Friday, 30 October 2015

Chapter two (segment eight), 2016, October, Yukio

Yukio felt a tinge of irritation when the council president followed him like an obedient dog all the way to the food plaza.

Urufu had come up with another harebrained idea, but by now Yukio accepted how well they worked. The theme was try and play, and it hooked a couple of hundred parents and younger siblings. Anything that got people away from the planned events and stalls was a blessing.

He owed the kendo club big time, but they promised half an hour with Kuri and a camera would be payment enough. Nothing naughty the club president promised. Yukio wondered about that, and he still had to break the news to a Kuri he gifted to the club without telling her first. Urufu would have his head for it as well.

With a grin splitting his face Yukio saw grade school kids trying out kendo gear much too large for them. They looked happy, and Urufu only told him to solve the problem, so he did. He'd stand his ground if Urufu protested later. Hell even if Kuri did.

But there was the case of his current problem. Score a goal. The Watabe twins quickly convinced him having grade schoolers playing goalkeeper was a horrible idea. So instead they convinced both goalkeepers in the soccer club to spend two hours each defending against penalty kicks.

Problem being the food plaza was laid out on the soccer field, which was the reason Yukio walked here with the student council president trailing him.

It didn't take a genius to understand she suffered a severe case of being smitten. Even one as inept at the boy meet girl game as him understood.

At least it's me. It'll pass. Crap! If it was Urufu she'd stay in a state of love at first sight, like forever. A vivid image of Urufu with Kuri by his side and the council president desperately tugging at the back of his shirt passed Yukio's mind, and he couldn't help laughing at it.

He cackled with glee until his stomach hurt. People around him stared and whispered, and for once the president gave him some extra space.

On his radio he heard voices from time to time as islands of small crisis flared alive only to be extinguished by Urufu either promising help in a soothing voice or barking harsh orders in the language of an over-educated drill sergeant.

When he returned to the food plaza kids were already lining up for penalty kicks. There was enough space by one goal not to interfere with those eating, not even after they accommodated one of Kuri's few suggestions over the radio – an international style picnic.

Yukio glanced at the grassy slope where they used to watch soccer training. It served as a delimiter between those above and those below with the occasional stubborn couple eating their food lying down in the middle.

Like watching sakura in the park, he thought. But it's autumn now.

From where six dozen blankets had arrived he could only guess at, but his suspicions went to Kuri. Any magic concerning cloth had to be her doing.

She's our president, but for this festival in name only. This is Urufu's show.

“You're silent.”

Ah, the other president. “Sorry, just thinking.” He gave her a smile. There was little reason to be rude, even if she was a pain. Now that's a novel thought. With Kyoko by my side I can suddenly act like normal around girls. Funny that. Now when I'm not even interested any longer.

“What happens now?” the president asked.

“You know, that's my line,” Yukio said and laughed. But he didn't care to keep up the pretence of who ran the show. “We're filling the gym right now. Principal Nakagawa negotiated with one of the TV crews and they're moving their bus inside the gates.”

That was today's lifesaving brilliance from Kuri. Well, given her background he shouldn't be too surprised. One of the buses was equipped with exterior led screens and loudspeakers, and the crew agreed to display live footage from the gymnasium throughout the day. At the moment they moved it into a position where it could be seen and heard without being in the way.

Jirou-sempai came over to him from the line of grills he oversaw. From the line of grills he was never supposed to oversee in the first place, Yukio corrected himself. The former president of the Sengoku club made the utmost to fill the position he was pressed into after madness descended on Himekaizen, and he did a very good job at it. Yukio took a mental note to make certain the second year was properly thanked later for shouldering the responsibility of the entire plaza.

“Have you had any rest?” Yukio asked.

“It's fine,” Jirou-sempai answered, which obviously wasn't true at all. Fine job or not, the guy was worn thin.

“President, how would you like to stand in for him?” Yukio asked the girl by his side.

She offered him a frown in return. “I don't know anything about this area.”

“But you do, you gave it a green light after all,” Yukio tried, but he harboured little hope she'd take the bait. “I'll help out for some time, but I need to run an errand later,” he said. “Please,” he added.

She looked at him and then at Jirou-sempai. Somehow she must have noticed how tired the second year was, because she nodded even though her shoulders slumped.

“Thanks!” Yukio didn't need to fake any gratitude. It was genuine, especially when he saw the relieved smile his club member gave their council president.

“An hour?” he asked?

“Make it two,” the president offered. She shot Yukio a questioning glance as if asking for praise.

“I'm in your debt,” he said. Damn, we need the council to regain their confidence before tomorrow. There's no way the club can handle all of it another day. He sighed. Especially not tomorrow.

“Urufu?” he called into his walkie talkie. He needed some confirmation.

“Urufu here.”

“Yukio here. What's the turnout today? Over.”

“Is the president there? Over.”

Yukio looked at her back and slowed his steps further. There was something Urufu didn't want her to know just yet. “I'm alone. Over,” he lied. As long as she didn't hear their conversation that statement was true enough.

“Three and a half today. About double the expected. Never more than two and a half at the same time though. My guess. Over.”

No wonder the school crawled with guests. They were already at their limits. He had to ask the dreaded question. “Tomorrow? Over.”

His radio stayed silent just a little too long. “Hard to say. We could run the numbers together. Over and out.”

Yukio stared at his silent unit. Maybe an alternate universe existed where Urufu needed his help to run numbers, but this one most certainly wasn't it. Holy crap! That bad?

With a sinking feeling he joined the president before she got too suspicious.

The smell of food filled his nostrils and he was suddenly ravenously hungry. With a pang of guilt he tugged at her sleeve. “Let's have lunch.”

Any other day before he met Kyoko the smile he received would have made him giddy with happiness.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Chapter two (segment seven), 2016, October, Kyoko

With a firm push she turned her walkie talkie off. Kyoko desperately needed the rest. An hour after the opening well over two thousand guests crammed the school grounds. Several stalls were already running dry, and only Urufu's desperate gamble kept most of them supplied.

She sank to the floor in a tired heap and listened to the pandemonium from the office area turned festival headquarters. While the official festival planning room and student council room still operated as formal planning centres, the students there were swamped beyond capacity from before the cultural festival even opened.

Weary beyond belief she rose to her feet and struggled to the desks occupied by a few club members, two students from the festival planning committee and the student council treasurer.

“Noriko, how can I help?” she asked and slumped into a chair.

“Rest, please just rest,” her friend said. “You've been fantastic. I understand Yukio better now.” The smile in Noriko's face spoke of respect, and for once Kyoko felt she deserved it.

Kyoko watched Noriko send another email before she continued reading a seeming-less endless number of unread ones on her screen. With her right hand she jotted down notes on a piece of paper, moved it to the keyboard and opened up a document and changed something in it. After that she composed yet another email and sent it.

How can you keep all of it in your head? My larger than life midget sister, isn't that what Ryu calls you?

For each email sent the treasurer made a quick call only making certain who was to execute the instructions in it. An expression of awe played on his face whenever he stole a glance at Noriko.

“What are you guys really?” he asked during a brief lull in the madness.

Kyoko shot him a tired smile. “We're part of the club management,” she teased. “I'm the secretary and Noriko is our treasurer,” she continued knowing well that wasn't what he really had asked.

“Treasurer, huh?” he said instead. It made sense in a way. They shared that position.

Noriko flashed him a grin between emails “Talking about money,” she said, “we're unable to provide more funding at the moment. I need your help.”

“Huh?” That question pulled him back to the operational reality. “Funding?”

“Yeah, stupid, we're out of money. I need council funding to secure the continued flow of supplies,” Noriko said and frowned.

The treasurer sat upright. “You paid from the club funds? How much?”

Noriko sighed and pushed her laptop aside.

Kyoko couldn't help but giggle when she saw her friend stare at the ceiling while waving her fingers in the air like a Showa era elementary school kid. Learned the abacus did you?

“Three hundred, eh, make that four hundred thousand yen. Anyway, we're bled dry.”


“I know. And we can't recirculate the money paid at the stalls either. Way too many coins.” Noriko grinned. “We'll get it all back later anyway, but I can't wait until the banks open.”

The treasurer stared at her, but Kyoko noticed how Noriko read the same email over and over again. Kyoko rose from her chair and walked behind her friend. Absentmindedly she started massaging tired shoulders while looking out the window.

A bit inside the back entrance another piece of Urufu's black magic grew into existence. An unplanned outdoor café with the capacity to handle over one hundred guests, staffed by third years he had managed to scrounge up from gods knew where.

How he thought up the concept and made it reality while handling security patrols, their own food plaza and taking overall control of the cultural festival when the student council organisation crumbled was beyond her. Then she noticed one clue.

Among the third years manning the impromptu café a few club members walked around directing students two years their seniors as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Yukio was among them, her Yukio, and a third year always by his side year she didn't recognise at first. A girl with gorgeous waist long black hair.

Kyoko felt a brief sense of panic running through her until the identity of the girl finally found a match in her brain. What's the council president doing there?

“How much?”

The voice from inside the room tugged at her attention and she turned, still massaging Noriko's shoulders.

“How much, Wakayama-san?”

Kyoko looked down over Noriko's head and saw the email she had read so many times. And gasped.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Chapter two (segment six), 2016, October, Yukio

“I'm not that good at estimating numbers, but at least five hundred by now. Over.”

Beside him the student council president instructed the last arrivals of students wearing security armbands. Yukio looked at the six already by the gates. He hoped it would be enough.

“I'm on my way to the principal's office. Should be able to get a useful estimate from there. Over and out.” Urufu's voice sounded excited and tired at the same time.

Yukio sent a grateful thought of thanks to his friend. The council president lost control of the festival from before it opened. Any teenage student would, but Urufu wasn't a teenager, was he?

“Urufu?” Kyoko's voice said from the loudspeaker.

“Urufu here. What's your status? Over.”

“Kyoko here. I'm mailing their phone numbers to you. Two of them are away in Kondo-sensei's car. Sato-sensei called and said she's here soon. Over.”

Yukio listened to the conversation on the open channel while he stared at the growing mob waiting outside the gates. She sounds so grown up. My Kyoko!

“Superb Kyoko. Send the numbers to Noriko as well. She'll take it from there. Over and out.”

The praise made Yukio blush a little, even if it was praise from his friend to Kyoko. Then he turned his attention to the gates again. During the short time another fifty or sixty guests had been let through. Any normal school day would have allowed them inside by the hundreds, but on a normal day those gates opened up to a flat expanse covered by gravel. Now stalls limited mobility to narrow streets.


Yukio winced at the sudden call of his name, but he quickly regained his composure and pushed the button. “Yukio here.”

“Ulf here. Send a security detail outside and redirect people to the service gates. Over.”

Security detail? Oh! We don't have enough people for that, unless... “President, follow me!” He grabbed the stunned president by her hands and started dragging her outside. “Man, you're impossible, but I'll handle it. Over and out.” Damn, she'll have me pay for this later.

With his senior in tow he negotiated his way through the gates. Yukio registered how her hand was soft and small and warm in his, and how it felt very different from Kyoko's.

He hoped Urufu had arranged staffing of the back gates, but given the monstrous organisational capacity of his friend there were probably already students there setting up a second entrance to the festival.


“Noriko here,” the loudspeaker blared.

“Ulf here. We have an estimated fifteen hundred guests here, and I see hundreds more coming on the streets. Over.”

That's a lot of guests. Isn't it family and alumni only today?

“Fifteen hundred? Sorry... Noriko here. Hang on a moment. Eh… Over.”

Yukio grinned at the uncertainty in her voice. So she can't handle everything on the fly after all. Good to know that she's human. Even though he did feel some satisfaction at that thought most of him filled with affection. No matter what she was one of his best friends.

He made it across the street and stood to attention with the president by his side. “Honoured guests. I have the Himekaizen Academy student council president at my side. We have opened another entrance. Please allow her to instruct you."

As he had hoped the cue he gave her was enough for her to become their president again, and after she shot him an uncertain but grateful smile she took command.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Chapter two (segment five), 2016, October, Kyoko

“Kyoko, over here!”

She stopped dead in her tracks and looked over her shoulder. That had been Urufu's voice, but with an edge to it she had never heard before.

“Get four guys from 9:1 to the back gates! I need their cell phone numbers as well. Amaya's on her way and Kondo-sensei is already waiting there. I'll instruct you later.”

Kyoko watched Urufu's vanishing back and felt the unfamiliar weight of the communications device he had slapped into her hand. Thinking back she had heard him sounding something similar to this during their extended stay at the holiday resort, but only similar. His voice this time carried a tone of absolute command that had to be obeyed immediately.

She made her way back up the stairs and went for Himekaizen's newest addition to its number of classrooms. If Urufu had such a desperate need of four students by the back gates he would receive them there.

When the door slid open she looked inside and recognised a few faces who helped out with patrolling the school the previous night. While that night made her all fuzzy and warm inside now wasn't the time to linger on those memories.

“You, you, you and you, follow me!”

The good thing with the students recently transferred from Red Rose was that they always obeyed without asking. The bad thing, that they obeyed without asking. It scared her a little.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Chapter two (segment four), 2016, October, Noriko

Suddenly the door to their club room flew open with a bang. The sudden noise had Noriko swirl in her seat.

Urufu came dashing inside with the student council treasurer behind him.

“Noriko, we have a problem. You,” he pointed at the treasurer, “sit here and take Noriko's com unit.” Urufu grinned at her. “Getting exiting now, so let's see what you're made of,” he said to her.

She pushed her walkie talkie across the desks and looked back at him. “What's going on?” she asked, barely noticing the treasurer taking his seat and frantically emptying his school bag on his desk.

Urufu reached down and fingered the walkie talkie she had before her until moments earlier. “You had it turned off, so I guess you didn't hear.”

“Hear what?” Across the desk the treasurer lined up an array of pens and paper.

“He'll fill you in. We're setting up an HQ here. I have to run.” And with those words Urufu grabbed a walkie talkie from the rack and was out of the club room.

“What on earth?”

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Chapter two (segment three), 2016, October, Yukio

Yukio stared at the gates. We've got problems.

He unclipped the walkie talkie from his belt and brought it to his face. “Urufu?”

“Ulf here.”

“Yukio here. There are two buses with television teams at the gates, and they're brining gear inside the school grounds.” He stared once more. That's the least of our problems.

“Local media, I guess. Let them inside, or better, have the student council do it. It's their show anyway. Over.”

The voice from the loudspeaker carried with it Urufu's very personal version of being a moron. “Man, turn on your brains. They're here right now and I don't have the time to run to the council room.” He remembered Urufu's instructions on radio communications. “Over,” he added.

The loudspeaker blared to life again. A static crackle, silence and more crackle. “… this piece of crap work?” a female voice said. And then some more crackle. “… push this button when you speak.” That voice was male. Then there was silence and after that even more crackle.

“You, the guy before. I'll get down to you.” Once again the voice was female.

The guy before glared at his walkie talkie. What the hell? “Yukio here. Please identify yourself when you speak. Over.” The guy before, my arse!

“This is the student council president speaking. Where are you?” the female voice said.

Yukio watched the students closest to him stare from their stall. Or at least some of them did. Most wore scared looks and had their eyes glued to the gates.

“Yukio here. I'm at the gates. President, how many guests do we usually have for the festival? Over.” This can't be good.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Chapter two (segment two), 2016, October, Kyoko

Leaving Yukio like that made her unhappy, but after a second serving of Kuri-chan's dark stare Kyoko didn't dare anything more than returning his wave before she sneaked inside the locker room.

“Ko-chan, where did you go yesterday evening?” Kuri-chan's voice was all sugary and Kyoko didn't believe one iota of it.

Kyoko sat down on a bench and rested her back against a locker door. Slowly she began to undress. A new pair of stockings and panties wouldn't hurt, and that shower looked more and more like a splendid idea now when she had dragged her tired body here.


“Shower first, chit chat later.” Kyoko answered. She was surprised how irritated her own voice sounded. It did the job though, and with a towel over her shoulder she went for the closest shower stand. Kuri-chan stayed silent.

While a morning shower at school just couldn't compare to home Kyoko still enjoyed it. Stiff limbs softened and she purred with satisfaction at the luxury of shampoo in her hair.

One of her peculiarities she guessed, but she just couldn't help it. Lathing herself with shampoo had always been a time of bliss for her. Maybe because she could pretend to be both blind and deaf without her parents yelling at her for it.

This time it was Kuri-chan who couldn't yell at her, because that was what was waiting, even though Kyoko really couldn't understand why she was going to be yelled at.

Dragging out the shower turned out to be possible for so long and no more, and reluctantly Kyoko turned the shower off and towelled herself down.

In the early morning hours the locker room quickly cooled down despite a cloud of steam promising lingering heat, and she soon found herself putting on her clothes scrutinised by Kuri-chan.

“Where were you last night?” Kuri-chan asked when Kyoko had donned panties and bra and were zipping up her skirt.

Kyoko waited until she started buttoning up her blouse before answering. “Rooftop,” she admitted, “with Yukio.” Because that was the real question, wasn't it?

Kuri-chan stayed silent, dug through her school bag and handed over a few plastic packages. “It's time you started thinking about these,” she said. “I hope it's not too late.”

Kyoko blushed red. She felt the rubbery contents through the plastic cover. “We didn't.” She met Kuri-chan's gaze. “We didn't do it.”

Her friend let out a long sigh. Of anger or relief Kyoko didn't know. Then she felt the hands of her friend on her shoulders.

“Be more careful next time. He's a guy, with the needs of a guy. Sooner or later you'll share your bodies with each other, or you'll break up.”

Break up? Does he hate me?

Those blue eyes met hers. “He's interested, but he'll respect you for some time more, but eventually those needs will become too great.” Kuri-chan took a deep breath before she continued. “Maybe your needs will be stronger than his, but sooner or later you'll have to trust each other enough. OK?”

Fear still dominated her thoughts. “Do you think he dislikes me now?” Kyoko finally asked when she was done pulling her stockings to her knees.

The look she got in return was one of utter contempt. “Do you really see Ulf's best friend as that shallow?” For a moment anger flared to life in Kuri-chan's eyes. “Do you think the man I love would chose his friends so easily?”

It was a scary Kuri-chan, one who reminded her of the chasm that had grown between them since the time they made their differences clear about which methods were acceptable when it came to handle bullying. It was also a more guarded Kuri-chan than Kyoko had ever seen before, one who showed a desperate need to protect her Urufu even from a friend.

“I'm sorry,” Kyoko said. What else could she say.

“Love hurts, you know.”

Kyoko looked at her friend. Did it? The last months ran through her head. Worry, embarrassment, a little anger and a lot of joy and excitement. “No, I disagree. I never felt hurt.”

The door opened and a few students from 6:1 arrived inside. From the looks of them they were about to make the final preparations before the play.

“Funny you should say that. I said the same all those years ago.” Kuri-chan laughed silently to herself and sat straight up leaning her back and head against the locker door. “Maybe a first love doesn't hurt.”

She wore the face of an angel with eyes staring at the ceiling and through it. Kuri-chan was worlds away. Kyoko saw it in her eyes, had seen the expression of what she once took for homesickness many times before.

“Have you been in love before? Before Urufu I mean?”

“Mmm,” came the answer. It wasn't for her benefit. Kyoko guessed her friend spoke with her own memories right now. “Twice.”

“You said it didn't hurt, your first love.”

Kuri-chan smiled, but she never moved her head. Her blue eyes still stared at a landscape of years gone past. “No, not me. I hurt him though. Fourteen, I was fourteen.” Then she returned to the here and now and caught Kyoko's gaze. “An ugly kid with long legs. I think you remember.”

Ah, yes, she looked the same the first time I guess. “Why would that hurt him?”

A grimace played over Kuri-chan's features. “He wasn't very good looking. Strong and fast and very good at football, and he adored me, and I him.”

Kyoko waited for her friend to continue. In the background she heard the other girls giggle as they tried out clothes for the play.

“He was shorter than me. And when I grew beautiful and started modelling he got scared,” Kuri-chan said. “It took years for me to feel confident with my looks though. Always running to photo shoots, always cancelling with him whenever an opportunity opened.” She sighed and stroked her face with both hands. “I had him waiting for me, but I never waited for him. In the end I never gave him a chance to follow me. I hurt him.”

“How?” Kyoko asked when she understood that Kuri-chan was finished.

“I always believed he broke up with me, but in reality I forced him to. I enjoyed being surrounded by beautiful boys too much, and I always thought he'd be there for me anyway.” Her hands slid down from her hair to cover her face. “Damn, that's embarrassing to realise so many years later. And I never apologised to him.”

Kyoko didn't understand those thoughts. Yukio was Yukio through and through. She'd wait for him and she'd ask him to wait for her. Wherein lay the difficulty in that?

“You'll understand one day,” Kuri-chan said as if she had read her thoughts. “Anyway, I'll give you this one. A first love doesn't have to hurt.”

That piqued her interest. “But the second one?”

Kuri-chan grinned and laughed. “Oh that hurt for sure. I was twenty. He cheated on me on a grand scale.” She smiled at Kyoko who only saw sparkling joy in those eyes. “Five on the side, or more likely all six of us girls were his playthings. I've never felt so humiliated in my life.”

She had heard that story before. Never so heartfelt though. “And you never fell in love after that?”

A bubbling laughter was the first answer. “No, not until I met Ulf. I promised myself never to fall in love again, but he made me break that promise.” Once again those eyes strayed elsewhere, but this time they weren't looking into another world.

It was time to change the topic. “Why did you want me here?”

The question had Kuri-chan return to reality. “To give you this.” She dug into her school bag and offered Kyoko a small metal case. “It's a portable make-up set.”

Kyoko turned the box over and opened it. “Yes?”

“You can pull that lever.”

She obeyed and stared as the bottom came away. “Yes?” she asked again.

“You have parents. Parent's never respect the privacy of a teenager in love. That's a false bottom with enough space to hide two of those.”

It took a while for Kyoko to grasp what Kuri-chan meant, but when she did she blushed from her collarbones all the way to her hair.

“This isn't a suggestion. In this case you'll do exactly as told. Get it?” Kuri-chan took both her hands in her. “Ulf's having this talk with Yukio as well. Don't you even dare to take stupid risks!”

“It's not like we're going to do it any time soon,” Kyoko protested.

Kuri-chan grinned, took the one Kyoko held in her palm and placed another in the adorned metal case before she put the make-up back. “It's not like they go bad in a few days,” she said and pulled Kyoko to her feet.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Chapter two (segment one), 2016, October, Yukio

When morning rose over the Himekaizen cultural festival so did Yukio. He rose to the smell of too many teenagers sleeping in a classroom, the sound of snoring and the heat of Kyoko sleeping in his arms.

Shafts of sunbeams ripped through the curtains and bathed the floor in an eerie red. Drowsy with sleep he realised how the sudden dawn light had forced him awake.

There were sounds from the office area, sounds of someone sleeping over the benches and someone working. Rhythmic clattering of laptop keys sang a well known melody – only Urufu abused a keyboard that way.

Yukio leaned on his elbows, torn between the want to help his friend and the need to feel Kyoko close to him. In the end Kyoko won and he laid himself to rest on her arm again.

Nuzzling his head closer to her face he drank the smell of her hair and listened to her breathing. Ever so gently her calmness rocked him to sleep again.

When he woke again soothing dawn had given way to bedlam. Of his gentle Kyoko there was not a trace. She sat shamelessly astride him, all sense of propriety gone, daring any shocked onlookers to protest. Looking up at her he watched the most beautiful woman in his life glaring at students whispering and pointing at them.

His ears hurt, mostly because she tugged at them with both hands, and so did his balls.

Balls? Crap, Kyoko you can't sit there!

She didn't just sit but merrily bounced up and down. Yukio sincerely hoped she was oblivious to what it looked like. Even more he wanted her to get off him, because those parts were exactly as sensitive as his recollection of the last time he made a spectacular save as goalkeeper in a game of soccer.

Then a loud cough called for his attention, and Kyoko had the good graces to cease bouncing.

Behind her back four chairs lined up with their four best friends straddling them leaning their arms on the backrests. Noriko scowling, Urufu smirking, Kuri rolling her eyes and Ryu grinning wildly.

“Love birds, get a room or get real,” Urufu said in English.

Atop of him Kyoko gasped and turned.

“Rehearsing the racier parts of the play?” Kuri asked in the same language. “Want to continue on stage?” She frowned and dug into her school bag searching for something. After a while her frown made way for a satisfied smile.

A camera? Yukio wondered in panic, and Kyoko must have felt the same, because she rolled beside him and covered herself with the blanket they had shared the previous night.

“The four of us need to have a talk,” Urufu said. It sounded as the start of a sentence, but he was interrupted by Kuri.

“You insensitive moron!” She threw him an angry glare. “Ko-chan and I are going to have some girl talk.” And that sounded more like an order than a suggestion. “You are going to dress down that oversexed friend of yours.” A long finger protruded from her hand and stabbed at Yukio through the distance, but Yukio knew the words were directed at Urufu.

Still, oversexed, me? I was asleep for most of it, so why is it my fault?

Urufu just grinned and tapped Ryu on his shoulder. He had to reach behind Kuri to do so.

What once began as an open display of friendly rivalry from the Wakayama twins was an established habit by now despite Noriko's dating Nao-sempai. Urufu had her by his other side, so the Swedish couple were sandwiched in the middle as always.

Yukio had a hard time imagining them side by side in any other order than Noriko, Urufu, Kuri and Ryu. Usually he and Kyoko trailed a few steps behind whenever the six of them went out together.

“Ryu can you get the patrols and play started? I really need to talk with the moron on the futon,” Urufu said.

Ryu nodded in return and headed for the office area. His chair screeched on the floor as he dragged it behind him. The noise was enough to silence the whispers around them that hadn't subsided until now.

“Noriko, get the food market going. I'll help you after I've knocked some sense into his head,” Urufu said and pointed a thumb at Yukio. “Yukio, boys' locker room. Now!”

With the last words Urufu rose from his chair and left the room.

Before Yukio even had the chance to protest Kuri had already pulled Kyoko to her feet. She did protest, but a shockingly well articulated sentence in Japanese from Kuri silenced her.

“Ko-chan, you absolutely must shower and change your underwear, wouldn't you agree?”

Kyoko barely had time to get her bag, and Yukio used that as a signal to rip open his backpack and pull out one pouch with toiletry and another with fresh underwear. After that he hurried after the girls on their way to the locker room.

When he passed the office area he saw Ryu handing Noriko an old style walkie talkie which she clipped onto a belt. By the windows a dozen more stood recharging.

His footsteps on the stairs down to the first floor were unusually loud but neither corridors nor stairwell were any less crowded than a usual school day. Yukio attributed the sound of his footsteps to a guilty conscience.

They passed the vending machines and then he waved to Kyoko before she vanished into the girls locker room. On the other side of the cafeteria Urufu stood waiting by the door to the boys'. He rolled one of the security armbands over a sleeve and opened the door.

“Security patrol. Anyone not showering evacuate now!” After delivering that lie Urufu beckoned for Yukio to follow him inside.

Yukio didn't see how he could avoid the inevitable, and in the end he meekly obeyed.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Wattpad and reads

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. The number of reads I receive on Wattpad is close to zero. But then I remember that it's the place with the best reader interface -- not that a measurable number of people use it as far as my stories are concerned.

The best site in terms of reads for me is Inkspired. All my stories, including the short, get hit more or less every day.

Second to that site is RoyalRoadl with a decent readership.

This blog only comes in at third place.

I've abandoned Jukepop and Inkitt as feeding a zero readership on sites with only average quality reading-tools seems like a total waste of effort.

And then there is Wattpad again. Probably the largest of all publishing sites. It's got a neat community for writers, and as far as I go it seems to be the primary benefit. I can test passages.

But reads...

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Midsummer's eve, 2040, midnight

Kyoko snuggled up closer to her husband. She was a little bit drunk, just like him, and grew goose bumps from the unexpected night chill, just like him. She felt them under her fingers as she slid her hand further inside his shirt sleeve.

There was a lot to be said about Swedish midsummer. Accurately placed around summer solstice instead of mid July was one thing and pleasantly lacking everyday rain was another. Gorgeous hours of light Yukio would have added should she ask. It was but an hour since he stopped alternatively looking at his wristwatch and the darkening skies above them.

Summer temperatures, however wasn't one of them. The high school rooftop from her youth had been warmer, if her memories from that night before the cultural festival served her correctly.

No matter whether they did or not they still called colour to her face and she buried her nose deeper in Yukio's chest. She could feel the question in his fingertips as he caressed her hair.

A quarter of a century spent together. Most of those years happy ones and none of them entirely a bad one. The latter ones filled with a calmer joy. The early ones more prone to sudden swings between exhilarating joy, fear and despair.

Like their second year cultural festival she remembered and shuddered.

She hugged Yukio closer and forced her thoughts and memories to their first school festival together. Apart from a few ugly moments it was a bright and joyful memory.

And the slightly embarrassing one from a rooftop shared between them.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Chapter one (segment eleven), 2016, September, Kyoko

Kyoko stared at the bulletin board. Is this a joke?

Signed by the student council the short list for the beauty contest sat neatly nailed to the official slot only the council could use.

During the last days' worth of frantic planning she recalled voting for Kuri, and mostly out of loyalty for Yukio as well. She felt some heat rising to her cheeks. In her world he deserved a spot among the five, but she also preferred having him to herself without any competition.

She read the list of girls again. Kuri-chan first with close to a third of all votes, but that was expected. That she'd end up the winner was a given. After her name Kyoko read a second year unknown to her. Hitomi-chan's name after that wasn't exactly a great surprise, and after their show of strength ending the bullying attempt, neither was Noriko's. The last name, however was a major surprise.

Why the hell am I on that list?

There had to be something wrong and she hoped it would be cleared up soon. As an afterthought she threw a look at the boys' list as well.

Ryu first with over ten percent of all votes and after him, with almost as many, Nao-sempai's name looked down at her. So far no surprises. Urufu at third place would have been an impossibility a few months earlier, but given his rising fame the last weeks Kyoko wasn't really all that surprised to find his name there.

The list petered out with two third years as unfamiliar to her as the second year girl.

I just have to find the joker who put my name on that list tomorrow morning before the real voting starts. But first she needed to join the rest of the club.

An hour of negotiation earlier that evening between headship, student council and the club saw Urufu in charge of patrolling the school grounds in addition to his other chores.

Kyoko remembered watching the first real quarrel between Kuri-chan and Urufu before she left for home to wash and collect some clothes in a bag before returning to school.

Her parents scowled, but the signed slip from Principal Nakagawa was enough to silence their protests, and now she was back in school with the underwear and toiletry needed for two nights on a hard floor.

After making her way up the stairs she walked through the empty corridor and slid open the door to their club room.

What on earth?

The lounge area had given way to a sea of futons, air mats and closed foam pads.

“When did this happen?” she asked into the air.

“Dunno, but I know Hamarugen-san is who happened,” a voice answered. There was a tinge of awe in it.

Kyoko turned in the direction of the voice. A freshman she couldn't remember seeing before sat by a desk in their office area. An enormous freshman with spiky, orange hair, irregular school uniform and an armband in his hands. She wasn't certain but it looked like the kanji for 'security' on it.

“Who are you?” she asked, too perplex to be afraid.

He rose so quickly he almost overturned his chair. Then he gave her the most formal bow she had received in her live. “My name is Goto Daisuke. I apologise for my unseemly appearance Takeida-san.” His choice of words changed to the extreme formal as well.

He's sure got the build for it, Kyoko thought and shot the hulking frame an amused stare. Wait a minute, why does he know my name?

“You're not a club member, so why are you in our club room?” She really wanted to fish for an answer to her earlier question, but she couldn't think of a polite way to do so.

He slowly rose to his full length. “Matsumoto-san told me to lay out the beds.

Kyoko looked at the lounge turned sleeping area and nodded. Urufu placed a few phone calls and this stuff magically appeared here. She shook her head as pieces of a puzzle slowly came to place in her head. One question would confirm her theory.

“You're 9:1?”

“Yes. I'm honoured that Takeida-san knows me,” the giant said and bowed deep again.

Confirmed, but I don't really know you. I only guessed. Kyoko chose not to phrase that in spoken words. There was no point in insulting him. So the rumours about the former Red Rose thugs were true after all. She should have known, but 9:1 had their home room in the left wing and she had little to no reason visiting them during school hours.

Behind her the door slid open and a few club members arrived. They must have come with the same train. Another half an hour and she expected to see the club room alive with its usual club hours chaos even though it was far later than and club hours.

They'd take turns patrolling the school grounds twenty four hours a day until the end of the cultural festival. For most of the club members two nights sleepover at school would be an adventure.

While she understood Urufu irritation at being saddled with yet another responsibility she also trusted him to calm down in the end. To make sure of that she sent Kuri-chan an email ordering her to apologise to her boyfriend and make up with him.

After all Kyoko guessed she was the only one allowed to slap her tall friend around in that manner. She suspected not even Urufu dared doing so, but allowed to or not he was still the one paying with additional work for Kuri-chan's request to get the clothes provided by Uniclo secured. They couldn't afford another sabotage.

When Yukio finally returned from his father's home with a large backpack she only allowed him to dump it in the club room before she led him upstairs by his arm.

Below them almost half of 9:1 had joined the club members for the overnight stay and three pairs with flash lights and radio were already patrolling the school.

Kyoko didn't care. She'd team up with Yukio in two hours, and she didn't plan to sleep until then. Not with the bribe in her pocket. The rooftop key she received from the student council president in return for nudging Kuri-chan to request added security. Kyoko almost felt a bit guilty on Urufu's behalf. Almost, but two blankets in one arm, Yukio in her other and the prospect of two dark hours alone with him quickly brushed away any concerns.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Chapter one (segment ten), 2016, September, Noriko

Noriko ran to her brother and demanded all extra hands he had available. Outside the back entrance a truck stood waiting.

A truckload of clothes, literally. You gotta be kidding me!

She didn't really have time to explain anything, because the truck blocked most of the street.

More than a few faces turned their way when she ran together with her crew past the gym, across the pool area and to the gate no one had found a teacher with a key to.

It was late enough in September for the last remnants of summer to have vanished, and the end of the festival would see them change into their winter uniforms. Right now she was happy they still wore their summer ones as the rush to the truck was sweatier than she had thought.

Of those most concerned with the load none were present. Kuri and Nao-sempai were busy preparing them for the show. Apparently walking the catwalk entailed more than just naturally looking good.

Noriko didn't know. She'd been part of Urufu's fire brigade from the start, and things like the sudden appearance of the truck was exactly what she handled. In all fairness Ryu should have been part of it as well, but as the festival loomed closer the more occupied he became with the fashion show. It was a given that he would participate, but Kuri-chan said you could create a fashion model 101 education based on everything he misunderstood.

Just as she saw the truck her phone signalled an incoming message. Nao-sempai, or maybe just Nao now, she thought. They were dating after all. That thought had her fingering her ear where a dazzling piece of gold and ruby adorned it. The pain from piercing it was all but gone, as were the memories of the verbal bashing she received when she first arrived home with her earrings.

She led half her crew around the gates thinking of the tall junior. Nao, her Nao. It was a cosy feeling. Not the burning longing she once felt for Urufu but rather a sense of safety.

“One bundle at a time,” she shouted. “Above the gates, stack them over there and you four start lugging it to the gym hall!”

It took them a quarter of an hour to offload the truck, and when they were finished a short line of cars with irritated drivers stood waiting for the large vehicle to get moving.

After that they carried the boxes to the gym hall a little like a caravan of ants with their load. Another half an hour gone when they had so little time left, or so she thought when they arrived with the second set of boxes.

'An increment must comply with a definition of done', Urufu said, 'and a definition of done should always result in something practically useful', but Noriko never understood what he meant by that until now.

Inside the gymnasium Kuri already had her models clad in whatever clothes were in the first set of boxes, and Noriko heard her instruct them in how to wear those clothes and how to walk.

When Noriko and her porters arrived with the third set the modelling crew received instructions in new attire. All in all the loss of time could be counted in minutes.

As the stash of boxes by the gates shrunk the hangers in the gym hall filled with clothes tried on, and by the time the last of the clothes were carried inside the models looked as if the had a pretty good idea about how to change between sets in an absurdly short time.

While the exercise served its intended means it also became a show of its own. An audience gathered, both boys and girls, ogling the models as they changed. Noriko heard Kuri shout a choice set of Swedish words to the boys, and there was no need to understand the language to get the message across.

Hitomi-chan looked more embarrassed than beautiful and Noriko understood her perfectly. Changing clothes as a model meant spending a lot of time half naked in front of others, and no matter how much they tried to shield her with blankets some of the boys always managed to sneak a peek or two while she wore nothing but her underwear.

“Kuri, club room,” Noriko suggested when she understood that nothing Kuri shouted would help.

Hitomi-chan gave her a grateful look in return and stared pleadingly at Kuri. When Kuri started to shake her head Noriko grabbed one of her arms and yanked.


“Club room. This isn't Sweden. We're not used to having boys stare at us that way.”

“If you want to work as a...”

Noriko didn't allow Kuri to finish that sentence. “This isn't work. It's a school event and Hitomi-chan shouldn't have to go through this.”

Kuri backed down at that. Almost. “But the clothes?”

It made sense. The ones they planned to used from the start lay in the burner after someone shredded them. “I'll assign people to guard duty here, OK?”

Kuri nodded and shortly afterwards Noriko watched her leaving the gym hall together with the models. They carried a box each. Enough to continue training but most of the clothes were still here. Another half an hour later saw all boxes empty and the hangers filled to capacity.

Now the time had come for the more difficult part.