“What are you doing here?”
I lifted my head in surprise and saw Keiko. She was wearing a pink top with a light blue short skirt with polka dots and pink pumps with a LV bag slung over her shoulder. As usual, she had a little bit of make up on, which made her eyes looking even bigger than usual – she was going for that “moe” look – and her lips still looked like cherry, especially when she pouted.
I had forgotten the only girl that I could really communicate with in classes. Despite being a girl, I just couldn’t get into the things the girls my age liked. Mostly, I stared at outside when they talked about clothes or boys.
Keiko was the only person that I could talk to (or she was the only person cared to talk to me, whatever); that was before Mari came and before Ryoko and I were able to communicate (though awkwardly). In a mere few days, I had forgotten about her. She had asked about my feelings just a couple of days back. Guilt shot across my heart as I admired her legs. They were straight, a little plump but not fat. They were not well defined like Ryoko’s nor were they refined like Mari’s, but they were pleasing to check out nonetheless. I swallowed and looked away, remembering that I was just in shock a moment ago.
My days were a mess and I had so much on my mind.
Quickly, Keiko walked toward me and put her hand on my shoulder. “Are you all right? Why are you sitting on the ground?” She lifted up her head and shot Fubuki a gaze. “Who is she? Is she related to Mari?”
I blinked. The fact that Keiko called Mari by her name and not her last name (Kanazuki) surprised me a little. “No, she’s not. She’s um…” I paused, unsure what to say, especially after what happened just moments ago.
“You must be Miss Sawashiro Keiko.” Fubuki said. “I'm Sakamoto Fubuki of the Fuuzan Clan…School of Martial Arts, currently serving Miss Kanazuki.” She bowed.
Keiko stood next to me and made no gestures. “Why are you here?”
Detecting a hint of hostility, I cocked any eyebrow.
Fubuki smiled politely. “Miss Kanazuki assigned me to protect Miss Suzuki.”
“I said call me Sayoko.” I muttered.
“In any event, we were on our way to the school when Miss Suzuki tripped and fell. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to be hurt anywhere. I was just trying to get her back on her feet.” Fubuki said.
“Yep, nowhere except in my heart.” I muttered again.
Keiko stared at her with narrowing eyes. Fubuki didn’t flinch.
“All right, I see. I was wondering if you were just another girl trying to stir up Sayoko’s heart.” Keiko said. She tone was harsh but she was blushing.
My jaw dropped. “Keiko?” I said. “What was that about?”
My heart almost leapt out of my throat as she threw her arms around my neck. The next thing I knew, she pressed her face against mine and hugged me closely. “What…” was all I could manage.
Fubuki’s eyes were full of amusement. “Oh.” She said. “So now you’re trying to woo her away from Miss Kanazuki.”
“What are you talking about?” Keiko fired back sharply. “I like my best friend a lot and I want to be close to her. Don’t jump of conclusions.” She turned and our faces, no, our lips were less than an inch away. “But if Sayoko even decide to cross that line, I’ll be delighted!” She laughed.
I froze. The girl next to me felt like a stranger. “Keiko? What’s…wrong?” I said.
“Wrong? WRONG?” Her pitch jumped one notch higher. “Nothing is wrong; nothing is ever wrong.” Out of the blue, she pecked me on my left cheek and then jumped to her feet, pulling me up with her in the process. “Come on Sayoko, let’s get out of here. Ooh, I know, let’s go shopping!”
Getting up too quickly made me dizzy. The glaring aura around Keiko caused by the morning sun also made me dizzy. “But you know I don’t like shopping. I mean, not that stuff.”
“I know. But I feel like going.” Keiko said.
“But the department stores aren’t even open at this hour!” I said.
“Let’s go to that one in the next town. The train ride will take about an hour. We can have a snack and then go shopping!” Keiko said.
The ecstatic tone in her voice made me uneasy. “I don’t know, I mean…” I said.
“What, you can’t give up your school work?” She said.
I shook my head.
“You love the lectures that much?” She said.
I shook my head again.
“Oh I see, you can’t bear to be apart from our dear classmates?” Her pitch raised another notch.
“No, that’s not it…” I said; my skin crawled.
“Then let’s go.” Keiko spun on her heels and started dragging me with her. “Let’s just ditch school.”
“I must protest, Miss Sawashiro…” Fubuki interrupted.
“It’s none of your business, really, you’re just Mari’s servant, aren’t you?” Keiko said without turning around. “You can follow along but I will ignore you.”
“Please do not be insulting.” Fubuki said quietly. Her tone made me uneasy.
“Ooh, I’m so scared.” Keiko said, totally ignoring her obvious warning. “Well, in any case, since you’re around to protect Sayoko, I guess there is nothing to worry about, is there?” Keiko said. “Let’s go then.”
I tried to protest one more time but she had already started to walk. Her small hand felt very nice and I didn’t want to shake it off. Sighing, I started walking as well. Turning my head around, I saw Fubuki sighing. She took out her cell phone and called someone while following us.
“Yes, report to Mari.” Keiko said. “Tell her Sayoko is with a friend.”
I shook my head. What’s with Keiko today?
There was a strange dynamic between Fubuki and Keiko, possibly involving Mari. Of course, being the way I was, I missed all of it.
Minutes later, we were on the train, heading to the next town. Keiko sat on my left and Fubuki sat on my right. Neither of them paid attention to each other. Fubuki had told me that Mari was “rather upset and wished that she could be by my side.” I smiled but my face was grim overall. Nothing came as expected and I was skipping school on my way to a shopping mall in the next town.
Keiko tried to talk to me but I just didn’t know what to say. She was not the Keiko I knew and I didn’t know how to respond to her. Part of me wanted to go home and sleep but the other part of me was wondering what the fuck was going on with her. The “Keiko” that was sitting next to me shared the same body shape and signature facial expressions with the Keiko I knew, but her aggressiveness and demeanor was quite different. Or perhaps I was just being overtly sensitive. I mean, teenage people like us changed often and perhaps she was just going through one of these phrases. Still, my heart remained uneasy.
Fubuki kept frowning. Her eyes were half closed and her right hand remained on her wooden sword, which rested by her waist. Nobody bothered us on the train. Watching her tense posture made me really uncomfortable. There was something that she wasn’t telling me and to be honest, I wasn’t happy about her silence but didn’t know how to ask.
We got the next town without any incidents. Unlike our town, or rather, our section of the mega city, this part was bustling with activities. I checked my watch, it was only 10:30 but there were a ton of people hurrying along in the streets. Everyone seemed to have a destination; they knew where they were going. The cars only stopped when the lights turned red; otherwise, they’d never stop for anything or anyone. People didn’t stop to take a break, even a breath, but kept their frantic pace throughout the short second that I was observing them. For that instant, I wondered if I ought to do what they do and rush through it all. Perhaps, if my mind was always occupied, I wouldn’t be so bored most of the time. That said, I rather stare at the trees, the flowers and especially the sky. I couldn’t imagine starting at a corner of a train packed with people for long.
Keiko’s voice interrupted my wondering. She beaconed me to go with her. The morning sun glared and I had to shield my eyes from it. I smiled, wishing that I were away. Though something inside me begged me to stay.
Dazzled by the sun, I turned to see Fubuki’s face fell. Apparently, she did not like the atmosphere in the city. She looked disgusted as men passed by her.
A smile crept up my face as I realized her discomfort. However, I took in a deep breath and found myself quite comfortable among it all: the glare, the crowd, the hustle and the bustle. Though my mind was somewhat dizzy and uncertain about the sensation, I was smiling though I wasn’t entire aware of it.
Keiko was pulling forward and I didn’t want to trip and fall on my face, so I went along, fully aware that I might be going with a stranger that I really didn’t know well. Fubuki sighed. I sensed her unwillingness. She tried to follow as close as she could, while doing her valiant best to avoid any contact with the crowd. I giggled as I saw her disgust of men. Shaking my head in wonder, I tried my best to avoid being near the males in the crowd.
People around us promptly ignored our thoughts and reactions. For them, we were simply another small group of strangers caught in the middle of the city. It was desolate and yet exciting at the same time.
“There it is,” said Keiko. “That’s the café I was talking about.” She said.
“Let’s have some dessert.” She winked,
“This early in the morning?” I protested
“What, don’t tell me you actually had breakfast.” She said.
“No, but…” I said.
She tossed her hair back. “Then don’t complain.” She said. Before I could respond, she shot a gaze at Fubuki. “Of course you’re welcome to come along.” She said. “Not that you’d go away if I told you to.”
Fubuki sighed and said nothing. I joined her in silence. Therefore, we started again. Walking in the streets without a care. To this Keiko, we were the only people on this planet. As much as she showed some hostility toward Fubuki, she wasn’t that unhappy to have her around; that much I gathered. It was unusual for me to be able to decipher social cues and read people’s thoughts. I’ve always had trouble with being socially normal. Yet, on that day, I was able to act like a regular human creature, an ippanjin (a commoner) if you would, despite the fact that I’ve never really cared to be one.
Not that I could be one if I wanted to be one.
The stage was set for something; the only thing I wish I had was a readable not to mention understandable script.