Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Chapter four (segment four), 2016, October, Kyoko

Kyoko dropped her chairs by the desks closest to the door and pushed them under their respective desk.

Two members of the literary club were busy cleaning the classroom, but nothing here told of the book store it had been for two days.

“Good festival?” Kyoko asked more out of politeness than any real want to know.

“Superb,” one of the girls said and turned her head. She ceased wiping the blackboard for a moment. “We sold out.”

Eight thousand guests simultaneously. Fifteen thousand in total. You'd better be sold out. “Good to hear,” Kyoko said and headed for the door.

Yukio dropped his chairs just inside the sliding doors and followed her to their clubroom.

Inside she saw how Midori-chan and Sango-chan had dismantled the walkie talkie stations and were busy packing everything up in the boxes it had arrived in.

Kenshin-sempai and the three festival committee members she'd never bothered learning their names were still there as well. Kyoko guessed they'd gotten used to sitting in their clubroom, and there really was no point in relocating for the clean-up.

With tired steps she shuffled away to the fridge and grabbed a can of soda. Just before popping it open she recalled Yukio following her into the room and she peeped inside again.

Lemon squash. He likes the sour stuff. She stretched an arm inside and took the can. “Yukio, want one?” she asked and waved the can above her head.

“Sure, and one for Hiroyuki-kun as well.”

Kyoko looked at the sofa where Hiroyuki-kun sat waving at her. Fine, guess you deserve one as well. She took out a second can and beelined for the armchair closest to the fridge.

“Lemon squash for Yukio and Hiroyuki-kun, here you are,” she said.

“Thanks,” both boys answered simultaneously.

She barely had time to sink down in the armchair before she heard the dull clicks of two cans opening and the sizzling sound of pressurised air leaving the containers, allowing bubble to form and rise. Seconds later both boys sucked foam from their cans.

Kids! Kyoko thought, broke open her can and tilted it to her mouth. The first sip was the best.

A quarter of an hour she spent in that chair. A quarter of an hour in blissful silence when she allowed aching muscles to rest. A quarter of an hour before she began worrying about how Kuri-chan felt right now.

After that more and more club members left the room and headed for the gym. Clubs were of different sizes, most cultural ones too small for having a proper celebration, and for that reason the main evening activities centred on class and school. Clubs only gathered for a short time between cleaning up and ending ceremony.

When Yukio made company with the members recently transferred from Red Rose she joined him together with Noriko and Ryu.

Too easy, too easy to forget there are more former Red Rose students than those in 9:1. The thought scared her a little. The thought and the secret she had been let in on. Most of her fellow students didn't know Urufu had been assaulted in the first place, and almost none knew Red Rose high school students were the perpetrators.

How are you keeping it together, Kuri-chan? Kyoko scowled and admitted to herself that she didn't even know where Kuri-chan was keeping things together. Principal Nakagawa somehow arranged for one of the helicopters suddenly arriving over the school to take Kuri-chan to whatever hospital Urufu had been brought to.

“Thank you,” Kyoko whispered to Yukio when she felt his fingers tighten around hers. Are you as worried as I am?

When they arrived at the gym she had to let go of his hand as they joined their respective classes. With Kuri-chan absent Kyoko gravitated towards the Wakayama twins, and she exchanged worried glances with Noriko before they lined up.

Ryu kept up his stupid antics and got told off by their class rep twice before a scowl from Noriko finally calmed him down.

They're afraid both of them. Just show it in different ways. Kyoko suspected Ryu only knew how to be hyperactive whenever he needed to process something beyond his control.

Around them students she didn't even know smiled and showed her all kinds of approving hand signs. It feels strange, being a part of the admired group. Kuri-chan, you could have told me how to respond. Thinking of her friend had Kyoko's stomach in a tight knot again, but she forced herself to plaster a false smile to her face.

She noticed how a wave of sudden apprehension went through the crowd, and then the student council president entered the stage. Rie-sempai, or more properly Tamura-san for anyone outside the club, grabbed a microphone and served them all what Noriko would have called canned clichés. Kyoko even looked over her shoulder to catch Noriko's smirk.

A second serving of empty words rolled over them delivered by Principal Nakagawa, but in his case Kyoko knew it was all an act. She had no doubts who had called in helicopters and trucks after their frantic attempts at keeping the festival afloat failed and the entire event cracked and broke apart around them.

When the last words fell silent the student council president once more took the microphone and congratulated everyone. The entire gym erupted in cheers before the congregated students left for the soccer field where the traditional bonfire folk dance was being prepared.

So it's been kept a secret after all, Kyoko thought. The jubilation had been too honest for anything else. Maybe it was the smart thing to do. Most certainly it was how Urufu would have handled it had he been in charge. Still it left her with a bitter taste in her mouth.

Listlessly she followed Noriko to the field, and in the falling darkness Kyoko finally let go of her false smile. She'd save smiling for when she found Yukio again.

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