Sunday, 17 September 2017

Chapter six, 2017, friends from far, segment six

Ryu stared after Kuri when she left the surfer shop for the outdoors shoots and her personal petty revenge on Kareyoshi. Ryu wasn’t certain how visible it would be, but apart from her, Urufu and their Swedish guests there were mostly formerly expelled students from Himekaizen on the beach. Kuri, rather unsurprisingly, had duped her crew into some group shots for a ‘summer with high school friends on the beach’.

He grinned. It was summer, and they were on the beach, and they were friends as well as high school students.

Some people take all the good ones,” a whisper came from behind him.

Ryu didn’t turn. Crew, model or just a visitor, he didn’t know, but he was aware that whatever he lacked in looks compared to the male models he more than made up for in presence, or charisma as some preferred to call it. Still, he toned down his grin. It was an expression he had copied from Urufu in the end. The old Ryu usually smiled, or laughed, rather than grinned.

That’s a funny thing to say with so much beauty,” someone else said.

They’re models. He’s he real thing.”

He was, he knew that. His was a good family, which was the reason he disliked Noriko chasing after Urufu. Last year Ryu didn’t care, because he didn’t fully understand. In the end, in this world at least, Urufu had no family behind him at all, and Ryu worried for his sister.

Wakayama-san?”

That voice didn’t speak about him. That was a direct question, and Ryu had no other option than turn.

Yes?”

I’ve been asked to invite you to a meeting.”

Ryu looked at the man in his early thirties. Definitely subordinate. “Yes?”

If you would please follow me.”

May I ask who?” Ryu said. He made a point of showing no sign of following.

Ah, of course. Eh, Uchida-sa… Uchida-san and Hasegawa-san are waiting for you”

What the hell? The first ‘a’ in the interrupted honorific had been much too drawn out. Uchida-sama? What’s going on?

I’m honoured. Please show me the way!”

Intrigued Ryu followed the man to a nearby office and stepped inside.

Two men in their late forties or early fifties sat waiting by a table, each sipping a cup of coffee. One of them rose and reached out with a hand in the western style of a handshake.

I’m Hasegawa Mamoru, pleased to meet you.”

Ryu took the hand and bowed.

First of all,” the man continued, and now he reverted to a traditional Japanese bow, “I need to apologise for the way I’ve behaved to you and my daughter.”

Daughter? Wait, Hasegawa. He’s Ai’s father!

Then the other man rose from his chair. “As a matter of fact I’m the one who needs to apologise.”

Ryu looked at him. He oozed of power. It wasn’t the aura of his father but something that reached beyond it.

What’s going on? Ryu fidgeted, he knew that, but adults very seldom apologised to kids, not even high school students.

I’m the reason Hasegawa-san was against your relationship,” Uchida-san said.

Sorry, I don’t get it,” Ryu answered.

You’re good friends with Christina Agerman and Ulf Hammargren,” Uchida-san said instead of giving an explanation. Then, then… Hey, there wasn’t even a hint of an incorrect pronunciation!

Kuri’s my girlfriend,” Ryu said to buy some time.

Is that even legal?” Hasegawa-san said dryly.

She’s just a high school kid here, just like Wakayama-san here. We can’t apply two sets of rules.”

Ryu decided to take a chance. “Are you, like, Nakagawa-sensei’s goons?”

Nakagawa-sensei?” Uchida-san said.

He’s the former principal of Himekaizen Academy,” Hasegawa-san responded. Then he grinned. “He’s part of the local MiBs as well.

Men in Black? I see.” Uchida-san turned directly to Ryu. “No, we’re not part of the local civil war. We’re here to put an end to it. Mamoru and I belong to the Swedish section for a better alternative future.”

Ryu stared at the two indisputably Japanese men. Without as much as a thought about proper behaviour he sat down in a chair, leaving the two adults standing. What the hell? “Could you please explain to me so that I understand?”

You have your secret black ops here in Japan. We’re part of a similar organisation on the Swedish side of things.”

OK, that much made sense.

Officially I’m head of Sony Northern Europe, well, in fact I am running that section for real as well.”

Yes?” Ah, he’s Rika-sempai’s father! Then something Uchida-san had said registered in Ryu’s mind. “What do you mean we have a secret organisation here?”

The man’s eye grew cold and hard. “I’ve known Christina’s grandfather for a very long time, and through him your parents.”

Bile rose in Ryu’s throat. “How long?”

Once I was his superior officer,” came the answer. “Last time I visited his home Christina was a small child.”

When… when did you, eh, move back to Japan?”

The predatory grin Uchida-san gave Ryu wasn’t entirely hostile. “I arrived here 1978.”

1978?”

Yes. Himekaizen Academy had only been made into a co-ed school a few years earlier. It used to be a girls’ school. You can tell from the name.”

Ryu thought about it. A school for the betterment of young ladies. It certainly made sense when he thought about it that way. “Why are you here now?” he asked instead.

Partly to apologise to you, and to the daughter of my colleague as well. Even though he works with arrivals he didn’t want his daughter to get involved, and I’m afraid I’m to blame for that.”

Ryu nodded. “And the other part?”


The Japanese side has allowed things to get out of hand. Rampant racism and arrivals don’t go well together. We’re here to force… to make them reconsider.” Then any kindness in Uchida-san’s grin vanished. “You could consider us friends from far.”

Friday, 8 September 2017

Chapter six, 2017, friends from far, segment five

Through the windows Christina saw Yukio drifting away from the beach just to be promptly returned by Jenny. Watching the petite girl pulling him back with a life guard grip made Christina panic a little, but it was all over so quickly she never had the chance to become really afraid.

Idiot, what were you thinking? It’s the ocean and not a timid little pool.

Miss Ageruman?”

Christina turned and faced the photographers. Crap, I botched the shot! “Sorry, I saw something disturbing. Retake?”

She saw the man growling silently, and he had all rights to do so. She’d just wasted a good shot with the sun streaming through the windows, and now they needed to wait until it returned from behind the cloud where it was hidden.

Christina glanced at the clouds and ran to the second set followed by surprised stares and more than a few angry glares.

You’ll want some with neutral light. It’ll be a few minutes before the sun’s back again. What about it?”

Of all those present only her personal photographer, Kinoshita Dai, had the brains to move his gear from the moment she looked at the other set. Kinoshita Dai, an arrival like herself, and one of the best photographers she had encountered during her two lives.

They were inside the shopping mall. Inside a shop for surfing and beach volley attire more specifically. The cost for the shoot most likely surpassed what the shop made during an entire month, but the owner could easily afford it. This was part of a nation wide campaign using the Odaiba beach and mall as a lure for city youth.

Sitting in a chair by the wall Ryu returned her glance. Her boyfriend, but not really the man she loved. Still, she had grown fond of him despite his many shortcomings.

He was an idiot for missing out on the fun at the beach, but in truth she was grateful for his company. For some odd reason it dulled her longing for Ulf.

The shot drew out, and Christina had time to change into several bathing suits before the sun finally graced them with its presence again. By that time most of the club members had withdrawn under parasols, and Christina noted that only their Swedish guests still played along in the water, and of those the tomboy’s boyfriend, Jun, seemed reluctant even from this distance.

That wasn’t, she admitted to herself, entirely true. A bit further out in the bay Ulf clumsily did backstrokes, and had he been born here she would have been worried. As it was she saw how he lazily bobbed up and down on the waves whenever he got tired.

Then he had enough and made for the beach with heavy breast strokes. Just the way he had been taught once, just as they had both been taught once. Now the kids learned how to crawl – it was a more efficient way of swimming after all.

All at once forty years of life slammed into her. She missed her innocence and ignorance. In ways she missed her childhood more than her first youth, because memories from that youth were exactly what brought her to chose her career above love. Both times.

Regret.

Pain.

She hated herself.

Strong arms held her from behind, and it took a while before she realised she wasn’t dreaming. It wasn’t Ulf.

Ryu? She turned. Have you grown that fond of me? She smiled through her tears. Thank you!

He was her boyfriend now. Slowly becoming one for real as well, because despite her saying that she refused to feign that relationship, her feelings for Ulf stood in the way for her growing respect for the boy rapidly growing into adulthood who faced her now.

I could learn to love you. I think I already do, at least a little.

In the background a strange mix of angry growls and the endless smattering of a shutter took her back to reality.

Damn, I blew another shot!

What’s the matter with that kid!”

What’s the matter with you,” Dai responded. “If you had at least achieved basic competence you’d grabbed some of the best shots in your entire career. Moron!”

What?

Shoot’s over. I’ve got everything we need.”

What the hell...”

Shut up you idiot! That’s Kinoshita Dai!” A third voice.

I am, indeed. And you’re incompetent. My kids would have done a better job.”

Christina stared at her photographer. I guess they could, if you had any. They’d be, what, thirty, forty? The surreal thought made her grin and as she gripped Ryu’s shoulder harder sudden mirth came out as laughter that freed her from weeks of worry.

She didn’t care about the sound of metal falling to the floor. She didn’t care about the gasps from below the stage. She hardly noticed the whirl when Dai’s camera came alive once again.

Life was wonderful, Ryu was wonderful and somewhere out there Ulf was wonderful as well. Lost to her, but wonderful anyway, and that knowledge didn’t hurt any longer. She’d love him for the rest of her life, but for the first time since she broke up with him she admitted that because she was an adult there was room for another love.


With a huge grin she threw herself around a very surprised Ryu and bit his ear. “I’m falling for you,” she whispered, and through her cheek she felt how he flared red in an instant.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Chapter six, 2017, friends from far, segment four

Yukio grinned when Hitomi-chan smirked and shook her head so much that her long hair swirled around her head. She was exactly the kind of beauty who didn’t make Kyoko uncomfortable, the slender type, like Kuri.

Right now Hitomi-chan exaggerated a show of disdain for Urufu and Kuri to the joy of their friends.

She broke up with that?”

Yukio followed Hitomi-chan’s finger with his eyes until the straight line pierced Urufu a little further down the beach. “He was skinnier back then,” Yukio said in Urufu’s defence, or if it was Kuri’s. He wasn’t certain himself.

Is she daft?”

Yukio’s head swivelled almost by itself. He was just that surprised. Kyoko?

She’s my best friend. Doesn’t make her immune to stupidity.”

There wasn’t much more to do than agree. Urufu was his best friend after all, and by every deity that ever existed, and most that didn’t as well, that guy sure as hell wasn’t immune to stupidity. He probably used that oversized brain of his to invent new kinds of stupid.

Both Yukio and Kyoko joined Hitomi-chan in the shaking of heads and pointing fingers. It caused a small ruckus, and friends around them cackled with glee in a most unjapanese way. Being around arrivals for too long must be infectious.

What’s going on?”

Yukio stopped shaking his head long enough to notice Noriko who had walked up to them with three of their guests, Rika-sempai, Jenny-sempai and Jun-sempai.

He quickly explained, which had Noriko join them in the head shaking, much to the surprised mirth of their guests.

And you call us strange,” Rika-sempai said.

You’re strange. They’re just sad.”

Yukio glanced at Noriko after the spat out that comment. It was a little like the old, cynical Noriko. “Look, guys, let’s head into the shade for a while.” It wasn’t really like he needed to get out of the sun, but Noriko’s voice just now gave him a sour taste in his mouth.

Just as he was about to leave for the beach walk Kyoko took his hand and shook her head. “If we’re here I’ll swim, and you’re joining me.”

Yukio just couldn’t resist a request like that from Kyoko, so he followed her down to the water and tried to recall his swimming lessons. Almost there they were overtaken by their squealing guests who rushed into the sea and started playing in the water like they had been born in it.

And I thought Sweden was too cold for bathing. Either it wasn’t, or the people living there gad grown used to ice cold water like polar bears, because only Jun-sempai looked a little awkward between girlfriend and girlfriend’s best friend. Rika-sempai might have been born in Japan, but she certainly had gotten used to parts of the Swedish which lay beyond Yukio’s understanding.

Then Yukio got into the water himself, still clasping Kyoko’s hand. It was steeper than he had expected, and he soon had to try his skills at swimming.

The water was cool, but in the baking sun that only came as a relief. Still, he only managed a few metres in water that had a life of its own, very unlikely the stale water of a pool. To his surprise keeping afloat was easier in the sea though.

Yukio felt he enjoyed it all, and he regretted not having gone into the water last year when they spent weeks by the ocean.

He let himself be carried by a wave, and when he looked at the shore it was further away than he remembered. At that time Jun-sempai came up beside him.

You know,” he said and paused to take a breath, “you shouldn’t swim out like this if you’re unused to it.”

Yukio almost answered with an angry retort, but the next wave dunked him and when he resurfaced a smidgeon of worry built inside.

Jun, get him ashore!”

Yukio turned in the water to see where Rika-sempai’s voice had come from, but he suddenly stared into Jenny-sempai’s face.

If you can’t swim then please get back, will you?” she said in English.

But I can swim, what’s the problem?

Jenny, get him back. I’ll help.”

Jenny-sempai gave Jun-sempai a nonplussed look, and then her boyfriend laughed and said something in Swedish.

Yukio, please float on your back. I’ll support you.” With those words she swam under him and came up by his head. “Fantastic weather today,” she said and grabbed him under his arms.

Then he felt her legs moving under him and there was a feeling of being tugged. Yukio could feel her breasts pressing against his back every time she kicked out with her legs. Soon enough Rika-sempai and Jun-sempai turned up beside them and Yukio was dragged upright.

OK Yukio, let’s get this clear,” Jun-sempai said, “these kids learned to swim in the sea.” He pointed at the three native born Swedes. “If they say water’s dangerous the rest of us had better listen.”

Yukio hardly listened, because as soon as Jenny-sempai could stand she waded to her boyfriend, and now a long string of worried words in Swedish poured out of her.

What’s that about?”

You put Jun in danger, and now she’s angry with him, or worried,” Rika-sempai said. “Yukio, the ocean isn’t a pool, not even when protected like this,” she added and swept her hand across the surface to show him how the man made inlet made the beach almost a little like a very large pool. “If you’re careless like this at an ordinary beach it could become dangerous for real.” She smirked. “Jenny’s my best friend. If you make her worry I’ll get angry with you.”

Yukio felt more than a little shame and nodded.

What are you guys up to?” That was Kyoko’s voice.

He looked at her, but in her face he couldn’t read anything that gave away that she had even been aware of the small drama unfolding.

If you make your girlfriend worry I’ll be angry as well,” Rika-sempai said and grinned.


Yukio returned a thin smile and sent her a silent thanks.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Chapter six, 2017, friends from far, segment three

After arriving at Odaiba, a man made island in the bay with a perfectly decent beach, Christina was whisked away to the neighbouring shopping mall with Ryu in her tow.

Ulf swore at himself for noticing how her boyfriend did the only thing decent and tagged along with her for her photo shoot rather than getting some good fun by the water front.

With a thin grin Ulf kept up the conversation with Jenny, Alexander and Emma. While it was a joy listening to and speaking Swedish again, he did so more out of loyalty than anything else, and it grated somewhat inside him since he guessed Noriko interrogated Rika and Jun in search for whatever tidbits she believed would help her in her campaign.

Moron! But a very fun moron. I don’t dislike you, and it’s not like I’m not charmed, but I’ll be damned before I start preying on a child. Because she was, even though she had matured a lot during the last year.

He shook the thought away and returned a half hearted laugh at what had obviously been a joke of some kind before he turned his honest attention to the conversation he was, after all, part of.

A little further ahead Jennifer kept Thomas under close guard, and where Noriko was good company who had to rely on her proving she was a good enough friend to keep around, Jennifer had the ability to blast everyone around her with that amazing charisma of hers. Thomas stood absolutely no chance, and it would hardly be fair to say he was preying on her.

And where’s the difference? Ulf pushed that thought away. There was a difference. Noriko wasn’t Jennifer.

I don’t get it,” Ulf said to change the topic. You don’t have a problem being around each other at all?”

Alexander shrugged. “Emma knows how I feel. Has known from the start, but she’s still maybe the best friend I’ve ever had.”

Ulf turned to Emma. She shrugged as well. “If it gets too hard for me I’ll just avoid him,” she said and nodded at Alexander.

Ulf shook his head. It still didn’t make sense, and he wasn’t thinking about the ludicrous situation, but rather the interpersonal balance between them.

He tries anything funny and I make sure hell caves in around him,” Jenny said, and all of a sudden the pieces came together. She guaranteed balance between the other two, and Rika would never get involved anyway unless she changed her mind about Alexander, in which case Emma would be hurt but the situation defused anyway.

Satisfied with getting a good enough answer for his question Ulf allowed himself to drink a lungful of sea breeze. Brutally hot or not, the sea was still the sea, and getting inside the water from time to time would handle the worst of the heat.

They followed the beach walk to dressing rooms and toilets, and club members split up to change.

Ulf threw a stare of longing at the beach restaurant closest to them, but he suspected his current body wouldn’t enjoy a cold beer the same way his old self had done. Illegal or not had little to do with taste, and if he remembered correctly he’d been twenty before he really started to like the stuff.

It probably would taste the same anyway. Swedish beer was sweeter, and he’d been smoking a packet of cigarettes per day back then, which certainly didn’t help with his sense of taste.

Dressed in surfer shorts and with all his belongings in his backpack Ulf made his way to where most of the members were already gathering.

This time a bunch of starstruck freshmen gathered courage enough to crowd him. By now his attitude combined with overblown rumours about him and Kuri elevated him to some kind of hero hood. They’d come to their senses soon enough, but at the moment he felt a little awkward.

Then he understood why more than a few of them stood staring at him. Sure, partially his current status helped. But that was it, wasn’t it?

Sunken into deep depression after Christina broke up with him he turned to the oldest of drugs. Two days of brutal training every week became, first three, then four and sometimes five.

It showed. He’d never before, in both his lives, been in better physical condition than he was right now.

So a lot of his fellow club members stared at him. Some in awe, some in envy, and some, he understood gratefully, in disdain.

With far less gratitude he observed that not all of those staring were club members, and just as he was about to dryly observe that they had no reason to, realisation struck him.

He might look Japanese, but the Swedish half in him didn’t just add six or seven centimetres to his frame; it allowed him to bulk up in ways that would have been difficult had he been Japanese only in origin. His idea of being slim despite hard training mirrored his experience from living in Sweden. Here he was visibly muscular.

By his side Emma, Alexander and Jenny arrived – Noriko still tried to monopolise Jun and Rika, but by now quite a few club members had joined her side in an attempt to listen in to what the new star student was talking about with their foreign guests.

Ulf grinned when he saw how she tried to balance being polite with her rising mire.

Then he realised that staring at her lithe body conjured a flashing fantasy of taking her to his bed, and he slammed an iron curtain around his imagination. Breaking up with Christina apparently brought the seediest parts of him to the surface, and he looked down at his own feet in self disgust.

You know, if you’re not interested, you should just tell her so,” came Jenny’s voice from his side. Then she grabbed his stomach just out of nowhere. “Jun, why don’t you get some of these?” she shouted in English.

What the hell are you doing?

From further down the beach Jenny’s boyfriend looked back at them. He gave Ulf a stare filled with a mix of annoyance and glee. “Sorry. You get the me that is. Take it or leave it!”


It warmed. For the first time that day Ulf filled with feelings of pure joy as Jenny left him for a sprint that ended in Jun’s arms. Some people got it right. He might himself.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Chapter six, 2017, friends from far, segment two

With their five guests boarding the water taxi Noriko made a decision. If she wanted to truly get closer to Urufu she had to be a little more like him without ever losing sight of herself.

So, how to change without changing, or rather, how to change while still staying true to herself.

By now she knew Urufu somehow accepted, and even condoned, a certain amount of falsehood, but he utterly despised people who didn’t dare to see themselves for who they were, which probably was the main reason for him breaking down at the very end of their first high school year – he had betrayed himself.

Noriko waited for the photographers to load their equipment before the followed them. Normally she’d prefer to sit indoors, but joining him at the aft wasn’t really something she had to force herself to do.

He made her feel safe. He made her feel giddy. He made her feel strong, but foremost of all he made her feel the full joy of youth.

That he wasn’t hers to have didn’t change any of that, and for that reason alone she’d give this opportunity her all, now when both he and Kuri agreed on taking the worst of all paths for themselves. Noriko suspected she might not get to keep him forever, but whatever time she managed to squeeze out of him was better than no time at all.

A slap in the small of her back brought her out of her daydreaming and Noriko turned to face her very own idiot bro, who for once wasn’t clinging to Kuri.

How’s love?” she asked and continued on her way to the door leading out to the planking. An answer wasn’t really needed.

Just fine, and you?” it came anyway.

Noriko didn’t even turn to answer. She just waved with her hand above her shoulder. Hers was just fine, thank you very much. It was just Urufu who didn’t cooperate when it came to being reeled in.

Right now she didn’t want to talk with Ryu. Rika, or even Jun, were her targets. Oh, I forgot the honorifics! And there it was. A small detail that would make her a little bit more like Urufu. Dropping honorifics when they weren’t really needed. A stupid thing that he was certain to notice even if he never showed it.

Noriko felt a smile spread as she entered the sun. While the sea certainly lowered the temperature a bit it was still oppressively hot, but all five visitors preferred being outdoors whenever the sun shone, much like Kuri and Urufu. A Swedish thing, Urufu had said.

For once Kuri wasn’t, but Noriko saw Urufu’s back where he sat and explained something to Jenny and Alexanderu in Swedish.

Turning right Noriko joined Rika and Jun. She looked after Emma and saw her seated in conversation with Tomasu and Jeniferu. The sight made Noriko smirk a little. Jeniferu definitely had better luck reeling Tomasu in than she herself had with Urufu.

Excuse me,” Noriko said.

Yes?” Rika said.

Jun nodded assent as well.

I have a question about relationships,” Noriko continued.

Ask him,” Rika answered. “I’ve never been in one.” The last sentence came out so harshly that Noriko wondered if the older girl carried some bad memories as luggage.

Jun gave Rika a long stare as well but said nothing.

But maybe you know how things work over there,” Noriko tried. She had to tread carefully around Rika. She was all too much like herself, or rather what Noriko recalled of herself before her friendship with the people had changed her during their first high school year. Rika reminded her a little of Hitomi, but without the graceful self assurance that was a natural part of the beautiful girl.

I guess you mean Sweden?” Jun said when Rika threw Noriko an angry glare.

Noriko waited for the sound of engines to die down a little as they slowly left the pier. Behind Rika’s and Jun’s head the scenery changed to a background of silvery sky scrapers.

She nodded. “Yes, Sweden.”

Jun glanced in the direction where Urufu sat. “Because of him?”

Noriko knew she was fidgeting, but she disliked feeling so transparent. Rather than answering she offered Jun a short nod.

Jun tilted his head in thought. “You know,” he said after a while. “People are people wherever they are. It’s not like everyone is the same just because they come from Sweden.”

Noriko understood that. She stared across the water while she ransacked her brain for a better question.

Urufu says the sky’s clearer there,” she said, remembering something from last summer. “So there are aspects which are common for a place.” She could just as well accept that they knew she was crushing on Urufu. “He even comes from the city where you live, so if I narrow it down like that?”

He’s from Göteborg? Then I guess he’s rather direct.”

Noriko grinned. “Yeah, yes he is. Very direct that is.”

So tell him how you feel.”

That turned her grin into a grimace. “Already did. Several times.”

Jun gave her a thoughtful stare. “If he’s not interested then I don’t see how it could work out.”

He doesn’t avoid me,” Noriko said. “We’ve even been out together, just the two of us.”

The stare grew angrier. “He didn’t strike me as a player. I suggest you be careful around him then.”

No. No he isn’t a player.” Noriko thought about what to say. “It’s complicated, but I know he’d never deliberately hurt me.”

Are you really sure about that?” The words were Rika’s, and the edge to them made Noriko certain Rika had experienced something bad and burned herself.

Absolutely certain.” Because she was. Worst case she’d be hurt, but that would be her hurting herself because she refused to give up on Urufu.

Boys always do as soon as they get a chance.”

Rika! Have you ever seen me hurt Jenny?”


Noriko sighed. The conversation was veering into a strange direction, and she decided to just listen as they made their way out into the bay.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Chapter six, 2017, friends from far, segment one

There was, Yukio decided for himself, a certain perverted satisfaction in watching Himekaizen descending to hell while he was doing the watching from the outside.

He never told Kyoko. Even lovers held secrets from each other. Total honesty hurt more than it provided. In her case doubly so since her best friend, and his, both were stuck in that hellhole. She’d be angry with him for being so callous about what Kuri had to live through, and she’d be aghast he held the same attitude towards Urufu’s fate.

Thing was, Yukio couldn’t care any longer. No matter what atrocities the madman playing at being principal threw after their best friends, it didn’t even come close to what they inflicted on each other.

This was the reversal of his and Kyoko’s drawn out shyness from last summer, one that bordered on idiocy. One that kept then from becoming a couple for a full two months during which they each knew their feelings were mutual, and still none of them made a move.

In Urufu’s and Kuri’s case it was a shared love they both decided to destroy, and in doing so they kept hurting each other and those closest to them. In the end Yukio grew sick of watching the horror show.

He’d been on the verge of cutting contact with his best friend when suddenly the lunatic five from Sweden arrived and made everything interesting again. Ai’s big brother Jun who chased after skirt a continent away, and the love chain trio. The chased after skirt was here as well, and despite being a bubbly ball of never ending happy energy Jenny-sempai was by a wide margin the most sane of the bunch.

Secretly Yukio doubted if the honorific ‘sempai’ should be applied to the insane, but they were fun to watch, and something in how they talked and reacted made Yukio suspect that each of them would easily have made it into a prestigious university had they been Tokyoites.

The cut-off was four point three for my year, Urufu had once told him. A high school where the weakest admitted student averaged above four on a scale from one to five was scary. With perfect grades when he graduated, Urufu had merely been one of almost half a dozen in his class, and classes were apparently smaller in Sweden than in Japan.

Scariest of all, while Yukio could accept that Urufu’s English was better than Jeniferu-chan’s, despite her being from the US, that both Jenny-sempai and Alexander-sempai matched her was beyond the pale. English was still a foreign language in Sweden, just as it was in Japan.

At the moment he tested his own English out.

Surprisingly good for a Japanese,” Rika-sempai commented, as she had done several times before. Not only to him, but to just about every junior I the club.

I had a good teacher,” Yukio said and turned to Alexander-sempai to continue the conversation Rika-sempai had just interrupted.

It was fun, and very cool,” Alexander-sempai said, but Yukio felt the graduate had his attention fixed on the girl he was infatuated with.

Why don’t you just move on. She rejected you. But Yukio suspected it wasn’t all that easy.

They stood waiting for the water bus to arrive and take most of the club and the lunatic five to the beach out in the Tokyo bay. With finals looming closer this was probably the last chance they had to spend time together for two weeks.

So,” Yukio started, “hot springs in this weather made sense after all?”

Alexander-sempai nodded, and from the corner of his eye Yukio saw Rika-sempai do the same.

Most of the other students hung around the ice cream parlour a bit away; hardly surprising as it was Kuri’s treat. For once she made them company, which meant the entire place was packed with body guards and Vogue employees.

They’d have a shoot at the beach, and for that reason Vogue paid for everyone’s fares. Kuri must have forced the issue one way or another.

Sorry?” Yukio said when he realised he hadn’t listened to Rika-sempai’s question.

Those two, who are they?”

Yukio looked at Kuri and Ryu holding hands surrounded by people from Vogue, but he knew the question wasn’t about Ryu. “Kuri and Nao. They’re models and students at Himekaizen,” Yukio said.

I think I’ve seen them before.”

They’re plastered to the walls all over Tokyo. Of course you’ve seen them. “They’re kind of famous here,” he said instead. At least that was true for Kuri. She was the foreign teenage femme fatale, which made her a lot more interesting than the well behaved Takado Nao. Cute was the last thing Kuri tried to be.

Funny,” Alexander-sempai said, “she’s got a professional make up. I could have sworn they didn’t know how to do Europeans here.”

We can’t. She had to teach them if what she told me last year is true.

And she actually looks good in that school uniform. That tall she really should look like a scare crow,” Rika-sempai unhelpfully added.

Yukio looked at Kuri again. He didn’t know fashion at all, but in his eyes Kuri had always looked a little like a scarecrow. He set his eyes on Kyoko from the very start after all.

He let his eyes wander across the pier. By the rails Jun-sempai and Jenny-sempai looked very much like the cute couple they were. Almost by their side, but not close enough to be a disturbance, Ai-chan kept her distance from Ryu while keeping an eye on her older brother.

An occasional gust of wind mitigated the oppressive heat, and Yukio followed a small piece of paper as it danced all the way to where Emma-sempai stood with her ice-cream in her hand and for once seemed to have forgotten all about Alexander-sempai. A second year club member from Irishima High made an insincere attempt to hit on her, but she just laughed him away in a way that told Yukio she didn’t mind being friends with the younger student.


You lunatic five, you’re just another side of Urufu. Have you come here to change us a little, to make us more like Urufu himself? Yukio didn’t know from where the question came, but he committed it to memory anyway. It could come in handy later.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Midsummer’s day, 2040, memories

The music booming from below the hillside carried scattered memories from Christina’s teens. Both of them, and all mixed together.

First she couldn’t understand why she’d mix up memories from more than thirty years apart, but then as the remembered just how ancient some of the music was, things fell in place. There were songs from a time before the idea of a life with fashion ever entered her mind, and most of them she shared with Ulf, even though she hadn’t known about him at that time. That came later, as did her reintroduction to old, and usually pretty awful, music.

Still, something nagged at her mind, and it wasn’t until an especially atrocious melody reached her that she remembered how the last weeks of the first trimester during that awful year brought smiles and grins to them all. It hadn’t been Ulf’s doing, but rather Noriko’s and the strange bunch of visitors’ who stayed with them that summer.

Noriko, I owe you an apology, and more than a little gratitude. Christina ended that thought as she turned on her heels and started walking in search of her friend. You were the best rival I could ever have wished for.


Less than a minute she found Noriko chatting with Kyoko, and Christina felt a wide grin splitting her face open. “Noriko, Ko-chan, do you remember...”