kind than when she made her attempts at getting him into bed with her. This was a more important kind of boldness, one of hearts rather than of body.
He just grinned. Finally one of the wolfish grins that had both her and a few too many other girls turn in his direction. This time, however, it was for her alone. “Then this boyfriend would very much want to spend the rest of the day just with his girlfriend,” he said.
For the first time in a very long time she gave him a look where she studied him as if they hadn’t known each other for a while. At the end of his teens he grew a roughness to his face that maybe not everyone found attractive, but those who did couldn’t forget. Sturdier than the sexless definition of male beauty that went these days, but the combination of brilliance and strength was fatal for her. His was not just the beauty of someone who knew how to weather out a storm, but of one who knew how to do it with less effort despite being able to brute force it.
“You’re unfair,” she said.
“Unfair, how so?” he said, let gor of one hand and led her further up the hill with the other firmly in his hand.
Noriko waited a few minutes, just enough to appreciate how he finally matched his steps with her. “You know that I really love you, don’t you?”
He faltered a little. “I do,” he said. “I don’t really understand what I’ve done to deserve it, but I do.”
She snuggled up closer to him. This part of him she definitely liked. “Because you’re you. Because you care and because I feel that you love me back,” she said. It wasn’t even close to describing everything he had done to make her fall for him, but right now it was enough.
He stopped in his tracks, and finally he bent down and kissed her. She grabbed his head with both her hands and kissed him back. Japanese sensibilities be damned. She had longed for this the entire trip.