Monday, 28 December 2015

Slow postings

In Sweden the Christmas and New Years' holidays translate into a two week long vacation. This time it's almost three weeks.

With three kids not going to school or daycare there's very little time for me to sit down and write, and hence I won't be able to publish a chunk every second day.

We're currently halfway through chapter four, which leaves about 25K words before the end of Wingman Blues. The volume should end around mid October in the fiction world.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Chapter four (segment five), 2016, October, Yukio

With the dance over and most of the school empty of students Yukio did a last round to their club room. It had to be a quick one as he'd left Kyoko waiting by the gates.

Karaoke bars all around Himekaizen were filling up with celebrating students, and both Ryu and Noriko promised to organise the club's outing this evening.

He and Kyoko had other plans though.

They failed to pressure Principal Nakagawa into disclosing which hospital Urufu had been sent to, but Rie-sempai was easier to convince, and she soon buckled under the verbal assault from Ryu and Noriko. Maybe he had helped a little himself when he gave her puppy eyes to the best of his ability. Good enough to have Kyoko frown at him at least.

Yukio opened the doors to their club room, went inside and retrieved the cellphone he'd left recharging there. With his phone in his pocket he quickly ran down the stairs, switched to loafers and sprinted across the gravel in the darkness until he saw Kyoko's shadow under the lamplight by the gates.

“Hi,” Yukio said and waved to her.

She waved back, and with a step her dark silhouette broke loose from the gate post and he could see her features when the street light gained access to her face.

She's beautiful, and she's all mine. Surprised at his own possessiveness Yukio wiped the thin smile that had begun to spread over his face.

“Shall we?” he asked.

“Uhum. Tell the guys in Haven?”

Yukio thought about it. “Why not. It's on the way anyway.” Urufu would growl at him if he learned Yukio hadn't dropped a last 'good work' and 'I love working with you guys' before the evening ended.

Thinking of Urufu washed away the last remnants of his smile from earlier.

“Good,” Kyoko said. “Do we tell them?”

Yukio didn't need her to specify what they would tell or not tell. Neither of them had any business dropping by the Haven café and continuing towards the station. That was in the opposite direction from their homes.

“We have to. Not all of it and not all of it the truth.” The thought of lying to the club members didn't sit too well with him.

“Call it an accident?”

He looked at Kyoko. Her suggestion sounded more callous than anything he had expected.

For a while he bit on his lower lip as he listened to the sounds of their footsteps and the occasional car passing.

“Yukio?” Kyoko said when he didn't answer.

He tugged his blazer tighter around himself and silently cursed his stupidity for not bringing a coat. “Yeah, accident sounds good,” he finally said. Accident was probably as good a lie as any other.

“Without Noriko we can't call it a mishap,” Kyoko added.

A mishap. Yeah, that would be Noriko. “Think he'll make it?” Yukio asked the night.

“He has to,” Kyoko answered. “Kuri-chan will break if he doesn't.” She fell silent but he could see her lips moving again. “As will you, and I don't want that,” she murmured.

Yukio suspected he wasn't meant to have heard that and refrained from commenting. “Yeah, he'll be fine,” he said instead. “It's Urufu we're talking about.”


“He's indestructible. All that training just to avoid tripping over his own feet. Guy sure knows how to take a fall. Trust me on this one.” Yukio knew he was rambling, but spewing words was better than handling the silence.

“Our kiddie siblings,” Kyoko agreed and showed him two rows of grinning teeth.

Yukio silently thanked her for playing along. He kept up his rambling, but from how Kyoko answered his hand with her own fingers he understood she knew the real questions that were tumbling around in his head.

All too soon they arrived at the Haven café, and Yukio opened the door to the tinkling of the bell. A few heads turned in his direction and a couple of arms waved for him to enter.

“Soz, guys, we have to go,” Yukio shouted at no one in particular.

“Visiting Urufu?”

A, yeah, they know he's hurt. “Yeah, gotta see what happened to him,” Yukio said. He waved at James behind the counter.

“Happened to him?”

OK, not all of them know. “He had an accident. That's why he left during the afternoon. We're on our way to visit him.” And if you buy that you've got bean paste for brains.

“At this time in the...”

“Sure, give him my regards.” The last interrupting words came from Hiroyuki-kun who didn't look fooled at all.

Yukio nodded a silent 'thank you' to him and left the café with Kyoko. Guess not many people go visiting hospitals late evenings. He'd thank Hiroyuki-kun properly later for covering up his mistake.

“Think anyone believed us?” Kyoko asked.

Yukio stared up at the lamplights ahead and nodded. “Half of them I guess. Doesn't matter. As long as they don't try to tag along it's fine.”

Kyoko nodded. He could see in her face how she imagined what would happen if a dozen of them suddenly showed up at the hospital at this hour.

The temperature continued dropping and when they arrived at the station Yukio sighed in relief at coming indoors even if only for a while.

They would have to change trains once and after that it was a matter of either walking for twenty minutes or waiting for a bus. Given the hour Yukio suspected walking.

“You fine with this?” he asked Kyoko. They wouldn't be allowed to see Urufu, but Kuri sat waiting at the hospital as well, and Yukio didn't know in what shape she was.

“Yes, I'll be fine. If anything she needs me right now.”

I always forget she's as close to Kuri as I'm to Urufu. “OK, let's do this then,” he said and led her to the platform.

Kyoko held onto his hand, and he could see her hair flying when they ran down the stairs. The next train would arrive in mere minutes.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Chapter four (segment four), 2016, October, Kyoko

Kyoko dropped her chairs by the desks closest to the door and pushed them under their respective desk.

Two members of the literary club were busy cleaning the classroom, but nothing here told of the book store it had been for two days.

“Good festival?” Kyoko asked more out of politeness than any real want to know.

“Superb,” one of the girls said and turned her head. She ceased wiping the blackboard for a moment. “We sold out.”

Eight thousand guests simultaneously. Fifteen thousand in total. You'd better be sold out. “Good to hear,” Kyoko said and headed for the door.

Yukio dropped his chairs just inside the sliding doors and followed her to their clubroom.

Inside she saw how Midori-chan and Sango-chan had dismantled the walkie talkie stations and were busy packing everything up in the boxes it had arrived in.

Kenshin-sempai and the three festival committee members she'd never bothered learning their names were still there as well. Kyoko guessed they'd gotten used to sitting in their clubroom, and there really was no point in relocating for the clean-up.

With tired steps she shuffled away to the fridge and grabbed a can of soda. Just before popping it open she recalled Yukio following her into the room and she peeped inside again.

Lemon squash. He likes the sour stuff. She stretched an arm inside and took the can. “Yukio, want one?” she asked and waved the can above her head.

“Sure, and one for Hiroyuki-kun as well.”

Kyoko looked at the sofa where Hiroyuki-kun sat waving at her. Fine, guess you deserve one as well. She took out a second can and beelined for the armchair closest to the fridge.

“Lemon squash for Yukio and Hiroyuki-kun, here you are,” she said.

“Thanks,” both boys answered simultaneously.

She barely had time to sink down in the armchair before she heard the dull clicks of two cans opening and the sizzling sound of pressurised air leaving the containers, allowing bubble to form and rise. Seconds later both boys sucked foam from their cans.

Kids! Kyoko thought, broke open her can and tilted it to her mouth. The first sip was the best.

A quarter of an hour she spent in that chair. A quarter of an hour in blissful silence when she allowed aching muscles to rest. A quarter of an hour before she began worrying about how Kuri-chan felt right now.

After that more and more club members left the room and headed for the gym. Clubs were of different sizes, most cultural ones too small for having a proper celebration, and for that reason the main evening activities centred on class and school. Clubs only gathered for a short time between cleaning up and ending ceremony.

When Yukio made company with the members recently transferred from Red Rose she joined him together with Noriko and Ryu.

Too easy, too easy to forget there are more former Red Rose students than those in 9:1. The thought scared her a little. The thought and the secret she had been let in on. Most of her fellow students didn't know Urufu had been assaulted in the first place, and almost none knew Red Rose high school students were the perpetrators.

How are you keeping it together, Kuri-chan? Kyoko scowled and admitted to herself that she didn't even know where Kuri-chan was keeping things together. Principal Nakagawa somehow arranged for one of the helicopters suddenly arriving over the school to take Kuri-chan to whatever hospital Urufu had been brought to.

“Thank you,” Kyoko whispered to Yukio when she felt his fingers tighten around hers. Are you as worried as I am?

When they arrived at the gym she had to let go of his hand as they joined their respective classes. With Kuri-chan absent Kyoko gravitated towards the Wakayama twins, and she exchanged worried glances with Noriko before they lined up.

Ryu kept up his stupid antics and got told off by their class rep twice before a scowl from Noriko finally calmed him down.

They're afraid both of them. Just show it in different ways. Kyoko suspected Ryu only knew how to be hyperactive whenever he needed to process something beyond his control.

Around them students she didn't even know smiled and showed her all kinds of approving hand signs. It feels strange, being a part of the admired group. Kuri-chan, you could have told me how to respond. Thinking of her friend had Kyoko's stomach in a tight knot again, but she forced herself to plaster a false smile to her face.

She noticed how a wave of sudden apprehension went through the crowd, and then the student council president entered the stage. Rie-sempai, or more properly Tamura-san for anyone outside the club, grabbed a microphone and served them all what Noriko would have called canned clichés. Kyoko even looked over her shoulder to catch Noriko's smirk.

A second serving of empty words rolled over them delivered by Principal Nakagawa, but in his case Kyoko knew it was all an act. She had no doubts who had called in helicopters and trucks after their frantic attempts at keeping the festival afloat failed and the entire event cracked and broke apart around them.

When the last words fell silent the student council president once more took the microphone and congratulated everyone. The entire gym erupted in cheers before the congregated students left for the soccer field where the traditional bonfire folk dance was being prepared.

So it's been kept a secret after all, Kyoko thought. The jubilation had been too honest for anything else. Maybe it was the smart thing to do. Most certainly it was how Urufu would have handled it had he been in charge. Still it left her with a bitter taste in her mouth.

Listlessly she followed Noriko to the field, and in the falling darkness Kyoko finally let go of her false smile. She'd save smiling for when she found Yukio again.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Chapter four (segment three), 2016, October, Yukio

An hour earlier he pulled open the doors to their clubroom to swap radios and almost smashed into a girl standing by Ryu.

Yukio did swap radios in the end, but he also swapped places with Ryu. Thus it was he found himself on the ground helping guests leave through the service gates with Kyoko holding his hand with one hand and waving frenetically to the rooftop where Ryu and that girl stood looking down.

The festival was all but over. The gym closed for the day and the guests inside poured out onto the school grounds. Left inside half a dozen students prepared it for the closing ceremony while Uniclo personnel dismantled their equipment.

This last rush with guests leaving the school was exactly what he needed to stop thinking of Urufu. To keep busy.

“Thinning out?” he asked Kyoko. Stupid question. She couldn't see anything more than he.

“No, I don't think so,” she said. Somehow she must have known he needed to keep the conversation running.

“Fine, I'll call it in.” Yukio did so for the umpteenth time and only received a tired 'OK' and 'over and out' from Noriko for his efforts.

Also with them were Rie-sempai, the student council president, who insisted on being on a first name basis with him. She stood a bit further away. The assault on Urufu shook her back to a reality where she no longer played the parody part of a love triangle, and she once more behaved like a person he could respect.

With most of the insanity a memory belonging to the past two days the remaining work was of a kind the festival committee had planned thoroughly before the festival. With the help of the rooftop surveyors they closed off section after section of the school grounds as the mass of guests thinned out.

On the other side of the gym Yukio saw students carrying chairs and tables. Probably the food plaza being dismantled.

That was what he saw but not what he thought of. Only the presence of Kyoko by his side prevented him from running to wherever Urufu had been taken.

She pulled at his arm and he moved with her. A few steps later they came up to Rie-sempai and together the three of them helped the security detail through the worst of the exodus.

Then the mass of people suddenly thinned out, and the school loudspeakers blared that the 2016 Himekaizen cultural festival was at an end and all remaining guests should head for the gates. Last came the mandatory 'we hope you enjoyed your stay and welcome back next year' line that was empty of meaning just because it had to be said.

Yukio sighed and left the gates. Security could handle the last guests leaving through the back entrance and close the gates when they were done. At the moment more people were needed for dismantling the outdoors café before the finishing ceremony, and after that classes and clubs gathered together for a short self-congratulatory celebration until the traditional folk dance around the bonfire.

With the exception of the Himekaizen Cultural Exchange Club. He doubted there would be much in the way of celebration for them, which was grossly unfair.

“Yukio, we're done here,” Kyoko said.

She led him to the main school yard, en route the confession stands which made him grimace a little and her fidget, and they took up positions by the main entrance and directed people to the main gates.

In less than half an hour only students milled around taking down parts of the stalls and everything inside. The festival committee finally had a chance to shine and Yukio could focus on cleaning out the food plaza.

The grills would have to cool down before they could dismantle them, but stalls, tents, tables and chairs mad their way indoors with stunning speed.

They were more or less done when a loud blare announced that both Uniclo trucks were ready to depart. Yukio called for the main gates to open again, and shortly afterwards he heard the heavy engines roar to life. Above the remaining stalls he saw the glittering trucks leave the school.

Yukio grabbed four chairs and watched Kyoko take another two.

“Let's get inside,” he said.

She nodded and followed him through the main entrance. Inside a festival committee member checked off six chairs on a list and told them to head for 5:1.

Yukio doubted that was coincidence. 5:1 was next door to their club room, and he suspected they were both deliberately let off a bit easier. A silent way to thank members of the club for doing work the last two days that in all fairness belonged to the student council and its attached festival committee.

Kyoko only nodded and carried her chairs to the left wing stairwell and started climbing the stairs. Yukio followed her a few steps below. He could see her up and ahead of him and admired the view to the fullest.

“Perv,” she said without turning as she turned the corner to the last half flight to the third floor.

“Indeed,” he answered. “Want me to stop peeking?”

Kyoko entered the floor and turned. “Don't you even dare. Peek at me, and me only!” With that she danced the first steps towards 5:1 so that her skirts lifted a bit.

Nice view, he thought and laughed. “Yeah, I'll peek.”


“Pink panties?”


You're less flustered these days. “Cute.”

“No. You're supposed to say sexy.”

“Fine, cute and sexy,” Yukio said. That August field trip sure got us closer. “I love you.”

Kyoko stopped and turned. The colour in her face wasn't as much a blush as a sign of anticipation. “How much?”

He didn't say anything, but when he came up beside her he let go of his chairs and pulled her face to him. The taste of kissing you. I'll never get enough. There was no need telling her. The way she met his kiss he understood she knew.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Chapter four (segment two), 2016, October, Ryu

Ryu heard how his sister got things more and more under control, and by now both student council and festival committee were firmly dedicated to finish the festival in good style.

He decided to spend the last hour and half together with the girl from Irishima High who hooked up with him a little earlier. According to her they had met before summer break, and he owned her a goukon.

Ryu did have a vague recollection of bantering with a group of girls on his way to the old mall, and when she insisted they had already exchanged email-addresses he put her to the test.

That event took place just before he decided to spend the afternoon with her, led to him spending it with her if he was honest with himself. Ten seconds it took until his phone flagged an incoming mail. Ryu's weakness for girls who dared him and won got the better of him.

She had an older brother here, or had had if he understood her correctly. The brother of hers transferred abroad, to their sister school in Sweden of all places.

There was an interesting tale involving a girl to be told, and Ryu made a mental note to himself to check it out later, but right now he wanted to get to know the tomboy by his side better.

He turned in the direction she wanted when yet another slap smarted in his lower back; her very special way of getting his attention in the noisy bedlam around them.

“You know I'll have bruises there if you keep at it?” he said to her.

“Sorry about that Wakayama-san,” she said with a toothy grin that revealed exactly how sorry she was.

Ruy pretended to growl and pulled her to the stall she pointed at. “Something to eat together with the ramonade Ai-chan?”

She shook her head. “Someone's behaves pretty familiar with me,” she said.

“Prefer Hasegawa-san?” Ryu countered and exchanged some coins for two glass bottles. The girl in the stall gave him a long look and Ai-chan an even longer.

Ai-chan shook her head. “First name is fine.”

“Then call me Ryu like everyone else please.”

The girl in the stall gave him another stare. 'Everyone else' didn't include those outside 3:1, their club or the remains of his fan-club, but he wasn't about to say that.

He had to shield her back from the crowd when they fled indoors, but as they climbed the stairs to the topmost floors the mass of people thinned out. When they reached the last flight to the rooftop he found them ample space beneath the windows to sit down and share a meal.

“Meat-bun?” Ryu asked and picked up some of his bounty from his bag.

Ai-chan gave him a pair of big eyes before accepting. “When?”

Ryu unpeeled the paper wrapping and grinned back at her. “Your third or fourth slap. When we rounded the corner to the main street.” He put his teeth into the food and waited for her to say something.

“Our cultural festival was nothing like this,” she said.

“Missed it. We were busy planning our own.”

Ai-chan nodded. “Juniors told us we never get many guests from Himekaizen. Sucks.”

She joined him in attacking the food, and they ate in silence only broken by two pops when Ryu pushed down the glass beads sealing their ramonade bottles.

Before they ran out of drink he produced two paper wraps with bean paste cake.

“Second last slap,” Ryu said before Ai-chan had the chance to ask.

She grinned sheepishly and downed the cake together with what little soda she had left.

“So how come you have time for me,” Ai-chan asked and pointed at the armband hastily prepared the evening before.

Ryu got to his feet and looked out through the window. He didn't have that time to be honest, but he also didn't care all that much any longer. “Something came up.”

Ai-chan joined him by the window. “Something came up and you got more spare time?”

Student council finally got their heads out of their arses, he thought, but I can't say that. “Yeah. A matter of getting your priorities straight,” Ryu said instead. You're our guest and you don't need to know the one who managed this madness got jumped by those Red Rose bastards.

Ai-chan wiped her trousers clean. In Yukio's 2D world anything female spent every day all year round in short skirts, but in reality the girls were a lot more sensible than that.

During the walk here Ryu had made an effort to remember her. If she was the one he recalled from summer she had filled out a bit in the chest area since, as well as grown her hair some. And wasn't it dyed that time?

“What do you want to do next?”

She looked at him and smiled. “I'd like to visit that famous club of yours.”

Of all things she could have said that was about the last he had expected, but it made sense in a way. Her brother attended the school on the other end after all.

Ryu dragged her all through the main building corridor to the left wing, past one classroom turned café and another displaying whatever the literary club found interesting or produced themselves. The next door was their club room.

“Sorry if it's a bit chaotic, but we're running the festival from here,” Ryu said before he even realised it came out as boasting.

Ai-chan grabbed his arm before he pulled the door open. “The cultural exchange club runs the festival? What about your student council?”

“We're helping,” Ryu said. The truth wasn't something he should tell an outsider. With that he peeled her hand from his arm and opened the door.

Noriko sat inside and looked up at him when he entered. Then Noriko's eyes wandered to Ai-chan and back to him again. Ryu smirked and shrugged. What could he do? Ai-chan interested him, there was no denying that.

“So, this is where we sit,” he said.

Ai-chan looked at the recharging rack with walkie talkies loading and stared at him. “What on earth?”

“We borrowed some,” Ryu said. Then he noticed the over-abundance of armbands present. He let his eyes walk over three festival committee members and student council treasurer who shared the office area with Noriko. “We help each other,” he added. Because you usually have four members of the festival committee sitting in your club room. Way to make an arse of yourself, Ryu.

A concerto of snores from the lounge area told him Midori-chan and Sho-kun took a break from the madness, and at Ryu's side Ai-chan bent forward to be able to see who produced the impressive sound.

Superb timing guys.

“Nothing more interesting to show your guest?” Noriko asked.

Ryu grimaced. “Most of the festival should be more interesting than this, but she wanted to see our clubroom,” he said and nodded at Ai-chan.

Noriko's eyebrows rose.

“Her brother transferred to Sweden,” Ryu said.

Noriko's eyebrows rose some more.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Chapter four (segment one), 2016, October, Noriko

With the unexpected arrival of trucks carrying everything in her wish-list Noriko dared lean back in her chair and sort out other problems in her enormous inbox.

Stay busy. Stay occupied. Make sure you don't have time to worry about him.

She leaned further back and rested her head on Nao's shoulders. He sat on a chair behind her and hugged her. Had done so since she forced herself to shoulder the broken remains of Urufu's planning. Not once did he comment on how she had her mind full with another man.

“Noriko?” Her radio crackled and the led light stared accusingly at her.

She smirked and pushed the button. “Noriko here.”

“Kyoko here. You can move half the security from the service gates. I don't think the police will leave it before the festival ends. Over.”

“Thank you.” For once Noriko remembered Urufu's instructions from the day before. “Over and out.”

She split the four students from 9:1 into two pairs, had one take a break and the other carry supplies to the stalls needing it most. With a scowl she realised that was just about every stall on the main street.

“Nao, help me,” she said. She sighed and rose from her chair with the help of her arms. All strength long gone from her limbs she needed physical support to move from their office area to the lounge part.

He didn't answer, but he put his right arm around her and held her waist with his hand. It probably looked a bit indecent, but it allowed her to sag in his embrace without falling to the floor.

It's time for some bad acting. Here goes nothing. “Guys,” she said facing the club members. “We don't have time for apathy now. Urufu worked his arse off to make this work, so why the hell are you sitting here you lazy bastards?”

She only wanted to join them, but in the long run that wouldn't make anyone feel better.

“Shut up bitch!”

“I'll shut up when you start working again. Urufu and Kuri are absent. That puts me in charge here. Get the hell out of here and fill up the stalls!” Does that make me sound arrogant enough? Did I make them angry enough to care again?

A couple of members growled, but stood anyway. “Whatever, you piss-ant,” Nori-kun said. “You heard the midget bitch. Let's get moving before she starts wailing.”

Screw you! Noriko stared at Nori-kun as he led a team through the door. Wait a minute, did you just wink at me?

“Yeah, this room stinks of bad mood. I'm off as well,” Hitomi-chan said and got another half a dozen members moving.

Noriko wanted to thank the beauty in Urufu's class, but something told her the timing was off. I deserved that. Thanks guys, seeing through my act and playing along with it anyway.

After that the remaining members walked out in pairs or small groups, and as the room emptied the festival committee members present got more lively. Slowly the club room transformed into the head quarters it had been before the assault on Urufu.

Back at the desks in the office area two festival committee members threw her searching glances, and Kenshin-sempai, the council treasurer, had a playful smirk on his lips.

Noriko wiped some non-existent sweat from her brow and walked up to the windows. Somewhere out there Rie-sempai was making herself useful rather than stalking Yukio. That in itself earned her a name upgrade from merely being the nameless student council president.

Below the windows she saw the bike-stand that indirectly had brought Yukio and Urufu into her life, even though she now knew Urufu would have contacted Kuri sooner or later anyway.

Almost half a year. Has it been that long already? She put her hands to the window pane and listened to Nao coming up behind her.

“Noriko, I'd better help as well. Call me if there is anything.”

Don't turn around. Her need to have him close to her almost overwhelmed her, but he was right. She duped the rest of the club into work mode, and with that she lost all rights to enjoy time with him.

He squeezed her shoulder gently and left the room.

He knows my mind is full of Urufu. I should be more grateful for his strength when I feel this helpless. She took a step backwards, turned and sat down by a desk. With a pang of regret Noriko pushed the button to he radio and called Yukio for a bird's view report on the situation on the school grounds.

The short conversation helped a bit with taking her thoughts from Urufu and whatever hospital he had been taken to. Checking off the items on her laptop helped some more, and by the time she ordered two club members onto the right wing rooftop some of the joy of juggling the festival chaos returned to her.

Another two hours and we're done.

Two hours of keeping it together. The chaos wouldn't get worse, because with Kuri absent most of the sensation seekers left the school as well. The festival stayed crowded beyond reason though. While many guests left, a lot of those caught in the queue outside the gates opted to go inside for lack of anything better to spend their Sunday afternoon on.

This is about the amount of insanity I can handle. Noriko sighed, but when the last of the air left her she allowed her face to split into a smile. She couldn't do anything about Urufu, but she could do something about the here and now. That was good enough.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Midsummer's day, 2014, pre-dawn

Pre-dawn lasted forever, just like dusk's afterglow went on for over an hour the evening before.

The morning chill had nothing of summer in it, or at least nothing that Ryu associated with summer.

He dressed James, who had fallen asleep in a chair, in a second blanket and walked over to the other side of the house. The music had changed character, and he guessed a lot of the kids called it a day by now. A few probably spent the rest of the morning in pairs doing things they incorrectly believed their parents knew nothing about.

Kids! It's about time you got a clue how you came to be our kids in the first place. He smirked and stared down at where the party was still going on. Well it's your party. I'm too old for that crap.

Pre-dawn. He once spent one waiting for a friend to wake up all those years ago, but that time the party ended long before that.

Damn you scared the hell out of us. The magic couple to the rescue. Ryu smiled at the memory. A good one born from something bad. The magic couple, huh. Guess you still are.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Chapter three (segment fifteen), 2016, October, Yukio

Yukio hugged Kyoko closer to him. The blanket barely managed to keep the autumn cool out, but he didn't care. Up here on the rooftop they could be alone at last. He hadn't even bothered bringing their radios.

“She said she hated me!”

Yukio relived his anger at seeing Kyoko's bruised face. The face Kuri struck so hard that vessels burst. Tomorrow it would look like she had used her fist, but Kyoko promised it was a slap.

“She can go to hell!” Yukio said.

Kyoko shook her head. He could feel her nose rubbing his chest. “No. We turned our radios off.”

Yukio stroked her hair and looked down. Late afternoon wind played in it and her blouse.

“Look, Noriko, we couldn't have heard anything. Kuri didn't, no-one with a radio inside the gym did.”

Deep inside he realised Kuri's wrath expressed her fear and helplessness more than anything else, but still. She had slapped his Kyoko.

Deep inside he was scared witless, but he couldn't say that.

His fingers moved through Kyoko's hair while he listened to her sobs. But for her need to believe him a solid rock of strength and safety he'd have joined her long ago.

Are you OK man? Are you going to die on me?

Over the other rooftop a helicopter slowly rose to vanish away from the school. The third to do so in short time, and at the service gates a small truck had just arrived with desperately needed supplies; and Yukio didn't care at all.

The cultural festival had become a meaningless display, one that slowly degenerated into chaos now when most members in the club had fallen into apathy.

“I'm scared,” Kyoko whispered.

Yukio pulled the blanket closer around them. From below he heard the rumbling murmur of thousands of guests milling around the school grounds. Sometimes interrupted by a shout or a loud laughter but always there in the background.

He knew the student council and the festival committee belatedly tried to do the job they should have done from the very beginning, but without the club they didn't stand a chance. Without Urufu if he was honest.

“Kyoko, I'm here. I'll always be here, OK?”

She hugged him tighter and rubbed tears away from red rimmed eyes. “I know. Thank you!”

“Kyoko...” Yukio fell silent. He wanted to stay by her side more than anything else. “Kyoko, you're my hero. Help me be yours!”

She took his hands in hers and rose to her feet. Together they walked to the railings and looked down.

“Yukio, they need us now, but could we stay here for a while longer? Please!”

He looked at her for a long time. “Yes I think we can,” he said and smiled. Smiling was good. Smiling made his fears take a back seat. “In fact I think we have to.”

An icicle of wind cut through his clothes and reminded him of the season. “Will you help me?”

Kyoko nodded back. “Yeah. If I'm with you I can do anything.”

Yukio grinned at her. My girl! He thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone. Noriko picked up on the second signal.

“Noriko, could you have someone come to the rooftop with two radios and a blanket?”

He waited for her surprised affirmation and the anticipated question afterwards.

“Why? Because the festival committee can't find their own arses in the dark, and that's not good enough for Urufu.” Yukio laughed when Kyoko slapped a hand to her mouth. “Noriko, we started this madness. Let's finish it the way we planned. I'll stay on the rooftop with Kyoko and help you get the show running again.”

He almost finished the call there and then, but as an afterthought he put the phone to his ear again.

“Noriko, tell that idiot brother of yours to keep the council president off my back. I only have room for Kyoko on it.”

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Chapter three (segment fourteen), 2016, October, Nakagawa

“We have to tell them!”

Principal Nakagawa looked at the frantic student council president. “No!”

“Don't you have any feelings?”

“No. That's why I'm the principal and you're still just a student.”

She turned and walked for the doors. “You're right. We don't have to tell them, but I have to.”

“I won't allow that,” Nakagawa said. He followed her with his eyes, expecting her to stop and face him again.

With a wave she left his office. Her parting words lingered like a promise: “Whatever. Suspend me, expel me, do whatever, but I'm telling them. Learn to be human!”

Good for you, he thought. You're finally growing a backbone.

She wouldn't reach them in time to create chaos, and he wouldn't punish her for her insubordination. Hers was the morally correct choice and his the only working one. He needed the ambulances to leave through the service gates before the fashion show ended to avoid panic.

“How bad?” he asked the council treasurer who had remained in the office.

The gangly third year frowned before he answered. “All eight Red Rose students hospitalised. Hamarugen-san and Ueno-san as well.”


“Yes. He's the captain of the karate team. The rest of the team suffered superficial injuries at most, but we're sending them to the hospital just in case.”

Nakagawa scowled and rose from his chair. Looking out the windows he watched the absurd crowd on the school grounds below. Eight thousand or more according to the last report. Both gates were closed for new entrants and irritation grew by the minute. She said another four thousand expected. We can't let them in.

In a way the assault was a blessing. With police present on site people in the queue were unlikely to force the issue when denied entrance.

He waved the treasurer to his side. “Look at that,” he said and nodded at the gates. “Murakami-san, make sure Ageruman-san finishes her show in good order!”

The treasurer looked at the moving mass of people on both sides of the school gates. Nakagawa could see uncertainty and fear competing for space in the teenager's eyes.

What I did earlier was indecent, but this is inhuman. Nakagawa shook his head and dismissed Murakami. Forcing the arrivals to handle a situation like this was bad enough, but they were fifty years old mentally. Now that burden fell on the student council.

He'd help from the shadows of course. When Ageruman-san rose from the abyss and came after them like a vengeance demon he'd make certain the brunt of her attack was directed at him. With her rising fame she had the power to permanently terminate the future for both council president as well as its treasurer.

Well, all bets are off now. You went after one of the arrivals despite our agreement. Rage rose in him, a seething, smouldering rage. I'll give her free reins for revenge, and if Hamarugen-san survives I'll channel my hate through him. You'll find out westerners have a very different definition of hell than us Japanese.

At the moment there was very little he could do for the arrivals. Nakagawa looked at the phone on his desk. There was one thing. Despite working miracle after miracle the exchange club finally found themselves at wit's end to solve an impossible logistical problem.

He tapped a contact and placed the call. Abusing his power didn't come close to describe the order he gave. For what it was worth the festival wouldn't run out of supplies.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Chapter three (segment thirteen), 2016, October, Noriko

Noriko threw a worried look at her phone. Urufu didn't answer calls over the radio and this was the third call he failed to pick up.

We're on stage in a few minutes. What are you doing?

“Nothing?” Kuri asked? Behind the stage it was almost possible to talk, if shouting counted as talking.

Noriko shook her head.

“Damn! He knew I was up to something.”

Up to something? “What did you plan?” Noriko asked her friend.

“Pissing on a tree,” Kuri answered. “Ulf being the tree.”

Noriko shook her head again. The connotation was lost on her.

“You know, like a dog marking territory?” Kuri tried again.

“You planned to pee on Urufu?”

That stopped Kuri in her tracks. She slapped her hands to her face, but she soon removed them and shot Noriko a very twisted and very knowing grin. “No, I don't think he's into that.”

A sudden visual flashed through Noriko's mind, and this time it was her turn to fly both hands to her face. “I didn't… I mean…,” she stammered.

While it was clear Kuri hadn't heard a word Noriko still saw teasing understanding glimmer in her eyes. When Kuri threw her head back and guffawed Noriko knew Kuri had seen exactly what flashed though her mind moments earlier.

“You have a surprisingly dirty mind,” Kuri shouted when she was done laughing. “But no,” she continued and turned serious all of a sudden, “I planned to show the world we belong together.”

Kuri made her last preparations for the show, and Noriko listened to the school-band guitarist reaching the crescendo that marked the end of their participation.

They couldn't have prepared all that well, because the sound was out of tune, a little like the sound of wailing sirens mixing into the music.

With a thunderous rumble from drums and electric guitars the show finished and all band members bowed to their cheering audience.

The gym hall fell eerily silent despite the music sound technicians poured out of the speakers while everyone prepared the fashion show.

Urufu, where are you? If he didn't arrive within a couple of minutes Kuri needed to change the schedule. Nao couldn't stand in for Urufu. He was too tall for that. Anyone else?

“I'll bloody kill him,” Kuri muttered from the hangers closest to them both. “Nao-kun, come here!”

Nao-kun. She's calling her senior Nao-kun. Noriko grinned at Nao who came rushing obediently. Guess that's Kuri for you.

“Nao-kun, can you run a double with these?” Kuri asked and fingered two sets of clothes.

Nao looked at them and nodded. “Why?”

“Ulf's not here. I'm tall enough to show off his costumes as a fun gimmick.”

You're not serious!

“I'd love to see that, if Noriko allows,” Nao said. He flashed her a smile that for once had Noriko's heart skip a beat.

I think you're reaching your goal, Nao. She looked at him and revelled in the warmth that spread though her body. I'm really falling in love with you.

“Yukio, Kyoko, prepare for stage. Let's get this show running!”

Kuri's words reached her through a daze. A few seconds more. Noriko let her eyes linger on Nao. Yes, I definitely am.