“I need professional help?”
Yukio looked at Kuri. They were on their way back from lunch to yet another midterm exam.
“If Noriko says so, then you probably do,” Kyoko said from his other side.
“Yes, Kuri-chan, dear?”
Kyoko’s sugary sweet voice made Yukio cringe. He sped up and deliberately abandoned his girlfriend. When Kuri and Kyoko decided to swap blows with each other he never knew if they were serious or not.
“See you after school,” Yukio announced and made for his classroom. It wasn’t like he’d be able to share it with Kyoko for the exam anyway.
And you probably do, and Urufu as well, he thought a little later when he made the last preparations for the exam. Epic levels of idiocy were probably better handled by professionals than by friends. Still, by now both Kuri and Urufu seemed to have settled down in their respective new relationships, one famous throughout the school and the other kept a secret. Well, nominally a secret anyway.
Exams ate the rest of the day, and the day after that. They were, Yukio thought after the week had passed, strangely easier than he had expected. When he mentioned it to Kyoko she chalked it down to a combination of club activities and the brutal cramming that prepared them for the spring term finals at Irishima High a few months earlier.
He tried to get a second opinion from Noriko, but when Yukio called Saturday he learned she was away paying Jeniferu a visit.
With Kuri away for work, Ryu almost certainly waiting for her, and Urufu most likely training that martial arts of his, or cycling to training, Yukio decided to spend the day alone with Kyoko. Dates had been few and far between the last weeks anyway.
With most of the old gang out of reach he suggested a change of place as well. Thus it was Yukio found himself an early Saturday afternoon waiting at the entrance to Ueno Zoo at one side of the park.
The first person to approach him however wasn’t Kyoko but rather Tomasu and Hitomi.
“Funny seeing the two of your here,” Yukio greeted them.
“No coincidence,” Hitomi said. “Kyoko called me earlier.”
Strange. I thought we were going to have a date. Yukio forced a smile and nodded to Kyoko’s classmate and only second year club member who had returned to Himekaizen apart from the old group.
“Don’t worry, you’ll have your date eventually,” she continued. Hitomi had proven to be much less of an airhead than the girl who once joined the club. The short stunt at Irishima High had been good for her. At least in Yukio’s eyes.
“Is Jeniferu OK with this?” Yukio said. This time addressing Tomasu.
“It’s her request,” Hitomi answered rather than the boyfriend Yukio had just indirectly accused of cheating.
Tomasu fidgeted but chose to stare back across the park in the direction of the railway station.
“Jeniferu’s?” Yukio said and followed Tomasu’s eyes. No matter if they came by subway or train they’d enter the part from the same entrance.
Hitomi turned and looked behind her as well. “Yes. She’s with Noriko and Kyoko picked them up on her way here.”
An obscure application of Chinese whispers flashed through Yukio’s mind. “Jeniferu told Noriko to call Kyoko to ask you to bring Tomasu here and notify me of the change of plans?”
Hitomi smiled when she turned back to face him. “Yes, that would be an apt description.”
Yukio shook his head. If what Urufu taught him about single points of failure and sequential dependencies was correct those inbound were likely to end up in Stockholm if they even got moving at all.
They waited. From time to time Yukio picked up his smartphone to see if there was a message.
Yukio looked up. Urufu? Man, please make some sense of this!
“I dropped my bike by the pond,” Urufu said as if that explained anything. “The rest will be here soon. Noriko got the zoo mixed up with the park, or rather Noriko and Kyoko did.”
Yukio shot Hitomi a glance, but she only smiled in return.
“You’re telling me they’re waiting just across the...?” Yukio began, but then he saw Kyoko with Noriko and Jeniferu in tow walking from where he had once come himself.
“I called them on my way here,” Urufu said. “Haven’t been here for ages, and when Noriko sent me a message I wondered...”
“… if things hadn’t been garbled in the end?” Yukio filled in.
He stared at his best friend and they both guffawed.
“Something like that,” Urufu offered, and by that time Yukio’s stomach hurt a little, and the trio had made their way to them. Hitomi glared at him and Tomasu gave him a nonplussed stare.
“Sorry, Yukio, but Noriko said it was important.”
He hugged her. Some of Urufu’s influence had rubbed off, and Yukio didn’t care that they were in public. “Don’t worry. We planned being together all of us anyway.”
Kyoko loosened herself from his hug. “No, we’re having that date, but it’ll have to wait a little. Yukio, this is important,” Kyoko said and looked at Jeniferu. “Could you wait here with Urufu for a while? Please!”
Yukio smiled back. If Kyoko said it was important for her he’d wait for however long it took. “Mind if we grab a drink?”
Kyoko shook her head. “Message when we’re done?”
Yukio smiled again and nodded.
He looked after Kyoko as she headed in the direction of a large fountain together with the rest of the girls and a bewildered Tomasu who was unceremoniously dragged away as well.
“What’s up,” Yukio wondered aloud.
“Girls’ talk,” Urufu said and frowned. “I hope they can make it work.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I wanted to say I hope you never will, but I’m afraid you already do.”
Yukio stared at Urufu. Sometimes he could be infuriatingly cryptic.
Together the both of them went in search for a vending machine.