III. "These shoes are killing me!"
A/N. I'm so confused as to which route I should take. As in, should I make this a Gen fic, or should I pair Doyeon off with Kagami or something—I'm not sure about the others yet because so far, I see the most spark of potential between her and Kagami. Maybe my plans could change. I don't know, I'll go with what happens. Sorry if my writing is sucky and all that, after all, I'm still learning. If I wasn't, then I'd already be scribbling the outline of a masterpiece instead of typing about an original character I'm not sure anyone gives a shit about.
Other than that, I'd like to thank everyone who has supported this story so far, as well as Dina Sana and Nicole NightLock who left reviews! (I always appreciate reviews, they truly make my day—I'm sure authors get what I'm talking about here.) Weightlifting Fairy is a gem.
Somehow, Rina had been able to pull some strings (meaning she'd contacted a friend and persuaded them; keep in mind that in this context, persuade meant annoy into) so that Seirin's dance club was able to hold a joint practice with another school's dance club. Their leader had been particularly bubbly about it since the moment she first announced it, mentioning something about how this was going to be fun and they were going to have a blast.
Truthfully, Doyeon wasn't sure if she was able to believe that, but she tried to keep her spirits high. She was always curious about the dance clubs of other schools. If she was to judge herself, Seirin's dance club wasn't too bad; all of their main dancers were talented, and the ones who weren't on the main team were constantly improving under Rina's watchful eye so they could catch up to their teammates. Doyeon herself could see the improvements if she compared her dancing now to the dancing she did when she first joined the club—she was now more confident in her movements, every move fluid and she was starting to grow her own flair as well.
"What's the name of the school again?" She heard someone ask their leader, and Doyeon perked up, listening keenly to the conversation. Truth be told, she didn't remember that particular detail either.
Ah, right. It was Shūtoku. The name rung a bell—it felt as if she'd heard that name before somewhere, although she couldn't remember where. Perhaps it was mentioned in passing? She knew that Aiko in particular liked to gush about the hot guys from other schools, and while Doyeon was unsure how her friend was able to know that many people, she did know that Aiko probably talked about Shūtoku's male population at some point.
That was probably it.
"Doyeon-chan!" Rina shouted, all the way from her seat at the front of the bus to Doyeon who sat in the very back. "How are you feeling?"
Taken aback at the sudden question, Doyeon blinked, unsure if she should shout her answer or merely say something in her usual tone of voice. "I'm excited!" Doyeon exclaimed in the end, raising her voice higher than usual. Rina grinned, a spark of determination burning in her eyes.
"That's right you are!" Rina shouted even louder, causing Doyeon to sweatdrop. "Everyone, we're going to show them just how good we are at dancing so all of you better be excited!"
This side of Rina was a little scary. Doyeon admired how the older always seemed to have a flame within her, and she couldn't imagine Rina with a broken will. She was one of those people who seemed to radiate warmth, and Doyeon could imagine her as a person whose flames burned brighter whenever there was an obstacle thrown her way. However, that flame got out of control sometimes, often showcasing a scarier side of Rina—this seemed to be one of those moments, but the dance club was used to it by now.
Their transportation arrived at Shūtoku a few minutes after Rina's borderline threat, and the club didn't rush as they walked out of the bus, instead going out in an orderly manner. At the very back, Doyeon was the last one to leave the bus, and by that time the others started walking already. She kept her pace brisk to catch up to them, and she remained at the back of the crowd, not paying much attention to her teammates but rather drinking in the sight of Shūtoku.
Undoubtedly, it seemed to have better facilities than Seirin, although that comparison was unfair when one considered that Shūtoku had been around longer than Seirin (which was only one year old, and already doing pretty well, if she could say.)
They stopped in front of the school gates, with Rina checking their absence one by one. Satisfied at last after seeing they were all intact, she pushed the gates open and marched towards the entrance of the high school. It was evident that the vertically challenged teen was especially pumped the way athletes usually were before a competition, because as far as Doyeon knew, athletes were either nervous or pumped if they were faced with a hefty challenge. Rina definitely fit the latter stereotype more, Doyeon thought, if she thought about the other's fiery personality.
The school was mostly empty, considering this was a Saturday. If her knowledge was correct, then the only students who came to school during a Saturday were members of a club that practiced during those days. Most likely athletes, now that she really considered it. She'd seen both Kuroko and Kagami around Seirin too on Saturday, and she was proud to say they'd reached a level of acquaintanceship that had them greeting each other when they passed each other by in the hallways.
Because Shūtoku was an established school, their dance club was able to persuade the school to have their practice in one of the auditoriums. The auditorium itself was rather big in size, enough to comfortably accommodate the students while not being too lavish, keeping to simplicity and sufficiency. It was practical, for a lack of better word.
Rina greeted the girl standing at the center of the stage with an exuberant tone. 'Kiko-chan' was drop dead gorgeous, and this was the first thing that registered in Doyeon's brain, as she drank in the sight of Shūtoku's dance club.
(Oh, and because the world was unfair, it seemed as if everyonein Shūtoku's dance club was attractive. They all reminded her of models who could dance.It was a blow to her confidence, to know that she'd be facing off such pretty dancers—she had the feeling they had the talent to back up their looks, too.)
"Hello, Rina." Kiko's voice was cold and smooth, although Doyeon could see an amused smirk as she gazed at Rina. "I was starting to think you wouldn't come."
"As if I'd miss this!" Rina denied, huffing loudly. "It's not my fault we ran into some traffic. Kiko-chan, you know me well enough to know I would never miss a chance to practice with my eternal rival!"
That reminded her of an anime featuring a bushy browed ninja who wore an atrocious amount of green, but then again, that didn't seem to be relevant information right now; so Doyeon pushed it to the back of her head.
Oddly enough, Kiko seemed to enjoy humoring Rina. "Of course. I was just teasing, I know you couldn't refuse a chance to meet me and my team."
It was as if they were pseudo-flirting. Huh.
Although Doyeon clearly remembered the meeting being informed as a 'joint practice', it ended up being more of a dance battle session rather than practicing in harmony.
There was no real animosity behind it, of course, but Doyeon wouldn't really consider it as a peaceful practice either. Rina and Kiko were increasingly competitive towards each other, although Doyeon did wonder for a moment if she was the only one who noticed the tension between the both of them that leaned more towards the sexual side. (Of course, Doyeon wasn't one to discriminate between sexualities, so if it turned out that her hunch was real and the leader really was not as straight as Doyeon personally was, she wouldn't judge.)
Most of the battles were between Rina and Kiko, although everyone got their turn to show off their skills against their opponent. Doyeon herself was pitted against a girl who was even taller than her whose dance style was focused on popping. It was a good match, although in mock dance battles like the one she just experienced, there was no official winner and loser, so she couldn't say whether she won or lost. It was just fun. She enjoyed it thoroughly, and she particularly enjoyed how her opponent was able to go all out against her—it made her feel worthy, somehow, having an opponent who didn't hold back against you.
"These shoes are killing me!"
Rina was wailing about how her heels hurt like a bitch. Personally, Doyeon was skeptical as to why the second year was wearing heels in the first place. She'd seen idols do it on TV when they performed at music shows, but she always wondered about how they did it. She could barely walk with them on, much less dance.
("It really helps with your dancing skills though," Rina said that to her as a defense, claiming she'd read about it somewhere online. Doyeon wasn't fully convinced yet, but she knew there had to be some truth in that, considering the older's movements today seemed… different than usual, but in a way that wasn't bad.)
"Then you shouldn't have worn them," Kiko commented, her tone matter-of-fact. Doyeon smothered a giggle, instead looking away pointedly at the suddenly very interesting ceiling. "Why don't you get one of your kouhai to fetch you some ice or something? Or maybe a cold drink, you could press that instead."
"Does that really work?"
"In theory it should because it's cold, but I don't—"
"Doyeon, come here!"
The younger girl walked towards the older, already expecting her task. It wasn't that she liked eavesdropping, it was just that Rina was loud. One didn't have to try to hear the conversation, although a part of her felt bad for listening in to something that was potentially private.
"There's a vending machine around here. Could you please get me what looks like the coldest drink in there?"
"Ah, sure, senpai. The money?"
Rina was taken off guard at the statement, obviously having forgot about the issue of money. "I didn't bring my wallet—shit. I thought I wouldn't need to buy anything." Doyeon could practically hear the pout in her voice. "My beautiful, gorgeous, lovely kouhai—"
"—okay, I'll let you borrow my money," Doyeon cut her off, laughing slightly afterwards. At least the usually shameless senior had the decency to look a little shy at that, cheeks turning into the lightest shade of red. "I'll get going now. Rina-senpai, Kiko-san." That was her farewell before she left the auditorium, intending to find a vending machine as soon as possible.
(The whole concept of a school having a vending machine was pretty cool, considering the closest thing to a vending machine was a water dispenser back in Seirin. When she heard vending machines, she didn't think of schools—but then again, things were different in a school of Shūtoku's calibre.)
After stumbling upon the same hallway for the third time, Doyeon grudgingly admitted that yes, she was lost; she had no idea how to find the vending machine, and now she had no idea how to get back to the auditorium. Great. She loved her life with all the burning flames of youth she could muster.
Why wasn't there some kind of Google Maps but for buildings? That would make life a ton easier, because Doyeon knew this wasn't the first time she'd gotten lost inside a building. There was this one time back in Korea when she joined a cram school during her last year of middle school, and the building was big and extremely tall, seeming more like an office than a cram school—she couldn't even attend her first day of class there, however, because she wound up taking an unintentional tour around the building as she got lost and wound up anywhere that wasn't her class.
It was wild, and while Shūtoku's building was nothing compared to the cram school's, it was still a major pain in the derriere.
"Shin-chan, don't 'cha think I look better in this picture than the other one?"
"I don't care, Takao."
The banter of two boys (at least, their voice sounded like boys) broke her out of her reverie. Doyeon stilled in her tracks, mentally praying that they'd come by this way so she could have someone to ask directions to. She'd given up finding the damn machine on her own, feeling that if she continued to pursue that path, she would end up going around in circles for the remainder of the day; and that wasn't ideal at all, considering she still had Dongyeon to annoy and dramas to binge back home.
As it turned out, fate was on her side today, and soon, she could see two boys heading towards her direction. Although her vision wasn't very sharp, she could at least estimate that one of the boys was absurdly tall with eye-grabbing green hair, while the other seemed to be much more normal in terms of appearance, sporting a height that wasn't out of the average range for high school students and a haircut that seemed a little old fashioned, but it was still normal—and ah, the other kid's hair was black, as compared to his friend's shade of green.
"Excuse me!" It was supposed to get their attention, and considering how the both of them swiveled their heads toward her direction, the attempt seemed to be a success. There was a questioning look on both their faces, although she noticed it was softer on the black haired guy when compared to his friend, who seemed to be more on the cold side of things. "Do you know where the vending machine is?"
"You don't know where the vending machine is, nanodayo," stated the green haired guy—Shin-chan?—in a flat tone.
Nanodayo was also a word she wasn't familiar with—perhaps it was some kind of new slang she hadn't heard back then?
Doyeon nodded. "Um, yeah. I'm actually not a student here, just visiting because of a club practice."
"You're not from Shūtoku?" Takao sounded very excited about it, as he dragged Shin-chan along with him on his jumpy steps towards the female student. "Which school are you from then?"
"Seirin. I'm in their dance club," she explained, palms placed on each side of her pants. After she'd mentioned the name of her high school, however, a spark of recognition seemed to be ignited in both of the boys' eyes, Midorima's brighter than Takao's. Perhaps they knew someone from her high school? Takao seemed to be the type of person who'd have friends outside his own high school, although she didn't know about Shin-chan. "My senpai is waiting for me so could you guys please show me the way?"
That seemed to snap Takao out of whatever excitement he was in, although she noticed that even if he was significantly less excited than before, he still looked rather happy. The comparison was not missed when you decided to observe the peculiar Shin-chan as well, who looked as if he'd rather be anywhere else but here. Were all male friendships she'd witness this odd?
"Right, of course!" Takao's smile was sunny, almost blinding, but that was alright. She liked bright smiles; they reminded her of her best friend, who was probably equally missing Doyeon right now. They were two peas in a pod, and some people even made the assumption that they were secretly seeing each other behind everyone's backs—that was how close they were. "Follow me."
"I don't see why I have to follow," Shin-chan drawled, and Takao was used to this kind of treatment, apparently, as he didn't seem too bothered by it.
"Don't mind Shin-chan, he's just a big ol' tsundere who's grumpy because he left behind his rabbit keychain at home!"
It took effort for her to hold back a giggle considering Shin-chan's murderous expression, because really, who would've thought he was the type to carry around bunny keychains?
Shin-chan seemed to sense the direction of her thoughts, however, because he smoothly interjected, "Oha-Asa predicted that I'd forget something important today, and Oha-Asa is never wrong. Cancers have the second to worst luck today." She didn't have to squint to hear the pout in his voice, although she had no idea what an Oha-Asa was. It sounded like he was awfully reliant on it, however, so it had to be something cool.
"Oha-Asa? I've never heard of it before," Doyeon commented idly, tilting her head slightly so she could look at Shin-chan when she spoke.
"Oha-Asa is a daily fortune for the zodiac signs, nanodayo. My luck never fails because of it; God proposes, man disposes." The tone he used was matter-of-fact and at the same time repetitive, and it led her to believe that explaining was Oha-Asa was had become a daily occurrence for him. Personally, she wasn't the biggest fan of zodiacs, preferring the MBTI types when it came to reading personalities; not only did it have a scientific basis, zodiac seemed to be purely based on divination.
Although she was a skeptic, so perhaps Shin-chan liked to believe that horoscopes and everything else along that line were valid. The whole luck thing seemed to be a psychological effect, something that she'd read prior about suggestion or something like that. Still, Midorima seemed to follow it reverently, and considering they met only today (not even five minutes ago), it was too soon for her to make a casual joke out of that.
"I see." She didn't press for more details afterwards, and she doubted Shin-chan would bother to explain more about something she obviously seemed not too interested in. Takao was silent during the exchange of conversation, although the short dialogue between her and Shin-chan ended, he continued to ramble on about Shūtoku and its basketball team.
Huh, so they played basketball. They were rather tall, so it would explain it; Shin-chan, in particular, was exceptionally tall to the point she needed to look up when she talked to him.
"By the way, did you do that to your shoes on purpose?" Takao wondered out loud, and Doyeon grinned, flashing him a toothy smile as well as a thumbs up. Today she was wearing two shoes of the same model but with different colours; two sneakers, although one was hot pink while the other was mustard yellow.
"Uh-huh! It's my way of expressing myself," explained Doyeon, doing a few hand gestures in reflex. "It's fun to mix and match."
Takao blinked, apparently not having expected the straightforward response, but the look disappeared almost immediately as it was replaced with a wide grin. "You're pretty interesting! Hey, what's your name?"
This was usually the moment when they'd falter in their conversation upon hearing Doyeon's very not Japanese name, most likely wondering why she was here or whether she was lying because of her advanced Japanese skills (she wouldn't consider herself fluent, as the years had led her to grow rusty in her pronunciation and grammar at times), but, although Doyeon was quickly growing tired of that reaction, lying about her identity would lead to an even bigger mess. She didn't like it when situations were messy; it reminded her eerily of that.
"I'm Kim Doyeon. Nice to meet you." The smile on Doyeon's face was looking more like her convenience store shift smile rather than her usual, genuine grins, but considering how both of the boys seemed undaunted, the smile grew wider on its own course.
"My name's Takao Kazunari! It's nice to meet you too, Kim-chan!"
A -chan suffix almost immediately? That was something she rarely heard from guys in Japan, although she didn't really mind. She didn't even mind when someone called her by her first name, considering she'd called many of her friends by their first names back in South Korea, only adding a -ssi suffix if they were older (and not yet close, in which that would change to eonnie or oppa) or barely knew each other.
"I'm Midorima Shintarou, nanodayo," introduced Shin-chan in a more quiet fashion than his friend's, and ah, Shin-chan was an affectionate nickname. Got it.
The mismatched group of three stopped in front of a vending machine filled with various ice-cold drinks. The detail on the vending machine itself was rather boring, as it was a regular vending machine with a plastic blue colour, but with vending machines it was the inside that mattered rather than the outside. "Here we are!" Takao said, reminiscent of a tour guide.
Turning so that she could face the two boys, Doyeon bowed, showing her thanks. "Thank you very much."
"Can you find your own way back?" teased Takao, gaining a good-natured laugh from the Korean who was already rifling through her pockets to find the money she'd shoved inside this morning. Hopefully none of it fell while she was dancing earlier, because that'd be a lot of pain, to have to go back just to fetch her money before returning to the location of the vending machine once more.
"I think I can. Thanks again for your help, I really appreciate it." There was no trace of a lie or malice in Doyeon's words, considering she was sure she would've been lost for a much longer time had the two basketball players not been conveniently around. "Shouldn't you both return to practice? I'm sure your coach and manager are waiting for you."
Takao pouted, resembling a sad cat. (It was cat instead of puppy considering the sharpness of his eyes.) "We don't have a manager." Although he didn't sound genuinely sad about it, Doyeon nodded, mirroring his pout in a sympathetic manner.
"The captain's probably looking for us. We should get back." Midorima, bless his blunt zodiac-enthusiast soul, snapped Takao out of his former sulk. "You are welcome." The last words were directed to her, leaving her answering him with a simple smile.
"See you, Kim-chan! Be sure to come by one of our matches sometimes!" Takao waved as her even as he departed, and Doyeon returned the wave just as enthusiastically, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
After the two basketball players were out of her range, that was only when she returned her attention to the machine. It took a while, but after looking through her pockets and even the inside of them, she was able to find enough money to get one freezing seeming ion drink. (That drink was apparently the cheapest too, so it seemed as if luck was on her side today. Much unlike Midorima, who believed his sign had the second worst luck on this particular Saturday.)
The trek back towards the auditorium was still a little confusing, but compared to the first minutes she'd spent trying to find the vending machine before Takao and Midorima helped her, it was nothing. By the time she pushed the doors to the auditorium open, however, she noticed that the majority of the dancers were already cleaning up, getting ready to go home. The dancers from Seirin too, it seemed, were in the process of packing their bags and throwing away their leftover trash. Did it really take her that long just to get a cold drink?
Before she was able to contemplate it further (and blame herself even more in the process), Rina was suddenly in front of her, looking like a grumpy little child. "Doyeon-chan, what took you so long?" The older practically wailed, but all the sadness was alleviated upon spotting the drink clutched in Doyeon's right fist. "Oh! That's mine, right? Gimme gimme."
"I'm sorry, senpai. The vending machine was difficult to find." As Doyeon explained the reason to how long it took her to find a drink, she loosened her hold on the drink, handing it over to the older who accepted it as quick as lightning. She was about to give a longer, more detailed explanation as well as another apology, but Rina was already bundling away from her, yelling about how she was 'finally going to heal' her feet that felt like 'nasty sons of bitches.'
How the older was so profane, she wasn't sure if she wanted to find out.