Fuuko: Roller Coasters
It was one of those Thursday afternoons where I wished TGIF were TGIT (Thursday) and the weekend would promptly start the next day. I was desperately trying to fight off drowsiness from droning lectures, indefinite lengths of reading assignments, and a severe case of insomnia. Coffeeeeee.... coffee would be my medicine and therapy.
I wandered into that little café next to the music conservatory, where Mi-chan and I answered our first pairwork in literature. It's amazing how much time passed by. That was approximately four months ago.
Not much has changed in terms of my workload. It had even doubled, much to my chagrin. But I had study groups for that. Mi-chan's notes were a big help, too.
My coffee was served in a flash.
I smiled solicitously at the waitress, who bowed and disappeared from my sight. I leaned back into the leather booth and drew the steaming cup closer.
"Well look who's here. Fuuko-chan! Nice to see you!" a semi high-pitched voice drawled just as my lips came into contact with the mug.
Setting the coffee aside, I looked into the smiling face of my Pol Sci classmate, who looked particularly stunning in a plaid shirt and black slacks… um, for a guy. He gave me that signature beauty queen wave, tossed his long tresses back and plopped down on the seat opposite mine. "Mind if I keep you company? Or are you waiting for someone else?"
I laughed. "No, I don't mind. I'm all alone anyway."
"WHAT?" He gasped. "Where's your attachment? That incredibly handsome guy with silver hair?"
I gaped at him with wide eyes. "Attachment. I haven't heard that one. Hey, you know, that term suggests an electrical tape of some kind. A rather bizarre term, if I must say so. You make it sound like we're stapled together, or fastened or something. If Mikagami heard-"
He grinned at me. "Hey, relax. I just like using gaudy terms, that's all. It's just that I see you guys together most of the time, that's why I've come to think you must be more than friends or something."
I held up both hands. "Hold on. We're not a couple. He probably doesn't like me that way you know."
"So it's purely platonic?" He raised a brow inquisitively. "Oh but you never said you didn't like him."
I almost spewed out coffee. I really didn't know what to say. Tokyo University scholars were quite perceptive.
He shook his head, displayed a queer smile and remained quiet for a while. "If you don't mind me asking, Fuuko-chan,"
I took a sip from my cup and nodded to prod him to continue.
"I find Mikagami-san intriguing."
"You and three-fourths of the school population. What else is new?"
He gave me a coy smile. "Okay, we've established the fact that he's, like, the ultimate paragon of gorgeousness. He's also got that chill factor that appeals to us ladies. Unfortunately, he tells everyone who goes within a mile radius of him to drop dead. So, how did you get him to thaw?" he stirred the straw around his latte listlessly, propping up his chin with his other hand.
I was already laughing at a joke in my head. "Everyday, I tried to look for reasons to make him mad."
"You found reasons to make him fall in love?"
Joke was on me.
"MAD. I said mad. Go get some Qtips." I waved my hand dismissively. "We have to act civil toward each other otherwise we're going to wind up at each other's throats. It's not a special treatment. Put another person in my shoes and he won't act a bit differently."
"Somehow, I doubt it." He ran a hand through his hair and forced a grin. "There's something about you and Mikagami-sempai... I've been trying to figure it out."
I was partly amused. I didn't get it either. "Why don't we analyze something more academic, like kakistocracy?"
And from there, I found it imperative to change the topic.
Whistling a tune, I perched myself on one of the benches of the kiosks, then fanned my face, feeling the intensity of the scorching heat on my skin. Sighing with relief, I did a quick perusal of the surroundings. Yes! No Mikagami in sight. I was not late this time, and my running the distance (like a crazy maniac) from the dorm to the kiosks was not in vain. Therefore, there will be no attempts for him to lecture on the finer points of punctuality.
Smiling a little to myself, I remembered something out of my conversation with Yukino three days ago. He had mentioned that Mikagami acted a tad bit nicer to me than any person from the general public.
"I figured it out. You two just totally click." Yukino told me yesterday.
My eyes softened at the thought, then confusion hit my head with the impact of a falling piano. If anything, it was the other way around. Mikagami seemed to be the only one who could be fully capable of understanding me. While I was forever "that hot-tempered tomboy" to other people, for some reason, I could be myself around him and it did not seem to faze him one bit.
Here in this spot three weeks ago, he told me I looked elegant. I was terrified to feel my cheeks heat up. And twice that day, at that. The first was when I saw him from the distance in his suit. I noticed the glow of his hair and his eyes that were an intense shade of cerulean. If gorgeous had a face.... I thought.
"Uh… ohayo." I was stunned to find him standing right in front of me.
"You're early. For a change." He remarked.
Just excited to see you.
I noticed something was off. "Mi-chan, you look like you're going to freeze everyone and everything within a mile's radius. What's bothering you?"
He looked at me icily. "My professor in Japanese Constitution opposed my research yesterday. I got a low score. Twenty percent of my final grade depended on that paper. I'm still dealing with the aftermath, Kirisawa."
"Why would he oppose it?"
"My study contradicted some of his theories. Let's just say it got a bit personal for him."
He started to walk away and towards our destination, while I glanced with inscrutable eyes at the steady stream of people coming towards our direction from the gym. Soon we were out of the campus and in the busy streets and I was rushing like mad just to keep up with him. Uh-oh. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.
Saturday was always the busiest day in Tokyo. People shopped, hastened to get their errands done, dog walked, visited the dentist, etcetera, etcetera. The streets were filled with people everywhere you looked. A sea of faces.
"Fuuko, look out!" Mikagami's voice called out suddenly.
I turned to stare at him in surprise, suddenly thrown off balance as someone rammed into my shoulder, sending me off my feet, the image of cold hard cement looming in front of me. Silently cursing my lack of alertness, I braced myself for the blow, my heart jumping to my throat.
It never came. Instead, I found myself leaning on Mikagami, whose arm wrapped firmly around my waist, hoisting me back to my feet. I tried not to acknowledge the scent of his cologne, or that in his arms for the shortest, most fleeting moment, I felt safe and secure.
To my sheer horror, random constituents of the crowd had paused to watch the action and were presently applauding.
"That was so romantic." One girl said with a sigh.
I felt my cheeks flaming. A minute later, after the excitement died a natural death, I turned to Mikagami. People went back to minding their own business.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah. Are you?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Nothing to fuss over, Kirisawa."
I slammed one fist to an open palm. "Good, coz I was thinking of delivering a whirlwind to your arrogant Pol Sci prof's address."
The slightest trace of a smile showed on his handsome face.
"Where are we going anyway?" I asked listlessly after fifteen minutes of strolling side by side in silence.
He smirked. "The amusement park."
I blinked. "The amusement park?"
He shook his head and gave me a reprimanding look. "You didn't read Yamato's profile, did you? Our next interviewee is an architecture hotshot."
"Oh… yeah. I read an article about him before. And Tokyo Amusement Center is his latest design?" I queried.
He nodded. "He also owns it."
Genuinely impressed, I smiled. "I so wish I could do something like that."
"You can do anything, Kirisawa. But right now, you're best at being a scholar."
Five minutes later and we were standing in front of Tokyo Amusement Center. The view was spectacular from the outside. With brick walls that outlined its territory, a flying buttress from behind and a barrel vault in the entrance to complete its superb structural design, the place looked inviting. I just couldn't tear my eyes from the construction.
The crowd behind us, as well as those who fell in line for tickets gushed over the new enterprise.
"Excuse me, miss. Would you mind taking our picture?" a young feminine voice inquired. I looked down and found a six-year-old girl in braids eagerly handing me a small camera.
"No problem, sweetie." I answered cheerfully, taking the small machine. "With who?"
"Um…." She turned beet red, pointing at Mikagami. "Him?"
An undecipherable look was etched on Mikagami's face.
I joined in the persuasion. "Come on, Mi-chan. "
"Fine. For you." I didn't know if he said it to me or to the little girl, but he took the girl's hand.
"I want our picture HERE." She dragged Mikagami to a series of flowerbeds, then stopped.
"Ok, ready. On three. One, two…"
Mikagami's lips curved a little, then he smiled. A real, genuine one.
I swallowed. The air around me took on a life of its own, charged with electricity, sending chills down my spine. I felt my hands trembling.
The girl ran giddily to me, taking her digital camera and flashing me a charming smile. "Thanks, miss! Mom's over there! Bye!" she turned to Mikagami who was walking towards us and blew him a kiss. Then she took off in her mother's direction.
"Are you alright, Fuuko? You were sort of trembling." He said as if he was unaware that he possessed a thousand watt smile that could sink the Titanic and make me feel weak in the knees.
"I'm okay. Probably just the heat. It's nothing a bottle of water can't fix." Then I realized irrelevantly that water was his element.
"We're looking for Yamato-sama." I told the desk clerk after being referred to Mr. Yamato's office by the lean security guard.
"You are Yakiba-sempai's students, am I correct? From Tokyo University?"
"I'm sorry, but Yamato-san had an urgent meeting to attend. He left a note for you, apologizing profusely. He asked you to explore the amusement center and tell him what you think of it afterwards. He'll be back in three hours." He handed me two passes.
We stepped out of the office. I felt the temperature rise.
"So I guess we have three long hours to kill." I said.
"Better make the most of it." He replied. "I haven't visited this place since High School."
Soon enough, we had entered the portal of the amusement park. A collection of rides plus the typical carnival music greeted us. The security guard took one look at our passes and waved us in.
"Oooooh! Roller coaster!" I sucked in my breath, pointing to the loops of endless twists and turns at the farthest corner on my right. Raising a hopeful look at my partner, I bit my lip and mumbled, "Will you get in with me?"
He looked amused. "You're dependent on me now, Kirisawa? But if it will make you happy..."
The remark made me smile. I'll have to process it later.
Both of us stepped in line for the roller coaster. It was a Saturday after all, the lines were long. Trying to make small conversation, I asked what sports he liked. Hockey. No surprise there.
"Ready, Mikagami?" I asked, sliding the safety gear into place.
"This should be a walk in the park." he said.
"You'll enjoy it."
No sooner had the words left my mouth when we were hurled into space, and then plunged downwards in a death-defying speed. My heart jumped to my throat as we shot up to heights that resisted gravity, and then immediately dropped down with a narrow, stomach-churning precision. After what seemed like eternity, the ride slowed down, and a blurred view of the end of the track loomed in front of me. It stopped completely- and then shot down into motion, this time backwards.
I jumped out of my seat, and pressed a hand to my stomach. At the corner of my eye I caught Mi-chan looking bored.
"Well, was that great or what?"
"Tolerable." Mikagami told me.
"Can your gut still take it?" I asked excitedly.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Are you still in one piece?"
"Yes." He answered, glancing dubiously at me.
So we tried it again.
I was laughing in enjoyment when we got off the second time.
"I'm not going to sit back and watch as you develop an addiction for the roller coaster, Kirisawa. There are other rides and games."
"Well what are you waiting for?" I grabbed his hand impatiently.
"Is there an activity here that has some mental challenge?" He said as we joined the lane coiling around the amusement park.
I rolled my eyes. "Gee, Mikagami, don't you have enough of that in the univ? But okay, genius, I think I have a solution."
"This better be good." He muttered.
My gaze rested on the arcades. Mi-chan followed me into the noisy cavern. We tried several games together - basketball, racing, shooting, and Mortal Combat. I beat him at racing, but he scored more points at basketball.
"We are so gonna beat the crap out of those zombies." I aimed my electronic gun at the screen.
"I'm sure the zombies won't even stand a chance." He replied.
The letters burst out of the screen after fifteen minutes, followed by the image of a trophy. "You are victorious." A deep voice rumbled.
A short round of applause filled the surrounding space. When I looked around, a bunch of gamers were watching. Some looked impressed while others seemed envious.
"Having fun, Mikagami?" I asked sweetly, after I beat him at Mortal Combat. Score was 2-1, in my favor.
"Let's have another round." He was about to insert a coin into the machine.
I caught his hand swiftly. "Let's not. Come on! The Haunted House looks inviting."
Fifteen minutes later, we were cluttered together with a group of five people who were shaking head to foot with obvious unease. I was telling Mikagami about the fuujin's missing orb when the door, flanked by two grotesque gargoyle figures opened to reveal sheer darkness. A piercing scream coinciding with bone-chilling laughter welcomed us.
Someone cowered in fear, shrinking back and running towards the sunshine.
The rest of us entered. I balled hands into fists and assured myself that the first person to jump and scare the living daylights out of me would have a taste of unarmed combat. And considering the setting of this place, the 'person' criterion was uncertain.
The trail narrowed until all signs of illumination diminished, and darkness took over. Soon, we entered a tiny entrance where coffins were lined simultaneously against the wall. One coffin burst open suddenly and a decaying corpse sat up, sending a girl screaming for approximately two minutes.
When she calmed down to a certain degree, we moved on.
Mikagami stared calmly ahead, hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans.
"Still breathing, Kirisawa?" I heard his voice.
"Are we almost…." Then a severed head dropped out of nowhere, right in front of me, dead center. One eye winked maliciously at me.
I yelped and ran an amazing speed to the front.
"Boo!" An apparition with a knife thrust into his neck jumped in my way, sending me into a screaming fit. Running out of breath, I turned around and ran down the opposite direction jaggedly, ramming into Mikagami.
He pulled me against his chest and stroked my hair. "You're fortunate no one has ever discovered this weakness of yours."
Amidst the terrible shrills and cries in the background, I tightened my grip on Mi-chan's arm and he had to drag me to the exit, after two ghouls, one vampire and a ware wolf made an appearance.
"I don't suppose it would be asking too much if I request that you release your death-grip on my arm." He said when I had placed some distance between me and that vile haunted house. We were seated on one of the booths in the ice cream parlor, where we awaited our orders. He bought me the Superbowl Special, while settling for a hot fudge sundae.
"I'm sorry, Mi-chan." I told him earnestly, letting go of his arm, which had the slightest hint of bruises. "I don't know what came over me."
There were hints of laughter his eyes. "No problem. It happens to the bravest."
"So what are you afraid of?" I asked.
He smirked. "If I tell you, I'd have to kill you."
I rolled my eyes at his cheap reply.
We stepped out of the ice cream parlor. He glanced at his watch. "It's time."
The last remaining shards of playfulness disappeared from his face after one last glance in my direction. "I had a good time, Kirisawa." He said and with a slight nod of his head, turned and started walking ahead.
That same night, I glanced up at the darkened sky, counting the constellations that I recognized. This was one heck of a day. I looked quietly at Mi-chan, who seemed lost in his own thoughts as well.
Yamato-sama was a stocky man, the type who made you uneasy. He was stern and accurate, not tolerating mistakes. It was quite a relief when the interview was over.
"He reminds me of Emily Grierson's stick-in-the mud dad." I grumbled.
Mi-chan stopped all of a sudden, looking at me.
"Something's not right." He answered.
Then I sensed it. Falling into fighting stance, I turned around to find a hooded man running wildly in my direction, a crazed look in his eye. Another hooded guy followed at his heel.
"This is a stick-up, missy! Out with all your money!"
"What the-" I muttered, ducking a punch. The sicko, who I suspected was not completely clueless when it came to martial arts executed a somersault and a high kick aimed at my shin.
I was not a Hokage member for nothing. Catching his foot in mid-air, I delivered a hard blow to his gut, drawing out a growl of pain from him. When he crumpled to the ground in pain after I hit his four most sensitive parts, I knew I wouldn't be having any more problems with him.
Mikagami was having the same luck. And by the time I turned towards him, sweat running down my forehead, he was smirking, an unconscious body laying flat at his feet.
Out of nowhere, a third assailant dove in Mikagami's direction, sending him against the wall. He shoved a gun against Mikagami's neck, a malicious smile embedded on his face. "No one moves, no one get hurts." He said in an annoyingly superior voice. "You guys are a big pain in the neck. You've downed my two buddies and you're not getting away with it."
"You!" He nodded at me. "Empty your pockets."
"I leave my valuables at home." I told him coolly.
"Do what I say, woman, or your boyfriend won't see the light of day."
Mikagami chose the moment to jam a knee into the goon's groin, sending him backwards.
The goon shot him a murderous look as he scuttled backwards and said in a livid tone, "You'll regret that for the rest of your life, mister."
At that moment, everything stopped. I saw the aim, but a second too late.
The last thing I heard was Mikagami's voice before unbearable pain shot through my right shoulder.