Kyoko barren as a result of her stab-wound shocked Ulf. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around a life where you weren't even given the choice of having a child or not.
'One day,' the doctor had said. Well, it had been one day. All of them returned home, which was a welcome respite for Ulf, or rather his underwear, which he quickly hid in the laundry basket before he took a shower.
Christina followed him home. She had refused to return to an empty flat, luxury condo or not, and with Amaya in control anything but bringing her home was out of the question.
While Ulf and Christina showered separately, they slept together, and sleeping was the only thing the did apart from hugging, and when the hug turned into fretful sleep he couldn't remember.
When morning came Christina received some underwear from Amaya that were serviceable, if nothing else. The rest of her change came out of his wardrobe, and even though she muttered and swore she ended up dressed for a late autumn camping hike. Everything was a bit large for her, but their difference in size wasn't huge. Once again the word serviceable came to mind.
Ulf, well he only had business suits that were clean, so it was a rather mismatched pair that made their way to the clinic.
Long before they arrived Ulf had his misgivings about the day, and the lump in his stomach just grew heavier the closer they got. While he could understand Yukio's relief, Ulf suspected his best friend simply lacked the experience to understand why what was coming probably was a life-changing disaster to Kyoko.
One look at Christina told him she silently shared his thoughts. It didn't matter that she hadn't left any children behind in the other world. What mattered was that she knew that she herself had chosen not to have any.
“Ina, who's going to stay with her?” Ulf asked when they left the car, and there were all too few steps until they were inside.
He felt her fingers claw into his right arm. “I can't help her. I don't even know how Ko-chan will react.”
Ulf threw a glance at Amaya who had driven them there, but she resolutely shook her head. He had suspected she would, and for the same reason as he himself. The feeling of loss, even if it was the feeling of a potential loss, was simply too frightening.
Damn, I'm going to betray you, but I don't have the guts for this. To prevent Christina from even asking, he stopped and pulled her close. “I can't. I'm sorry, but I can't. It's too close to my memories.”
Christina's eyes displayed equal parts disappointment and understanding.
For once Ulf felt the kind of childish regret belonging to a child. He wished 2016 hadn't ended, because if this was the way the bells rang out the old and welcomed the new, he wasn't certain he wanted any of it. With regret came more fear, but there was no delaying it any longer. Ulf clung to Christina's arm the way she clung to his, and together they entered the clinic.
He barely made it into the corridor before he heard wails as if someone was being slaughtered alive. Without thinking he left Christina behind him, ran through the corridor and tore open the offending door.
Behind it he saw Yukio and the tall doctor from yesterday, and in the bed Kyoko sat straight up screeching her lungs out.
“They told me I can't have a baby. That I can never… Bwah, ah, ah, ah...”
Ulf opened the door and went outside. He left Yukio inside.
Christina sat waiting on a chair in the corridor, and Ulf sank down by the wall. Through the door he could hear Kyoko's wailing.
Nothing we can do now. She's paying for my mistake. He felt drained.
Ulf looked up and saw Christina sobbing silently. Tears ran down her face, and then, finally, he allowed his own helplessness to take control. His cheeks were wet and Christina sat on the other side of the corridor, or an eternity, away. Two metres. A chasm he couldn't bridge.
By the door Amaya had taken position. She leaned against it and looked at him. “Urufu, I have the news you need but don't want.”
What are you talking about? Right now he only wanted to crawl over to Christina.
“I know who's behind it, but I can't prove it.”
“Or rather, I'm not allowed to. This time it's someone on the inside.”
“When I became your handle they told me about the two factions. This time it's someone belonging to the other faction, but it's still someone belonging to the JSDF.”
“What the fucking hell are you talking about?” But he didn't need to ask. He already knew about the dirty infighting, had guessed the day he was called to the principal's office after kicking in a door in the girls' locker room.
Amaya flinched, but she never left the door. “I'm afraid you won't be able to avoid him. It's Kareyoshi Takeshi.”
And that made absolutely no sense at all. “Kareyoshi-sensei? The baboon trying to teach English?”
“But, even though he's an imbecile he's still Himekaizen.”
“Wake up, moron!” Amaya glared at him and bent down a little. “So every student from Red Rose is a disgusting rapist, including you?”
Ulf backed away from his guardian, and on the other side of the corridor he could see how Christina had dropped some of her apathy and eavesdropped on Amaya's admonishing.
“No, no of course not,” he mumbled.
“And every teacher in Himekaizen is an angel who wants nothing more than filling the students with divine wisdom?” Amaya continued relentlessly.
Kareyoshi. For the first time an enemy had been given a name. Kareyoshi you fuck! Ulf stared at Christina. “We have a name.”
“You can't go after him,” came Amaya's silent voice. “I asked, but they forbade me.” When Ulf listened a second time he realised her voice wasn't silent because of sadness, it was silent due to hatred. “You have to convince the others as well, and,” she looked at Christina, “I've been given orders to break you two up.”