I have no words for how long this took me. Also since last working on this I've change from writing certain names with the 'ou' romanization to simply using 'o'. Hopefully that doesn't throw anyone off, though since most people write using only the 'o' I doubt it'll be much of a problem. Thank you for sticking with an unreliable author.
Friends O' Mine
So it was exceptionally weird for her to be currently sitting next to the person she had assaulted earlier that day. What was seriously unnerving was that the boy had never once looked away from her and he'd had her hand gripped in both of his so tightly she was losing circulation. The one time she'd tried to get it back he'd made a keening sound in the back of his throat and clutched at her even tighter than before. Riichi would have thought he was holding her hostage or something as equally dastardly had he not been emitting such an aura of delight that she was almost blinded by it. For how expressionless Minato Okamatchi had turned out to be, it was impossible not to admit that he was positively radiant at the moment.
After they had all calmed down, Shinjiro had forsaken making cracks about her current predicament to lecturing Akihiko about knocking before barging into other people's rooms. The boxer had basically ignored him, settling for staring at her and the blue-haired boy attached to her. He'd looked rather green about the whole thing though she wasn't sure why and so all she could do in response was give him pained and slightly apologetic smiles. Minato, for his part, couldn't seem to care less about anything other than staring intently at her face. Riichi was vastly uncomfortable with this entire situation. Had she been able to somehow slither out of the boy's death grip on her she would have attempted to slink out and race back to the safety of her own room. She was still trying to puzzle out how to make this plan a reality.
"What are you two, a couple of girls now," Shinjiro snorted. Riichi looked up to see him giving her a rather unamused scowl. She supposed it was her fault for bringing this chaos to him, but she had her own problems damnit and he was not helping.
Akihiko spoke up before she had a chance to. "Would you quit making cracks like that," he sighed. It was clear that he had to deal with this an awful lot. The girl almost felt sorry for him.
For some reason—of which she had no clue—Minato decided he needed to put his own two cents in as well. "Riichi isn't a girl," he announced. She didn't miss that he had forgotten to reaffirm his own gender. Maybe he was already used to that. When the rest of the group stared at him with mixtures of incredulity and surprise, he shrugged in response. "I checked."
The silence was physically painful.
The boxer was obviously made further uncomfortable by this revelation. "What do you mean you checked?" he croaked, sounding like he rather wished this was all just a bad dream.
Minato blinked. "I meant I checked," he repeated. He allowed one hand to release its grip on her and Riichi was briefly left with a feeling of relief. (Now if only she could get the other one to let go she'd be golden.) This was only momentary because without another word the boy had settled his hand back on its previous place on her chest. The girl felt the blood drain back out of her face. "It's flat," the boy said, echoing his words from earlier. The difference was that he only sounded slightly disappointed this time.
Somewhat afraid that he'd find further need to make sure of himself, Riichi attempted to subtly angle her lower body away from him. That part of her was a little harder to disguise. Shinjiro thankfully seemed to think coming to her aid was more important than complaining about how much trouble she was putting him through because he stood up and tugged the boy's arm roughly away from her. "That's enough of that, we believe you already," he grunted.
Minato didn't seem too torn up about being manhandled. In fact the only response he had was to return his hand back to clutching hers. Riichi swallowed hard and tried to regain her color back. This was not good for her health. She knew he didn't mean any harm by it (at least she hoped he didn't) but being groped so many times in a day was beginning to wear on her. Boy or not this couldn't be normal.
"I think I have to-" she began, attempting to somehow weasel her way out.
Akihiko cut her off without much thought. "Is that why he punched you?" he addressed the bluenette again. The boy could barely be bothered to hum in response.
Another snort from the chef brought their attention back to him. "No wonder. I'd punch you too if you mistook me for a girl."
"I highly doubt that's a huge problem for you," Riichi snarled under her breath. They ignored her, save for Minato who squeezed her hand in what might have been his silent agreement.
Slightly more comfortable now that the original shock of the situation had worn off, Akihiko let out a loud sigh. "I'm guessing this means the kendo deal is off." He didn't look as depressed over this as he was implying himself to be. A sudden fire alit in his eyes and he focused it on her. "Minato said you had a great right hook. You know, you could use that in the boxing clu-"
Before he could finish his proposition it was the bluenette's turn to cut him off. "He's not joining," he announced with a finality that brooked no room for argument. Riichi wasn't sure whether that pinched look Akihiko was giving was because he'd been denied yet again, or that it was Minato who'd been the one to make the decision. "He's staying on the kendo team." His gaze was so determined that the girl at his side was almost inclined to simply go along with it.
That didn't completely quash her surprise though. "I am?" she asked. After socking him in front of the whole of the dojo she had figured none of them would stand to have her come back.
"He is?" Akihiko parroted.
Minato merely nodded silently. His gaze never left Akihiko's and it honestly seemed as if he were daring the senior to challenge him on this. By that expression he was getting in return, Minato had successfully silenced any further protests.
Shinjiro must have felt the need to be heard again because he made some sound in his throat that might have resembled a laugh. "Never thought he'd ever actually dump you Aki."
The senior in question went a curious shade of red. "Would you quit saying that kind of shit! It isn't like that damnit!" There might have been a mumbled, 'and I wasn't dumped' somewhere in there, but Riichi's attention had been subtly torn away from the seniors' bickering.
Minato appeared to be sparkling. She couldn't have been positive, but there was something about the way his eyes were boring into her that indicated sheer delight. Riichi could honestly say she had never before met someone who could convey so much emotion without ever actually changing his expression. "What class are you in?" he asked.
The way he'd said it made the question seem so unimposing that she felt obligated to answer. "2-C," she replied immediately, only realizing belatedly that she wasn't yet sure if she even wanted him to know.
The sparkling seemed to have grown in intensity. "I'm next door in 2-B." She currently lacked the wits to remember that she had already known that. Instead, Riichi managed a nod and a shaky smile in reply. He leaned closer. "Let's eat lunch together tomorrow."
Riichi couldn't help but allow a small smile to surface. He reminded her a lot of some of the younger kids back at the orphanage. "I'd like that," she said, her tone dropping down into a sincere softness. It was kind of surprising to realize that she truly did mean it. The boy was alarmingly forward, but once you got around that he seemed really sweet. If nothing else he genuinely liked her that was for sure. (No one could shine that brightly if they were only making fun of a person.) Now if she could get him to stop touching her chest they'd be in serious business.
If the boy got any brighter she was going to go blind. "Tomorrow then," he assured her. The way he'd said it made it sound like parting words but Minato still refused to let go of her hand. Riichi was left unsure of whether she was allowed to pull away and beat a hasty retreat or if she should sit pretty and wait for him to go first.
She was saved when Shinjiro announced, "Alright, I'm not running a daycare here. Everyone out." The two juniors looked up in surprise. The chef had stood back up and was indicating the door with a rather fed up looking arm. Akihiko appeared as if he hadn't finished whatever he had been saying. His expression was a mixture of exasperated and unsure.
Minato released her hand and was up at once. He grabbed the boxer's sleeve lightly and tugged him towards the door. "Akihiko, let's go," he prodded. The senior sighed and allowed himself to be ushered toward the door.
Riichi picked herself up as well, but didn't move to leave until the other two had made their exit. She took a step towards the door, thought better of it, and then turned back to the room's owner. "Sorry about this," she mumbled, making a short bow as a show of respect. "I'll try and go somewhere else next time something happens."
Shinjiro snorted and waved an unconcerned hand. "It's fine, doesn't matter," he halfheartedly assured. "S'nothing to do with you."
That wasn't exactly what she had been expecting in response but the girl took it anyway. If she took his word on it then he was mad over something involving Akihiko. Riichi didn't know what he could have said in the few minutes she had been preoccupied with Minato, but then again it was his business and she didn't want to pry. She'd already given enough trouble as it was today. With another apology the girl took her leave.
It was late by the time she'd made her way back to her room. It had been entirely too long of a day, she decided when she was finally granted the sight of her door. All she wanted to do now was lay down and sleep; preferably for a few days.
As she got closer she heard the unmistakable sound of muttering from the other side of her door. Riichi let out a breath of relief. Ryoji was always good at helping people alleviate stress; having him back in the room already was unprecedented luck. She would have hummed in happiness had she not been so tired, instead Riichi opted to turn the doorknob with a silent giddy grin.
And then proceeded to narrowly miss braining her roommate with the door.
Ryoji yelped in surprise and Riichi was yanked forward as he desperately pulled at the door in an attempt to bat the imposing object away from his body. The girl threw out an arm to brace herself against whatever she might hit in her fall, which ended up being her roommate. Ryoji was therefore knocked off-balance and only saved himself from sprawling backwards by clutching wildly at Riichi's extended arm. It took the two of them a good three minutes before they were fully stable; each of them having tugged the other off-balance again in their attempts to steady themselves.
By the time she was safely on her feet Riichi was flushed and still somewhat afraid that she was going to fall over at any moment. "Rii-kun, you okay?" She vaguely heard Ryoji's concerns and responded with some sort of flailing hand motion and a mumbled assurance that was so garbled it was nigh impossible to understand any of it. Riichi felt the boy relax and she warily looked up to catch his expression. He wore an alarmingly bright smile. "You have very good timing you know. I was just about to head out for snacks, and I was feeling kind of bad leaving Junpei-kun here alone." The girl's gaze shot up to scan the room. Sure enough, Junpei was sitting over in Ryoji's desk chair, glaring holes into her roommate's shirt. Ryoji patted her shoulder gratefully. "Why don't you keep him company for me?" Without waiting for a reply he slipped around her and headed for the exit.
Riichi scrambled to grab a hold of him before he could elude her. "Wait a min—Ryoji!"she hissed, vainly attempting to convince him not to leave her alone with a potentially homicidal friend. All she got in response was the wood of the door, mocking her in its silence.
There was a long moment of tension, and then with a sigh the two occupants simultaneously voiced, "That rat bastard."
She didn't know whether to be pleased or disturbed that even when they were fighting she and Junpei were in sync. Whatever the case though the two of them were now on their own and the tension was thick enough to feel like it was strangling her. Riichi briefly considered finding something urgent she needed to do out of the room. That urge was squashed when she reminded herself that this was her room not Junpei's and therefore she shouldn't be the one feeling awkward in this situation. So, having successfully convinced herself that she wasn't ridiculously uncomfortable, the girl marched to her desk and deposited herself in her chair. She belatedly realized that she didn't have anything to do, and so had to settle for pretending to busy herself with math homework that had been completed two days ago. The pained silence continued for a good ten minutes before either of them thought to break it.
"It seriously doesn't take this long to grab food," Junpei snorted.
Riichi answered on instinct. "You know that's not what he ended up doing." She hadn't realized she'd spoken until she had finished and by then it was far too late. For a moment the girl thought she was just going to be ignored. She was pleasantly surprised when Junpei's voice piped up in response.
"Probably got a call from some chick," he growled. She was happy to note that his irritation wasn't directed at her but their friend. "Hey," he paused and it took Riichi looking up at him to get him to continue with his train of thought. "How often has he been going on dates with random girls recently?"
The girl had to take a minute to think about her answer. She didn't really pride herself on her knowledge of what Ryoji did when they weren't hanging out together. It was part wanting to put a bit of distance between them (because really, she was getting dangerously close) and part attempt at letting the boy have some privacy. Lord knew she needed some of that in her own life. "I'm pretty sure he's toned it down," she conceded. "He's had to take off for that kind of stuff a lot less recently."
Junpei's scowl had turned into something that greatly resembled disbelief. "Dude," he whistled, "You've got him whipped."
She blushed despite herself. "I do not," the girl bit back. "I think he's just figured out he doesn't have to please every girl who believes he owes them a date." It had sounded far more believable in her head. Junpei gave her a pointed look and Riichi had to throw up her hands in exasperation. "Alright fine, I've been chasing girls away at the front gates." It wasn't something she was proud of. Ever since the beginning of the year his fangirls had been swarming about the front of the school building. It hadn't been so bad until some of them had gotten it in their heads to start ambushing him at the entrance to their dorm. Even that hadn't been enough to finally set her off edge, but when they started looking for her as well in an effort to wheedle out her roommate's secrets she'd thought enough was enough. It had been a mild form of revenge when she'd started driving them off with snarls and threats of throwing food scraps at them (threats that, had they had enough sense, the girls would have realized were completely unfounded because as an experienced orphan Riichi couldn't stand to waste food even if the method of wasting it would have been completely worth it).
The boy's expression was fighting between disappointment and amusement. She wasn't sure which of them irritated her more. "Could you be anymore jealous?" he scoffed. It was a rhetorical question, but even if it hadn't been she would have responded for sheer fury. "Anyway, I heard you got into kendo." The question took her so off-guard that Riichi found herself momentarily stupefied. Junpei didn't seem to mind her silence. He was leaning back in his chair casually, gaze going anywhere but on her and looking almost uncomfortable in his own skin.
Ah, she thought. He missed this as much as she did. Riichi felt a small smile tug at her lips. "Yeah, I think I'm gonna stick with it. They all seem like pretty nice guys."
Junpei fidgeted. "S'that so?" he managed to mumble.
It was a terribly cruel thing to do, but Junpei'd made her all sorts of distressed over the last few days and she thought it was high time she returned the favor. So Riichi hummed a noncommittal answer and said nothing more. She almost felt bad sitting there watching the boy squirm, but the feeling of revenge was so sweet that it smothered any lingering guilt. She allowed him to stew for another good six minutes before she relented.
"Hey Junpei," she called. Not having expected her to speak again the boy jumped. "I'm sorry. For whatever happened back during break. I'd say something more, but I honestly can't remember what it is I should be apologizing for." It wasn't an excuse so much as it was the truth. She wasn't going to lie to him (he'd catch her quick enough) and it was obvious that she wasn't going to find out her misstep without some overly elaborate and unnecessary methods.
A loud sigh was all she got in response. Junpei sat forward and scratched his neck awkwardly. "It's all good man," he gave. "I should have been paying better attention to you. I can't let you take all the blame." He looked up at her, awkward smile attempting to dominate his face. She couldn't help but give one herself. "We good?"
Riichi nodded once, her smile turning warm. "Good," she assured. The thing about Junpei was that he always owned up to his mistakes. It might take a while (and lord had she'd had to wait a while on occasion) but he wasn't one to let someone else take the blame when he realized he was in the wrong. It was one of the things she liked so much about the boy. It was hard to come by that kind of stuff in a guy. Now that the mushy stuff was over the girl felt herself relax. "Where's Ryo-kun when you need him?" she griped. "I'm getting hungry."
Her companion let out a loud guffaw. "I know right? He's slower than you." She puffed out her cheeks in a pout which only proceeded to make him laugh harder. "Let's eat his snacks too." His smile was positively devilish.
Riichi grinned back so hard her cheeks hurt. "But of course."
She hadn't remembered her promise to eat lunch with a certain bluenette until he was standing in front of her desk the next day. Class had only been out for two minutes at the most and she had already found her vision being obscured by the figure of Minato Okamatchi. An odd hush had fallen over the class; she was pretty sure she knew why.
"Come," he spoke. The way he said it didn't make it feel like an order, but there was something in his tone that made her want to obey him anyway. That was why Riichi found herself nodding and standing on shaky legs before she knew what she was doing. Next to her Ryoji crowed in delight.
"I didn't know you two were friends!" he cried. His voice was what brought her out of her strange stupor and it was only then that Riichi realized she had allowed Minato to grasp her hand again. Torn between ripping her hand out of Minato's and figuring out what Ryoji was so excited about, the girl ended up standing there like an idiot. "This is great, I knew you guys would get along well."
Minato, to her unending surprise, smiled back at the boy. "Hello Ryo," he greeted. Ryoji didn't seem to find this action as mystifying as the rest of the class because he merely continued to smile back. "Usual spot, if you want to join."
Ryoji obviously understood this far better than she had. He nodded once before standing up and placing a hand on her shoulder. If he noticed her light jump he didn't show it. "I have to go take care of something first, and then I'll join you," he chirped. And then he was out of the class and gone; gone just as any of her hopes for escape.
Either oblivious to her discomfort or merely ignoring it, Minato gently tugged on her arm. "Let's go," he supplied before leading her out into the hallway.
It was in front of the door that they almost ran into the oncoming figure of Junpei. The boy gaped openly at the two of them as Minato nodded his head in what might have been an apology and pulled her away without a word. It was all Riichi could do to glance back and mouth 'sorry' at him with an expression that she hoped conveyed how confused she was by this all as well. She didn't get to stick around to make sure he understood because the bluenette was not stopping for anything. Riichi briefly contemplated why everyone around her seemed to enjoy treating her like a rag doll.
Perhaps it was the excitement of everything, but it took them getting to a completely different wing of the building before the girl realized that they were going in the opposite way of the dining hall. "Um," she piped up, hesitating slightly in her uncertainty of what exactly she was supposed to say. "I'm sorry but, I didn't bring a lunch," she finally settled on.
Minato didn't stop, but he did look back to fix her with a rather meaningful stare. Meaningful in that he appeared to think she knew something she didn't. She couldn't have been more confused. "You don't need one," he answered. Riichi didn't know whether to be offended or astonished. Was he telling her she needed to go without eating? (For a brief moment she thought maybe he was telling her she was fat, but then she remembered that she was supposed to be a guy and guys normally didn't give a shit about that kind of thing amongst each other.) Whatever the case his gaze was back forward and she had lost her chance to question him.
It didn't seem to matter though because within minutes she was tugged into an unused classroom and came face-to-face with the two seniors she had just been with last night. Riichi was beginning to think something was conspiring against her; whether it be gods or this blue-haired boy was still undecided.
Akihiko appeared as surprised as she was by their sudden entrance. Shinjiro merely looked up with mild curiosity then seemed to have gotten all the answers he needed and proceeded to lose all interest. Her earlier concern about food was dashed at once when she saw the large spread across the few desks that had been left in the room.
"Cooking class," Minato answered her unspoken question. He tugged lightly on her hand and led her closer in towards the food.
Apparently having gotten over his shock far quicker than her, Akihiko took his chance to chuckle at her wide-eyed expression. "Shinji likes using us as guinea pigs for his recipes."
The boy in question snorted from his position of dishing out something that looked like casserole but was far more elaborate than anything she'd ever been served. Her mouth watered just thinking about it. "I'd rather have you idiots eat it then let it go to waste. Besides, if you weren't eating this you'd be eating that junk in the cafeteria." Riichi wouldn't exactly have called the cafeteria food junk. It was fancier than most of the stuff she got at home—any home. She wasn't prepared to correct Shinjiro though, especially after she found him shoving the plate he had finished filling into her chest and ordering, "Take it." She did, with pleasure.
It took her a moment to recognize that Minato hadn't taken his eyes off of her for a minute. "Okamatchi-san," she tried.
"Minato," he interrupted her. She stared at him blankly before realizing that he wanted her to call him by that.
Riichi fidgeted awkwardly, unsure of a lot of things in that moment. "Minato…san?" she tried again. He looked happier, though there was still that slight slip of disappointment.
Akihiko cleared his throat. "Minato, want to try giving the guy some space to eat? Come here and grab your own." The bluenette looked torn for nothing more than a second before he turned around and trotted towards the boxer and his waiting plate. Riichi couldn't help but liken him to that of a puppy, especially when Akihiko reached over and ruffled the boy's hair affectionately.
She glanced about the room for a second and then decided to seat herself closest to the door. She didn't think she was going to need to run, but you could never be too careful.
The chef gave her a knowing look from his position of spooning potatoes onto Akihiko's plate. Riichi pretended she hadn't seen.
Feeling as if she needed to contribute (and thinking it might be rude if she started eating before the rest of them) Riichi timidly piped up. "So, is this something you guys do every day?"
The silver haired senior shrugged amiably. "More or less," he replied, while Minato stole apple slices from his plate. "Though we normally aren't treated to this much food." He grinned, as if the thought excited him greatly. He was a boxer, she remembered. It occurred to her that having all this food was a god send for him. "This is great, I've got a match today and I was a little worried I wouldn't get enough protein."
Hearing this it was Riichi's turn to give Shinjiro a look. The senior pointedly ignored her, instead snorting a quick, "Lucky coincidence."
Akihiko nodded towards her own plate. "You should grab more. You're on the kendo team now, you're going to need to eat. Those scrawny arms aren't going to hold a bokken very steady." She flushed in response, and then sullenly shoved a forkful of casserole in her mouth to escape from having to answer.
Silently Minato seated himself next to her (and really, she'd half expected it at this point). He gazed at her for a few moments and then without a word placed one of his apples on her plate. "They're healthy," he voiced when she stared at him in confusion.
"I'm here!" a familiar voice called from the entrance to the room. Riichi twisted her neck to look over her shoulder and locked eyes with a grinning Ryoji. "Rii-kun, you're really here." He'd seen her being dragged out, so she wasn't exactly sure why he'd questioned her being here at all. Maybe he thought she'd flee when she got the chance. The boy's smile wavered slightly when he realized Shinjiro was staring at him. "A-aragaki-senpai, you're here as well."
The bruenette held the look for a minute before breaking contact and motioning towards the table. "Hurry and grab something and sit down," he grumbled.
The boy immediately did as he was told, scurrying to throw something together and almost launching into the seat on the other side of her. "I thought you came here all the time," she leaned over and whispered.
Ryoji gave a sheepish grin. "Not for lunch. I come hang out with Minato-kun here after school sometimes." She gave a short 'ah' in acknowledgement. It didn't make his discomfort any less funny though. "Anyways," he coughed. "I'm so happy you and Minato-kun know each other now. You two are really similar, I knew you'd get along fine." She had to resist questioning what exactly it was about the two of them that was similar. He was beaming so wondrously at her that she didn't have the heart to refute anything.
Next to her Minato gave a short nod. "Riichi's a good guy," he agreed. "I like him."
For a minute she was extremely flattered.
"I've never seen him warm up to someone so quickly," Akihiko voiced, seating himself in front of them. "Normally he ignores you for a few weeks before he starts talking."
Shinjiro sniffed "That was just you, Aki."
The boxer made a wounded sound.
Riichi watched the four other boys interacting and it hit her hard at that moment that she was finally starting to feel like she had a place here.