Monday, 29 June 2015

Chapter one (segment ten), 2016, August, James

Sometimes it's not between right and wrong. James knew that. He bought the run down coffee house five years earlier and turned it into Stockholm Haven Café. Arguably just as run down as earlier. Because he needed to.

Halfway to a bachelor's degree he realised he didn't want a BA for the second time in his life. True, the first time it had led to an MA and doctorate studies in Sweden – and nothing.

A Ph. D. in history wasn't exactly what corporate business looked for, and he took up cross country hiking and a lot of odd jobs. And he was on his way to thirty when he vanished one day only to end up naked and half his age in this Japan.

So James needed a new life, and owning a café with just enough customers to keep him alive was new. And so was meeting the first two new arrivals in ten years.

But Ulf didn't need new. The fifty year old boy needed something very old. A good old senseless binge drinking night when he could blow off all the steam that almost had him bursting.

James had seen how Ulf built up more and more pressure the last month, and when it finally blew up he made sure Ulf spent it all in a drunken stupor in the café rather than doing something really stupid elsewhere.

Of course he had to stop Ulf from hitting the bottle again come morning. He watched Ulf sleeping the hangover off in the inner room, and shortly after Ulf crawled to the toilet to puke for the second time James heard the bell chiming followed by an angry roar. It was the golden girl, and she was coming to get herself a pound of flesh. Or at least enough of his hide to make a pretty carpet.

James heard the Wakayama twins take the first brunt of the attack, which was kind of unfair considering they had played almost no part in it at all. Then the door to the inner room was forced open and Christina stormed in.

While James realised he looked like twenty five and was in fact forty he also knew when he was beaten. The battle tank forcing its way inside the room showed a face James had never seen before.

“Where is he? What have you done to him?” she screeched. “You!” She stabbed a finger at him. Then she saw Ulf.

Bakemono! James had never seen anyone transform so fast from a vengeance demon to a lover sick with worry. She's not from this world. Kitsune? Because she's not merely an arrival like him and me.

“Ulf, Ulf please forgive me!” Christina rushed to where Ulf lay on the pillows James had scrounged for earlier the same morning.

Maybe she's really fifty, but right now she looks like a hurt kid. Damn I should have made sure she knew the hell he's been through. Suddenly James felt very ashamed of himself. Old Nakagawa would most likely help Christina to a part of his hide.

Ulf groaned from his corner, and then he was covered by golden hair and long arms hidden under baggy clothes.

“Stupid boy! Why didn't you tell me?”

James winced when he saw her crawling all over her boyfriend. That had to hurt even if the worst of the hangover had abated. “He's not a boy, not really,” James tried, but he had little hope Christina would listen to anything he said. “I'm afraid that principal of yours set him on a job he wasn't prepared to do.”

Christina looked up from where she was cradling Ulf. “Nakagawa did? He got Ulf involved in the death of another?” Suddenly the vengeance demon was back.

James took a step back. He didn't know if she was about to get violent or not. When she showed no signs of leaving Ulf he calmed down a bit.

“You really have to talk with Nakagawa about that. I don't know what happened more than that it hurt him a lot.” James finished the sentence nodding at Ulf. “I don't think Ulf did anything more than find a person he was looking for. Well, and calling the police.” That explanation wouldn't be enough, but it had to suffice for now.

Christina seemed to understand. She settled down with Ulf's head in her lap, slowly stroking his head and looked like a hurt child again.

“Red Rose,” she said. “His middle school. He called it Red Rose Hell.”

“Sorry, haven't heard of it,” James muttered in agreement. “Sounds bad.”

Christina nodded slowly. During their last exchange her eyes never left Ulf. “Something bad happened there,” she said after a while. “I was attacked in school, and I believe there was a connection with what happened to him at Red Rose. Ulf doesn't want to talk about it.”

James made a mental promise to himself that he'd pressure Nakagawa for information. The old principal kept his secrets far too close to himself, but James was an arrival himself. He could use that. If nothing else he could threaten Nakagawa with involving his government handler directly.

I'm ten years younger than those two subjectively, but I'm still twenty five in this world. Has to count for something. “I'll help you,” he said. He was taking sides. For ten years he had avoided doing so, but somewhere down the line he knew he had to make a stand. The two new arrivals had only speeded that process up.

On the floor Ulf was slowly waking up for the third time that day. James saw him groan. Then Ulf looked up at Christina's face hovering above his own. The second groan was filled with shame and self-loathing.

This is where I pick the side I really knew I would pick from the beginning. I'm grateful to you both, James thought. Open Japan or closed Japan. Such a simple choice. Seems I didn't spend those years in Sweden in vain after all. We have to change. “If you want my help you have it. Start with changing Himekaizen. It's my old school as well, and Nakagawa is on your side even if it doesn't always look that way.”

Christina lifted her head for the first time in a while and looked at him with blank eyes.

“It's what he needs.” James pointed at the awakening body in her lap. “If he can't create change he'll destroy himself.”

She still didn't look like she understood.

“He's not like you and me. We change ourselves and sometimes that changes people around us.” James knew he was out on a thin limb, but he was also certain he had guessed correctly. “That boy of yours is unchanging. He only changes the world around him.”

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