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21 Chapter 21 Im Kita Duran

    The end of the day bell rung when Duran and Fumio approached their footlockers in the front foyer of the classroom block. Himeko, Aki and Mei were waiting for them.

    'Nii-san!' Himeko called out. She raced for him and yanked him into a bear hug.

    'Nee-chan! What the? Get off me, it's embarrassing,' Duran said but found himself holding onto Himeko's warm hug.

    'Naah! When Aki-chan told me what happened, I wanted to skip class to see you but well.'

    'She's already skipped too much English. Sensei told her she'd have detention the next time she wasn't there,' Mei said to finish off Himeko's explanation.

    'English's boring and too complex. Who wants to speak like a yankee anyway? Besides, my brother's more important!' Himeko pouted then stopped and released Duran when she remembered he was fluent.

    'But glad to see you haven't lost a body part.' She brushed off with an awkward grin and pat to his shoulder.

    'Yeah. Your yankee speaking brother is okay. Although, felt my pride go down the chute. It's embarrassing.' He sighed.

    'Sounds like a normal teenager to me.' Aki added with a cheeky smile. He swung his arm around Duran's shoulder.

    'So you're feeling well now Duran?'

    'Er - yeah.'

    'Excellent. Then how 'bout we go for ramen and see you work!' He threw out his suggestion.

    'Yeah, yeah. Nii-san I wanna see you work it too. I am hungry for good ramen.' Himeko chimed in.

    'Um, yeah, guess so. But don't cause trouble for me, 'kay?' Duran said as he pulled away from Aki and started swapping to his outdoor shoes.

    He felt his friends concerned eyes on his back but no one said anything else about his mishap.

    'It's settle. We go for ramen!' Fumio said, motivated.

    He kicked Duran into a walk and chuckled at his reaction.

    'That's mean!'

    'Got you moving tho.  Everyone, let's go-go!'

    'Ramen! Ramen!' Duran and his friends chanted cheerfully as they made their way out of school.

    The five of them weaved their way through people as they strolled along suburban streets that were surrounded by a mismatch of weathered apartment blocks, modest family eateries and small shops with windows overflowing with all kinds of loud and colorful advertising.

    Duran's mind wandered toward Saski and the moment of that near kiss.  He wondered what that guy was thinking at that time.  Was he really thinking about kissing him? What stopped him? A couple of times now Saski had come to his rescue about the music club when others were against the idea.

    Why was that?

    His friends' talk turned toward the style of music and bands they liked.  Duran brushed those thoughts away and focused on his friends' conversation.

    'Man when it comes to pop, western bands are cool.' Aki declared and was met with contention from Mei who wasn't shy in confessing her like for home grown bands.

    'Of course chics would be into packaged groups with good looking guys.'

    'Hah! Like to see if you can sing, dance and look cool at the same time.'

    'Yeah I can do that,' Aki said and busted some moves that caused him to stumble on his feet comically.

    'Pfft, very cool - NOT!' Himeko laughed.

    'Just you wait!  I'll be all cool like a pop idol and make all the girls go gaah.' Aki declared with great conviction, which only caused more hearty laughter from his friends.

    'Dude, stick to playing guitar and studying maths,' Fumio said with a slap to Aki's back.

    Thoughts of the music club stirred up in Duran's mind again.  If he got an actual club off the ground, would they really be willing to play as a band?

    'Hey. So we all really play an instrument?' he asked.

    'Not sure about the rest of yah but I'm a legend on guitar.' Aki cocked his head to one side.

    'Pfft! Yeah, you keep on dreaming and reaching for the stars megane-chan.' Himeko chuckled.

    'Shut up Xena! Jealously get you nowhere.'

    'Yeah, yeah,' Himeko smiled as she kicked the glasses wearing boy in the butt.

    'Wow. What cool fate for all of us to be musos.' Duran thought aloud.

    'Yeah. I mean you know how good I am at guitar.  Aki ain't bad either although I'm better,' Himeko said matter-of-factually.

    'I like to see you run a riff at the speed of light like I can.'

    'Says he who's never won against me.' Himeko her argued.

    'I could get the music club of the ground. We could all be a band!' Duran said enthusiastically with a clenched fist.  'How awesome that would be!'

    'You're really hell bent on setting up a club aren't you?' Aki said, dropping his argument with Himeko.

    'Well, yeah.  I mean, the principal challenged me so too late to turn back now,' Duran replied through an awkward laugh.

    He couldn't shake the feeling he was being setup to be a disciplinary example for everyone to see either way. If only he could turn that event into something of his advantage.

    'Hey guys, do you hear that?'

    'Aki-kun?'

    'It's - it's Granrodeo!'  Aki answered.

    They all stopped and fell silent with their ears perked toward melodic guitar riffs sounding from some nearby building.

    Duran closed his eyes and pictured the crisp twang and pluck of each note, which danced in the air effortlessly.  The troubles he felt in his heart and mind eased the more he soaked in every run. Whoever was playing was a skilful master.

    'Sugureta.' He let out a breath full of awesome wonder.

    'I wonder where that's coming from,' Himeko said enthusiastically as she searched the buildings hoping to zone in on the playing.

    The five of them found themselves called to the music and abandoning their thought of ramen as they chased the riffs through the streets.

    'It's close!' Mei panted.

    Duran was surprised to see the same feverish look in her eyes.

    They raced through an alleyway and stopped before the back of an eatery that was next to other over-lived-in apartment buildings.

    Everyone's jaws dropped when they saw Jiro-san fingering out a Grandrodeo tune on a Fender. What was this?  Was this fate?

    'Jiro-san!' Duran said with surprise.

    'Awesome!' Himeko acknowledged.

    Jiro-san stopped playing and looked up to the faces of five awestruck students.

    'Kita-kun?  Oh, you're early.'

    'Early?'  Duran was still in a semi-trance from Jiro-san's playing.

    'Yeah.  You're here for your shift right?'

    Duran took in food crates and the sign for Jiro and Shiro-san's shop.  The music lead him to work.

    'Jiro-san you play in a band?'

    'Ah, yeah, but just for kicks.  Doesn't earn the money tho.'

    'Sensei, dude! Please teach me those cool riffs!' Aki pleaded with a low bow. 'I beg you!'

    'Huh?' Jiro-san rubbed his chin as he sized up Aki.  'Depends on if you can play some already.'

    He handed Aki the guitar.

    Aki stood transfixed.  His hands shook as he carefully positioned the Fender to his chest and portable amp to his belt.

    Everyone waited with anticipation.

    Duran's eyes widen with delight and surprise as Aki started playing a Fo'x Tails song almost as good as the original.  He was disappointed when his playing stopped.

    'Come with Kita every Friday,' Jiro-san said when he claimed the Fender back.

    'Thank you!'  Aki beamed with a grateful bow.

    'You, kawaii-kun, get to work!'

    'Hai!' Duran replied.

    'What about me?' Himeko cried out.

    'You're a legend already right?' Aki replied with sarcasm and a cheeky smile.

    'Shut it Megane-man.'

    Duran frowned. He wasn't keen to see Jiro-san's generosity pushed any further.

    'Himeko, you're already good with riffs.'

    'Not like that.'

    Jiro-san sighed. 'Okay both of you come on Fridays.'

    Himeko squealed with delight, clapping her hands.

    Duran escorted everyone into the front of the shop then made his way to back room to get ready for his shift.
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