"Ryota-kun!" she exclaimed again and they all turned around.
Ryota shot her a smile and waved.
We both were in shock as we walked up to them.
"But how?" she asked, tormented about they managed to get up here before us. Sure, they could have taken a taxi to the stairs and then sprinted up, but I doubted it.
Toru then pointed at a sign only 2 feet from us where it stood;
"Funicular railway this way" and then an arrow toward a building.
Riko and I slowly looked at each other and we both said at the same time,
"I didn't see the railway."
The guys were laughing and Ryota walked to our sides, throwing his arms around our shoulders and told us we were indeed stupid.
We walked up to temple and it was stunning. The woodwork and how it was thousands of years old and still manage to look good amazed me every time.
I began snapping pictures for the 100th time today and soon after, Taka walked to me. I ignored his presence, still butthurt over him stealing my book.
When I was up to walk up the stairs to enter the temple, he grabbed my arm.
Startled at the action, I only looked at him wide-eyed.
"Where is my 'thank you'?" he raised an eyebrow at me and put his hands in his pockets.
"For what?" I asked, pretending to be lost.
He tsk'ed and rolled his eyes playfully.
"Don't expect me to catch you if you fall again."
I faintly smiled,
And at the same moment I said so, I stepped wrong and my foot slipped and with a flash, I almost fell on my face, but a hand had caught my arm.
"What did I just say?" Taka said rather annoyed.
I felt my cheeks burn up.
Not answering him, I yanked my arm away from his grip and walked up the rest of the stairs quickly, yet carefully.
Taka watched me walk in the temple, shaking his head.
"She's clumsy and got a bad taste in music."
Why did I trip when I tried proving a point!
Aoi, you walked up the most tiring stairs and you didn't slip nor fall once. Ugh.
I brushed the incident off and put my focus back on the temple.
"It's pretty cool."
I looked beside me where Toru stood and eyed the ceiling.
He turned to look at me and he shot me a quick smile, it almost looked forced.
"You must think I'm this person who never smiles and have no feelings at all,"
He started and I looked at him, surprised by the sudden comment. I waved my hands and politely denied the allegation, but he then gave me a 'you don't fool me' look and said with no emotion and whatsoever,
"You call me gachapin."
And when he said that he actually reminded me of the character. I couldn't help but chuckle and he looked at me as if he missed the joke.
"You remind me of him right now."
His blank expression changed to a confused expression.
"Why, though?" he asked still confused.
He then leaned in,
"Is it the way I say things?" he seemed to be genuinely curious.
"No, it's your facial expression."
He looked at me dumbfounded for a second before he gave me acknowledge that he understood what I meant.
He then put his hand on his chest, acting heartbroken.
I couldn't help but laugh at how he tried to look hurt, but only had his normal blank expression and then a hand on his chest.
"Sorry." I apologized while laughing. That's when he started to laugh a little too and behind the expressionless expression were just a kind guy.
"But I'm not," he commented after he stopped laughing.
"You're not what?" I asked carefully and he chuckled, looking back up at the ceiling before muttering.
"I'm a nice guy."
I smiled and replied softly,
The walk back was not as tiring as the trip up to the temple since we both were stupid enough and didn't look around properly to actually notice the big funicular railway beside us.
I let Riko use my phone to snap cute pictures of the trees and the view, saying my phone's better than hers. She lent me hers so I could play games in the meantime.
"What are you playing?"
I looked away from the phone and saw Tomoya looking at it to see what I was doing.
His eyes lit up and after a second he went from an 18 years old to a 4 year old.
"Can I try~?" he asked in hope of me to say yes.
"If Riko approves it," I said awkwardly and he then screamed,
"Riko! Can I play on your phone!"
I could hear a groan and then a sigh before she replied,
I gave him the phone,
It was probably for the best. I should be looking at the view instead.
The weather up here was wet, but still not too cold. I wore pants since we didn't have to use our uniforms, luckily.
I went over to Riko who was trying hard to make the camera to focus on a butterfly who was resting on a petal.
"You're having difficulties?" I asked, knowing I would get a groan and a yes to reply.
I gently asked for my phone and at the end, she gave up and let me take the picture. I then tried to explain to her if I pressed where she wanted it to focus it would eventually focus.
After taking a picture of the butterfly, I gave her the phone and she turned around and when she snapped a picture she stood there, frozen.
"Riko?" I asked and she looked up from my phone and fixed her eyes on what she took a picture of.
I looked at the photo and;
He looked familiar. I looked up and followed her gaze and that's when I knew who it was. It was Yuu.
He was trying to get something and when he got it he noticed us both staring.
He looked at me and Riko before he waved, smiling like always.
"Is that Yuu?" Riko's lips were parted in shock, not recognizing her own classmate.
"Yeah." I was a little shocked myself
"Handsome as always.." she muttered to herself, not realizing she said it out loud.
I smiled at her so knew I heard, but she just coughed it off.
"Yuu," she called and he and some friends came out from the woods.
"Hello~" he sang and threw his arm around Riko's neck.
I immediately noticed her cheeks getting rose red, but coughed it off and hit him gently in the chest.
"What were you and your followers doing in the woods?"
Yuu laughed and told him that they wanted to check out if there were any place to go and take a swim. Riko nodded, not saying anything more.
Yuu looked at me and shot me grin before he happily asked,
"Did you learn the verbs by now?"
Riko looked at me, confused.
I nodded and said I'll keep on studying. He gave me a thumbs up and told his friends they should go and explore some more before dark.
When they had disappeared she immediately nudged me in the arm with her elbow.
"What did he mean by that?"
I waved my hand, hoping she won't misunderstand.
"He just helped me with my English, don't worry?" Riko reacted by the 'don't worry' and started to laugh nervously.
"I'm not worrying! It's not like I like him." she shook her head, probably trying to deny it herself.
I nodded, pretending to believe her, but she sure isn't the best liar.
We eventually went back to the hotel and went to sleep.
The next day both 11th and the 12th year was reserved for going to the zoo.
I put on;
"Aoi, let's go!" Riko called from the hotel room door, waiting impatiently.
"Coming!" I called back and took one last glance in the mirror. I grabbed my bag and we were off to go and catch the others. It was super early and my eyelids barely stayed up. I don't get why 'B' people had to live in 'A' people's society, it was truly unfair.
When we got to the reception, Riko and I had to split, since we had to take the bus with our classmates. I pulled up my earphones, but as soon as I was gonna connect them to my phone, Taka surprisingly enough snatched them away from me.
"Hey!" I shouted, trying to take them back, but he again dodged my attempts.
After Taka had fun with harassing me, he gave them back. I shot him a cold look before plugging them into my phone.
I knew he was just joking with me, but it hurt. It reminded me of the past. The stealing and laughing at me. I still heard the class's laughter when I was humiliated in front of them all.
The faceless boy opened his milk and poured it into my bag laughing while the others stayed behind, watching and laughing. The milk spilled on my uniform and my books were drenched. My eyes were watering and I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. The laughter sounded louder and louder. Covering my ears with my hand and yelling them to stop, would only make them laugh even harder. The faceless students in their uniforms written pride and respect for them were unbearable. How could none notice? How could the teacher not see something was wrong? But, I guess I was good at wearing a mask and hide my thoughts.
These questions were asked every day and I never got any answers.
Desperately, I tried to push the images and memories out of my head. My breathing got heavier and I tried to take deep breaths through my nose so I won't cause any unnecessary attention. I felt an anxiety attack coming but tried to keep my breathing stable like Takeru-jun had taught me.
Taka looked at me with a look I couldn't really describe. He looked confused, yet worried. I think he noticed I zoned out. I breathed out and plugged in my earphones and went on the bus, ignoring any eye contacts and quickly found myself a seat.
The bus ride to the zoo was only 15 minutes, but I personally felt it took the whole day.
My eyes wandered out the window, trying to catch glimpses of the trees and other surroundings that we passed by.
My music had switched from rock to soothing music.
"We are here, now follow me until we have gotten through the security check." The student representative informed us.
Since I was sitting in the back I was sitting almost in the back, I was the last one out.
Being in a bad mood I didn't fully understand that we were actually going to the zoo before I stepped outside and saw the huge building where it stood with big letters;
'YOKO'S ADVENTUROUS ZOO.'