“Where did he go?”
Kyoko looked at Yukio. Hurt. Kuri-chan had hurt him, and so had Urufu.
“Yukio!” She loved him. That didn’t mean she couldn’t admonish him. “I care, and so do you.” And so does Noriko. Noriko, I’m so sorry.
They needed to find Noriko, and she needed to convince both her and Yukio to go searching for Urufu. Or rather, she needed to convince Yukio to lead them to wherever Urufu was, because she was certain Yukio knew.
Outdoors was a baking oven despite August running towards its end. That baking oven cooked Kuri-chan and a Ryu who was as smugly satisfied today as he’d been ragingly angry yesterday.
You idiot! Idiots! Both of you. Cause they were. Best friend be damned. Kuri-chan was still her best friend, but this time she really pushed that friendship to its limits. How could you?
“Does it change anything?” Yukio asked.
Kyoko grabbed his hand and forced him through the entrance and into the blazing sun. It was like walking into a wall of heat. Despite lying almost at the very edge of the ocean not a single gust of wind reached the resort.
“I have to help Noriko. She deserves better.”
“And if she doesn’t want to be helped?”
She definitely wouldn’t want to be helped, but she needed to. Kyoko had already made her mind up. Memories of Kuri-chan’s panicked look when the four of them returned a day late from Ise lingered in Kyoko’s mind.
Idiot! You broke up with him. You don’t have the right to be jealous any longer. But she had been. And she had done something about it. I wonder if you’ll even keep his friendship after this? Because Kuri-chan hadn’t tried to get together with Urufu again. Kyoko was sure about that.
“I’m ashamed of being his friend.”
“Yukio! Never say that again! Besides, he didn’t...”
“He could have said no!” Yukio interrupted. His voice rose to a growl. Then a glimmer of fear reached his eyes.
Oh no! You don’t get to be scared of me. You have every right to be angry. “Yukio, I understand. I know you’re not angry at me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean...”
“I understand.” Kyoko hugged him close despite the heat. “I understand.”
“Our pockets?” Yukio suddenly asked, and Kyoko loved him all the more for how he dared change his mind when neded.
Despite the worry she felt in her heart Kyoko grinned. “Noriko will pay for her share.”
Yesterday Urufu paid their salaries. For being teenagers they were loaded. Half a million yen shared between them ought to suffice for hunting down Urufu wherever he had gone.
“Then let’s go fetch her.” Yukio finally nodded, and Kyoko almost jumped out of his arms and rushed indoors. She had already prepared three daypacks and she didn’t intend to give Yukio the chance to change his mind back again.
They needed to find Noriko quickly. They had to find her before the sight of Kuri-chan and her brother filled her with disgust, and if Kyoko knew Noriko right, self hatred.
“Yukio, follow me!”
Kyoko didn’t wait for an answer but dragged her boyfriend after her as soon as he was done attaching the small backpack to his back. One of her own on her back, one in her hand and Yukio in the other she ran to the beach despite the heat. Halfway there she had ordered the taxi thanks to a headset dangling precariously from one ear, and less than a minute later she found Noriko.
Kyoko waved at the girl, but Noriko’s eyes were fixed at the shoot where Kyoko knew both Kuri-chan and Ryu were to be found. Kuri-chan because of work, and Ryu, well Ryu because he finally cemented his relationship with his girlfriend since a few months.
That finally drew her attention, and she looked back. This time she even waved back.
“Over here, Noriko!”
Their friend stood up in momentary confusion and pointed at herself. Kyoko nodded and beckoned her to her.
“What’s going on?” Noriko said when they were close enough to talk. Her voice was subdued, just like her entire being was subdued since a day.
“We’re going to have a long talk with Urufu,” Kyoko said.
It hurt to see how mentioning his name brought even more sadness and pain to Noriko’s eyes.
“If you want to slap him I’ll help pin him down,” Kyoko promised.
“He just vanished.”
Behind them Yukio coughed to get their attention. Both girls turned their heads to hear what he had to say.
“He didn’t just vanish. He’s visiting family, or something.” Yukio’s eyebrows twisted together at his insane statement. “His family from that other world. Anyway, I know where he is.”
Kyoko stared at Noriko rather than her boyfriend. For once the girl looked stunned with confusion. Not a trace of sadness was to be seen on a face that was busy showing exactly how flabbergasted Yukio’s words had made her. Yukio, you’re my hero. I love you!
“Look. In that other world he had relatives here. That’s where he got his looks from. OK?”
That kind of made sense. If he was a half then the other half by definition had to have roots here in Japan, even if it was a Japan in another world. Almost the same. The worlds are almost the same. He always says that.
By her side Noriko’s face had taken on a bit of determination, and inside of her Kyoko shouted with joy at watching that new expression.
“We’re going to him, and this time we’re making sure you get him.” Noriko wondered how she could be so certain. “He’s fond of you. More than fond given what he agreed to in Ise.” Because, if Urufu really didn’t have any interest in Noriko at all, then Kyoko was certain he’d either have bedded her for real or simply refused to share the bed in the first place.
“You think so?” And at once Noriko’s face reverted to the misery that had been plastered to it for a day.
“Look, Noriko,” Yukio said. He stared down at his feet when he spoke, as if he didn’t dare face their friend. “Urufu’s been hurting like hell. I don’t think what he did was a beginning.”
“But he slept with her!”
For the next minute or so Kyoko just held the sobbing girl in her arms. Despite Yukio’s clumsy words Kyoko understood he only meant well, and maybe Noriko needed to be reminded of what had happened to move on.
Still staring at his feet Yukio waited until Noriko’s sobs had subsided before he dared speak again. “You know, I think that was his way of ending it. I believe they said good bye.”
For a while Yukio’s words only resulted in silence.
“What makes you think that?”
Kyoko glanced at Yukio over Noriko’s shoulder. You’d better get it right this time.
“You saw your brother today.”
“I believe something had to break first.”
“They’ve been together all this time with nothing happening.”
“Would you agree Ryu and Kuri are finally together for real now?”
Kyoko could feel some of the tension in Noriko’s body go away.
“Ah. But if she tries to...”
“She won’t,” Kyoko said. Now when she understood what Yukio had been aiming at it suddenly made sense. “They’re not getting back together again.” Half a year. The idiots needed half a year to break up.
“Then, if what you say is right, Urufu’s really free for the taking?”
Relief at Noriko’s words filled Kyoko. That’s my girl! “Let’s go hunt him down for you, shall we?