Ryu turned and gave Fumiko-chan a helping hand. She hadn't brought a proper day-pack and staggered as they climbed uphill.
Ahead and behind of them a long line of club members slowly ascended the path to the camping site.
He wiped sweat from his face, allowed Fumiko-chan to pass him and reached out with his hand to help Nori-kun navigate the difficult climb. After that Ryu continued himself. The motor mouth would stay and help Sakura-chan.
A little further up Ruy saw Hiroyuki-kun help Noriko climb over a log that had fallen across the path. Good man, I'll switch with you when I get there, Ryu thought and forced his burning legs upwards.
He was astonished so few of the members complained about the murderous climb, but it seemed like Urufu's walking talking sessions earlier that summer had given them stamina as well as the ability to start thinking outside the box.
We've become a real club. Urufu, you did it! They're helping each other without asking. For a moment elation rose in him, but then thinking of Urufu soured Ryu's good mood. What happened back then? You still haven't told.
Halfway to the log he caught up with Fumiko-chan who was panting heavily and staggered with her arms hanging by her side. She looked like she could use some extra motivation. He tapped her shoulder and prepared a smile. “Fumiko-chan, Aika-chan is ahead of us. Climb to her and have something for me to drink when you get to the summit, will you?”
The girl stopped in her tracks, turned and blushed. “Would you share it with us, Ryu-kun?”
That's gutsy of her. “Of course, how could I live without the company of two beautiful girls?” Ryu said and flashed her a grin. She averted her eyes, but he could see the smile playing over her lips. Prince of Himekaizen, and of this club. That's my job. “I'll join you after I've helped everyone.” Well, they're pleasant enough. I could do with worse company.
He watched her scamper away to where Hiroyuki-kun still stood ready to help people climb over the log.
I've thought of us six as the core, but we're not really the core of the club any longer. He gave Hiroyuki-kun a tired smile and waved him onwards. Half the members take action by themselves now. Urufu, you really changed us. Ryu shook his head and took the position Hiroyuki-kun had held just moments before. Looking back he could see Nori-kun arriving hand in hand with Sakura-chan. The motor mouth would help the girl he so obviously was crushing on without Ryu's help, so Ryu just waved him on after Sakura-chan was safely over the log.
Wonder who's next? So tired I didn't even check who replaced Nori-kun down by the rocks. Ryu wiped more sweat and grime from his face with his arm.
Kyoko arrived helped by Yukio. Another pair that wouldn't need his help. “Who's down there helping people up?”
Yukio looked up and grinned. “Kuri. She's almost as strong as us boys. Urufu's down there taking a rest as well.”
Taking a rest? From what I've seen he should be able to run up the trek. Ryu blinked. He'll piss off the third years when it's time for the marathon, cause I don't see anyone in Himekaizen matching his stamina. “Sure about that?”
Yukio managed to smirk despite his fatigue. “He's back to his bad self again. Kuri will help him up when all the rest have passed.”
Ryu sighed and made space for Yukio. He watched him help his girlfriend over the log, and after that they vanished up the path, still holding hands. I envy you a little, but I'm happy for you both. You of all people deserve it.
Heavy panting from below had him turning his head, and soon afterwards he was helping one of the new girls in the club. Have to learn their names.
It was slow work, but member by member he saw them all passing the log, and shortly afterwards Kuri and Urufu came walking up the path. Ryu only waved at them and started climbing up himself. Kuri would help Urufu anyway, and she'd only complain if he offered them any help.
It didn't take him long to overtake the trailing members, and some cajoling, some insults and some insubstantial promises later he saw them to the summit. Fumiko-chan and Aika-chan stood waiting for him with a bottle each in their hands. That wasn't an insubstantial promise he had given earlier, so he grinned at them and followed them to the table they had chosen. Gratefully he received the first bottle and downed it in one go.
“Thanks, I really appreciate that. You're angels, both of you,” he said, and for once he really meant it.
“Isn't he just adorable?” Aika-chan suggested to her friend.
“And charming, a real prince charming,” Fumiko-chan agreed, and both girls burst into laughter.
“Hello! I'm here you know,” Ryu protested.
They just looked at him, and after Fumiko-chan handed him the other bottle both of them started laughing again.
He couldn't help it. He loved the company of girls, even when they made fun of him, and he soon joined them in their merriment as if it was the natural thing to do. To him, he realized, it probably was.
Mood rising and the worst of his thirst slated he watched how Kuri dragged Urufu the last metres to a waiting table. She sat him down and went for something to drink.
I wonder how they keep it together, Ryu thought, but the company was good, and Urufu was in good hands after all, so Ryu allowed himself to enjoy the atmosphere and continued joking with the girls. Rather unsurprisingly they were joined by two more, and then by a couple of the guys.
It was a good day, cooler up here than by the seaside and it promised to be a pleasant camping experience.