They left Urufu by the station with an evening date as a poor excuse not to take a train themselves. In a way it was a truth as well. The Wakayamas would be sixteen in less than a week, and Yukio wanted to buy each of them a present.
“I doubt we can match Nao-sempai or that Irishima high girl I've seen around Ryu lately,” Yukio said for the third time.
“Ai-chan,” Kyoko reminded him, also for the third time.
“Think they're dating?”
“Uhum. I think so.”
“Strange,” Yukio said, “Ryu rejected everyone confessing to him for half a year, and now he's hooking up with a girl from another school.”
“You don't get to decide who you like,” Kyoko said and tugged Yukio's arm closer. She pulled her scarf tighter around her neck.
I'll get you a new one, Yukio thought. He'd visited her a few times and unless she kept a supply of scarves hidden in her closet he was certain the flimsy thing she wore was the warmest she had.
“Changing topic here. Did you finish those invoices?”
Kyoko nodded. “Ryu's father mailed them a few days ago.” She grinned at him. “Urufu's going to have a heart attack later.”
He probably wouldn't, but he'd definitely asked how come his company made another three hundred and fifty thousand yen during his hospital stay. Not that there would be much left for him after all expenses were paid.
It was all Ryu's brainchild, with the blessing of his father attached to it. Keep customer contacts alive no matter what he had said, and so they did for a nominal fee compared to what Urufu usually charged.
“Think he'll be angry?” Yukio said as they rounded a corner and entered a shopping district.
Kyoko held on to his arm and smirked. “Maybe, maybe not. We're just a bunch of teenagers. I think we were in over our heads when we tried to copy those summer activities.”
Repackaged and standardised, Ryu's father had said. Yukio nodded and pulled Kyoko inside a shop.
“You sure about this?” she asked and changed the topic.
Yukio looked at the smartphone skin Kyoko held up. It was an atrocity in mint green, which was to say just the kind of over the top accessories Noriko used to satirise any kind of teenage girl cuteness weakness.
“Well, she got her new phone recently. I haven't seen her using anything for it yet,” Yukio said. “It's just the right kind of horrible as well.”
“Don't you think it's cute,” Kyoko said and pouted.
Yukio stared at the thing that couldn't decide between the colour of radioactive puke and a gross misunderstanding of modern art. “No, cute has nothing to do with it,” he decided.
They left the shop a couple of thousand yen poorer and a gift-wrapped awfulness in a small paper bag richer, if richer really was the right term for it.
“What did you have in mind for Ryu,” Kyoko asked when they had failed to find anything suitable half an hour later.
Yukio shook his head in despair. Ryu was a hard one to understand.
“Something to drink while we think about it?” he suggested. His feet hurt a bit, and even though Kyoko's boots looked nice on her Yukio doubted they were any good for long walks. While Urufu had disgusting taste in clothes he did have a keen eye for what was comfortable, and some of it had rubbed off on Yukio by now.
Kyoko gifted him with a grateful smile, and Yukio led her to a café that didn't look too expensive. They weren't like the other four who never had to think about money.
And that's unfair of me. Kuri had a hard time earlier. Still, since summer the other four spent money in a way that was foreign to him.
A waitress arrived and took their orders, and Yukio decided to push his thoughts aside. They had a tinge of envy to them, and given what Urufu and Kuri had endured the last six months envy was the last that came to his mind.
Yukio shot Kyoko a glance when she looked out the window. You're beautiful, he thought. And there's no one trying to break us apart. He grabbed her hands on the table and looked at her when she turned her face to him.
“I love you,” he said.
Kyoko cradled his fingers in hers and smiled. “I love you too.”
Making sure the other guests didn't look in their direction he leaned over the table and kissed her.
When he leaned back to watch her reaction he saw a small TV mounted to a wall. The sound was off, but he could read that a police investigation concerning systematic harassment was taking off. It didn't say Red Rose anywhere, but Yukio suspected that Kuri's smear campaign slowly bore fruit in a more serious way.
“Kyoko, behind you.”
She turned and watched the newsfeed together with him.
“Afraid?” she asked when it was finished.
“A little,” he admitted.
“Do you think she'll pull it off?”
Yukio leaned his head to his shoulder and grimaced. “I hope so, or it's going to be very bad for her.”
He could see a slight shiver running though Kyoko's body.
“I'm afraid it'll be bad for her even if she pulls it off,” she said.
There wasn't any good reply to that. Yukio shared her sentiment and fears, but for whatever it was worth their attack on Red Rose had gained a momentum where they could no longer abort it.
“It was her decision,” he said. “I don't think she could have avoided it even if she wanted. There was so much hate and rage in her after they attacked Urufu.”
Kyoko closed her hand over his. “I know. What do you think of it?”
What do I think of it? “I don't know. I guess our days of waiting have come to an end. That's what I think.”