Mid May, and the temperature was reaching summer levels. Ryu wiped sweat from his face. The air-conditioner in their classroom definitely wasn't up to the task.
Mere seconds earlier fourth period finished, and he was out of the door running.
He jumped down the stairs, half a flight a jump, and bounced to the entrance floor. From the relative light in the stairwell he reached the darker corridor and shouldered his way to the cafeteria. More than a few he passed yelled insults after him, but he really didn't care.
The cafeteria was full as usual. The third years always made it there first. He rushed headlong anyway. They'd have lunch in the shaded area between the cafeteria and the gym hall, and he wanted to make sure they got seats there. By this time of the year any sunny day promised an invasion of the cafeteria backyard.
Behind him he heard Noriko declare his dubious heritage in a voice that carried through both wings.
He zigzagged his way through the cafeteria and left it from the great glassed doors facing the gym hall. Ryu found the seats he was looking for. Now he just had to wait for someone else in the gang to show up before he could buy his lunch.
He just had time to look at the great sails above him before he was greeted.
"Mind if we join you?"
He looked around to see who had addressed him. "Yu-kun, please."
"Go get your lunch. Urufu-kun and Kuri-chan are on their way here as well," Yu-kun said and took the place offered.
'Their way?' "Uh, sure." Ryu rose and made for the glassed entrance. 'Their way?'
The queue to the counter had built up while he secured a spot outdoors, and he barely made it to Noriko's space in it.
"Seems we're getting company from the club core sis," he said. He was probing for a reaction, and he wasn't disappointed. She blushed red and muttered something about not caring the least.
Still, it bothered him that Kuri-chan and Kyoko-chan hadn't joined them in their race for lunch.
"Did you see where Kuri-chan went?" he asked, not certain if he was probing his sister or himself.
"Kuri-chan went with Kyoko-chan to the left wing. She really has to make up with Yu-kun, you know."
Ryu didn't need a name to know that Noriko meant Kyoko-chan. 'I wonder who went with whom though. Could it be that Urufu-kun is making a move on her? He's been on a roll the last week after all.'
All of a sudden he felt ashamed. 'I like Kuri-chan a lot, but sis, you've really fallen in love haven't you?'
He couldn't understand what the girls saw in the geek. It wasn't as if he was outgoing or anything. 'Well I can see what Kuri-chan sees in him,' he admitted to himself. 'They're both from the same country after all.'
The queue moved a bit forward and they got to make their picks. Bounty in hand they headed for the spots Yu-kun held. Over half a dozen students were already there. Yu-kun must have told them he and Kuri-chan were coming.
Ryu grinned at the girls present when they waved at him. "Good to see this much beauty in one place," he offered. Behind him Noriko groaned.
Noriko groaned some more.
He took a seat on a bench and made place for his sister. Silently he nodded thanks to Yu-kun for keeping the spots open.
"Aren't we missing a few people?" Noriko said.
'So that's the limit of your patience?'
Ryu had just opened his pre-packaged lunch when the students around him fixed their attention on the cafeteria behind him.
'And we have incoming.'
"She's so beautiful!"
'Listen to that choir.'
"Who's that guy?"
"Is he? Whoa!"
It had to be Urufu-kun, but the voices were just a bit too surprised for Ryu not to turn and look.
Kuri-chan came walking between the benches toward them. She wore no make-up at all, and her school uniform was in perfect accordance with the regulations, and so was Urufu-kun's.
He walked beside her, carrying two identical bento boxes. He wore no glasses, and he had a totally new hairdo. He looked... normal. And tall. He looked, Ryu acknowledged, like a rival.
Behind them Kyoko-chan tagged along with her cafeteria bought lunch.
"Yu-kun, your lunch," Kuri-chan said and gave him the third box in a set. She looked flustered.
Ryu had to know. "Did something good happen yesterday?" he asked.
Kuri-chan glanced at Urufu-kun. And shot him a stunningly beautiful but strangely shy smile. "I forgot my birthday. He remembered it. So yes, something good happened."
That was far from everything she had to say. Ryu could see that but he wasn't sure how much further he should probe.
"Look at that! Being friends with Ryu-kun make even geeks look good."
The derisive comment came from one of the girls. Saki-chan? Yes, from 1:1. And she had known Urufu-kun was the geek from 6:1. 'But you were never a geek to begin with. It was all an act wasn't it?'
"How come Urufu-kun knew it was your birthday? Geek stalker?" And that was the Hitoshi moron from 4:1. If it wasn't for the stupidities he usually spewed out of his mouth he might have been a match for Ryu in terms of popularity.
Kuri-chan replied with an angelic smile that transformed her from a princess to an empress. "Didn't I say? I'm such an airhead sometimes. I totally forgot that yesterday was my birthday, and he was the one who reminded me."
The implicit meaning wasn't lost on anyone.
"Yesterday? You saw each other yesterday?"
"Whoa! You two went on a date?"
Kuri-chan shook her head theatrically and her hair caught in the wind.
'She made it blossom! It's a golden flower!'
She hummed tunelessly while she waited for shouts of admiration to quiet down. Then her voice turned sugary sweet. "But he looks so stunning! How could I not?"
Ryu looked at his sister. She had shrunken to almost nothing. For the second time he saw her drop her lunch.
"I forgot I have something to do. See you at class." Noriko rose, and with eyes glued to the ground she rushed into the cafeteria.
Kyoko-chan looked at his sister with eyes full of worry, and then she shot her best friend a surprisingly angry glare. Kuri-chan just shrugged in return.
'Damn, he beat me to it. I can live with that. But sis, I'm so sorry for you!' Ryu rose, nodded curtly at Urufu-kun and followed her.
'Urufu-kun, I'll get you for this!'
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