With their five guests boarding the water taxi Noriko made a decision. If she wanted to truly get closer to Urufu she had to be a little more like him without ever losing sight of herself.
So, how to change without changing, or rather, how to change while still staying true to herself?
By now she knew Urufu somehow accepted, and even condoned, a certain amount of falsehood, but he utterly despised people who didn't dare to see themselves for who they were, which probably was the main reason for him breaking down at the very end of their first high school year – he had betrayed himself.
Noriko waited for the photographers to load their equipment before she followed them. Normally she'd prefer to sit indoors, but joining him at the aft wasn't really something she had to force herself to do.
He made her feel safe. He made her feel giddy. He made her feel strong, but foremost of all he made her feel the full joy of youth.
That he wasn't hers to have didn't change any of that, and for that reason alone she'd give this opportunity her all, now when both he and Kuri agreed on taking the worst of all paths for themselves. Noriko suspected she might not get to keep him forever, but whatever time she managed to squeeze out of him was better than no time at all.
A slap in the small of her back brought her out of her daydreaming and Noriko turned to face her very own idiot bro, who for once wasn't clinging to Kuri.
"How's love?" she asked and continued on her way to the door leading out to the planking. An answer wasn't really needed.
"Just fine, and you?" it came anyway.
Noriko didn't even turn to answer. She just waved with her hand above her shoulder. Hers was just fine, thank you very much. It was just Urufu who didn't cooperate when it came to being reeled in.
Right now she didn't want to talk with Ryu. Rika, or even Jun, were her targets. 'Oh, I forgot the honorifics!' And there it was. A small detail that would make her a little bit more like Urufu. Dropping honorifics when they weren't really needed. A stupid thing that he was certain to notice even if he never showed it.
Noriko felt a smile spread as she entered the sun. While the sea certainly lowered the temperature a bit it was still oppressively hot, but all five visitors preferred being outdoors whenever the sun shone, much like Kuri and Urufu. A Swedish thing, Urufu had said.
For once Kuri wasn't, but Noriko saw Urufu's back where he sat and explained something to Jenny and Alexanderu in Swedish.
Turning right Noriko joined Rika and Jun. She looked after Emma and saw her seated in conversation with Tomasu and Jeniferu. The sight made Noriko smirk a little. Jeniferu definitely had better luck reeling Tomasu in than she herself had with Urufu.
"Excuse me," Noriko said.
"Yes?" Rika said.
Jun nodded assent as well.
"I have a question about relationships," Noriko continued.
"Ask him," Rika answered. "I've never been in one." The last sentence came out so harshly that Noriko wondered if the older girl carried some bad memories as luggage.
Jun gave Rika a long stare as well but said nothing.
"But maybe you know how things work over there," Noriko tried. She had to tread carefully around Rika. She was all too much like herself, or rather what Noriko recalled of herself before her friendship with the people had changed her during their first high school year. Rika reminded her a little of Hitomi, but without the graceful self assurance that was a natural part of the beautiful girl.
"I guess you mean Sweden?" Jun said when Rika threw Noriko an angry glare.
Noriko waited for the sound of engines to die down a little as they slowly left the pier. Behind Rika's and Jun's head the scenery changed to a background of silvery sky scrapers.
She nodded. "Yes, Sweden."
Jun glanced in the direction where Urufu sat. "Because of him?"
Noriko knew she was fidgeting, but she disliked feeling so transparent. Rather than answering she offered Jun a short nod.
Jun tilted his head in thought. "You know," he said after a while. "People are people wherever they are. It's not like everyone is the same just because they come from Sweden."
Noriko understood that. She stared across the water while she ransacked her brain for a better question.
"Urufu says the sky's clearer there," she said, remembering something from last summer. "So there are aspects which are common for a place." She could just as well accept that they knew she was crushing on Urufu. "He even comes from the city where you live, so if I narrow it down like that?"
"He's from Göteborg? Then I guess he's rather direct."
Noriko grinned. "Yeah, yes he is. Very direct that is."
"So tell him how you feel."
That turned her grin into a grimace. "Already did. Several times."
Jun gave her a thoughtful stare. "If he's not interested then I don't see how it could work out."
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"He doesn't avoid me," Noriko said. "We've even been out together, just the two of us."
The stare grew angrier. "He didn't strike me as a player. I suggest you be careful around him then."
"No. No he isn't a player." Noriko thought about what to say. "It's complicated, but I know he'd never deliberately hurt me."
"Are you really sure about that?" The words were Rika's, and the edge to them made Noriko certain Rika had experienced something bad and burned herself.
"Absolutely certain." Because she was. Worst case she'd be hurt, but that would be her hurting herself because she refused to give up on Urufu.
"Boys always do as soon as they get a chance."
"Rika! Have you ever seen me hurt Jenny?"
Noriko sighed. The conversation was veering into a strange direction, and she decided to just listen as they made their way out into the bay.
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