Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Chapter four, 2017, revolt, segment seven

Those are his results?”

Kuri smirked and nodded. “Good or bad?”

Are you for real? 95 and 100 was on Noriko’s level, and even she didn’t score a perfect test all that often. At least Urufu’s other results were more human.

I was talking about his English and Japanese scores,” Kuri said.

They weren’t all that exciting. Especially Urufu’s poor English score had Ryu in bewilderment for a while.

I guess he’d have scored better at English in Swedish.”

What are you even talking about?

Japanese is also a foreign language for both of us.”

Ryu looked up from the phone to see if he could find out what Kuri was blabbing about.

You’re cute when you’re stupid, you know that?”


His English score also mirrors his understanding of written Japanese.”

But it’s awful! He’s barely able to read middle school texts.”

Kuri’s face lit up in a thoughtful smile, not the devastating one she used whenever she wanted to catch the attention of everyone within sight, but a more honest one. She was, Ryu realised, easily the most beautiful woman he had seen in his entire life.

Her hands, both of them, stretched across the table and grabbed his. “That was a year ago,” Kuri said. “We’re a year older now, all of us.”

Ryu’s breath caught in his throat. A year, and then some. Almost a fortnight earlier he spent her birthday with her, just like Urufu had done last year. Urufu, who still was foremost in her mind.

How much could you learn in a year?” Ryu knew he sounded whiny, but her thinking of Urufu filled him with ire.

She just met his eyes with a look filled with fondness. “If it’s that idiot, probably a lot.”

Irritation finally boiled over. “If he’s so damned fantastic, why don’t you just stick to him!”

Ryu felt her hands tighten around his. “I can’t. We can’t. Maybe if I caught his eyes earlier, a lot earlier, but I doubt I’d have fallen for him then.”

For a moment Ryu felt more dumbfounded than angry. “Can’t?” he asked. He didn’t want to fight with her, but Urufu was still a sour topic.

He has ghosts that need to go first. I can’t be the one to free him from those.”

So you’re going to lend him to Noriko and then steal him back when he’s healed?”

Kuri’s eyes shot him a sting of anger. “Twenty years ago, maybe, but not now. Besides, I could never do that to him, or her for that matter.”

Ryu growled. He disliked how his sister had taken a fancy to Urufu. If he could prevent them becoming a couple he’d do exactly that. Right now, however, he needed to make up with Kuri.

About his scores. I guess they’re OK. More than OK actually.”

Kuri’s mouth became a thin line of dislike. “I was afraid you’d say that. He’s going to be so angry.”

Urufu, angry? “Eh?”

I want your help to convince him to tone down his improvements. Actually I want you to convince Yukio.”

What? “I don’t understand?”

Urufu needs to take it easy on the finals.”

Why the adoration? Ryu clenched his hands into fists, and he felt Kuri’s confusion as he did. He looked up and stared into that golden halo that demanded all his attention. “Finals? A month and a half. What could he possibly do?”

Kuri looked like she was on the verge of responding when she suddenly changed her mind. She quickly lifted his hands to her face and kissed his knuckles. “I’ll stay with you. I promise. Will that be enough for you?”

Ryu’s heart somersaulted at those words. He nodded, and somewhere in the back of his head he knew his face must look like an overeager middle schooler being promised his first date. I’m sorry Ai, I really am. But there was no denying how quickly he’d fallen for Kuri.

Wait a moment. You’re bribing me. “Urufu, how much could he improve?”

Kuri smiled. “So you caught up on that one. Don’t worry, my promise stands.”

How much?”

She sighed. “Too much. Enough to get us all into trouble.”

Trouble?” Sometimes he just didn’t understand her. It wasn’t as if her Japanese was horrible any longer, but when Kuri’s thoughts ran ahead of him he was left in the dark.

Kuri looked at him. A smile that never reached her eyes played on her lips, and Ryu could feel how she fought with herself to stop crying.

If he makes it too far into the top fifty there’s no way we can stop the accusations of cheating.”

What? That’s ridiculous, both that he’d make the list and that he’d be accused of cheating for doing so.”

Kuri’s fingers stroked the backside of Ryu’s hands. “Is it really? He’s suspended right now you know.”

You are as well. That’s only because our principal is a bigoted swine.”

Even so. If Ulf makes a push he’ll score among the top thirty next time. Just as you said before, there’s no way any normal kid could improve like that.”

Ryu nodded. Kuri finally seemed to understand.

But he’s not a normal kid, is he?” she said instead.

But still?”

Remember the December marathon?”

Ryu did. He collapsed trying to keep up with Urufu.

Ryu, Ulf had both lungs punctured less than three months before that. Sometimes he can be really stubborn.”

Memories from when Urufu was assaulted during their cultural festival floated through Ryu’s head. “Fine, whatever, so we just tell him to calm down.”

This time Kuri failed to stop her tears. “I wish I really was young and everything was that easy. Ryu, I made a choice. My career came first, but he got nothing in return.”

I don’t understand.”

I left him with nothing, and now when he’s found the strength to pursue a goal we’re going to stop him from doing that. I hate myself!”

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