After arriving at Odaiba, a man made island in the bay with a perfectly decent beach, Christina was whisked away to the neighbouring shopping mall with Ryu in her tow.
Ulf swore at himself for noticing how her boyfriend did the only thing decent and tagged along with her for her photo shoot rather than getting some good fun by the water front.
With a thin grin Ulf kept up the conversation with Jenny, Alexander and Emma. While it was a joy listening to and speaking Swedish again, he did so more out of loyalty than anything else, and it grated somewhat inside him since he guessed Noriko interrogated Rika and Jun in search for whatever tidbits she believed would help her in her campaign.
Moron! But a very fun moron. I don’t dislike you, and it’s not like I’m not charmed, but I’ll be damned before I start preying on a child. Because she was, even though she had matured a lot during the last year.
He shook the thought away and returned a half hearted laugh at what had obviously been a joke of some kind before he turned his honest attention to the conversation he was, after all, part of.
A little further ahead Jennifer kept Thomas under close guard, and where Noriko was good company who had to rely on her proving she was a good enough friend to keep around, Jennifer had the ability to blast everyone around her with that amazing charisma of hers. Thomas stood absolutely no chance, and it would hardly be fair to say he was preying on her.
And where’s the difference? Ulf pushed that thought away. There was a difference. Noriko wasn’t Jennifer.
“I don’t get it,” Ulf said to change the topic. You don’t have a problem being around each other at all?”
Alexander shrugged. “Emma knows how I feel. Has known from the start, but she’s still maybe the best friend I’ve ever had.”
Ulf turned to Emma. She shrugged as well. “If it gets too hard for me I’ll just avoid him,” she said and nodded at Alexander.
Ulf shook his head. It still didn’t make sense, and he wasn’t thinking about the ludicrous situation, but rather the interpersonal balance between them.
“He tries anything funny and I make sure hell caves in around him,” Jenny said, and all of a sudden the pieces came together. She guaranteed balance between the other two, and Rika would never get involved anyway unless she changed her mind about Alexander, in which case Emma would be hurt but the situation defused anyway.
Satisfied with getting a good enough answer for his question Ulf allowed himself to drink a lungful of sea breeze. Brutally hot or not, the sea was still the sea, and getting inside the water from time to time would handle the worst of the heat.
They followed the beach walk to dressing rooms and toilets, and club members split up to change.
Ulf threw a stare of longing at the beach restaurant closest to them, but he suspected his current body wouldn’t enjoy a cold beer the same way his old self had done. Illegal or not had little to do with taste, and if he remembered correctly he’d been twenty before he really started to like the stuff.
It probably would taste the same anyway. Swedish beer was sweeter, and he’d been smoking a packet of cigarettes per day back then, which certainly didn’t help with his sense of taste.
Dressed in surfer shorts and with all his belongings in his backpack Ulf made his way to where most of the members were already gathering.
This time a bunch of starstruck freshmen gathered courage enough to crowd him. By now his attitude combined with overblown rumours about him and Kuri elevated him to some kind of hero hood. They’d come to their senses soon enough, but at the moment he felt a little awkward.
Then he understood why more than a few of them stood staring at him. Sure, partially his current status helped. But that was it, wasn’t it?
Sunken into deep depression after Christina broke up with him he turned to the oldest of drugs. Two days of brutal training every week became, first three, then four and sometimes five.
It showed. He’d never before, in both his lives, been in better physical condition than he was right now.
So a lot of his fellow club members stared at him. Some in awe, some in envy, and some, he understood gratefully, in disdain.
With far less gratitude he observed that not all of those staring were club members, and just as he was about to dryly observe that they had no reason to, realisation struck him.
He might look Japanese, but the Swedish half in him didn’t just add six or seven centimetres to his frame; it allowed him to bulk up in ways that would have been difficult had he been Japanese only in origin. His idea of being slim despite hard training mirrored his experience from living in Sweden. Here he was visibly muscular.
By his side Emma, Alexander and Jenny arrived – Noriko still tried to monopolise Jun and Rika, but by now quite a few club members had joined her side in an attempt to listen in to what the new star student was talking about with their foreign guests.
Ulf grinned when he saw how she tried to balance being polite with her rising mire.
Then he realised that staring at her lithe body conjured a flashing fantasy of taking her to his bed, and he slammed an iron curtain around his imagination. Breaking up with Christina apparently brought the seediest parts of him to the surface, and he looked down at his own feet in self disgust.
“You know, if you’re not interested, you should just tell her so,” came Jenny’s voice from his side. Then she grabbed his stomach just out of nowhere. “Jun, why don’t you get some of these?” she shouted in English.
What the hell are you doing?
From further down the beach Jenny’s boyfriend looked back at them. He gave Ulf a stare filled with a mix of annoyance and glee. “Sorry. You get the me that is. Take it or leave it!”
It warmed. For the first time that day Ulf filled with feelings of pure joy as Jenny left him for a sprint that ended in Jun’s arms. Some people got it right. He might himself.