Ryu stared after Kuri when she left the surfer shop for the outdoors shoots and her personal petty revenge on Kareyoshi. Ryu wasn’t certain how visible it would be, but apart from her, Urufu and their Swedish guests there were mostly formerly expelled students from Himekaizen on the beach. Kuri, rather unsurprisingly, had duped her crew into some group shots for a ‘summer with high school friends on the beach’.
He grinned. It was summer, and they were on the beach, and they were friends as well as high school students.
“Some people take all the good ones,” a whisper came from behind him.
Ryu didn’t turn. Crew, model or just a visitor, he didn’t know, but he was aware that whatever he lacked in looks compared to the male models he more than made up for in presence, or charisma as some preferred to call it. Still, he toned down his grin. It was an expression he had copied from Urufu in the end. The old Ryu usually smiled, or laughed, rather than grinned.
“That’s a funny thing to say with so much beauty,” someone else said.
“They’re models. He’s he real thing.”
He was, he knew that. His was a good family, which was the reason he disliked Noriko chasing after Urufu. Last year Ryu didn’t care, because he didn’t fully understand. In the end, in this world at least, Urufu had no family behind him at all, and Ryu worried for his sister.
That voice didn’t speak about him. That was a direct question, and Ryu had no other option than turn.
“I’ve been asked to invite you to a meeting.”
Ryu looked at the man in his early thirties. Definitely subordinate. “Yes?”
“If you would please follow me.”
“May I ask who?” Ryu said. He made a point of showing no sign of following.
“Ah, of course. Eh, Uchida-sa… Uchida-san and Hasegawa-san are waiting for you”
What the hell? The first ‘a’ in the interrupted honorific had been much too drawn out. Uchida-sama? What’s going on?
“I’m honoured. Please show me the way!”
Intrigued Ryu followed the man to a nearby office and stepped inside.
Two men in their late forties or early fifties sat waiting by a table, each sipping a cup of coffee. One of them rose and reached out with a hand in the western style of a handshake.
“I’m Hasegawa Mamoru, pleased to meet you.”
Ryu took the hand and bowed.
“First of all,” the man continued, and now he reverted to a traditional Japanese bow, “I need to apologise for the way I’ve behaved to you and my daughter.”
Daughter? Wait, Hasegawa. He’s Ai’s father!
Then the other man rose from his chair. “As a matter of fact I’m the one who needs to apologise.”
Ryu looked at him. He oozed of power. It wasn’t the aura of his father but something that reached beyond it.
What’s going on? Ryu fidgeted, he knew that, but adults very seldom apologised to kids, not even high school students.
“I’m the reason Hasegawa-san was against your relationship,” Uchida-san said.
“Sorry, I don’t get it,” Ryu answered.
“You’re good friends with Christina Agerman and Ulf Hammargren,” Uchida-san said instead of giving an explanation. Then, then… Hey, there wasn’t even a hint of an incorrect pronunciation!
“Kuri’s my girlfriend,” Ryu said to buy some time.
“Is that even legal?” Hasegawa-san said dryly.
“She’s just a high school kid here, just like Wakayama-san here. We can’t apply two sets of rules.”
Ryu decided to take a chance. “Are you, like, Nakagawa-sensei’s goons?”
“Nakagawa-sensei?” Uchida-san said.
“He’s the former principal of Himekaizen Academy,” Hasegawa-san responded. Then he grinned. “He’s part of the local MiBs as well.
“Men in Black? I see.” Uchida-san turned directly to Ryu. “No, we’re not part of the local civil war. We’re here to put an end to it. Mamoru and I belong to the Swedish section for a better alternative future.”
Ryu stared at the two indisputably Japanese men. Without as much as a thought about proper behaviour he sat down in a chair, leaving the two adults standing. What the hell? “Could you please explain to me so that I understand?”
“You have your secret black ops here in Japan. We’re part of a similar organisation on the Swedish side of things.”
OK, that much made sense.
“Officially I’m head of Sony Northern Europe, well, in fact I am running that section for real as well.”
“Yes?” Ah, he’s Rika-sempai’s father! Then something Uchida-san had said registered in Ryu’s mind. “What do you mean we have a secret organisation here?”
The man’s eye grew cold and hard. “I’ve known Christina’s grandfather for a very long time, and through him your parents.”
Bile rose in Ryu’s throat. “How long?”
“Once I was his superior officer,” came the answer. “Last time I visited his home Christina was a small child.”
“When… when did you, eh, move back to Japan?”
The predatory grin Uchida-san gave Ryu wasn’t entirely hostile. “I arrived here 1978.”
“Yes. Himekaizen Academy had only been made into a co-ed school a few years earlier. It used to be a girls’ school. You can tell from the name.”
Ryu thought about it. A school for the betterment of young ladies. It certainly made sense when he thought about it that way. “Why are you here now?” he asked instead.
“Partly to apologise to you, and to the daughter of my colleague as well. Even though he works with arrivals he didn’t want his daughter to get involved, and I’m afraid I’m to blame for that.”
Ryu nodded. “And the other part?”
“The Japanese side has allowed things to get out of hand. Rampant racism and arrivals don’t go well together. We’re here to force… to make them reconsider.” Then any kindness in Uchida-san’s grin vanished. “You could consider us friends from far.”