Monday, 25 May 2015

Chapter five (segment nine), twenty four years earlier, June, Noriko

Somehow Kuri-chan wound up with a substantial amount of money. A bribe she said, as if it was commonplace for students to receive large bribes. But then she wasn't an ordinary high school student.

Noriko wondered about that. Did I ever stand a chance? He's the same as her. And they're both from that funny country.

But it wasn't in her nature to meekly give up. Especially not as it was so fun being someone's rival. A bit too fun. I never guessed. Almost just almost as fun as having him for myself. The last part she knew was a lie.

They had just left school and were heading for their café. Saki-chan was blabbing nonsense behind them and Hitoshi the motor mouth was doing the same ahead of them. All in all she was hemmed in by idiots. Ryu by her side came to mind.

For once though, he had come up with a good idea. Why not gather the club and watch some fireworks? In June.

Kuri-chan what did you do?

“They're mad about fireworks here,” she had said during one of their Skype sessions. “Everyone watches. Thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands.”

And now two Swedish university pyrotechnics clubs were on their way here. Cultural exchange. Maniacs!

Someone over there knew someone with more money than brains. A lot of money. Two colleges here had taken up the gauntlet and a small competition was hastily planned. It was to coincide with a local festival even though nowhere near the festival grounds.

If it rained too much the display would be cancelled, so it made sense not to associate it directly with the festival.

Noriko's thoughts were abruptly interrupted by yet another of Hitoshi-kun's insensitive disclosures.

“And then Kato-san dropped his mobile in the toilet. Told you he was a klutz!”

Hitoshi-kun, you're not gaining popularity points going on like that. He never did. It was a wonder he got so well along with Sakura-chan. He talked for both of them. Poor kid, were your parents drunk? Sakurai Sakura. She must have spent her childhood in pain.

From an adjoining street fans from the go home club came walking laughing and talking. What was left of Ryu's and Kuri-chan's separate fan-clubs had once and for all merged into one loose unit. Most of the impromptu members formally belonged to half a dozen real clubs, and she usually didn't see them together after school hours.

“Wakayama-san! He's here.”

James, you'll have a full house.

“Where's Ageruman-san?”

“Yeah, where is Kuritina-chan?”

She's back in our room hooked up to Sweden. She and Urufu-kun. But I'm not telling.

“She'll join later,” Kyoko-chan answered in her stead.

The go home club members must have finished their karaoke session. Two rooms at least as there were a dozen of them cavorting down the street. All in their uniforms. So you went directly from school. We did as well, in a way.

Walking talking he called it.

In full view of their teaching staff Urufu-kun had led all club members out of school. And principal Nakagawa just stood there smiling like some creepy grandfather.

They had walked and talked. For two hours with very few breaks. Japanese history compared to Swedish. “There is no right answer,” he said. “Sho, Nori, Sakura, look it up online and refute your text book.” And he handed out tablets like candy.

For two hours.

He trashed the Japanese language, and had four of them look up why he was wrong, from a historical perspective.

“Compare with old Chinese,” he suggested.

He slaughtered math and forced two of them to come up with an alternative solution.

“Change into cylindrical coordinates.” After which he had to explain different coordinate systems.

He even made a futile attempt to make them understand the intricacies coming from comparing Swedish, English and Japanese. That one fell flat though.

Well over a dozen freshmen on the streets in agitated discussions about school topics. She wondered what it had looked like for onlookers. You really feel no shame, do you?

And now they were here. Subdued but also a little excited. You think differently. You always try to understand. No wonder you flunked midterms.

They invaded the café. The inner room might have been generously spaced but there were almost thirty of them there.

“OK look here,” Noriko said after she had brought out a tablet and a projector. Let's see if I've learned anything.

The back wall lit up with her presentation. Kuri-chan had made most of it and Urufu-kun had coached Noriko in how to use it.

Faces turned her way.

“I've sent you all emails with the presentation in PDF-format so please don't take any notes. Those of you who aren't members of the exchange club, I can send you emails afterwards if you want.” Noriko drew a deep breath.

“President Ageruman has invited two pyrotechnic teams from Sweden. They will arrive next week and prepare for a competition against two Japanese teams. The display is planned at...”

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