The Wingman Squad: Why Be Single When You Can Mingle?
It was a gorgeous summer day. The leaves danced in the air to the tune of the wind's gentle whistle.
“Wait for me!” yelled a voice behind him.
He turned around to see a little girl with short, brown curly hair running after him.
“Catch me if you can!” he shouted back.
“Waiiiit!” she pleaded.
He sighed, abandoning reluctantly his quest to reach escape velocity, and moonwalked back. “Ok, ok!”
She caught up, out of breath. “You know I can’t run well,” she puffed.
“You don’t say,” he snorted. She responded by kicking him in the shin.
“Owww, that’s an assault and battery charge right there!” he cried as he keeled over, grabbing the affected leg.
“You’d make an amazing soccer player.”
They lounged themselves on the park bench, recovering their energy reserves. The cool breeze and the shade of the tree made him drowsy. He closed his eyes.
“Earth to Makoto, Earth to Makoto,” the girl yelled as she slapped him awake.
“Whaaat?” he yawned, rubbing his cheek. Why did girls have to be so violent?
“Here, take this.” He looked at her hands, and discovered that they held dandelions. He picked one up curiously.
“They say that if you blow a dandelion and think of a wish, your wish will come true!”
“They also say that you’ve been reading too many shoujo manga.”
“It’s true!” she reiterated as she blew, the white floaties lifting off into the distance.
He didn’t really believe in superstitions but he humored her nonetheless and blew on it hard.
“So, what did you wish for?” she asked.
“To be the very best, like no one ever was,” Makoto asserted.
“Hmph, you’re no fun,” she huffed. She turned to the vast blue sky, and paused pensively for a moment.
“I wished for us to stay together, forever!”
“Really?” He blurted out, caught a little off guard.
He rolled his eyes.
She suddenly swiveled to stare at him straight in the eye. “Actually, my wish is that my first year students do not sleep in class, especially on the first day of school.”
Makoto abruptly woke up from his snooze, shuddering from the terrible nightmare. Where was he? What was he doing in a cramped seat inside a chill, dim auditorium?
He looked around, unable to comprehend his surroundings. That is, until he looked forward, where he was met with an array of graphs and faces looking at him. Oh crap … that's right, he was in Econ I, the first class of his freshman college life. And the professor had just paused the lecture to direct attention to him.
“Well, looks like our first casualty has come a little early this year. Usually people wait at least until the third lecture,” remarked the professor offhandedly as the class started chuckling. “Anyway, as I was saying, the intersection between the supply and demand curve is the equilibrium…”
He had really outdone himself. A roaring start to the first day of classes. He placed both hands on his face as he let out a silent groan. Maybe the drunk belly dancing competition late last night with those useless friends of his hadn’t been the best idea. They’d done it reality TV style too, with three sloshed judges and everything. Third place really hadn’t made it worth it.
He looked towards the front, narrowing his eyes as he scanned the auditorium where the class was being held, looking at his future competition.
A cursory sweep didn’t show anyone that he recognized right off the bat. A girl sticking her tongue out and taking a selfie to put on her facetokgram story, probably. A dude checking his stock positions on his phone - boy, that was a lot of red - Makoto observed a couple seconds of silence for the poor man. A short, brown, curly haired girl down near the second row taking notes diligently. Another guy that seemed to be searching for - Makoto squinted - ‘Drop out college worth it?’
Anyway, it looked like it wouldn’t be too hard to one up these suckers.
The girl taking notes. Could that be … Uyeno Shizuka?! What was she doing here?
He grit his teeth. So she had made it to Takaoka University as well. Contrary to his daydreams, the days of their amicable interactions were long gone, and they both now had a mutual disdain for each other. He shook his head, trying to shift his attention back to the ongoing lecture.
“What were ya lookin’ at?” whispered a guy to the left of him. Makoto jumped a little, unsure how long he had been looking at her.
“Ah, the supply and demand curve equilibrium of course,” tried Makoto.
“Mmhm,” the other guy replied, with a knowing grin. “Pretty gutsy of ya to sleep in class, and then be checkin’ out some of the girls in the front. Seems ya already have some priorities coming into university.”
He placed a hand on Makoto’s back, as if to pass on some encouragement. “Ya earned my respect, first year.”
It was exactly bums like this that Makoto had to steer clear of, if he wanted to have any hopes of succeeding at college.
The guy slid a card on the desk smoothly in front of Makoto.
Makoto looked at it, confused. “What is this?”
“I think you’d be a great fit to join our club. There’s a meeting tonight at 7 PM. Come through. Le. Spy. Kangaroo.” And with that, the guy got up and left the auditorium.
Huh. Makoto thought he’d heard that catchphrase somewhere before. He looked back at the card. It was handwritten sloppily in blue ink against a floral backdrop.
Roses are red,
This be the spot,
Come join the Squad,
In the alleyway, west of the professor parking lot.
Squad Member 2
Well, this was only a little less suspicious than the Nigerian prince’s emails. No way Makoto was going to get himself involved in this. He pocketed the card and looked back up to the front once more, trying to forget about all the previous distractions and reintegrate himself into the lecture.
“And that’s it for today. Problem set 1 is due next week. Please be sure to review the syllabus, and feel free to come up if you have any immediate questions.”
Makoto breathed a heavy sigh of relief as class got dismissed. He had been tempted at least two more times by the Greek god Hypnos, but both times he managed to shoo him away by pinching himself at an unforgiving intensity.
The sounds of papers rustling and hurried students filled the auditorium. Makoto placed his empty notebook back into his backpack and zipped it up. He looked down towards the second row where he had seen that girl earlier, who was now turning to exit the row.
No doubt about it now, that was definitely Uyeno.
He turned around as well, trying to avoid an interaction with her at all costs. Why was there only one door?! The line was crowded enough so that she wouldn’t notice him, but he needed to exit quickly. Thankfully, he’d almost made it though.
Phew, with his luck he would have expected someone to jostle against him and push him straight towards her or something, he thought, right before someone jostled against him and pushed him straight towards Uyeno.
“Hey,” he said, having no other choice.
Uyeno took a quick sideways glance. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yep, it’s me,” he replied dryly. “I had no idea you were in Econ I.”
“Well, I am majoring in Business Econ,” she replied even drier.
“Ah, I see,” Makoto said back, driest.
“See you,” she said as they both reached the door and parted ways.
Ugh, it was just as he had expected any conversation to go with her. He shook his head. He wasn’t here to think of the past, he was here to conquer the future. It was time to get a fresh start, make new connections, and leave his legacy at Takaoka University as its top student, far above the rest.
“Makoto my man, how are classes going so far?” asked Nishinoya.
“Good,” said Makoto, chewing on the cafeteria fried rice. “Just had Econ I so far.”
“Oh yeah, I overheard some freshmen talking about it earlier near the second floor corridor,” chirped in Akashi. “Someone fell asleep on literally the first day and the professor called him out for it, right?”
Makoto almost spat his rice out. “Uh, oh yeah. Not sure who it was though, haha,” laughed Makoto awkwardly.
Nishinoya and Akashi were good friends of his from high school. Nishinoya was the suave and athletic one out of the three, always a hit with the ladies. Akashi was a little more on the chubby side, an avid gamer and computer tinkerer.
“Anyway, you guys should be buying me lunch though, for getting you into Takaoka Uni,” said Makoto, hastily trying to change the topic. “It was all thanks to my excellent tutelage.”
“Yes, of course, sensei, lunch is on us for the next week,” said Nishinoya, saluting him.
“Don’t tell him we just drew an S on the multiple choice sheets and somehow got in,” whispered Akashi to Nishinoya.
“Ah, the new draftees for the club this year,” boomed a voice out of nowhere. Makoto turned around to find what looked like an athletic upperclassman with a clean cut appearance. He was looking towards Makoto and Akashi.
“Wait, what club … and who are you?” interrogated Makoto.
“Club meeting is tonight at 7 PM, do not forget younglings,” he replied with a conspiratorial smile, adjusting his glasses so it gleamed in their faces, before walking away.
Club meeting at 7 PM … was it the same one that the guy had told him about earlier in class? He pulled out his contact card from earlier. It had to be, there was no other explanation. Although how this random guy knew they had been contacted for this club prior was a mystery to Makoto.
“What was that all about?” asked Nishinoya.
Makoto turned to Akashi, ignoring Nishinoya’s inquiry. “Did someone give you a card earlier today?”
“Now that you mention it, yes someone did,” confirmed Akashi. “Some guy told me that I looked like the type for their club and gave me his card.” He pulled it out of his pocket and handed it over to Makoto. It was identical to the card the Makoto had, except it was signed by Squad Member 3.
“The guy that just came up to us, he wasn’t the same one who gave you the card, right?”
Akashi shook his head.
“Did these guys take pictures of us?”
“If I had to wager,” inserted Nishinoya, “I’d say it’s probably from those giant stickers on the back of your guys’ shirts.”
Makoto squinted at Nishinoya. “And you didn’t tell us?”
Nishinoya laughed. “Well, I thought it was a bit funny, that’s all.”
Makoto immediately felt around his back until he found the sticker, and ripped it off his shirt.
“It says Candidate 26 on it,” remarked Makoto.
“Mine says Candidate 3,” said Akashi, doing the same.
“When could they have possibly placed a sticker on my back?” mumbled Makoto. “He only slid me his card … oh wait,” a revelation passed in Makoto’s head. “Those sneaky little bastards! He patted me on the back when we were talking.”
“I was patted on the back too,” exclaimed Akashi.
They were conned. It seemed Akashi and Makoto were already caught up in the underworld schemes at their university. One wrong move and their college lives would be forever changed, and definitely not for the better. Who knew what would happen if they both decided not to attend…
“They want to meet in an alleyway?” laughed Nishinoya, reading off of Akashi’s card. “This seems pretty interesting. You know what, if you guys go, I’ll come with you.”
“Really?” said Akashi.
“Of course,” said Nishinoya as he flexed his triceps. “If any harm comes your way, I’ll be there to protect my nakama.”
“NISHINOYAAAA,” exclaimed Makoto and Akashi as they flung themselves at his feet, tears pouring out at their friend’s showcase of camaraderie. “Thanks bro!” they both cried.
Akashi turned to Makoto with newly instilled confidence. “Let’s go at 7 today and show them that we’re not to be messed with.”
Originally, Makoto was just going to ignore the invite. But if Nishinoya was gonna accompany them, then there was no harm in seeing this prank play out and assert their dominance right from the get go. After all, what was the worst that could happen?
They had obviously never heard about Murphy’s Law.