“I don’t know,” Ryu lied.
With an umbrella he shared with Kuri slung over his bag they were the only ones in the Stockholm Haven café clad in the Himekaizen summer uniform. Most of the faces were still familiar though, but they all sported Irishima High uniforms.
Must be bad for business, Ryu thought but when he looked around he got the answer why only most of the faces were familiar.
The expulsions followed by mass transfers to Irishima High pulled new students to the café. The club had already made up for almost half of its losses, but for natural reasons they were all Irishima High students. For all practical purposes the Himekaizen Cultural Exchange Club had become an Irishima High club. There were only eight Himekaizen Academy students, and one of them shouldn’t even be here.
“Watch out, your girlfriend could get jealous,” the odd one out said.
Ryu glared at Jeniferu-chan. Mere minutes earlier she walked into the inner room, stripped to panties and bra and got into a set of casual clothes. All in plain view of the members inside.
You’re shameless, you know that? he thought, but then he recalled Kuri doing pretty much the same thing at different occasions. Maybe it’s a foreigner thing. He put the lid on that thought as fast as he could. Now wasn’t the time to divide reality into foreign or not – Kareyoshi never ceased doing just that.
“You’re the only members still at Himekaizen,” Nori-kun said.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Ryu said and lied once more. None of the arrivals had been expelled, and that included Jeniferu-chan who got mistaken for one. Ryu had made that mistake himself just after the start of the school year.
“Noriko-chan thought you’d transfer last week.”
“So did I,” Ryu said. This time he spoke the truth. Maybe he had miscalculated just how tightly the four of them, he, his sister, Yukio and Kyoko, were connected to the arrivals. Or with Kuri and Urufu at least. While he saw Tomasu-kun and Jeniferu-chan almost daily they still weren’t his friends.
“Ryu,” Jeniferu-chan said, “could you get Ulf to help me hook up with Thomas?”
What kind of roundabout favour was that? “Ask him yourself,” Ryu said.
Despite her being the second most famous girl at Himekaizen, something with Jeniferu-chan made him grit his teeth. In difference from Kuri everything Jeniferu-chan did came from selfish wants as far as Ryu could see.
“But you know him better.”
“I intend to keep it that way,” Ryu said. For once it didn’t bother him that he was deliberately rude to a girl.
Jeniferu-chan didn’t answer. Instead she grabbed his arm and led him out into the café proper. Her grip was so tight he might have hurt her had he tried to get loose.
They didn’t stay in the café, but instead she forced him under the jingling bell and out on the street.
Late afternoon traffic gave them the backdrop she probably wanted to make certain she wasn’t overheard. Streets wet from rain only increased the noise, and a steady drizzle reminded Ryu they were firmly into the rainy month.
Well outside Jeniferu-chan pushed him under the awning, which helped keeping the worst of the rain away, but it also made them look like a quarrelling couple.
Ryu stepped around a puddle that had gathered where he stood. James really needed to change the fabric above them, or even better, buy an altogether new one.
“Look, I don’t like that attitude of yours. I’m interested in Thomas, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to burn my chances because I didn’t do my research first.” Jeniferu-chan stared at him and forced Ryu to meet her eyes. “You’re with Christina, Prince Charming, so you got what you wanted. Pretend you care for your friend all you want, but you stole his girlfriend when you got tired of your own.”
Slapping girls really wasn’t an option, but Ryu really felt like breaking his promise to himself from many years ago. “I didn’t...”
“Shut up! Coward! She’s over you now, but I saw how much she was in love with you before.”
“She dumped me.”
“So man up! You knew Ai didn’t want to break up, but you still turned up with your arms around Ulf’s girl when school started.”
The part of his arms around Kuri wasn’t true, but everything else was. “What about it?” When did you find out so much? But the question was moot. Ai’s friends must have told everyone who wanted to listen, and with him involved there were a lot of those. With both him and Kuri involved they didn’t even have to embellish the truth to make a good story.
“Ulf isn’t your business any longer. You betrayed him good. Besides I’m not after him anyway. He’s just too damn boring. I just want his help to get closer to Thomas.
Ryu wondered what made the silent former professor of classic Japanese less boring than Urufu, especially as the latter had been the centre of attention so many times. Ah, but she’s a freshman. She doesn’t know.
Because Urufu spent his time being suspended whenever he should have taken the lead and humiliate the dickhead who was their principal.
“Look,” Ryu said and lifted his foot to avoid the puddle Jeniferu-chan almost forced him to stand in. “I don’t know what you’re planning, but if I help you get in touch with Urufu, promise you won’t do anything funny to my friends!”
She gave him a calculating look, and then, very suddenly, she hugged him.
“Sure, she said, deal.”
“Wait, why...” Ryu never finished the question, because across the street he saw the photographers stalking Kuri, and in lack of anything more exiting some of them had taken shots of him and Jeniferu-chan embracing.
“Just to make sure you keep your part,” she said.
Ryu swore inwardly. Damn, you’re a crafty one. With a broken smile he admitted defeat and fished out his phone from a trouser pocket.