A waiter, elegant in his black jacket and white tie, gracefully placed a china dish on the table in front of Manjoume, pausing a moment to be certain that the young man found everything to his liking. Manjoume waved a dismissive hand, and the waiter bowed slightly before moving on to tend to the other guests. A wine steward appeared to fill Manjoume's glass with a practiced flourish. Manjoume took a thoughtful sip and nodded his approval before beginning to nibble at his meal. All around him, people in fine clothing and glittering jewelry murmured words of quiet, dignified conversation. Somewhere in the dining room, discreetly out of sight, a string quartet played soothing music. Candles adorned every table, casting a soft golden light onto everything. Manjoume smiled, enjoying the serenity around him.
Then the gentleman in front of him turned around, grinned cartoonishly, and let loose an enormous fart.
"Oops! Sorry 'bout that! Couldn't help myself," he said, and the voice wasn't quite human, and it jarred Manjoume back to wakefulness. He groaned and put his arm over his eyes, trying to blot out the morning sunshine.
"It's not time to get up yet," he complained.
"Morning, Aniki!" greeted Ojama Yellow cheerfully.
Manjoume bowed to the inevitable and opened his eyes.
"Man," he said. "What in the world did you eat?"
"Something that was growing blue fuzz!" said Ojama Black. He belched loudly. "It was pretty good, too."
"Sorry I asked," said Manjoume.
He glanced at the clock and found that it was ten minutes until it was time for the alarm to go off - not enough time to make it worth trying to go back to his dream world where people were civilized. Moving quietly so as to not wake his roommates, Manjoume crawled out of bed and began changing into his school clothes.
"It's gonna be a long day," he muttered. "I can feel it already. Oh, well. At least I'll get to breakfast before everyone else does."
"You can have some of our blue fuzzy stuff if it'll make you feel better," Ojama Green offered.
Manjoume made a face. "Thanks but no thanks."
A proper breakfast, however, put him in a better mood. There was something pleasant about being up before everyone else, even by such a small amount. With a ten-minute head start, he could be halfway through his meal before the rest of his roommates even had their trays. Actually, with Juudai's way of sleeping through his alarm clock, he ended up being done entirely by the time Osiris's favorite student got there. Manjoume smirked as Juudai rushed in and began gathering up a tray of leftovers.
"See you in class," he said, giving him a debonair wave and sauntering off.
His spirits rose the closer he got to the main school building, for one very good reason. If there was one person you could always count on to be early for class, it was Tenjoin Asuka. She was a model student, always prompt, always with her homework done neatly, and ready to participate in discussion. She wasn't quite as extreme as Misawa, who tended to get a week's worth of homework done in a night and then spend the rest of the week doing outside research, but she would at least be there on time.
Except she wasn't. Manjoume stood in the doorway of the classroom, staring stupidly at the handful of students who were already there, frantically trying to finish the last of their homework or trying to catch a few more minute's sleep before class. He marched over to where Misawa was sitting and pulled the book out of his hands to get his attention.
"I was reading that," said Misawa.
"Read it later," said Manjoume. "Where's Asuka? Have you seen her?"
"No. Why should I? She's not in my dorm," said Misawa. "It's still early. Give her time."
"But she's always early," said Manjoume.
"Well, today she's not," Misawa said. "I advise you sit down and wait for her. Shouting at me certainly isn't going to change anything."
"Well, you're a lot of help," Manjoume grumbled, and went to sit down. He unpacked his things and propped his chin on his hands to wait. Misawa was probably right. She would be there soon...
Except she wasn't. The rest of the class filed in and found their seats. Professor Chronos arrived and began taking the roll, and still she did not appear. The teacher had begun his lesson and Manjoume had begun to go beyond impatient and on his way towards worried when she finally dashed into the classroom, looking harried.
"Sorry, sorry!" she said to Chronos.
"Signorina Asuka, you are nearly twenty minutes late," said Chronos sternly. "I hope you have an explanation for this."
"It's my brother," she explained, and then her voice dropped so low that Manjoume couldn't hear what else was being said. Apparently it was enough to mollify Chronos, however.
"I see. Of course you're excused," he said. "In the future, try to send a message to let me know you'll be late."
"Of course, Principal Chronos," she said, bowing politely. Still looking a bit flustered, she began looking for a place to sit. Manjoume waved to her and indicated that the place next to him was empty, and she gave him a grateful look and hurried to join him.
"What happened to Fubuki?" he asked her as she sat down. While it was reassuring to know that Asuka herself was safe and sound, the idea that Fubuki was in trouble was nearly as bad.
"He's sick," said Asuka. "He was complaining of a sore throat last night, so I went to check on him this morning and he couldn't even get out of bed. He was burning up with fever, so I helped him get dressed and dragged him to the infirmary. That's why I was so late." She bit her lip. "I hope he's going to be okay."
"He'll be fine," said Manjoume reassuringly. "Fubuki's tough. After everything that he's been through, this is nothing."
Asuka gave him a weak smile. "Thanks. You're probably right, but I just can't help worrying about him."
"I'll help you keep an eye on him. As soon as classes are over, we'll go see him," Manjoume promised. He considered. "Then again, you might not need help. He's got all his fans. We might have to guard the door so he can get some sleep."
Asuka almost laughed at that. "You could be right!"
Sure enough, by the end of the day, word had gotten out all over the school that the illustrious Tenjoin Fubuki was laid up in the hospital. Manjoume listened with something like mystification as people attempted to deliver him the news - while everyone seemed to know Fubuki was in the infirmary, nobody seemed to agree on what was wrong with him. Manjoume heard reports of broken bones, operations, pneumonia, food poisoning, actual poisoning, cancer, and chicken pox. He was impressed by his schoolmates' creativity, though not their fact-checking abilities.
However, one thing was for sure: Fubuki wasn't going to be sick by himself. As Manjoume left the school building at the end of the day, he was not at all surprised to find a veritable procession of young ladies on their way to the island's shop, all of them intent on their mission of finding something that would make Fubuki feel better.
"Maybe we should chase them away," said Asuka doubtfully, watching the crowds that were working their way towards the infirmary, laden down with flowers and plush toys. "He was having a hard enough time breathing as it is. We don't want them to smother him."
"I'm not sure we can," said Manjoume.
Asuka sighed. "You're probably right. It's the Florence Nightingale syndrome."
"It's what, now?"
"Oh, you know. They think if they nurse him back to health, he'll fall in love with them," said Asuka disapprovingly. "It's silly."
"I guess so," he agreed, though he still wasn't sure he understood. For one thing, he doubted any of them would be able to get enough time alone with Fubuki to make an impression on him, particularly if he was sick. He'd probably be asleep through most of it.
"Maybe we'd better just let them get it out of their system," said Asuka with a sigh.
"I'll go check on him later," Manjoume promised. "After the crowd thins out." He looked back at the mob. "Hopefully they won't kill him before he has a chance to get well."
"You know what?" said Asuka. "I think I'm going to do something about them after all. The last thing I need is for my brother to be done in by his own sex appeal."
She hurried off, wading into the crowds of Fubuki's ardent admirers. Manjoume sighed.
"I just can't get a break today," he muttered.
"Don't worry, Aniki - we still love you!" piped a voice in his ear. Manjoume looked up to see Ojama Yellow hovering nearby.
"Great," he said. "Just what I always wanted - to be loved by a frog-eyed, drooling freak."
The Ojama wiped his mouth on the back of his arm, an effort that was largely futile, since his mouth was much bigger than his arms were. "Aww, I love you too," he said.
"I am doomed to be surrounded by disgusting freaks," he muttered. "Why can't I spend time with normal people?"
"We're interesting!" said Ojama Green.
Manjoume gave a snort that expressed his opinion of just how interesting he found them, and slunk off to do his homework.
One of the advantages of being in Osiris Red was that no one ever expected much of you. If you wanted to slack off on a paper or skip a class, no one really paid much attention as long as you made it up eventually. Juudai was notorious for taking advantage of this policy, but most of the residents of his dorm did the same thing once in a while. Manjoume generally didn't, since he was determined to work his way back to Obelisk Blue by whatever means necessary, but once in a while it was nice to have some leeway to work with. This morning was going to be one of those days.
I really don't need to go to gym today, he decided. Ever since the previous day, he had been worried about Fubuki, but he had yet to go visit him. He was fairly sure that Asuka had everything under control, but that didn't stop him from thinking about his hero. He was halfway to class when he made up his mind: was going to go pay Fubuki a visit during the one time when he could be fairly sure that most of his fangirls probably wouldn't be there. Some of them would probably manufacture an excuse and show up anyway, but at least it would be less crowded. Letting his all-black garb help him blend into the shadows, Manjoume slipped away from the other students and picked his way to the infirmary.
He had surprisingly little trouble getting into the area where sick students were kept. Miss Ayukawa, who usually would have been standing guard over them, was off teaching gym class, and no one else seemed to be around. That puzzled Manjoume slightly. After what he had seen yesterday, he'd felt sure that someone would be there. Instead, it was ominously quiet. Either Asuka had been far more effective at deterring overzealous fans than he'd thought she could be, or there was something funny going on.
"Shishou?" he called, peeking through the door. "Are you in here?" It was just possible that he'd been moved somewhere else...
"Manjoume? Is that you?" called a hoarse but recognizable voice. "Come out where I can see you."
Reassured that the coast was clear, Manjoume stepped into the infirmary. There was only one other person in it, sick or otherwise, and that was Fubuki himself. He hardly appeared abandoned, however; he was all but blocked from view by a wall of flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, and boxes of candy left by his admirers. They provided a riot of color and scent to the otherwise Spartan room. They did not, however, do very much for Fubuki; next to all the bright colors, he looked pale and small in comparison. His usually tanned skin looked wan and slightly waxy, except around his nose where it had been rubbed red. There were dark circles under his eyes, which also looked red and watery. His hair looked dull and clung to his face in sweaty straggles.
"You're a mess," Manjoume told him.
Fubuki gave him a weak smile. "Nice to see you, too."
Manjoume pulled up a chair so he could sit down and talk to him in comfort, shoving a few balloons and things out of the way. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he resolved that if he ever found himself hospitalized, he was going to forbid people to bring him balloons and stupid stuffed animals. If there was anything worse than being sick, it was being sick while surrounded by something like the debris from a child's birthday party.
"Where are all your fans?" asked Manjoume. "I thought place was going to be standing room only."
"They left," said Fubuki succinctly.
"Yeah, I can see that. Why aren't they here?"
Fubuki gave the best shrug he could while lying down. "I dunno. They all came in for a while and gave me the gifts and left. Maybe they're afraid of getting sick... Why aren't you afraid of getting sick?"
"I never get sick," Manjoume declared. "No germ would dare get within ten feet of me. They take one look at me and pass out from fright."
That got a chuckle out of Fubuki. "Should have known."
The effort of laughing sent him into a coughing fit, and he doubled up, hacking loudly and soggily. Manjoume backed away for a moment, mildly alarmed, but then moved to put an arm around him and brace him until the fit had passed.
"Thanks," Fubuki croaked. He made a face. "Blech. I hate being sick."
"You'll get over it," said Manjoume. His tone was dismissive, but he still helped Fubuki get settled back into a comfortable position, and passed him the tissue box.
"Thanks," said Fubuki. He blew his nose a few times and tossed the soggy tissue into a nearby trash can that was already overflowing with similar refuse. He fixed his bleary gaze back on Manjoume, blinking a few times as though he had just realized he was there. "Aren't you supposed to be in class?"
"I have a note from my mother that says I can skip gym."
"Oh," said Fubuki. "That makes sense."
Manjoume took a moment to decide if Fubuki was being serious or not. Sometimes it was hard to tell, with him.
"How high is that fever of yours, anyway?"
"I dunno," said Fubuki. "Big, big numbers."
"That's what I figured," said Manjoume. "So, um... since I'm here... Well, I've got some time to kill so if there was something you needed I might as well get it."
"I don't need anything," said Fubuki. "I'm just glad you came to visit." He flashed a smile that glowed almost as brightly as it did when he was well and strong. The effort seemed to cost him, and he closed his eyes and settled back onto his pillows. "You can tell me a story."
"Huh?" said Manjoume.
"A story," Fubuki insisted. "So I can sleep."
He's delirious, Manjoume decided.
"I'm no good at telling stories."
"Tell one anyway!" Fubuki insisted. "Tell Beauty and the Beast."
"Why that one?"
"Okay, fair enough," said Manjoume. "Um... How did that go..."
"Once upon a time," said Fubuki encouragingly.
"Right. Once upon a time..." Manjoume began, and then stopped because he couldn't remember how it went. His mother had told him the story when he was very small, but it had been a long time since he'd been that young, and a long time since his parents had died and left him in the care of two brothers whose choice in fairy tales were quite different because they insisted on trying to live them out in real life. "Once upon a time there was a girl named Beauty, and she lived with two older bro- er, sisters, who were real jerks to her and always pushing her around..."
Somehow, he muddled through the story up until the point where Beauty got sent off to the castle to live with the Beast, and by that point, Fubuki had fallen asleep so it didn't seem to matter anyway. Manjoume looked thoughtfully at him. Fubuki was completely dead to the world, silent save for the sound of his labored breathing. His mouth was open, and he was drooling slightly into his pillow. Also, his nose was running, but he didn't seem to have noticed. It was likely he wasn't going to notice anything for a while, but it didn't seem right to just leave the story hanging.
"One thing and another happened, and they lived happily ever after," Manjoume declared. He pulled a fresh tissue out of the box, did what he could to clean Fubuki up a little, and slunk out of the room before anyone could come in and catch him playing nursemaid.
Once outside the sickroom, he leaned against the wall for a moment to think. Gym would be over soon, and the regular classes would be starting. History, today. A dull class, in his opinion, when they weren't talking about the great duelists like Yugi and Kaiba and the rest. He didn't mind hearing those stories again, but delving into the old legends of ancient Egypt and Atlantis that he only half-believed wasn't his choice of entertainment.
"What the heck. I could use a day off," he said, and he turned his back on the corridor that led to the classrooms and went to the library instead.
There was no chance that the librarian wouldn't be there, and she looked suspiciously at Manjoume as he came in.
"Why aren't you in class?" she demanded. "Do you have a note from your teacher?"
"Sure," said Manjoume, brazenly brandishing a sheet of paper. It was a note from a teacher - a hall pass he had shoved in his pocket a month ago. It was a little dog-eared from being there for so long amid the jumble of other things he had collected. Still, it was a passable-looking hall pass, and had Professor Kabayama's signature on it, and it was therefore useful. Even if someone got suspicious of Manjoume waving it around, no one ever seemed to be able to remember Kabayama's name or where he was most of the time, so they never got around to confirming if it was genuine or not. The librarian gave the paper a bored glance before looking back at Manjoume.
"I know you," she said. "You're that Manjoume boy. One of the best duelists in the school, I hear."
"You've got that right!"
"Well, I suppose you won't do too much damage, then. All right, go ahead."
With that hurdle cleared, Manjoume went picking his way through the stacks. The library was an excellent resource if you wanted books on dueling - its practice, history, mythology, the lives of great players, and anything else that might relate to it. Unfortunately it had only a bare- bones collection of books on any other subject. Anything else that might be needed had to be requested and then waited for until the next mail ship arrived, and Manjoume wanted information now, while it was still relevant. Fortunately, there were books to explain the mythology and legends behind some of the Duel Monsters designs, and those could be useful. He gathered as many as he could find and piled them up on the table in front of him.
When Fubuki woke up again, he wanted to have some stories ready.
Upon arriving in class the next morning, Manjoume found himself subjected to a certain amount of scrutiny.
"Where were you yesterday?" Juudai asked him, as Manjoume took a seat next to him.
Manjoume shrugged. "Visiting Fubuki."
That pronouncement sent a ripple of reaction across the room. Several female students craned their necks and turned in their seats to look at him.
"Ooh, how is he?" asked one of them. "I miss him..."
"He's sick," said Manjoume. "Which is why he's still in the infirmary. Weren't you paying attention?"
"You know what we meant! You're so rude," the girl complained. "This is why you'll never have a girlfriend, Manjoume."
"I don't want a girlfriend who asks stupid questions," he said loftily.
One of the other girls sighed. "I'll be so glad when Fubuki comes back. He's always so sweet. Such a gentleman!"
"I know! It's not fair that he's so gorgeous and talented and has such a great personality, too," another girl gushed.
"If you like him so much, go visit him," said Manjoume irritably, "and leave the rest of us out of it. Nobody wants to listen to you drool over Fubuki like that. It's disgusting."
"Nobody wants to listen to you either," said the girl nearest to him, and the rest of them went back to happily describing Fubuki's myriad perfections in the most glowing terms. Manjoume tuned them out. He decided it was a good thing he'd gotten his visiting in yesterday, because he obviously wasn't going to be able to get anywhere near Fubuki today.
But he was wrong. After class went out, he returned to his own dormitory for a while to work on his homework and possibly see if any of others felt like having a pickup duel. One visit, he told himself, was more than enough charity for one day. Fubuki would be fine with his sister and his admirers looking after him.
"Aren't you gonna go back again?" asked Ojama Black.
Manjoume looked up from his reading assignment to glare at the Ojama. "And why would I do that?"
"Because you spent all of yesterday reading fairy tales," said Ojama Black. "You wouldn't do that if you weren't planning on visiting."
"I'll do it some other time," said Manjoume. "He doesn't need me right now."
He was contradicted by a knock on the door. He got up, grumbling to himself, and opened the door to find Asuka standing there.
"Ah! What are you doing here?" he exclaimed, before composing himself. "I mean, hi! Come on in."
"I'm only dropping in for a minute," she told him. "Manjoume, would you do me a favor? Do you think you could sit with Fubuki for a while? He's been asking for you."
"I guess so," he said. "Why me?"
"Don't ask me. I've known him all my life and I still don't know why he does most of the things he does," Asuka replied. "Anyway, I'd really appreciate it if you'd go see him. I hate leaving him alone when he's like this, but I have work I need to do and Fubuki is..."
"Distracting. Right," said Manjoume. "Don't worry, I'll take care of him."
"I knew I could count on you," she said. She flashed him one of her dazzling smiles before hurrying off to do whatever it was she needed to do that day.
Don't worry, Asuka! I won't let you down! he thought fiercely. He hurriedly gathered his things and rushed off to the infirmary. He was met at the entrance by Miss Ayukawa.
"I had a feeling you'd show up," she said, smiling at him. "You're here to see Fubuki, right?"
"Yeah, something like that," he said, a little annoyed at being caught showing concern for someone in public.
"Well, there's no reason why you can't just walk in and sit down. He's waiting for you."
Manjoume nodded and slipped into the infirmary. Once again, it was completely deserted except for Fubuki himself. His flowers were beginning to look wilted. Fubuki himself appeared to be napping, but as Manjoume drew nearer, he opened his eyes and looked beseechingly at him.
"You never finished the story yesterday," he accused.
"Yes I did," Manjoume replied. "You just fell asleep and missed it."
"Start over," said Fubuki.
Manjoume dropped into the chair with a sigh. "Don't you at least want a different story?"
"No," Fubuki insisted. "I like that one."
"All right, have it your way," said Manjoume. "Once upon a time... Hey, why is it so empty in here anyway? Did Asuka chase all your fangirls away again?"
Fubuki shrugged. "Nobody came." He gave Manjoume a puppy-dog look. "So can I have my story now?"
"Sure, fine, whatever," said Manjoume. "Once upon a time there was a girl named Belle who lived with her sisters..."
He told the story without thinking about it very much. After all, he had read it and reread it several times yesterday just in case this exact situation had come up. Fubuki didn't seem to notice the lack of attentiveness on his storyteller's part - he listened with rapt, wide-eyed attention, as though he'd never heard the tale before in his life. He didn't look likely to fall asleep in the middle of it again, anyway, which was something of a relief, but that wasn't really what had Manjoume occupied, either.
Where is everybody?
It didn't make any sense. All the girls in class - all the girls in school - had been obsessing over Fubuki's illness and recovery, so why weren't they here? It wasn't as if it was difficult to get to the infirmary. It had been more trouble to get into the library for research than it was to get into a sickroom with a seriously ill and possibly contagious person. There was nothing stopping them from seeing Fubuki if they really wanted to...
His thoughts were interrupted by a coughing fit from Fubuki. It went on so long that Manjoume began to seriously worry that Fubuki was going to hurt something, or possibly hack up a lung. Manjoume rubbed ineffectually on Fubuki's back until the fit passed.
"Thanks," said Fubuki, still sounding breathless. He reached for the tissue box and blew his nose a few times. He looked at Manjoume beseechingly. "Manjoume, how come you aren't grossed out? All I do lately is blow my nose and cough up gunk."
Because you're my friend. Because you're my mentor. Because you're the best big brother I've got.
Manjoume cast a glance at the ever-present Ojama Yellow, who was unconcernedly scratching its bum. "I'm used to being grossed out. It doesn't bother me anymore."
"Oh," said Fubuki. That answer seemed to satisfy him, and he settled back onto the pillows. "Okay. You can finish the story now."
"Um. I forgot where I was."
"The sisters had gotten married."
"Right. One sister had married a really smart guy, and he spent all his time showing off how clever he was and making his wife look stupid in public. The other sister had married a really good-looking guy and he spent all his time looking in the mirror and letting other girls admire him. So that got Beauty thinking that maybe she was really better off with her Beast, even if he was ugly and kind of stupid, because at least he wasn't a complete jerk..."
Fubuki closed his eyes and smiled, obviously enjoying the story. Manjoume finished the telling all the way to the end, long after he had begun to wonder if Fubuki was even still awake.
"And they all lived happily ever after," he said. He felt a bit hoarse, and hoped that he was just worn out from talking so much and not coming down with whatever Fubuki had. "There. I told you the stupid story. Happy now?"
"Mm-hm," said Fubuki, nodding drowsily. "Thanks, Manjoume. You tell a good bedtime story." He yawned hugely. "See you tomorrow?"
"Sure. See you tomorrow."
He walked quietly out of the room, turning off the lights as he went so Fubuki could sleep more easily. As he entered the hallway, he took out his cell phone and punched in some numbers.
"Manjoume. How is Fubuki? Any better?"
"Better than last time I talked to him. He made me tell him a bedtime story, and he didn't even fall asleep."
"You told him a bedtime story?" Asuka repeated, sounding surprised. "That sounds... kind of cute, actually."
Manjoume was glad that they were only talking on the phone, so she couldn't see him blushing. "It wasn't that cute. He keeps wanting Beauty and the Beast, over and over and over."
"That sounds like him," said Asuka, laughing. "He's just a like a little kid sometimes. It does sound like he's feeling better, though. Thanks for helping."
"It's no big deal."
"Well, I appreciate it anyway." He could hear laughter in her voice as she said, "Sometimes you're almost human."
"Humph. I am not," he said, privately pleased that she was teasing him. "I'm the phoenix who rose from the fires of hell, Manjoume Thunder - and don't you forget it!"
She laughed, as he'd hoped she would. "All right, point taken. Goodnight, Thunder."
"Goodnight," he said suddenly tongue tied. Even after she'd hung up, he still held the phone to his ear for a while, not wanting to give up on that connection. He was actually smiling as he returned to his dormitory. Fubuki was on his way to recovery, and now Manjoume himself was in Asuka's good books. He was honestly glad that none of Fubuki's fangirls had felt like doing sickbed duty...
They hadn't felt like it. That was why they weren't there. And Fubuki wasn't acting like a little kid at all - he was acting like himself, seeking reassurance without seeming to exactly how or why. Manjoume suddenly felt like slapping himself for being so stupid.
Beauty and the Beast. Of course...
Everyone knew Fubuki was the most desirable male in the Academy - talented, charming, and above all, handsome. It was only natural that he should have women swooning at his feet wherever he went. But now he was laid out in a hospital bed, without even the energy to sit up, much less duel. His golden voice was reduced to a hoarse croak, and his usually flawless looks were reduced to a shadow of their usual glory. He sneezed and sniffled and coughed and blew his nose and was generally not pleasant company. They had come in thinking that his illness was a romantic opportunity and run up against the harsh truth that being sick was disgusting. Unable to reconcile that with their image of Fubuki as the perfect person, they had taken one look and fled.
"You're thinking awful hard, there, Aniki," said Ojama Yellow, hovering into view. "What's on your mind, huh?"
"Stuff," said Manjoume. "Beauty and the Beast."
"You've been working on that story a whole lot," said the Ojama. "You must like it."
"Yeah," said Manjoume. "That's right. I didn't like it much before, but now I think it's starting to grow on me..."
There was a commotion going on in the hallway. There usually was a lot of traffic between classes, and after a while everyone learned how to deal with it, but right now there was so much congestion that Manjoume was having his doubts he would ever make it to his next class before lunch break was over... or before school let out, for that matter.
"What is the hold up?" he bellowed. "Come on, people, move!"
"I'm trying!" said someone next to him.
"Well, try harder!"
Manjoume pushed and squeezed his way through the crowd, stepping on toes and elbowing people to make people move. Gradually, he was able to reach the source of the obstruction and discover that it was composed almost entirely of teenaged girls. They were all standing with their backs towards Manjoume and the rest of the crowd, apparently intensely interested in something in the center of the group.
Huh. Guess someone's feeling better today.
"We missed you sooo much!" he could hear a voice saying, rising over the others. "I thought you were going to be stuck in that infirmary for weeks!"
Fubuki laughed. His voice still sounded a touch hoarse, but nowhere near as bad as it had before.
"Not me!" he declared. "Nothing ever keeps me down for long! I have a healthy constitution because my heart is pure!"
The girls twittered over this bit of nonsense, and Manjoume sighed. He hated to admit it, but he had actually been enjoying having Fubuki more or less to himself. It was a bit of a letdown to find himself no longer indispensable... but this was where Fubuki belonged. He wasn't truly happy unless he was performing for his crowd of admirers...
Manjoume looked up as he realized someone was calling him, and that someone was Fubuki.
"Hey, Manjoume! Over here!" Fubuki was steadily worming his way closer until he caught up to Manjoume. He threw his arms around him in a bear hug. "There you are! I've been looking all over the place for you!"
"You... have?" Manjoume choked out. Fubuki was definitely feeling better, and was also squeezing Manjoume so tightly that it was hard to breathe.
"Yeah!" Fubuki agreed. "C'mon, let's go do something fun! Let's go to the store. I'll buy you an egg bread. I owe you one... By the way, did anyone ever tell you that your jacket kinda smells funny? I just noticed."
"I knew that," said Manjoume. "And if it bugs you, then maybe you should quit clinging to me like that."
"It doesn't bug me," Fubuki told him. "I just thought you should know."
"Can you get sick again? I'd forgotten how hyper you are when you're feeling good."
Fubuki just laughed and loosed his hold. "Come on! We're wasting time!"
"But Fubuki, it's time to be in class."
"Who cares? I'm still out sick until tomorrow!"
They slowly worked their way through the crowd, still exchanging bantering words. The girls just stood and stared, still not quite sure what had just happened.
"Did he just run off with Manjoume?" asked one.
"I think he just did."
The first girl shook her head. "What does he see in him?"
"I have no idea."