Friday, 17 April 2015

Chapter two (segment two), twenty four years earlier, May, Ryu

He was the eternal clown. He knew that, even though he never thought of himself as the laughing stock of anyone.

“Hey, look at that!” One of the Watabe twins shouted from the windows, and sure enough, a few seconds later the other materialised beside him.

One striker and one midfielder, and they were good. Though Ryu prided himself with being good at just about any physical activity, when it came to soccer he was no match. The twins shared a mental link on the field, and even individually each of them was far better than he could ever hope to be.

And they were part of his extended net of acquaintances. He needed it. Hell, anyone would need one if they grew up with a larger than life midget as a sister. He had to keep up the illusion of being the centre of the universe. He attracted people, but his sister did so as well, even if she didn't believe it herself. And to top it off, for being so short, she sure stood tall every exam he could recall.

Ryu rose and located said midget. A few quick steps and he scooped her up in his arms and threw he over his shoulders.

“Down bro! Let me down!”

He disregarded the protests and carried her to where the twins were standing. From behind his right shoulder the shrieks of verbal trashing continued. He could see Ageruman-san coming to the rescue with Takeida-san trailing her steps like a loyal dog.

“Moron, drop your sister!”

“That translates into letting her down gently, you king of idiots!”

OK, maybe not a loyal dog after all. And I'm a prince. Old people are kings.

“If she can climb down on her own,” he shouted over his left shoulder, a movement that left his older sister flailing wildly. It was time to obey the orders coming from three sources, or those sources would have his hide later.

Takeida-san would have been a handful on her own, but she paled in comparison with his sister. And then there was Ageruman-san. For the first time he could remember he had to fight for his place in the limelight. And he was losing badly.

Not that he minded losing to her all that much.

Not that he minded anything with her.

Ryu shook his head and pretended to look at whatever the Watabes were studying. Soccer, of course it had to be soccer.

Below them, on the field, class 6:1 had their lunch break just before PE, and the guys were slugging it out. Compared to the Watabes 'slugging' was an apt term.

“He's pretty bad, isn't he?”

“Yeah, but strong. And he's quick as a snake.”

“Still a crap player. Anyone that tall could be a decent striker.”

Ryu stopped pretending and started looking for whomever had caught the interest of the twins.

“No soccer player that one.” That had to be Okamoto-san, from 1:1 or 2:1, Ryu could never remember which class. “Budoka, and a damn good one. Look at his stance!”

Below them a tall guy jumped and tried heading the ball into the goal, but it flew wide of its target. Then he landed, slid on his feet, swivelled and accelerated back to take part in the defence. Crap, he ought to have bowled those two defenders over. How the hell did he avoid them both?

Beside him Noriko suddenly cut the verbal trashing short and became noticeably silent. A Noriko silent after being manhandled by him was worth taking note of. Ryu looked down to read her face. Oh, that's interesting. He knew that look. He'd seen it often enough on other girls. With himself as the object of affection.

She's crushing hard! Damn, sis looks like someone clubbed her from behind!

He stared out the window. It had to be the guy who had just caught his attention. I've seen him before. Ryu took another look at his sister. Her face displayed the slight blush he expected to find there, and a quizzical recollection. She's seen him before as well?

“Cute, or even husband material, eh?” he teased her.

Noriko turned so red he could have sworn her hair was about to blush as well. Ryu was about to embarrass her some more when suddenly…

First Takeida-san went sour all of a sudden, and then...

“Man! Did you see that?”

Two defenders had collided and were falling to the ground. Oblivious of the impossible action the tall one slid under them, twisted mid air and came out rolling on the other side. He was already racing after the ball.

“Yeah. Cool, but he's still a crap player. Midfielder should go for the ball, and he should run for the goal instead.”

“Who gives a… Damn, karate or jujitsu? Both?”


“The bastard's at least a black belt in both an offensive and a defensive style. That's impossible!”


“His age. I'd know who he was. Tokyo's big, but not that big!”

Beside him Noriko had paled, and Ryu felt the colour drain from his own face.

Yes, we both know him. Sis, I'm so sorry!

“He saved me, and I never thanked him,” she whispered. “I never thanked him, and then he vanished.” Limply she dropped her lunch to the floor. Her bottled tea bounced under a desk, but the wrapped bread just thudded to the floor and hugged it like a bag of sand.

Ryu bent down. For once it was time to play it with a semblance of tact. “You can now,” he said. She had turned down two guys the last year because of a dream, and now he had seen her fall in love with that dream again. This time before she even recognized him. That makes it a double first.

“I hate it! He scares me,” she said. “I got all warm and cosy, and it was a new guy, and I could forget, and I could make a new dream, and, no. Not fair!” Noriko stared at him. “It just had to be the same one. I hate it!”

Ryu embraced his sister. This wasn't a time to be cool, and she didn't need the rest of them to see how small she was. For once she was just a midget and nowhere close to larger than life.

Behind him he could feel Ageruman-san watching him. And Noriko. And Takeida-san. The three of them were being studied like a new and novel specimen at the zoo. Ageruman-san could be cold that way, like she was comparing them to a secret of hers.

Below them cheers rose to the windows.

“Finally! With that speed and stamina even that guy had to score eventually. Damn, he really is hopeless!”

And he had scored. With a kick. Force instead of skill. A kick hard enough to shatter, for example, a knee. Ryu knew he should have remembered the guy, but the cheering teenager below them looked nothing like the raging avenger who had saved Noriko more than half a year earlier. The one she had fallen in love with while he was busy being expelled from school.

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