What Noriko just did was incomprehensible. Still, no true malice, of that Kyoko was certain.
She held Noriko's hand and squeezed a little to show there were no hard feelings, despite her own heart falling apart. Noriko had been there, the last time Kuri broke down. She kept the rest of them away. Anyone turning against them all to protect her friend couldn't be a bad person.
But it was incomprehensible.
Over the gravel, steps with a broken rhythm announced Yukio's arrival. His foot never healed perfectly, more a fault of his than his assaulter's. One more week properly on crutches, just as the doctor had said, and he wouldn't limp like this.
“See you, man. Six? I have it. Will tell Kyoko.”
Too many words. Too much willingness to please. Sometimes it was easy to forget how broken Urufu was, and how much Yukio tried to help his friend.
Four of us in 3:1. They're only two.
“Yukio, over here,” Kyoko called as if he could possibly have missed her where she stood with a crutch in one hand and Noriko in her other.
And there he goes. Kyoko followed Urufu's back with her eyes. They'd meet later. Six o'clock apparently. Their main customer probably, as neither Noriko nor Ryu was wanted. There was no end to how many sessions they bought.
“Stay with me, please.”
Kyoko looked at Noriko and saw how much she hurt. Kuri, you and Urufu owe both Ryu and Noriko an apology. They're not adults like you. “I will. Care to join us?” Kyoko added and tilted her head in Yukio's direction.
Where? Somewhere it didn't hurt. “The mall,” Noriko suggested to her own surprise.
Those were happier days. She could still relate to them, and somewhere inside her she cherished the memory of what hadn't happened. Walking home from cram school that day almost a year earlier and noticing two Himekaizen blazers hanging from a hook a floor upstairs in that café. One of them belonged to her Yukio.
He looked at her, and she could almost see the cogwheels turn inside his head. Yeah, I saw you, so what? But she had nursed a mild crush on Urufu shortly after, not Yukio, and she hadn't even known Urufu was Urufu at the time. Well, I got the best guy of those in the end.
“Remember Urufu's bike?”, Noriko began.
Yes! Kyoko's impulse looked like it would pay off.
“He still rides to to school,” Ryu said. “That overpriced racer of his.”
“Overpriced?” Kyoko hadn't thought of Urufu's stuff that way. He preferred high quality items, that much was certain, but overpriced?
Ryu took a few steps, turned and bowed like an old style westerner. With an invisible hat in his hand he returned upright. “May I, dear lady, present for you Urufu's, or moron-sama's' shopping habits?”
“By all means,” Kyoko said. She had learned a little helping Yukio with his part in the play 6:1 did for the cultural festival. She even curtsied a little on the pavement.
“A bike, a mere 300 000 yen, an offer you can't refuse. A backpack. It's a give-away, a fantastic deal in orange that would make its namesake proud. Almost free, just 15 000 yen!”
Kyoko bowed. If she was supposed to curtsey or bow she didn't know, but she wanted to continue the game. A few cars passed and Ryu made a pause for some relative calm to return again.
“When it rains, why settle for an umbrella. No, I've found you a light weight rice boiler for a mere 60 000 yen, trousers included. If it's merely windy, why not have this orange atrocity for 10 000 yen. It doesn't even come with a hood.”
By her side Noriko had started laughing, and Kyoko could see how Yukio stood grinning wildly. Apparently he approved of Ryu's exaggerations.
“For more formal occasions, a business suit. A find at a mere quarter of a million yen.”
That was unfair. It had been a gift from Kuri.
“A watch, same price, but the phone, alas, is a mere hundred thousand.”
Maybe you should stop now. Then it struck Kyoko it was exactly what Ryu shouldn't do. The list of excessive prices put Urufu's White Day gift to Kuri in a different light. Presented like this it was just a reflection on the only way Urufu knew to buy things. Expensive, always horribly expensive, because he lacked the knowledge needed to find find something good without paying in excess.
In front of her Ryu had gone silent, and Kyoko found herself standing still as well.
“He's a self-made man. Dad taught me about those. They're powerful people in their own right, but they never have contacts from birth. They always, always compensate for what they weren't born with.”
What Ryu just said went past her. Maybe it mirrored his upbringing, but Kyoko couldn't place herself in that kind of world. Noriko nodded her understanding, and her smile displayed something akin to respect for her own brother. Yukio just shrugged his shoulders like Urufu would have done.
But I wonder what Kuri-chan would have done. Shrug, most likely. But there would have been that flash in her eyes that said she understood more than anyone else. I think I understand you a little better now. Didn't you say you never bought jewellery but always bought the jeweller?
While the conversation had fallen flat there were smiles on their faces. When they rounded a corner and saw the old mall ahead of them Kyoko pointed at the stand where Urufu's bike used to be locked.
“Right one?” she asked Yukio.
“Damn girl even knows where he placed his crap. But I got her in the end anyway!”
He was never interested in me, but I love you all the more for making it sound like he did. “You got nothing. I reeled you in,” Kyoko said. Loving what Yukio said wasn't the same as allowing him to grow too large a head.
“Upstairs?” Ryu asked.
“Yeah, let's celebrate the absence of Kuri and Urufu,” Yukio said, and Kyoko watched how the two of them high fived each other out of nowhere.