Ryu wondered if Urufu and Kuri had managed to spend their Christmas together in that Swedish style Urufu spoke about. If what Urufu said was true then he spent Christmas like a Japanese New Year's celebration, well, minus visiting a shrine of course.
If the couple had, then that was two days ago, because apparently Christmas Eve was the big event in Sweden rather than Christmas Day as Ryu had been taught was the western style.
You give me a headache. Before I met you I could safely assume that 'western' was the one set of whatever was not Japanese. The thought made him smile, because Ulf had tried to smooth things over by saying that most westerners only knew about their own version of 'western'.
Well, he had spent a nice enough date with Ai-chan yesterday where they even quickly showed up at the Irishima high Christmas party. There he had been displayed like an exotic animal, and for the first time he could remember he felt uncomfortable being the centre of attention.
Ryu glanced at the reason for that discomfort. She had fallen asleep in the seat across his, but she was almost as cute sleeping as when she pulled him into her shenanigans. Almost. That laugh of hers, or her inexplicable shyness belonged to her waking world.
“Sis, when is Nao-sempai coming?” Ryu said and turned to his sister.
Aw, damn! She had fallen asleep as well.
“Mom, the girls are no fun!”
His mother turned and looked at him and Noriko. Then something nasty from many years ago glimmered in her eyes and she stuck her tongue out at him. “Suits you Ruy,” she said and returned to her conversation with his father who drove the van.
What the? He knew his mother could be surprisingly childish sometimes, but right now she had behaved like a grade schooler.
Smirking he pulled up his phone and mailed Nao-sempai a complaint.
The reply took a few minutes to come.
“They're girls, leave them be. Kuri-chan sends her greetings by the way and wants you to give them her best.”
Ryu decided against calling the junior despite feeling a little uneasy writing on his phone while the van they rode snaked its way further into the mountains. Another hour and they'd be at their destination, an onsen that carried memories for his parents.
“Something happened?” Ryu wrote and fished for some information on what had happened between Kuri and Urufu.
While he waited for an answer they passed through another tunnel, and by now they had climbed far enough inland for the greenish brown hillsides to become greenish white. From what he remembered there would be snow all over the place when they finally arrived.
“Kuri got scolded, and they scheduled a lot of shoots during winter break.”
Scolded? Good for you two, Ryu thought. The only reason people would be pissed off with her was that she had indeed managed to save the date with Urufu.
“And you got caught up in it?”
It took Ryu three attempts to send that last mail, and when it was away they had left the last of the tunnels and the entire world around him was covered in snow.
“Yes. I'll join you tomorrow. Please convey my apologies to your sister if I'm unable to reach her myself!”
Noriko would sulk, that much was for certain, but with a promise that Nao-sempai would show the day after Ryu didn't think the sulking would be all that bad.
But I don't remember why mom and dad wants to go here? Ah, of course. Staring out the window Ryu saw a small winter's resort. It was nothing compared to the major resorts in the Japan Alps, but it was definitely enough to enjoy a few days away from Tokyo.
“Send my regards to Kuri and make sure you're here by tomorrow. I'll keep sis off your back.”
The mail Ryu received in return was only filled with smiling emojis.
Well, maybe you'll get some time off for New Years. I'd like to spend hatsumode with the two of you. If he understood correctly Kuri and Urufu were used to spend the midnight of New Year’s outdoors watching fireworks. Well, there weren't any fireworks in Japan – those belonged to summer, but people spent midnight outdoors here as well.
By then they were almost at their destination. A steep slope, barely cleared enough of snow to allow their car to climb it, a strangely oversized parking place and a woman in a kimono who waved them to the entrance, that was it. Ryu slid open the door, climbed out and woke Noriko.
“Make sure Ai-chan wakes as well,” he said and grabbed two small bags.
On his way to the entrance he heard how his girlfriend made sleepy sounds of protests behind him. Then the sound of the trunk being opened reached him and he met two porters who hurried to the car. They'd handle all the heavy luggage, which as usual included a lot more than what was needed.
You're funny, he thought. His parents were exemplary in their efficiency packing for work related trips, but whenever it was time for a vacation they tried to bring the entire home with them.
As an afterthought he mailed Urufu as well and wondered about life and the universe in general. The answer arrived just about the same time as their luggage and Ai-chan came inside the hotel foyer.
“Got a break. Bogged down with work. Feels good.”
That was so very Urufu. Concise to the point of being hard to read.
Ryu sent a reply and made his way to the table where they'd receive some tea while their luggage was delivered to their rooms. His phone vibrated almost immediately.
“Don't worry. Christina works as well. Good time to make money.”
That was the constructive way to react Ryu guessed. It wasn't like Urufu could prevent his girlfriend from taking part in her shoots, and burying himself in work should make him better prepared for when they finally had some time together.
December 29, but I'm afraid they'll push it. Worst case she gets December 31 and January 1 off, but that will play merry hell with the rest of the employees. Ryu shook his head and met his father's gaze. “Sorry, was thinking about work.”
“Do you have any work to do now?”
“Sorry, not me. I was thinking of Urufu and Kuri,” Ryu said and added one name to the truth. Where's sis? he thought to banish his worries about his friends.