Urufu turned at the touch, and Yukio saw how he pretended to be just as clueless as before.
Clenching his fingers around Urufu's shoulders Yukio made him to stay, and both girls slowly got ahead of them by a few steps.
“You knew Nao never showed?” Yukio asked.
Urufu smirked. “Yeah, Ryu told me, and I got a text from Christina that she and Nao were tied up in Kyoto.”
Two slaps on Urufu's back later, the way Urufu usually expressed sympathy in that strange Swedish way of his, Yukio cleaned away the grimace from his face. “They're trying to break you up?”
He got a nod in return. “But not Nao and Noriko,” Urufu hurried to add. “That's just Nao jumping at the opportunity. Christina told me.”
Yukio couldn't understand why anyone would chose a job before love, but then that maybe was another of those grown up things. “Would you?” he asked, more for confirmation than anything else.
Urufu took a few steps to get closer to the girls ahead of them. “Would I what?”
Yukio caught up with him, but he wanted to know before they joined the girls in the queue. He tugged his cloak tighter around him and gave some time to his line of thought.
“Would you prioritise work before Kuri?”
A cough told Yukio the question had been unexpected. “It's not that easy. At least if you're after a right or wrong kind of answer.” Urufu kicked at a stone, and Yukio saw how his lips had become a thin line. “No, I wouldn't, but at the same time I guess I'm forcing Christina to.”
That made no sense, and it stank of misogyny. “Because she's a girl?”
A sudden laugh made him turn and glance at Urufu.
“Now what made you think that way? No, don't worry. Never that. It's just that she gambled everything on an opportunity last August. I don't want to make her lose it all.”
I wonder if you're not making her lose more if you push her away, Yukio thought. That thought, he realised, ironically enough was the result of spending a lot of time with Urufu and Kuri. Without their perspectives from being adults caught in teen-aged bodies he'd never have grown as fast as he did.
But I guess being an adult isn't the same as being right, or knowing everything for that matter. After all, his parents had been adults when they married, and that didn't work out in the end.
Suddenly feeling depressed he hurried away and joined the girls. Feeling Kyoko near him helped loads, and for once he wished Urufu and Kuri could just be as childishly naive as him and Kyoko.
“What is it?” Kyoko asked.
“Sorry,” Yukio said. “Just thinking about Urufu,” he continued and looked over his shoulder to see if his friend was joining them as well.
Urufu did walk, but he kept his distance, and his tall figure spelled out loneliness contrasted against the colourful stalls behind him.
“Him and Kuri, you mean?”
Yukio turned his attention back to his girlfriend. “Yeah. I just feel bad for them.”
By his other side Noriko tugged at his sleeve. “Could we please not, not today, please,” she said.
“Sorry.” Then the absurdity of his situation caught up with him, and he grinned. A girl at each side of him. Unthinkable only a year earlier, and he couldn't help but feel a little flattered.
Shortly before the came up to the shrine Urufu had joined them, and Yukio left Noriko in his care. Even is she no longer had a crush on him she probably still didn't want do her players alone.
OK, time for the funny clapping. Yukio stole a glance at Kyoko to see if she also remembered Urufu's verbal blunder. When she dropped a coin into the offerings box she turned her face to him. It was split in a grin that reached from ear to ear.
They barely managed to keep from giggling when they pulled the rope and clapped twice.
After that Kyoko led him to where they could buy fortune slips, and when Yukio paid they were joined by Urufu and Noriko. Her face was twisted into a grin as well, and it was only Urufu who managed to keep a deadpan expression while he paid for his own fortune slip.
“Enjoying yourself?” Yukio asked.
“Yeah, kind of. By the way, what do you do when it says your life will suck the coming year?”
Yukio leaned over and looked at Urufu's slip. “Man, that's bad! Kyoko, seems we have to get over to the trees over there.”
She pouted and waved with her slip as well. “That makes two of us,” she said.
You both got bad luck? Isn't that kind of rare?
He led Kyoko to the trees and helped her tie her bad luck charm to one of he branches. On the other side Urufu did the same after he watched what Kyoko was doing.
Feeling a little down Yukio dragged his friends and girlfriend to a stall serving amazake to make up for the unlikely outcome of their fortune telling. He even made it his treat, for which Noriko complained at first. Then she shrugged it off and led the four of them to yet another stall.
With the hot and sweet drink working its way in his stomach Yukio listened absent-mindedly to Urufu's wordy comparison with some kind of mulled wine specific to Sweden that they traditionally drank during the first half of December.
Urufu might be his best friend, but sometimes his tendencies to compare everything with Sweden honestly got tiring, and Yukio had long since gotten used to turn his ears off when yet another litany was incoming.
They ate some more hot food, listened to Urufu's incessant chatter about the absence of fireworks during the shift of years, laughed at a few bad jokes, and eventually they left the shrine, said their goodbyes and left for their homes. In Yukio's case that meant escorting Kyoko to her home before riding his bike from there.