Only the Ring Finger Knows
Original concept by Satoru Kannagi
Yuichi Kazuki leaned against the doorframe of room 4-A, his pale gray irises narrowing in annoyance as he spied the large throng of people gathered around the senior water fountain and washroom.
'It's so crowded . . . bah; all I want to do is get a drink!! I'm not going to push my way through all those people just to do a simple thing like that . . .'
Eyes wandering, Kazuki found his eyes drawn to a little square sign hanging above a doorway to his right, on the opposite side of the hallway as the water fountains:
Kazuki's eyebrows rose. 'Stairs . . . the junior floor's water fountains might be less crowded . . .'
Gazing over his shoulder secretively to make sure none of his classmates were watching, Kazuki nonchalantly walked over to the door and quietly pulled it open, slipping through and heading down the flight of stairs to the junior floor.
When Kazuki poked his head out of the stairwell on the third floor, the junior floor, he was pleased to see the floor deserted. 'Classes must be running a little late here . . .' Not wasting any further time, Kazuki rushed hurriedly to the water fountains, twisting the knob to release the thin stream of water from the spigot and stooping over the cold metal to take a sip.
A bright flash out of the corner of his eyes caught his attention. Glancing up suddenly, Kazuki spotted a little silver ring laying on the edge of one of the washroom sinks, where it was catching the afternoon sunlight coming in through the windows and reflecting it off its shined surface.
Twisting off the fountain and glancing briefly over his shoulder to the junior classes still in session, Kazuki walked over to it curiously, picking it up and examining it interestedly.
It was indeed a ring; pretty generic, by the looks of it, with its only décor being a thin gold line running around the length of the ring in the middle of the silver. It was pretty in its own way, Kazuki supposed, and so he tried it on; seeing if it would fit his finger.
It did not. The ring slid down his middle finger too easily, hitting the base of his finger with a soft thud.
'Hmm . . . too big . . .'
He let it slide off his finger and fall into his palm, and he was about to put it back when suddenly a thought struck him: 'Junior classes will get out soon, and this place will be crowded. If I leave this ring where I found it, it could easily get knocked off the counter and fall down the drain! That wouldn't be fair to whoever bought it. I should give it to Lei-sensei or Odagiri-sensei, and see if they can identify the owner . . .' And so deciding this, Kazuki put the ring into his breast pocket, and headed back up to the fourth floor, and his next class.
Just in the nick of time, too, for as the stairwell door snapped shut on the third floor, junior classes let out.
Juniors started pouring out of their classrooms, to get a drink, visit the washroom, or just chill out together until their next teacher arrived. Among these teenagers were one Wataru Fuji and his friend Kawamura, who took up the back of the line in wait for the boy's washroom.
"Oh, man!" Wataru was saying, as he and Kawamura waited in line for the toilets, "I can't believe I lost it! I just bought it a couple weeks ago!! Argh, I'm so irresponsible!!"
Kawamura clapped his friend on the back. "Aww, don't worry about it, Fuji!! It's bound to turn up eventually . . ."
○One week later○
Yuichi Kazuki stood outside the Student Council room boredly, leaning up against the wall heavily and watching the afternoon sun sift in lazily through the windows; broken up by shadows of leaves dancing in the breeze outside. Agitated, he peered into the student council room for the fifth time, wondering when his friend, the Student Council President, would be done.
"Satoru . . . are you quite finished?"
The said boy looked up exasperatedly from the council record books, giving his impatient friend a flat look. "Could you perhaps wait one second, Yuichi? I'm doing something important. Besides, who are you to kick me out of here? You're not even on the student council!!"
Kazuki sent a smirk over to his friend. "Actually, I won the election for presidency, you know. You technically lost, so you should do as I say," he said smugly. "And I tell you to get out."
Satoru slammed the record book shut in annoyance, gathering up his belongings. "I'm done already, sheesh! And, FWI, you weren't even running for the presidency!! So your win doesn't count." Shouldering his bag, Satoru walked over to a grinning Kazuki and deposited the key to the student council room in Kazuki's outstretched hand. "There, your highness. Lock the door and turn off the lights when you leave, and don't tell anyone I gave you a key to this place! I don't wanna get busted when you're in here and get caught cutting class, you delinquent," he snapped, but smiled anyway. "Have a nice fan girl-free lunch break!" Giving a small wave, he exited the room and disappeared around the corner.
Kazuki immediately went into the council room, slamming the door shut and making his way over to the lounge chairs by the window. "Ahh … solitude …" He plopped down heavily and leaned back in the chair, staring tiredly out the window.
'Man . . . I'm a senior this year. Which means college entrance exams are in my very near future …' Adopting a decidedly-angry expression on his usually calm and serene face, Kazuki cursed softly to himself and sat up. 'And everybody will expect me to do well on them; to get a perfect score as usual. That's all I'm good for, after all.' Kazuki scoffed. 'That's all I'll ever be to my classmates, my teachers, and even my parents! The elite scholar, Yuichi Kazuki. The perfect student. The perfect son. The perfect gentleman …' He kicked the counter in front of him angrily. 'Well, what if I decide one day that I don't want to be perfect anymore? What if I decide one day that I don't want to try anymore? They would never be able to accept that I too have flaws . . . they don't seem to get it now . . .'
Yuichi sighed tiredly. "I'm not perfect …"
Suddenly, a thick black volume caught his attention, and he spared it a glance curiously. It was lying open on a nearby chair, as if someone had been looking at it but then left in a hurry.
'Oh … Satoru … he must have been going through it …'
He picked it up, discovering it to be a photo album. Distantly, it registered in his mind that the photography club also met in the Student Council room, and that this photo album probably belonged to them.
"Hey . . . they're school pictures . . ."
Now interested, Kazuki set the heavy album on the counter and leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin in his hand and using his other hand to flip through the pages of the album.
They were generic school pictures; shots of school events, teachers, and students—in short, just what anyone would expect to find in a school album. Kazuki flipped through pages of sports activities, giggling female students, the occasional busty cafeteria lady … stopping when a certain photo caught his eye or interested him long enough to pause.
In group photos of school clubs and councils, Yuichi stopped on the photo of the student council to look for Satoru. He saw his friend on the far left, smiling goofily at the camera. For a minute he thought about vandalizing the photograph, but just shook his head with a smile and moved on.
School Picnic pictures were interesting, too … it seemed that photographers with very quirky senses of humor had been present at the event, if the photos Yuichi saw before him were any judge of it. The photos only concentrated on bodies; most of the people in the picnic photos didn't have heads. Some of them were just blurs of color and motion; shots of a person running or jumping. Kazuki found himself liking the rawness of the pictures; the pure energy of the design. He took his time on that section, and made a mental note to ask Satoru about the photographers later.
Finally, he turned to the last section of the album; the most recent event that occurred at school.
"The school festival …" Brightly lit booths and laughing, colorful people filled these photos; frozen moments captured from the October school festival that had occurred not three weeks ago. A young couple, two of Yuichi's classmates, held hands in front of a game booth, smiling slyly at the camera. An elderly woman grinned at the camera, her arms loaded down with fudge from the freshman's booth. A thin, dark-haired boy looked over his shoulder startlingly, as if he had been caught unaware by the photographer. One hand hovered by the side of his pretty face, strands of his dark hair tangled in long, thin fingers, seemingly looking to tuck them behind an earlobe. The sun glinted off the boy's silver ring, adding a sort of supernatural touch to the lighting in the photograph.
Wait a minute. A silver ring?
Kazuki bent over the album, taking a closer look at the ring. It was silver, with a very thin gold line running through the middle. That was the only decoration. A generic ring …
Kazuki stood up. "The ring! The one I found! It belongs to this kid …" He looked at the boy's surprised features once again, trying to put a name to the face. It certainly wasn't anyone in his grade …
With a sigh, Yuichi closed the album and put it away neatly where he knew it belonged. 'I don't know him … but I will have to ask Satoru about him later. Maybe he knows who the kid is? Until then, I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for him ….'
The bell rang. Time for him to move on …
○The Next Day○
Kazuki and Satoru sat together during the senior lunch hour in the deserted Student Council room, enjoying their lunches and their conversation.
"…So I told her that if she went to that concert, we were through," Satoru was saying; Kazuki only half paying-attention to his rambling friend. He nodded in the right places, mumbled his assent on a few occasions, and put in his two cents when it was required. But frankly, his mind was elsewhere … shifting from one incomplete thought to another; not connecting in any significant way … just floating, almost dream-like—
"Can you believe it? She went to the concert with that guy anyway! She said that she didn't love me anymore; that we were finished—and you know what I saw? They had matching rings on, that guy and her!!" He growled angrily. "You know that stupid little fad that's going around that has every couple obsessed with getting matching rings? And the gossipers just can't get enough of them either!! During breaks, it's always like, 'who's wearing what?' and 'who's wearing it also?' … it's like a drug!! People can't seem to get enough of those damn matching rings!!"
Yuichi stared boredly through Satoru, barely listening, thinking his own thoughts. Fad … yes, I know it … drugs … don't do 'em … rings ….
And just like that, Kazuki was wide awake again as he remembered his afternoon in the council room, looking through school pictures.
"Satoru!" He suddenly exclaimed, causing the red-haired boy to jump, choking on his words.
Kazuki rose from his chair and retrieved the album from where he had tucked it away yesterday, immediately flipping to the back of the album and the picture of the thin brown-haired boy. "Who is this, do you know?"
Still a little startled from Kazuki's outburst, Satoru hesitantly leaned over the desk to take a look.
"Who, him? Hmm … he looks familiar …" Satoru grabbed the album from Kazuki's hands and studied it more closely … "Ah, yes! I remember. He's a junior. Used to go out with a friend of mine's kid sister … Nano, if I remember correctly."
Kazuki wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Please tell me that's at least his surname … heaven help the kid if that's his first name …"
Satoru rolled his eyes. "No … that's the kid sister's name, idiot. I don't know his name," he quipped, tapping the photo. Suddenly Satoru's eyes narrowed. "Why do you want to know, anyway? Surely you don't …fancy him?"
Kazuki nearly lost his cool for a minute. Taking the time to let the blood run back to his head, he swiped his friend upside the head with an open palm.
"Idiot!! Of course not!!" he barked furiously, appalled at the very suggestion that he swung that way. "I just found his ring the other day, that's all!! I wanted to return it to him!"
Satoru jumped away from him, rubbing his head annoyingly. "Okay, okay!! Sheesh … so troublesome!! I was just curious … and for your information, there's nothing wrong with being homosexual! You can't help who you fall in love with, ya know."
Kazuki grunted, still pissed, and packed up his belongings. "Sure, fine—let gay people shack up with whoever they want to …" he stated, heading for the door. "But do you actually think that I; the stud of the century; the guy who has his own army of female fans; the perfect man … would ever turn to another man for a partner? Ha! Don't make me laugh. People like me just don't turn gay …" He left the room without another word.
Satoru sighed. "His ego never ceases to amaze me …" He turned to the open album, intent on closing it and putting it away. His gaze fell on the photo of the dark-haired boy again; and, looking into the boy's startled cobalt eyes, he repeated his earlier statement to himself softly.
"You can't help who you fall in love with, Yuichi."
The bell rang, and immediately the room was cleared of seniors; all of them scrambling to beat the end-of-school rush out the front doors—all, that is, except one.
Yuichi Kazuki hung back, waiting until the very last bubbly teenager left the room before slinging his bag over his shoulder and sauntering up to the front of the room where his teacher, Lei-sensei, still worked at his desk; scrawling notes messily on his lesson plans.
The old man looked up, adjusting his glasses on the end of his nose to better see Yuichi.
"Kazuki-san …? What are you still doing here?"
Kazuki cleared his throat. "Sensei? Do you still have that ring I gave you about three days ago?"
It took a minute for the old teacher to realize what his star pupil was talking about.
"Ring? …. Oh, yes! Why, I have it here, in my briefcase!!" Reaching down, he heaved his large, brown-leather briefcase up on top of the desk and clicked it open, rummaging around in one of the pockets until he produced a tiny, silver ring from inside. "Here it is! I asked several of my classes about it, but no one seemed to claim it." Suddenly, he looked sheepish. "I am afraid that I have neglected to ask all of my classes… after the second day I'm sorry to say I forgot about it …"
Kazuki shook his head. "It's alright, Sensei. But, may I have it back, please? I believe I have located its owner, and would like to give it back to him as soon as possible," he quickly explained, reaching for the ring.
Much to Kazuki's chagrin, Lei gave an enthusiastic speech on how responsible Kazuki was, about how kind he was to his fellow students and how he wished some of the other boys would follow his example; gesturing wildly along with his praise.
Kazuki, true to his reputation, just smiled and nodded, trying to catch up the ring every time Lei-Sensei's hand whirled in his direction … but somehow it always seemed to remain out-of-reach, forcing Kazuki to wait for his teacher to finish rambling.
"… Don't you agree, Kazuki-san?"
Kazuki smiled warmly, despite the urge to hit the old man upside his head with his briefcase. "Yes, sir … umm, sir? The ring?"
The old man looked at him confusedly. "Ring?"
Kazuki had to bite his tongue to keep from saying something out-of-character. He merely pointed to Lei's closed fist. Lei looked first to his hand, then to Kazuki, and suddenly he remembered what they had been talking about.
"Oh, yes! The ring!" Kazuki heaved a sigh of relief when the silver ring was deposited into his waiting palm. "I'm sorry, I started rambling again … here you are, Kazuki-san! I hope you find its owner!"
Saying his goodbyes, Kazuki left.
"That … was more trouble than this little ring is worth," Kazuki muttered angrily as soon as the door snapped shut behind him. He walked quickly down the deserted hall towards the staircase to the junior floor, glancing at his watch.
"Tch … that little interaction with Lei-sensei put me back ten minutes … he's not going to be there …"
There were still juniors hanging around when Kazuki opened the door to the third floor, slightly out-of-breath from jumping the stairs; but as his eyes quickly swept across the area, he saw that none of them was the brown-haired owner of the missing ring.
'Like I thought … he's not here …' Kazuki grunted softly in annoyance. 'Why am I doing all this work? It's not like I know this kid … I must really be as nice as people say I am to go through this much trouble …'
Walking past a group of awe-struck female juniors, Kazuki went up to a tall, lanky junior male and tapped on his shoulder to get his attention.
"Excuse me …"
The boy jumped and turned around quickly, nearly choking on his own saliva when he saw who was standing behind him.
Expecting such a response, Kazuki skipped the formalities and cut right to the chase.
"There's a boy in the junior class that I need to speak with, but he isn't here. I'll have to see him in the morning, but I don't know which class he is in."
Still star-struck, the boy stuttered, "W-who is it? Maybe I can help …"
Kazuki blinked boredly. "I was hoping you could tell me … he's short, has messy dark-brown hair …" Kazuki stuck a hand in his pocket. "He's rather on the skinny side … and wears this." Kazuki pulled out the ring and showed it to the junior boy.
Up until this point, the boy's brows had been furrowed; not knowing who Kazuki was referring to. But as soon as he laid eyes on the ring, comprehension blossomed in the boy's eyes and he said, "Oh, that looks like Fuji's ring! You must be talking about Fujii; and now that I think on it, your description matches him perfectly." He pointed to a door behind him. "That's Fujii's class. Did you want to find him to return his ring?"
Kazuki nodded dully. Then, suddenly, an idea struck him. "Hey, you seem to know this 'Fujii' kid … will you return the ring for me? I haven't got time to chase after him …"
The junior shook his head apologetically. "Sorry … I won't be in school for a while … I won't be able to return it to him. Besides, I'm not even in his class! I wouldn't see him … but I'm sure if you go ask one of thosegirls, I'm sure they would be happy to do a favor for the Yuichi Kazuki …" the boy grinned at him, as if teasing him. Kazuki didn't like it, but to uphold his reputation he ignored the boy's overly-familiar attitude, thanking him and leaving.
'There is no way I'm going to approach girls willingly … I'd get mauled …'
Heading out the school doors, Kazuki put a hand up to his head, sighing heavily as he ran his fingers through his straw-colored hair. 'I'll just get to school early tomorrow, and give it to him myself …'
And thus, Yuichi makes the decision that will change his life forever ...
DUN DUN DUN!!! Hehe. :D
You keep reviewing, and I'll keep writing. Chao!!!