Monday, 13 April 2015

Chapter one (segment seven), twenty four years earlier, April, Yukio

Yukio looked up when he saw his friend enter the café. Their café in their mall. Somewhere a floor below them Urufu-kun's bike was safely locked to a stand, and they had a couple of hours available. Club hours for most part of the student body, and he was meeting Urufu-kun to plan how that would become reality for them as well.

“Over here,” Yukio mouthed and waved his friend over (palm down, mind you).

Urufu-kun nodded in affirmation took his usual wide half circle in the direction of the counter before he shook his head and walked to Yukio's table.

“Sorry. Never learn.”

Yukio grinned. “One year and you still try to order at the counter.”

At that moment a waitress arrived to further accentuate how wrong Urufu-kun had been. As she, or one of her colleagues, had done last time they were here, and the time before that, and… By now Urufu-kun's navigational mishap was part of the weekly routine, and the girls just waited for him to see his errors before they went to their table.

Urufu-kun smiled sheepishly in response. As he had done last time, etc, etc. Yukio wasn't certain that their weekly game really was a matter of bad memory from Urufu-kun's part, or if it was a joke that he allowed to be played out on his part.

It was time for the standard excuse.

“They don't wait tables at cafés back home.”

And there it was delivered. It was as if Urufu-kun just had to point out minor differences between Sweden and Japan. That habit of his had been, first interesting, then irritating, but by now Yukio felt a strange gratitude. He was being made aware of how what looked like obvious truths weren't truths for everyone. How others played things differently. Not better, or worse. Just differently. Palm down, dammit! He thought, and laughed.

Urufu-kun stared at him from the other side of the table and shrugged his shoulders in incomprehension.

The waitress returned with Urufu-kun's order. One coffee, one awful piece of strawberry cake and one bottle of mineral water (French). The same order as last week, and, and…

“Can you funnel some funds?” Urufu-kun asked after the waitress had left their table.

Yukio nodded and accepted the two 500 yen coins he was offered. It would take less than an hour to spread the money across the accounts he had set up, so 1000 yen was a rather stiff fee. Still, Urufu-kun insisted that a job well done should be rewarded in kind. “Keep friendship and business apart,” he used to say. Yukio wasn't entirely clear what was meant by that, but he had accepted that when they made the money transactions they were partners and not friends. It was important to Urufu-kun, and thus it was important to Yukio.

“How much?” Yukio asked when the coins were followed by a 5000 yen bill. That was a first.

“I need a bit more than a million yen moved.”

Yukio coughed up the tea he had just started sipping. “You what?”

“And I'll need plastic. In your name I'm afraid.”

Yukio tried to remember what Urufu-kun had taught him the last half a year. “I want security.”

“Good laddie. How about a hundred thousand deposit and a monthly five thousand rental fee?”

“OK? Yes. Is that good?” Yukio added as an afterthought.

Urufu-kun grinned. “You're really not supposed to ask that question to the other end of the transaction, but yes, it's good. In fact 60 thousand a year is highway robbery, but I'll expect your maintaining the accounts as part of the service, so it evens out.”

Five hours a month then. Yukio could do this as a part time job just as well as something else, and he felt a whole lot more confident that Urufu-kun would pay up than some of the employers he had been in contact with earlier.

“Eh, just shady, or outright...”

“Neither,” Urufu-kun said. Apart from the plastic at least. “The money is mine. I just dislike having that kind of money in cash.”

Yukio nodded. Somewhere in his mind he knew that it was a lot of money, but not more than his parents were paid over a couple of months. It was, however, a disturbingly large amount for a fifteen year old kid. Then again, Urufu-kun, wasn't really fifteen, was he?

“How?” Yukio wondered. Urufu-kun still looked fifteen, so where had he gotten that kind of money?

“Part time job.”

“You made a million yen from your part time job?”

“No, I made five million yen from my part time job.”

That was… unexpected.

“What kind of job makes you that kind of money?”

“Corporate management consulting kind of job makes that kind of money. If you look fifteen, and are alone. Really should have been ten times as much, but then you need a high profile company backing you.”

Even though Yukio understood the words he heard he didn't understand what Urufu-kun was saying. “Grown up thing?”

“Grown up thing,” Urufu-kun affirmed. “But you're too old to fail understanding all of it.”

“Eh?” Yukio fished up the papers on their planned club while he waited for Urufu-kun to explain.

“You pay more for brand name products.”

“Yes?” Yukio admitted. “Because they're better.”

“No,” Urufu-kun shook his head. “Because they're branded. You just believe they're better. Sometimes they are, but that's not part of the question”

What his friend said did make sense in a way. Now Yukio was supposed to prove he had a brain of his own. “And this consulting of yours can have a brand name?” he tried.

“Good. Correct.” Urufu-kun smiled. “There's a whole lot more to it as well, but you've understood the important basics. The perceived truth is the only truth. Now, let's have a look at our baby.”

Yukio pulled out the suggested charter, the official one, and then he placed the real one beside it. “This one takes into account that teaching staff and parent organisation will be an active part of the Swedish club, and,” he moved his hand to the official charter, “this one keeps up the illusion that the club is independently run by the club members with only a minor influence from student council and teaching staff.”

“Good. School doesn't need to know that there's no way in hell the student council would be given the kind of power where they can pull the plug on a club in Sweden.”

“And that students aren't entrusted to run their own club,” Yukio retorted.

“Not really true, but if they're going to hoist the name of their school on a flag, yes, you're correct,” Urufu-kun admitted. “World champions in non-profit clubs. That's Sweden for you, but the vast bulk of those clubs are independent, or members of some kind of national umbrella.”


“Nothing important. Just saying if there are twenty clubs for watching butterflies in summer, chances are there's a national central organisation for butterfly viewing. We're kind of funny that way.”

Yukio shook off the strange impression of a people who felt the need to organise everything up to a national level. “And this is the charter for our own club. We only need one.”

Urufu-kun finished the last of his coffee. He had long since downed both mineral water and cake, and looked up to order his usual extra cup of coffee. The waitress was already at their table. She had seen Urufu-kun empty his cup. The usual way, as he had done last time, etc, etc.

“Agreed. That account, by the way,” he added and pointed at one item on the list of accounts he had asked Yukio to set up, “will be used for the club.”

Yukio took the chance to get himself an extra soda while he looked at the numbers. He had more cash on himself than usual anyway, and with the planning ahead of them they were like to remain here for longer than normal. Unless Urufu-kun wanted to cut down on the time they spent studying, something he had never done before.

It was, Yukio thought, kind of funny that they had found their routine studying here once a week (Fridays) while they still went to different schools. Those occasions had also served as a lesson in contrasts to Yukio. Urufu-kun wasn't all that good at learning the important parts for exams, and his poor Japanese didn't help either. He was, however, a master when it came to place things in context. Another of them grown up things, Yukio guessed. Anyway, Urufu-kun always wasted a lot of time trying to understand stuff rather than just learning them the right way. And it showed in their grades.

“Don't you think they'll ask questions if the club has this much money?”

“We could get funded by the council,” Urufu-kun suggested.

“If we're accepted it's because we'll be dirt cheap to maintain. We'll get next to no funding.”

Urufu-kun nodded. “Then we'll just use my seed money carefully then.”

“A quarter of a million yen. Seed money. You're crazy, you know that?” Yukio shook his head.

“Talking about stuff that belongs in the beginning. Ryu or Christina? You still plan on contacting Kyoko first?”

Oh, he's in work mode. All business and no polish. “I'll talk with Takedida-san,” just saying those words made his heart jump a little, “and set up that meeting of yours with Ageruman-san.” Yukio glanced a his friend. “Why Wakayama-san all of a sudden?”

Urufu-kun sighed. “Because since Ryu, sorry, that Wakayama kid, took an interest in Christina...”

He still refuses to call her by anything but her first name.

“… I don't think I can get her aboard without Wakayama-san in her wake.”

That made sense. Urufu-kun was just as sensitive to changing moods among the students as he was himself. Well, whenever he wasn't a blind moron oblivious to anything that happened around him. That, fortunately didn't happen all that often any more. “But we start with Ageruman-san?”

“Yes, yes. I have to decide if Wakayama-san is a disturbance that needs handling or not.”

“That sounded, eh, a little harsh.”

“Sorry if that didn't come out right. Work mode here. Not seeing him as a good guy or a bad one. He's just another stakeholder, and I don't know if he's a primary or a secondary.”

“And please translate that to Japanese for the rest of us,” Yukio growled. Urufu-kun's last sentence hadn't made sense at all despite being delivered in easy enough Japanese.

Urufu-kun looked up, and Yukio could see in his eyes how he dropped out of work mode. “Let's see the club as a product in development.” Urufu-kun had opened his smart phone to help him convey whatever corporate theory he was about to lecture Yukio about.

He took another sip of coffee, and Yukio drank some of his second soda. “Whenever the development of something gets complex you'll make a project of it. Anyone who's potentially affected by, along with those who could potentially affect, the project are called stakeholders.”

Yukio followed him this far.

“Depending on how important to the project those stakeholders are, or how much they're likely to be impacted by the project, you classify them into primary, secondary, etc.”

“So, the student council and our sponsor would be primary?” Yukio tried.

Urufu-kun grimaced. “Members would be primaries, along with the sponsor, I guess. Council? Let's make them secondaries, even if they can pull the plug on the entire project.”

“Because they're not directly involved?”

“There's hope for you yet!” Urufu-kun said and smiled.

Yukio smiled back. He didn't fully understand why the club was so important for Urufu-kun, but it was enough that it was that important. He would help making that dream come true, and besides it gave him a reason to contact Takeida-san.

“Training tomorrow?” Yukio asked, referring to their weekly bouts.

“Uhm, yes. Gym during break.”

The change of topic was a welcome break. “I'll pick you up here then. Sunday?”

“Sunday? Dojo. Four hours plus biking.”

“Is that enough?”

“No,” Urufu-kun answered, “not really. Proper training once a week keeps my skills up to date, but I won't develop.”

“I thought you would sound more disappointed.”

Urufu-kun smiled. “I never had time to train two styles anyway. It's enough to keep myself both soft and hard. After all, I was too old for competition, so I kind of lost interest in that kind of training.”

“I never asked. How much time does it take?”

“Oh.” Urufu-kun's eyes showed that he was lost in memories. “Twenty hours a week, but it wasn't all karate. Anyway, I didn't pick up aikido until after I dropped competitive karate, and I wasn't all that good to begin with. Nidan when the really good ones with my training years were sandan.”

Yukio shook his head. “Didn't you say you won a lot?”

“Yeah, but that's only because I was tall, lightweight and quick. When I'm fully grown I'll be over 180 with the weight of a midget.”

“Midget? Care to define that?”

Urufu-kun grimaced. “Sorry about that. But the average Japanese is kind of short in Sweden. I'm just about average back home.”

An entire population of towers. No wonder they needed all that space.

“Why did you stop competing?”

“Hello, fifty over here. I'd get smashed. Besides work took too much time. I took up aikido because there were no competitions.”

“So you dropped karate.”

“More or less. A friend was a trainer in a dojo, so we met a couple of times a month. Nothing serious.”

It was time to finish their planning. “So, what about field trips?” Yukio asked and changed the topic once again.

As darkness fell they sketched out activities for the club, a rough communication plan for how to keep in though with their Swedish counterpart, along with some ideas for how Urufu-kun should coach Ageruman-san to make the initial contact to begin with.

It all looked very grown up, and Yukio wondered if Urufu-kun wasn't having all too much fun overdoing the set-up of a simple school club.

Urufu-kun absent-mindedly plugged bill after bill into the cup where the stack with receipts grew as they ordered more and more beverages. While in work mode he handled money like it was really just pieces of paper, and Yukio was once again reminded that Urufu-kun came from a very different world.

It was quite a while later, when he was studying mathematics and Urufu-kun had opened up his books on grade and middle school Japanese, that he looked out the window. Below them he saw Takeida-san walking back home from her cram school. Tired from using too many formulas he rested his eyes and mind on her back until she vanished out of sight.

Cute. Even from a distance, in the lamplights, she's beautiful. He looked at Urufu-kun from the corner of his eyes. No, he hadn't noticed how Yukio's mind had wandered elsewhere. Weekend. Monday I get to see her again.

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