"Ahh…where are we going?" Nine friends clambered through the streets, lead by a short boy holding a bag of shrimp chips. He skipped ahead of the others, laughing and munching his snack at the same time.
"To the market!" he sang. "Where there'll be tons of yummy snacks!"
"That's right," said another boy, pushing his glasses up his nose. "There's a big street market thing going on, and I'll bet we can find some good bargains."
"And food booths!" the short boy shouted happily.
"Calm down, Kei!" snapped another boy. "You'll attract attention!" Kei laughed, jumping and punching the air.
"Food, Naru-Naru, how can I come down?"
"Haven't you learned anything from all the years you've known him, Narumi?" teased the glasses boy.
"Shut up Kazuhiko!" Narumi snapped. "I just don't want to draw a crowd or anything."
"Ahh, stop squabbling, Narusy! You is hurting me's ears!"
"And your terrible Japanese is hurting Chisami's ears!" shrieked a curly haired girl. As they argued on, two girls lagged behind, already exhausted from the noise.
"Kiri-chan, are they ever quiet?" asked the girl with dark hair. The other girl yawned.
"I don't know, Kanako," she replied quietly. "But I don't think so."
"I think I get why it's so loud," interrupted a boy with short hair. "Kei is naturally enthusiastic when there's food involved, Ochiai-sempai never pays any attention but provokes more arguing, and of course Iori-san and Chisami-chan never stop fighting when they're in earshot of each other. And Narumi-sempai hates loud noises but he only makes everything louder with all his yelling trying to make it stop." He raised his head proudly.
"Genius, Taro-tard," murmured Kiri. She slouched over with her eyes to the ground. Why did I agree to come with them today… Ochiai had called her to tell her that they were taking an SP day out and that she should come. Kiri had been hesitant but decided to tag along after Ochiai had pretty much begged her. With a deep sigh, Kiri stared up at the sky. It had been a while since she had moved back to Japan to man the Koshiba beauty salon. The SP had welcomed her back, and they did a few shows at the school. The whole student body was crazy about it of course.
The SP was a group of students at the school, specifically Kiri and her friends. They did makeovers for girls selected from their school. Kiri didn't particularly enjoy giving the showy makeovers, so she usually sat back and watched Narumi do all the work. His arm had recovered so much while Kiri was in LA, and she couldn't help feeling proud of him. Kiri lifted her head to watch Narumi scream at Kei, an amused smile on her face. Falling behind, she saw Taro bothering Ochiai with questions, Chisami and Iori shouting vividly at each other, Kanako making an attempt to talk to Seki, who was apologizing profusely for a reason that he probably didn't even know. Despite all the antics, Kiri knew the SP was an undefeatable team, and that they could do anything when they worked together.
"Ah, we're here!" Kei shouted. The rest of the SP turned to look. In front of them was the biggest street market Kiri had ever seen. The nine friends barged in, instantly dispersing. Kiri ran up to a booth selling a variety of dried fish. She picked out a couple of bags for Shampoo and handed a couple of coins to the salesperson. Bowing her head, she stumbled absently down the aisle, searching for more food.
Two hours later, the members of the SP met at a park beside the bustling market. Each holding bags of merchandise, they exchanged stories of their bargaining experience. Then Ochiai spoke up.
"Look at this," he announced, holding a flyer. "A new salon opened up downtown called the Style Shoppe." Everyone bent in to look. "Apparently it's a branch off of a salon run by the same people in New York."
"New York?" Iori piped up. "Me's New York?"
"That's right," Ochiai continued. "It's run by some Japanese-American students. They're not professionals or anything. Kind of like us. But a couple of them rented a place in Japan and they're starting a new branch here."
"Students?" Narumi ran his hand through his hair. "That's interesting. We should check it out sometime."
"Me's heard of the Style Shoppe!" Iori exclaimed. "There was an event at me's school and all the girls went there to get their hair done! The line went all the way to me's house! Of course, me was there to soothe them with me's aromas!" Narumi shuddered at the thought of having to deal with Iori's aromas while waiting in a line full of crazy school girls.
"Nevertheless, we should go see this Style Shoppe," Ochiai intercepted. "If these students are any good, the SP could have an advantage with associating with them. But," he added, "that will be discussed later. Right now we should go home. I think some of us are tired." He glanced at Kiri, who was looking nonchalantly at her watch. As the group started home, a call came from behind them.
"Iori-san!" The SP turned around to see a girl with pin straight dark hair running towards them. She was wearing a dark blue beanie beret and holding a sketchbook. "Sammie!" Iori cried. He ran over to meet her. "Me is so happy that me's Sammie is in Japan!" The girl laughed. "It's good to see you too." Narumi twitched. How can she be so friendly around him? After a few moments of laughing and chatting in English, the girl turned looked past Iori to see the rest of them. Her hand flew to her mouth.
"Oh my goodness!" she squealed. "It's the SP! I'm such a big fan! Look!" She flipped open her sketchbook. "After that amazing beauty competition, I just had to draw a freeze frame!" There was a sketch of the SP, along with Kanako as the model. Narumi winced as he remembered the competition. It wasn't exactly his definition of fun, but in the end it was all worth it.
"Oh sorry!" the girl laughed. "I forgot to introduce myself! I'm Yagami Samiya, but you can call me Sammie, and I'm from New York!" She bowed her head, her dark hair sweeping over.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Ochiai replied. "I would introduce the rest of us, but you probably know who we all are already." Sammie flipped back her hair with her hands and beamed a smile.
"Of course!" she said cheerfully. "It's Ochiai-sempai, Narumi-sempai, Kei-kun, Seki-san, and of course, Kiri-san!" Kiri blinked. This girl was so good-natured, even around the crazy SP.
"Yagami-san, are you part of the Style Shoppe, the new salon?" Ochiai asked. Sammie shook her head.
"I'm not part of them," she replied. "But my sister Karen organized the whole thing, so I live upstairs from the salon with her."
"I see…" She must not be very good with hair if she's not working with the Style Shoppe, he thought. Sammie glanced down at her watch.
"I'm so sorry! I have to run, Nee-chan wants something." She slipped her sketchbook into her messenger bag and ran in the other direction. "It was great meeting you all!" she called over her shoulder with a wave. The SP waved back.
"Well," Narumi began. "I have never seen anyone so unconditionally cheerful." The rest of the SP agreed, murmuring amongst themselves.
"She's so nice, Ki-chan," exclaimed Kanako. "Even to Iori-san!"
"You're right," Kiri replied. "I didn't even think that was possible." The nine friends headed home, pushing the thoughts out of their heads.