Teen Heart Manga Stories presents:
a Dear My Shoujo production
1000 Cranes For Love
First Fold: "Mess Maker"
"That girl! What is she thinking, always leaving things strewn all over the place. At least put the trash where it belongs," Aihara Ryuusuke complained as he bent to pick up the pieces of paper by the desk. He was about to throw it away when the careful folds of the edges caught the sun and he realized it was yet another of Najika Seriko's origami attempts.
Ryuusuke sighed heavily as he placed them aside for the moment, and concentrated on making the room presentable again. He grimaced as he came across her underwear, hanging from the corner of a book on the bookshelf. How did that even come to be in that position? On second thought, he really didn't want to know. Ryuusuke was always picking up after his next door neighbor Kajika Seriko ...especially those childish origami cranes of hers that had been her obsession for the past 5 years. If it wasn't one thing, it was another: her pens, her books and notebooks, her flower pots and gardening tools, yes even her laundry. He was beginning to get tired of it, but he had long ago promised her okasan that he would look after her, and if that meant picking up behind a scatterbrained girl, then that's what he would do.
Ryuusuke grimaced as he swept up the underwear into the clothes hamper. With a final look to make sure everything was in its place, he went back downstairs before Seriko came out of the bathroom. Coffee sounded good right about now, and obasama brewed some of the best around.
"Not again, I've lost another one! I'll never finish at this rate," Seriko said with a downcast face. She pushed her unruly banes out of her face as she cast her eyes over the floor of her room for the umpteenth time. She didn't notice the changes in her room: the neatly stacked books, the folded clothes, the made up bed, the carefully packed school bag on the desk. All she saw was the absence of Origami no. 11345. She took a turn around her room as if spinning around would make the origami magically appear, before she noticed the note stuck to her monitor. Bending down to read it, she jerked back up with a snarl and took off for the first floor, blue skirt billowing out as she jumped down the stairs.
"Ryuusuke! You were in my room again!" she accused in her screeching voice (the one reserved exclusively for him), running down the stairs to confront her oldest friend. "It's a problem for me, when you do that!"
"It's a problem for me too, having to come into your room all the time. But if you don't pick up after yourself and leave it for others, what can you expect but that I will follow the trail of debris until it leads me to your room?" Ryuusuke said from the table, contemplating a cup of coffee before him. He refused to rise to the bait.
"My my, Seriko," okasan said from the kitchen doorway, wiping her hands on her apron. "Are you causing problems for Ryuusuke-kun again?"
Seriko glared at her ha-ha. "You should be saying, 'Are you causing problems for Seriko again, Ryuusuke-kun"!
"Be gentle with her, Ryu-kun, she is my only and precious daughter, but such a klutzy daughter that I have never seen before," her mother said, likewise refusing to rise to the bait. A twinkle shone in her eye, as she turned aside from the gaze of the now steaming Seriko.
"Okasan! Don't take his side!"
"But Seri, someone has to stick up for the poor boy."
"That 'poor boy' was in my room, messing with my things. Don't you realize what that means -handling my precious things!"
The 'poor boy' in question knew better than to get in the middle of that conversation, though they'd never get to school on time if he didn't intervene. "Ano sa, putting that aside: Are you ready? We're going to be late if you take any more time." Ryuuske frowned as he put his cup down.
"You. Are. Impossible." Seriko threw him a look that would sear walls, followed by the stuffed rabbit that had mysteriously ended up in her arms.
Ryuusuke simply nodded, ducking the rabbit, and placing it on the center of the table once it had come to a stop. "So you tell me. Six times a day."
In reply, Seriko threw her bookbag at him.
"Oi! You could hurt someone with that, carelessly throwing it around like you do" Ryuusuke said as he effortlessly caught the flying bag with his free hand. "I take that as a yes, by the way."
He put down his cup of coffee, got up and headed for the door. "Well, obasama, we're off."
"Really, Ryuusuke-kun, it's okay to call me 'okasama'," Kajika-san said, only to be waved off by the retreating Ryuusuke. Faced at the prospect of being left behind, Seriko stuck her tongue at his back before reluctantly followed him to the front hall, where she exchanged her slippers for her outdoor loafers. Ryuusuke, insufferable as always, was waiting with the door open.
"Bye 'kasan!" She called as she raced out the door.
Just as Ryuusuke's hand let go of the door, Kajiksa-san hurried out to meet him. "Ryuusuke! Your obentos!" she said handing him a pair of boxes wrapped in floral patterns.
"Arigato," He said, accepting the boxes.
"Now go take care of my musoko," she said, pushing the door closed, but not before mussing his wavy brown hair fondly. He waved the hand with the school bags in answer and raced to catch up with Seriko. She was standing impatiently at the street corner lamp post.
"We're going to be late if I take any more time? So why am I waiting on you, Ryuusuke?" Her hands balled into fists that dug into the fabric of the purple plaid on her skirt.
"You forgot your bento, again," Ryuusuke said, handing her one of the bundles.
"So why do you have two?"
"Obasama meant one for me."
"Okasan!" Seriko wailed. "She'll try anything to throw us together."
Ryuusuke shrugged his shoulders, deciding on silence as the better part of valor.
"Anyway, I'm still mad at you for entering my room when I was in the shower," Seriko scolded. "You need to be more respectful of a girl's privacy."
"Yeah, I did wonder how your panties came to be hanging from the bookshelf the way they were," Ryuusuke chided her, as he walked ahead of the shorter girl.
The next thing he knew, he was sprawled on the ground, his red tie draped across his nose and obscuring his vision in one eye.
"Ryuusuke!" Seriko screamed. "How could you say something like that! I'll never talk to you again!"
She picked up her bag.
Ryuusuke rubbed his back from where the balled fist of fury wrapped around a leather bag had connected with him. He shook his head as he tucked his tie back inside the dark blue jacket, before gathering his schoolbag and getting back to his feet.
"Something I said, huh? Well, it's nothing but what she deserves, for leaving it out in the open." He brushed himself off, and followed after her. True to her word, she spoke not a word to him even after they reached the train station, during the brief train ride, and when they passed Seriko's favorite convenience store where she always asked for a morning cup of coffee.
"It can't last, the silent treatment never does," Ryuusuke commented to nobody, or was it the flowers that seemed to have bent in his general direction? It proved an all too prescient comment, as he shortly found out.
By the time they reached the school, Seriko had almost forgotten her tirade against Ryuusuke, which meant she was complaining to him again.
"Ryuusuke, why didn't you get me my coffee?" She demanded as they passed through the gate and nodded to Ni-Nishi High's groundskeeper.
"I thought you weren't talking to me. So how can I know what you want unless you tell me? You didn't say anything, so I assumed you didn't want any today."
"Well you're wrong. I'm not talking to you. And you always buy me the morning coffee, whether or not we're speaking to one another. For that, you're buying sweets on the way home. From Odachi Sweets." she said, suddenly turning around and jabbing her finger into his chest.
"My treat?" Ryuusuke began, for Odachi Sweets was a prefecture-wide famous confectionery shop, with prices to match its reputation.
She turned around and pushed a finger on the tip of his nose. "It's your treat because this is your penalty for your unbecoming comments this morning. And for entering my room without permission. Again."
"Aha...Aihara's buying sweets again, huh? Count me in!" A girl's voice spoke up and Ryuusuke groaned in response. "But why is Aihara treating? Ah! He must have gone into Seri-ko's room again."
"Oh, hi Junko," Seriko said, waving to the class rep for 2-D, Sakimoto Junko. Sakimoto came up and threw her arms around the two mismatched students, her glasses tilting to the left. "You're right about that, and you're welcome to join us. Ryuusuke's treat."
"Why am I paying for Sakimoto's desert?" Ryuusuke complained, before shooting a glare at Sakimoto. "And why are you hanging on me like a monkey?"
"Because, I invited her," Seriko said with a smile that did not reach her eyes.
"And because if you don't pay up I'll tell all about how you enter Seri-chan's room every day and do such naughty things with her clothes!" Sakimoto added, ignoring the other half of the jab.
Ryuusuke was speechless for a moment, and then the words came out in a rush. "Baka...what naughty things...I do no such thing."
" Ara...yet he doesn't deny going into the room of a young maiden not his sister's. Suspicious."
"It's not by choice," he retorted.
"So, you're trying to say an innocent girl like Seriko is enticing you? Blaming the victim are we? Oh my…" she said, with a mock frown. "I'm thinking one trip to Odachi Sweets is far too lenient for his crimes."
Ryuusuke threw up his arms in exasperation. "All right… all right. Just shut up already."
"Yatta!" Junko and Seriko yelled together, clasping hands and jumping like primary school kids.
Ryuuskuke ground his teeth and bore it. At least they couldn't order too much stuff, he thought, what with their constant undeclared war with their bodies over their figure. Now if only they were in different classes, he wouldn't have to put up with their silent gloating all day long. He deliberately hung back from the girls while they changed shoes, and allowed them to precede him into the classroom. Today was beginning to seem like a good day to have played hookey, he thought glumly as he rounded the corner.
Tsuzuku / To Be Continued