"Kyoko, could you join me for a while?"
Kyoko rose from he chair and followed Hitomi. One of two club members who had been assigned to her class before Kareyoshi handed out expulsions like candy on a children's fair. Hitomi was also one of the few to return from Irishima High and the closest to a friend Kyoko knew in her class.
An oversight from Kareyoshi's side. The few returnees were all assigned to their old classes.
A week into their second trimester Kyoko felt happy for Hitomi's presence. The airhead had proven to be… less so. If truth be told had proven so since long before they were expelled en masse.
"What is it?" Kyoko wondered when they were out of earshot from prying ears. Out of earshot meant walking all the way to the pool.
Hitomi shook her head, waist long hair dancing around her head as she did so, and searched for somewhere to sit down.
Kyoko hugged herself while she waited. Summer had turned into autumn far quicker than normal.
"Here," Hitomi said and patted the ground beside her.
Kyoko sat down. "So, what?"
"Two things. First I want to thank you."
"Thank me?" There was no reason for the beauty from Yukio's old class to thank her.
She received a surprisingly naughty smile from Hitomi. "Yeah, thank you." Then she scratched her knees in a most unladylike way. "I'm grateful you showed me how to drop the pretence."
Kyoko just nodded. There was sure to be more to come.
"You and Yukio both showed me what's important, and you're the main reason I decided to come back."
Kyoko nodded again. She didn't really understand.
"Kuri's the other reason. Without her I don't think I could manage."
"Kuri-chan?" Kyoko said. "Why her?"
Hitomi pulled her skirt down her thighs and smiled. "Yeah. She's the number one beauty of this school. I wanted to be in the beginning, but Irishima High taught me why I shouldn't."
Once again Kyoko nodded. This time with more real understanding. Hitomi had usurped that position during their stay at that school.
"In the end I didn't like the resentment much," Hitomi said. "Here I can stay in her shadow and be myself.
Kyoko wondered about that. Kuri-chan might be the number one beauty here, but Hitomi still defined the traditional idea of perfect Japanese looks in a young woman. Or maybe not. Hitomi's uniform no longer followed regulations, and she had done something with her hair as well.
"I want to be me, and I prefer this me."
"The other reason?" Kyoko said. Gratitude or not. There was a more important reason for Hitomi to drag her out here.
That brought a grimace to Hitomi's face. "It's Ryu. I don't like what he's doing."
'What Ryu's doing? Don't tell me…'
"Look, it's not like I'm in love with Urufu or anything, but I've grown fond of him."
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Kyoko waited for Hitomi to continue, but the words still made her smile. Urufu was bound to attract a lot more attention now.
"I saw what he and Kuri did to each other, and if he finally moved on to Noriko then I'm happy for both of them."
'Ryu, you bastard!' "And her brother still won't let them be?"
This time it was Hitomi who nodded. "And it really isn't about Urufu. As I said..."
"You're really doing this for Noriko, aren't you?" Kyoko interrupted. Despite knowing that Urufu sometimes was all too fragile Kyoko also realised she was one of very few persons who knew this. For everyone else the idea of protecting Urufu had to be absurd – he protected people, not the other way around.
"I know she's got great grades, but she's so small and..." There was no need to interrupt this time. Hitomi's voice petered out into nothingness.
Kyoko grinned despite her anger at Ryu's meddling. "Look, Noriko's a midget sized bulldozer. I don't think you have to..."
"She only pretends," Hitomi said. "I know how strong she seems, but I've seen how scared she really is."
'Scared?' If Hitomi said she'd seen Noriko afraid of something she probably had, but still.
"I don't think you need to worry about Urufu dumping her," Kyoko said, but something in her stomach churned. 'Kareyoshi. It's got to be him. Something happened and Noriko didn't tell.'
"I didn't expect us to be the only ones to transfer back," Hitomi suddenly said.
Kyoko felt grateful for the change of topic. "Neither did I." And she hadn't. At least a few more, but in the end only Hitomi and Jeniferu apart from the founding club members showed up for school start.
"The club really is an Irishima High one despite its name now."
"Strange. I know a few who said they'd come back." Hitomi grimaced. "Maybe..."
"I got this strange call a just before summer break ended."
"Uhum. Someone told me to stay at Irishima High or bad things would happen."
Kyoko stopped in her tracks and stared at Hitomi. "What?"
"I know, stupid prank or what? Well anyway, the calling number showed so I had my father call the police anyway."
'Are you for real? How could you possibly not be scared after that?' "Hitomi, don't you…."
"As I said," Hitomi began, and the iciness in her eyes told Kyoko that her initial belief the beauty was an airhead was just about as far from target as possible, "we take very badly to threats in our family." Then she smiled. An outright evil smile. "Especially when the idiot calls over a landline belonging to the new head of the PTA."
"What did you do?"
"Kyoko, I know you're involved in something smelly. I won't ask, but I dislike being told what to do or not."
"After dad called the police I called Urufu's guardian. She's police as well, but I thought she might take a more personal interest."
'You called Sato-sensei?' Suddenly Hitomi gained a whole lot of respect in Kyoko's eyes. 'Why escalate a little when you can start by nuking the target?'
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