Pre-packaged convenience store lunch in a luxury flat made it feel more like home. It would have felt even more like home if Ryu had stayed the night, but he wanted to escort his sister to the shrine, something that told Christina how he still failed badly in the department of allowing Noriko to live her own life.
Just to give him a little hell Christina sent Noriko and Ulf a message each with a heads up. Now it was up to them how to use it.
Christina loved Ryu. That wasn’t the same as blithely allowing him to behave like an arse, and Noriko had fought hard to get together with Ulf. Even when Christina still was jealous of the midget she always admired the little ball of endless energy. You deserve him.
They deserved each other. Ulf was all too often an insensitive buffoon, and Noriko had a personality eminently suited to handle that side of him; probably because she was an insensitive buffoon herself. Which was, Christina silently admitted to herself, only part of the truth. Noriko had ghosts of her own.
Christina grimaced and finished her make-up. After that clothes were a quick business. She had long since discarded the idea of going in a kimono. That garment wasn’t meant for someone with her looks. Instead she settled for a variant of what she had worn during the Christmas date with Ryu. White and cream coloured with a splash of blue. Very few could wear that since you needed a very distinct kind of blue eyes to hold the composition together. She was one of those few. A luxurious mass of golden hair helped.
For most anyone else thinking those thoughts was bragging or at least wistful thinking, but being the Princess of Scandinavia had been her job for over ten years, and after that she created her own empire of beauty. So she knew how she looked, and right now she wanted to look her best for Ryu without going full battledress.
My body’s eighteen this year. The time for being a beautiful girl was coming to an end. Now fifteen long years of being one of the most beautiful women on the planet lay ahead of her. Just as it had done all those years earlier in the upstream world.
She took the lift down, waved her body guard to her side, and together they left the building. For once she sought out the car with the pair of body guards Vogue assigned to her. There were times for being rebellious, but this was not one of them. Hatsumode was very much a public occasion, and going without very visible body guards was tantamount to attracting accident to happen. She had her share of fanatic stalkers; it came with her job.
The car took them to where she had previously agreed to meet up with Noriko. She left it with one body guard still at the wheel and walked to where she expected to find Ryu all alone.
He wasn’t, there at all, and neither was Noriko. Oops, guess I’ll have to call him and see where he followed his sister. She decided to make that call as quickly a possible. Standing all alone in her outfit attracted far too much attention, body guards or no body guards.
Out of service? Christina wasn’t too surprised. They days around New Year saw the network pushed to capacity.
Then the next problem arrived. Christina saw Hitomi walk up on her, just as much without an escort, and to Christina’s consternation in an absolutely gorgeous kimono. Right here and now Hitomi was competition, which didn’t bother Christina at all. Right here and now they were two supremely beautiful women all alone but for the body guards who still decided between being discrete or behaving like bullying muscle.
“Kuri? I expected Noriko.”
Damn! Ryu, or in worst case Nao, would have come in handy now. At least anyone of those two would have taken the worst heat off them.
“I’m trying to call Ryu, but there’s no answer.”
Hitomi gave her a calculating stare. “Both Noriko and Urufu failing to arrive in time? What did you do?”
“Nothing much,” Christina answered.
A sudden gust of wind crept inside he coat. It might look luxuriously warm, but in reality it was only designed to make her look hot in more ways than one. Clothes that actually did keep the cold out usually didn’t look fantastic on the wearer; Ulf was a shining example.
Ah, but Ko-chan said she’d come later. With Yukio I guess. “Oh, they’ll arrive in half an hour or so,” Christina said.
Hitomi smirked. “Half a century’s worth of experience suggesting two dressed up girls stay here waiting alone for half an hour?” The grin turned into a grimace. “Did you leave you brains in that other world?”
A bit further away people were already aiming phones at them. Both body guards outside the car looked uncomfortable and made themselves very visible. Staying here below the stairs to the shrine was no longer an option.
“Up for a ride?” Christina said and nodded at the car.
Hitomi tilted her head. “Not really, but anything is better than being ogled here.” She flipped her handbag into her hand and strode away in the direction of the closest body guard.
Mutely Christina followed. Not the best way to start the day. She caught up with Hitomi. Guess we’ll drive around a little while I call the others.
They reached the car and got inside. Both body guards joined them and with a silent whirring the car left the shrine. Watching the stairs grow smaller and smaller Christina fished for her phone. Ko-chan was priority. Ulf and Noriko were elsewhere, most probably with Ryu in tow.
No service? She glared at her phone and shot Hitomi a questioning stare. The girl opened her own handbag and dug into it. After a short while she wielded a phone with a triumphant smile on her face. Then it darkened.