[When You Gonna Learn]




'Well, I know it's not exactly how you'd want to spend your day but do you think you can do my slot tomorrow? It's sports day and I'm doing the 1500m. They'd all kill me if I don't turn up coz none of them would do it and - '

'Okay.' I shrugged.

Omi's already big eyes went even bigger. He stepped up to me and reached up for my forehead. 'Did you just say you'd take me slot, even before I finished my pleading?'

Even Aya turned around to look at me and asked in that quiet voice of his, 'Are you feeling alright?'

I rolled my eyes and sighed. So my reputation was that bad, heh? But I didn't remember not helping any of them if they had a very good reason. It just seemed that I always try to get off as much as I could, but really, I never did that. It was the whole 'Kudou Youji' thing, with the wavy hair and green eyes and careless talk that gave them the impression.

I didn't mind that much. If that was the way they saw me, there was nothing I could do about it. I was going to tell Omi to ask earlier next time if he wanted my help, but then suddenly I realised it was perhaps the last time he asked a favour from me. Never mind then.

Was I getting sentimental? No idea, but I was born a sensitive person, that was for sure, though I never acted like one. And I never make false promises if I could help it. So when Aya told us to remind him to pick up his car from the repairs next week, I didn't make a reply.

'Oi! Open up!' Ken started pounding on the metal door the moment I dragged it down. 'Don't slam the thing in my face!'

I ignored Ken and let Omi let Ken in. 'You should carry your keys with you, Ken-kun.'

'Yeah.' Ken took off his motorbike helmet and strolled in. 'Anyone fancy pizza tonight?'

'No money. I just paid for school last week.' Omi pouted. School, was it necessary for him? Did he ever see that he would stay with Weiß the rest of his life because there was no way to get out of it? School was probably just a place to make him feel like a part of the common people. The common people we all wanted to be.

'Weeellllll, we can ask the people who are rich enough to own cars to pay.' Ken replied quickly, looking at Aya and I.

Aya quickly shook his head. 'I just sent it in for maintenance, my wallet's gone anorexic as well.'

Then all the gazes fell on me.

'I'd at most pay half.' If I offered to pay for all of them they'd really notice something wrong with me. 'You guys manage the rest.'

An hour or two later, we were all sitting at Pizza Hut, telling Ken not to get red kidney beans from the salad bar. Poor Ken. He was just too... gentle with people. It wasn't as if a few beans would kill us, I mean we could always just pick them out. But Ken, being the nice one, just nodded a few times and got out of his seat.

'Are we being really mean?' Omi asked when Ken got around to the salad bar. 'He probably wants to eat beans.'

'Nope.' I dug out my packet of cigarettes from my pocket and then remembered that we were in the no smoking area. 'He's old enough to know how to get what he wants.'

And to take care of himself too. I should stop worrying about them. It wasn't like I was ever that important to them. They could all take care of themselves and carry on with assignments easily.

'What about going to the movies tonight?' Ken came back with a bowl full of salad, the sides lined with sliced cucumbers so that he could put more in. Only he could do that. His bowl of salad was much larger than the ones on other people's tables. That was why we always only ordered one salad when there were four people to eat it.

'Ken-kun, you're coming up with great things tonight, but let me emphasise one thing: I. Have. No. Money!'

The subject was dropped until we started getting ice-creams. Ken began talking about the movie posters he saw that day and Omi almost started whining.

Aya sighed. 'It's all your fault, Ken, that I have to listen to Omi's whines for the rest of the week.'

Alright alright... I got the message... 'Look Omi, I'll pay for you, and you can pay me back later if you feel like it, okay?'

Ken almost fell off his chair. Clumsily he dragged his seat away from Omi next to him. 'As far as I know, Youji only pays for women to dinner and movies. Omi you... and Youji...' And he started laughing.

Before Omi could fire back, I replied, wrapping my arms around Aya, 'Ken, what are you talking about? You know I've always loved Aya and will love only him!'

Then Aya turned his face to me, and said with a half longing tone right at my ear, 'Youji...'

I hopped back to my seat when I saw him reach for his table knife. That was close.

Omi and Ken's laughter made everyone in the restaurant look at our table, but we didn't quite care. Even Aya smirked and chuckled a bit. The joyous sounds they made ringed in my ears and I imprinted this moment into my memory, because I knew I would need it in the future, when I am no longer with these three friends whom I love with every part of my soul.

It was, afterall, our Last Supper together.

'Must go back, gotta wake up early for sports day tomorrow.'

'You're just next door anyway, stay here.'

'Yeah, but I've got homework to do.' Omi stood up from the sofa, stretched out and left.

I pounded on the wall, shouted, 'Oi! Bring your computer and work here!' and got a muffed 'alright' through the walls as a reply.

Where would Weiß be without Omi? He was so efficient - he had hacked in and deleted Ran Fujimiya from every national record in one night, wiping off his existence. There seemed to be this endless stream of homework he needed to do plus his normal school work. I never knew how he managed his time.

After a while longer Ken announced he was going back downstairs because he had to do the morning slot tomorrow, and I kept him in saying that I was doing it too and nobody was to leave my place tonight.

'Youji-kun, you're really strange tonight.' Omi got back with his notebook computer. 'Don't you think, Aya-kun?'

'What's up with you?' Aya finally asked, setting down the Tokyo University mug that had almost became his official mug.

It'd be dumb to try to give an intelligent answer. 'Can't bear a lonely night.'

When Ken suggested that I should've rang up some girl for a date, I just laughed it off.

They were just sitting there, doing their own things - Omi working on the computer; Ken going through my CD collection, Aya reading my magazines. I felt so much more at peace with them here. I didn't want to think about what would happen tomorrow, didn't want to feel scared. The feeling of fright was like poison, it spreads with the blood until every cell in the body is contaminated by the horror. It would weaken me before tomorrow begins.

Yes I chose to do it, but it was for them. Persia's idea was the best solution, better than the whole of Weiß plunging their heads into the unknown. I, the eldest of us, with no ties to the world, the one who had been a private detective. Let me step into it, let me find out first, test out the dangers, give Weiß the information... and then, who knows, perhaps one day, Aya, Ken, Omi, we can work together again.

If Kudou Youji still lives.

'Abyssinian, Balinese, positioned yet?'

'Abyssinian in, Balinese not yet. One floor to go.' I hopped up the last flight of stairs, trying to catch up with Aya ahead of me.

My physical strength had somewhat deteriorated since my last mission, but none of them knew. They didn't even know that some of my so-called 'dates' were appointments with Persia's doctors, simply because I didn't tell them. I did everything I could to avoid exposing my body to them. I didn't want to be seen as the weaker, or as a hero who fights to overcome a weakness. I just wanted to be an equal to them. The doctors had assured me that my fitness would come back... it'd take a year or two to fully recover, probably more than that....

'Report back when you're ready.'

'I'm there Bombay.'

The construction helmets conveniently hid our faces as Aya and I walked amongst the crowd of workers. The man had already arrived to inspect the completion of his building. The mission was simple: once Omi signaled that everything was ready, Aya and I attack the man, distract the attention, and let Ken finish the job, then we sneak out. It was supposed to work that way.


The man with his smile. The trigger in his hand. Turn around. Scream Aya's name. Get my red-haired friend down on the ground. Don't let him get hurt. Heat. Fire. Pain. Darkness.


I jumped at the sound of Omi's shout in my ear. The mild explosion in the floor above was our signal and Aya had already made his entrance whilst some of the guards went upstairs to investigate. I dismissed the slide show images in my head, telling myself that it wasn't that grenade that I heard, and ran towards our lucky target of tonight.

When I passed by the emergency exit, I stopped.

'What are you doing?' Ken had ran in and taken my place, trying to help Aya who was already involved in a heavy battle against the body guards. His claws thrashed out, bringing don a six foot tall man in front of him. 'Balinese, can you hear me?'

'Balinese, where're you going?!' Aya.

'Balinese!' Omi.

'Come back here!' I detected the pain in Ken's voice. He was wounded.

As I ran down the stairs, I pulled out the radio from my chest pocket and ripped out the wire. Omi's demanding shouts died down to some electrical noises before going completely silent, and I heard only the sound of my steps echoing down the stairs.

Take care guys. I must go.

[chapter three end]

chapter two chapter four