Monday, 5 March 2018

Chapter one, 2017, flashes of summer, segment four

Noriko grimaced and stuffed another piece of clothing into her day pack.

A few days earlier she watched Urufu and Kuri show where their hearts truly belonged despite breaking up half a year earlier. The following morning Urufu dragged the entire club into a repetition of last year’s camping session, murderous climb up the hill side included, and Kuri even managed to get a break from her photo sessions to attend.

Noriko didn’t know what do do with her memories. Kuri spent most of the camp together with Ryu just like a good girlfriend should, and Urufu made good use of the senior club members to make the camp go much smoother than last year, which also meant he spent almost no time at all alone with Kuri.

After camp two days being worked to the bones took over her life. It involved getting a bunch of middle managers and senior systems developers on track working together as a team. As far as Noriko could see status and ranking were more important to adults than actually getting the job done. She had spent most of the first day using Kyoko’s deliberate clumsiness and Hitomi’s beauty to coerce their customers to at least start talking with each other.

Urufu grinned like a moron throughout it all.

They got through in the end and now it was time for Noriko’s reward, one she had duped Urufu into promising her.

As far as her idiot brother knew the four of them, Urufu, Yukio, Kyoko and herself were headed for Ise shrine for a day trip. The first part was true. Yukio and Kyoko, however, had already booked a room with the help of their parents to get a precious night alone and away from the rest of them.

Noriko knew how far she could push Urufu, and booking one for them as well was by a wide margin too far.

So they’d travel to Ise, and they’d even enter the compound as a group, but after that Kyoko had promised to make Yukio and herself scarce as quickly as possible. So Noriko would at least have a full day with Urufu all to herself.

I don’t know how many more chances I’ll get, she thought and fastened the clasps before she slung the pack across her shoulder.

She made her way down the stairs, the same stairs as last year, and in the reception she met Kuri on her way out.


Noriko nodded.

Kuri gave her a wry smile. “With Ko-chan?”

There was little point in lying. “Yukio and Urufu as well,” Noriko said.

Give Yukio and Ko-chan my best.”

You could at least pretend you didn’t take up mind reading as a hobby. “Sure. Any message for Urufu?” she asked.

I don’t think that’ll be needed. I hope the two of you have a pleasant day.”

Four of us,” Noriko tried.

That the four of you have a pleasant morning. My bad,” Kuri said and didn’t look apologetic at all. Her stressing the ‘morning’ part wasn’t lost on Noriko.

Ryu’s joining you in the water?” Noriko asked instead and made a point of not specifying exactly which water she meant.

Kuri shot her an angelic smile back. “I wish. He’s got the looks, but he’s a tad short for this kind of work.”

Noriko almost, but just almost, suggested she meant after work. “I’m certain he’ll find an opportunity,” she said instead. “He always does.” The last part was grossly unfair of her. Her brother had never taken advantage of a girl as far as she knew, but she was more than a little irritated with the way he got in the way of her life these days.

I’ll make sure he does,” Kuri said. “Ah, that’s Ulf behind you. Please do have a pleasant day together.”

Noriko watched Kuri turn with her smile turned into a smidgeon of a smirk. They both knew, but Kuri had lost every right she ever had to prevent Noriko from hauling her catch in.

You and Ryu make a good pair. I’ll settle for the better man instead. That was if she could reel him in in the first place, but Noriko trusted her stubbornness. In the end Urufu was just a man, and Noriko knew her looks well enough not to be ashamed of them. Cute rather than beautiful, but combined with exactly the kind of brain Urufu enjoyed battling with. But for the difference in age she’d have won this battle a long time ago.

It didn’t matter. What she wanted she got. Maybe not for free, and maybe not easily, but she had yet to fail even once. She felt a moment of relief knowing she pushed her own wants very, very seldom like this. Few and far between. Those were the rules she set up for herself lest she’d become someone she didn’t like very much.

Morning Ina. Working?”

Kuri had almost made it to the door when Urufu’s voice forced her to turn around. “Yes. Swimsuits.”

Something in her voice told Noriko she’d just suggested Urufu stay behind and watch.

Show me the shots tomorrow,” he said.

Kuri’s face clouded over. Then she waved at them with the back of her hand as she walked outdoors.

So, where’s the other two?” Urufu said.

That was close. “Breakfast. Follow me you oaf!” Noriko said. Silently she smiled just because of his oafishness. How he had failed to read Kuri’s suggestion was beyond her, but he had. There was nothing subtle about the man Noriko had fallen in love with.

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