Just minutes earlier Noriko stood staring in disbelief at the billboard with the juniors' mid term results. Urufu putting real effort into it should bring him clearly into the top fifty. Now only friends cared about what happened outside the top ten, and she had searched for him to make an unprecedented jump from nowhere into the top twenty.
She couldn't find him, so Noriko threw a quick glance at the very top to look for her own spot before searching for his name again.
Third. As in Urufu had claimed the third place with her as second.
There was a difference between astonishing and absurd. She'd pushed herself this time, and that made her beat him by a mere three points. As for the top student he still nailed his first place position with close to perfect scores.
But third. That was tantamount to a joke. Urufu didn't attend a cram school. Sure, neither did she, but she was a first rate student born and raised here.
And this was the reason she barged into his classroom accompanied by students from both wings.
"Urufu?" she asked. "What happened?"
There was no answer. Urufu just stared at the floor and refused to meet her gaze.
"How did you get that result of yours?"
"Japanese," he said and kept looking at his feet.
"Yeah, 85 happened."
"85?" Noriko stared at Urufu. "How did you manage to score 85?"
Urufu's gaze never left the floor.
"He scored 85?" That was Ryu, as he came in through the door. Kyoko, Kuri and Yukio followed in his wake with equally stunned expressions on their faces.
The sound of voices from the corridor filtered into the classroom as the rumour spread like wildfire.
"Did you see the list?" a voice from outside shouted.
"You got 85 in Japanese?" Yukio said.
"Yes, I did," Urufu admitted. He blushed shamefacedly, and continued staring at his feet. "That's what you get for an overblown self-confidence."
"Japanese wasn't just a matter of brainless memorisation. In the end it was impossible for me to get it right."
"You're ashamed you scored 85?" Noriko interrupted Yukio.
Finally Urufu raised his head and looked at her. "Yes, I'm sorry. I left you alone for almost an entire month, and I still failed to get an aggregate above 490."
"Yes. I think I got 480. Once again I apologise." His eyes were downcast. "I tried, for you," he added.
'He's truly ashamed. I don't believe him!' Noriko walked over to where he stood, his head still hanging, and hugged him close. "You make me proud. I love you," she said.
There were sudden gasps. While there were a lot of people who knew about them their relationship was nominally still a secret.
Noriko looked around and dared anyone to comment her public confession.
Then Kuri broke the spell. "Ask him about his grades, his original grades," she said softly enough the other students wouldn't hear.
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Noriko looked into Urufu's eyes. "Urufu?"
"Five," he answered.
"Five? Five what?"
Once again Kuri's voice reached her from behind. "Across the board, fourteen subjects, he averaged five point zero."
Noriko turned, even though she never let go of her embrace. "What does that mean?" she asked, but she already knew the answer.
"He is, easily, the brightest man I've encountered in my entire life." Kuri chuckled. "Seems you made a good catch there."
Noriko felt her cheeks heating up. Then she glanced at the wide open door. The corridor was packed with students staring at them. Furiously blushing she hid her face in Urufu's embrace. "I knew that," she said.
Then she remembered the promise she had given herself earlier. She grabbed Urufu's face in her hands and bent closer. It took more courage than she had thought, and she had to block out thoughts about impropriety she shared with a younger version of Kyoko. With more than a little glee she felt his astonishment as he met her kiss, and then everything else was lost in a roaring dizziness of pleasure as she grabbed his head and tasted his closeness.
It lasted for longer than she had imagined, but probably for a lot shorter than she had believed. Slowly voices from around her filtered into her private world of joy.
"They're going out?"
"No it's just a hobby. Don't you also french people just for fun?" That was Kuri's voice dripping with sarcasm.
Noriko disregarded the outburst. Urufu was hers, and her idiot bro could ditch his crappy attitude about it somewhere.
Then she felt Urufu's hands grabbing her under her arms and her mouth left his. Suddenly her feet lost contact with the floor and moments later she sat on Urufu's desk. After that his arms wrapped around her again.
"Thank you!" he whispered in her ear. "I love you."
"I thought Wakayama-san wouldn't settle for anyone with poor grades," some genius said from behind her back.
"Moron! She didn't." That voice also came from behind.
She smiled some more. "Urufu, I love you." Noriko dug her fingers into his hair and pulled him closer into the embrace. "And I don't care about your grades," she added.
He hugged her back.
Then more rational thoughts finally entered her mind. "Urufu," she began, "other people might care though," she said and allowed herself to leave his embrace.
Urufu grinned and laughed. He nodded at the classroom entrance and when Noriko looked there she saw how it was packed with students staring at them.
"I love how you're quick on the uptake," he said.
She glared at him.
"Why don't we handle that problem when it arrives?" Suddenly she was pulled into his arms again. She felt his lips touching her ear. "Right now I'm more interested in an after school date," he whispered.
Noriko just nodded. The last weeks had been lonely. Problems could wait. "Anywhere but the Haven café."
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