Nakagawa Akio, Principal of Himekaizen Academy tapped closed the phone-call. From what the Matsumoto kid had said the sudden surge of skipping classes had a reason.
Damn! So they won this one. He hadn't expected Ageruman-san to buckle under the pressure, but then again that pressure had been absurd.
Any other two and Nakagawa would have shrugged it away, but with those two things immediately became more complicated, or complex as Hamarugen-san would have said. A few weeks earlier Sato-san told him she'd been ordered to break the couple up, and Nakagawa refused flat out. And since then there were factions within their own faction.
But I couldn't do that. They're not teens. It's like forcing a divorce. And that was the reason he refused, unlike the first time, earlier the last autumn, when they were asked to create a distance between the arrivals.
Fine, Wakayama-san, you win. The thought of calling the former imperial officer scared him, but he'd do that anyway. This once Nakagawa would side entirely with the Wakayamas. But he has real blood on his hands. I doubt the Wakayama's are old enough to understand.
He hesitated, held his phone in his hand and stared at it as if some bakemono would suddenly creep out of it and bite his face. In the end he could hesitate no more. With a sigh Nakagawa sat down in his chair and punched up a number to a former student of his, one that he had hoped he wouldn't need to meet again.
“Yes, this is Principal Nakagawa,” he said after the other side took the call. “Is Sano Mitsuo there?”
With some luck the arrival who once befriended the Wakayamas wouldn't be, but Nakagawa was to have no such luck.
“Nakagawa. I'm the principal...”
“I know, get to the point.”
That was surprisingly rude for a Japanese, or for anyone with a decent upbringing. “Would it be possible for the two of us to meet? We had an incident with a student here.”
“Yes, it concerns one Ageruman Kuritina, if you're familiar with the name?”
There was no response, just as Nakagawa had known. She was Sano-san's granddaughter after all. After an eternity the phone came alive again. “Where?”
“Nagoya. I can be there in three hours,” Nakagawa said, because this wasn't the kind of planning you wanted done over the phone. Especially not over a phone-connection he didn't trust wasn't wire-tapped, or whatever it was called when cell phones were involved.
After a short silence he had his response. “Four, I need four hours. Seven o'clock?”
That would be enough for him to book a hotel room. “Yes, seven will be fine,” Nakagawa said, and they closed the call.
Damn you, Natsumi! Sano Mitsuo sat at a table in a café waiting for an old man who was younger by far than he. Leaving one world at seventy and arriving in another at fourteen did strange things to your conception of age.
Ah, there he is. They had met last August, and of course almost daily when Mitsuo was a student at Himekaizen a quarter of a century earlier. The news of two new arrivals, the first in a decade, had him remembering the years when there was an arrival almost every year. He had been one.
They bowed. Two men with more memories from days gone past than the spinning world that was today.
After he waited for Nakagawa to order his tea, Mitsuo could wait no more. “Spill!”
Nakagawa sipped his cup and put it down on the table. “Your kid broke up with Hamarugen-san. My school is in an uproar.”
“Please continue,” Mitsuo said. He understood the other man would hardly have taken the Shinkansen from Tokyo just to report that a teenage fling had turned sour.
“They had her work non-stop from Christmas until now. She's falling behind in her studies.”
“Yes?” If his granddaughter wanted to work until she croaked, then that was he decision.
“Seems she tried to get some time off.”
“Yes?” Mitsuo didn't like where this was going.
“Two other students of mine got assaulted. The two arrivals are too damn strong to be led around, but they're attacking their friends instead.”
“You had better be very, very certain about this.” He had done horrible things in his previous life. If the other faction was ready to attack school children, he was ready to do so again.
Nakagawa nodded. “The kids have an astonishing network of their own, but this time Sato-sensei, Hamarugen-san's handler, confirmed it.”
“Then why me?”
“Because I can't get into contact with Sato-sensei any longer. Her former colleague got shot to death.”
And she's on a revenge trip. Poor kid. But shot? I thought we more or less got rid of firearms. Mitsuo looked at Nakagawa. “Firearms? The police will never drop this, you know. Even the yakuza keep their hands off guns these days.”
“The other faction is dirty diplomatics and JSDF, just like us.”
There was that. Well, with the difference that their own faction had a lot better relations with their Swedish counterpart, but when it came to play dirty tricks, both were equally bad.
“What do you want me to do about this?”
“One of my teachers, Kareyoshi Takeshi,” Nakagawa pushed a folder with papers across the table, “is involved. He's a first class moron, but he's part of the other side anyway. Right now he's untouchable.”
“And you want me to make him less so?”
“If you made him less alive I'd be happy as well, but we can't.”
You're more cold-hearted than I thought. I could come to respect you. “Keep my wife out of it,” Mitsuo said.
Nakagawa only stared back in surprise, meaning that he probably wasn't aware Natsumi had pulled her own strings a month earlier.
“Sano-san,” Nakagawa said, and Mitsuo locked eyes with the man, surprised at the sudden concern in his voice. “You should probably visit your granddaughter soon. She's in very bad shape right now. They worked her to her bones, and she's heartbroken, not as a teenager, but as a grown woman.”
That made Mitsuo remember the death of his first wife. Two years it had taken for him to return to reality and become a man again.
“Thank you. I'm grateful you told me.” Then something itched at his mind. “Nakagawa-san, what about the boy? He has no relatives here.”
The old principal of Himekaizen looked back with a face more like a ghost than a man of power. “He's broken. I don't know if we can make him heal again.”