Saturday morning, and I'm staring at the calendar. It's been five
weeks since Suka-chan arrived at Ryokuto. The X I'm drawing
today covers the circle. Today, I win. I can claim my prize.
And maybe, just maybe, I can finally tell Suka-chan the truth.
Suka-chan's left for his morning class, so I figure I'm safe for the moment. Time to head next door, where the sempais have been keeping the money since this whole thing started. Everybody put down their bet at their quoted odds as to when Suka-chan would figure me out. What wasn't won in the bet would go toward the dorm kitty.
But now, I can have it all. Which is another reason to have been looking forward to this day. I can't help grinning as I knock on their door. "Sempais?"
It's Shinobu-sempai who answers, a thin smile on his lips. "Couldn't wait till evening, could you?"
"Of course not," Mitsuru-sempai calls out from his desk. "He's got to do something special for Hasukawa, and he needs time to plan. Maybe..." and he gets up and walks over to join Shinobu, "to make reservations?"
"Yeah." He hands me a business card. "They don't take walk-ins, but I think you'l like the place. You owe Hasukawa this much, at least. After all, he's responsible for your little windfall. Better share as much of it with him as you can..." Shinobu-sempai walks back into the room while Mitsuru-sempai is talking.
Meanwhile, I'm staring at the card. Le Mystique... a French restaurant, ne? No kidding this is going to chew up a lot of my winnings. But I suppose sempai is right about owing it to Suka-chan. After all I've put him through in order to keep up this charade, yeah, I guess he does deserve it. And heck, when am I ever going to get the chance to go to a place like this again, anyway?
Shinobu-sempai is back, carrying a cigar box full of jingling coins. "Seems a shame none of this could go into the dorm kitty. Could I put you down for a contribution, in any case?"
I give him a look. "No disrespect, sempai, but I don't think so." I take the box... whoa, is it heavy!
"Couldn't hurt to try..." Shinobu-sempai shrugs.
"C'mon, guys... don't you still have funds left over from the film festival?"
"Well..." and they just look at each other with grins on their faces. They're up to something... just what, I'm not sure, but I think I'm going to have to watch my step. I pocket the card.
"I'll consider it, sempais. Thanks for the suggestion."
"No problem." Mitsuru-sempai looks like he does whenever he refers to me as 'her' or 'she' in front of Suka-chan... in other words, like he's about to bust a gut. I really wish I knew what he was thinking...
..or maybe he's just trying to get me nervous. Like this whole thing hasn't kept me on edge a bit right from day one, he's just got to add to my paranoia, too.
Once in my room, I'm gleefully counting my winnings. Practically everyone in the dorm, and a number of Ryokuto students not living in Greenwood, put up at least 500 yen, and some guys bet even more. I still wonder how much of this is Takeshi's as I tally up... nearly one hundred fifty thousand yen. Yeah, that'll go far... even at this La Mystique place.
Fine, I'll do it. Now to ask Suka-chan if he'd like to.
"You're... asking me... out?" The last word, especially, comes out in a kind of squeak. I know I make him nervous sometimes (and he returns the favor, unwittingly), but this is ridiculous. I try to put on a soothing smile.
"Yeah. It's kind of a 'thank you' for putting up with me and my situation over the last few weeks. So... how about it? Would you like to go out to La Mystique with me?"
"Would I? Are you kidding? Shun-chan... I've been wanting to go out with you for weeks," that's what I've been afraid of, "but I've never..."
I sidle over to him heedlessly. "Never asked anyone out before? Never had the nerve?" I smile.
Suka-chan looks sheepish. "Well, that and... I never had the money for a proper date. And this... a French restaurant! Shun-chan... where'd you come up with this kind of cash?"
I step back and grin. "Consider it... like money from home." Okay, so winning the bet wasn't really that easy. But at least this keeps Suka-chan off my trail while I figure out exactly how to break the news to him properly. "Anyway... tonight at six-thirty or so, we'll walk over there together. Sound aright with you?" He smiles and nods. "Good. Then I've got to go and phone ahead for reservations."
Guess the place fills up fast... the best I could do for a time was five-thirty. So I have to cut Ogura-sensei's class -- big deal. The man's a bore, anyway. At least Suka-chan doesn't have a class, so he's all set. And he looks really good in his school uniform, though I can't see that we're going to be able to order drinks if he's dressed like that. Oh, well...
And me? Well, I know I'm supposed to be trying to tell Suka-chan who I really am, but I'd really rather not wear my school uniform. I just look dumb in it, really, just like a girl wearing a suit-and-tie would. So I put on the Clarisse dress (I just keep borrowing it from costuming. No one there seems to mind. They know who's got it) and head out.
"Shall we, then?" Suka-chan tries to be the perfect gentleman as he takes the crook of my left arm and escorts me out of Greenwood, but I can hear some of the other guys in the lobby snickering as we leave. Suka-chan leans toward me, and whispers conspiratorically, "Ignore 'em. They're just jealous."
Of us going to the restaurant, yes. Of me or Suka-chan... no.
Even if I didn't have Mitsuru-sempai's impish grin burned onto the back of my mind, I would consider myself in way over my head in a place like this. Huge cystal chandeliers, Corinthian columns, and rococo artwork all over the dining area. This is serious intimidation.
Suka-chan looks out of his depth, too, but he usually looks like that. Nothing really unusual there, nor should there be; after all, he's not the one paying for this meal.
I take a deep breath and walk up to the maitre'd. "Kisaragi, for two?"
He blinks, and regards me for a moment, in the classic French tradition (of course, he quite clearly is NOT French, but why let a little thing like that spoil an evening, ne?), before turning toward the dining area. "Very good, ma'mselle. This way, if you please..." We follow.
As beautiful as the place is, and as wonderful as the food is, it's hard to fully enjoy it when your mind is elsewhere. I'm only half-listening to Suka-chan aas I think of a suitable way to break it to him that, well... that I'm not really his type. Nor is he mine.
All at once, his words jar me into full attention. "...I feel like I've known you since we were kids. And I really, really like you.
"You've even taught me a lot about myself. About how I shouldn't take losing Sumire-chan so hard, about how I shouldn't bottle up my emotions, about how, if I really want something, I need to go after it, to say something, or else risk losing it again." Uh-oh...
"Look, I know it hasn't been a long time that we've known each other, but I've got to say this: I think... I think... I think I love you."
Now Im feeling sick to my stomach.
So it comes to this, does it? I guess it's time to suck it up and tell the truth, before this gets waaay outta control. "Well, Suka-chan... there's a few things you don't know about me. To be honest --"
And it's right at this moment that the sommelier decides to make his appearance. With a bottle of champagne, no less. "For the happy couple...?" It's enough to bring the color to my cheeks.
"Uh..." My train of thought has been completely derailed as I watch him struggle with the cork. The stuff is obviously under considerable pressure. And then -- POW!
"Kyaa!" I scoot my chair away in a hurry... freed from the confines of the bottle, the champagne froths over, just missing me and my dress. Suka-chan's looking over my shoulder with his mouth open, and once I'm settled, I turn around to see... a mark in the wall, just by the fireplace, where the cork must have hit. Boy, am I glad that bottle wasn't aimed at anyone.
Now I turn to the sommelier. "Look, this is really nice and all, but we didn't order this."
"Not to worry, ma'mselle. It's been taken care of." He gestures off to a corner of the room, where... Mitsuru-sempai and Shinobu- sempai are sitting?! "In honor of your first date..."
I stand up. "Ah... thanks. You'll excuse me?" The sommelier nods as he pours our glasses. I grab Suka-chan by the arm and drag him over to the sempai's table. "All right... what's the deal, here?"
The smile on Shinobu-sempai's face is as innocent as a newborn's, but I'm not falling for it. "We just want to wish the two of you well. Anything wrong with that?"
"Is that all?"
"Well, that and the champagne. I think you'll like it. Cliquot '94... one of its better years of late, as I understand."
"Aw, c'mon, Shun-chan... let's just thank 'em and get back to the table." Suka-chan seems happy enough... but then, he doesn't suspect anything.
"Oh, hey... we could join you in a toast." Mitsuru-sempai stands as if to make his way to our table, but I bar the way.
"No thanks. This is a private matter, got that?"
"Won't take but a minute. Promise."
I try to stand my ground, but Suka-chan relents. "C'mon, Shun-chan... it's okay, they know your secret, after all." Boy, do they ever... and are they milking it for whatever it's worth. I sigh and head back to the table. The sempais follow, lugging their chairs with them. Don't see why... after all, they're going to stand in order to propose their toast:
"To life..." Shinobu-sempai intones.
Mitsuru-sempai adds, "...to love..." with a wink at Suka-chan. Suka-chan's face goes just a trace dark.
"To laughter!" they finally chorus, while Mitsuru-sempai bends over to Suka-chan. "And to the two of you. Kampai... drink up!"
Suka-chan lifts his glass and drains it, and I do the same, a little more hesitatingly than he. Whew... that champagne is kinda strong. I have to sit down.
The sempais take their glasses -- still full -- and their chairs, and toddle back to their table. "Enjoy your desserts, kids..." Mitsuru-sempai tosses over his shoulder. I'm sure he means more than what he's saying but I'm too dizzy... right now... to... care.......
Disclaimer: Koko wa Greenwood is the creation of Yukie Nasu, and all characters and situations therein are the property of her and Hakusensha Inc., Victor Entertainment, and the Pierrot Project. No infringement is intended.