So, it's finally out. I apologize for the time this has taken, I really do. And I'm hoping with the holidays fast approaching that the next chapter won't take nearly as long. I'm sorry again.
Stepping back into the dormitories had Riichi in a muddle of emotions. Simultaneously she felt relief and a cold wash of dread. Since most of the other boys were just getting back as well she managed to sneak past almost undetected and was able to reach her room without too many cries of, 'Idol-chan is back!' Getting sexually harassed on her first day back didn't sound like something she wanted a part of.
Ryouji wasn't there when she stepped into the room. The girl clucked her tongue in disappointment as she closed the door behind her. Well there went her grand welcoming. Not that she had been expecting it or anything, she hastened to remind herself. (She also had to remind herself that she didn't feel lonely at the moment.) With that in mind, she set about unpacking the small suitcase she had brought back. The task proved itself to be an almost disheartening one. Nothing but jeans and baggy t-shirts emerged out of the bag. There was no hint of skirts or leggings or anything girly that she had been able to wear over the past week. In a way, it kind of made her want to cry.
By the time she had finished unpacking and thrown her suitcase back under her bed, Ryouji had made it back into the room. "Rii-kun, welcome back!" the boy greeted her, warm smile in place.
Riichi grinned back and gave a weird sort of wave. "Thanks. I'm here to save you from Junpei's whining." The boy broke out in laughter, to which she couldn't help but chuckle along. The girl stretched before crawling onto her bed and splaying herself out. Lying as she was, her shins hung off the side of the mattress. She vaguely realized that this would probably be really uncomfortable soon enough, but at the moment she didn't really care. "Question, is Junpei storming around pissed off?"
The boy quirked an eyebrow at her phrasing and teasingly began with, "Answer, he didn't seem that mad yesterday." When she didn't look at all reassured by this he shrugged sheepishly. "Well, I didn't really see him all that much yesterday, but what I did see of him he seemed perfectly fine."
"Ryouji, just stop. Don't say anything more," the girl groaned, pressing her face into her folded arms. Junpei had been, for lack of a better word, quite hostile when she had called him the other day to apologize for her drunken shenanigans. (Shenanigans that she still wasn't privy to.) She had managed to get him to at least spit out an acceptance of her apology, but he had hung up on her without really showing that acceptance. She really wasn't looking forward to their face-to-face meeting. While Riichi knew the boy was going to eventually forgive her, she also knew that Junpei could hold a grudge with the best of them. To be on the receiving end of it was not at all pleasant.
She heard Ryouji's footsteps as he slowly made his way over to her. The mattress shifted and Riichi felt herself being angled slightly downward to the left. There was a painfully long silence before she felt a brief pressure. The awkward pat on her back did little to soothe her, but she appreciated it all the same. "It'll be alright," the boy reassured her. "He can't be mad at you for having to go take care of your cousin. It'll blow over soon."
Riichi was reminded of her little white lie. She supposed the circumstances would have Ryouji believe that her "inability to show up" to their get-together last Monday was the cause of Junpei's foul mood. It wasn't, not by a long shot, but though he was wrong he was still doing a good job at trying to make her feel better. So she lifted her head out of her arms and gave him a smile that she hoped was at least a little reassuring. "Thanks. You're probably right. He'll let it go soon enough."
The memory of the snarled 'apology accepted' the boy had given before rudely hanging up on her resurfaced. Soon enough probably wasn't going to come very soon.
Deciding that she really needed to stop making her first day back depressing, the girl pulled herself up and leaned back on her arms. "Anyway, we get our exam grades soon right?"
With the sudden topic change Ryouji took on a more relaxed persona and shrugged. "I believe it's tomorrow. They'll post them up in the first year's hallway. It's inconvenient for the rest of us, but I suppose that's the best place for it."
Riichi cringed. "Oh yeah, that's real convenient. Isn't it kind of weird that they're doing the normal 'stick it up in the hallway' thing? I figured rich kid school would promote not doing stuff that would 'embarrass the students and hurt potential future business partnerships'." In all honesty she really didn't care about all that. Riichi hadn't even thought about any of this until Akihiko had enlightened her on the finer points of the 'rich kid school life'. Her main reason for worrying was simple and stupid and involved her being afraid of letting everyone see her name after a number that had more than one digit. Riichi could lie and say that she didn't care about grades, but after devoting so much time to one's studies and being at the top of the class for an equally long amount of time it was a pretty hard blow to know that you weren't up there any longer. If she was going to be painfully honest, if she got anything lower than fourth place she would probably be mortified.
The boy just laughed as he stood back up. "They list them by student number," he explained as he shifted to sit down on his own bed. "That way you're the only one who can really see your rank."
She let out a relieved breath. At least that wasn't something she needed to worry about anymore. Even had she gotten in the top three there was always the chance of being terrorized for being an overly intelligent idol. You never could seem to win when you held that particularly nasty title.
Tired and newly relieved of all worries—for the moment anyway—Riichi rolled over on her back. "You know, it really is good to be back," she admitted, grinning brightly at the boy's resulting smile. "I guess I missed you more than I thought I did." Although she was teasing there was a bit of truth in it. Seeing Ryouji the other day had felt pretty nice; being back in the room with him felt like she had actually come home though. It was weird because home was supposed to be with parents or with Atsuko, but she didn't really mind anymore.
Ryouji's smile softened a little bit more. "I'm honored that you care so much about me," he replied easily. It was almost irritating sometimes how in stride Ryouji seemed to take cheesy things. It made Riichi want to do something mean to make him blush. (She had seen it only once or twice, she had to admit she wanted to see it again.) "Since you feel that way, I'd love it if you'd help tutor me more in math. I don't think I did very well on that exam."
She felt her grin fall slightly. "Is that all I am to you?" she mock-grouched. He chuckled amiably, giving a light shrug in response. For a moment silence enveloped the room. This allowed the girl time to think again, and after some thought she began to fidget nervously. The girl rolled back onto her stomach and pushed herself up on her knees.
Ryouji, noticing her change in mood, cocked his head in concern. "Is everything alright?" he asked.
The girl nodded her head absentmindedly. "Yeah, yeah," she repeated, still not really paying attention. After another minute she glanced up at him from under her lashes. "Hey Ryouji?"
Not used to hearing his name without an honorific, the boy looked momentarily surprised. He recovered quickly and leaned forward. "Yes?"
"Do you-" she began, cutting herself off and licking her lips in an attempt to better prepare herself. "Do you, maybe, know someone that has a pen pal?"
If she had known his various expressions a little better she might have thought that he paled for a moment. Whatever kind of reaction it was, it was lost in less than a second and the boy seemed to be able to look at anything but her. "Well, not that I can immediately recall," he chuckled nervously. She was finding this weird and just a tad bit suspicious. "Why do you need to know?"
With the tables suddenly turned on her, Riichi felt herself adopting the awkwardness that Ryouji was feeling. "No reason," she mumbled, almost to the point of it not being audible. "Curious."
Before he could ask her what had caused that curiosity the room echoed with the knocking of their door. Riichi inwardly celebrated as Ryouji looked up and called a soft 'come in'. Kenji of all people burst impatiently through the door and, upon spying Riichi, made a beeline towards her. She felt torn between annoyance and bafflement as he closed in on her with an expression of seriousness that could rival those in historical portraits.
"Reech is it true?" the boy finally voiced.
She shared a glance with Ryouji, both more confused as to the sudden use of 'Reech'—a nickname that had pretty much always been Junpei's right and his alone—than to what he was asking about. Focusing her gaze back on the boy currently invading her personal space, she managed a grouchy, "What?"
Kenji groaned as he took a step back. "Dude, it's like, all over the third years! Yes or no?"
"Tomochika-kun, what exactly is it you're speaking of?" Ryouji spoke up, probably thinking that Riichi was probably going to get nowhere. She was both miffed and relieved to note that he was most likely right.
The brunette grinned and placed a hand excitedly on his hip. "They're saying that Riichi here was seen wandering around the school in drag over the break."
Riichi paled while Ryouji merely looked confused.
"N-no," she stammered. Her voice would have been stronger had she not still been suffering from shock. "I-I have no idea what you're talking about." The girl scooted backwards towards the head of her mattress, attempting to put more distance between herself and the offending boy.
Kenji snorted, shooting an almost smug glance her way. "You were seen by at least twelve seniors. Four of who can't stand each other, so you can't claim they got together and decided to make up some embarrassing story." She closed her mouth with a click of her teeth and Riichi swore the guy's smile only grew that much more smug.
Ryouji cleared his throat softly. "Rii-kun couldn't have been here," he explained. "He was at his cousin's house."
The girl found herself nodding exuberantly in agreement. "Yup, I have Ryouji as a witness!" she excitedly pointed out. Kenji looked particularly skeptical about the whole thing. "I wasn't here and I definitely wasn't here in drag!" Riichi knew she was a dirty rotten liar and she apologized profusely to the twelve-something guys she was throwing under the bus. But there was no way she was going to allow people to know she had been around the school in a skirt. Even if she played it off as a dare or a prank, she would never be able to get everyone to shut up about it. Her last two years would be spent mercilessly teased by guys who desperately wanted her to put on a dress for them. Even fantasizing about it was making her want to cry.
"Oh," Ryouji's voice once more broke through the silence. "It might have been Rimi-chan," he offered.
Riichi would have vehemently denied this had she not tried to scream bloody murder too quickly and ended up making herself choke on her own saliva. Kenji gave her an odd look before turning back to the other boy. "Rimi?" he ventured.
The raven-haired boy nodded in response. "She's Rii-kun's twin sister. They look identical; even I had trouble telling them apart." If Ryouji's smile hadn't been the epitome of innocence, Riichi might have seriously considered strangling him. As it stood, all she was able to do was inwardly sob while she continued to recover her breath, and listen to Kenji's shouts and yelps of joy.
Well she had known Junpei was mad (especially after Ryouji's dismal failure to assure her otherwise) but she hadn't expected the obvious seething hate that greeted her when they had bumped into each other at dinner Sunday night. Riichi had been completely unprepared for it because she had gotten used to Junpei's habit of eating ramen in his room on the weekends. By the look on the boy's face, he obviously hadn't been thinking of the possibility of their meeting either. As it stood the two had managed an awkward standoff just outside the buffet line; Riichi clutching her overfilled dinner tray and Junpei holding his obviously barren one.
Half out of habit and half out of a desire to possibly acquire an early forgiveness, Riichi allowed a large smile to light up her face. "What's up? Haven't seen you in a while."
"Yeah, a while," he replied weakly, still not completely over the shock of running into her so soon. As if suddenly remembering that he was supposed to be mad at her, Junpei's face darkened into a scowl. "I heard 'Rimi-chan' was here last weekend. Isn't that nice?"
The girl's expression fell at his snarling. Well there went any hope of patching things up today. "Isn't it," she muttered in reply. "Look, I really don't remember what happened. Honestly I still have no idea why I-she ended up with Senpai. If you could tell me what happened then I could properly fi-"
"Rii-kun you didn't sit down ye-oh Junpei-kun!" Ryouji approached them, the half-filled tray in his hands indicating he had just finished collecting his dinner. He stopped next to her and focused his friendly smile on Junpei. "It's nice to see you. Are you going to sit with us?"
Instead of answering Ryouji's question the capped boy pointed at him. "Why don't you ask him what happened," he growled at Riichi. She would have thought that a novel idea had Ryouji not already made it quite clear he was going to allow 'Rimi' to do the honors. And since 'Rimi' had no idea what had happened she was back to square one. "Ryouji man, I'm sorry but I already ate. I'll see ya." With that said he stormed between the two of them and left without a backwards glance.
They were silent for a few minutes, both trying to soak up what had just happened. Finally she shot a sideways look at the raven-haired boy through narrowed eyes. "So he didn't seem that mad huh?" she snarked.
He replied with a nervous chuckle. "Well, he was a lot calmer than he was a few days ago," he tried. Riichi threw her head back and groaned.
She was grateful, really she was. She didn't want anyone thinking that she wasn't happy to be in second place in academics in the whole of their grade. But there was something irritating about those two little points that had lost her first place. It was almost like they were mocking her.
So that's why Riichi stood in front of the announcement board, narrowed eyes glaring holes into the student number that had been placed just above hers. If she had lost by a good ten or so points she would have been fine, but as it stood Riichi kind of felt like she had been cheated. She continued staring and desperately willed herself not to send threatening thoughts towards whoever was the owner of that number. The bastard was probably laughing at her. Her, who had lost to him by two (insignificant!) points. The thought of it made her blood boil and for a moment Riichi actually forgot that she was merely imagining this.
"Next time," she murmured under her breath. Had anyone been close enough to actually hear her, they would have been stunned by the sheer bloodlust those words contained.
The girl's entire demeanor did a one-eighty as her head snapped up in surprise. "Senpai?" she sputtered in response to the shock of silver hair that was approaching her.
Akihiko grinned at her. "Seen your grades huh?" It was more of a statement, considering the fact that she had already been standing here for a good five minutes. He stopped beside her and looked up at the board himself. "This is the first chance I've gotten to come down. Kind of makes me wish they just put these up on the third floor." While he talked she saw his eyes narrow searchingly. He appeared to have found his number rather quickly, if his nonchalant nod and accompanying shrug were any indication.
Feeling obligated to ask, Riichi put out a hesitant, "So what rank did you get?"
The boy looked at her in mild surprise before grinning all over again. "Fourteenth," he shrugged.
Riichi hid her surprise behind a cough and a sincere, "Wow, congrats." It wasn't like she had thought he was stupid, not by a long shot. But the girl had to admit that she kind of had him pegged as one of those jocks that didn't click well with studying. She just hadn't been prepared for this revelation.
His smile curled slightly. "I'm not an idiot, if that's what you were thinking."
She felt her face heat up. "N-no," the girl stammered, refusing to look at him. When she didn't feel him lift his gaze she fidgeted awkwardly. "I didn't think you were an idiot," she finally continued.
Akihiko shrugged and let her off with that explanation. "Well, I have this friend who I've known for a really long time. She's got this thing about grades and studying, it's kind of scary sometimes actually. Between her and Shinji I don't really have much of a choice. I either get good grades or I face the study session from hell."
Riichi clamped her mouth shut in order to stifle her laughter. She was really curious as to whoever this 'friend' was now. She was mostly just interested as to who could rival Shinjirou in the ability to be terrifying.
"Anyway, what about you?"
The girl was reminded of her earlier irritation. She hesitated long enough for Akihiko to start looking worried before she cleared her throat and muttered, "I'm ranked second." The senior looked pretty impressed actually. It made her feel slightly better. Only slightly.
He looked back up at the board. When his gaze settled at the top of the junior's list he smiled in understanding. "So he's first again," he commented, more to himself than to her.
Riichi picked it up all the same. "You know who it is?" she asked, probably more excitedly than was necessary. The girl cleared her throat again as she tried to regain composure. "I mean, who is it?"
Akihiko's eyebrow quirked upwards in amusement. "You really don't know?" he asked. She bit her lip to keep herself from shouting a 'yes'. Instead Riichi opted for nodding and training her gaze forward. She couldn't see it, but she was pretty sure Akihiko's expression was only becoming more amused. "I'll let him tell you," he finally settled on. Had she not owed him a lot, Riichi felt she would have had to fight a heck of a lot more to keep herself from knocking that laughing grin off his face. He obviously noticed the hostility radiating off of her because he laughed and reached over to tousle her hair. (The girl had started to become used to this treatment. She wasn't sure if that was just a quirk of the boy though, or if he was teasing her for being that much shorter than him. She decided on the former, if only to try and ignore the fact that her height, while fine as a girl, wasn't really helping her in the manly department.) He ignored her protesting grouch as he gave the top of her head one last pat. "You'll meet him soon enough, don't get all huffy."
That statement only made her want to be more huffy, but instead of arguing she turned her head the other way and grouched under her breath. When she didn't feel him move away, Riichi decided to venture into another topic of relevance. "About kendo," she began, trailing off in order to show him that she wanted details.
When she peeked back at him she saw that he had brightened in understanding. "You're pretty much squared away," he informed her. "Your first practice is Wednesday. Miyamoto will take you to the dojo so don't worry about that."
Riichi wasn't sure whether to be suspicious or eternally grateful. "Just like that?" Her skepticism was met with a shrug. "They didn't want to see me in person or anything first?"
Akihiko shook his head. "Nah, they're pretty chill about newcomers; just as long as you don't do anything to mess with practice or bother one of the senior members." He shrugged again, smiling as if it was the most natural thing ever to be accepted without ever showing one hint of dedication towards it. "Half the club's just there to have fun. They don't mind if you're not a genius in the sport." The boy's eyes slowly narrowed in calculation. "If you really wanted something where everyone would push you, you could join the box-"
"Thanks Senpai! I have a student council meeting now so I'm gonna go, yeah see ya!" Riichi shouted to drown out the rest of his proposal and dashed off in the other direction. She vaguely caught the cluck of the boy's disappointed tongue behind her. Akihiko was going to have to learn that she wanted no part of the boxing club, good way to showcase her manliness or no. She was grateful to him, but she wasn't that grateful.
True to her senior's word, Wednesday after class Kazushi approached her with a rather awkward looking smile. Riichi stared back at him, half frightened half weirded-out. They were silent for a few minutes before Ryouji poked his head in-between them. "Is everything okay?" he finally asked.
Kazushi looked rather startled at the fact that anyone had ended up speaking. "I'm taking you to the dojo," he explained. "For Kendo."
Riichi would have been a little alarmed had she not remembered the fact that the boy was severely awkward in social situations that comprised of anything but sports, and Akihiko had in fact told her this on Monday. "Oh yeah, thanks for this man," she hopped off the desk, stretching her shoulders back in order to crack them.
Ryouji placed a hand on her shoulder to hold her back momentarily. "I'm going to go see Junpei-kun," he explained, placating smile in place.
She awkwardly shrugged in response. "Have fun I guess," was the only thing she could come up with in reply. Junpei had proven true to his nature the past couple days and his anger towards her had been made more than apparent. That standoff in the cafeteria last Sunday, in particular, had left her more than a little sore. When he had avoided all further contact with her the past two days and had opted instead to glare at her from across rooms and down hallways, she had come to the decision that she was just going to let him be a kid for however long he wanted. Riichi knew she was being childish as well but at this point she just didn't care anymore. She had her own problems she needed to deal with at the moment and he'd get tired of it soon anyway. As soon as he got bored he'd accept her apology.
The raven haired boy's smile became a little more strained. "Do you want me to pass on a message?" he tried.
She gave her own weak smile and shook her head. "It's alright. I don't want him avoiding you too," she replied.
He looked increasingly uncomfortable before trying to iron the tension out of his smile. "Well, have fun then. Don't get hurt okay." Ryouji gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. This action made him remember that he was still touching her and he pulled his hand back violently. Riichi and Kazushi stared at the boy with concern and surprise that mirrored what colored his own face. Ryouji gave an awkward laugh and failed at trying not to appear frantic. "I'll see you later," he stammered. "I'm just, I'm going to go now." With that said he clumsily dashed out of the room.
The two left stared at the empty doorway in silence. Kazushi was the first to break it when he cleared his throat. "Did you guys get in a fight or something?" he asked.
Riichi shook her head slowly. "No," she answered. "I didn't think so anyway."
Ryouji had been like this ever since they had gotten back from break. He didn't act any differently most of the time. It was only when they touched, like when he pat her back or she (tried to anyway) threw an arm over his shoulder that he started being weird. He'd get this strange look on his face and then rather obviously force some distance between them. It was beginning to worry her in all honesty. But he was fine the rest of the time, so she refrained from confronting him about it.
"Friends are strange," she muttered. Kazushi gave her a weird look which she chose to ignore. Between Ryouji and Junpei she could set the record for most uncomfortable friendships ever.
Kazushi cleared his throat again, this time much harder in order to get her attention. Her gaze snapped back at him, eyes wide in anticipation. "I'll lead the way, so um, we should probably go."
The girl opened her mouth and nodded lightly in understanding. "Oh, yes. Okay." She shuffled after him.
The two of them were silent until they had descended to the freshman hall. For the second time Kazushi was the one to break it. "What made you decide to join Kendo?"
She jumped slightly, not having expected him to speak up. "Um, well I was told that I needed to join a team or I'd be stuck in gym." She had blurted it out without thinking and as soon as it had left her mouth she regretted it. Riichi clapped an embarrassed hand over her mouth, as if doing so would reel that confession back in.
There was a minute of silence before Kazushi blurted out laughing. Needless to say Riichi was shocked all over again. "Has anyone told you that you're really interesting," the boy asked after he had quieted down a bit.
Still reeling from the shock of his outburst, Riichi shrugged and shook her head slowly. "I don't…I don't know," she stammered. "I guess?"
He shot a smile over his shoulder at her. His smile, she noticed, was much easier now. "It's alright you know, I'm not going to grill you on your reasons." Kazushi's expression steeled and the girl was left slightly startled. "But I hope you know there will be no slacking off. I'll make sure you train as hard as you possibly can."
Riichi stared at him in what might have been taken as unveiled horror. "Um, please take care of me?" she stammered, not sure how else to respond to this declaration. "I've never held a bokken in my life though, so I'm going to have to plead mercy on that."
The boy chuckled, but though his expression softened a bit his eyes were still serious. "We'll change that soon. I'll make sure you get the hang of it."
The girl wasn't sure whether to admire him for how seriously he seemed to want to help her out, or be afraid for the health of her body. She settled for a combination of both. "Gee thanks." She managed to keep most of the sarcasm out of it. Hopefully her years of playing volleyball had let her build up enough upper body strength to at least hold her own against some of these guys. "Just for reference, I'm not going to be expected to be fantastic right?"
Kazushi shook his head. "Nah, you won't be lectured or anything if you're not the greatest. But it's only natural to try and do the best you can right?" She was actually quite impressed at how serious he was while saying that. It was rare to see a guy with such a pure motivation to actually do his best nowadays.
"Well, I'll try my best," she replied, quite pleased with how happy he looked at that admittance. They walked for a little more before she opened her mouth again. "Was the campus always this big?" The girl nodded at the large courtyard they had just spent the last five minutes walking through after making their way out of the freshman hall.
He gave her a look that was mostly amusement but part incredulity. "It's a few more minutes out. You've been here for almost three months and you still haven't been out here?"
The girl shrugged and resumed her observations. "I have, I just didn't realize there was more stuff back here. Actually I didn't realize the school could find this much free land to buy."
"I really don't care about that stuff. I'm just glad we have a nice dojo." Typical, she thought and couldn't hold back the fond smile. "It's actually right there."
Riichi had to admit, it was pretty impressive from the outside. She let out a whistle of admiration at it before continuing to trail after Kazushi. The boy slid the door open and ushered her inside. The sound of wood knocking against wood filled the air. She timidly stepped inside, feeling shy for some reason now that she was actually here. "Take off your shoes here," he ordered. She did as told and placed them in the shoe racks next to a pair of rather nice looking dress shoes. He motioned her in further and Riichi allowed herself to step off the tatami mats and onto the wood floors. Even through her socks she could feel the polish of the wood under her toes. There was something about stepping into a place like this that made one feel like they needed to show the utmost respect. It was almost awe-inspiring. And then there was a loud cry and a resulting thud and the magic was lost.
A quick look around was enough to gauge that there was nothing but a bunch of sweaty men in here. She hadn't been expecting much—it was a boys' school after all, rich or no—but deep down she must have been hoping that there would be at least someone who could work as eye-candy. Or at least wasn't a total beefcake. Riichi would like to think that she wasn't shallow, and she'd gotten to the point where being around guys was about as exciting as raw chicken, but it was still nice to have someone to look at once in a while to refresh yourself. (Kazushi was a big no-no for this purpose. She knew him too well and furthermore there was something about a guy who forsook wearing any part of his uniform for sweats and gym clothes that was a pretty big turn-off.)
"We meet on Wednesdays and Thursdays from three-thirty to five, but the dojo is open pretty much any day. Some of us are actually in here about every day." He gave a small laugh. Riichi wasn't sure whether it was admiration or self-derision that was prevalent in it. Whatever it was though, it was gone in a flash. Kazushi's half-smile was back as he raised his arm to point across the room. She followed his arm and her gaze landed on a rather thin boy standing above a much larger one with his bokken raised in a ready position. "That's our captain," he explained, but she wasn't listening. Riichi was mesmerized by the deep midnight blue of his hair. "Minato Okamatchi."
(So soft and pretty, why don't…)
The girl winced at the sharp pain that shot through her skull. She instinctually threw a hand up to hold her head. This brought Kazushi's attention to her discomfort. "Hey, you okay?"
Riichi nodded lightly; face still screwed into an obvious expression of pain. "Yeah, it's fine. It's good," she tried to reassure him. After a minute the feeling passed and the girl was left still confused as to what had brought it about to begin with. "I'm cool," she continued to insist, now with much more conviction than before. "I'm really okay now."
Kazushi was about to contest her further when they were interrupted. "Is this the new member?" The boy that greeted them was about twice her size. Riichi would have been intimidated had his smile been anything but pleasant. (Actually now that she got a good look at him, she remembered seeing him around the senior hallway a lot. He often said hi to her on her way to the student council room.) He held out a large hand in order to shake, which she took with slight hesitance. "I'm the vice-captain, Amamoto. It's good to have you." Riichi winced lightly as another large thud echoed throughout the walls. The newly dubbed vice-captain laughed at her reaction. "Don't worry, I promise we don't let the new recruits spar seriously right from the get-go."
She laughed nervously in response. At the moment, all Riichi could think of was cursing Shinjirou for getting her into this. This idea was getting scarier and scarier by the minute.
"Kazushi's the one that brought you right?" the boy continued. "He's one of our best, you'll be lucky if he keeps you under his wing."
Kazushi gave a wry smile at the praise. "I don't know if I'm that good, but thank you Senpai."
The senior laughed. "Well anyway, he told you who our captain was right? He's in the middle of a match right now but I'll introduce you in a minute. What's your name anyway, I don't think I got around to asking."
"Kitamura," she replied, finally able to produce a genuine smile. "Riichi Kitamura."
There was a loud clatter and the room went silent immediately. The three of them all turned their heads at once to see what had happened. Riichi's gaze met dark gray as she locked eyes with the boy who had been named captain. "Riichi?" he parroted. His voice was soft but surprisingly it seemed to fill the room and make one want to sit and listen to everything he had to say. She stood stock still as he took in her appearance, his gaze lingering on her face and her hair. Though his expression didn't change there was a flicker of what might have been childish delight in his eyes. He started walking towards her and with how quick his stride was he was in front of her in moments.
The boy stood in silence for another few minutes, taking this time to look her over from a closer distance. It was this action that allowed her to get a better look at him as well. He was a few inches taller than her, and as she had thought earlier was quite skinny. It was almost inconceivable that someone this small could become the captain of a kendo team. But he had a presence about him that made one want to respect him. She snuck peeks at his face—which actually seemed kind of unnecessary because he was so engrossed in his own observations that he wouldn't have noticed her staring at him anyway—and came to the conclusion that he had rather soft features. Feminine, she would have said had it not seemed like an insult. It was easy to see how this boy had been her competition for the title of 'idol'. Having gotten a good look and feeling pretty awkward by now, Riichi was about ready to open her mouth and attempt to introduce herself. His next move had her forgetting all ideas of propriety though. He raised his arm and before she could blink there was a firm pressure on her chest. If she hadn't been so surprised by the action she would have paled. In her disbelief though all she could do was stare at him.
Though his expression didn't so much as twitch, it appeared as if he was extremely disappointed. "It's flat," he sighed.
This was enough to bring Riichi out of her stupor. She balled her hand into a fist and gritted her teeth in part ferocity and part desperation. "Of course it's flat," she snarled. "I'm a guy you ass!" And without really thinking about what she was doing, the girl threw her right arm with everything she had. Her fist connected solidly with the side of the boy's unsuspecting head. He went down in the blink of an eye. The hush that had settled over the dojo was broken at last. There was a chorus of shouts and gasps and then chaos erupted.
Riichi flushed crimson before panicking and thrusting an accusing finger at the fallen boy. "I was provoked!" she shouted in her defense, before she bolted out of the dojo.
"Why the hell are you here? And what happened to you?"
Riichi gulped in air, her lungs burning from her running. She hadn't stopped sprinting until she had finally made her way into Shinjirou's room—and after having made a detour to her room, then Junpei's room, and then as a last ditch burst of insanity to Kenji's room (turning around as soon as she reached the door to all of them for different reasons) she was pretty sure she had made her way around most of the school.
She should have just joined the damn track team.
"I needed….to talk…" she sputtered, still not having recovered her air supply. "And Junpei's still mad….and I can't talk….to Ryouji about it…and god I was….not tal…talking to Kenji…..about anything to do with this."
Maybe it was because she was speaking in such broken sentences, but he was staring at her like she had grown another head. "I don't understand how that makes me the person to talk to." She shook her head and gasped another raw inhale of oxygen. Shinjirou rolled his eyes at her and dropped the subject in favor of standing up and moving to force her into a seated position on his bed. "Calm down for a minute," he ordered as he retrieved a water bottle and thrust it into her hands. "Try and sip some of it alright."
Riichi nodded frantically as she attempted to do as he said. She was really thankful for Shinjirou's mothering. He was good at making people calm down, even if he did try and play it off as a bother. The girl sucked in a last slightly shuddering breath before she was finally calm enough to talk in complete sentences. "Sorry," she finally managed out.
The boy grunted in response, still hovering over her as if he were afraid she'd spontaneously forget how to breathe again. "You're already here, now out with it. What happened?"
Kind of thinking it embarrassing now that she was in her right mind, Riichi pouted childishly and refused to look up at him. "I was in the dojo," she began, fidgeting under his gaze. "And I met the vice-captain and he was really nice and all. And then I met the captain and," she paused here, half hoping he was just going to understand with that. It was mortifying for the fact that she had let it happen and because she had gotten so worked up about it. Peeking up to see the senior's expression Riichi came to the conclusion that he wasn't able to telepathically understand what she getting at. With a sigh and puff of her cheeks she muttered, "He kinda groped me."
The room was silent for a minute. Finally Shinjirou gave an exhausted sigh and responded with, "You think he knows about your secret?"
She gave a half shrug half fidget in reply. "I don't think so. There wasn't any reason for him to. It was like he was reacting to my name."
The senior sighed again. "What did you do afterwards?"
Riichi grew even more uncomfortable. "I kinda, punched him," she admitted. Her confession was met with a low groan and a muttering of 'idiot'.
She would have been offended had the boy's door not been thrown open at that moment. Akihiko rushed into the room, looking torn between being frantic and finding something really hilarious. "Oi Shinji, have you seen Kitamura? I need to talk to him about—"
He locked eyes with the girl and the room returned to silence.
"Akihiko, it's fine. You're being dramatic." The thin boy that stepped out from behind the silver-haired senior made Riichi ten-shades of uncomfortable all over again. And if his mere presence wasn't enough, the ice pack he was nursing the side of his head with freaked her out all the more. The kendo captain looked up and upon laying his eyes on her dropped the ice. (Despite being both shocked and desperately worried—or maybe because of it—Riichi found herself marveling at how this boy seemed to drop things a lot.) His eyes lit up and immediately he was across the room and clasping her hand in his.
"I'm Minato," he introduced, and though it was the only thing he said and his face was as emotionless as ever, she could feel the delight emanating off of him.
Riichi wasn't sure whether to be amused or terrified.