Friday, 22 April 2016

Chapter one (segment one), 2016, December, Ryu

Ryu frowned and left Stockholm Haven café. Ai-chan had left half an hour earlier, but he needed to wait for his sister to finish her job.

Noriko pointed at the police car on the other side of the street. There had been one every day for a week since some idiots with more muscles than brains from Red Rose Hell threw a home made bomb into the café.

Despite the seriousness of the affair Urufu couldn't help but guffaw when he disarmed the bomb on the floor. Something about Molotov-cocktails made of plastic bottles and diesel was apparently hysterically funny.

Nonetheless the police came and picked up the gang after the guests in the café went out en masse and beat them down into the street. That was also the moment when the student body of Irishima high finally sided with them and made open enemies of Red Rose.

During that week late autumn gave way to early winter, and Himekaizen slowly started boiling with anticipation for Christmas and the second term final exams, as was the case for most schools in early December. Simply put the students felt the presence of year's end closing in, and Ryu was no exception.

But there was also something he hadn't experienced before. The ambiguous sensation from being part of tearing down Red Rose Hell.

Those were his thoughts when Urufu caught up to them.


Yes?” she said and turned her eyes from the patrol car to Urufu who had called out to her from behind her back.

Ryu watched him throwing a glance at the police before he made up the entire distance to the siblings and sandwiched Noriko between Ryu and himself.

Kyoko said to meet with you next Sunday. Looks like a girl thing, cause Christina just emailed me. Seems she's reneging on our date.

Sucks to be you, Ryu thought. It wasn't exactly like the Swedish couple got a lot of opportunities to be alone with each other. A few months earlier he'd have applauded the mishap with a gleeful smile, but even before he met Ai-chan and became a couple with her he had come to value his friendship over his unrequited crush on Kuri.

Are you sure about that? You two haven't had a proper date for weeks.”

We get by,” Urufu answered. “We see each other during club hours. As for dates I'm more worried about you and Nao. Didn't you have something planned?”

Ryu had to give Urufu credit for guessing that the girls' outing interfered with Noriko's wishes. The tall foreigner was not only one of his best friends but also sometimes painfully inept when it came to socialising with girls. And he was most definitely a foreigner despite his mostly Japanese looks.

I'll live,” Noriko said and grinned. “We're going to an onsen during winter break, and both Nao-sempai and Ai-chan are going with us.”

Urufu gave first Noriko and then Ryu a long stare. It proved he had at least learned some Japanese sensibilities. “You're going on an overnight trip the four of you?”

The six of us,” Ryu answered and smiled. “Our parents as well, or I doubt Nao-sempai's and Ai-chan's parents would have allowed it.”

Ah, OK, the girls in one room and you boys in the other?”

The women in one room and the men in another,” Ryu shot back just as he realised he'd been had.

Man, you?”

Go die sucker! “Yeah, man me.”

Funny, and here I thought of your dad as a kid with a runny nose.”

His dad was forty, which made him ten years Urufu's junior, which in turn made no sense at all since he and Urufu both were freshmen at Himekaizen. Transitions between worlds and bodies did funny things to the concept of age.

Urufu, leave him be!” came Noriko's voice, but Ryu could hear how his sister hid her laughter among her admonishing words.

Waiting for Urufu to answer Ryu listened to the subdued noise of his shoes tapping against wet tarmac. Splashing more likely. A short spell of rain had just passed them by and puddles of water glittered in the lamplights.

From time to time headlights dazzled them and when the sound engines vanished behind them Ryu had to blink away the sudden sensation of blindness.

Almost a block the walked before he understood that Urufu had declined to respond.

I think they're done for,” Noriko said to banish the awkward silence. “Himekaizen just went public with the decision to admit ten freshmen classes, and I think Irishima high will announce that they're admitting an extra class soon enough.”

When did you hear that?

I know,” Urufu said. “I spoke to the old goat an hour ago. They'll suspend Christina for a week while they decide how to handle her previous part time work.”

What?” Kuri suspended?

You haven't heard?”

Heard what?”

Apparently Christina worked part time as a hostess during spring term,” Urufu said. “They're kinda pissed off at school right now.”

No, he hadn't heard. But if this was true then anyone on a vengeance trip was certain to lay their hands on a bucketful of ammunition.

How bad is it?” Ryu asked.

Anyone but Christina or me and we'd be talking automatic expulsion,” Urufu said. “They want us arrivals attending Himekaizen for some reason, so that won't happen.”

Because you're some kind of special kids? And just shove it Ryu! They are special. I need to accept that. Ryu shook his head in disgust of his own envy.

What's the fallout?”

They'll tack on an extra week of suspension I guess. She'll get drowned in make-up classes and her agency will get one hell of a firmer grip on her career.”

And why is that so bad?” Ryu wondered.

Idiot bro! Urufu, I'm so sorry!” Noriko suddenly shot in.

Can't be helped,” Urufu said. “With a bit of luck they won't force us to break up immediately.”

Whoa! Break up?”

Yeah. They'll want to purify her reputation, make a decent girl out of her and all that shit. Just because you suffer from an epic case of Madonna whore complex in Japan.” Urufu went silent and stared at his shoes. “Fucking third world backwater excuse for a country!”

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