Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Midsummer's eve, preparing the grills

Kyoko watched as Yukio poured half a sack of briquettes onto the grill. There was a lot more soot and black hands compared to Urufu's handiwork just a metre away. Apparently even something as simple as preparing the barbecue was a learned skill.

It taught her two things she hadn't thought of before. That what's mundane for one person is exotic for another, and that Swedes spent just too much time burning food and eating outdoors during summer.

If they're frantic enough to learn all this, what are their winters like? A picture of Hokkaido came unbidden to her mind and she shivered despite the warm summer's evening.

“What time is it?” Yukio asked after looking at his hands and his mostly white shirt.

Urufu grinned and helped wipe his hands off. Then he looked at the sky. “Nine, give or take fifteen minutes.”

Yukio shook his head. “And the sun still gives warmth. This place is a miracle.”

“You're just unused to it. Just like I was back then during the beach trips.”

Do you mean the first or the second one? Kyoko thought. I wonder if you really remember very much of the first one to that Wakayama place. She was overflowing with memories, and along those memories followed the intense infatuation she had shared with Yukio. But it grew to real love, didn't it? she thought and hugged her husband from behind.

Finished chapter

Well, with the installation of segment ten the first chapter in book two is finished. I've created the associated chapter-page and linked to the prologue for book two.

Next installation will be the short frame story piece, and after that we head into chapter two. As it looks right now chapter two and three will stick together like a settings-based micro-arc.

For once I'm below a full chapter in written buffert, but as my vacation is nearing it would seem I'll be able to rebuild a more healthy buffert.

During said vacation I'll also return to book one and clean out some parts that need fixing. That's not a process I'll run through in one go, but when it eventually is done, some months down the line, I expect book one to be a few thousand words longer.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Chapter one (segment ten), 2016, August, James

Sometimes it's not between right and wrong. James knew that. He bought the run down coffee house five years earlier and turned it into Stockholm Haven Café. Arguably just as run down as earlier. Because he needed to.

Halfway to a bachelor's degree he realised he didn't want a BA for the second time in his life. True, the first time it had led to an MA and doctorate studies in Sweden – and nothing.

A Ph. D. in history wasn't exactly what corporate business looked for, and he took up cross country hiking and a lot of odd jobs. And he was on his way to thirty when he vanished one day only to end up naked and half his age in this Japan.

So James needed a new life, and owning a café with just enough customers to keep him alive was new. And so was meeting the first two new arrivals in ten years.

But Ulf didn't need new. The fifty year old boy needed something very old. A good old senseless binge drinking night when he could blow off all the steam that almost had him bursting.

James had seen how Ulf built up more and more pressure the last month, and when it finally blew up he made sure Ulf spent it all in a drunken stupor in the café rather than doing something really stupid elsewhere.

Of course he had to stop Ulf from hitting the bottle again come morning. He watched Ulf sleeping the hangover off in the inner room, and shortly after Ulf crawled to the toilet to puke for the second time James heard the bell chiming followed by an angry roar. It was the golden girl, and she was coming to get herself a pound of flesh. Or at least enough of his hide to make a pretty carpet.

James heard the Wakayama twins take the first brunt of the attack, which was kind of unfair considering they had played almost no part in it at all. Then the door to the inner room was forced open and Christina stormed in.

While James realised he looked like twenty five and was in fact forty he also knew when he was beaten. The battle tank forcing its way inside the room showed a face James had never seen before.

“Where is he? What have you done to him?” she screeched. “You!” She stabbed a finger at him. Then she saw Ulf.

Bakemono! James had never seen anyone transform so fast from a vengeance demon to a lover sick with worry. She's not from this world. Kitsune? Because she's not merely an arrival like him and me.

“Ulf, Ulf please forgive me!” Christina rushed to where Ulf lay on the pillows James had scrounged for earlier the same morning.

Maybe she's really fifty, but right now she looks like a hurt kid. Damn I should have made sure she knew the hell he's been through. Suddenly James felt very ashamed of himself. Old Nakagawa would most likely help Christina to a part of his hide.

Ulf groaned from his corner, and then he was covered by golden hair and long arms hidden under baggy clothes.

“Stupid boy! Why didn't you tell me?”

James winced when he saw her crawling all over her boyfriend. That had to hurt even if the worst of the hangover had abated. “He's not a boy, not really,” James tried, but he had little hope Christina would listen to anything he said. “I'm afraid that principal of yours set him on a job he wasn't prepared to do.”

Christina looked up from where she was cradling Ulf. “Nakagawa did? He got Ulf involved in the death of another?” Suddenly the vengeance demon was back.

James took a step back. He didn't know if she was about to get violent or not. When she showed no signs of leaving Ulf he calmed down a bit.

“You really have to talk with Nakagawa about that. I don't know what happened more than that it hurt him a lot.” James finished the sentence nodding at Ulf. “I don't think Ulf did anything more than find a person he was looking for. Well, and calling the police.” That explanation wouldn't be enough, but it had to suffice for now.

Christina seemed to understand. She settled down with Ulf's head in her lap, slowly stroking his head and looked like a hurt child again.

“Red Rose,” she said. “His middle school. He called it Red Rose Hell.”

“Sorry, haven't heard of it,” James muttered in agreement. “Sounds bad.”

Christina nodded slowly. During their last exchange her eyes never left Ulf. “Something bad happened there,” she said after a while. “I was attacked in school, and I believe there was a connection with what happened to him at Red Rose. Ulf doesn't want to talk about it.”

James made a mental promise to himself that he'd pressure Nakagawa for information. The old principal kept his secrets far too close to himself, but James was an arrival himself. He could use that. If nothing else he could threaten Nakagawa with involving his government handler directly.

I'm ten years younger than those two subjectively, but I'm still twenty five in this world. Has to count for something. “I'll help you,” he said. He was taking sides. For ten years he had avoided doing so, but somewhere down the line he knew he had to make a stand. The two new arrivals had only speeded that process up.

On the floor Ulf was slowly waking up for the third time that day. James saw him groan. Then Ulf looked up at Christina's face hovering above his own. The second groan was filled with shame and self-loathing.

This is where I pick the side I really knew I would pick from the beginning. I'm grateful to you both, James thought. Open Japan or closed Japan. Such a simple choice. Seems I didn't spend those years in Sweden in vain after all. We have to change. “If you want my help you have it. Start with changing Himekaizen. It's my old school as well, and Nakagawa is on your side even if it doesn't always look that way.”

Christina lifted her head for the first time in a while and looked at him with blank eyes.

“It's what he needs.” James pointed at the awakening body in her lap. “If he can't create change he'll destroy himself.”

She still didn't look like she understood.

“He's not like you and me. We change ourselves and sometimes that changes people around us.” James knew he was out on a thin limb, but he was also certain he had guessed correctly. “That boy of yours is unchanging. He only changes the world around him.”

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Chapter one (segment nine), 2016, August, Christina

Christina dropped her pose and went through a sequence where she allowed the photographer a leisure half a second between shots. He was good enough to be called a professional, but he was still a sad excuse compared to the crew she built her career with in her previous life.

In her previous life. It would be bad to forget that. Restart. You're not 'The Princess of Scandinavia' here. They don't remember you, because they have never seen you before.

She stopped moving when she felt how the photographer dropped out of focus.

“Am I doing something wrong?” she asked to remind him that he was doing a sloppy job. He was tiring faster than she. “Please direct me so you get the shots as you want them!” I can always fake following his directions later. As long as he gets the shots he needs he'll be happy.

He just stared at her with awe in his eyes.

This is bad. I need crew, not fans. “Where do you want me now?” she asked to wake him up.

The reaction she got was about as far from professional as possible. He leered at her.

For crap's sake. It should be illegal to become a fashion photographer before you've shot a few hundred sets with nude, beautiful women and men!

“Don't look at me like that!” Christina squealed in what she hoped was a suitably shy and shocked voice. There was hardly a part of her she hadn't shown the crews in her previous life. Most of those shots had obviously been destroyed, but she couldn't stay among the top ten if she froze whenever a camera saw her naked body.

Idiot! You think I'm working with my body. You'll never be top notch. She slid into a new pose when the photographer finally regained his senses. My body is our tool. You and I have to cooperate when using it. That's why I always work with my brains and not with my body.

Christina really, really detested small minded men. Put a beautiful head on a beautiful body and they automatically deducted twenty points from IQ. But who am I to complain? Made it a lot easier for me to break through. Manipulating morons is a lot easier than handling the crafty ones.

That thought, however, belonged to a later life. She had quit modelling and started out on the road that led to her becoming 'The Billion Dollar Empress' when she began thinking in such terms.

Ulf, will you love this side of me as well? So different from the last two months, my best two months.

Christina fell out of sequence and they had to retake the last shots. Thinking of Ulf too much still made her unprofessional. But I wish I could have stayed that way. Young and in love like a teenager. I felt like one, was one and I loved it all. You made my dream come true, Ulf. For that alone I'll love you for the rest of my life!

They had been shooting for the better part of three days, and it was time to wrap it up. Her photographer was too tired, and Christina kept thinking of Ulf. Spending more time wouldn't make good shots.

She thanked the crew and left for the dressing room. It reminded her of when she had been sixteen, the first time and before she became famous. A dressing room she had to share with all the other starry eyed girls.

This time around she knew to keep a lower profile. The backstabbing was brutal among those who had yet to make it big.

Christina took a seat in the corner and quickly removed her make-up. Then she dressed in a baggy set of clothes that didn't do her justice at all. She had spent over an hour to find exactly that set. It came in handy when she needed to be left alone. And after that she powered up he smart phone for the first time in three days. Christina needed to have it off for her concentration, and now she wondered what kind of gossip her friends had shared during her absence.

What she read sucked all air out of her as if she had been slugged in her stomach.

Ulf, what have you done? What have I done? He's hurting and I wasn't there. The one time he needed me and I wasn't there!

Christina was sobbing with fear when she threw open the doors and dashed out of the studio.

Ulf had spent the night in a drunken stupor, and when morning came he went after the bottle again. James stopped him, but that he had allowed it in the first place stunned her.

Funny thing with publishing platforms

I chose to spread my stories to a few different platforms.

The primary one, for this story is this blog, and it seems I have a few readers who follow my daily updates.

Then there's Wattpad where readers come in small bursts. And I tried Jukepop, which was a dud. As in zero readers who followed my stories to the end. Very recently I uploaded to Inkitt, but I have no idea how that will turn out.

A month after I started publishing Transition and Restart I added it to a place called GetInkspired. For some reason unknown to me I have more readers there than here.

It's the same words, because it's the same story. So I can't but wonder why it dies horribly in one place and gets listed among the popular reads in another. If anyone knows you're welcome to educate me.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Chapter one (segment eight), 2016, August, Ryu

“He's in there, with James.” Noriko glanced at the door to the inner room. “I think they're drinking alcohol,” she said quietly so the rest of the members wouldn't hear.

“Kuri?” Ryu asked.

“She's away. Something about a window of opportunity. If she doesn't do whatever she's doing this week she'll never get the chance again.”

When he needed you the most. What were you thinking? It opened up an opportunity for himself, but by now Ryu liked them both too much to want their relationship to end this way. I'll steal you away from him one day, but not like this.

“Ryu, she's in there as well. His guardian. You can't tell anyone. She's a police.”

Why is half the core gone? “Yukio?”

“Club room Skyping with Kyoko.”


“Yes, you really should know, but you never listen idiot bro. She's in Kansai somewhere with her family.”

Ryu winced. Noriko had told him when and where each of them would be spending their summer break. Planning the beach trip would be impossible otherwise.

“So, Kyoko's gone, but why the hell isn't Yukio here. It's his best friend after all.”

Noriko just shook her head. “Idiot!” she said loud enough for some of the members to turn their heads and look at them. There was a low murmur lingering in the café afterwards.

I hate it when she calls me 'idiot' without telling me why. Ryu stared at his sister to make her talk.

She sighed, but she talked. “Bro, you only ever listen to dad. His grand vocabulary, epic ideals and righteousness, huh?”

Ryu nodded. Dad was more interesting than mom.

“I'm not going to say it's only big words,” his sister continued, “because it's not. It's the way we are, all four of us. We stand at the front. Urufu and Kuri even more so.”

“And,” Ryu asked, because it was clear Noriko wasn't finished yet. She was just reloading.

“Ryu, you really should talk with mom more. She would make you understand. You of anyone should. To shine as bright as Urufu and Kuri you need a Yukio or Kyoko at your back. A wingman. You'll need one as well one day.”

“And you?” Ryu quickly asked. Being praised by his sister felt strange.

“Me too, one day. But that's not what's important. Yukio and Kyoko have always stood back, and now for the first time they have someone they treasure, someone for whom they're the hero. Get it?”

He didn't. “Not really, I still think Yukio's an awful friend for sitting at school when Urufu's breaking down here.”

“You really are my idiot brother.” Noriko glared at him. “Of course he is! But it can't be helped. They got together less than a week ago.” She poured a cup of coffee to a member who had arrived at the counter and took a few coins in return. “His first girlfriend. She's more important to him than anything in the world. Hell, a phone call from her is more important than any of us two.”

Ryu could only listen to the onslaught. That kind of all consuming love was alien to him. “I don't get it,” he complained when his sister finally seemed to run out of steam.

Bad decision. She shovelled half a ton of coal under the boiler and went to work on him again.

“Idiot bro! Stupid! Yukio confessed last Sunday.”

That had the club members get into action.

“Yay for Yukio!”

“Good for him!”

“Great couple!”

Both Wakayamas stared at the members until they returned to their own conversations.

“He confessed during Kuri's grand entrance.”

Ryu noted that Noriko dialled down the volume a notch when she continued.

“You know Kyoko, don't you? Proper and improper and all that?”

Ryu nodded.

“She kissed him at the Shibuya grand intersection. In front of five thousand people, a couple of camera teams and right where Kuri had everyone's eyes glued!”

That's kind of impressive. That's a hell of a lot impressive. Kyoko! I didn't think you had it in you. “OK I get the picture. So?”

“Ryu, what makes you think a small thing like for example mount Fuji erupting would get Yukio's attention when Kyoko wants it?”


Noriko brightened. “Finally!”


And there was doom and gloom in her face again. “But if she doesn't want it? If she tells Yukio get get his arse over here? That but?” she suggested.

Ryu nodded again.

“No way. She wants. She's in love you idiot! Besides the only one she cares about apart from Yukio right now is Kuri. Kuri's gambling everything on this modelling stunt of hers. That's why she can't be here now.”


“Idiot bro, she's not rich like us. That Sunday cost her all her savings. She burned six hundred thousand yen to make it happen.”

“Urufu could help her.”

“Moron. That's exactly what she does not want. She's not a cute little Japanese doll waiting to marry a strong man who can take care of her for the rest of her life. Read something! Learn something! Go Google M-shaped employment and use that head of yours for once!”

Friday, 26 June 2015

Chapter one (segment seven), 2016, August, Ryu

“Mom, something bad happened in Tokyo. It...” Ryu felt uncertain how much he dared involve his parents. What can I tell her. She'll call dad if I say too much.

His mother must have sensed that something was awry because she put a hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes. “Friend in trouble and you can't tell me all about it?”

Ryu nodded gratefully. You're the best. “He needs me.” Ryu averted his eyes and stared at the sliding doors to their room. On the other side lay a corridor feeding the entrance and outdoors cars passed by, the sound of their engines muted by two walls.

No matter how much he loved his parents this wasn't the kind of problem high school students were supposed to have. He couldn't possibly tell his mother that Urufu had been involved in the death of another person, even if indirectly.

“Is it that bad?” The grip on his shoulder tightened. Ryu had to look back.

“Yes,” he admitted. He didn't know what else to say.

“One day we'll talk about this. Promise?”

“Promise.” She would hold him to that.

“For now you're needed elsewhere. I'll change your ticket and call father. Good friends deserve good friends. Go and be one!”

Ryu just nodded back. She really was the best.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Chapter one (segment six), 2016, August, Ryu

Three days later he received a mail from Urufu in the morning. It was terse, and to the point: “Found him. Done.”

That started a nightmarish ping pong game of messages which forced Ryu to re-evaluate his friendship with Urufu.

“What do you mean with 'Done' more exactly?”

Two hours later the answer arrived. “Police. Dead.”

“Whoa! Urufu, what did he do? Dead, did you two get into a fight? Was he shot?”

Ryu ate a late lunch when Urufu finally responded. “Worked in restaurant. Married. Prison.”

“Urufu! Please more information!”

And that information waited until three in the afternoon to materialise. “Prey married after school. Pregnant wife. Found him in restaurant. Called police.”

“Urufu. I understand the police part, but what do you mean with dead?”

Ryu deserted his mother in the middle of their late dinner when his phone beeped next time. “Nakagawa nullified marriage. Prey to prison. Killed himself.”

“Urufu! Did he suicide! That's too much. I need to understand what happened.”

The last message didn't arrive until after Ryu had fallen asleep, and it was the first thing in the morning that he noticed. “Lost family. Suicide. Good riddance.”

Almost a day it took. Ryu answering more or less immediately when he received a message and Urufu waiting for hours before he sent one back.

Ryu decided against answering that last message. Instead he called his sister.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Chapter one (segment five), 2016, August, Ryu

The first mail arrived a bit after lunch. The twentieth less than ten minutes later. When he checked his on-line waterholes they had exploded with the news.

At three in the afternoon he grabbed a bit to eat in what was supposed to be a trendy place in Sapporo. Around him young people talked about what had happened in Tokyo earlier that day.

Feels strange, he thought as he gobbled down his sandwich in silence. Where I come from people talk about me, and Kuri. Here I'm a nobody. He rose and went for another round at the soft-drink bar. On the way he flashed a grin at the girls filling up their glasses and was rewarded with long, admiring stares. OK not a nobody if I make an effort.

When he sat down again he noted, not without some satisfaction, that at least one table ran two topics while they stole glances at him. But Kuri didn't even need to be here to take centre stage.

Ryu fought a childish urge to stand up and do some advanced name-dropping. They might even believe me, but that's not the point. The point is that I feel doubly lonely up here when she's down there and at the same time the main menu on everyone's lips.

For the first time he felt locked away. He had looked forward to the trip north even knowing he wouldn't see her for some time, but he hadn't expected to hear about her wherever he went.

Or watch. Pictures and videos spread like wildfire, and the net was ablaze with her images. Images of an almost otherworldly beauty planting her banner in central Shibuya and claiming it for her own.

By nightfall she made it to the major media. It wasn't big news by any means, but late in a TV-newsreel Ryu saw her face flash past again in a short story about noteworthy commotions in Tokyo.

In the middle of the news-downpour he almost missed the really big news. Noriko called him after he failed to respond to her mails. Kyoko and Yukio had finally removed their blindfolds and become a pair.

He mused on that piece of news after they hung up. Lucky bastards! Twice lucky. After Kuri's public stunt you'll be left alone. It suited them better, he guessed. He would have flaunted his girlfriend to the world, but those two were more grounded. More solid. They made perfect wingmen and were both loyal to a fault. Yukio even dared facing off against Ryu when he suspected an intrusion on Urufu's turf. Ryu respected that and he felt genuinely happy for both Yukio and Kyoko.

Does that leave us as the comedy duo, Noriko? Never happened before. But strangely enough he only felt lonely. There was no jealousy when he thought of Kuri and Urufu. Ryu might be in love with her, but they were two of his closest friends. We are the same sis. I see you laughing as well when you pull your pranks on them Noriko. It doesn't hurt as much any more, does it?

The Wakayama twins. The bond they shared stretched thin but not broken by the distance between Tokyo and Sapporo. Obon, and after that I'm back home again.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Chapter one (segment four), 2016, August, Christina

Insect! Who the hell do you think you are? Christina stretched to her full length and stared down at the tall graduate from Sweden. Stick to your girl you piece of shit! Then she turned her attention to Ulf again. “Ulf!” No! I gave him the black stare as well. Ulf I'm sorry!

Ulf winced visibly, but then he regained his composure. “You look stunning!” he said in a tone that reassured her that he understood what had just happened. “I'm honoured.”

It felt strange to be taller than he was, but it was impossible to move in the right way without her heels. She had come here to conquer after all.

In front of her Ulf stood staring back at her. Spellbound, he's spellbound. He can only see Christina Agerman. Ulf I want you to find me beautiful. Your Christina. “What do you think?” She had to say something.

Something shifted in his eyes. One moment he had been staring at Christina Agerman, Princess of Scandinavia. The next he looked just as intensively at her. “My Ina, you're my beautiful Ina!”

Ina? Oh! Christina, Ina. Yes I like that! “Do you really mean that?”

In response he took a single step and kissed her. He had to tilt his face up to do that. Then he took her face between his hands and looked into her eyes. “What are you doing with me? I can stay in this Japan forever with you Ina.” His eyes were the brownest of brown, soft and caring and she drank herself dizzy with his gaze.

That has to count as a declaration of love. “I'm just loving you.” It still felt strange being taller than him. My little U-kun! “U-kun, I love you! You fill my life.”

The look she got in return was filled with endless love, but also with endless sadness. He looked happy and forlorn, ecstatic and horrified, basking in her feelings and filled with self-loathing. He looked like he wanted to be in two places at once.

“Miss! Miss! Can we have a word with you?”

“I saw her first. I'm her agent!”

“She's signing with us. All contacts will have to go through our agency!”

Ah, the work I came here to do. I don't want to any more, but I have to. Ulf, U-kun, we need to talk.

Christina turned on her right toe, let her left foot follow in a tight circle and set it down toe and heel clicking against the street simultaneously. It sent a calculated shock wave through her body that she used to flick her neck into the terminal pose used on the catwalk just before it was time to turn around and go back.

Toes out, never inwards like Japanese girls did to look cute. She wasn't here to look cute. She had an empire to build.

The crowd was pushing forward to see better, and the formal fashion shot drew almost no interest any more. Christina doubted it was even commencing at all by now. The first half of her plan had gone through without a hitch. Now it was time for the second half, and that one depended on the people she saw elbowing their way to her through the crowd.

A man in his thirties approached her together with a woman in a business dress. Behind them one of the cameramen from the scene followed carrying photo equipment that had been designed for a static shot. This was the real deal.

“We would appreciate if you tell your agency that we disapprove of your disrespectful prank here today,” the woman said.

Too easy. They're making this too easy. “Agency? Aren't models using those?”

“Cut the bullshit. What is a professional model doing here during our shot?”

“Oh my! Why, thank you! But I'm not a model. I'm just a student at Himekaizen Academy.”

“I said cut the bullshit. I can see you've done this for two years or more.”

You piss-ant! Two years! I'll show you two years you rank amateur! Christina slid her left foot closer to her right heel and used the extra energy to let her dress billow out in a wave that followed her body all the way to her shoulders where it snapped out of existence. Just when it did she jingled her handbag to make it look like her dress had sent it swinging.

“Thank you for saying that!” That single move had taken her the better part of seven years to master. A dress hugging her body like this did didn't lend itself to any billowing to begin with. What she had done was effectively impossible. Maybe with the exception for a dozen or so women on the planet. Oops. Forgot that I'm one of them. Christina grinned inwardly. “You're too kind!”

The business woman really was a rank amateur. Christina's act was lost on her, but further back the cameraman stood mouth agape and studied the integrated monitor on his camera.

Christina cooed. “But I'm only sixteen. I couldn't possibly have worked as a model for over two years.” And with a twist of her hand she flicked her pose into 'The Princess of Scandinavia'. A simpler pose, but one that had been her trademark and had helped her stay in the absolute top worldwide for ten years.

“How could a mere high school student interest you this way?” The contract was a done deal. They had swallowed it all, Hook, Line and Sinker.

Difference being that she'd deliver far beyond their wildest imagination. Japan held nothing even remotely worth being considered competition when it came to raw competence, but popularity was a fickle goddess.

Christina had yet another face. One that came after her modelling career, and she flashed it to the business woman, shooting producer and cameraman alike. The billion dollar empress. “It would seem I have caught your interest. Now, what would you do to catch mine?”

A Wattpad reminder

For a more pleasant read you should read my stories here.


No magically inflated text sizes for italic text, and there's even a good app for your phone. Sure, I don't post any meta-texts there, and there is a delay that's counted in days at most.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Chapter one (segment three), 2016, August, Yukio

Yukio stared at the train of club members who followed him out of Shibuya station. Twenty of them, but thank all gods none in their school uniform.

Surrounded by club members the Swedish giant walked in the middle. Beside him but unseen his girlfriend tagged along with a small tail of admirers of her own.

Yukio gratefully observed that it was busy enough for them to go unnoticed. He had told them there would be a modelling shot at the intersection, and all according to plan both foreign guests had jumped at the opportunity to watch the spectacle in the very centre of Japanese youth fashion.

He had not told them why Kuri was absent though. Urufu said she looked different when she was armed for battle, but he was the only one who had seen her like that. Yukio could only guess at the difference, and he suspected that Urufu had been less than modest in his descriptions.

“Damn he's tall!” Nori-kun exclaimed for the hundredth time.

Motor mouth. For once you're useful. Keep them focussed on Yakobuson-san.

Just when they were about to exit the station a crowd had started to build up, and they had to negotiate their way out of the station.

The camera teams were already there and the shoot had started. They had built a scene and on it a few exceptionally good looking and tall men took turns posing.

Yukio looked around. OK tall is a matter of definition I guess. Ulf is a dwarf compared to them, but that monster is a match. Yukio stared at Yakobuson-san when he cringed as he walked into the brutal wall of heat just outside the station. On second thought he was probably taller than the models.

There were scouts making passes at people in the crowd. If what Kuri had told him was true some of them were even legit. But most of them were there to fleece unsuspecting and over eager teenagers.

“Want to be a model?”

Now that voice came from a shorter distance than he had expected. Of course. It was just a matter of time. Yukio grinned at Yakobuson-san. Oh they are targeting his girlfriend as well. I guess she's cute enough in an exotic way.

It was strangely fun in a chaotic way. Only half of the show took place on stage, but the more interesting stories played out in the crowd.

“Yakobuson-san, they want to take your photo,” he called out to his guest. “I won't promise it's not a scam, but you won't have to pay for any shots unless you sign something.” Kuri should know. She's been here before, in that other world.

Some space opened up around their guests. They looked exotic and striking enough to warrant the extra attention.

“Cool! We have models of our own.”

Dozens of smart phones were aimed at the impromptu shot around them, and Yukio just shook his head. “Kyoko, over here,” he shouted when he finally discovered her guiding the last of their members from the station.

She lit up in a smile and hurried over to him. Yes definitely going to tell her today.

“Shouldn't Kuri be with you?” he asked when she came close enough for him to speak in a more normal voice.

Kyoko just grinned. “She said she's doing this on her own. Promised a grand show.”

Grand show? How can you promise something like that? Then he remembered the festival night in June. You transformed back then. I wonder what you look like when you're prepared for real.


“Huh?” That had been Urufu. Where? Ah there.

Urufu came walking with a woman by his side.

Urufu's guardian? Sato Amaya -san was it? Why is she here?

“Christina hasn't shown,” Urufu said. That was a statement and not a question.

“No I haven't seen...”

“Bloody hell he's a big one!”

Yukio followed Urufu's stare. There was no mistaking what he was looking at. Who he was looking at. “That's Yakobuson-san,” Yukio said. Like he didn't know.

“Yeah, I guessed as much,” came Urufu's rather pointless reply. “I didn't expect him to be that huge. Oh well just like old times.”

Forgot he's used to people being a lot taller. We must look like midgets to them. “Good day Sato-sensei,” Yukio said when Urufu's guardian came close enough for a more polite greeting. Why are you here?

“Kyoko, have you met Sato-sensei?”

Kyoko shook her head and introduced herself. Yukio watched her smile and how her hair took flight when she bowed. He wanted to bury his nose in it. Definitely telling her today!

“Where's Kuri-chan? Didn't she say she'd meet us here?” Sho-kun asked.

Yukio was on the verge of answering when Kyoko's face widened in a mischievous grin. “She'll be here. You'll see.”

OK now I'm really curious.

Three things happened as one. Yukio heard shouts from further back in the crowd, and when he turned to find out what was happening he saw Yakobuson-san stop posing for his photographer and stare over all the heads. On the scene one of the models dropped out of her pose and pointed across the crowd.

What on earth?

Both male models stood staring, jaws slacking in shock and one of the camera crew slowly swivelled, gear and all, to find out what why their shot had suddenly gone south.

“And here she comes,” Kyoko said. She grabbed Yukio's shoulder for support and tip-toed to see better.

Close, you're close! Yukio did his best to pretend he hadn't noticed and that it was only natural with Kyoko clinging to him.

“I can't see!” she complained to him. Her face was suddenly very close to his and he was unable to let go of her eyes. They stood staring at each other.

Close, you're too close! “I love you,” he blurted out before he could stop himself.

Her eyes suddenly went very large and her mouth opened up in a big 'O'.

Oops. I confessed! Again.

“Do you want an answer right now?” Kyoko asked in a voice barely audible.

What do I do now? There was no pretending 'just friends' any longer. “You can answer whenever you want. My feelings haven't changed since I confessed to you the first time.”

Kyoko didn't say anything, but she grabbed his head with both hands and planted a wet kiss right on his mouth. Then she backed away. “Do you want me to explain that?” she asked breathlessly.

Yukio shook his head and hugged her close.

“About bloody time!” Urufu shouted from behind. “You're not getting out of this now,” he continued gleefully. “Guys, look who just got together!” he yelled.

Yukio blushed harder than he thought possible, but when he tried to let go of Kyoko in embarrassment her embrace tightened into an iron grip.

“Don't. Ever. Let. Me. Go!”

And he no longer cared about club members shouting encouraging and vulgar propositions to them both.

“Whoa! Two shows in one!”

Two shows? Oh, forgot! “Kyoko, shouldn't we see what Kuri is doing?” he murmured in her ear.

“Don't want to, but yes. I promised. Just don't let go of me!” she murmured back. “Oh, there she is!”

Yukio looked around. They were still hugging but now they looked in the same direction. Gods!

“And the Red Sea is parting,” Urufu said. “That's my Christina. Just look!”

And the Red Sea was parting, or at least the crowd.

The billion dollar empress. Urufu, you called her an empress, but she really looks like a goddess.

Yukio saw her hair before he saw the rest of her. A golden sun shone above the crowd just before it parted and gave way to her, and he saw her face. By his side Kyoko gasped.

“It's OK Yukio,” Kyoko said. “For now you're allowed to fall in love with her. I just did that myself.”

The shouting had stopped. They watched in silence when a goddess descended from heaven and blessed her mortal subjects with her smile.

I can't see her make-up! But it has to be there! The angelic face approaching them bore very little resemblance with the Kuri they knew and shared stupid jokes with.

And her clothes. Yukio knew very little about fashion, but he had never before seen a girl wearing anything that looked designed for her personally. This was as far from cute as was possible. The dress lacked colour, yet it slowly shimmered in a fruity red and yellow. It followed every movement of hers, and somehow Christina managed to swing her handbag in perfect rhythm with her ever-shifting dress.

She strode to them on high heels as if she had been born in them.

“Am I late?” she asked, and Yukio saw a glimmer of a deliberate grin aimed at him and Kyoko. “Oh finally! I'm so happy for you!” she said and embraced them both. In her high heels she was a full head taller than any of them.

“Hey gorgeous! Wanna party?”

English? Yakobuson-san?

“We should hang out some while I'm in Japan,” he continued. “You look like my kind of girl.”

What the hell? You're here with your girlfriend!

Kuri looked him over. “It was nice to meet you, but I'm looking for my boyfriend.”

English? She could have spoken Swedish instead. She meant for us to understand. Yukio smirked. Urufu, you idiot! Treasure her! You'll never find a better match in your life.

Yakobuson-san blanched nevertheless. Yukio could have sworn he wasn't used to be told off like that. This was an older version of what Ryu could turn into, had he been just a little more ruthless and a little less concerned about how the girls around him felt.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

On updates and midsummer's eve.

While Ulf may have received a poor (albeit well deserved) reception to his midsummer's party in the story, on one point he was right.

Effectively Sweden closes shop on that day, and the weekend that follows doesn't see much activity either.

I don't know what holidays or celebrations you readers are familiar with, but at least play along with the thought that there are days during the year where the entire nation shuts down.

In Sweden you're more or less regarded a bad human being if you don't celebrate midsummer's eve. Or at least considered as an example of a failed human being.

That said, tomorrow is midsummer's eve. As I have no plans to join neither the bad ones nor the failed I'm going to celebrate together with friends and family.

We'll set up our shabby party tent on my mother's lawn like we've done the last fifteen years. We'll put the tables inside in one single row, because that's traditional as well. And we're going to eat pickled herring, lots and lots of pickled herring, and sour milk (even though not from Hokkaido because Sweden produces all the fermented milk it needs). Boiled potatoe, the small one from this year's early harvest, is a must. Bread, butter and cheese, and a little bit of meat for the few renegades who refuse the pickled herring.

A dozen kinds of pickled herring, or more. Salty, sour, sweet; marinated in custard, tomatoe sauce, liquor sauce and lots of other treatements that most sane people from outside Sweden would find vile and revolting.

But we love it here.

We are also hardly considered sane. We love that as well.

Oh, and I almost forgot the schnapps. Several kinds of it as well. In difference from the members of the Himekaizen Cultural Exchange club we're of legal age and don't have to make do with the truly vile substitutes that can be bought. Just trust me on this one. If you don't want to drink booze go with water or anything else that you would normally prefer. The non-alcoholic schnapps sold is simply not meant for humans to drink. Just stay away from it unless you want to end up sulking in the corner of a ramen shop...

All in all the frame story depicts a midsummer's party more or less the way I've experienced it since my late teens. The exception being we don't have tons of Japanese guests of course, and we usually don't have the fabulous weather I've given my characters during midsummer's eve 2040.

And as Sweden shuts down shop for the weekend, so will I. Don't expect any updates until Monday.

And enjoy your midsummer's eve, because I will.