Christina came down the stairs to the lobby and met Noriko's worried gaze.
“How is he?”
I can't forget she still loves him, Christina thought. “He's asleep.”
“He's been doing that a lot lately,” Noriko noted.
Christina shrugged. It was true, but not to the extent Noriko believed, or wanted to believe. He's working too much. Christina gave Noriko a grateful look. This plan of yours isn't half as mad as you think. I owe you for this.
In the lobby the three adults sat waiting, and Principal Nakagawa would arrive later together with James. She had to get Noriko out of the way before that. Not because she couldn't know the secrets, because she already did, but because she couldn't know that her parents would be told.
“Noriko, I've put Ulf together with Yukio. Ko-chan wants some time with him, and it won't look as bad if you're there as well.” Christina watched Noriko's expression flicker between hesitation and anticipation. “Please, I know it's a lot to ask of you, but could you watch over Ulf for a while? Until dinner?”
Noriko nodded and vanished up the stairs.
You really shouldn't look that gleefully happy when asked to look after someone else's boyfriend. Christina shook her head and descended the last of the stairs before greeting the Wakayama parents and Ulf's guardian.
The lobby was an odd mix of centennial old and mid twentieth century tackiness, but right now Christina was happy for the extra space allowing for a few groups of sofas and low tables.
She took a seat and barely remembered to look overly eager and surprised when she was served a cup of tea by a kneeling woman. Hotels, I have to be more careful. I've spent far too many years like this. High school girl, I'm a high school girl and should behave like one.
In front of her Sato-sensei gave her a long and inquisitive stare, and even the Wakayama parents shot her smiles filled with irony. How much do they know already?
“Ms Ageruman, should we start?” Sato-sensei asked, telling Christina that she knew it all with those words.
“Please,” Christina said. She could feel her face wavering between the one she had relearned to use as a school girl and the one belonging to the billion dollar empress. I won't be able to keep it together, she realized. We're going to talk contracts now, and there's no way my experience won't show.
“First of all I'd want to pose a question we originally didn't plan for, if that is OK?”
Christina twisted uncomfortably. The three adults were all younger than her, but they were still adults. “I'll answer if I can,” she said.
“Would you be interested in a transfer of guardianship?”
Whoa! Now that was unexpected! “Why would you want that?” she asked in an attempt to buy some time.
Mr Wakayama sipped some tea and smiled. Then he entered the conversation. “If we're to enter a partnership I'd prefer to place your current guardian in as questionable a light as possible. Transferring guardianship will take a lot of time. You could very well become a legal adult before the proceedings are done, but it will make it harder for her to siphon your accounts.”
Damn, that's cold! Christina stared at Noriko's father. But it also makes a lot of sense. I'd rather gamble with these people than the old harridan.
“Urufu doesn't know, but in my profession there are ways to find things out,” Sato-sensei said. “I know she's stealing from you, or at least blackmailing you.”
Christina bit her lower lip while she wondered how much Sato-sensei really knew. “I wouldn't know the laws here,” she tried. At least not domestic laws. I could probably teach you a thing or two about business laws in Japan. “What do you mean?”
“I know about your jobs, both of them,” Sato-sensei continued relentlessly.
“I know a few of the clients,” Mr Wakayama interjected. “I can assure you that the club will back off. They wouldn't want a stain on their reputation.”
“What do you suggest?” Christina said. She knew when she was beaten.
As if on cue four small trays with some intensely sweet Japanese treats arrived. Christina had never learned to appreciate the taste of sticky bean paste, but she knew it well from her previous life. She took a small bite and quickly rinsed her mouth with some tea.
“I'll start with the legal aspects of a transfer,” Mr Wakayama said and leaned forward.
“And I'll pay your guardian a visit, in uniform,” Sato-sensei added. She chose to stay glued to her backrest as if this part didn't concern her all that much.
However, it would be a relief to get rid of the parasitic woman. Just thinking of it made some tension go away. “Who?” Christina asked. A transfer would mean a new guardian.
“The owner of this resort. An old friend of mine.” That was he first time Noriko's mother had spoken. “She's childless and would love a daughter to dote on. We'll apply for a formal adoption.”
The owner? “Where...”
“She lives here with her husband,” Mrs Wakayama interrupted. “You'll be expected to visit from time to time.”
Christina shrugged. They've planned it all. I could as well run with it. “Sure, please do. I'd be happy if it were to be someone who cared for me.”
Both Wakayamas frowned.
What did I do wrong now? It didn't matter, probably a bad choice of words. She had to salvage something from the awkward moment. “I apologize. I didn't mean it that way. I'm happy if this person will care for me.” Gah, I really need to improve my Japanese.
Mrs Wakayama lit up in a smile. “You mean that you would want my friend to take care of you?” she said in a strangely accented but otherwise well educated English.
“Yes, thank you!”
After a quizzical look from the other two Noriko's mother quickly translated.
“Well, that settles it I guess. Now for the other part.” Mr Wakayama still leaned forward. “I'm a former Himekaizen student. We both are,” he added and nodded at his wife. “One of our classmates was born in Japan but moved to Sweden before coming back.”
Christina had a sinking feeling where this was going.
“He moved to your Sweden to be part of the German legislation,” Mrs Wakayama said.
OK, they know. “Are we talking that German legislation?” Christina asked more for confirmation than anything else.
“If you're referring to the one with a penchant for black and brown uniforms, yes that would be the one. That was before he came back to Japan. Arrived back in Japan you could say.”
Mrs Wakayama suddenly grinned. “He's the husband, by the way. Your future father if you will. He doesn't know you, yet.”
Christina felt irritation rise in her. “OK, you're up to something. Apparently you know of my background, so spill it!” She was being impolite. She knew that, but she just couldn't help showing how much the hated being toyed with.
She could see Noriko's father share a grin with his wife. “I believe we know more of it than you do, at least parts of it.”
That was it. Christina made as if to leave but was pulled back by Sato-sensei. “I think you should listen to this, even if I agree that they're being far too theatrical,” she added and glared at the two older adults.
Mr Wakayama wiped the grin off his face and bowed his head in apology. “Ms Ageruman. Our classmate married a Swedish woman and they had a daughter. That daughter fell in love and got pregnant. She married after her daughter was born.”
No, no, no, no! There's no way in hell…
Noriko's mother gave her a look filled with compassion and concern. “Your grandfather. Did he suddenly vanish around 1990?”
Christina felt all blood leaving her face. “I was twenty five,” she said and sat down so hard it hurt her backside. “I was modelling here in Tokyo, well the other Tokyo,” she whispered. “I was too busy to go back home. Mom never forgave me.”
“I'm sorry we didn't tell you before,” Mr Wakayama began, “but we didn't know for certain until a few days ago. Sato-san,” he nodded at Ulf's guardian, “found out when she ran the archives after we were asked to help with the contract.”
Christina shook her head numbly. Of course they wouldn't know. Mom took dad's last name. What was her maiden name? “Sano, Sato, what's his last name?”
Sato-sensei smiled. “Sano. I'm Sato.”
“Sorry,” Christina said and blushed. “Mitsuo Sano, yes I remember. But I only called him grandpa.”
“Mitsuo-kun. Well that confirms it,” Mrs Wakayama said. “Will you accept your grandfather as your legal father in this world? Even if we can never tell, officially?”
Christina gulped down the last of her tea and nodded. “Yes, yes of course.”
“Then my husband will break the news to him tomorrow. I won't proceed unless he accepts as well, do you understand that?”
Unless he accepts. But he really acted like my father when I grew up, cause dad was never home. “Yes I understand.”
“Good, then I'll call the twins to dinner later. They're involved with the contracts, and we won't treat them like children when they deserve credit.” Both parents leaned forward before Noriko's mother continued. “Now, I want you to promise that you never tell them that we know of you and Hamarugen-san. It's important that they believe we've never heard of the transitions.”
Transition, that's a way to call it I guess. Principal Nakagawa refers to us as arrivals so I guess transition is a good word to describe what happened to us. “I promise,” Christina said, even though she really didn't understand why it was so important for the parents.