They were friends made, friends from far, but they were just that, friends from far. As finals closed in on them there was less and less time to meet with the high school graduates from Sweden, and when one day they declared that they’d go touring Japan, Yukio realised it was probably the last time they saw each others for some time.
In all honesty he didn’t care all that much. Irishima High had a good reputation for a reason. Finals would be harsher than anything he had ever experienced before.
And then two weeks of frantic studying and exams kept him from meeting anyone at all. Almost anyone. While the armed body guards silently vanished after he and Kyoko were expelled from Himekaizen they still shared whatever time they could scrounge up. Walking to and from school, and twice studying together.
After that summer’s break hit them with an eerie lack of tasks. Obon came and went in a murderous heat wave and suddenly they were halfway through August.
Having spent part of Obon finishing his home work together with Kyoko Yukio found himself at a loss when two weeks with absolutely nothing scheduled loomed ahead of him. He could enjoy them with Kyoko, but by now Yukio was so used to having his entire life planned that he didn’t know what to do.
That lasted for an entire day.
“Same place as last year,” he heard himself mumbling into the phone. It was an old style land line at his father’s home, and years of using a smart phone made the oblong handset feel strange in his hand.
He listened to Kyoko’s reply, and a few hours later he found himself at the central station. Kyoko already stood there waiting for him.
“A little more comfortable than last year,” she said.
Yukio nodded. Last year they saved on train fares, but this time they’d take the Shinkansen to Nagoya and switch to a regional train there.
From air conditioned station maze to sizzling heat on the platform it only took a few minutes. They waited, dripping sweat, for another few and after that Yukio shivered as he sat down in his seat. Air conditioning on the Shinkansen was taken to the extreme.
The train ride south was a much faster experience than the sleepily rumbling memory he had from last year, and he didn’t spend much time watching the scenery flashing by. Kyoko curled up by his side, murmuring lullabies as she tried to snatch a little sleep.
They got a short nap, but an hour and a half ride to a different city really wasn’t enough. As a teenager Yukio was much too excited about going somewhere, and he spent more time wondering what came next than sleeping.
Nagoya, well Nagoya was a baking oven. He’d never experienced heat like this in Tokyo, and both he and girlfriend bathed in sweat by the time they made it to the next platform. Spending an hour waiting there turned out impossible and they fled back inside the station area.
Drenched in sweat Yukio led Kyoko to a café and ordered iced coffee for himself and ice tea for Kyoko.
“Better?” he asked after Kyoko had gulped down half her drink in one, long chunk, which he spent in fascination watching her throat move.
She didn’t answer but nodded in the direction of his glass.
Yukio smiled but obeyed. When he put his empty glass down on the table he met a mischievous smile.
“Yours is sexier,” she said.
“You’ve got an Adam’s apple to stare at.”
Yukio growled but admitted defeat. Then he smiled at Kyoko. He felt safe with her. The feelings they shared were no longer as chaotic as last summer, but as far as he was concerned this was far better.
“Love you,” he said instead.
In response a hand slid over the table and took his. Fingers he’d recognise in the dark caressed his.
“Love you too. Always.”
They spent as much time as they dared talking softly. Fingers met fingers, and at one time Yukio stretched out a hand to move a few strands of hair that had fallen over Kyoko’s eyes. An excuse to touch her. An excuse her eyes told him she gladly accepted.
Then they were off to the platform and the murderous heat, and after that sharing seats on a slow train rolling south.
Just like last year they’d be working with Urufu, but this time they and, more importantly, he knew what was expected.
Just like last year the Himekaizen Cultural Exchange Club was invited, even though its members from Himekaizen Academy only numbered two. Irishima High made out the bulk of the members, event hough Yukio heard rumours the expulsions were being rescinded.
The only immediate practical consequence for him was that they could share the taxi fare on four, which really didn’t matter at all since Urufu was bound to pay it in the end anyway.
He nestled closer to Kyoko. In a way he was grateful for the presence of more Irishima High students, even though it meant he and Kyoko would sleep in different rooms. They had shared nights and bed more than once, but if they travelled as a lone couple to an onsen it would be so glaringly obvious that they did.
Yukio fell asleep wondering what Urufu had in store for them.