The solution to her problem surprised her. Playing rival to Kuri would help her get over Nao quicker. Besides, Urufu needed a distraction, or he'd just keep on moping over Kuri. And it wasn't as if she was offering her body to him. She'd just kind of make it look that way. At least to Kuri.
'Idiot! Moron! You love him so much your eyes water over every time you see him feel bad, and you're the very reason he feels bad in the first place.' The epic stupidity of the two adults stunned her. Noriko couldn't understand what made people go to such lengths hurting themselves and each other despite being in love.
Anyway, it would be kind of fun teasing her brother. If he wanted to play Kuri's boyfriend, then he could watch his sister cling to Urufu like a lovesick puppy.
Only one problem. Noriko needed to gather up the guts to do any clinging to begin with. Nestling under Urufu's arm a bit earlier nearly drained her of all her bravery.
She was still a little awkward around him. Hers had been a major crush after all, two times over, and she did confess rather publicly. Even though she no longer harboured any feelings for him, or at least not any strong ones, she once had.
'I hope she understands I'm doing this for her sake.' But Noriko knew she might very well earn herself a broken friendship in return.
'We're falling apart.' The thought scared her. What could she do to keep her friends? Would it go so far that she was forced to choose between them? 'I refuse to do that. Even if they can't stand each other every one of them is equally my friend.'
"What is it?"
Noriko looked up and bit her lower lip. "Nothing Urufu," she lied.
He frowned and gave her a quizzical stare.
Noriko shrugged, threw a glance in Kuri's direction and hoped Urufu didn't notice.
He did. "If you're planning something funny, just don't. I don't need your help to patch us up again."
Noriko grimaced and met his eyes. 'Damn, he's still far more perceptive than an average kid. Guess that comes with experience.' "What do you mean with patching up?"
Urufu responded by patting her head. A thoroughly condescending gesture she hated, but he bore her no ill will. Had she known why he did it last year she'd jumped with joy. Anything cute needed patting according to him, and a year ago she'd do just about anything to be considered cute in his eyes – which she already was, as she learned later.
'But cute was never the same as loved,' she thought sourly. 'Oh, get over it! When he found out Kuri was his age I never stood a chance.' Noriko faced him squarely and grinned. "As in act as a go between?"
Urufu turned to help a team leader who had arrived with his touch-pad. A few sentences later the problem had gone away. Then he turned back again. "Yes, that would be exactly what I don't want you to try," Urufu said.
"Don't worry," she answered, and grinned even more widely. "Just about the last on my mind." Urufu's nonplussed expression made her laugh, and all her nervousness went away. "Look," she said, and hugged his arm. No matter how small her breasts were he had to feel them through their clothes. "Trust me, I'm not doing that."
For the first time he blushed because of something she had deliberately done to him.
'Yes! Victory!' she thought. It had nothing to do with Kuri, just that she for once managed to get the upper hand on him.
"You know..." Urufu scratched his head. "Eh, Noriko, I promised not to treat you as a child, but you know..." He made an attempt to get out of her grip, but Noriko just squeezed harder. "Noriko, well..."
"Yes?" she said and pressed his arms even harder against her chest. "You were saying?"
"Noriko, people are watching!" But he made no attempt to free himself.
"Watching? Heartbroken little me getting support from my friend?"
The gaze he gave her made her heart jolt. "More like guessing your bra-size," he said. "Look, Noriko, I'm bad rebound material, OK?"
A little further away Kuri stared at them. Noriko noted how her eyes widened and her mouth twisted in disapproval. 'Do something if you dislike it!'
This was fun, and as far as Noriko knew it really couldn't backfire any worse than Kuri getting really angry with her, and making Kuri angry would be a victory in itself. She was one of Noriko's two best friends, and an angry Kuri was a Kuri who showed feelings rather than the ice-queen who had attended school ever since she broke down after dumping the man she loved more than anything else.
A joke, nothing more.
Then Urufu's arm twisted when another team wanted his help.
The stares she received from the girl who approached Urufu could as well have been daggers, but that mattered little. What did matter was that when Urufu turned Noriko got dragged closer to him, and then his arm moved across her chest, and a sensation of pleasure spread through her body faster than she had imagined possible.
Noriko jumped, but this time her grip on his arm trapped her instead.
She met Kuri's gaze, and this time it wasn't filled with disapproval. Kuri's eyes quickly moved away and searched a head above.
'What? She's staring at Urufu?'
Then Noriko, for the first time, knew what jealousy and hate looked like.
This was more than she had bargained for. While she watched Kuri stare at Urufu with open wrath in her face Noriko experienced a surge of sensations. 'No way! I'm not!' But she was. When she clung tighter to Urufu this time it was no longer a joke. Feelings she hadn't felt since early autumn welled up unbidden.
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'No no no no!' But there was no denying it. She had fallen in love with him twice before. Denying what she felt was like refusing to believe she got wet when it rained.
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