Saturday, 26 May 2018
“Where did he go?”
Kyoko looked at Yukio. Hurt. Kuri-chan had hurt him, and so had Urufu.
“Yukio!” She loved him. That didn’t mean she couldn’t admonish him. “I care, and so do you.” And so does Noriko. Noriko, I’m so sorry.
They needed to find Noriko, and she needed to convince both her and Yukio to go searching for Urufu. Or rather, she needed to convince Yukio to lead them to wherever Urufu was, because she was certain Yukio knew.
Outdoors was a baking oven despite August running towards its end. That baking oven cooked Kuri-chan and a Ryu who was as smugly satisfied today as he’d been ragingly angry yesterday.
You idiot! Idiots! Both of you. Cause they were. Best friend be damned. Kuri-chan was still her best friend, but this time she really pushed that friendship to its limits. How could you?
“Does it change anything?” Yukio asked.
Kyoko grabbed his hand and forced him through the entrance and into the blazing sun. It was like walking into a wall of heat. Despite lying almost at the very edge of the ocean not a single gust of wind reached the resort.
“I have to help Noriko. She deserves better.”
“And if she doesn’t want to be helped?”
She definitely wouldn’t want to be helped, but she needed to. Kyoko had already made her mind up. Memories of Kuri-chan’s panicked look when the four of them returned a day late from Ise lingered in Kyoko’s mind.
Idiot! You broke up with him. You don’t have the right to be jealous any longer. But she had been. And she had done something about it. I wonder if you’ll even keep his friendship after this? Because Kuri-chan hadn’t tried to get together with Urufu again. Kyoko was sure about that.
“I’m ashamed of being his friend.”
“Yukio! Never say that again! Besides, he didn’t...”
“He could have said no!” Yukio interrupted. His voice rose to a growl. Then a glimmer of fear reached his eyes.
Oh no! You don’t get to be scared of me. You have every right to be angry. “Yukio, I understand. I know you’re not angry at me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean...”
“I understand.” Kyoko hugged him close despite the heat. “I understand.”
“Our pockets?” Yukio suddenly asked, and Kyoko loved him all the more for how he dared change his mind when neded.
Despite the worry she felt in her heart Kyoko grinned. “Noriko will pay for her share.”
Yesterday Urufu paid their salaries. For being teenagers they were loaded. Half a million yen shared between them ought to suffice for hunting down Urufu wherever he had gone.
“Then let’s go fetch her.” Yukio finally nodded, and Kyoko almost jumped out of his arms and rushed indoors. She had already prepared three daypacks and she didn’t intend to give Yukio the chance to change his mind back again.
They needed to find Noriko quickly. They had to find her before the sight of Kuri-chan and her brother filled her with disgust, and if Kyoko knew Noriko right, self hatred.
“Yukio, follow me!”
Kyoko didn’t wait for an answer but dragged her boyfriend after her as soon as he was done attaching the small backpack to his back. One of her own on her back, one in her hand and Yukio in the other she ran to the beach despite the heat. Halfway there she had ordered the taxi thanks to a headset dangling precariously from one ear, and less than a minute later she found Noriko.
Kyoko waved at the girl, but Noriko’s eyes were fixed at the shoot where Kyoko knew both Kuri-chan and Ryu were to be found. Kuri-chan because of work, and Ryu, well Ryu because he finally cemented his relationship with his girlfriend since a few months.
That finally drew her attention, and she looked back. This time she even waved back.
“Over here, Noriko!”
Their friend stood up in momentary confusion and pointed at herself. Kyoko nodded and beckoned her to her.
“What’s going on?” Noriko said when they were close enough to talk. Her voice was subdued, just like her entire being was subdued since a day.
“We’re going to have a long talk with Urufu,” Kyoko said.
It hurt to see how mentioning his name brought even more sadness and pain to Noriko’s eyes.
“If you want to slap him I’ll help pin him down,” Kyoko promised.
“He just vanished.”
Behind them Yukio coughed to get their attention. Both girls turned their heads to hear what he had to say.
“He didn’t just vanish. He’s visiting family, or something.” Yukio’s eyebrows twisted together at his insane statement. “His family from that other world. Anyway, I know where he is.”
Kyoko stared at Noriko rather than her boyfriend. For once the girl looked stunned with confusion. Not a trace of sadness was to be seen on a face that was busy showing exactly how flabbergasted Yukio’s words had made her. Yukio, you’re my hero. I love you!
“Look. In that other world he had relatives here. That’s where he got his looks from. OK?”
That kind of made sense. If he was a half then the other half by definition had to have roots here in Japan, even if it was a Japan in another world. Almost the same. The worlds are almost the same. He always says that.
By her side Noriko’s face had taken on a bit of determination, and inside of her Kyoko shouted with joy at watching that new expression.
“We’re going to him, and this time we’re making sure you get him.” Noriko wondered how she could be so certain. “He’s fond of you. More than fond given what he agreed to in Ise.” Because, if Urufu really didn’t have any interest in Noriko at all, then Kyoko was certain he’d either have bedded her for real or simply refused to share the bed in the first place.
“You think so?” And at once Noriko’s face reverted to the misery that had been plastered to it for a day.
“Look, Noriko,” Yukio said. He stared down at his feet when he spoke, as if he didn’t dare face their friend. “Urufu’s been hurting like hell. I don’t think what he did was a beginning.”
“But he slept with her!”
For the next minute or so Kyoko just held the sobbing girl in her arms. Despite Yukio’s clumsy words Kyoko understood he only meant well, and maybe Noriko needed to be reminded of what had happened to move on.
Still staring at his feet Yukio waited until Noriko’s sobs had subsided before he dared speak again. “You know, I think that was his way of ending it. I believe they said good bye.”
For a while Yukio’s words only resulted in silence.
“What makes you think that?”
Kyoko glanced at Yukio over Noriko’s shoulder. You’d better get it right this time.
“You saw your brother today.”
“I believe something had to break first.”
“They’ve been together all this time with nothing happening.”
“Would you agree Ryu and Kuri are finally together for real now?”
Kyoko could feel some of the tension in Noriko’s body go away.
“Ah. But if she tries to...”
“She won’t,” Kyoko said. Now when she understood what Yukio had been aiming at it suddenly made sense. “They’re not getting back together again.” Half a year. The idiots needed half a year to break up.
“Then, if what you say is right, Urufu’s really free for the taking?”
Relief at Noriko’s words filled Kyoko. That’s my girl! “Let’s go hunt him down for you, shall we?
Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Christina shuddered when she heard footsteps further up the hill. She didn’t want anyone to see her crying. Especially not Ryu or Ulf.
She led a good life now, blessed with the childbirth she never experienced in her first life, and with far more love than she deserved.
While she had been an adult reborn, and not naive enough to believe you could experience love without hurting anyone, she most definitely had crossed a line of common decency.
And eventually I hurt them both, and Noriko a well. Come to think about it. She probably hurt Yukio and Ko-chan as well. Ko-chan. The one person she never grew used to call by her first name. Her best friend. And now she’s going away forever.
Because that was everything this trip was about. Coming together for some of them, but a parting for all of them. In a couple of days Ko-chan and Yukio would leave this world just like she herself had left hers a quarter of a century earlier.
I never apologised, or did I? She couldn’t remember what had happened after. Most of the last week of summer that year only held oceans of darkness in her memories.
Doesn’t matter. There was no way an apology could have gotten through anyway.
Tuesday, 15 May 2018
During the life he left behind Ulf took his first real girlfriend to his bed after some hesitation, or rather she took him to his bed. He’d been far too awkward to understand the repeated invites she gave him, so in the end, during a late evening alone with each other, she took to the offensive in a way even he wasn’t able to misunderstand.
Now was different.
While he and Christina had shared their bodies on a few occasions it was still a matter of adults in teenager bodies, or at least as much adults as their bodies allowed.
Noriko, however, was very much still a child. At least in his eyes. Ulf was thoroughly grateful she hadn’t tried anything in that direction. Spending the moments before they entered the pool together was bad enough, but she defused it by walking away before she took off her clothes.
It wasn’t like he wasn’t interested at all. She was cute, and he didn’t really have any body type preferences. Had he been the age he looked he probably would have tried something bad. Or good, depending on how you looked at it.
As it was he wasn’t ready for either love or making love, and Noriko deserved the full attention of the man who shared that sensation for the first time with her.
So in the end he was grateful for the pool as well. It was very much the same as a sauna during his university days back home. After a while the conversation drew most of his attention, and he felt his misgivings fade away as he enjoyed how she handled different topics in a way that lay far beyond her years.
Ulf enjoyed talking with Noriko. Problem being he had enjoyed talking with Christina as well since she quickly dispelled any notions he held of her being all looks. He’d been guilty of some severe preconceptions about beauty and brains.
Still, Noriko was different. She gave him a run for his money. Her mind moved so quickly he needed all of his experience to catch up, and only by playing a dirty game of steering conversations where experience mattered more than pure brains did he manage to keep up.
They talked and laughed, and talked some more. After a while he forgot neither of them wore any clothes, and from the way she Noriko acted, so did she.
A little too much time in the pool it turned out.
Dizzy from heat and fatigue Ulf left the water, grabbed his towel and got rid of the worst of the water. Then he draped himself with a yukata, not even bothering with the obi, and checked that Noriko didn’t fall asleep in the pool or anything equally stupid and dangerous.
He needn’t have worried. She stood, towel in her hair, with water dripping down her body in the light of their room and almost only a pitch black night as background.
Whatever lit the terrace was more for setting the mood than anything else, and Ulf was rudely reminded that this was, after all, not the same as sharing a sauna back home with friends.
Small breasts, narrow hips and yet a body that had decided to grow into adulthood, and all framed by her thin arms and a white towel furiously dancing around in her hair.
Ulf looked down in embarrassment but his body had already reacted, and he pulled the yukata tighter around himself and quickly took a few steps in the direction if the water boiler.
Damn. I’m getting turned on. Shit! I’m a creep after all.
“Could you pour one for me as well?”
Ulf refused to turn around and meet her face. From her voice he could hear that she was oblivious to how his mood had changed. “Sure, green or black?” he said with a voice you could curdle milk with.
“Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
“Black, sure I’ll get you one,” Ulf said and pretended he had misunderstood what Noriko said.
There was no way he could show her his expression now. Instead he fidgeted with two cups, teabags and spoons.
“Urufu, did something happen?”
“Nothing,” he murmured.
Quick steps behind him almost had him turn around anyway. Then two small hand tilted his head backwards where he sat on the tatami mats. He looked up and met Noriko’s worried eyes.
It was at that time he realised she could see a lot more than just his face, and when she suddenly let go of his head and leapt backwards he knew she had.
Shame got the better of him, and he knew he was being unfair even before the words left his mouth. “You did. Wasn’t this exactly what you planned from the start?”
To his surprise her indrawn breath wasn’t followed by a scathing reply. Her words lay hanging in the air for a few seconds before they were voiced.
“I didn’t expect… no… yes I did, or rather hoped.” Then some more silence. “I don’t think I knew what to do if everything went as I planned.”
And there it was. In several aspects she was most definitely still a child.
“Urufu, thank you,” came the unexpected continuation of her thoughts. “You proved I can affect you.”
“Bloody hell, any cute girl probably could,” Ulf admitted.
“Urufu, thank you, or at least your body for noticing me as a woman.”
What could he say to that?
“Urufu. I’ll give you the space you want. At least until next term starts.”
She sat down behind him, and once again those two small hands found their way to him. This time as a hug. “You want to come to some kind of conclusion with Kuri. I won’t pester you.”
Ulf let out a sigh of relief.
“On one condition.”
That night Noriko proved to him how shameless she could be when she wanted, and it took all his willpower not to act on the sensation of her body next to his. Every time she moved where she lay half atop him she must have felt exactly what his body wanted to do rather than sleep.
Sunday, 13 May 2018
There are those who say you shouldn’t take a bath after dinner. Those had obviously never been to an onsen.
Now, the private bath wasn’t really part of the onsen. Heated tap water and nothing else, but it was still outdoors, with a gorgeous view if you chose to stand up.
With a gorgeous view if you chose to lie in the water as well. Urufu just didn’t get how sculpted his body had become, and enjoying it with her eyes wasn’t just a matter of being in love with him. There was something as pure aesthetics as well.
He had grumbled and pouted and protested, but in the end he wasn’t someone who’d miss out on a lazy evening in the water. Not even if it meant spending it stark naked alone with her.
“You started it,” Noriko said staring at his back.
No response. Even the stringy muscles low on his back looked grumpy.
“Last year you did,” she persisted. One way or another she’d have a conversation with him going. But last year there were four of us in the beginning and all six later. There was a difference in sharing a bath alone with him.
Still no answer, but the way his shoulders stiffened told her he had heard.
“You said it was only natural.”
“Yukio told me already.”
Finally an answer! Noriko stretched and sank deeper into the water. She did a little embarrassed after all, and Urufu was bound to turn around any moment now.
“Oh.” How could I forget he’s a boy when I fell in love with him? There were parts of him she wasn’t used to see at all. She sank to her nose in the water. Then she blushed .Much belatedly she realised the surface didn’t do anything to hide her body from him where he was standing looking down on her.
“Just natural, was it?” He smirked. “I apologise.” Then he sat down at the opposite end of the small pool. “Promise, I can only see your face from here, or half of it,” he added and grinned.
That grin reminded her of her second crush on him, before she even realised he was the same boy who saved her from the Red Rose rapist would be.
You didn’t grin at all the first time though. He had had little reason to. Stranded in an alien world where he didn’t understand the language of those around him. No wonder he turned rebel. Why he pretended being an introverted geek when admitted to Himekaizen he still hadn’t told them. Yukio probably knew, and maybe Kuri, but Noriko wasn’t certain about the last.
“How much do you train?” she asked. He already knew she was in love with him. He could just as well know she thoroughly enjoyed the sight of him.
How dense can he be? Or maybe he wasn’t. He looked like a teenager, but he wasn’t. Not really. Sometimes her parents shared jokes with each other that she didn’t understand, and it wasn’t just because they spoke of things she didn’t understand.
She gave Urufu another look. He looked like any other teenager now when he had submerged, but she remembered the stares he got that day on the beach in the Tokyo bay. Well, she realised and blushed again, any other good looking teenager.
“You know, sports,” she said to buy herself some time.
He spent over half a year as Kuri’s boyfriend. Given her experience as a model, or rather as a super model in during her previous life, there was no chance Urufu didn’t know exactly in what way he was attractive to the eye. Kuri wasn’t exactly the type to stay silent in matters of looks.
Urufu shrugged, and ringlets of water spread over the surface. When they reached Noriko she became aware she shared a very small pool with Urufu naked.
Don’t think about it! Don’t think about it! To haul him in she had to play older than she actually way. She needed to somehow close the gap that made him look at her as if she was a child.
For a moment, before she stripped and took to the bath, she played with the idea of flaunting her body to him, but then memories of Kuri came to her mind, and she quickly gave up that idea. There was no competing with that body.
Unfair! But life was unfair. She had to work with what was hers to work with.
“Why ask a question if you’re not interested in the answer?”
“Huh” Noriko shook her head. She had been so immersed in her own world she didn’t register that Urufu answered. “I’m sorry. Please, say again.”
“It’s a matter of how you define training,” he said.
The way he usually weighed his words before uttering them was dear to her. She preferred this man to the outspoken clown he became whenever he wanted the club members to act in a given way. The latter might be the one who won admiring glances from the girls, but this was the Urufu she wanted for herself.
And I’m a liar. I fell in love with a rebel who looked like something my mother really ought to warn me to stay away from. Somehow Noriko suspected her mother wouldn’t. There was something about her mother and father that hinted at a wilder youth that they wanted to admit.
Urufu shrugged again, and once more ringlets of water spread towards her. This time she didn’t care.
“Formal training. Maybe six hours per week.”
He grinned and her heart jumped. “I train at a karate and an aikido dojo. Nothing much. Maybe twice a week each.”
The words registered, but they didn’t say much. Foreigners might believe everyone in Japan was crazy about budo, but that was very, very far from the truth.
“Is that much?” she asked.
“Dunno. A bit more than usual back home. A little bit.”
“Enough to explain that body of yours?” Noriko said amazed at her own daring.
“Good catch!” And another one of those grins than almost made her heart stop reached her from across the surface. “No.”
Noriko waited for Urufu to continue. Sometimes he needed the silence, but it didn’t mean he was finished.
“I bike around a lot, and walk,” he continued. So say another eight hours a week. “Maybe ten. Let’s call it fifteen hours a week all in all.”
“Is that a lot?”
“For a school kid? Yeah, it’s a lot. Still only half the time an athlete would spend.” Urufu’s grin thinned to a smile. “I like being active, but I’m not good at sports, so I don’t have any aspirations in that direction.”
Good! She wanted him for herself after all. Now all that remained was having him for herself for the evening in a way that would get them closer to each other without forcing his hand.