Friday, 24 March 2017
Midterms coincided with the weather finally deciding it was time for summer, and Ryu spent an uncomfortable afternoon doing exams in a classroom not yet prepared for the shift in temperature.
As usual having to wait yet another week before changing into the summer uniform didn’t help at all.
He knew he’d pay for spending his thoughts elsewhere. Maybe not that high a price, but it would show in his results. Elsewhere lay in the other wing, more precisely where Kuri sat with her exams.
I’m an idiot for falling in love with her, Ryu thought and attacked the next problem.
I’m an arse for allowing myself to forget about Ai, he thought when he was done.
Most likely he’d given the correct answer, but his mind wasn’t really into it.
He wasn’t alone.
Himekaizen Academy was in an uproar since the last two weeks. With the addition of a substantial number of Red Rose Hell students came a small but loud voiced minority of parents who very much supported Principal Kareyoshi’s ideals. For rather obvious reasons another faction of parents reacted with outrage.
While most tried to just watch by the sidelines and hope for the commotion to die down, by now there was no putting the lid back on. Reporters hung around the school for other reasons than stalking Kuri these days, and Ryu suspected only the fact that Himekaizen was part of the organisation handling arrivals kept the board of directors from openly siding with Kareyoshi to quiet down all bad publicity.
He turned the page and continued answering questions while he mused on the outrage that had become routine.
The silence in the classroom belied everyday reality. For this week only his school seemed just like any other school, but when exams were over and done with the fight between factions was bound to start all over with renewed vigour. Which meant Monday.
Another hour and Ryu was done, as were everyone else. He’d make it into the top fifty again, but given that club activities in reality mirrored some strange version of a cram school that really was a setback.
He left the classroom and made his way to the shoe lockers. Indoors shoes switched places with loafers, and with bag in his hand he walked through the doors and onto the gravel separating school building from main gate.
As he was about to leave the school compound there was some kind of commotion behind him. Turning he saw Kuri being withheld by a teacher and Urufu walking towards them both.
Ryu played with the thought of turning back to ask what it was all about, but he abandoned the idea and left school. Whatever problems the staff had in store for Kuri and Urufu, they were more than equipped to handle it themselves.
He came home, ate, bantered with his sister, took a bath, slept, and it wasn’t until Monday, when he returned to school, that he regretted not finding out what it was all about.
It all started with a: “Suspended for cheating?”
It continued in class when their teacher announced a number of students had indeed been suspended for cheating during the midterms. Apparently expulsion was on the table as well.
During lunch the sheer scale of it all became evident, and most of the club members simply skipped all afternoon lessons and went to the Stockholm Haven café.
“Certain about this?” Ryu asked.
“Yeah,” Jirou answered. By now he was thoroughly confident with a computer in his hands, and he showed Ryu a diagram on his screen. A diagram that had to have been enhanced by Kyoko.
“The red zone?” Ryu wondered while he fought down his outrage.
Jirou grimaced and nodded towards Jeniferu-chan and Tomasu-kun. “They gathered the data, but the freshmen aren’t as coordinated as the rest of us.”
The rest of us. That means juniors. We hardy have any seniors as members. “Meaning?”
“Meaning we can’t fully trust the data for the freshmen classes, so, red.”
Ryu bit down on his cake and swallowed some coffee to go with it. It didn’t matter. What he saw on the screen was enough.
“And you’re absolutely certain about this?”
Jirou shrugged. “Certain enough to take it to a newspaper.”
Ryu thought about that for a while, but then he shook his head. “Won’t make any news. People don’t really like Koreans or Chinese anyway.”
Bastard! “Japanese people, fine!” Spending too much time around Urufu had made Jirou far too adamant about semantic precision. “Or at least the racists among us.”
Jirou smirked. “It’s enough with ‘Japanese people’ I’m afraid. To be truthful I’m more than a little ashamed myself.” He stared down at his keyboard before he continued. “I used to think that way myself.” Then he looked back up and met Ryu’s eyes. “It’s wrong, you know that?”
Ryu did, and he nodded. Noriko, not he, almost paid a very dear price for knowing that. And only one of those foreigners you couldn’t trust was there to save her.
“Everyone?” he asked and pointed at the screen.
Jirou nodded. “Everyone. At least among the juniors.”
Shaking his head Ryu clenched his fists. “There’s no way every non Japanese student with above average result cheated.”
“That’s what the data says. And they’re all suspended.”
“Cause Kareyoshi doesn’t want them around when he goes off expelling them all,” Jirou said calmly.
No sensei? Just ‘Kareyoshi’? Watching Jirou’s eyes Ryu finally understood the contempt Jirou felt. In his eyes Principal Kareyoshi no longer deserved any kind of honorific.
“So a couple of weeks from now there won’t be any foreigners at Himekaizen?”
“Fuck you,” Jirou said. “I’m taking this somewhere. Someone is bound to make a ruckus about it.”
Good. Like that backbone. “I’ll help you.” Ryu grinned. “You know what this means?”
Jirou shook his head.
“Revolt. We’re revolting.”
Monday, 13 March 2017
Christina glanced at the chairs where Noriko sat. Half a year earlier she just thought Noriko’s infatuation with Ulf was cute, but now there was a determination in the short girl’s eyes that was anything but small.
With a sigh Christina returned to the problem she was solving. School work had become substantially easier as her grasp of the Japanese language improved. She could only guess at what Ulf was able to do now.
That was the thing. She could only guess. After she broke up with him he understandably opened up even less to her than before, and therein lay her jealousy. She suspected Noriko held the key she herself lacked. If the girl put her mind to it she was bound to break through Ulf’s layers of defences.
Not that Christina had any right to protest. She had broken up with the man she loved, and she had made herself a new boyfriend to boot.
She threw another glance in Noriko’s direction, or rather over the head of he girl. Outside that door her bodyguards stood preventing anyone not a member of the club to get inside. There had been numerous attempts.
The door opened and James waved at her to come.
Christina left the whiteboard and passed just behind Noriko. She suppressed an urge to what the girl over her head and left though the narrow door.
“Yes?” she asked James.
He just pointed at the entrance, and flanked by her bodyguards Christina went outdoors.
A teacher, the fiancée of her English teacher, or maybe husband now, Christina wasn’t certain, stood there. Unfortunately he wasn’t merely a teacher. He was also one of Kareyoshi’s goons.
“What do you want here?” Christina deliberately made her voice as cold as possible.
“I’m here to tell all students to go home. They’re not allowed to stay here after schools hours.
She met his eyes. During her first day at school he’d undressed her with his eyes. A creep.
“This is still club hours.”
“You’re not an official club.”
“Official enough for the PTA to support us. Get lost!” Supervise us is more correct. Christina decided to let her own lie slide.
“I don’t have time with this,” the teacher began and started to push through. He might not have tried too much to avoid brushing against her breasts when he pushed her aside, but saying that he deliberately tried to touch her up was rather dishonest. Christina didn’t care.
Her guards had him lying on the streets in seconds, and after that he was shoved inside the police car that always stood across the street.
While the two policemen weren’t too keen on handling a rather dubious case of sexual assault Christina made a very big deal about teachers stalking teenage idols who were also their students. She conveniently left out that he didn’t actually teach any of her classes, but he was a teacher at her school, and that was enough.
You’re out of a job idiot. I’ll make this a public scandal.
Just like Ulf she was utterly ruthless when push came to shove. Destroying a professional career for an antagonist didn’t bother her the least.
Am I really honest?
She looked at the police car as it drove away.
No, he’s not as ruthless. He’d never do that just because it was an easy way to get rid of an arsehole.
The thought disturbed her a little, but she shrugged it away.
Then she was surrounded by photographers, and her bodyguards had to shield her while she made her way indoors again.
Christina listened to the jingle of the doorbell as she entered, and then she met the eyes of the students packing the café. Inwardly she sighed with relief. She might be an upcoming superstar, but she was one they saw almost every day.
With a nod she affirmed James’ silent question if she wanted another coffee and after that she steeled herself before joining her club members in the inner room.
Ulf would be there, calm and hyper active at the same time. Eyes glittering with joy as he explained some concept, and that joy spreading into a grin that both expressed mischief and confidence. He’d be close to her, the man she once fantasised about, and in this life made her own for a little more than half a year. The man she eventually lost, but one she never ceased loving.
You’ll stay with me for the rest of my life, won’t you? In my mind you’ll never go away.
She took a deep breath and opened the door.
Inside organised chaos ruled as students from both schools milled around between white boards and tables. There were tablets everywhere, and now, a few weeks after students from Irishima High joined the madness, even they had started to get used to Ulf’s peculiar way of teaching.
Or rather his way of creating a learning environment. Those were his words. He disliked the word teaching. It implied that knowledge and competence could be force fed to someone.
Christina sat down beside Noriko. Partially because it was a way to stay closer to Ulf, partially because Noriko’s ability to explain math was superb, and partially because Christina genuinely liked the short girl.
Jealous, yes. Insanely angry with Noriko’s blatant attempt to reel Ulf in, yes. But dislike? No. Throughout the disastrous ending of her relationship with Ulf Noriko had stood by her side. In the long run disliking a friend like that was impossible.
She felt Noriko’s fingers tapping her hand.
“Idiot bro will get angry if you keep staring at Urufu like that.”
Christina followed Noriko’s glance and met Ryu’s look. He did indeed look more than just a little uncomfortable. “Angry, why?”
“Cause he’s falling in love with you again,” came the simple answer. “You should know.”
With a frown Christina looked at her boyfriend again. Oh dear. Well, I did ask him to be my boyfriend for real. She smirked, but she also decided to give him an honest chance. She disliked arseholes and didn’t intend to become one.
Saturday, 4 March 2017
Sports festival came and passed without much ado during Urufu’s suspension. Then he returned and Kuri got temporarily booted out of school, as expected for her public stunt on the school yard.
Noriko didn’t have much of a problem with that. Principal Kareyoshi might be a rabid dog, but you just didn’t challenge authority that way in Japan. Secretly she was certain you didn’t in Sweden for that matter.
Then the principal called everyone to a morning meeting in the gym and placed the blame for every mishap during the sports festival squarely on Urufu, Kuri and a trio of Korean girls, one of whom had been forced out of the planning committee just like Urufu.
Noriko merely felt unease when the students shrugged off the accusations aimed at the Koreans; she was just too used to it, but she felt genuine surprise as almost the entire gym exploded in outrage when Urufu and Kuri were included.
Three days later every member of the, by now defunct, Himekaizen Cultural Exchange Club was suspended for refusing to quit the club and join another of Principal Kareyoshi’s choosing.
Another two days later those suspensions were rescinded after the parents involved forced a meeting with the board of directors. Over ten percent better exam results compared to the other students was just the kind of argument that couldn’t be overlooked.
By now the journalists stalking the school grounds weren’t only paparazzi looking for an opportunity to harass Kuri, but also people from more well known media outlets interested in what was happening at the school.
Principal Kareyoshi was livid, and issued one rule after another, all with nationalistic and racist undertones.
Unsurprisingly the student body revolted. This wasn’t Red Rose Hell.
So the principal dissolved the entire student council and had the members replaced with students he picked. Which turned out to be in direct violation of the rules set up by the school. Which in turn left the entire school in angry chaos when Kuri returned just in time to start preparing for mid terms together with everyone else.
Noriko grumbled as she recalled the last frantic weeks, but now wasn’t the time to be angry. Now was the last week of club activities before all clubs shut down in preparation of exams.
In the case of the, highly unofficial, Himekaizen Cultural Exchange Club, that meant an extra week of studying the Urufu way before everyone started cramming like idiots.
She sat in the inner room of the Stockholm Haven Café, close to the fire cabinet Urufu bought together with James during spring break. Fire cabinet, not a safe, Urufu had said. Noriko wasn’t entirely certain she got the difference. It looked very much like a safe.
Voices reached her through the door from the café proper. It was packed, as usual. Even more so since Kareyoshi’s decree that students were forbidden to visit. These days students sat here long after what was proper, something made possible since the vice principal of Irishima High made an issue of spending his evenings here together with a few of his staff.
This specific day he sat in the inner room and watched Urufu walk from white board to white board where small groups of students attacked one of the strange problems he had created. At least they were strange for the Irishima High freshmen.
A few of them stared after Urufu long after he left for the next white board. Most of those girls.
Noriko grumbled some more.
She brushed her bangs from her forehead and reluctantly acknowledged that she had no right to grumble. With her brother openly going out with Kuri and Nao all but gone from school, with a modelling schedule to rival Kuri’s, Urufu had naturally taken on the role of a benign king among the students, one with an absolute integrity, and one which he had proven he was willing to fight for.
When she gave the freshmen girls a closer look Noriko saw more of adoration than the signs of a crush.
“Urufu, could you help me a little?” she said. Not that she needed any help, but she wanted her share of his attention.
He looked over his shoulder from where he stood surrounded by Himekaizen and Irishima High students by a blackboard, and shot her a smile. “Just finishing this, then I’m all yours.”
You shouldn’t say things like that. But because he did Noriko had decided not to give up. He knew her feelings, so she had nothing to lose.
A few whispered words from the large table in the middle of the room had her switch her attention from Urufu to the whispering students.
Oh, I didn’t mean it to sound like that. Wakayama Noriko needing help from Urufu with school only added to the rumours surrounding him.
As if he needed it. He no longer wore loafers but western style business suit shoes, and he even used a matching belt. Somehow Urufu almost managed to make his school uniform look like a business suit. Shirts that made Kuri raise her eyebrows helped. They barely conformed to school regulations and apparently cost a fortune.
“Excuse me, do you really need his help?”
Noriko turned to face the woman who had sat silently in the room the entire evening. She was a member of the PTA, one who wasn’t convinced that Principal Kareyoshi was a full blown sociopath. Moreover she had a hard time with any student who openly opposed his principal.
“Hamarugen-san’s knowledge is first class. It’s only his Japanese that’s poor,” Noriko said. She heard how defensive she sounded.
“How could a foreigner possibly understand the subjects in Japanese education?”
Oh come on! Because math is different in Japan?
“Hamarugen-san, could you please clarify the last part?”
That was Vice Principal Noguchi from Irishima High.
Urufu threw him a look and smiled. “Of course, sensei.”
Noriko slowly grasped what was happening. Noguchi-sensei just handed Urufu another opportunity to thoroughly destroy Kareyoshi’s credentials.
“Since anyone in academic circles is aware that physics mostly is applied math it only makes sense to reverse the dependency in an educational situation.”
“What I’m trying to say is that using physics problems when explaining math creates a context that makes it easier to grasp how and why math works the way it does.”
Noriko stared at Urufu. You do know the sexiest part with you is your brains? Then she blushed furiously.
The PTA representative gave her a scrutinising look.