“This might sound like a strange request, but apart from club hours I want you two to work part time at Stockholm Haven café.”
It was definitely a strange request, but one Yukio could understand.
“Anything more?” he asked.
“Yes, after work you're to walk Takeida-san home, call me and go home yourself.”
Yukio wondered how many students had their principal's number in their contact list. “Understood Nakagawa-sensei,” he said. He would do as told. Kyoko had already been attacked once, and the way their school had upped the ante he didn't want to risk a repeat.
“What about Yukio, eh, Matsumoto-san?”
Yukio felt his shoulders rise at Kyoko's unfamiliar use of his surname. She hadn't for months now.
Principal Nakagawa rested his elbows on his desk. He looked at Kyoko and scratched his chin. Then he caught Yukio's eyes with his own before Yukio had a chance to protest. “That's a relevant question. I'm afraid we'll have to chance Matsumoto-san walking home alone.”
“Not good enough,” Kyoko protested.
Nakagawa-sensei grimaced, but in the end he nodded at her. “Do you have bikes?”
Yukio didn't, but his mother had one he could borrow. “Yes,” he said.
Kyoko grimaced before she answered. “I'm not allowed to use one. It's not… it's not proper for a young woman.”
From the corner of his eye Yukio saw Nakagawa-sensei shoot Kyoko an equally stunned look of incomprehension.
“Not proper?” Principal Nakagawa finally asked.
Kyoko blushed slightly. “My father says it's unbecoming of a woman.”
What the hell? Did he time-slip from the Meiji era?
“Ah, I take it you don't have a bike then,” Nakagawa-sensei said and avoided the question that should have been asked.
With a frown Yukio watched Kyoko shake her head. Well, the bastard almost left me lying on the street after I got beat up. Some people shouldn't be allowed to have children. Then Yukio regretted that thought. If some people weren't, then his lovely Kyoko wouldn't be by his side now.
“Matsumoto-san, could you walk Takeida-san home and ride back to your home afterwards?”
The question made sense. He was much less likely to get into trouble if he biked home. “Yes. Yes, I'll do so.”
“Well, that settles it. You're dismissed.” With those words Nakagawa-sensei rose from his chair.
The meeting was over and Yukio bowed quickly before he grabbed Kyoko who had done likewise and hurried out of the office.
Guess we could as well make some cash from James, he thought when they trotted away in the direction of their club room. Could as well grab some stuff from there and carry it to the café. We're moving before we're forced to anyway.
Because they were. Any day now Noriko's mother would show up with a pick-up and help them move furniture from the club room to Stockholm Haven café. The inner room would be cramped, but in all honesty the main area was better suited for lounging purposes. The inner room was superior as a workspace though.
We'll be the only club with our club room accessible for another school. Two other schools, Yukio added mentally. But we're planning to make that one other school.
“Yukio, slow down! You're hurting me!”
Yukio broke his stride and came to a stand still. “Sorry,” he said. Then he saw how red Kyoko's wrist had become. “Crap, I'm really sorry. Please forgive me!”
She massaged her arm and gave him a glare. “Don't worry. You just can't drag me along like that without telling me where we're going.”
You knew we were headed for our room, but you just don't like being dragged along without my asking. He had some reflection to do. She was his girlfriend, not his property, and if he didn't behave properly he'd lose her and deserve it.
“I was thinking we should move one of the boilers and some of the tablets for tonight,” Yukio said in an attempt to change the topic.
Kyoko gave him a relieved smile and nodded.
“You know,” she said as they slid open the door, “I think getting to know Irishima high students is a god thing, but what about Red Rose?”
Yukio rummaged through the shelves and bagged half a dozen tablets while Kyoko went for the lounge area and one of the three water boilers in the room. He knew they had until it was time to leave before he needed to come up with an answer.
“I try not to think about it,” he said in the end. “To be honest I'm more worried about the new members from the transfer batch. They saw Red Rose Hell first hand for an entire term before transferring here.”
Kyoko left the room and Yukio closed the door behind them. There were quite a few students at school, but during club hours they usually didn't loiter in the corridors and thus it looked a lot more deserted than it was.
“They haven't complained about the move,” Yukio continued when it was clear Kyoko expected some kind of explanation monologue. “There are so many of us there I think they feel safe.”
“Idiot!” came the unexpected reaction.
“Just about everyone at Himekaizen was present when they maimed Urufu. Why should the transfer students from Red Rose feel safe at the café?
He mulled over the question while they descended the stairs. Because we're aware of the danger now? he thought. Because those who attacked Urufu all were hospitalised as well? But that wasn't the reason, or a least that shouldn't be the reason. We can't make people feel safe based on having the other side more scared than us.
“I don't know,” Yukio said when they got outside. He looked at the darkening skies and pulled his coat closer. “It's just a feeling. I think it's a good thing there are students from three schools at the café. I think having the war out in the open somehow makes it less scary.”
“Are you telling me the truth?”
He looked at Kyoko and hugged her closer to him. Not entirely, he admitted to himself. “Maybe I just can't be that scared when I'm with you,” he said, and that was probably the truth in as much as there was something you could call truth. It didn't help those from Red Rose, but it did help him, and that was enough for now.
He could only be Urufu's wingman and Kyoko's hero, and he guessed it was the same for her. Neither he nor the woman he loved could protect more than two important ones. That was the depressing reality when you listened to the tunes of the wingman blues.