There was a rhythmic pattern to the steps. Juri had a long history of ending her fencing battles with a minimum number of moves.
Her opponent faltered. Juri didn’t hesitate before stepping forward and pressing the tip of the rapier under her opponent’s neck.
Again! she called. She swiped the sword down, and pointed to the next fencer, waiting in line. Her old opponent hung his head. He slinked away. He scratched at the nape of his neck, without ever taking his headgear off.
Juri loved fencing, for the rhythm and the pattern, and her inability to feel more than the slightest bit of irritation, at the ease with which she pressed the rapier forward to best her opponents.
*step, step, squeak* Again!
*step, step, squeak* Again!
*step, step, squeak* Again!
There was a smack of lips, and the crinkle of cellophane.
*step, step, squeak* Again!
*step, crunch, step, squeak, crunch, crunch, crunch*
“Takatsuki-san!” Juri called. She pressed her latest opponent away with the blunt tip of her weapon, and pulled off her mask, letting her curls fall out to frame her face. She had known where Shiori was standing off to the side, had been keeping watch out of the corner of her eye. She turned automatically to her, without even thinking to hide this fact.
“Takatsuki-san, is there some reason you are distracting the rest of the fencing club with your rudeness?” she asked curtly.
The rest of the fencing club turned to Shiori, with faces that were blank and judging and masked. Shiori was the only one who looked at Juri. Her eyes were clear.
“Huh~” she prompted, unimpressed.
She wore her fencing gear, but her mask was off. She was sitting cross-legged on the gymnasium floor, holding her place in line. Around her was spread an entire assortment of snack foods. Rice crackers with seaweed. Hello Panda. An empty container of strawberries. Potato fries.
Shiori stuffed some dried plum and sugar drops in her mouth. She pursed her lips. In the corner of her mouth, were a couple of crumbs from the crackers. They were stuck, just outside the orbit of Shiori’s perfectly thin and pink lips.
Juri watched them. She watched as Shiori’s tongue darted out to pull at her lips. She missed the crumbs entirely.
The crowd was still watching Shiori, and thank god because Juri was blushing furiously.
“Takatsuki-san,” Juri said, “we are at practice. You will put your snacks away, and eat them on your own time.”
Shiori met her proclamation challengingly. She shoved a couple biscuits into her mouth. She pouted, and spoke around her food.
“Oh, but it’s so tasty~”
Juri held back a sigh. Her forehead crinkled angrily, and she resisted.
“If you cannot behave yourself,” she said, coldly, “perhaps it is best you left.”
She had wanted to force Shiori’s hand, but it seemed she could not.
Shiori simply shrugged. She stood, and gathered the snacks, overflowing from her arms, and walked clumsily from the gym. And Juri thought she’d taken all her mess with her, but they’d ended up scraping fallen jellies and gumdrops off the polished floor for the next week.
Juri huffed. The other fencers were turning back to her now, and she hid her face with her headgear.
Something had been disrupted, though. She tried to get back into the rhythm of things – *step, step, squeak* Again! – but her heart beat irregularly against her chest, against her empty locket, and she called off practice soon after.
“Why are you doing this?” Juri asked.
Shiori was lying on her back, in her bed on the top bunk – (why exactly the school had decided to dorm them together was one of the great vexing questions of Juri’s life, and she often suspected foul play). Shiori swung her head over the edge and looked, upside down, at Juri’s questioning face. She reached up and popped a piece of chocolate popcorn into her mouth.
“Doing what?” she asked.
Juri bristled with irritation. Shiori knew exactly what.
“You know exactly what,” Juri said. “Why do you constantly have some snack in your hands?”
“Eh~” Shiori lazed. She kicked her feet up against the wall. Her skirt fluttered down, but not far enough so that Juri could see her panties. “Why not? I like sweets. And salts. Snacks are nice.”
“You shouldn’t be eating so much,” Juri insisted, crossing her arms over her chest. She paused, and spoke again when it seemed Shiori didn’t care enough to grace her with a response. “If you’re going to make a pig of yourself, can you at least do it outside of our room, so I don’t have to watch.”
Shiori snorted. She took a long suck off a spiralling red lollipop.
“You can kick me out of the gym, Miss Fencing Captain. But you can’t kick me out of my room. If you’ve got a problem with it, then you can leave.”
Juri stood there, arms crossed over her white uniform jacket. She didn’t move.
Shiori chomped down on a banana chip.
“You have to keep your body in good shape for fencing,” Juri tried.
“Eh, I got knocked out of the competition at prelims last week,” Shiori whined. “You’re the one going onto the district finals… So you’re the only one who has to watch your body, Arisugawa-san.”
“There’s still next year,” Juri said. “You’ll need to be in good shape for next year’s season.”
“I’ll diet over vacation,” Shiori replied. She let a couple of bonbons melt over her tongue.
Juri tapped her foot, irritated. She was running out of things to hold over Shiori’s head.
“You won’t get a boyfriend,” she said, desperately. “If you keep eating, you won’t be able to attract a man at all. Boys don’t like fat girls.”
This, of all things, finally made Shiori pause, a handful of roasted chestnuts halfway to her mouth.
The silence dragged out awkwardly.
“Don’t you mean you don’t like fat girls?”
Juri blushed. To be honest, Shiori with a curvy layer of flesh hugging her hips and thighs and stomach sounded pretty wonderful.
She considered for a long moment, before asking tentatively.
“Would it make a difference if I said yes?”
Shiori held back for a second longer.
“To be honest, Arisugawa-san, I don’t give a shit what the boys think.” She peeled a chestnut and shoved it into her mouth. “And I don’t give a shit what you think, either.”
The wrappers had invaded Juri’s life.
Fluffy Marshmallows. KitKat. Daifuku Mochi. Wasabi Peas. Gummy Hamburgers. Dried Squid. Nori Maki Arare – they all left wrappers. And sweet potatoes and bananas left peels. And sodas and fruit drinks left empty bottles that rattled against desks and tables and Shiori’s empty locker.
And Shiori wasn’t even around. Juri found the wrappers littered along her path as she walked through the school. She found them under her desk in the classroom. She found them squished between the notes for the student council meetings. And, on one memorable occasion, she found an empty pudding cup placed in her shoe cubby, placed right inside the sole of her slipper.
She sat down at the library, and opened a text on visual aesthetics and design, straight off the shelf. In the next three minutes, she had pulled no less than five macha-flavoured cookie wrappers out from between the pages.
“Enough!” she announced.
Miki was sitting on the other side of the library table.
“Enough what?” he asked.
Juri shuffled the wrappers into her hand, in a small pile. She handed them across the table to Miki. He took them in his hand, and blinked.
He stalled for a moment, before standing. He walked the wrappers to the librarian’s desk, and threw them in the trash. He walked back.
He sat and waited patiently for Juri to talk.
“This has gotten out of control. There are snacks everywhere!” she said.
Miki tilted his head curiously. “There are?”
Juri nodded her head.
It was only a matter of time before Nanami descended: Arisugawa Juri is a weirdo who keeps snack wrappers and sweet potato peels in her pencil case!
They sat there for a minute. The librarian shuffled at the desk.
“Does your sister like snacks?” Juri asks.
Miki thought on this. “Not really,” he decided. “Well, I guess she likes milkshakes.”
The comment passed innocently for- Miki clicked his stopwatch- 6.78 seconds.
Miki blushed. “Yeah. Milkshakes…” He bit his lip longingly.
Juri sighed. She crossed her arms over her desk and slumped down.
Miki tapped his foot sympathetically.
“The women’s finals for fencing are coming up soon,” he said.
Juri nodded into her arms.
“You and Takatsuki-san have been on the outs?” he asked mildly.
Juri nodded again.
“Maybe you should make up with her,” he offered. “It’ll be a lot easier for you, if you have her supporting you, don’t you think, sempai?”
Juri grumbled. It felt better, hearing it coming from him.
Shiori was in their room, leaning back in her desk chair, when Juri came to find her. She was eating chocolate popcorn again. Upon inspection, it seemed to be the only snack in the room.
“Alright, I give up,” Juri said. Her arms hung loose and limp at her side. “What do I have to do to get you to stop eating?”
Shiori turned to her. Her face was littered with crumbs again.
“Well, I’m a biological organism,” she said. “If I don’t eat, I’ll die, so…”
“Don’t!” Juri commanded, but there was more than a hint of desperation in it. “Didn’t you hear me? I give up. You win. You win, alright! I’ll do whatever it takes to get you to stop eating all these snack foods!”
For a second, Shiori sat there, cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk. She looked so uncaring, that Juri was afraid for a second that this wasn’t about her. That Shiori literally couldn’t care less. That Juri was, in fact, so powerless, that she got absolutely no say in what Shiori did.
But then Shiori beamed. She swallowed her mouthful of popcorn all at once.
“You really mean it?” she said, giddy. “I win? You’ll do whatever it takes?!”
Juri let out a breath of relief.
“Anything,” she said.
Shiori stood up, tossing the bag of popcorn on her desk, and Juri blanched at her predatory stare.
“Aw, no need to be so scared,” Shiori cooed. “I don’t want much.” She laid her hands over Juri’s shoulders, and directed her into the seat she’d vacated. “I’ll cut back on the snacks… I just want to bring you down to my level a little is all.”
Shiori pushed Juri down in her seat. She hovered over, and waited a long minute, before climbing onto Juri’s lap, and straddling her.
Juri melted back into the seat. Shiori’s thighs did feel a little bit thicker. They were warm and soft and squishy, and Juri wanted to grab them in her hands.
Juri hesitated a moment, before pressing an arm up, and reaching to feel Shiori’s leg.
Shiori slapped her hand away.
“Nuh-uh-uh~” she chided. “Not yet.”
Juri’s hand fell down, and Shiori leaned backwards, towards the desk, and grabbed the discarded bag of popcorn.
Juri winced. She could feel the movement pressing Shiori’s crotch into her leg.
Shiori fumbled with the bag. She reached inside and pulled out a couple of pieces of the salty chocolate-covered popcorn.
For a second, Juri thought she was reneging on their deal, but then she smiled at Juri and pressed her hand forward towards Juri’s mouth.
“C’mon. Eat up.”
Juri drew back. She eyed the popcorn, and Shiori’s fingers and perfectly painted lilac nails, longingly.
“I- I have the district finals coming up,” she protested. “I need to look after my health, so I can fence as best I can.”
“Ah, is that so?” Shiori protested, drawing her weight up and away. “Well, I guess all that talk about being willing to do anything, was all for show~”
She wanted to pull Shiori close so badly.
“A couple of bites won’t hurt,” she allowed, crestfallen.
“No, a couple of bites won’t hurt,” Shiori agreed, smiling.
She laced her fingers between the popcorn, and pressed them into Juri’s mouth.
Juri couldn’t breathe. She ran her tongue over Shiori’s slender fingers, and the keratin tips of her nails. Her teeth raked against Shiori’s bony joints. The salt and the sugar melted over Juri’s tongue.
She swallowed, when Shiori pulled her fingers free from Juri’s mouth, leaving the popcorn behind.
Juri sputtered, as Shiori lifted her hand, and licked Juri’s saliva off her fingers. Her tongue lingered, in the crevice between two upturned fingers.
“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Shiori asked. “And there’s not that much left in the bag.” She’d set it back on the desk, and tapped the cellophane pointedly.
The bag crinkled.
Juri frowned. Her cheeks were still burning. “No, not so bad…”
Shiori laughed, happy and bright. She caught Juri’s hands in her own, and directed them over her own thighs.
“Alright,” she smiled viciously. “We can get started then, if you’d like~”