And that's the real beauty of it, Ulf thought as he waited for Christina to finish her explanation.
How to expand your market shares in a shrinking market. Just force a competitor out of that market. It was brilliant. Irishima high and Himekaizen aimed at stealing some 350 students from Red Rose. That was effectively the same as shutting the school down. Especially as a few middle schools stood waiting in the shadows ready to gobble up students from grade seven through nine, among them Christina's old school.
Christina and Kyoko's, Ulf reminded himself. She's the most important person in the world for Yukio.
Ulf took a deep breath before he continued. He still got winded quickly and it would take until the beginning of next year before he could start rebuilding the stamina he had always taken pride in.
“Anyway,” Ulf said. “as you can see one of the classrooms is this very room, so come April we'll be without a clubroom.”
There were quite a few shouts of outrage, and Ulf waited for them to quiet down.
“In return,” he continued when the room was silent enough for him to be heard again, “we've been given special dispensation to use the inner room at the café as our clubroom. It's cleared with the management there as well.” Which means James was behind the entire idea from the beginning, but I can't tell them why, Ulf thought. It made sense though. This way James got into closer contact with both arrivals as well as the Himekaizen part of whatever shadowy organisation that took care of the arrivals over the years.
Ulf shot Christina a worried look before he continued. Nakagawa's words from just after their evening meeting at the café played in his thoughts. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to refuse running for the student council after all. Without Nakagawa to cover their backs they'd be forced to gamble on how the new principal would play his cards, because here in Japan it was bound to be a 'he'.
“Given these circumstances I've decided that the theme for our walking talking sessions will be corporate competition.”
“Corporate competition?” Sakura asked and reminded Ulf that she wasn't anywhere nearly as silent and withdrawn as she had been in the beginning. “What about our school subjects?”
“It's the theme,” Ulf said. “Apart from classic Japanese we'll use the theme as the core for all subjects. For example we'll use examples from economic calculus for math, discuss real cases in English and Japanese and look at older cases from modern Japanese history.”
When he received blank stares in return Ulf palmed his face. This is going to take a while to explain.
He was saved by Noriko. “It's an interdisciplinary approach,” she said. “We're merging knowledge from separate knowledge domains to, eh, to increase our understanding of each domain,” she said, but her voice fell strangely silent at the end.
Ulf stared at her. That's almost correct, and shows way more understanding than any sixteen year old girl has any right to have. “Noriko got the gist of it,” he said. “It also helps us see how different domains are connected to each other,” he added, more for her benefit than for the others. They wouldn't understand the application of synthesis. Most of his old colleagues from his previous life hadn't, but Ulf suspected Noriko was already very, very close to do so.
He watched Christina distribute the compendia they had prepared. He had done most of the research, but she forced him to do a full rewrite of all sections concerning large conglomerates. He was too cute and naive she had laughed, and when it came to global business Ulf saw no reason to distrust anything she said. After all she was the billion dollar empress.
Kid's, you're getting a crash course my old Swedish customers would have paid millions of yen for. With you as a lecturer I doubt yen would suffice, Ulf thought and looked at her. You saved me. Without you I doubt I would have kept my sanity. I owe you so much more than I could ever give you.
She must have felt his gaze, because she suddenly stopped handing out compendia and stood staring back at him. He felt his cheeks heat up, and it was impossible not to meet her eyes.
No matter what you're stunningly beautiful, but that's not what keeps me by your side. Slowly her face faded from his vision and he only saw Christina's intensely blue eyes meeting his. I love your strength, and I love the caring you that you always try to hide. I love knowing that side of you. I wish I could stay with you forever!
And then even her eyes left his view and Ulf found himself locked in memories and the very love he felt for her. Right here and right now there were only the two of them, and in his mind he felt her embrace as real and soft as if they had really been alone together.
I've missed that feeling of being together. Since that day I've missed you even when you were with me. This was the real feeling he had longed for, this, the feeling of being together which for him was more real than seeing her face from his hospital bed.
His chest constricted and a pleasant warmness spread through his body from his stomach.
“Wow!” a voice in the background said. “Hey! You two, you're making us embarrassed.”
Ulf vaguely registered Nori's voice, and for once he probably wouldn't be accused of being the motor mouth, because most of the murmurs seemed to agree with him.
“Man, get a room before you look at her that way,” Yukio said, and the indecent suggestion brought a guffaw to most of the members. The awkward feeling dissolved, but not before Christina snorted in a failed attempt to pretend she hadn't been caught up in the tension.
That was intense! Ulf thought, and once again he recalled the reason he had fallen helplessly in love with her.