Friday, 5 June 2015

Chapter six (segment five), twenty four years earlier, July, Kyoko

Kyoko looked up when she noticed Yukio entering the café.

“The tall foreigner isn't with you today?” one of the waitresses asked.

Even the staff take note of his absence. Those two really lived their Fridays here.

Yukio shook his head. He looked downtrodden.

So tired. Does he worry you that much? “Over here!” She rose and waved.

Yukio had Ryu-kun in tow and both boys turned at her call. Ryu shot them one of his patented smiles. Enough of it to make Nori-chan wince by her side.

“Idiot bro,” she muttered.

Yukio's smile was more shy. More honest, Kyoko thought. You can be the prince of Himekaizen for all you want, but for me Yukio is the more handsome. That thought brought more heat to her cheeks than the summer's heat could be accounted for.

Kuri-chan dropped her spoon to the table. Kyoko cold see her looking out the window with an expression of helpless desolation in her face. I'm sorry but I don't think he's coming. Tomorrow, you'll see him at the club tomorrow.

But tomorrow wasn't today, and Kuri-chan had told Kyoko earlier that she was taking the day off her part time job just to see Urufu without the rest of the fan-club drooling over her.

I'll ask Yukio to make you some time alone tomorrow. Her Yukio. In her mind he was already her Yukio.

He and Ryu-kun sauntered over to their table, a waitress in her uniform carrying their orders trailing behind them.

She liked this place, could understand why Yukio and Urufu-kun hadn't given up on it after they found it. It was a place away from school in a way James' coffee shop could never be. That place was part of the club by now and the new waterhole for the fan-club now when it was known that both Ryu-kun and Kuri-chan spent their evenings there.

She liked the poorly wiped windows, the tacky, plastic interior, the waitresses in white and pink uniforms that had seen a few washings too many, the very fact that she had been right that evening when she thought a couple of interesting students from her school had sat on the second floor and that it was a place important to Yukio.

Most of all she liked that it was a place within walking distance home for both her and Yukio. Because that meant he lived close to her and that was safety in more than one way.

“… round?”

“Eh?” Kyoko looked up from her thoughts and saw Kuri-chan do the same.

“Another round?”

“Eh, yes sure. Same.” Kuri-chan, what are you thinking of. I'm happy even though he's not mine but you look so sad and Urufu is all yours. The thought gave her a start. Is he really? Sometimes when I look at you two I wonder.

“I'll take my leave,” Kuri-chan said. “Feel like the odd one out. My apologies.”

She rose and left the table.

Kyoko watched her go. A tall beauty on long, slender legs. A worried beauty.

Ryu stood and started after her and Yukio looked as if he was about to try to stop him. Nori-chan grabbed his shirt sleeve and stopped him with a shake of her head.

“He's not… he knows he can't, not now anyway,” she said, and when Yukio made another attempt to follow Ryu-kun she continued: “He doesn't stand a chance. Not yet, so he won't try. He's just worried like the rest of us and she feels alone now.”

You're loyal to your friend Yukio. I like you even more for that but right now Nori-chan is right. “Yukio trust his sister, will you?”

Yukio hesitated for a moment but he sat down again.

They were eerily silent around the table and Kyoko slid to the place by the window that Kuri-chan had occupied until just moments earlier.

After a while she could see Kuri-chan and Ryu on the street below. They were talking but Nori-chan had been right. Ryu-kun never made any attempts to touch her.

“What's happening?” Yukio asked. He was left on one of the seats from where he couldn't see what was happening outside.

“Bro's asking her if she won't come back up again. I don't think he'll have any success,” Nori-chan answered. She took a sip of her soft drink.

No I don't think she'll return. Kyoko felt a little ashamed. By all rights it should have been her following her friend out. But Yukio was here right now, and…

And it turned out they were right. She saw Kuri-chan throw her hands in the air, turn and walk away. Ryu-kun returned inside.

Kuri-chan what are you doing. You told me he was bad news when I had my crush on him. Kyoko sighed, and shook her head when Yukio shot her a questioning look. And now? You shine like the sun whenever you see him and you fade like the night when he walks away. Where did your cool go? That colour on your cheeks when he smiles at you and that look on your face just now. Is it worth it?

Kyoko stole a glance at Yukio. Yes, yes I guess it is. And she smiled.

For once when Yukio looked at her with questions in his face, she didn't blush. She just smiled even more.

“Well I brought Urufu's problems with me,” Yukio said and picked two sheets of paper from his bag. “He said we should timebox twenty minutes each for them. “Ryu, can you prep the English conversation on Japanese history? Kyoko you run the preps for comparing Japanese grammar with English?”

She had forgotten. Friday was problem solving. Urufu prepared two or three problems each week for some obscure mix of school subjects. Kuri-chan helped him. “Five minutes preparation and the full twenty for discussion?” she asked.

Yukio nodded.

A few of the guests around them rose to attention when they started analysing the merchants class rise to power in Edo during the eighteenth century, in broken English. It was slow going and she and Yukio both had to help the Wakayamas when some concepts grew too difficult to express in English but it was good training.

They laughed a lot, and probably spoke awful English, and they learned something new. Always something new.

Urufu-kun, Kuri-chan, even when you're absent you're changing us.

Next week they'd run the problems by the members of the club in the Stockholm Haven Café and by then Urufu-kun would prepare them for the next batch during his walking talking sessions.

The strange sessions. Two hours of walking, three days a week. There were already rumours about club members asking strange questions during class.

The rumour mill already moved the centre of attention from 3:1 to the Himekaizen Cultural Exchange Club, and now they had eight more applications for the club, plus the four old ones that had finally been formalised. The club room couldn't handle that many.

New rumours, true rumours Kyoko knew, had it that Principal Nakagawa had ordered one of the unused classrooms in the right wing to be cleared during summer break. They were to be given the same space as a sports club.

Another rumour told that both Swedes were part of some kind of exchange program for adolescence super prodigies, and that Himekaizen had been chosen for validation of the concept. Albeit false that one came far, far, far too close to the truth for any of them to feel comfortable about it.

And I hear that English class in 6:1 looks like Japan right before Sekigahara. Eastern army versus the western. I don't think Tokugawa is going to win this time. If Urufu-kun spoke the truth, and Kyoko had no reason to believe he didn't, his knowledge of English were light years ahead of his English teacher's. Even his old academic credentials were held higher.

English tests in 6:1 had degenerated to the level that they weren't allowed to use the support of hiragana to understand the kanji used. Kyoko wasn't certain that was allowed but she was certain Urufu-kun and his teacher had entered a state of war.

The lines of battle were drawn along the languages. The teacher refused to speak English and Urufu-kun refused to speak Japanese. Both had been called to the principal's office but nothing had been resolved. Principal Nakagawa was playing a game of his own.

Kyoko looked at Yukio while he explained something to Ryu-kun. I could just sit here watching your face Yukio, but you look so harried whenever we mention your English classes. I'm happy I have Kondo-sensei.

An hour and another round of drinks later they were finished. The discussions had led nowhere, which according to Urufu-kun was intended, but they all made some peculiar connections between the subjects involved. It was interesting to see that no matter how they tried the English language was still sub-par when it came to recounting Japanese history. Are the tables turned when we talk about the rest of the world?

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