Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Chapter four (segment seven), twenty four years earlier, May, Noriko
Liseberg, Kuri-chan had said during club cleaning day. Well, compared to the pictures she showed them this was nothing like the Liseberg both Kuri-chan and Urufu-kun knew from their previous life.
This park was much larger and they had spent a respectable amount of time on public transport to get here.
The maniacs responsible for Liseberg had placed that park near the city centre. Visitors walked there. If Urufu-kun could be believed.
He also claimed that an international capacity athletics stadium and a major indoor stadium were placed pretty much at leisure walking distance from the centre of the city as well. Everyone knew those kind of buildings were always erected in the outskirts, if even that close. Urufu-kun could be unreliable that way.
“So, are we going inside?”
Noriko got seven nodding heads in return. Wada-san and Taniguchi-san had chosen to enjoy their company today.
They had been showered by a sudden downpour on their way here, but right now it was only overcast. Sunday, May 22. A dating day. Spring of her life.
Kyoko-chan and Yu-kun are closer to dating than I am, and those two don't even have the brains or eyes to see what the rest of the club, everyone in 3:1 and 6:1, and probably half the prefecture has known for a while now.
By now it wasn't even painful to watch any longer. You stopped caring for clowns when they hurt themselves for the umpteenth time.
Amusement park. Amusing for six of them at least. Noriko looked at her idiot brother.
Make that seven. You know you're not supposed to drool that way. We'll need a leash.
She paid, as did the rest of them, and they were inside the gates.
“I have a schedule for the rides,” Ryu announced proudly.
Noriko stared at an ice-cream parlour rather than let anyone see her face. Of course you have.
“Bet the ferris wheel is last on that list. Can't miss that scene just before the end of the episode.” Yu-kun pinpointed exactly why her idiot brother Ryu was wrong in so many ways.
“Ferris wheel scene?” Urufu-kun asked.
“Man, not funny. You two,” Yu-kun stabbed a finger at Urufu-kun and Kuri-chan each, “aren't allowed to pretend you don't know. Taniguchi-san and Wada-san are excused.”
And only two out of four have the decency to blush. Kuri-chan, Urufu-kun, you must have done amusement parks as love birds in your earlier lives!
Kuri-chan shrugged and grabbed hold of Urufu-kun's left arm. “Roller-coaster! Joining me?”
“Hang on, Christina, let's see what the others want first,” Urufu-kun suggested.
Kuri-chan gave him a stare of dislike in return. Or rather his clothes, Noriko guessed. She couldn't fathom what had made him wear that.
The dating couple had kept up a low grade quarrel about his choice of casuals, or 'function clothing' as he called it, since they met. Kuri-chan was less than impressed. Noriko agreed with her.
They hadn't moved far from the gates and were still standing by a small tree with benches in a circle around it.
Right now the crowd was waiting for Ryu's reaction. It was kind of comical to watch. Her brother was at a loss for whom to obey. Kuri-chan or Urufu-kun.
“If the beautiful princess says roller coaster then I'm for,” he finally announced.
“The empress has decided,” Kuri-chan joked. If it even was a joke.
So, your hero worship takes a beating when she calls. I didn't expect that. But in fact Noriko was still reeling from the new knowledge. Fifty, they're ancient!
Roller coaster it was, eventually, decided. And then another. Noriko slowly began enjoying herself more than she had planned. Some of the it because of Kuri-chan's and Urufu-kun's good graces when they occasionally split up and allowed the Wakayama twins a breather from each others.
Urufu-kun and Kuri-chan chained speed-rides one after another without even looking at the slower ones where they would have had a chance to spend some time chatting with each other.
You guys really suck at romance.
And in the end they really didn't seem to care who they rode with. Noriko sat with everyone but the latest couple in the club.
You're strange, both of you.
She enjoyed a watery ride with Urufu-kun behind her when she realised that there was more to it than just her being in love with Moron-sama. She wanted to know more. Not just about what had happened, but about what it was like to see a fifteen year old world through fifty year old eyes.
Ahead of her she saw her brother with Kuri-chan. Was he only pulling pranks or did he ever nurture those thoughts? You should, you know. Now when you can.
She asked, and Urufu-kun answered after ability, or at least as much as he allowed her to know.
After the ride, when they were munching something that passed for food while drying, she heard some unwelcome voices coming closer.
Fan-club incoming. Only half of them club members. The already marginally awkward outing turned into a zoo in a theme park.
Her idiot brother soon found himself surrounded by girls and only looked happier for it. Kuri-chan didn't seem equally thrilled, even though she played the role of princess with gusto.
Noriko took that chance to get closer to Urufu-kun. Just to talk, she told herself.
“Cotton candy?” he asked when she tugged at his sleeve.
“Eh, yes, sure.”
“Come along and help me carry some then. I think I know what the rest of the gang wants.” He waved to Kuri-chan, pointed in the direction of some stalls by a restaurant area and dragged Noriko along.
Won't she be angry? Noriko didn't care and followed in his wake. Behind them Kuri-chan waved back.
By the stalls he ordered a massive amount of sugary treats and soft drinks to go with them. He really only wanted her as a pack horse.
Noriko ground her teeth and allowed herself to be stacked to capacity.
You're enjoying this way too much.
She felt his presence behind her as they both returned with arms and hands full of treats and drinks.
“I can't change how we both feel,” he said suddenly, “but I'll treat you the same as before until you say I'm too close for comfort.”
So he had noticed after all. He was married once for crying out loud! He's got kids older than me. Of course he'll notice! She pretended to shrug. Why do you have to look like you do? Why do you have to be so caring? A new thought built in her and she let her shoulders slump. Do you see me like a daughter? I don't want that.
She had to respond. “I can live with you loving Kuri-chan, but please see me as a friend!”
“I will, and I do.”
Noriko wasn't entirely sure he was speaking the truth.
They distributed their booty, and she glued a smile to her face. Discomfort haunted her long after they had finished eating.
On their way to the next attraction she decided she'd had enough. She nudged her idiot brother in a way he had learned, the hard way, meant “follow my lead”. As expected his eyes turned wary enough for his fan-club to notice.
“Something wrong, Wakayama-san?”
“You sister said something bad to you?”
“Not yet,” he croaked and gave her a panicked look.
Sorry, bro. Scrap that, I'm not sorry in the least. Noriko giggled and snuggled up to a surprised Urufu-kun. Kuri-chan stared at her from a position by Urufu-kun's other arm.
He was thoroughly sandwiched.
For once you don't know what's going on, Kuri-chan. Noriko watched how her brother frantically tried to guess what she was up to.
“Noriko, what are you doing?” Urufu-kun asked as well.
His body felt warm. She didn't mind dragging this out for a little longer.
Oh well, it couldn't be helped. Kuri-chan's fan-club had finally noticed that her boyfriend received more than his fair due of attention.
“Yes?” Noriko said in the sweetest voice she could manage.
“You shouldn't. He's Ageruman-san's boyfriend.”
“But I know that.” Noriko flashed Kuri-chan a smile and felt two thoughtful eyes meet her own. “But I like him anyway, and I've told them both I'm not giving up. She,” Noriko swept her hand in an exaggerated introduction of Kuri-chan, “is my rival.”
“Fat chance,” came the expected reply.
And that was when her idiot brother for once obediently stepped in. He snuggled up equally close to Kuri-chan and smiled at Noriko.
“But guys, sis has me for help.”
“The Wakayamas are scary!”
Urufu-kun frowned at Ryu, but apart from that he didn't do anything more than look uncomfortable with the situation.
“Ryu-kun, that's not cool, stealing his girlfriend like that.”
Her idiot brother knew his cue after all. “But I like her, and they both know I don't intend to give up.” And with an equally over the top gesture he invited everyone present to take a good look at Urufu-kun. “He's my rival.”
Kuri-chan and Urufu-kun clung closer to each other, both with a sibling each hanging on to them.
“Ulf,” Kuri-chan began, “Those twins are bad news,” she finished. But she was grinning widely.
Urufu-kun just smiled weakly and tried to pry Noriko loose. She tightened her grip. It felt good being this close to him, but more importantly, she had paid him back for making her into a pack horse earlier. From now on he would know she wasn't to be trifled with.
As the time for calling it a day grew closer it also became abundantly clear that more than a few had saved the ferris wheel ride for last. With their oversized group that event looked more like a clown parade than an embarrassingly cute but still somewhat romantic finish of their outing.
Not that Noriko had any part in it. She might wish all she want, but she was honest enough with herself to understand that that ride belonged to Urufu-kun and Kuri-chan. If it weren't for another dozen of their friends lining up by the attraction.
“I'll pass one this one,” came Urufu-kun's surprising declaration.
“Yeah, you go on. We'll sit down here and watch,” Kuri-chan equally astonishingly agreed.
Yu-kun stared at them, and even Kyoko-chan had the wits to give them a quizzical look.
Wada-san and Taniguchi-san had already gone far enough in the queue to miss out on the unexpected development on the ground, and one couple were even on the ride.
“You two can't go to the park and not ride the ferris wheel,” Noriko said. Normally she'd happily see the two of them void any romantic scenes together, but this was just too absurd.
“But it has to be the most boring ride in the park,” Urufu-kun complained and looked at Kuri-chan for help.
“Apart from the merry go rounds,” she added.
They're actually agreeing on this? Are they even human?
“Don't tell me that you don't have ferris wheels back home! No, thinking of it there's a huge one in the pictures of that Liseberg place.”
“Eh, sure, but only old people and families ride it. Or gangs of drunk friends.”
“What?” Noriko could see Yu-kun's reality falling apart. Even Noriko knew the basic rules; ferris wheel meet couple, couple meet ferris wheel. But you really don't know any longer, do you? That was over thirty years ago.
More and more of their friends wound up on the ride.
“You really have to.”
Kuri-chan shrugged and rose. She extended a hand to Urufu-kun and they joined the queue together with the other four in the club core.
How did I end up here? Oh well, can't be helped. We'll get Yu-kun alone with Kyoko-chan as a bonus. I guess that's worth having to spend the time with my moronic brother.
And they did get Yu-kun and Kyoko-chan alone after the two of them much too late realised what was happening.
Then Urufu-kun tried to pull a last stunt by attempting to get the remaining four of them together into the next basket, and it was only Ryu's discreetly shaking his head that averted such an outcome.
Looking behind her Noriko could see Urufu-kun and Kuri-chan spending most of the ride merrily chatting about things they saw from their basket. That has to be the two most unromantic people in the world.
On their way out of the park she noticed how Yu-kun and Kyoko-chan were obviously flustered, but Urufu-kun and Kuri-chan only returned uncomprehending stares when they received pointed questions.
Old people. Must be because they really are old people.