Friday, 7 August 2015

Chapter five (segment six), 2016, August, Ryu

“See you later.”

Just a few days until autumn term, so 'later' wasn't exactly some distant occasion. Then why did it feel like a farewell? Ryu waved after Kuri and Urufu as they headed for the local trains. Yukio and Kyoko trailed behind because they would take the same train anyway, and both wanted something to eat after the awful train-ride all the way from south of Ise to Tokyo.

He looked out the entrance to Tokyo central station. Their mother would pick them up by car, and after that Kyoko and Yukio most likely took the sub to whatever restaurant district they preferred.

Ryu wondered about that. How quickly they all had gained the trust of his parents and Urufu's guardian. Too quickly. They had been left to their own devices the last week. Sure, Principal Nakagawa stayed to handle Kuri's make up exams, but he didn't patrol the corridors at night to make sure they didn't sneak into each others' rooms.

It wasn't that he disliked it. Freedom meant responsibility, and he guessed he had grown enough to want to shoulder some. Him and his sister.



“Ryu, wake up!”

Sis? Oh, mom's here already. “See you, guys,” he shouted to Kyoko and Yukio. Ryu waved at them when they turned and walked to the subway area.

“Coming sis.” He shouldered his backpack and with the help of his sister they carried the large bag to the waiting car. Mom, you're not supposed to park there, but you never did care much for rules, did you?

He lifted all bags into the trunk and took his seat beside his mother. Noriko opened one of the rear doors and he saw her buckle up in the rear mirror.

“Fun field trip?” he asked as if she hadn't spent the last couple of weeks with him.

“Yes, but I'm tired and hungry now. Mom what's for dinner?”

“Hot pot. Dad's preparing it right now. It'll be ready when we come home.”

Ryu grinned where he sat. By now he longed for a bath and something more normal to eat than the food they had been served at the resort. It had been good food, but in the long run he missed his parents cooking, and especially the bantering around a simmering pot.

“How was work?” his mother asked when they stopped for a red light.

“Wonderful!” Noriko exclaimed from the back seat before Ryu had a chance to respond. She leaned forward as far as he seat belt allowed. “I've learned so much. I never guessed he knew so much.”

“Who?” their mother asked, but it was a redundant question. Neither mother nor son needed to see Noriko's furious blush to know the answer.

“You like him, don't you?” their mother asked when Noriko refused to answer. “Why don't you steal him from her?”

“Fat chance,” came the sullen reply. Then Noriko's voice lit up again. “But I'll move on. I think being friends with him is the most important, and I like Kuri as well. She's a much better friend than I had thought.” There was a moment of hesitation, and Ryu could hear her leaning back in her seat again. “I think she's really awesome when she works, but she seems more like dad than you.”

“I think you're right,” their mother said. “I got a good impression of her, but she can be cold sometimes.”

After some silence Noriko coughed. “Mom, what do you think about Urufu?”

They drove through a tricky intersection in silence, but Ryu could see how his mother mulled over the answer to that question. “He's a good man I believe, but sometimes I wonder if he isn't broken. Something bad happened.”

Yeah, you could say that. Principal Nakagawa and his manhunt happened, but I don't know if we can tell. Then Ryu remembered the promise he had given his mother in Sapporo. “Mom, he got caught up in a suicide. Principal Nakagawa used him to find one of the guys from last year.” How much can I say? How will sis react?

“Don't worry about me. I'm mostly over it,” Noriko said from the rear as if she had read his mind. “But yes, it ended with a suicide and Urufu had to watch it all.”

“I hope she's strong enough then. Noriko, you should stay away from him apart from your friendship. At least until he's whole again.”

If he ever will be. There are things about him you don't know mom. Things you wouldn't believe or understand. Ryu shuddered, and the feeling of being unable to handle a secret of this magnitude weighed him down. He didn't like telling half truths to his parents. It was almost as bad as lying outright.

They drove the rest of the way in silence, and sometime after he heard his sister snoring softly he must have fallen asleep himself, because when he was about to ask his mother about something he had seen as they passed by he found out they were already home.

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