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The Non-Existent Bet

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 2008.

 

Michiko rushes down the hallway, Chiyo is tailing behind her at a leisurely pace.

 

Her hair whips into her face as she skids to a stop beside a door and enters a junior classroom, reserved for the weekly meeting.

 

She is proud to say that the Katsuki Yuuri fanclub has twenty one members, if she counted Chiyo, who was about as enthusiastic about figure skating as she was about advanced calculus.

 

“Sorry I’m late.” Michiko says with a short bow and walks into the center of the room. “It’s good to see all of you here today.”

 

The members wave, some were holding little sketches of posters they were going to put up all over the campus.

 

“Anyway, let’s get this meeting started!” She motions for one of the underclassmen to switch on the projector. “Using the new western technology, we can look at all of Yuuri-kun’s competition dates and cheer him on!”

 

Chiyo makes her entrance, her eyes light up at the display in front of them. “Ooh, Microsoft Powerpoint, we only learnt that on Monday. You have so much time on your hands, Michiko-chan.”

 

“I’m so happy that you decided to join us, Chiyo-chan.” Michiko says, looking at her slow friend. She looks back at the screen. “I think we should press this button.”

 

The presentation is taking some time to load, so Michiko turns to their members. “I think the first order of business should be about posters. Can we ask the Katsuki family to arrange a photoshoot?”

 

“His ballet instructor, Okukawa-sensei, seems happy that we’re taking an interest.” Yurina, the most artistic person in the club, explains, showing the club a simple sketch of her design. “Hiroko-san told me she would be excited to see posters of Yuuri-kun in our school.”

 

“He’ll be skating against a backdrop of cherry blossoms.” Aiko, the club’s self-proclaimed photographer, says.

 

“And also Hasetsu Castle.” Nobu, one of the two boys in their club, adds with a steely look at Aiko. “For the aesthetic.”

 

“And the cherry blossoms should be falling.” Aiko ignores him. “Ri-chan could do it with the computer, I think.”

 

“That’s all very nice.” Chiyo pipes up. “But what does Yuuri-kun think about it himself?”

 

The two freeze and look at Chiyo, who is slouching in her chair. Then everyone stares at Michiko, who blushes.

 

“I haven’t asked him yet.”

 

The room is saturated with silence, Michiko shifts nervously on one foot. She is saved by the Powerpoint appearing on the screen. Very carefully and avoiding everyone’s stares, she enlarges the slide. The big red letters: Katsuki Yuuri: Senior Debut, flash red on the projection.

 

Sayuri raises her hand.“How are you going to have a photoshoot without the model?”

 

“I’ll ask him when we have our economics lesson.” Michiko replies, crossing her arms defensively. “That’s tomorrow.”

 

“Now, onto the main topic, it’s going to be Yuuri-kun’s senior debut this year.”

 

“It was quite obvious from the title.”

 

Michiko glares at Chiyo who shrugs and points at the title of her presentation. She continues. “The first competition will be held on-”

 

A raised hand. “Yes, Suki-chan.”

 

Their most gossipy member (Michiko should know from the end of the year polling held in the club) stands to speak. “Sorry to interrupt, but did you know that Yuuko-chan and Yuuri-kun were spotted having lunch in the courtyard today?”

 

“And that matters why?” Chiyo retorts. “So Yuuri-kun has friends, no big deal.”

 

“It is a big deal, Takeshi-kun wasn’t with them!”

 

“He could be sick.” Sayuri provides.

 

“He’s in the same biology class as I am, he wasn’t sick today.” Suki announces. “There has to be something else.”

 

“Does there have to be?” Michko taps her fingers impatiently on the keyboard, wanting to get back to her slides. “I have lunch everyday with my friends and nobody cares.”

 

“That’s because you have lunch with your friends who are girls, Michiko-chan.” Suki exclaims with a roll of her eyes.

 

“So now a boy and a girl have lunch together and automatically they’re more than friends?” Morina says with a flip of her dyed brown hair.

 

“But they always have lunch together, without any other people besides Takeshi-kun.” Suki says passionately. “There has to be something more!”

 

“He has close friends.” Michiko maintains a neutral attitude to this speculation. “And they are just friends.”

 

“And he’s always so mysterious, never speaking to anyone else but Yuuko-chan and Takeshi-kun.”

 

Morina frowns. “He likes his privacy.”

 

Michiko sighs, getting tired of this.

 

“You’re getting carried away, Suki-chan.” Chiyo chimes in. “Yuuchan isn’t dating anyone.”

 

“But if she did, it would definitely be Yuuri-kun, wouldn’t it?”

 

Nyoko, one of the quiet but dedicated founding members, speaks shyly. “I think Yuuko-chan and Takeshi-kun have a higher chance of getting together than Yuuri-kun and Yuuko-chan.”

 

“Takeshi-kun is so rough around the edges.” Michiko would have to agree with Suki on that, Takeshi really was rather curt to everyone. “Yuuri-kun is more sophisticated, did you see his Lohengrin program?”

 

“Speaking of his Lohengrin program, let’s talk about competition dates, because this is a club about the achievements of a figure skater, and not the relationships concerning said figure skater.” Michiko chirps, switching slides. “Yuuri-kun’s first competition this season would be held locally at the rink in Kyushu on the seventh of november.”

 

Some members wave small blue flags with Yuuri’s name in kanji printed on them, Michiko hopes to sell Katsuki Yuuri merchandise successfully on the internet one day.

 

“He scored high enough in Junior Nationals last season so this year we hope all members can support him at the Japanese Nationals!” A flag of her country appears on the next slide, along with a picture of Yuuri’s free program last year. Polite applause ensues.

 

“Finally, maybe he’ll be drafted to Four Continents as well, we’re looking forward to all of his beautiful skating this year!”

 

Michiko finishes her presentation after half an hour, as Yuuri had more competitions this year in seniors. He was even in the Grand Prix lineup, as one of three JSF-certified skates this year after Daisuke Tadashi and Nobunari Oda.

 

“Now back to the posters.” She claps her hands.

 

“Cherry blossoms and the sea.” Aiko catches on immediately. “Hasetsu castle is a no.”

 

“But he’s a Hasetsu native!” Nobu protests.

 

“We have the sea and Hasetsu Castle isn’t even a real castle.”

 

“The sea is the same from every angle, how will the people know Yuuri-kun’s from here?”

 

“There’s going to be a slogan.” Michiko says. “Still in progress.”

 

“Suki-chan, are you feeling alright?” Hideo, the second boy in their club, asks the girl, whose face was slowly turning red.

 

She gets to her feet and declares. “I don’t believe we aren’t taking this seriously! If Yuuri-kun is seriously in a relationship, this could seriously affect his performance next month.”

 

“She just used seriously three times.” Chiyo deadpans. “And we aren’t even speaking English.”

 

“Nevermind.” Michiko tugs on a strand of her hair and sweeps it behind her ear. “Back to the posters.”

 

Yurina speaks. “Maybe they can be a promotional photoshoot, with Yuuri-kun’s new costumes this season!”

 

Suki crosses her arms. “I still think we should focus more on this.”

 

“Recreational gossip?” Akiko, who joined this year after watching Yuuri’s winning streak in juniors, sneers. “What does this have to do with figure skating?”

 

Suki’s mouth is pulled downward and she makes a face at Akiko.

 

“That’s it.” Michiko says, wanting a stop on this. “Anything to do with Yuuri-kun’s love life will be talked about if we still have time today. Does anyone else have something to add? “

 

“I agree with Nyoko-chan, Yuuko-chan and Takeshi-kun make a good match.” Chiyo answers with her hand up.

 

Suki shoots her a look of utter betrayal.

 

Michiko huffs. “Let’s get on with the posters now.”

 

------

 

She receives word in her English class that Suki has apparently started some bet on Katsuki Yuuri’s supposed relationship during lunch.

 

“With six participants.” She confides in Chiyo when they meet in the corridor during recess. “No wonder she looked so smug at the end of the meeting, she spent the whole time scheming. It’s horrible.”

 

“I’d like to join. It sounds interesting.” At Michiko’s face, she adds. “I’m sure it’ll end soon though.”

 

“Reducing Yuuri-kun to some sort of animal that we put money on to see if he mates.” Michiko scoffs.

 

“I’m not really comfortable with that comparison.” Chiyo says mildly. “And you can’t stop Suki-chan, at least she isn’t doing any harm.”

 

“Here he comes!” Michiko forgets about the alleged bet and pulls Chiyo to the side.

 

The light always seemed to hit Yuuri’s head perfectly, just to bring out all the colours in his hair. Michiko didn’t even think there could be so many shades of brown in existence. She would have to borrow one of Chiyo’s American terms for this: Ridiculously photogenic.

 

He’s gotten more handsome over the summer.

 

As if she could read Michiko’s thoughts, Chiyo smirks. “I’d tap that.”

 

“What does that mean?” Michiko asks after her friend’s lapse into another language, not taking her eyes off Yuuri.

 

“My cousin tells me she says that whenever a nice-looking boy comes by.”

 

“Your cousin in America?”

 

“Mmhmm.” Chiyo hums, Michiko follows her appreciative gaze down to-

 

“Chiyo-chan!” She exclaims, scandalized. Though admittedly Yuuri did have a nice backside. “Bad thoughts.”

 

“I could tell you were thinking them too.”

 

“Chiyo-chan!” Michiko repeats, watching Yuuri disappear around the corner.

 

“Don’t forget to ask him about the photoshoot next lesson.” Chiyo reminds her, an amused look in her eyes.

 

“I will.”

 

-----

 

Michiko doesn’t.

 

Yuuri sat too far away (he sat directly behind her, but there might as well be a mile-high wall between him and her stupid shyness) and Michiko spent the entire lesson writing notes and daydreaming about how to talk to him.

 

“So you don’t talk to him at all?” Chiyo says after she tells her. “Don’t we all have the Katsuki Yuuri syndrome.”

 

“What’s that?” Michiko asks dejectedly. How was she going to explain this to the rest of the club?

 

“When in the same room as Katsuki Yuuri, one immediately loses all confidence and makes a fool of oneself.”

 

Michiko cracks a smile. That much was true. “You sound so fancy, Chiyo-chan.”

 

“Yuuri-kun is very sophisticated. Just ask Suki-chan.” Chiyo nods. “Watch and learn, Mi-chan.”

 

Michiko swallows and fights the urge to hide herself when Yuuri passes down the same corridor. He was quite tall for her school and she had to look up to see him.

 

“よ!Yuuri-kun!” Chiyo calls out, raising her voice. The boy stops after a moment to look behind him and turns to face them.

 

“Do you want to have a promotional photoshoot at the Ice Castle Rink with the school’s Katsuki Yuuri FC?”

 

If Michiko wasn’t avoiding his gaze, she would’ve sworn his face turned a little pink.

 

“I-I wouldn’t mind. You’re Tanaka Chiyo, right?” Yuuri spoke awfully fast, Michiko had to pay attention to his words to understand them. “I’ll be free next week.”

 

“Great!” Chiyo smiles. “Just wear your short program and free program outfits for this season or just your skating clothes and we’ll send a few people to photograph you on Thursday. Thanks!”

 

Just like that, Yuuri nods coolly and continues on his way.

 

Chiyo turns to Michiko triumphantly. “Done.”

 

“Not yet.” Michiko bites out and heads to her classroom to talk to Suki.

 

-------

 

“It’s not about Yuuri-kun.” Suki says as they both clean up their classroom. Michiko was on dustpan duty today and Suki was wiping the tables and chairs. “It’s about Yuuko-chan.”

 

“I hope you aren’t going to encourage another love triangle, Suki-chan.”

 

“Of course, Michiko-chan.” She reassures her. “However, Chiyo-chan has already placed a bet on Yuuko-chan and Takeshi-kun getting married after graduation. I can’t believe she’s siding with Nyoko-chan.”

 

Michiko feels her resolve wavering. “So how many people are in your bet?”

 

“About thirty, mostly girls from Yuuri-kun’s chemistry class. Bets are placed at above 500 yen.”

 

She likes the idea of more people getting to know Yuuri, even if it was only focusing on his love life. “They don’t know about the bet, do they?”

 

“If you mean those three, everyone involved is sworn to secrecy.”

 

“Great. Can you hand over all the bets concerning Yuuri-kun over to me?”

 

“You want to head the bet? I was the one who started it.”

 

“I was thinking of manning the Takeshi-kun and Yuuko-chan relationship, so it might be better if you just let me take charge.”

 

Suki moans. “No way!”

 

“As the head of Katsuki Yuuri FC, I think it’s up to us to make sure that none of this will hurt his friendships.” Michiko says firmly. “You can co-chair the bet, make sure no teacher finds out about this.”

 

“You were against this, Chiyo-chan told me so!”

 

“All profits we make will go to the making of our annual Katsuki Yuuri season highlights.”

 

“The party we had last year?

 

“And also tickets to the NHK trophy next year.”

 

“I have a feeling the bet won’t be finished so quickly.” Suki shrugs. “And I’m the bookkeeper.”

 

Michiko sweeps the floor harder. “Alright.”

 

-----

 

She calls Chiyo later at night, after dinner. “You bet a thousand yen on Takeshi-kun and Yuuko-chan? Without telling me?”

 

“I did get Yuuri-kun to do the photoshoot, so you owe it to me to allow me to join the bet, Michiko-chan.”

 

She doesn’t answer, Chiyo continues knowingly. “You wish you were the one who thought about it, don’t you?”

 

Michiko ignores that statement. “I just can’t believe that Suki-chan might make a profit out of this. You do know that she keeps 500 yen for herself per bet, right?”

 

“A profit’s a profit.”

 

“I hope this doesn’t last.”

 

------

 

The photo shoot goes smoothly in Michiko’s opinion.

 

Suki and her popular bet was out of sight and besides her the entire club had come to watch Aiko snapping pics of Yuuri skating and posing for the camera. Yurina was silently tracing figures onto her sketchbook.

 

“He really is a good skater.” Hideo says as Yuuri twirls on the ice, his skates moving rapidly in a fast-paced step sequence.

 

Michiko nods enthusiastically and nudges Chiyo, who is doing her calculus homework. “Look!”

 

At that moment, Yuuri leaps into a jump Michiko thinks is a toeloop, and lands badly on the ice. Michiko gasps and cheers quietly when he picks himself up quickly and skates on.

 

“I think he’s nervous.” Chiyo says, as Yuuri kept on glancing at the stands. His coach, Matsuo, looks at his student's audience impassively.

 

Michiko winces as he once again falls out of a triple axel, which was a consistent jump for Yuuri. “Maybe he’ll be more comfortable without an audience.”

 

“Let’s go get something to eat.” She announces to the members.

 

“But aren’t we going to watch Yuuri-kun skate?” Hoshi, who bought her own camera, inquires.

 

“I think Aiko-chan wants some privacy.” Nyoko says softly.

 

Hoshi contemplates the figure being fussed over on by now self-proclaimed makeup artist Nobu and Aiko, who was waving her camera in the air.

 

“Okay.”

 

Michiko gets a bottle of grape juice while the others decide what type of Pocky they want from the vending machine.

 

“Hi, Michiko-chan!” Yuuko greets her chirpily behind the counter. She had taken an afterschool job as a worker in the rink. “How’s Yuuri doing on the ice?”

 

“I think it’s going well. The blue one’s his free program outfit this year right?”

 

“Yeah. His theme this year is the sea.”

 

Aiko would like that. She wanted to put the sea into the posters. “That’s poetic.”

 

“Yuuri’s like that sometimes. He feels deeply with the music.” Yuuko smiles fondly. “Also, is the bet Suki-chan’s promoting real?”

 

Michiko is startled out of sipping her drink. “You know?”

 

“Sayuri-chan told me when we were cleaning up at school.” Yuuko explains. “You don’t have to look so frightened, Michiko-chan, I think the bet’s cute.”

 

“Do the others know?”

 

“I think half the school knows already.” Yuuko says, which doesn’t help. “Don’t worry, I haven’t told Takeshi or Yuuri yet.”

 

“Please don’t.”

 

“It’s fine really,” Yuuko shrugs. “And if I were you, I’d definitely bet on me and Takeshi.”

 

Michiko shakes her head. “No, it doesn’t seem too nice to the three of you.”

 

“I’m not saying that he isn’t a very good friend, but sometimes when I see him out there, skating and doing what he loves. I feel like he’s going to do great things someday and I don’t think I could match up to that.”

 

“You feel like you don’t deserve him, do you?” Michiko says quietly.

 

“Well.” Yuuko quirks her mouth. “I hope you don’t mind me telling you, Michiko-chan, Yuuri is a person who is going to stand out and I want to be behind him when that happens, but he’s so focused.”

 

Michiko dips her head in understanding. When Yuuri walked, if you looked it was like he was stuck in his own thoughts, in his own world.

 

“Sometimes he’ll forget to eat and he goes to the rink half the time he isn’t studying in his room.” Yuuko says. “I feel like I can tell you these things, Michiko-chan, when I can’t even tell Matsuo-sensei if he’s eating properly.”

 

Yuuko exhales deeply. “He’s like my little brother, and it’s his senior debut. Those skaters there are experienced and Yuuri, you don’t know how he is under pressure. I want to protect him.”

 

Her schoolmates are chewing on their food and laughing loudly, Chiyo is doing some sort of impression. Michiko leans against the counter. “This isn’t about the bet, isn’t it?”

 

Yuuko doesn’t say anything, so she goes on. “We only have about twenty one members here, but if you like it, I can make you an honorary member of the Katsuki Yuuri Defense Squad.”

 

“Squad?”

 

“It’s a term from Chiyo-chan’s American cousin, it’s short for squadron.”

 

Yuuko laughs. “Sure.”

 

------

 

Michiko tells Chiyo about her plan to shield Yuuri from the dangers of the world. Chiyo frowns. “But he’s going to compete by himself, how do we protect him then?”

 

“By using the bet.” Chiyo raises her eyebrows. “If there’s anything I know, it’s how to screen someone. Love is going to be a factor in his life and I’m going to make sure he only meets people who are nice and not hurtful.”

 

“He’s not going to notice anyone, have you met Yuuri-kun? He’s about as perceptive as a brick.”

 

“Don’t be like that, Chiyo-chan.” Michiko huffs. “It’s not like the bet will have any effect on him, as long as he doesn’t know about it.”

 

“I still don’t understand. Is this betting or matchmaking?”

 

“A bit of both. And it’s all about protecting Yuuri-kun from the most dangerous thing in the world.” Michiko points a finger upwards. “Love.”

 

“What does this have to do with betting?”

 

“The bet’s the fun part. We'll find someone and make it work.”

 

“Whatever, betting on a relationship isn’t going to make it succeed.”

 

“Have you ever heard of fate?”

 

Chiyo smiles wryly at her friend’s dedication to her celebrity crush. “Yes.”

 

“Think of this as pushing fate along.”

 

Her friend gives her the same look she has when Michiko does something silly. “How are you going to get Suki-chan to hand the bet over to you?”

 

Michiko thinks back to her and Yuuko’s conversation, and smirks. “It’ll be okay.”

 

-------

 

“Suki-chan.” Michiko calls in the bathroom.

 

The girl stops applying lip gloss. “Finally joining?”

 

“I bet this-” Michiko thrusts a five thousand yen note into the air. “On Yuuko-chan and Takeshi-kun getting together after graduation.”

 

Suki looks like she wants to snatch the money from her and Michiko takes that as a sign that she was interested to say. “If

you let me take charge of the bet after it ends.”

 

“No refunds.” Suki smiles sweetly.

 

“I have a contract.” Michiko holds out a piece of paper that Nyoko helped her to write and a pen. “Sign here.”

 

Suki signs her name with the paper resting on a mirror on the wall. “I agree. Can I keep the money?”

 

“That’s not how a bet works.” Michiko says. “Here's 500 yen for your trouble.”

 

“Thank you, Michiko-chan.” Suki grins.

 

“Thank you, Suki-chan.”

 

Chiyo meets her outside the bathroom, leaning against the wall. “You do know that you could’ve just started another bet, right?”

 

Michiko groans. “Don’t remind me.”

 

------

 

2009.

Yuuri is starting this season with a silver medal at Nationals and a respectable sixth place at Four Continents. He had medalled at the Cup of China but had not qualified for the Grand Prix.

 

Michiko doesn’t know if she was supposed to be excited, worried, or both. Yuuri was such a good skater and he had looked so devastated when the club invited him a public viewing of his 2008-2009 season highlights.

 

There was nothing to be ashamed of, Michiko could only dream of being flexible enough for a layback Ina Bauer. And Yuuri was a JSF-certified skater with his face on every national screen when he had competitions.

 

Michiko is surprised to see the envelope addressed to her in the mail in the middle of winter. She smiles at the flowers on the border of the envelope. It was a wedding invitation.

 

She laughs lightly when she sees the names of the two people getting married. Yuuko and Takeshi.

 

She calls Suki. I’m used to giving so much and now I get to receive.

 

”もしもし.” She hears Suki say.

 

“Good morning, Suki-chan! Did you get anything in the mail today?”

 

“Is this you, Michiko-chan?”

 

“Yes.” Michiko wishes she could see Suki’s face over the phone. “Do you remember our bet?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Michiko smiles. “I’ve come to collect.”

 

“I didn’t get anything in the mail. Hold on, I’ll check.”

 

Michiko waits patiently for her to return and rereads the invitation. The wedding was going to be held in early spring, with contributions of 12000 yen for each guest.

 

“I got one too. Never thought I knew Yuuko-chan that well.”

 

“Me neither.” Michiko says truthfully. “Now can I please have the bet?”

 

“I’ll give the money to you at school.” Suki’s voice sounds resigned. “Congratulations.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“I don’t understand though, why would you want my bet? It’s not like you can’t make one by yourself. Now that Yuuko-chan’s getting married, the bet kind of loses its meaning.”

 

“I’m switching it to Yuuri-kun’s side now. Did you see him with Christophe Giacometti-san at Skate America last year?”

 

“The time he got so nervous that he fell to fourth place. Of course I did, they were standing so close together.” Suki pauses for a moment. “I think they were talking during practice.”

 

“Giacometti-san was obviously trying to get to know Yuuri-kun. They were in juniors together so why would they suddenly be standing so close?”

 

“I think Chris-san has changed since he was a junior, but maybe they’re still friends.”

 

Michiko admits that she agrees with Suki. “Then I’ll start the bet on Giacometti-san and Yuuri-kun as a couple.”

 

“You’re getting ahead of yourself, Michiko-chan.” Suki sighs. “I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”

 

“Thanks for the talk.” Michiko says, scribbling something down onto the envelope. “Bye!”

 

------

 

The Christophe Giacometti thing doesn't work out. 


Without proper management or public interest, the bet dies down.

 

There were people actively interested in Yuuri, including some competitors, but Michiko knows that her classmate had no eyes for them. She doesn't bring it up and keeps her eyes open for potential suitors to bet on.

 

Michiko doesn't lose hope though, that one day someone would come for the skater's glass heart and she could restart the bet. She would just have to wait a long time for that say to come.

 

-----

2010.

 

Yuuko beams at the guests at her wedding reception as Takeshi fixes his tie beside her.

 

She liked the slack-jawed look he gave her when he saw her in her white dress. They had opted for a Christian wedding and party, which broke her family’s tradition of getting married at a Buddhist shrine. Her parents supported her decision, but they still looked at Takeshi with some distrust.

 

His parents thought they were too young to get married without going to university first, but Yuuko was adamant about her love for Takeshi. They weren’t throwing away their future. They could have a happy life without going to university, she would be happy as long as she had her husband by her side.

 

“Hiroko-san! Toshiya-san!” She greets the owners of the inn as they enter with large platters of food. Takeshi takes the trays from them politely and moves to set them on the table. “Thank you so much for lending us the banquet room!”

 

“Anything we can do for you, Yuu-chan!” Hiroko says cheerfully. “Such a shame that our Yuuri couldn’t be here for you and Takeshi-kun.”

 

“He’s at one of his figure skating competitions.” Yuuko says fondly as she thinks of her friend. “Four Continents.”

 

Hiroko nods and pats Yuuko gently on her shoulder. “You make a lovely bride, Yuu-chan, Takeshi-kun is lucky to have you.”

 

“Thank you, Hiroko-san.”

 

Yuuri’s mother smiles kindly, Toshiya gives a bow of acknowledgement to them both, and they both exit the room.

 

She spots some girls laughing with each other, a year ago she would’ve done the same with her friends, some of whom were in university and others were here at her wedding. No, she wasn’t taking things too quickly.

 

“Hey!” She knows this is Yuuri’s fanclub, with the idealistic head and her no-nonsense best friend. “Are you enjoying the party?”

 

“This is great!” Michiko says with a large smile. “Congratulations!”

 

Her friends share Michiko’s sentiments with warm gazes and little cookies in their hands.

 

“How’s your extra-curricular activity going?”

 

“You mean the bet?” Michiko perks up. Chiyo gives Yuuko a shake of her head. “We’re still finding someone to ship Yuuri with.”

 

“Ship?” Yuuko furrows her brow. “Like to a company?”

 

“It means to want two people to be in a relationship. I’ve discovered a site to read stories by independent authors.” Michiko explains. “To improve my English.”

 

“Awesome.” Yuuko says uncertainly.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Aiko holds up her camera. “Let’s take a picture!”

 

They huddle close to each other for the group photo and Yuuko is struck by how strange it seems, to already have achieved a milestone of a person’s life, while her contemporaries are still in school.

 

“By supporting independent authors, Mi-chan means she’s wasting her time on a website that isn’t our fansite.” Chiyo sighs at her friend and turns to Yuuko after the camera flashes. “You look amazing by the way, I hope you and Takeshi-kun have a fantastic future.”

 

She takes Takeshi’s hand in hers as they greet more guests. It's all worth it in the end.

 

-----

 

“Yuuri-kun’s been scouted.” Michiko announces somewhat dejectedly at their meeting in February. “He’s leaving for America after he graduates this year.”

 

Yuki, Yoko, and Yukio, new additions to their club, bradish their custom-made Katsuki Yuuri banner disheartenedly. The rest of them turn to the skater in the room, who looks straight ahead determinedly.

 

“As the head of the club, I have released a statement on our official site and all our social media accounts. He’ll be training under the Italian Celestino Cialdini-san in a rink at Detroit.”

 

“Close to a thousand retweets.” Reika, their social media expert, reports. “Plus a few dozen new followers on our Instagram account.”

 

“We wish you will have a successful future outside of Hasetsu.” Michiko continues, smiling excitedly at Yuuri. “Onto other news, Yuuri-kun has been making waves at Four Continents with his bronze medal and soon he will be advancing onto the Winter Olympics as part of Team Japan!”

 

The entire room cheers, even Chiyo waves her red and white Team Japan scarf merrily in the air. For Yuuri to have made it to the Olympics, representing their country while he was still in school, was amazing.

 

The man himself is frozen in his chair when he sees the photo of him in the middle of a Biellmann spin, face a deep shade of red.

 

“Well done, Yuuri-kun!” Michiko praises, clapping her hands together. “And thank you for joining us today!”

 

Everyone applauds, clutching their signed merchandise happily. Yuuri ducks his head, though Michiko thinks she can see him smiling faintly. It's a good look for him.

 

“A commemorative photo?” Nami, Aiko’s sister and official club photographer now that her sister had graduated, holds up her selfie stick expectantly.

 

“Only if Yuuri-kun feels comfortable about this.” Michiko says, glancing at the boy, who consents with a bow of his head.

 

They gather in the center and Yuuri tries to stay to the sides, until Chiyo and Sayuri pull him into the heart of the group for the photo.

 

“Everyone smile!” Nami calls and the phone's camera shutter clicks.

 

------

katsukiyuuri_fc

 

[photo of Japanese students holding up blue banners and flags with kanji written on them, at the very center is a shyly smiling man]

 

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アメリカで日本のエース勝生勇利のサポートを継続してください!ネバーギブアップ!

(〇*>∀<)ゞ★☆  (〇*>∀<)ゞ★☆

Please continue to support Japan’s Ace Katsuki Yuuri in America! Never give up!  

#katsukiyuuri ##hasetsuhighschool #vancouverwinterolympics