Feels Like Home
She Thickens The (Already Quite Thick) Plot
As the weeks went by, the six friends got to know each other better. Daisuke and Riku liked similar things and found it easy to talk to one another, whilst Dark was still constantly hitting on the twins. Although Krad fought Dark half the time and Satoshi barely said anything, it seemed that they were softening. Risa, clueless as ever, chattered to them as if they were her best friends.
It was in Maths that someone first noticed. She was seated next to Satoshi, and as usual she was talking away to him.
"I went shopping the other day, and I saw this totally amazing dress on sale. It was gold and had glittery sequins all over the bottom! It had thick straps and the ruffles went to just above my knees when I tried it on. It was a perfect fit—can you imagine that, Mr Hiwatari? A perfect fit! But, oh my god, was it expensive. It would take like forever to save up for that dress… but I'm going to start! Maybe I'll borrow some money off Riku…"
Krad was on the table next door. He was staring at Risa and listening to her non-stop chatter, and couldn't help wondering how on earth Satoshi could stand it. If it was some other girl, he'd… wait. No other girl talked to Satoshi like that! They all talked about him when they thought he couldn't hear them (not that they said bad things), but when it was upfront they either froze up or just confessed their love.
When he looked closer at Satoshi, he noticed that he didn't seem interested in her words, but he didn't seem annoyed either. So why was he listening to her?
"Harada," he hissed. Risa blinked and looked over at him, and leant closer when he signalled her too. Satoshi was watching them from the corner of his eye, and Krad knew it. "No other girl ever talks directly to Hiwatari. What makes you think you can?"
Risa looked around at this. Her friends—or rather, so-called friends—were all glancing over and whispering to the girl beside them. All had jealous faces.
"Of course I can talk to him," she announced. "It's not like he's a statue for everyone to admire but not speak to, although that still happens. I would be so lonely if no-one talked to me. So to make up for all that conversation Satoshi never had, I'm going to speak to him."
Even though that wasn't totally accurate, as Satoshi did distance himself from others, and even though nothing changed in Satoshi's expression, Krad could see how touched Satoshi was.
Maybe it was in his eyes. Maybe he'd explain to Risa why her words meant so much to him. He had already been happy, however small, when Risa talked to him.
He had no idea what she said, but now he could hear her voice in his ears even when he didn't listen for it.
Although she hadn't seen anything in Satoshi, Risa had most definitely seen a change in Dark.
"Riku," she mumbled in lunch one day, "I want to ask you something."
Riku put down her chopsticks and turned to her sister, who sat by her side. "What is it?"
Risa looked uncomfortable. Fiddling with her hair, she began, "I've noticed something weird going on recently. I know you're in the same class as Mr Dark, but—"
"I am not delivering some love letter for you, Risa," replied Riku shortly, putting rice in her mouth.
"No, no, it's not that." Risa bit her lip. "Um… does Dark, like, fancy you or something?"
"W-WHAT?" Chopsticks clattered onto the table as Riku bounded up, her chair falling over behind her. "How—what on earth are you talking about? He doesn't—I mean, of course her doesn't… there's no way he'd… he'd…" She pulled her chair back up and sat down, running her fingers down her hair. "Don't be ridiculous!"
"B-but he always flirts with you!" Risa cried. "That time at karate when… when I ran out and was talking to Daisuke, Dark came after us too but talked to you! Don't think I didn't notice. And when we joined up again at the park, you were with him… and who knows what he said to you!"
Riku shook her head frantically. "He was just being his perverted self! I can't believe you think he fancies me." A though struck her. "You're not still angry about me grading, are you?"
"Of course not!" Risa packed away her lunchbox and slung her bag onto her shoulder. "Don't bring that up." She hesitated, but then added, "And remember your Tarot card reading, Riku? You were going to meet someone or some people who were unconventional. Well, I looked up unconventional, and you were right; it means someone different, who doesn't follow the rules."
Riku looked sceptic. "Reading the future is just a load of made up nothing anyway," she said.
Risa raised her eyebrows. "Really? Riku, don't you think someone unconventional sounds like, say… Dark?"
With that, Risa went, leaving Riku speechless. As the long haired brunette walked away, Dark appeared from nowhere and sat down in Risa's place. In reply, Riku groaned inwardly and pretended not to have seen him.
Dark was having none of that. "Riku, haven't you finished your lunch yet? I want to walk to class with you."
He doesn't fancy you, Riku thought stubbornly, get it out of your head! But with Dark grinning right beside her, it was difficult not to blush. What was wrong with her? "Mm," she murmured, her mouth full of the last of her lunch.
"OK, you've finished. Now let's go!" Dark tried to pull Riku from her seat, but Riku stayed where she was. She needed to clear up Risa's suspicions, but she couldn't bring herself to mention it.
Eventually, she gathered enough courage to speak and started to say Dark's name when he said something.
Riku froze. He was asking for Risa? Why would he want…? No…
Did he love Risa?
"You just missed her," Riku replied coldly. "She went to Japanese. Why don't you go after her?"
She walked off in the direction of her Science room. Why was she being so cold? It wasn't as if he'd said anything wrong.
She half expected Dark to come after her, and at first she thought he wouldn't. But he caught up easily and hit her over the head with his books saying simply, "I was only asking, stupid."
Riku couldn't help but smile.
It was coming up to the grading, and however much she tried to hide it, Risa was still miffed over not being good enough to grade. She was also a little fed up over the Dark-fancies-who matter, but she couldn't get Riku's reading out of her head. Worse, it reminded her that her own reading wasn't coming true. It said her life would be brighter, so why was nothing going right? Why didn't Dark notice her in the way she wanted him to?
In a karate session that was filled up with sparring, Risa finally decided to show how good at karate she could be if she really tried. She paired up with Riku, to her sister's delight, and tried her absolute hardest. Sparring was when you did relaxed fighting, just trying out moves usually, kitted out in pads. As they had many times before, they borrowed a set (this time wearing the leg versions as well as the gloves).
Everything she had taken in suddenly registered properly in Risa's head. She blocked every one of Riku's punches and even landed a few of hers on Riku. "Hey!" Riku cried, laughing but slightly confused. "When did you get so good, Risa?"
Risa's concentration was focused mostly her moves, but she still smiled. She had always been ditzy and distracted, but with a clear mind she could do anything! She pushed back the one thought that kept coming back—that she was taking her anger out on Riku.
Across the hall, Daisuke and Dark were getting on well. Daisuke was good for his belt level, but Dark, as a purple belt who knew Jin, was a lot better. And, as a loving cousin, he wiped the floor with Daisuke.
If Dark was with Daisuke, Krad must have been denied his chance against Dark again. But he and his partner (a fellow black and brown belt) were sparring nearby to the cousins, ready to jump in and finally give Dark what he deserved.
"OK, time to switch partners."
Pushing Daisuke aside, Krad shouted into Dark's unimpressed face, "Mousy, you're mine!"
Dark grinned. "Get real, Krad. I'll cream you."
As soon as the words were spoken, Krad lunged at Dark. Dark, however, blocked the punch and struck back with a punch of his own. That too was blocked and countered by a kick, which was countered by another kick, and so on. The sparring had turned into an all-out brawl.
Riku went over to Daisuke, wanting to pair up. Daisuke was watching Dark and Krad fight. "Shouldn't we be stopping them?" he asked, but he didn't sound worried.
"…Nah," Riku replied, just as calm. "I don't think we could even if we wanted to."
"So," Daisuke continued, "shall we get started…Riku?"
Riku blushed and stuttered out, "Y-yeah, sure, Niwa…"
Then they began their sparring. Like before, Daisuke and Riku worked well together, even though Riku was still recovering from the shock of hearing her name. He advised her on ways she could attack him, and when to attack him, and showed her some kicks. When he fought her he focused more on getting her to block that trying to hit her.
She knew Daisuke was going easy on her, but Riku still enjoyed every minute.
Unfortunately, Risa had been left with no-one to pair up with. Annoyed, as she had wanted to try out her moves on Dark, she decided to go with one of the other girls. There was one left who looked easy, and she vaguely recognised her from a class at school, so she paired up with her. She was roughly her age, with straw coloured hair and a green vest and tracksuit bottoms to match her eyes. She was very pretty, and she smiled sweetly when she said, "Hi, I'm Kaede."
"I'm Risa," Risa replied. "Ready?" Kaede nodded, but as soon as Risa landed one punch, even though it was lightly on her arm she wailed. Really loudly. "Owwwwww! That reeeally hurt, how could you do thaaaat? Now it'll bruuuise," she sobbed. She rubbed her arm as if she'd fallen off a brick wall.
Risa stared at her, dumbstruck. Who did Kaede think she was? "Well, I'm sorry," she said. "I barely touched you."
"Then why does it hurt?" replied Kaede. Her face was scrunched up, but Risa saw no tears. Why did she bother going karate if she didn't even want to learn? Oh, of course. Fit boys.
She looked around at the others, at Dark and Krad's war and at Riku and Daisuke, happily doing what they were supposed to do. Then she spotted Satoshi, who was sitting at the side and watching everyone silently.
Kaede wailed again, this time her friends coming over to see what was wrong. Sighing, Risa waited impatiently to switch partners again.
Each sparring session was only a couple of minutes long, so she didn't have to wait long to switch. She made her way over to Riku and Daisuke, hoping to catch Dark.
But Dark and Krad weren't finished. Both wanting to deliver the last blow, they just carried on fighting and fighting, attracting a lot of attention. Nothing and no-one could get them to stop, until the sensei came over. "Break it up, you two," he told them sternly.
With one sweeping kick, Dark knocked Krad backwards and finished perfectly. "Of course, ouse, sensei," he said, bowing slightly. He was grinning, though.
Krad rubbed his stomach, where Dark's kick had hit him. He swore something colourful under his breath and bowed to the sensei as well. "Ouse, forgive me, sensei."
The sensei gave a satisfied nod and walked away, and as soon as he was gone Krad scowled at his enemy, glaring daggers full of hate.
"Dark!" Risa cried happily, ignoring Krad completely. "Would you be my part—?"
Dark, however, had seen Riku and grabbed her wrist. "You're with me, Riku," he said, pulling her away from Daisuke.
"What are you—? Hey! Mousy, let me go!" Riku struggled, but Dark's grip was strong and he easily led her away, Risa watching them.
Turning away, she went up to Daisuke and asked to pair up with him, and he of course said yes.
Krad was left with no partner, again, so he grabbed the nearest person to him. It was a shame that the person was Kaede.
"OK, Riku. Give me your best shot." Dark smirked as Riku stepped back, ready to punch—if a bit confused. Why would Dark want her to attack him? What was he planning…?
Riku stepped forward with as strong a punch as she could muster, aiming at his pretty-boy face. But when she was barely an inch away, Dark sidestepped and grabbed her arm and her opposite shoulder, forcing her backwards and sweeping her feet from the floor. She had almost hit the floor when Dark caught her gracefully, arm around her upper back. He was smirking even more now. "Oh Riku, how did you get there?" he asked innocently.
Shocked, Riku was lost for words. "Uh… g… get out of my face!" She pushed him away, taking him by surprise and in the process making him drop her. She landed on her rear and it hurt, but she didn't show it. "That's cheating, I swear," she shouted at him crossly, getting to her feet. "You can't do that in sparring, and no way can you do it to a white belt!"
Dark rubbed his neck. "Well, you got me there! Heh, heh, heh. I couldn't resist." As soon as what he said hit her, Riku blushed for the second time that evening. Chuckling, Dark continued, "I won't do it again, I promise!"
"OK, then," Riku replied, not sure if she believed him or not, but he kept his word. However, it was difficult to block his punches; she was sure he was punching hard on purpose to get her to block. If she didn't, she would be hit for sure. Why didn't he go a bit easier on her, as she was a beginner?
She narrowly blocked a punch aimed at her head.
Not that'd she'd actually ask him that.
Meanwhile, Risa wasn't doing too good. She'd lost all the spunk she'd had at the start of the session and was now having difficulty blocking Daisuke's punches.
It was getting so bad that one time when she didn't block Daisuke struck her stomach so hard that Risa winced. "Are you OK, Miss Harada?" asked Daisuke, concern in his ruby eyes.
"Yeah, I'm fine…" Risa rubbed the sore spot anxiously. What was wrong with her?
Reading her mind, Daisuke continued, "Is something wrong?"
"Huh? No, of course not, Niwa!" Risa laughed nervously, tucking hair that had fallen out of place behind her ear. "Why would something be wrong?"
Daisuke didn't believe her, but there was nothing he could do. He sighed and said, "Would you like to keep going, then? We can do the same thing as Riku and I did."
That was when Risa realised what was wrong. Her head was swirling with thoughts of Riku, but more specifically with Riku and Dark. And now Daisuke had entered the picture.
"That's OK, Niwa," said Risa, smiling.
Suddenly, something hit the side of her head. Flinching, she put a hand to it, the other checking her hair was still in a loose (but secure) bun.
Then she turned her head and she saw that the striker was Krad. He'd punched her. "What are you doing, slacker?" he snapped at her.
"Nothing," Risa replied quickly.
"Exactly. Daisuke, make her work." Krad looked straight at the boy, making him look down in embarrassment.
"A clever idea, Hikari," said a cool, calm voice that could only belong to Satoshi. He had come over, arms crossed, but no expression on his face. "Won't you be the one to do it?"
Krad raised an eyebrow folding his arms as well. "Me? I don't think so."
"No, Mr Krad! You can't pair up with her!" A blonde girl had appeared from nowhere and had wrapped her arms around Krad's left arm, looking pretty smug in her green outfit.
Risa blinked. "Kaede? What are you—wait, you're Mr Hikari's partner?"
"That's right," Kaede smiled, wrapping her arms around Krad's arm. "Now come on, Krad, we have to spar again."
"Hey, you can't call Mr Hikari by his first name," cried Risa, speaking her mind as always. She was getting really worked up over Kaede, she realised.
"I'm not pairing up with you again!" Krad snapped at the blonde girl, who had started twirling her fingers through his ponytail. "You're awful at karate and you're really, really annoying me." Krad was such a gentleman.
Kaede pouted. "Don't say that," she said softly. She then brightened briefly as if she'd had a sudden idea. "I know; Satoshi could come help us."
"I'm sorry," Satoshi replied, ignoring both Kaede's batting eyelashes and Risa's grumbling. "I'm going to teach Miss Harada a few things about basic karate. If you'd care to know, Miss… ("Call me Kaede!") …Kaede, she has progressed more these past few weeks than you have this past year."
Risa blushed—she couldn't help it. Satoshi was sticking up for her? That was so unusual, so out of character… and she was now in so much trouble. Kaede was going to kill her. Trembling slightly, Risa followed her defender.
Krad grabbed at Daisuke, who hadn't said a word. He jumped violently, like a scared rabbit that'd been caught by a fox. "I'm going to regret this, Niwa, but you are now my partner. Let's go."
"What? Krad, no!" The rest of his words trailed off as he was pulled away. "Don't include me in your problems…!"
Open mouthed, Kaede stared and glared at the retreating backs. Then she growled quietly. How dare that Risa Harada steal her spotlight? She would win it back. She would definitely win it back.
"Ow!" Riku crouched on the floor, clutching her elbow. She could deal with his violence normally, but this time it had really hurt. To cover it up she said quickly, "Um, it's nothing."
"Oh, really? You didn't just fall over, then?" Dark grinned slyly.
Riku narrowed her eyes at him. "You tripped me up, you jerk!"
"Maybe I did…"
"See! You're so inconsiderate."
"You think so? I can care if I want to." Dark started to push up her karate uniform sleeve.
"Hey, get off me!" Riku snapped, snatching her hand to her chest. "What were doing?"
"Seeing if there was a bruise or mark," explained Dark patiently.
"Oh… was that all?" mumbled Riku, feeling pretty stupid.
Dark raised an eyebrow. "'Was that all'?"
"Miss Harada, will you come with me?" a voice interrupted. "Your sister and I will be going through the first kata, Taikyoku."
Riku blinked at the speaker, Satoshi, but replied, "Yeah, sure."
"Bye Riku!" Dark grinned. "Have fun!"
For an answer, Riku stuck her tongue out at him. This made Dark laugh, so he didn't notice something sidle up behind him and say, "Hey there."
It was a girl's voice, so Dark turned round, cool as a cucumber, and smirked at her. "Can I help you?" he asked in his smoothest voice.
"I haven't got a partner so I wondered… would you be mine?" replied Kaede.
The class, except for Satoshi, Riku and Risa, swapped partners and had drink breaks until they changed to performing kata. Satoshi patiently took Riku and Risa through Taikyoku, and patience he needed. Even though the first kata only had two different moves it was difficult for beginners to grasp. Risa was, however, doing better than was expected.
At the very end of karate, when they were kneeling on the floor, in the middle of the sensei's usual 'well done' speech he mentioned the grading. "I have watched you all this session and I confirm everyone that has been recommended to grade this winter. If you work hard you will succeed—of course, that is only if you show up." Not many people noticed that he looked specifically at Dark when he said this.
Risa was lost in her thoughts. So she wasn't good enough to grade after all? Even after today? She bit her lip; no; she would settle this once and for all.
"There will be a black belt grading at a later date," the sensei added, eyeing Krad. And that finished his speech.
When they had bowed and karate was officially over, Risa marched up to the sensei with Riku dragging along behind her. "Excuse me, sensei," she asked sweetly, "will I be grading?"
The sensei gave her a long look, unnerving Risa, but Riku put her arm around her twin's shoulders. "Of course you are," he told her finally. "Didn't I recommend you, Harada?"
Risa's heart suddenly felt light. She beamed. "No, sensei, but I'm alright." Riku smiled too, happy for her sister. It disappeared straight away when Risa continued, "Oh and sensei, is Dark not grading, or…?"
The sensei frowned slightly. "Dark could grade all the way to black and brown if he wanted to, but he never comes to the grading. He hasn't gone to one for over a year now."
The sisters look at him with a puzzled expression. "But why?" Risa asked.
"I've tried asking, but he won't listen to me," the sensei sighed. "It's such a shame—he would make a fine black belt."
As Risa danced off, Riku pondered over what the sensei had said. No way would she ask Dark himself, she was too proud. In the end she decided to ask Niwa. As his cousin he knew him better than anyone else.
"Niwa, I have a question," she said as she pulled on her trainers on the floor. Dark was safely outside, and she couldn't help but notice that the devil of a girl (as Risa put it) Kaede had gone out with him. "Why is Mousy a purple belt?"
Interested, Risa looked up from buckling her shoes next to her.
Daisuke was sitting on a bench drinking his water. He put the lid on as he replied, "Isn't it obvious?"
Riku frowned. "No, it's not."
"You know how obsessed Dark is with his looks," said Daisuke. "Well, the belt matches his hair and eye colour, doesn't it?"
When he said it like that, Riku could see that Daisuke was right. The purple of the belt and the violet in his hair and eyes were the very same shade. But was he so obsessed with himself that he put off being a higher belt?
Riku straightened again and laughed. "He's insane. He's totally insane."
"Oh my god!" Risa was looking outside. "Look what he and Kaede are doing!"
Riku hadn't focused so much on that. "Well, what are they doing?"
"I can't say it out loud," Risa said. "I have to look away!" She covered her face as she turned around.
Riku and Daisuke exchanged looks before Riku got up to join her sister. "Risa, you plum! They're only talking!
Risa sniffed. "Isn't it awful? What if he falls in love with her?"
"I don't think so somehow, Risa," Riku said firmly. She marched up to Dark, Kaede or no Kaede, and jabbed a finger at his chest. "Dark Mousy, stop flirting with every girl you see!"
"Jealous, Riku?" Dark grinned.
"No," Riku replied, her face still straight. "Why should I be? You're a loser. You care about your looks so bad that you won't even grade! You could be such a high belt, but you're not. I mean, just because your belt and hair match doesn't mean you should stay a purple belt forever, Dark! The whole idea is so…" She realised then that she was getting worked up. "So stupid…"
"Woah, Riku, what is this?" Dark frowned, still smiling. "What are you talking about? My looks? That's unusual. Calling me by my first name is strange enough. Now you've exploded? Riku, you've got it all wrong!"
"Wait, so that's not why you haven't graded?" Riku was mystified now. She barely registered what Dark was saying.
"But then, why…?"
"I can't tell you." Dark's smirk reappeared. "It's a secret." At that moment Daisuke came over with his and Dark's bags. "Well, see you later Riku, you too Risa, Kaede!" And with, that the cousins (and the storm) left.
Risa and Kaede were astonished by Riku's outburst, and unluckily Kaede recovered first. She smiled cruelly at Risa. "Oh Risa, I couldn't even begin to tell you all the things Dark said to me," she giggled. "Aren't you jealous?"
Forced from her reverie, Risa clenched her jaw. "Not one bit," she growled.
Giggling still, Kaede flounced off.
"Don't let her get to you, Risa," Riku advised her twin. "She's just a pathetic, wannabe loser."
Risa smiled sadly. "She was so nice when I first talked to her though. Was that all an act, do you think? Does she hate me?"
"It's not impossible," Riku replied.
Hi, I'm back with this chapter of Feels Like Home. I hope you're all enjoying the story so far (wait, that's the sort of thing you write in the first chapter…). It's been a while, I realise that. Three months in fact! Whew, time flies.
I had originally planned to write this chapter during my summer hols, but it wasn't to be… I can only write when I want to, and the chapters are so long that I felt intimidated. I wrote a little at a time instead, which means I started this weeks ago.
There was a little mystery this time, with Dark's little secret… don't worry, it'll be uncovered. Sometimes, I just love being the all-knowing author.
I'll see you next time then, my beloved readers, but I especially love my reviewers! Thanks so much for telling me what you think. Come on, you can all do it—just click that little go button!