"It totally makes sense why your school secretly has a counselor." Mai tilted the hose, water pouring out into the school's mini garden. She side-eyed the orange haired girl, haphazardly pulling the other hose to the furthest opposite side from Mai. "To deal with crazy people like you," Mai added.
Nobara gripped hard on her water hose, an idea came to her mind. "What did you say?" she said in gritted teeth.
Mai held a mischievous smile as she turned around, saying: "I said-"
Only that she got blasted by cold water on her face, soaking her summer uniform wet.
Nobara was pointing her makeshift water jet with a finger slightly covering the entrance of the hose. "Make sure you leave your uniform if you change," she taunted, followed with an insulting laugh.
Mai ran her fingers through her hair that was blocking her face, exclaiming curses and quickly pointing the water hose towards Nobara who had suddenly forced another round of water to Mai.
They ran around the garden with screams and insults that could startle any earthly insects. The water soaked on the concrete pathways as they heavily padded around, trying to catch each other.
"It's your fault we got ourselves in here!" exclaimed Mai, stopping beside rows of potted flowers that stood between her and Nobara.
"I'm not the one who brought a pitching machine at the game!" fire backed Nobara. "Yet you still lose anyway. How stupid is that!"
"But if you hadn't been such a total bitch about it, we couldn't have been sent into the office and be in this hellhole."
When they were about to dampen more at each other, its cool splash abruptly turned into nothing, just a single drip came out of their green hoses.
"C'mon, Mai, you don't wanna get a second trip to the office," interrupted a certain blue haired girl, standing at the faucets where the hoses were connected. "And it's the last day, let's at least try to get along like Utahime-sensei said."
Mai sighed, bringing down her hold on the hose, and started walking towards Kasumi who let out a relieved smile.
"Hey, we're not finished!" called Nobara, stomping towards her, a bit surprised by Mai's change of aura.
"I'd actually prefer you never came back," said Nobara, crouching down and observing the round watermelons, growing raw on the dirt. "Or never see your face in general."
"I thought you hated it here, ranting about it so much when the counselor sent us here." Mai looked down at Nobara. If possible she could kick her right now and watch her tumble on the dirt, but the talk with her friends stopped her.
Nobara did hate the sight of gardens, it reminded her so much of the farms at her country village and her grandma's backyard. It did not make sense why she would still see it in Tokyo when her entire point was to escape that scenery. "They got some watermelons though," pointed out Nobara, knocking the little ones.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be minding my business over there so just leave me alone and make our lives less miserable."
"That's lame of you to say when you're already here giving me a headache."
"Whatever." Mai rolled her eyes, walking away, going down south of the garden to check out some prickly plants that had caught her eyes ever since she first entered here.
When she arrived there, she was glad that the cactus had their own proper place in the lush green of the garden. Unlike her cactus plants at her dorm room back in Kyoto, they weren't placed in pots but deeply rooted to the earth with different shapes and sizes. Exploring more into the garden, she discovered more varying kinds.
"Can't resist me that much?" said Mai. Just a few minutes later, she heard footsteps stomping towards her.
"I'll be paying back for all the stress you've given me at this Goodwill event," answered Nobara.
"You know that could give you wrinkles, especially if you're frowning that much."
"You also gotta work on your skin care routine 'cause your pores are still gaping open."
Mai narrowed her eyes at her, Nobara shot back a mischievous smile, knowing that she won. "So you're into cactuses?" she asked, trying to ramp one more possible win.
"Cactus is its plural form, by the way. Cacti for singular."
Nobara ultimately cringed at the slip of her tongue.
Nobara received her first ever mission in another prefecture, outside of Tokyo, and she was jumping in joy upon receiving the news. She remembered how she anticipated going to Kyoto during the Goodwill that only backfired to her.
For this mission, their Tokyo first year team splitted work in finding an on-the-run cursed spirit lurking around Nagoya City. She was lucky she got placed in one of the tourist attractions. Tokugawaen Garden, a park shining with lakes and small bridges.
She admired the beautiful landscapes around her, stopping under a maple tree, her excitement abruptly ending when a rustle of leaves followed, and a green haired girl, not Maki, but a bob cut hair cut on her, jumped down on the ground.
"You were completely wrong," improperly greeted Nobara. She had been thinking about this for months now, in her shower thoughts, after doing some research on her phone when that cringey memory with Mai still pounded in her head.. "Cactus or cactuses are plural. Same thing. Cacti is mostly for formal writing."
"Took you long enough to figure out, I never thought you were that easy to fool with." Mai smirked.
Nobara was ready to knock Mai out using her hammer. "I don't allow no one ever to speak to me like that."
"Are you an old professor now?" taunted Mai. "At least that's an upgrade from being an otaku."
Nobara was sure going to jump on her, loud steps flaring to meet Mai who still held her shit eating grin while Nobara's face knotted to its core. She brought her fist up, but the sound of spattering water stopped her from connecting her fist to Mai. Their eyes shot to the side of the lake.
A bloated four legged curse floated on the water, moving past under the bridge where its eyes twitched at the sight of Mai and Nobara.
"I'll handle this," said Mai, bringing out her revolver.
"Nuh-uh, no way I'll let you win this." Nobara sprinted to the bridge to get a better angle of the spirit, grabbing the nails from her pocket and ready to fire them towards the spirit. Not really the supposed curse she should be finding for her mission but she got something to prove right now.
Mai didn't hesitate much,just running after Nobara, as she felt her phone vibrate on her pocket. "Yeah, met the Tokyo brat here," she answered while Nobara already had her hammer out, and her nails were sent flying to the cursed spirit. "What? Explosive? You mean like-"
Before Mai could say the rest, she saw Nobara's eyes go wide when a boom resonated from the lake and a wave of water immediately followed, towering over them and crashing onto their faces..
"Really tells that you were slacking off on your mission, you half-asser," said Nobara, walking side by side with Mai, both of them dripping down on every step, wringing their clothes. "You didn't even know you're handling that type of curse."
Their damp clothes clung to their skin, and they still trembled like wet puppies when they tightly crossed their arms on their chest, an attempt to rub some heat on their shoulders.
"Watch your mouth. No one said that you butt in to my own mission."
"Too bad, you don't even have the guts to fight for it."
"Nah, you just like being on people's asses that much."
She would have started another brawl with her right now, but her muscles were freezing and worked up from walking under this cold night. "When are they gonna pick us up anyway? I'm gonna die out here," said Nobara, her phone unwet as she tapped on her messages, reading an update that Megumi exorcised the curse they were supposed to find.
Mai only ignored her as they got themselves into the main street where the array of stores came into light. Nobara's eyes sparkled when she caught sight of a mannequin on the glass display from one of the stores. The worn outfit was nice.
"Hey," said Mai, glancing at the bright eyed Nobara. "You gonna freeze your ass to death there?"
Nobara blinked and saw Mai already entering the nearest clothing store from them.
The heat inside made them feel better, but Nobara was more alleviated when the rows of clothing racks were arranged after her.
"Look, this one looks good on you," grinned Mai, just across from Nobara, as she took an insanely orange neon jacket from the rack and outstretched her arms towards Nobara.
"Is that an insult?"
Mai merely shrugged as she grinned harder. "C'mon, try it on."
"It's always one thing and another for you," huffed Nobara, harshly looking away from Mai.
Mai tsked, and they proceeded to riffle through the clothes. "Momo would have loved this," she mumbled, catching Nobara's ears.
"Come to think of it," started Nobara. "I never expected you to actually have friends."
"'Cause I'm such a mean bitch?" admitted Mai. "Don't worry, it's my special treatment to you."
"Really funny," Nobara rolled her eyes. "So Momo likes shopping?" Believe it or not, it took Nobara a gulpful of her pride to say that.
"She likes doing it with me and Kasumi."
Nobara bit her lips, and she wanted to punch herself at the sudden thought that they, the Kyoto losers, could be better shopping buddies than those lousy boys she was with.
"How 'bout you?" asked Mai. "Do you threaten those boys to be with you?"
"All the time, but it's to get away from them. They're a pain in the ass." Nobara paused as she found a hoodie from the rack that she liked. "..but they're pretty cool…" The rest came trailing off from her tongue almost like a whisper.
A ring vibrated out from her phone that she tightly clutched on her hand. "Got my ride," she said while reading the text from her first year's group chat. But upon looking up, Mai went suddenly missing, and the clothing rack she scanned through left with some spaces. The wet splotch of her shoes trailed towards the dressing room. Nobara decided to change as well.
"Hey," called Nobara after getting out of the store and paying for their outfits. Their wet uniforms in plastic bags. Mai followed behind her, stopping her footsteps. "How about I beat you in a shopping competition next time?"
Mai widened her eyes, a quick grin working its way on her lips. "What makes you think you're gonna win? I got more experience on my side." She knew that she worked well together with Kasumi and Momo in not only finding their own perfect outfits but also picking out each other's.
"You haven't seen yet how crazy I get with shopping," simply replied Nobara before she stepped inside the car. At the same time, Mai's ride screeched to a stop on the sidewalk.
It didn't take less than a month for Nobara to arrange their shopping competition. All in the city of Toyama, acting like the literal middle ground for the Tokyo and Kyoto prefectures.
"We shouldn't be here," nudged Yuuji, feeling out of place with the girls surrounding them. Unfortunately, Nobara had to bring along with her the testosterone idiots, while across from her, Mai walked beside Kasumi and Momo.
"I wanted Maki here, but she's busy training." Nobara respected that a lot, and she wouldn't further insist on pushing the shopping agenda. "And besides, you're a great bag carrier." Nobara faced Yuuji, slapping his shoulders.
Meanwhile, Nobara had decided Megumi would "facilitate" their competition. It was simple: the rivaling schools needed to browse a specifically themed outfit for exactly five minutes and then meet in the dressing room to wear and show off their outfits. Then they'll get random customers to pick the preferred outfit where they'll depend on their points.
"You call that a winter outfit?" argued Mai, eyeing up and down Nobara who wore a hoodie crop top and high waisted skirt with matching knee socks.
Nobara scrunched her eyebrows. "It's not boring like yours."
Mai had picked fitted long sleeves and loose cargo pants with combat boots.
"Don't you think that's still cold wear for both of them?" whispered Yuuji to the apathetic Megumi who just shrugged, wishing this to be over so he could visit the bookstore nearby.
"It's called fashion, dumbass," Momo said. She helped in ransacking the store for Mai's clothes.
Nobara gave Momo a threatening glare. "Only Tokyo tech can get to call him that. He's our Dumbass."
Megumi couldn't help but to slightly shake his head while Yuuji merely pointed at himself, written disbelief all over his face.
The teams back and forth never ended when they both had the spring theme. The dressing room started to fill up with people, only one last standing open that the rivaling girls literally butt heads to fight over who gets inside.
"Get your filthy hands off the handle." Nobara narrowed her eyes. Mai only gripped hard onto it.
"Kasumi reserved this for me."
Kasumi scratched her hair nervously in the background, her head darting right and left. A boulder was lifted off her shoulders when the dressing room next door clicked open.
When the next round came around, Nobara was sure to herself that she was just gonna push Kasumi out of the way. She did, only again interrupted by Mai who came running in time to tug the door handle away from her grasp. They swung the door to their chest, creating a tug of war on the door and little breezes on the side of their face.
Yuuji and Kasumi watched the two, waving their hands to get their friends' attention, as the creaks of the swinging door progressively got louder and louder like blaring sirens coming by.
"G-guys, you're gonna destroy the door!" let out Kasumi.
For the last outfit theme, Yuuji decided to finally police a dressing room, taking the courage of having to politely have the customers stay back out of the specified room.
"It irks me, but that dress looks nice," said Nobara.
"Aw," teased Mai. "I would like to get into those pants." She winked, almost as if referring to Nobara's bottoms.
"Why you-!" Nobara froze on her own, trying to come up with a logical interpretation to that.
The time eventually came to decide the winner, the points were tallied on their friend's phone. Nobara jittered in excitement for the results as they exited out of the store after paying all their stuff. What made it less climatic to her was the alarms at the entrance suddenly shoot out its thundering noises.
"Shit," cursed Mai, switching on her automatic reflex to sprint.
The cashier skidded out to the doorway, sneakers resounding on the tiles. "Thief! someone!" They exclaimed that left the rest of the jujutsu students with their jaws dropped except for Megumi who silently stepped back, letting his existence smoothly glide out of the scene. Yuuji noticed and eventually followed suit to pester Megumi.
"I can't help it alright, kept it worn over my clothes and didn't realize it."
"You don't want getting banned in every store we go to," sighed Momo and Kasumi nodded furiously. As much as they love their friend, there were just times her dumb dumb brain kicks in from having her "troublemaker instincts."
"How stupid," only said Nobara, resisting other words to spat out of her mouth. She crossed her arms, biting her lips. The scene from a while ago played in her head with her having to chase after Mai out of the store since their game wasn't over yet.
"Where's your two-" A bombaring laughter interrupted Mai. She saw how Nobara shook while laughing, shamelessly not covering her mouth and showing off her teeth. For some reason, it looked as though she was a small kitten just baring her teeth for Mai, and she smiled at that thought. Pretty cute.
"Ah, damn." Nobara caught her breath, fanning herself, wiping small tears in her eyes. "You're really so stupid."
In the end, the girls had to regroup with the boys to settle who was the winner. They found them ne
And when Yuuji patted for his pockets and shoved his hands deep into them, nothing showed up on his palms. "Um, I'm pretty sure I have it here," he said.
"He lost it."
"Right, he really is your Dumbass," said Momo.
"I guess that makes us have a rematch." Mai held out her hand.
Seeing it, Nobara dropped her hands from pinching Yuuji's cheeks. She raised her brow.
"It's a handshake for a good game. For another rematch?"
Last time Nobara checked, at the goodwill baseball game, they preferred their hands wrapped on each other's throat rather than skin-to-skin contact. "You got a hidden blade under there?"
"I could have murdered you in the dressing room, you know."
Nobara swung out her arm to take Mai's hand. They shook it firmly, a stern grip on each other. "I'll see your annoying face again, I guess."
"Looking forward for yours too." Mai's classic lopsided grin took shape on her lips.