Thursday, 28 April 2016

Chapter one (segment four), 2016, December, Ulf

Ulf couldn't remember when he had last been welcomed that way. Whenever it was, if it had ever been, it lay more than half his life in the past.

Before he managed to break free of that last kiss he felt a burning desire to undress her. She had been anything but shy, clinging to him suggestively enough that they could as well have been naked.

It's been more than half a year. He'd never been together with a girl for that long before sleeping with her before.

Should we get inside?” Ulf suggested.

Uhum?” Christina answered, but she didn't let go of him.

You're getting drenched,” Ulf tried again. “Like really drenched.”

Uhum,” she offered, this time a statement rather than a question.

I guess I'm not going home tonight. It scared him a little, because it meant taking yet another step away from his previous life. But damn I want her! Which scared him as well.

Whatever mind-reading techniques Christina used must have worked, because she finally let go of his body and pulled him inside her tiny flat.

He had been here a few times. More often than the friends he visited, but still not as frequently as he remembered from his earlier girlfriends. Now as in his previous life that word resonated strangely in his mind.


After close to a quarter of a century spent married to Maria that word only represented a very scant part of his life. Marriage was the normal state, but for the friends he had made in this life marriage was an abstract thing in the distant future.

Looking at Christina's back as she hurried to the small stove he realised that despite being his age she couldn't share his reflections. To her marriage was just as much an abstraction. In her case probably more a matter of a lingering question and possibly regret as she was bound to have wondered when she saw those around her get married and raise children.

The smell of food brought Ulf out of his meandering thoughts and he went to the cupboard and helped setting the table.

As usual her cooking showed more signs of gusto than any real ability.

It's good,” Ulf said after they sat down to eat, but he knew Christina was well aware of her limits in the kitchen. Hers hadn't been a life where she could indulge in domestic chores. “It's really good,” he said when unexpected flavours mixed in his mouth.

It is, isn't it?” she said and beamed at him. “I might have overdone things a bit, but I wanted to give it my best shot.”

How long did you spend learning to cook this meal? “I'm honoured you'd do this for me,” Ulf said. He heard how hollow his words were. Rather he would have preferred to tell her how the warmth in his stomach had less to do with the food he ate than the feelings burning him from within. I love you, I really do love you, but I can't tie you down with those words.

Happy to oblige,” she grinned. She still had some food in her mouth, and when she giggled some of it threatened to come out.

Ulf stared at her when she blushed violently with both hands clasped to her mouth. Her sudden poor table manners just made him ache for her even more.

From there on their meal got more awkward, and it was with a sense of relief Ulf rose and made the dishes.

When he returned with a small teapot and two mugs he noticed that unlike the times he had visited Christina before her futon didn't lay rolled up against the wall. That meant it probably lay neatly stacked in its cupboard, and from that thought Ulf gave her flat a closer look.

She really did clean it up this time. Food and flat, hmm. Ulf looked at Christina where she sat pretending to decorate a tray with cookies. I can't tell from your clothes or make-up, your skills are way beyond my awareness. But your desk is disorderly in just the right way for me.

There were a few other signs Christina had spent more than the normal time preparing for his visit. Her small home had been thoroughly made to make him feel welcome, even to the point that he wouldn't want to leave. The suspicions he had on his way here grew stronger, and along with rising anticipation a feeling of discomfort spread through him.

Won't it be unfair of me to sleep with her unless I tell her I love her? But that was the thought of a teenager, and he wasn't really a teenager any more, was he? Shouldn't you decide what's unfair to you or not, the way I decide for myself. And that was the thought of an adult. Each person was responsible for his or her actions and reactions. There was an academic construction, interpretative prerogative, which could be applied to a situation like this.

Christina,” Ulf began, “how close have we become?”

She looked up from her cookies and met his eyes. That was a question he wouldn't have dared to ask thirty years earlier, and one she couldn't have answered when she was that young.

We're boyfriend and girlfriend,” she said. “still in the infatuation phase because we haven't had sex yet.”

Yep, definitely two adults playing teenagers playing adults. Damn this is confusing!

Ulf felt his body reacting to her words exactly the way she had known he would.

And now is when you want us to take a step further?” he said in a rather failed attempt to play it cool. It didn't really matter. From here on he could only keep up his part of a script with an ending Christina had decided from the start.

We're not kids.”

That doctor said we still are, despite our subjective age.”

I don't plan to take that doctor with me into the shower.”

Damn, you sure know how to play this game. She hadn't as much as loosened her clothes, but Ulf felt the heat rise just from her words.

I could use a shower,” Ulf said in a last attempt to take control of the conversation with a poor joke.

He shared that shower with Christina, and after that he shared the night with her. In the end half a year's worth of pent up desires won, and his last remnants of reluctance evaporated when she clearly showed him that hers was half of them.

When they woke and spoke she told him that to her surprise there was a bit of pain. While she had the experience her body didn't.

He didn't go home until late morning.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Chapter one (segment three), 2016, December, Christina

You really did it this time!

Within minutes Ulf would knock on her door, but that was only part of her desperate plans to save whatever could be saved from the mess she ended up in.

You really, really did it this time!

Three weeks earlier Christina flat out rejected her agency's demand that she break up with her boyfriend. They tried to threaten her with cancelled shoots, but with her foreign looks she commanded just as much attraction as a femme fatale as the pure high school girl usually preferred here.

Christina checked the food on the stove one last time. Another five minutes or so.

You really, really, really did it this time!

Then her agency found out just who her boyfriend was. Not that she had tried to keep it a secret. Most of the freshmen at Himekaizen already knew. This time, however, someone fed the rumour mill that the assault on Ulf really was an eternal triangle gone horribly wrong.

In the bathroom two fresh towels had replaced the one she normally used. After a moment's afterthought Christina covered her laundry basket with a third towel and cleaned up the bathroom cabinet for the third time.

That rumour could as well have been the last nail in the coffin. Somehow she salvaged her relationship with Ulf, but from now on she had to keep it a secret.

Keeping it a secret. Ha! I'm screwed!

She had been forced to sign a contract which she doubted conformed to any decent international law. The contract was a minor problem since Christina's citizenship was unclear enough for Japanese authorities to refuse issuing her a passport.

The wardrobe was closed and in difference from any other day no underwear littered her desk. While practical she doubted it was a sight Ulf would find especially adoring.

If there was a chance she had been assigned a Swedish citizenship she could abuse laws against unfair child labour and force her agency into bankruptcy. At least that was what her contacts at Vogue Magazine promised her should she chose to change employer.

Those contacts were her golden secret, her emergency exit if things really went south. They were utterly ruthless people she knew from her former life, people who couldn't understand how she managed to play them just the way she had played them as the billion dollar empress.

Ulf I need you! Without you I'll break apart. Without you I'll become a monster.

Then whoever lay behind the latest rumours started attacking Ulf's business with disastrous results. As far as she knew he hadn't had a single job for a couple of weeks.

A last look in the mirror confirmed that both make-up and clothes were perfect. Not too showy, but also not so professionally perfect that he wouldn't notice she had made an effort.

That they went for him instead of her made her livid with rage, but her wrath was nothing compared to the calm hatred the Wakayama parents expressed during a panicked visit she paid them a day earlier.

I hate this crap! I hate this kind of puny power struggle. And that was the problem. With back-alley companies involved in a corporate shoot-out stupid mistakes and chance played too much of a role.

It was nothing like when she manipulated the behemoth Chag into wars of her choosing. Chag alone had been worth over a hundred billion dollars when she vanished, and through contracts and contacts it controlled a global empire worth yet another quarter of a trillion dollars. With Christina Agerman, the billion dollar empress, sitting solidly in the middle of the spider's net.

Looking at her desk she decided against cleaning away all her homework. Nowadays when she didn't cheat with her studies there was no reason to further enhance any idea Ulf might harbour that she was an illiterate moron only interested in fashion.

In her old world she had already made plans to gobble up Uniclo like the small snack it was in global fashion. And then she vanished and arrived in this world. And then she experienced shared happiness for the first time in her life. And then someone dared threaten to take away what was more important to her than Chag had ever been. Christina intended to retaliate proportionately.

When the doorbell rang Christina regretted the thought about Ulf's seeing her as an idiot. He respected her and had proven it time and time again.

Do I look my best? She shook the thought away, rubbed her face and dressed up in the most radiant smile she knew. Then she opened the door.

Outside a heavy drizzle framed Ulf's body in water, and as he usually did he had discarded his umbrella in favour of one of his horrendously expensive rain-suits.

Welcome Ulf, you're just in time,” Christina greeted him in Swedish. Crap! You look awful!

Because he did. For some unknown reason he'd kept his hood flipped onto his back and as a result his hair was glued to his head and raindrops ran freely down his face.

Then her breath caught in her throat when she met his eyes. She saw her own beauty reflected in a way that no mirror or camera could ever do. She saw herself sketched in lines of brilliant awe and jubilation where every contour and charcoal shadow was drawn with love and tender care.

You look stunning,” he said in a voice thick with emotion.

Her chest constricted at that sound, and leaving any rational thought behind her she stepped out into the rain and melted into Ulf's icy cold, dripping rain coat. She only felt a wave of heat radiating through her body when she hugged him to herself in an embrace she never wanted to step out of.

She felt Ulf's face move and his nose burrow into her hair, and when she looked up he met her with a kiss, and another one, and yet another, lingering one she allowed herself to drown in.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Scope and format

Transition and Restart has found its format, which is the same as sayint that I've found a format. Last time I checked the story didn't write itself.

Frame, prologue, frame, chapter one, and then the coupling of frames and chapters until I have six chapters after which it's time for an epilogue.

And each chapter is around ten k words long and usually split into ten one k chunks with a POV-shift between chunks.

While on the long side for an LN I'm starting to see why anyone would run with a fixed format like this. No matter how hard it is for the reader to get into the story -- when you do you'll experience cadence of a kind.

Thus I've come to understand that the writer's contract with the reader can include scoping and narrative formatting.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Chapter one (segment two), 2016, December, Noriko

So the hostess part time stunt had finally reared it's ugly face and was about to take a bite out of Kuri's world. Noriko had suspected that something like this would happen eventually, but that didn't make her agree any less with Urufu's outburst.

There were things women weren't supposed to do, and that kind of segregation spoke its own story of a society that in some parts was woefully underdeveloped. She knew that, but she was still a product of that society, and despite agreeing with Urufu Noriko couldn't but help wondering about why Kuri had taken such a stupid risk.

You know, maybe you shouldn't live here if you dislike Japan that much,” Ryu said.

Noriko hoped he regretted his words the moment they left his mouth, and her reaction was instinctive. “Idiot brother! Of all the tasteless comments I've ever heard!”

It's not like I chose to live here,” Urufu filled in. “They refuse to hand me a passport, so I can't travel to Sweden neither, and there's Kuri, and...” He palmed his face as he walked. “Sorry for my outburst. It was uncalled for.”

No!” If anything it wasn't uncalled for. Forcing Urufu and Kuri to break up was so unfair it made Noriko's stomach churn. “You're right. It's disgusting what they're doing to you.”

Ryu coughed silently as if he needed to think before speaking. “I apologise. Still, I don't know about disgusting...”

Shut up bro!” That Ryu didn't understand made her angry and a little afraid. “They're keeping Kuri hostage because she's a girl.” When he didn't react Noriko pulled his arm and glared at him. “If you don't find that disgusting, then how could I trust you if something like that happened to me?”

Why would it? I can't seen anything like that happening to you. We're the Wakayamas after all.”

For the first time in her life she slapped her brother with the intent to hurt. She hit him open handed, retracted her hand and whirled to slam it into his face with all the force her small body could muster. The second slap never reached its target. For a moment Ryu looked as if he would retaliate.

I wouldn't if I were you,” Urufu said. “My hands, elbows, knees and feet might slip and accidentally land in your face.”

Noriko saw how her brother sagged before he snorted and grinned. “You might miss, you know.”

I wouldn't,” Urufu said. “When I slip I always hit my target.”

There was something cold in his voice that made Noriko shiver. Not the overt threat he voiced, because she doubted he'd ever attack her brother. Rather it was a lack of something that scared her. It was a lack or joy, or even life. It was the voice of someone who had resigned and accepted defeat, and a beaten Urufu somehow frightened her more than a horde of enemies.

Ryu slowly released the arm he had caught, and Noriko watched her brother examine her face to see if she intended to hit him again. She shook her head and looked down the way she had done so often when he made that kind of silent question.

Ryu,” she said, “are you really fine with our friends getting hurt because they're not the Wakayamas?”

He flinched as if she had struck him a third time. For a social genius like him her brother sometimes lacked even the most basic of sensibilities.

You should listen to your sister,” Urufu added. “I've lived for more than half a normal life, and even if this body makes my head flare up in anger I still know how to evaluate what happened.”

There were a few seconds of awkward silence during which they continued walking towards the station.

Meaning?” Ryu said.

Noriko wasn't sure if he really needed an answer or if he merely wanted to banish the wordless void.

Meaning that if I hadn't been me you could easily have lost a friend.”


Man! Ryu, sure we're past fifty but it's still my girlfriend you're talking about. We don't really belong here, and we really only have each other. Now when we're shitting ourselves because we'll most likely be forced to break up you tell me that's OK because none of us come from an influential family?” Urufu palmed his face. “Screw it Ryu, what kind of brain-dead monkey are you?”

I didn't mean it that way!”

Ryu, you're a good friend. You have your strengths and weaknesses. One of the latter is how narrow-minded you are. Yes, you meant exactly what you said. Family is important to you, and you honestly believe people get the families they deserve.”

So what?”

A dejected shadow passed Urufu's eyes. Noriko didn't like the sight of it one bit. “You sure made a good choice of parents,” he said and increased his steps. A laugh that held no mirth left his mouth.

Urufu?” Noriko said. She knew the answer to her question before she voiced it.

I recalled I have something I need to do. You two continue. I have to check something.”

He could just as well have screamed: 'Go to hell you insensitive bastard!' She watched his back vanish down the street. A lonely hand waved over his shoulder, but he never turned to face them in that usual western style of his.

What's with him?” her brother wondered after Urufu vanished into an alley.

What's with you? You did something really bad.”

In what way?”

Family is important, right?”

Yeah, so what?”

Idiot bro! Really! “Kuri never had one after she grew up. She said as much. Urufu is her family now.”

And still her brother's face showed no sign of comprehension.

Ruy, you know that Urufu lost his when he arrived here. They're all alone here in Japan and you just told him he should have been more careful picking his family when the two of them are being forced apart.”


Maybe I should slap him once more. Just to beat some sense into him.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Chapter one (segment one), 2016, December, Ryu

Ryu frowned and left Stockholm Haven café. Ai-chan had left half an hour earlier, but he needed to wait for his sister to finish her job.

Noriko pointed at the police car on the other side of the street. There had been one every day for a week since some idiots with more muscles than brains from Red Rose Hell threw a home made bomb into the café.

Despite the seriousness of the affair Urufu couldn't help but guffaw when he disarmed the bomb on the floor. Something about Molotov-cocktails made of plastic bottles and diesel was apparently hysterically funny.

Nonetheless the police came and picked up the gang after the guests in the café went out en masse and beat them down into the street. That was also the moment when the student body of Irishima high finally sided with them and made open enemies of Red Rose.

During that week late autumn gave way to early winter, and Himekaizen slowly started boiling with anticipation for Christmas and the second term final exams, as was the case for most schools in early December. Simply put the students felt the presence of year's end closing in, and Ryu was no exception.

But there was also something he hadn't experienced before. The ambiguous sensation from being part of tearing down Red Rose Hell.

Those were his thoughts when Urufu caught up to them.


Yes?” she said and turned her eyes from the patrol car to Urufu who had called out to her from behind her back.

Ryu watched him throwing a glance at the police before he made up the entire distance to the siblings and sandwiched Noriko between Ryu and himself.

Kyoko said to meet with you next Sunday. Looks like a girl thing, cause Christina just emailed me. Seems she's reneging on our date.

Sucks to be you, Ryu thought. It wasn't exactly like the Swedish couple got a lot of opportunities to be alone with each other. A few months earlier he'd have applauded the mishap with a gleeful smile, but even before he met Ai-chan and became a couple with her he had come to value his friendship over his unrequited crush on Kuri.

Are you sure about that? You two haven't had a proper date for weeks.”

We get by,” Urufu answered. “We see each other during club hours. As for dates I'm more worried about you and Nao. Didn't you have something planned?”

Ryu had to give Urufu credit for guessing that the girls' outing interfered with Noriko's wishes. The tall foreigner was not only one of his best friends but also sometimes painfully inept when it came to socialising with girls. And he was most definitely a foreigner despite his mostly Japanese looks.

I'll live,” Noriko said and grinned. “We're going to an onsen during winter break, and both Nao-sempai and Ai-chan are going with us.”

Urufu gave first Noriko and then Ryu a long stare. It proved he had at least learned some Japanese sensibilities. “You're going on an overnight trip the four of you?”

The six of us,” Ryu answered and smiled. “Our parents as well, or I doubt Nao-sempai's and Ai-chan's parents would have allowed it.”

Ah, OK, the girls in one room and you boys in the other?”

The women in one room and the men in another,” Ryu shot back just as he realised he'd been had.

Man, you?”

Go die sucker! “Yeah, man me.”

Funny, and here I thought of your dad as a kid with a runny nose.”

His dad was forty, which made him ten years Urufu's junior, which in turn made no sense at all since he and Urufu both were freshmen at Himekaizen. Transitions between worlds and bodies did funny things to the concept of age.

Urufu, leave him be!” came Noriko's voice, but Ryu could hear how his sister hid her laughter among her admonishing words.

Waiting for Urufu to answer Ryu listened to the subdued noise of his shoes tapping against wet tarmac. Splashing more likely. A short spell of rain had just passed them by and puddles of water glittered in the lamplights.

From time to time headlights dazzled them and when the sound engines vanished behind them Ryu had to blink away the sudden sensation of blindness.

Almost a block the walked before he understood that Urufu had declined to respond.

I think they're done for,” Noriko said to banish the awkward silence. “Himekaizen just went public with the decision to admit ten freshmen classes, and I think Irishima high will announce that they're admitting an extra class soon enough.”

When did you hear that?

I know,” Urufu said. “I spoke to the old goat an hour ago. They'll suspend Christina for a week while they decide how to handle her previous part time work.”

What?” Kuri suspended?

You haven't heard?”

Heard what?”

Apparently Christina worked part time as a hostess during spring term,” Urufu said. “They're kinda pissed off at school right now.”

No, he hadn't heard. But if this was true then anyone on a vengeance trip was certain to lay their hands on a bucketful of ammunition.

How bad is it?” Ryu asked.

Anyone but Christina or me and we'd be talking automatic expulsion,” Urufu said. “They want us arrivals attending Himekaizen for some reason, so that won't happen.”

Because you're some kind of special kids? And just shove it Ryu! They are special. I need to accept that. Ryu shook his head in disgust of his own envy.

What's the fallout?”

They'll tack on an extra week of suspension I guess. She'll get drowned in make-up classes and her agency will get one hell of a firmer grip on her career.”

And why is that so bad?” Ryu wondered.

Idiot bro! Urufu, I'm so sorry!” Noriko suddenly shot in.

Can't be helped,” Urufu said. “With a bit of luck they won't force us to break up immediately.”

Whoa! Break up?”

Yeah. They'll want to purify her reputation, make a decent girl out of her and all that shit. Just because you suffer from an epic case of Madonna whore complex in Japan.” Urufu went silent and stared at his shoes. “Fucking third world backwater excuse for a country!”

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Midsummer's day, 2040, late morning

Christina tugged at Kyoko's sleeve. “Bad idea.”

Huh?” her friend said.

I wouldn't go inside the boat house right now. Let's talk loudly and make some noise first,” Christina suggested.

Beneath them seawater glimmered in the sunshine and the boat house wall was speckled with mirror shaped reflections of the sun dancing around to the broken rhythm of the waves under the dock.

Around them seagulls greeted the summer's day, and any other time Christina would have regressed to childhood for the joy of showing her best friend what the Swedish west coast was like in summer.

Now, however, she needed to make certain they made a ruckus before something really embarrassing happened. Christina had good reasons to believe her daughter was inside letting someone else explore her body for the first time.

What about a short swim?” Christina said. The sound of bathing people nearby should wake anyone up, and if her kid was stupid enough not to get the message, then the entire party could walk in on the pair as far as Christina was concerned.

Now?” Kyoko asked, but she was already getting out of her dress. Like most of them she wore her swimsuit underneath.

Moments later Christina watched how Kyoko hit the surface with a shriek. That's your wakeup call kids. Make good use of it.

Her kid insisted on bringing her boyfriend since a couple of months, which in Christina's world was the same as planning for her sex-debut. As a mother she didn't mind at all. He was painfully shy and could need all the help he got from his girlfriend. In a way, but for very different reasons, he was a bit like Ulf.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Prologue, 2000

Do you love her?”

Yes, yes I do, but it's not like when I met Kerstin.”


Mitsuo cringed when Natsumi mauled the name of his first wife.

Please, I was born and raised here in Japan just like you, but I made an effort to get her name right,” he said and turned to Tadao. “Could you please ask your girlfriend not to do that again? She's doing it on purpose.”

Tadao just grinned. “Wife, she's my wife now. Wakayama Natsumi. What do you like the sound of that?”

What? Since when did you get married?”

The grin grew wider. “Since we found out just how special Valentine was.”

Mitsuo watched as Natsumi hid her face in her hands.

Wakayama Tadao, you're a pig!”

His best friend since ten years ducked the backhand fist that flew in his direction and promptly hid behind Mitsuo's back. “Sorry my love. Just gloating.”

What the? Oh. Oh! “Congratulations! When?”

Two things registered in Mitsuo's mind. First how all the conversations around the tables closest to them died abruptly, and then how perfect strangers near them grew knowing smiles in an instant.

He's a pig and you're an idiot. What did I do to deserve the two most important men in my life to develop this way?”

Just to make sure she wasn't angry for real Mitsuo studied Natsumi's face. Wakayama Natsumi, not Masuda Natsumi any longer. What he saw behind those eyes was gleeful joy hidden behind a show of aggravation.

When?” he repeated.

Natsumi smirked before she answered. “November. Twins, we'll have twins.”

You're worth it,” was all Mitsuo could say. He knew how much Natsumi had longed for a child. Already during their last year in high school she started talking of getting married and raising children. That Tadao filled the position as father was a given, not that Tadao had been asked or really had any say in the matter.

And don't you try squiggle out of my question! Do you love her?”

Mitsuo grimaced. “As I said. I do. We'll marry next year or the year after that. I know you treasure your childhood friend, but she's my girlfriend now. Quite frankly it's none of your business.”

For the second time during their dinner Natsumi flew her hands to her face, but this time in mock surprise. “Fine, I can respect that.”

You understand we'll move, do you? I just can't stand this version of Tokyo any more. I'm too old.”

Natsumi nodded in response. “Where, and what do you plan to do?”

I've found a run down onsen near Ise. I think I could develop an impressively accurate taste for what retired couples want from an overnight stay. Especially given my youth.”

Beside him Tadao groaned at the joke having grown stale long ago. “Given your youth, yeah. You're what, eighty now?”

Yeah. That's why we're moving south. I remember whom we sided with during the last great recession. I can see what's happening here now, and I don't like it.”

What do you mean?” Tadao asked. Suddenly there was no trace of his usual inane jokes in his voice.

Mitsuo gave his reply a thorough thought before he spoke again. Both his friends were much too young to understand, and they only knew Japan as an economic juggernaut. If the current recession didn't break soon the optimistic and open-minded Japan Mitsuo had grown to love could very well revert back to something much uglier, something he had spent most of his life trying to atone for.

I'm afraid we'll see the section handling arrivals split in two. I'm afraid the arrivals will land in the middle of a power struggle. Basically I'm just afraid.” He looked at his friends, and waited for them to say something, but none did. “I'm not like you two. I taught you how to fight, but I don't have the strength to do so myself again. I'll sit this one out by the side-lines.”

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Midsummer's day, 2040, morning glory

It's not very warm,” Yukio complained.

Ulf pushed up his sunglasses and looked at his friend. “Yeah, you're right about that. We get a lot of sun this time of the year, but it's not as hot as in Japan.” He laughed at the comparison and recalled the bleak winters from his previous life. “We don't get as much sun during winter, so it evens out.”

You mean light's out during winter?”

That question came just a bit too close to the memories Ulf had played along with before Yukio joined him in the morning sun.

Yeah, and we don't even get much snow to mitigate the darkness.”

Yukio must have noticed something, because he coughed, lit a cigarette and looked into the sky. “But right now the sun's getting warmer, the air is crisp and we're enjoying the outdoors in its full glory,” he said after letting out a lungful of smoke.

Where did you get that string of melodramatic drivel from? It mattered little. Ulf was grateful his friend had changed the topic. His two first winters in Japan had really been mental light's out.

Thursday, 14 April 2016


As little as a week earlier he would have thought riding out the storm possible. Now it didn't look that way. Hadn't he been Japanese he might have contemplated leaving the country, but what was the point in racial purity if you left the islands behind you?

Right now he was fighting for his life as an upstanding member of society. At least in one aspect the enemy had made a dangerous miscalculation. His wife knew his loyalty to her was absolute. They shared that loyalty and had done so since they married close to forty years earlier. It wasn't love – it was something much stronger and cleaner.

Last night she waited for him when he came home. Dinner ready and a bath drawn as always but this time she brought him an unexpected bonus.

Somehow the Himekaizen kids had made stronger allies than just the Wakayama family, and with that information it was just a matter of digging up some dirt on the new players. Everyone had something they wanted to hide from prying eyes.

While idiot gaijin believed proper Japanese women stayed home because they were abused and helpless servants, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than being tied to one company they knit strings of power with other women married to men from different domains of influence, other wives to powerful men who could be manipulated. Only a moron failed to respect his wife, and there were a lot of morons out there with political clout.

Together they'd topple those behind the bothersome kids, and in doing so pulling the kids down as well. He didn't plan to go down alone, and his wife would despise him if he allowed that to happen.

With a smirk on his lips the principal of Red Rose Academy put his seal to a letter of resignation which he hid in the small safe behind his desk.

Rumours had it Principal Nakagawa of Himekaizen Academy had a similar safe behind his. Maybe he was just luckier keeping his dirty secrets behind locked doors, but that luck was bound to run out.

The time had come to fail to blackmail one diet member who had bought a few hours of conversation with the tall Swedish whore half a year earlier. The powerful man wouldn't crumble under such a weak threat, but he was certain to hang the girl out to dry to save his own skin just in case.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Chapter six (segment ten), 2016, November, Yukio

This might sound like a strange request, but apart from club hours I want you two to work part time at Stockholm Haven café.”

It was definitely a strange request, but one Yukio could understand.

Anything more?” he asked.

Yes, after work you're to walk Takeida-san home, call me and go home yourself.”

Yukio wondered how many students had their principal's number in their contact list. “Understood Nakagawa-sensei,” he said. He would do as told. Kyoko had already been attacked once, and the way their school had upped the ante he didn't want to risk a repeat.


Yes Takeida-san?”

What about Yukio, eh, Matsumoto-san?”

Yukio felt his shoulders rise at Kyoko's unfamiliar use of his surname. She hadn't for months now.

Principal Nakagawa rested his elbows on his desk. He looked at Kyoko and scratched his chin. Then he caught Yukio's eyes with his own before Yukio had a chance to protest. “That's a relevant question. I'm afraid we'll have to chance Matsumoto-san walking home alone.”

Not good enough,” Kyoko protested.

Nakagawa-sensei grimaced, but in the end he nodded at her. “Do you have bikes?”

Yukio didn't, but his mother had one he could borrow. “Yes,” he said.


Kyoko grimaced before she answered. “I'm not allowed to use one. It's not… it's not proper for a young woman.”

From the corner of his eye Yukio saw Nakagawa-sensei shoot Kyoko an equally stunned look of incomprehension.

Not proper?” Principal Nakagawa finally asked.

Kyoko blushed slightly. “My father says it's unbecoming of a woman.”

What the hell? Did he time-slip from the Meiji era?

Ah, I take it you don't have a bike then,” Nakagawa-sensei said and avoided the question that should have been asked.

With a frown Yukio watched Kyoko shake her head. Well, the bastard almost left me lying on the street after I got beat up. Some people shouldn't be allowed to have children. Then Yukio regretted that thought. If some people weren't, then his lovely Kyoko wouldn't be by his side now.

Matsumoto-san, could you walk Takeida-san home and ride back to your home afterwards?”

The question made sense. He was much less likely to get into trouble if he biked home. “Yes. Yes, I'll do so.”

Well, that settles it. You're dismissed.” With those words Nakagawa-sensei rose from his chair.

The meeting was over and Yukio bowed quickly before he grabbed Kyoko who had done likewise and hurried out of the office.

Guess we could as well make some cash from James, he thought when they trotted away in the direction of their club room. Could as well grab some stuff from there and carry it to the café. We're moving before we're forced to anyway.

Because they were. Any day now Noriko's mother would show up with a pick-up and help them move furniture from the club room to Stockholm Haven café. The inner room would be cramped, but in all honesty the main area was better suited for lounging purposes. The inner room was superior as a workspace though.

We'll be the only club with our club room accessible for another school. Two other schools, Yukio added mentally. But we're planning to make that one other school.

Yukio, slow down! You're hurting me!”

Yukio broke his stride and came to a stand still. “Sorry,” he said. Then he saw how red Kyoko's wrist had become. “Crap, I'm really sorry. Please forgive me!”

She massaged her arm and gave him a glare. “Don't worry. You just can't drag me along like that without telling me where we're going.”

You knew we were headed for our room, but you just don't like being dragged along without my asking. He had some reflection to do. She was his girlfriend, not his property, and if he didn't behave properly he'd lose her and deserve it.

I was thinking we should move one of the boilers and some of the tablets for tonight,” Yukio said in an attempt to change the topic.

Kyoko gave him a relieved smile and nodded.

You know,” she said as they slid open the door, “I think getting to know Irishima high students is a god thing, but what about Red Rose?”

Yukio rummaged through the shelves and bagged half a dozen tablets while Kyoko went for the lounge area and one of the three water boilers in the room. He knew they had until it was time to leave before he needed to come up with an answer.

I try not to think about it,” he said in the end. “To be honest I'm more worried about the new members from the transfer batch. They saw Red Rose Hell first hand for an entire term before transferring here.”

Kyoko left the room and Yukio closed the door behind them. There were quite a few students at school, but during club hours they usually didn't loiter in the corridors and thus it looked a lot more deserted than it was.

They haven't complained about the move,” Yukio continued when it was clear Kyoko expected some kind of explanation monologue. “There are so many of us there I think they feel safe.”

Idiot!” came the unexpected reaction.


Just about everyone at Himekaizen was present when they maimed Urufu. Why should the transfer students from Red Rose feel safe at the café?

He mulled over the question while they descended the stairs. Because we're aware of the danger now? he thought. Because those who attacked Urufu all were hospitalised as well? But that wasn't the reason, or a least that shouldn't be the reason. We can't make people feel safe based on having the other side more scared than us.

I don't know,” Yukio said when they got outside. He looked at the darkening skies and pulled his coat closer. “It's just a feeling. I think it's a good thing there are students from three schools at the café. I think having the war out in the open somehow makes it less scary.”

Are you telling me the truth?”

He looked at Kyoko and hugged her closer to him. Not entirely, he admitted to himself. “Maybe I just can't be that scared when I'm with you,” he said, and that was probably the truth in as much as there was something you could call truth. It didn't help those from Red Rose, but it did help him, and that was enough for now.

He could only be Urufu's wingman and Kyoko's hero, and he guessed it was the same for her. Neither he nor the woman he loved could protect more than two important ones. That was the depressing reality when you listened to the tunes of the wingman blues.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016


There's a major overhaul going on at RRL. If you belong to the group who read Transition and Restart there it's currently basically not doable.

Let them sort the issues out after the site upgrade.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Chapter six (segment nine), 2016, November, Christina

Christina walked down the stairs to the vending machines on the entrance floor. Throughout her body she felt waves of pleasure reminding her that while all her plans to take Ulf to her bed had failed thus far, just being close to him when he thought of nothing but her was more than enough.

This is what I really want. Sex is fine, but I can wait. This, however, this I can't wait for. I need it. I need you!

She giggled at the memory of Noriko's expression when the girl finally understood what Christina had experienced during those moments when the tension in their clubroom grew unbearable.

You're too cute. I hope you'll share some of this with Nao-sempai, but you're really too young.

Having arrived by the machines Christina dug up a few coins and fed them into the slot. For once she picked a bottle of tea rather than the coke she usually chose.

I remember being in love with being in love. First love is like that, but it's a wonderful experience in itself. Enjoy it while it lasts Noriko. You've become an important friend.

Christina smiled and changed into loafers. She put her indoor shoes in her locker and left the school.

As she passed the gravel on the school-yard her thoughts darkened and coming up to the line of naked sakura all thoughts of love left her. It was as if those thoughts belonged to the innocence of school and had no place in the real world outside.

After she put the school gates behind her Christina pulled her phone from her bag and sent a select few photos to Kinoshita-sensei, her main photographer. After that she dialled him.

Ageruman here,” she said, using the Japanese version if her name. Despite having been assigned to Europe during his previous life Kinoshita-sensei's spoken English was sub-par, and Christina found no reason to impair his understanding.

Hello Kuritina,” he replied.

At least he's used to Europe enough to dispense with the honorifics. “I've sent the shots I think would be easiest to use.”

Are you sure about this?” her photographer said. “This is the kind of photos that could destroy your career.”

She had thought of that, but that was also precisely the reason they were perfect. “Yes. We'll spin this a bit differently though. Can you accentuate the wet T-shirt aspect of those shots?”

Yeah, but why? That's even worse.”

Make sure to include one or two shots that clearly display me being assaulted.”

A few seconds of silence followed. “You calculating little bastard,” came the admiring reaction a bit later. “Who are you sending to the gallows?”

Christina smirked. “We have proof the principal of Red Rose paid for the assault. We just have to tweak the truth a bit. Make it so that he paid for those photos rather than having me beat up.”

What are you after?”

Despite the question Christina knew that Kinoshita-sensei understood perfectly well. He just wanted confirmation.

I want it on the grapevine that submissive high school girls turn him on.”

You do know that he's married with kids?”

She was, and she didn't care. He had her Ulf sent to hospital, which meant she cared more for vermin. “After this, I doubt it,” Christina said. “Make sure it hits the news in the end. I want him permanently destroyed.”

If that's what you want. Fine, I'll make it happen.”

Even though he made that promise Christina felt the hesitation in Kinoshita-sensei's voice. You're a good person. You're not like me. It does you honour that you doubt my course of action before destroying another human. “That is what I want,” she said and finished the call.

Next was Nakagawa-sensei. He'd blanch at how far she was ready to go, but he'd also agree more wholeheartedly than her photographer. Nakagawa-sensei had a sinister streak to him, an inner sadist that he kept firmly in check. Christina had worked with people like him before. They made the best and most honest of her subordinates during the dog eat dog years when she built her empire.

She made that call and continued walking. A few steps behind her her bodyguard followed like a shadow. He had caught up to her just as she left the school, and he would follow her doggedly until she reached home. Christina suspected someone else handled the surveillance from there on, but she hadn't really seen anyone else.

Still, from her prior experience good security companies knew how to be discreet to uphold at least the illusion of privacy when she was at home.

She sighed and continued walking towards the train station. Any other day she'd have joined Ulf's team, the one with the least physically able club members. Their walking talking sessions weren't as strenuous as what Ulf preferred, and only after his own hospitalisation did he agree to split the club into two groups.

Less walking and more talking as they said, but it wasn't really true. The faster walking group talked just as much, but Ulf wisely didn't say anything to allow the members to keep appearances up.

Today's shoot will be a long one. You might want to call your employer about that,” Christina said into the air. She knew her bodyguard caught up on what she said. If he acted on it or not was his problem.

When I'm done I'll grab some food and return home,” she added. “If you know of a cheap but decent place I'm willing to listen.” If you know of a place I can afford and you can secure in advance, Christina thought. It never hurt making work easier for people when there was no cost associated for herself.

Damn, I never thought I'd be grateful for this kind of security, but things are going to get really, really ugly soon. They already had, but as of now their smear campaign had turned into open warfare, and Christina didn't know how far the enemy was prepared to go in order to survive.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Chapter six (segment eight), 2016, November, Ulf

And that's the real beauty of it, Ulf thought as he waited for Christina to finish her explanation.

How to expand your market shares in a shrinking market. Just force a competitor out of that market. It was brilliant. Irishima high and Himekaizen aimed at stealing some 350 students from Red Rose. That was effectively the same as shutting the school down. Especially as a few middle schools stood waiting in the shadows ready to gobble up students from grade seven through nine, among them Christina's old school.

Christina and Kyoko's, Ulf reminded himself. She's the most important person in the world for Yukio.

Ulf took a deep breath before he continued. He still got winded quickly and it would take until the beginning of next year before he could start rebuilding the stamina he had always taken pride in.

Anyway,” Ulf said. “as you can see one of the classrooms is this very room, so come April we'll be without a clubroom.”

There were quite a few shouts of outrage, and Ulf waited for them to quiet down.

In return,” he continued when the room was silent enough for him to be heard again, “we've been given special dispensation to use the inner room at the café as our clubroom. It's cleared with the management there as well.” Which means James was behind the entire idea from the beginning, but I can't tell them why, Ulf thought. It made sense though. This way James got into closer contact with both arrivals as well as the Himekaizen part of whatever shadowy organisation that took care of the arrivals over the years.

Ulf shot Christina a worried look before he continued. Nakagawa's words from just after their evening meeting at the café played in his thoughts. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to refuse running for the student council after all. Without Nakagawa to cover their backs they'd be forced to gamble on how the new principal would play his cards, because here in Japan it was bound to be a 'he'.

Given these circumstances I've decided that the theme for our walking talking sessions will be corporate competition.”

Corporate competition?” Sakura asked and reminded Ulf that she wasn't anywhere nearly as silent and withdrawn as she had been in the beginning. “What about our school subjects?”

It's the theme,” Ulf said. “Apart from classic Japanese we'll use the theme as the core for all subjects. For example we'll use examples from economic calculus for math, discuss real cases in English and Japanese and look at older cases from modern Japanese history.”

When he received blank stares in return Ulf palmed his face. This is going to take a while to explain.

He was saved by Noriko. “It's an interdisciplinary approach,” she said. “We're merging knowledge from separate knowledge domains to, eh, to increase our understanding of each domain,” she said, but her voice fell strangely silent at the end.

Ulf stared at her. That's almost correct, and shows way more understanding than any sixteen year old girl has any right to have. “Noriko got the gist of it,” he said. “It also helps us see how different domains are connected to each other,” he added, more for her benefit than for the others. They wouldn't understand the application of synthesis. Most of his old colleagues from his previous life hadn't, but Ulf suspected Noriko was already very, very close to do so.

He watched Christina distribute the compendia they had prepared. He had done most of the research, but she forced him to do a full rewrite of all sections concerning large conglomerates. He was too cute and naive she had laughed, and when it came to global business Ulf saw no reason to distrust anything she said. After all she was the billion dollar empress.

Kid's, you're getting a crash course my old Swedish customers would have paid millions of yen for. With you as a lecturer I doubt yen would suffice, Ulf thought and looked at her. You saved me. Without you I doubt I would have kept my sanity. I owe you so much more than I could ever give you.

She must have felt his gaze, because she suddenly stopped handing out compendia and stood staring back at him. He felt his cheeks heat up, and it was impossible not to meet her eyes.

No matter what you're stunningly beautiful, but that's not what keeps me by your side. Slowly her face faded from his vision and he only saw Christina's intensely blue eyes meeting his. I love your strength, and I love the caring you that you always try to hide. I love knowing that side of you. I wish I could stay with you forever!

And then even her eyes left his view and Ulf found himself locked in memories and the very love he felt for her. Right here and right now there were only the two of them, and in his mind he felt her embrace as real and soft as if they had really been alone together.

I've missed that feeling of being together. Since that day I've missed you even when you were with me. This was the real feeling he had longed for, this, the feeling of being together which for him was more real than seeing her face from his hospital bed.

His chest constricted and a pleasant warmness spread through his body from his stomach.

Wow!” a voice in the background said. “Hey! You two, you're making us embarrassed.”

Ulf vaguely registered Nori's voice, and for once he probably wouldn't be accused of being the motor mouth, because most of the murmurs seemed to agree with him.

Man, get a room before you look at her that way,” Yukio said, and the indecent suggestion brought a guffaw to most of the members. The awkward feeling dissolved, but not before Christina snorted in a failed attempt to pretend she hadn't been caught up in the tension.

That was intense! Ulf thought, and once again he recalled the reason he had fallen helplessly in love with her.