Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Chapter two, 2017, schism, segment eight
Noriko walked a few steps ahead of Urufu and Yukio. In the middle, torn between love and friendship, Kyoko hung as if she was strung up on a rubber band running from the boys to Noriko.
If it had been Kuri you wouldn’t have a problem, Noriko thought. Then she regretted it. That bitterness was unbecoming, and Kyoko had done nothing to deserve it. Noriko silently apologised to her friend in her mind.
What happened? Noriko listened to the boys bantering behind her, or rather the man and the boy. In one year I made the best friends of my life, but it feels like we’re breaking apart. The question remained. What happened?
“Noriko, wait for me!”
So you finally solved that puzzle. “Oh, sorry,” Noriko said. She wasn’t, and she wasn’t above teasing Kyoko a little. However, she did wait. When her world broke down both Kyoko and Kuri were there caring for her. Kyoko still was.
When Kyoko caught up to her Noriko had slowed down enough for the boys to overtake them.
“How are you?”
“I don’t see you smiling much.”
Maybe that was true. Thinking of Nao hurt, and not thinking of him at all was impossible. Noriko clenched her fists and nodded. “Haven’t seen much to make me smile.”
“Oh come on!”
Noriko felt a hand grabbing her blazer and turned. Staring at Kyoko’s cardigan she couldn’t but help look at the bust filling it out. Maybe if I had more of those Nao wouldn’t…
“They hurt, and they’re not the reason Yukio wants me.” Then Kyoko’s face flared red. “Not the only reason. I mean… oh shut it!”
Oh! I forgot. “You and Yukio. At that resort.”
“Yes, and we told you already.”
“He saw you?”
Noriko received a glare in return. It would have been scarier if Kyoko’s face hadn’t been beet red.
“Of course he did!”
And impossibly enough Kyoko’s face reddened even more.
“Hey, girls, what are you...”
Noriko glanced at Kyoko who had shouted the same demand as her, and they laughed together.
“Yukio, straight forward.” Urufu’s voice. “No looking. You heard them.” This time it came out strangely muted.
Noriko swore she could hear Urufu stifling a laughter, and the only reason she didn’t see his shoulders shaking must be that oversized blazer of his.
He goes on about how lightweight he is, but here he’s solid. Noriko caught herself staring at Urufu’s back. I watched it when he saved me. And with that thought came the memories of the assault and her crush on the troublesome foreigner with the funny hairdo.
They closed in on the Haven, and Noriko spent some time walking down memory lane. How she had fallen in love once again with the boy who saved her; this time not even knowing it was the same guy, and how she eventually had to give him up, because there was nothing coming between the fiery love burning between him and Kuri.
An arm hugged her closer and Noriko knew Kyoko understood what was going on in her head. Thank you. Kuri might be your best friend, but you’re my best friend.
As they drew closer to the entrance Noriko’s memories chaotically surged around in her head. Nao chasing her, and her rejections of him. Should I have kept rejecting him. I wouldn’t hurt like this if I had. But she wouldn’t have experienced that love neither.
I promised myself I’d never regret what I did.
With some of her self confidence restored she raised her head, tears be damned, and smiled. Her cheeks were a little salty when she licked her lips.
“Noriko, how are you?”
Noriko grinned. “Fine.” And strangely enough she was. Remembering how much she had been in love with someone else than Nao made her feel fine. In a way it was like cheating a little on Nao, two timing him in her head if nothing else. Thank you for being there Urufu.
As if she had called out to him he turned and looked at her. She got the strangest of smiles from him. Nothing like the wolfish grin she had wanted for herself. Sadder, and a lot lonelier.
I forgot you’re hurting as well, but you idiot! You did that to yourself.
Then they were at the door, and Yukio pushed it open. Kyoko left Noriko’s side and rushed to her boyfriend.
Noriko brushed her eyes with the back of her hand just as the doorbell jingled. Good thing I don’t waste my time with make-up. It would have been ruined by now.
She pinched her cheeks to give them some colour and went inside.
It was time for Urufu’s show. Noriko wasn’t sure she liked it much, but when it came to understanding what made an organisation tick she trusted him over anyone else, even over her own father.
Mom maybe could match you, but I don’t think so. Noriko sent a silent apology to her mom.
“Look who’s here!”
“The absent heroes!”
“Your benign lord has arrived to grace his subjects,” Urufu shouted.
So you had this side to you as well? Noriko shot him a surprised stare. You really meant what you said about idiot bro being the prince and you the king.
She hardly listened to the jeers. An Urufu she had never seen before drew all of her attention.
You’re not supposed to do that!
He climbed a table, with his shoes on and all, and clapped his hands over his head.
As if you needed to be any taller in the first place!
“My loyal subjects, listen to you king. Heed his call!”
From the corner of her eyes Noriko saw students exiting the inner room, Kuri among them. She threw Urufu a long, longing glance before she stared at her feet. Behind her idiot bro arrived, one hand possessively grabbing Kuri’s hand.
Ryu, you’re outmatched. I’ve never before seen anyone shine more brightly than you.
“Watch my loyal lieutenants. First among equals,” Urufu called out. “When we’re all gathered like this, what do we do?”
Some of the jeering died down.
“What do we do?”
Are you going to lose it now?
“You don’t know?”
He had their entire attention now. For a few more seconds, if even that.
“Then how lucky you are, because your king does!”
Urufu clapped twice. Yukio dropped his backpack on the table between Urufu’s feet.
“Bring out the goods, my good man!”
“As you command, my liege.”
Damn you. You prepared it!
“Remember your number! Over there! One.” Urufu pointed at Hitomi-chan. “Two, three, four, five, six, and, one, two...”
Kyoko, I envy you. You made the better choice.
“And now, my people, we start this year’s first real walking talking session. Yukio, Kyoko, assignments. Noriko, backup. Ryu and Kuri, trim the teams. Jirou, you help our freshmen. Ai, you handle the Irishima crew.”
They’re spellbound. Urufu, you bastard! But she couldn’t help staring at him in admiration, and Noriko, for the first time, understood fully what had once made her fall in love with Urufu. It had been there all the time, but he had hidden it so well.