Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Chapter one, 2017, a new year, segment two

Ryu hadn't heard anything as disgusting since the entrance ceremonies at Red Rose Hell. At the other hand, in that school he heard it all three years.

Principal Kareyoshi was every bit the bigoted moron Urufu said he was. Less than half the speech concerned welcoming the new students and warning them to spend too much time not studying. That part was a given. The rest, well the rest was all about Japanese purity and the dangers of foreign influences diluting it. All in all a piece of first class nationalistic drivel with racist undertones.

Ryu looked at the faces around him during the speech. What he saw both scared him and gave him hope. Most of the students stared at the principal with disbelief in their eyes. Ryu sighed and afforded himself a thin smile. Well, this isn't Red Rose. I don't think the parents here are as easily bought.

After the speech he walked to his classroom. Right wing, just like last year, but on the second floor. To his displeasure he wouldn't have any of his friends with him, but he chalked that down to poor luck from his side.

During lunch break he planned to complain to the rest of them, and then laugh it all away as he usually did.

Come lunch he didn't. Thoroughly pissed off he marched off with Kuri glued to his arm. While he wasn't entirely comfortable with her show-off, mostly because of the murderous looks his sister sent him, he needed to vent his anger with someone who could give him a more mature angle to the situation.

What, you're alone in your class as well?” he asked when they got away to the soccer field and had some privacy.

Kuri nodded. “Not too surprised. It's blatant enough to be the work of an idiot. I wonder if the other students will stand for it.”

He chewed her words mentally while enjoying the first promises of late spring in the air. With sakura bathing the school in a shower of peach-coloured dreams it was hard to stay angry for long. Then he felt Kuri tug at his arm, and he realised he had stayed silent for too long.

Ryu grimaced. “You mean breaking apart the couples in school?” he said, referring to what his sister had told them. “I wouldn't be too sure. Relationships during high school are frowned upon more than you think.”

Your loss. Well, mine as well, now that I live in Japan.”

He looked at her face. This close he noticed for the first time how Kuri’s eyes were just a little off from the typical European. Just a reminder that her grandfather was from Japan, and one like her and Urufu, something his parents tried to keep a secret and both Ryu and Noriko pretended they didn’t know.

Sweden's different?” he said to break the silence and give himself an opportunity to look at the beauty who called herself his girlfriend.

Yeah, at least when I was a school kid. Has to be now as well I guess. It's just part of growing up after all.” Kuri’s face showed no signs of mischief, which probably meant she truly thought of it as part of everyday life.

What about our situation? I mean, it's not like the two of us would attend the same class after all.” Just as the words left him Ryu regretted the way he said that.

You mean with me being a liberal arts idiot and you a sciences star?”

He looked at her to see if she had really become angry or not, but her face was blank, and he couldn't read any emotions in it.

I apologise. I didn't mean it that way.”

Then she smiled. “I know. Just be careful with what you say. People will misunderstand, some even deliberately.” This time mischief did glimmer in her eyes.

A sudden wind blew life in her hair, and staring at the golden halo surrounding her smiling face Ryu was once again reminded of her almost otherworldly beauty. He looked down at his shoes. “Yeah, I didn't think.”

We're second years now. A lot of people know us, and the freshmen will look at us.”

What do you mean? Oh. “As a couple?”

The grin he got in return was a little condescending, but also filled with support. “Dummy, yes, that as well. You're always so visible that you don't really need me to be seen, and you know that.”

Ryu didn't get what Kuri was after. If it wasn't the surprising new couple, then what? “Enlighten me,” he said. He had wanted to talk things over with an adult he could trust after all.

This isn't middle school. From what you've told me the second years are the most visible, with the most famous seniors only some kind of distant heroes.”

Ryu nodded. Not that he really, knew, but that was the rumour.

Well, it wasn't true last year. We stole that place in the spotlight. Even Nao chose to hang with us.”

OK, that makes sense I guess.

This year there'll be third years who resent us. You're famous all over the school. They'll be waiting for you to do a mistake, and me as well.”

I don't care. Let them!”

Kuri sighed. “Look Ryu, you're cute and all, but sometimes you're just a kid. Listen to me! Even if you get away with it, dirt's gonna stick to the rest of us.” Then she lit up in a self-conscious smile. “Fine, not on me. I'm just as famous, but to people I care for.”

Sure, I'll be careful. “And about the part of us being a couple?”

That part?” She grimaced. “I guess we'll have to make a public show about it one way or another. Don't worry, I'll play the evil bitch.” Then she smirked. “Comes natural to me after all.”

Why are you doing this to yourself? “I disagree,” Ryu said. Kuri sacrificed one part of her life to keep another, and she had done so knowing the results. Hardly a bitch. Then he realised he’d been unclear about what which of her two statements he just replied to. “I’m fine with the public show. I’ve been one for the last four years anyway.”

She gave him an approving look. “Sometimes you’re colder than you look, you know. Doesn’t suit you.” She dug her fingers into her hair and let it billow out in the wind. “I’m the cynical one of us. Hell, when I was your age I still stared at the world with childish eyes and believed life would be wonderful.”

Kuri’s eyes looked right through him, into a far distance where Ryu couldn’t follow. I wonder if Urufu can go with you there, Ryu thought. Probably not, but maybe the older friend could understand what Kuri saw in her mind. I don’t think that’s a world I can ever touch, no matter how old I get. Ryu made up a resolve never to stop Urufu and Kuri from sharing that world. Their memories, their past lives.

Careful Ryu, if you ever fall in love with her, you’ll still never be everything in her life. A sobering thought, and another one that was beyond his years. Growing up like this sucks, he thought and bowed to his girlfriend.

Thank you for your advice. I’ll leave you to your part of the show,” he said when he saw Kyoko coming for them with a small train of seniors tailing her.

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