Chapter 2. The Reunion
"All right, you're both signed in." The teacher took the entry sheet back from Ichitaka who had just finished signing his name, while Iori stood behind him. Looking up at them both with a smile, the older woman pointed down the hallway. "I'm sure you remember where the field was right? Everyone will be gathering there."
"Thanks." Ichitaka bowed slightly, as did Iori, and they both started to walk down the school hallways. It was a Sunday, so the school was empty save for teachers and the reunion class slowly streaming in. As he looked around, Ichitaka felt like it had been forever since he'd been in the building, even though it had only been about five years.
"It takes you back, doesn't it." Iori was looking around at the empty classrooms as well, walking right beside Ichitaka, wearing a simple white blouse, a light brown skirt, and a necklace Ichitaka had gotten her for an anniversary.
"It does." Ichitaka replied, stretching the tie away from his neck some, and moving his arms around some, finding his brown suit to be much too tight. "I really hate suits…"
"But you wore one every day we were in school." She giggled, referring to the old purple uniforms the boys had to wear.
"Yeah, but that was forever ago." Ichitaka whined, still stretching out the sleeves on his suit.
As they walked onward, Ichitaka spotted the classroom that had once been home to he and Iori's class. The door was slightly ajar, allowing him to see inside and take in how empty it was at the moment. In his mind's eye though, he could see the ghosts of his past there. It was in that classroom, years before, that he'd been placed on the New Student Welcoming Committee by Higemi. Though he'd already had a crush on Iori for a while before that, it was then Ichitaka felt, with the formation of 'Team I's' that their connection truly began.
Ichitaka stiffened some as he felt Iori's arm wrap around his waist, and he looked down at her. She had noticed that he'd stopped and was looking at the classroom with him. "We've got a lot of good memories, don't we."
He thought fondly back on it all before replying. "Yeah, we do." He hugged Iori lightly before they separated, both turning towards the end of the hallway again. "Let's go see everyone again."
"Well, if it isn't Mr. Seto." As soon as Ichitaka had opened the door and stepped onto the field, he and Iori had been swept down upon by Hiromi Hanazono, aka "Higemi", himself, their old teacher. Despite how long it had been since they'd seen him, he didn't seem to have changed much, being only slightly greyer in the hair department - but still coupled with way too much energy for a grown man. "It's good to see you." He had his arm around both their necks, tightly gripping them to him.
"Y-Yeah, it's good to see you too." Ichitaka said in a strained voice, trying to pull himself away from his old teacher's grip while lots of other classmates looked on laughing. When he finally succeeded in getting free - Higemi had let Iori go without struggle - Ichitaka rubbed his possibly fractured neck and smiled up at the old man. "Are you still teaching here?"
"Of course! There's no way I'm retiring anytime soon. Still got too much vigor left in me." Higemi had now struck a Superman-like pose and was full-on belly laughing. It was all Ichitaka could do not to face palm, though Iori giggled at it all. "Anyway, I'm glad I caught you both before heading out."
"You're leaving already?" Iori asked, looking a bit more concerned than Ichitaka did.
"Not for long, I'll be right back. I've gotta go drag the keg out of my car and get it here."
Ichitaka did a double take. "K-Keg? They're actually letting us have drinks here?"
"Well of course. I mean, you are all adults now, aren't you? 'Bout time you had a taste of the good stuff, assuming you haven't yet." Higemi's grin still hadn't left his face, and Ichitaka decided not to puncture it by mentioning any of his underage drinking experiences.
"Yeah, but…on school property?" Iori was looking at him with wide eyes now too.
Higemi scratched his chin some, apparently thinking about how to respond. "Well…let's just say…I pulled some strings. That works, let's leave it at that. Though, let's also keep it our little secret, okay?" He winked at them both, leaving them dumb-founded, before he turned back to the crowd of former students already eating finger foods and conversing. "Hey, you two! Come help me get some more uh, 'decorations', out of my car."
"Aw man!" Replied one of the two men.
"All right, we're coming." Said the other, as they both stepped forward to follow Higemi out. As they got closer, Ichitaka and Iori both recognized them.
"Hey there Kida, Tanaka. Long time no see." Ichitaka smiled, holding out his hand to Tanaka, who's eyes widened when he recognized him.
"Seto! Oh wow, you haven't changed at all." Tanaka smiled, taking Ichitaka's hand and shaking it. Tanaka however had changed quite a bit - his hair resembled neither the pompadour-esque look he'd had during their school years, nor the more bed-head look he'd had after graduation. Instead, his hair was long, tied back into a wispy ponytail that trailed down his suit's back.
"You certainly have though." Ichitaka replied as the two men took their hands away from each other. "What's with that ponytail?"
Tanaka smirked, pulling it in front of him to pat it. "What about it? Oh, I get it - you're totally jealous. I always have had good hair though."
"R-Right." Ichitaka laughed, turning to Kida who seemed to be trying to inch away to follow after Higemi. "You look about the same though Kida."
Stopping to turn back towards Ichitaka, Iori,and Tanaka, Kida, smiled uneasily. The only major difference to his appearance now was that he now sported a small mustache just above his lip. "Uh, hey. Yeah, I haven't really put much work into my appearance. It worked for high school so…yeah."
Iori couldn't help but notice the way Kida seemed to avoid eye contact with her. Ichitaka noticed it too. "So, are you two in college, or are you working now?"
"College." Kida replied shortly, turning to face Iori. Briefly, he looked her in the eyes, but his face seemed to stiffen and he looked away again. "Yeah, just uh…studying. The basic stuff."
Tanaka flicked his eyes toward Kida so that Ichitaka would notice, and smirked knowingly. "I did the college thing for a while too, but it wasn't really for me, you know? So I took a job at a used car dealership, and now I'm one of their top salesmen."
"Oh wow, that's awesome!" Ichitaka said, wondering in the back of his mind how much more money Tanaka was pulling down than him. "Glad to hear you're both doing so well."
"Hey, you two better hurry up or you won't get any of the bo - er, decorations. C'mon!" Higemi called from inside, tapping his foot in an impatient manner.
Kida wasted no time making his exit, not even bothering to say goodbye. Ichitaka and Iori both watched him, a little taken back, but Tanaka just laughed. "He still hasn't gotten over some of the stuff he did when he found out you guys were dating. He feels bad about it but I don't know if he'll ever get over it enough to apologize and just be normal around you guys."
"I see…" Iori sad, looking a bit sad and closing her hand against her chest. "Poor Kida…"
"Yeah, but what can you do." Tanaka said, turning away from them to follow Kida. "I'd better get going, let's talk again in a bit!" He started to run down the hallway, but he slowed a bit and Ichitaka and Iori both heard him say "Wait…we 'won't get any of the decorations'?"
Ichitaka and Iori turned to look at each other, wondering the same thing. "You don't think he's really bringing alcohol here do you?" asked Iori.
"With that man, I have no idea." Ichitaka laughed.
"There you are! Hey, over here!"
Hearing a familiar voice that he could never forget, Ichitaka turned to see Teratani standing with a group of their other closest friends from school - Jun, Yuka, and Nami. "Hey!" He and Iori both rushed over to them. Teratani he saw quite often still, though recently the number of visits had dropped a little. Though she hadn't said anything to Ichitaka, Iori had noticed the same thing with her correspondence with Yuka.
"Geez, took you guys long enough to get here." Teratani smiled, patting Ichitaka on the back. Teratani hadn't changed much either, still sporting his overly large glasses, and a nose that seemed to run in his family. The only major difference to his appearance now was a small 'soul patch' on his chin. "We were starting to think you weren't going to show up."
"Yeah, what were you guys doing, finding a nice empty classroom to 'relive your youth'?" Teased Nami, who's hair still went past her shoulders, but she seemed to have styled it recently, a certain bounce and flip present to the front of it.
Everyone laughed when Ichitaka and Iori blushed in reply. "Very funny." Ichitaka said, looking at them all. "It's nice to see you all again."
"It is. I've missed you Ichitaka." Jun said in a calm voice, his grey-colored hair almost exactly as it had been in high school, though it was cut a little shorter now. Ichitaka tried not to dwell too much on it, but as always, there was a bit too much emotion in Jun's words - just enough to make Ichitaka involuntarily shiver.
"T-Thanks Jun. So what have you been up to? I haven't seen you since about a year ago."
"Not much. I've just been doing some traveling recently." Jun looked up into the sky, as if seeing something that the rest of them couldn't - or searching for it rather. "Just trying to find my place in the world…and love."
"Well, you're here again, you could always finally confess to Higemi." Teratani suggested with a teasing smirk. When Jun blushed in reply, he cackled some before getting smacked on the back of the head by Yuka. "Ow!"
"Don't be rude!" Yuka frowned, looking about the same as she had when Ichitaka had last seen her too, now sporting some bangs in front of her face, but her hairstyle mostly staying the same.
"It's all right." Jun laughed, his cheeks returning to their natural color. "I've thought about telling him just to get it into the open but…it's probably best not to." There was a bit of sadness in Jun's eyes, but somehow he didn't seem bothered by it in the end. It seemed to make him stronger.
"I like your hair Nami." Iori said, prompting Nami to flip her hand through it some.
"Thanks! I get it styled for free since I work at a salon now. Whatever style I want - so of course, I choose some of their more expensive ones, if it looks good on me anyway." She smiled mischievously. "You should come in sometime, I'll get you a good deal."
"O-Oh, that's all right. It took me a long time to get my hair back the way I wanted it." Iori said, touching it as if Nami's suggestion would make it all go away.
"Oh c'mon! I bet Ichitaka would like a new look for you, wouldn't you Ichitaka."
"Um…well, I think she looks good now." He replied honestly.
"So you don't want her to look any prettier? Afraid someone will steal her away?" Nami's smile remained the same.
"Wha- That's not what I said at all!"
"It's the same difference."
"Fine, then I think she'd look good with a haircut."
"Aha! So you don't think she looks good now, do you!"
"Would you stop that!" Ichitaka stomped his foot flustered, while Iori looked on with a blush and everyone else laughed at him. "Geez, even after all this time…do you have to do that?"
"Sure do." Nami said, taking a sip from a juice cup that she'd been drinking from, presumably waiting for the 'real thing' later. "It's fun."
Snickering some, Teratani patted Ichitaka on the shoulder. "Besides, I think we all deserve to laugh at your expense. You really have no idea how much hell we all went through trying to get you guys together, do you."
Ichitaka and Iori looked at each other while Teratani went on.
"You two drove us crazy! Our own little personal soap opera, bleh. It was nauseating." Teratani sighed, stroking his bearded chin with his hand. "I mean, it was worth it in the end, I was glad to lend you my expert assistance - but if you'd just manned up, been more like me - "
"Ha!" Ichitaka laughed dryly, smirking evilly before fake punching Teratani in the gut. "No offense, but at least I have a girlfriend now. Last I heard, you couldn't say the same, now could you."
Without warning, Nami started cackling, Yuka looked to the side, and Jun just smirked, leaving Ichitaka and Iori to look around dumbly. "Huh?"
"You know what they say about assuming, Ichitaka." Teratani smiled, walking back towards Yuka, turning to face Ichitaka and Iori, and smiling before wrapping a hand around Yuka's waist, pulling her closer. "Makes an ass out of you and me."
"What do you…" Ichitaka said, looking carefully at the scene before him, as did Iori. Seeing where Teratani's hand was, the way he smiled, and Yuka's blush, it clicked in both their minds simultaneously. "W-Wha! You mean…you and Yuka are…"
"Yup. We've been dating for a few months now." Teratani cackled, holding Yuka close while she still blushed.
"Is this true Yuka?" Iori asked in amazement. "You didn't say anything!"
"W-Well, I wanted it to be a surprise." Yuka smiled, looking up at Teratani fondly. "And to make sure it was going to work out."
"I've gotta say, I'm really surprised." Ichitaka smiled, looking at his old friend in a new light. "I didn't think you'd ever come around. You've really matured."
"Glad you noticed." Teratani smiled, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah. I guess we all have to grow up some time."
"It's such a shame though." Nami said, a look of pure mischief on her face. "And here I was just about ready to cave to your sex appeal at last Teratani. Guess we'll never have a tawdry fling after all."
Everyone laughed - except Teratani. Turning to face Nami, he waggled his eyebrows at her. "Well, nobody ever said that. There's always an affair."
Ichitaka face palmed as Yuka hit Teratani hard in the ribs, making him cry out again. "Matured huh?"
The laughter rang out once more, as the door to the school opened again. "Hope you guys haven't filled up on that juice yet, 'cause I've got a real treat for you." Higemi laughed, pushing the keg forward down the steps, Kida and Tanaka in tow.
"All right!" Teratani and Nami yelled out in unison, and while they and many other former students rushed forward, the rest of their friends followed behind slowly. It was looking to be a real party.
That was when the first gunshot rang through the air, splitting the peace and fun right down the middle.