A Noriko all dressed up on a Sunday didn’t pass Ryu by. She never dressed up unless required for a formal occasion, but what she wore now, the way her hair was done, and the almost invisible make-up turned his cute sister into the kind of almost woman who had men turn their heads in the streets.
Who the hell dolled you up?
Ryu swore and turned on his heels. He’d be damned if he allowed Noriko to play that kind of game with Urufu, or rather let Urufu have his way with his sister.
If he hurried he’d make it down the stairs and catch up with Noriko. There was still some time before Kuri was to arrive for their date. Their late date. She had an errand to take care of first she had said over the phone.
He took the stairs four steps at a time, almost like at school, and a few guests stared at him from their seats on the bottom floor when he exited the stairs. Ryu almost made it to the doors when his way suddenly was blocked by a woman in a very expensive dress.
“I’m sorry, but...”
Ryu looked up and stared into Kuri’s eyes. “Ah, look, I just...”
“It’s sis, and she looks like...”
“She looks beautiful.”
“Kuri, the way she looks she’s going to catch all kinds of wrong attention. I have to stop her.”
Kuri grabbed his arm and turned him around when he tried to pas her. “Look kiddo, I put a lot of effort into making her that beautiful. You’re not going to interfere with her life that way.” It wasn’t an order, but rather a statement.
“Yes, me. She doesn’t know it, but there are women who’d pay hundreds of thousands of yen for the make over I gave her, and we’re not even talking clothes here.”
“You, but why?”
Kuri let go of his arm. Her grip had been surprisingly strong. Instead she took his hand and led him back up the stairs.
Ryu noticed the glances the two of them attracted. By now it was mostly a matter of fact how otherworldly beauty and teenage dream prince demanded the attention of just everyone whenever they were in the same room, and Ryu knew it was Kuri who made him shine, not the other way around.
She smelled faintly of herself, just more strongly so, and Ryu guessed she had ordered some kind of miracle perfume mix suited for her personally, a mixture perfected over a lifetime in the fashion world.
Not until they were both seated at the table he had abandoned just moments earlier did he understand how masterfully Kuri had prevented him from running after his sister. Even defusing a scene in the building before it had a chance to be noticed by anyone.
“Why?” he asked.
Kuri slid slender fingers over his hand. “Noriko is one of my two best friends. She stood by my side when I was a broken wreck and asked for nothing in return.”
“Why?” he repeated.
“I still love Urufu, you know what. I believe they’re good for each other, and if I can help two of the people who are the most important for me, then I’ll do so. They’ve given me so much, and I’ll owe them for years to come.”
“Why?” Ryu said for a third time.
“Because you have me, and for that reason alone you’ve lost any right to stand in the way of your sister, if you ever had that right to begin with.”
That was both a promise and a threat, and it was enough for him to stop asking a fourth time.
“I don’t like it,” he murmured instead.
Kuri’s finger took a firmer grip of his hand. “You don’t have to like it. You also don’t have any right to make your sister less than she can be. It’s her life, and hers alone.”
Those were words from a different world than his, but also the words of his parents. Both of them Japanese through and through, and still they abhorred exactly the part of society Kuri had just aimed at. Her life. Her choice. Her responsibility. Stay the fuck away!
Ryu turned his hands and grabbed Kuri’s in his. Fingers played with fingers while he recalled the angry looks of worry his mother sent him when he merely acted of common sense.
“That’s no son of mine,” she once drunkenly said to his father when neither of them thought he heard. “We revolted against this piss poor excuse for a feudal prison, and now he wants to rebuild it!”
Ryu never knew his mother used words like that. He knew his father didn’t.
“Walking down memory lane and getting a new one ripped by your mom?” Kuri suddenly asked. “She’s my kind of girl. I like her. I wish I’d met her when I was thirty. I’d show them both the world.”
Your world. You weren’t in this one when you were thirty. Ryu suddenly realised how both his parents had revolted, and how Kuri once must have done. Funny, that makes me the old fashioned one here.
Then it struck him. Why his sister was hell-bent on making Urufu her own. He’s all that I never was. Ryu met Kuri’s eyes and hoped she never noticed how scared he was. Gods, he broke his own life because he refused to break yours!
“What it is Ryu?”
Ryu listened to the voice of a woman he’d come to love beyond reason. He thoroughly disliked how fast he’d fallen for her again. Rather than answering her he just squeezed harder. Crap, you’ve got me cornered good.
“So you finally realised.” Kuri let go of his hands with one of hers. It stretched across the table, and to his shock she caressed his cheeks. “Good. That’s a man I could grow to love for real.”
She never said we’d pretend being a couple. His heart jumped at her words.
“Ryu, the day you tie your sister up, that day I’ll start hating you, because that’s the day you betray me. Don’t make me stop learning to love the man you can become instead.”
So, it was out in the open. With those words Kuri made it clear she’d support Noriko’s revolts, both of them. Somewhere in the back of his mind he realised his parent’s would give all their support to Noriko as well, no matter how afraid she was they wouldn’t. Her life, her choice, her responsibility, and damned be anyone who tried to steal her right to become an adult of her own.