Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Chapter three (segment three), 2017, January, Noriko

When she found out that Nao spent hatsumode in Kyoto, Noriko gave up on having him for herself during winter break. While she still thought it grossly unfair she also accepted there were times when life just played dirty.

A full two days later than she originally planned she dressed up to visit a smaller shrine close to their home. Ryu had gone with Ai-chan a day earlier, and if it hadn't been for their parents being adamant about going with old friends Noriko would have tagged along as well.

Now she stood waiting for Kyoko and Yukio who missed out on their chance two days earlier. Apparently they arrived too late to one of the most important of the shrines in Tokyo, and had to leave before they even managed to get inside the compound.

By Noriko's side Urufu weighed from foot to foot. She forced him to tag along when Nao mailed her the reason why he was in Kyoto.

Because you're not spending a week in Kyoto with Kuri and leaving me alone in Tokyo! So Urufu had to do. Which would have been a lot more fun just a few months earlier.

While she still was fond of him almost all remnants of romantic interest had vanished long ago. Almost, but Noriko suspected that a small part of a first love stayed for life.

You haven't said anything,” Noriko muttered.

About what?”

He really is dense. “About me.”

An expression of incomprehension spread over Urufu's face, but he must have spent enough time together with Kuri to at least get the basics. “Sorry,” he said. “You look fantastic. That kimono really suits you.”

To make up for his clumsiness at least he almost never lied about things like that. If he said she looked fantastic, then he meant it. That made Noriko smile a little.

Really think so?” she asked to prolong the sweet feeling a little more.

Yeah, really think so. I just feel uncomfortable giving you a compliment like that. With boyfriend and girlfriend and all that, you know.”

You really are sweet aren't you? Noriko looked at Urufu. I guess you were never the player after all, she thought. But she didn't know. He'd been married for longer than she had lived. There was nothing saying he hadn't been a player before that.

Noriko, over there!”

She looked up and in the direction Urufu pointed.

Yukio, Kyoko!” Noriko called when she saw the friends Urufu had spotted first.

Kyoko waved back, and after she elbowed her boyfriend, so did he.

Urufu fidgeted, and Noriko couldn't help giggling in anticipation of what was coming.

Kyoko, you look great,” he said when they were within earshot.

She did, but that didn't prevent Noriko from bursting into laughter.

Man, what's with that? Stick to your own girl!” Yukio said. “And what's with her,” he continued and pointed at Noriko, who by now laughed so hard her stomach hurt.

That's hilarious!” Noriko said between attacks. “Kyoko, he's just the best!”

Kyoko only returned a nonplussed look. “Yukio, should we go ahead. It might be contagious.”

He grinned back at her. “Honestly, you two, what's going on?”

Nothing,” Urufu muttered. “She,” and Noriko felt his hand patting her head, “told me I had to tell the girls when they look good, and now she's laughing at me because I did just that.”

Kyoko met Noriko's stare and gave her a look that said: 'Give him a break will you?' Noriko pouted back, but the mirth never left her.

Man, you need to have a talk with Ryu. Dammit, even I could help you.”

What did I do now?”

Kyoko, meet Urufu, our resident moron. He spent fifty years learning nothing.”

That was enough to have Kyoko join Noriko in her giggling, and Noriko grinned when she high fived her friend. Yeah, this could be a good hatsumode after all.

Urufu shook his head, but then he offered her his arm. Noriko gratefully accepted it, and together the four of them walked for the stairs to the shrine.

He's funny, Noriko thought. So socially inept, and then suddenly the perfect gentleman.

She had to lean on him more than once during the climb. The stairs were wet with the occasional patch of what tried to be snow.

For this occasion Urufu was of more use than Nao, she guessed. Where Nao was a tall, gorgeous boyfriend, Urufu was strangely muscular with perfect control of his body. And he oozed with friendship.

Noriko slipped several times, and every time Urufu just happened to move just enough that he didn't have to grab her to prevent her from falling. He was just there to stabilise her. Moron-sama, just how many years did you train that martial arts of yours?

Ahead of them Yukio helped Kyoko, who was just as insensibly clad in a kimono with the associated idiotic slippers. Looks good, but it's really useless clothing. Then Noriko thought about some of the dresses Kuri had worn during her shoots. High heels here, yes that would be a sight. But you'd probably just hover up the stairs anyway. Sometimes I envy you.

A few minutes later they found themselves between stalls, and ahead of them Noriko saw the shrine. It was strangely desolated considering it being New Year's and all, but she was grateful not having to be pushed around in a crowd. She'd never be tall enough to enjoy crowded places.

So, what now?”

Noriko had to tilt her head to look at Urufu. “What do you mean?”

Do we start with the funny clapping thing, or is there something else to do first?”

Noriko rolled her eyes. Funny clapping thing! Then she burst out laughing again. “Guys, Urufu wants to know if we should clap our hands first.”

Urufu, man!”

What? Yukio, what did she mean with… ah, yes, I guess we could start with the shrine. And, and, yeah, and clap our hands,” Kyoko finished. Then she joined Noriko in her laughter.

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