“That's just not fair!”
“And she's only a first year. Some people just get everything for free.”
“At least she's no up there.”
“Well, she's a bimbo after all.”
Kyoko grimaced but said nothing as the indignant conversation to her right continued. To a degree she could understand the two juniors.
But it wasn't for free, was it? You kept swimming after all. And with those long legs Kuri-chan must have had an easier time eating up the distance. In the end she made the top ten and second best among the freshmen.
Sporting a happier grin on her lips Kyoko looked up at the wall. Unsurprisingly Kuri-chan's name wasn't anywhere to be seen, and neither was her own. More out of loyalty than anything else she looked for Yukio and Urufu, but as she knew their names were absent as well. Ryu squeezed in at number 45 and Noriko regained her third place.
They'd all go visit Ryu after school. He lay sick at home with a fever he caught after he collapsed little over halfway into the marathon earlier this week.
You moron! Kyoko thought and glared at Noriko. What were you thinking forcing Ryu to keep up with Urufu?
'I'm worried' the midget idiot mumbled in an attempt to defend herself a day earlier. You'd better be worried. Did it ever occur to you how much time Urufu spends training?
Because in the end Urufu won his bet with Kuri-chan when he proved the difference between cynical calculation and youthful ambition. For nine kilometres and seven hundred metres he had clung to the backside of a sophomore track and field distance runner close enough to pull his jersey had he wanted. The remaining three hundred metres turned into a display of applied humiliation. Urufu crossed the finishing line before the second year even reached the school grounds.
Still, the talk among the girls made Kyoko seethe with anger. Kuri-chan wasn't allowed her upset while Urufu turned into an instant hero.
The bimbo in question came up behind her and leaned her head over Kyoko's shoulder. “I don't mind,” Kuri-chan said. “Let them talk.”
The conversation turned into a whisper, and both juniors edged away from them. Kyoko didn't know if they felt ashamed or if they just wanted to get away from Kuri-chan's presence.
“You?” Kyoko wondered and looked up at the wall.
Kuri-chan followed her eyes and smiled. “Two make-up exams. Just wait for the last trimester. I'll get a passing grade all over at my first try.”
“Math and Japanese. Won't be a problem. You?”
“Hundred and five,” Kyoko said. Her sessions with Yukio had paid off. “Yukio made number hundred and twenty, so I beat him again.”
They stood looking at each other.
“One make-up exam,” Kuri-chan finally said. “English.”
“English?” It made absolutely no sense. Urufu taught English to the rest of the club.”
Kuri-chan smirked before answering. “He says his English teacher is an idiot. I say Ulf is an idiot for keeping up that private war of his.”
“Ulf thought it was a good idea to point out five errors on the exam paper, in writing. He got slammed for it and called to the teachers' room.”
Yeah, he's a moron all-right. “And?”
“If he says there were five errors then there were five errors. He's the one with a master's degree, not the teacher.”
He's got a master's degree? It was all too easy to forget that both Urufu and Kuri-chan had left their high school years behind them a long time ago. Kyoko hadn't thought about any of them pursuing an academic career in their previous life. But he's still a moron. You just don't talk back to the teachers.
“We come from a very different world,” Kuri-chan said as if she had read Kyoko's mind. “From my experience there's nothing wrong with pointing out a teacher mistake. Sure, Ulf's taking it way too far, but still.”
And you admire him all the more for it. At least be honest with yourself. Kyoko could only shake her head. Urufu and Kuri-chan quarrelled from time to time, but much more often they looked at each other with what was best described as adoration. In a way they were each other's fanatical one-person fan-club.
And what does that make Yukio and me? The question caught her by sudden surprise but also with realisation. We're not the same. Kuri-chan and Urufu are used to being the centre of attraction, or at least Kuri-chan is. Given a closer thought Kyoko decided it was probably true for Urufu as well, even though in a different way.
“You're silent,” Kuri-chan observed.
“I just found something out,” Kyoko said. “About the two of you.” There was no reason to be anything but open with Kuri-chan. Their friendship might have changed since summer, but both tried their best to be honest.
“Winter break next I guess,” Kuri-chan said and looked past the shoe-lockers and across the school-yard.
Kyoko tugged at her friend's sleeve and pulled her towards the stairwell. Halfway there the sounds of excited, sullen and happy students watching the wall had faded behind them.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” Kyoko asked as they started up the stairs.
“Well, unless you're stuck with complementary lessons,” Kyoko said and managed to squeeze in a rather blunt warning that her friend had better be serious about her make-up exams.
Kuri-chan just laughed and climbed another flight. “I'll have a batch of those, but not because of the make-ups. I'm taking middle school level lessons in Japanese.
Kyoko knew about the cram school her friend tried to keep a secret, so she didn't say anything. “Apart from that. I guess you're not joining the party,” she added and grinned.
“For the singles? Don't think so. I've got Ulf.”
There was something forlorn in the voice that made Kyoko look closer at her. Keep fighting. We'll help you.