Friday, 3 July 2020

Chapter four, 2018, white Valentine, segment ten

White Day came and passed without any surprises.

Ryu carried a backpack Urufu style. On his way to school it was filled with an absurd amount of return gifts for Valentine, and on his way home he cleaned out his junior year as a high schooler into it. Urufu did the same, as did Kuri. A surprisingly large number of girls had gifted her giri chocolate a month earlier.

As for Yukio and Kyoko they only needed bags to clean out their second year. Hitomi used her for her return gifts as well. Noriko, well Noriko stared at hers in desperation. For the first time in her life she was loaded with return gifts like a school celebrity. That photo shoot during their Kansai trip was to blame for the celebrity part.

This year there was no drama at all. Jeniferu already having given Tomasu honmei chocolate during Valentines received a huge bouquet of flowers in return, but you needed to be well versed in the language of flowers to know that it didn’t represent a lovers gift to his other. And yet, it did. Noriko knew that.

Kyoko had filled her in on the strange arrangement between Tomasu and Jeniferu, and as far as Noriko was concerned his gift to her wasn’t as much a White Day gift as a Valentine one.

White Valentine? Well, something like that, Noriko thought and smirked. You’d better forgive Yukio as well. He’d want to know why the two of you should move your date a week. Noriko tilted her head. Kyoko might be angry, but this wasn’t a really serious crisis between the two of them. Besides they got that day off and spent it in twosome luxury.

Noriko grinned and closed the door behind her. In half an hour she had her own date with Urufu. For her part she’d already blown up in his face and forgiven him. Rather sulked and forgiven him. He gifted her with exactly two red roses for a White Day gift, and she’d been stupid enough to compare it with the ring Kuri received last year.

Gah! I’m an idiot! She should have known Urufu would research the meaning behind his gift first. The bad part was that he didn’t know he was long since forgiven. Worst case she’d receive another fifteen roses when they met. She’d done her own research before this date. For once moron-sama is me.

Shaking her head she made it to the gates, left them behind her and walked to the station.

Hachiko. For some reason he decided upon the most stereotypical of places to meet. There was even a perfectly usable square much closer, but Noriko knew to what degree Urufu associated it with Kuri. Well, he’d come up with the strangest of surprises before. Starting at Shibuya didn’t mean they’d end up with a stereotypical date.

When she left the circle line she looked out the windows before descending the stairs. There was no missing it. Urufu sat by the statue. He was surrounded by teens and in his lap Noriko noticed a large bouquet of roses.

Crap! She hurried down, left through the entrance and started walking across the square. How do I explain this? For a moment she longed for more than a few seconds to reach him, but then she slapped herself mentally and marched on.

When the lone boy with the roses finally met his date the crowd around him quickly dispersed, Noriko noted.

Noriko, thanks for coming here!” Urufu rose. “As a token of apology.” He bowed and reached out with both hands.

Yeah, fifteen of them. Noriko didn’t even need to count. Glumly she accepted her flowers. You didn’t even excuse yourself, and it wasn’t even your fault to begin with.

Desperate to make amends she looked around her. While the crowd had taken their distance the two of them still were the centre of attention.

I owe you an apology,” she said. “I misunderstood,” she added. Misunderstood, my arse! You behaved like a jerk, Noriko. Suddenly ashamed she fingered the roses in her hand. Slowly and idea formed in her head, one that might at least salvage a little from her mistake. She picked out one rose and returned it to Urufu’s hands. When he met her eyes she picked out two more. “This is how I really feel.”

The stunned smile on his face had her heart racing in seconds.

I love you,” she said and offered him another three.

A frown slowly replaced his smile.

Do you mind if I keep the nine?”

He had, Noriko understood, done his research. A sudden blush swept over his face, but then he straightened and took her hands.

Yes, yes of course you can. I’d be honoured.”

Noriko felt colour rise in her face. Did I just force him to propose to me?

Give me a few more years,” Urufu said. “Where I come from you’re not supposed to wait more than a year afterwards, according to tradition that is.”

Wait more than a year? Oh! She heated up even more and something roared in her ears. In the end this year’s belated White Day came with the greatest of all surprises.

Of course,” Noriko answered. She hardly heard her own voice. “I’ll wait for as long as you need.”

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Chapter four, 2018, white Valentine, segment nine

Kyoko snuggled closer to Yukio. Urufu’s present had taken her by surprise even though she knew he’d be too extravagant the way he always was.

While there were still a lot of them in the living room it felt strangely empty after most of the Irishima High guests left for the evening. The core group, by now including Hitomi, and Tomasu and Jeniferu of course stayed. They’d stay the night.

She frowned. There was one more. Noriko had shut herself in her room with a friend Kyoko didn’t know. She might have seen her occasionally, but most likely it was a contact from middle school.

At another table Tomasu, Jeniferu, Urufu and Kuri-chan ran a silent conversation. Kyoko couldn’t hear what they spoke about, but she guessed the contents. Across the table by which she herself sat Ryu kept Hitomi too busy with stupid jokes for her to have any chance to grow anxious about what happened closer to the kitchen.

It was all very normal and yet so absurd.

Soon enough she’d change places with Kuri-chan, and Urufu should probably be the one who rose first to give his chair to Yukio. Between them Urufu, Ryu and Kuri-chan should have no problem keeping Hitomi’s attention to themselves for the time needed to sneak out through the kitchen and into the backyard. Some topics, Kyoko suspected, were best kept out of earshot even from those who really already were in the know.

Seconds grew to a minute, and suddenly Urufu rose from his chair just as Kyoko had guessed. An almost wave had Yukio copy his motion, and only the discreet scraping of chairs on the floor gave away how the two best friends changed places. Kyoko didn’t know Ryu well enough for such an elegant solution, but in this case the one they wanted to keep in the dark was Hitomi, or at least the one they wanted Tomasu and Jeniferu to feel was kept in the dark.

Ryu looked up when a finger tapped on his shoulder and offered his chair to Kyoko as he stood. With a half smile on his lips he walked across the table just as Kuri-chan rose from Jeniferu’s side and stole the chair he left moments earlier. It must have looked like Kyoko had nowhere else to sit but at the other table.

Too much drama, she thought. There was no way Hitomi didn’t see through it all, but as long as she played her role maybe Jeniferu believed the dark beauty to be fooled. Tomasu you didn’t have to fool. The easiest way to keep him in the dark sometimes was to grab his arm and drag him away to where you wanted him. He’d protest, but he never asked questions.

Kyoko just hovered above the chair Kuri-chan left. There really was no need for sitting down.

Tea?” she asked?

A nod was enough for her to leave for the kitchen. Behind her Jeniferu picked up her cup from the table and followed.


Tomasu got physically dragged from the table.

You really weren’t supposed to do that for real.

From the corner of her eye Kyoko saw Jeniferu cover her mouth to hide her giggling.

Kyoko shook her head, refilled the water boiler and replaced the used tea bag in her cup before opening the glass doors to the Wakayama backyard. Something trying a lot to look like western style outdoor furniture greeted her, and she put her cup on a table.

I wonder if Urufu has seen this crap? One of her father’s very few real friends had a minor obsession with northern Europe. Kyoko was a lot more familiar with what people there used during summer than Urufu ever knew. She probably was the first to understand the background behind the atrocity of a home in Mie that day late last summer when he and Noriko finally became a couple.

Tomasu and Yukio left the house and made Kyoko company. Both had cups in the hands, Yukio’s with instant coffee powder and Tomasu a tea bag just like Kyoko. Shortly after, even before the silence grew uncomfortable, Jeniferu joined them with water boiler in one hand and a cup in the other.

Each of them got something hot to drink and then Yukio drew for breath.

Sorry,” he said. “I know we were supposed to wait until White Day, but Noriko told me it was better this way.”

Jeniferu nodded. A thin smile that almost reached her eyes slowly spread on her face. “If you’re trying to save our relationship, yeah, she’s probably right.”

Kyoko looked down into her cup. What other reason was there for this kind of subterfuge?

Are you interested in trying, or at least one of you?” Yukio said. His deadpan tone surprised Kyoko.

Both shook their heads.

That’s it then I guess,” Yukio said and sighed.


Tomasu smirked. “I think you lost Kyoko,” he said. “Better explain before she panics.”

Kyoko stared at Yukio. Somehow she’d just been had.

Don’t be a jerk,” Jeniferu said and slurped down some watery excuse for what some Americans still defined as coffee. “We’re not interested in trying,” she continued after her cup joined Kyoko’s on the table.

Look, you nabbed one of our birthdays.” Kyoko let her irritation get the better of her. “Explain in a way I can understand.”

Tomasu grinned. This time it was an honest grin. “I love her. We’ll stick together after a fashion.”

Jeniferu looked at him and Kyoko heard the girl draw for breath. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”

That’s what you like about me, isn’t it?” Tomasu responded.

Kyoko stared at the strange verbal ping pong match. And that was easy to understand exactly how?

If you don’t kick me out I’ll cling to your life for as long as you live.”

The grin faded a little. “If you love me then just say so,” he muttered.

Love you.”

Love you as well. Let’s break up.”

Yeah, let’s.”


Across the table Yukio grinned so widely Kyoko feared his face might split.


I’m not all that interested, but I promise I’ll give it a try,” Tomasu said.

What’s going on?

Jeniferu turned and faced Kyoko directly. “We found a way that might work. I want to have sex with Tomasu, but I’m still too scared to be alone with him.”

Yes?” Kyoko said. She still had no idea where this was going.

So I’ll try sleeping around a little. To get rid of that fear. If you know any sex friend material you trust please tell me.”

Whoa!” Kyoko never guessed it was going in this direction.

I’m not happy about it, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Besides I already had my wild years myself. We broke up now so no one can accuse us of cheating.”

I don’t understand,” Kyoko said. “What did you just promise?”

Tomasu smirked. “I won’t look for it, but I promised Jennifer I’d go along with one nights if the opportunity comes. Guess she wants us to be on a level field or something like that.”

Kyoko turned and stared at Jeniferu.

He’s right. I don’t want to be the only one to feel like a slut.”

Tomasu shook his head. “Nothing I can do. I already told her that Jennifer, the other Jennifer that is, slept with just about everyone I knew before the two of us settled down together. I honestly don’t think in terms of sluts. Hate that word.”

Kyoko grimaced. She didn’t care about how the two of them solved the problem as long as no one got hurt, but she really disliked Tomasu for telling her about the other Jeniferu. It didn’t matter that she’d never meet the woman.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Chapter four, 2018, white Valentine, segment eight

Ulf sulked a little when Noriko dragged a friend of hers away from the party and upstairs. Sure, they all infringed on what should have been some alone quality time for Yukio and Kyoko, but at least staying for the celebration was the decent thing to do.

As it was neither boyfriend nor girlfriend seemed to care, and dinner turned out to be a lot of laughs and embarrassing memories. While the real reason for the party hung over him like a shadow Ulf still noticed how most of them truly enjoyed the birthday party.

Evening grew deeper, turned into early night, and what had begun as a dinner was now an unordered gathering of a dozen teens around a couple of sofas in the living room. Food gave way to soda and tea, and right now the mood changed from silly to a little apprehensive.

“From the two of us,” Ai explained and pushed a small box across the table.

You or me?” Yukio asked.

Kyoko didn’t answer. She just leaned forward and grabbed the gift. A few moments filled with paper ripping ended with a guffaw.

That’s even worse that what we gave the twins!”

Ulf could only agree. Whatever the atrocity was it held no doubts about whether it was just poor taste or nuclear toxic. As it went back into its box Ulf sighed with relief for the untold lives spared in the neighbourhood.

That was… intense,” Yukio offered.

Another round of guffaws spread around the table, and Ai returned a benign and triumphant smile. “Beat that!” she said.

Ulf could see what once made Ryu fall for the girl, even though he recalled a much more childish version of her from last year. But at least that wasn’t our fault, he thought and glanced at Kuri. The two of them hurt a lot of people, but from what Ryu told he and Ai managed that particular disaster without the help of anyone. The line of thought brought him back to the real reason they abducted Yukio and Kyoko. This one, though, is our fault, to a degree.

He met Kuri’s eyes, but she shook her head.

Just thinking of how we messed up the lives for everyone,” he said in Swedish.

Don’t you dare blaming yourself!” she responded in the same language.

From the corner of his eyes Ulf noted how Thomas reacted to words spoken in their shared language, but Ulf doubted he had understood the contents though the bedlam that resulted from opening one gift more atrocious that the other.

He shook his misgivings away and leaned backwards. In his backpack four presents lay waiting, or rather two presents. He rifled through the contents and picked up two card board envelopes. One each made their way to Yukio and Kyoko respectively.

Stamped and signed,” Ulf said. “Have a look at them with your parents and do the same if you agree.”

What’s that?” Jennifer wanted to know.

Stamped and signed, he said. Contracts most probably,” Thomas suggested from her side.

Ulf looked at the couple. An invisible band of mutual attraction tied them together, and he hoped whatever came of their nightly talks would see it uncut.


Part time jobs,” Ulf explained.

He was met by a stare of disbelief, and after a few moments of confusion Ulf realised seventeen year old kids didn’t normally hand out employment contracts. Well, Jennifer knew the truth. It couldn’t be helped.

What kind of job?” Ai’s friend wondered.

Neither Yukio nor Kyoko had opened their envelopes. They gave each other a look and smiled.

I’m making presentations and Yukio’s responsible for what goes into them,” Kyoko said.

Ulf gave her a grateful look. It was, he guessed, as close to the truth as possible. He couldn’t tell everyone how Yukio ruthlessly cut away anything that didn’t need to go into the finished material, and Ulf definitely knew he couldn’t tell anyone Yukio did so with a superb gut feeling that matched just about anyone Ulf had worked with the last thirty years. Last thirty years was another thing that didn’t go well together with seventeen years old kids.

Yukio writes and you do the layout?”

Kyoko nodded.

Sounds kind of boring.”

Well, it’s a job,” Kyoko said, “and I get to work with my boyfriend, so that’s a plus.”

At that time Ryu returned from the kitchen loaded with a tray full of cups. He put it on the table and smiled. “Coffee and tea coming up,” he said.

Ulf sighed silently with relief. Ryu might not like him and Noriko being a couple, but when it came to easing up work Ryu never allowed personal feelings to interfere. He looked at Ryu returning to the kitchen and quickly dug up the real presents.

One for you and one for you,” Ulf said and handed over two paper bags. He guessed he could have done a better job with wrapping, but he’d been in a hurry when he went shopping for birthday gifts.

Kyoko opened her bag and looked inside. “What’s… Oh, you shouldn’t…”

Ulf smiled. “I got them cheap to be honest.” That was a lie, but the price was cut by almost forty percent from what he was used to, so in that sense they were cheap.

Her hand came back from inside the bag with a box. “Thank you!” she said. They both knew he wouldn’t accept her refusal.



Are they wireless,” Yukio asked.

Ulf nodded. “Bluetooth. “I’ve seen her struggling with that cord for too long.”

Cheap, man, your sense of cheap is way off,” Yukio said and looked at the earbuds Kyoko had received. Then he dug into his own bag. “What the hell man!”

Ulf shrugged. “You never put that phone of yours away. I guessed a decent power bank could be useful.

Decent power bank. Man, I could keep two tablets alive for a day with this monster.”

I hope you like it.”

Yukio nodded. It was the kind of gift only he would love, and for once Ulf’s long experience with technology hadn’t been the deciding factor. His knowledge of picking the best one had been, but it was Kyoko who suggested that Yukio could do with some extra juice. Ulf guessed her request came after she began suspecting he’d go well beyond what was normally acceptable for a present between friends.

Ryu returned with beverages and Ulf leaned back in the sofa. Another half an hour would see half of them leave, and after that all that was left was the real reason for the party.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Not dropped, not even on real hiatus

Just to clarify.

The story is not dropped, and I haven't even really put it on hiatus.

Working as a teacher I'm currently switching from on-site lectures to running them all remote. That comes with some rather heavy re-planning of both content and methods used. All in all I'm currently swamped with handling moving from classroom education to an on-line one.

Another week or so should see both me and my students accustomed to the new normality, in as much as anything could be called normal at the moment.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Chapter four, 2018, white Valentine, segment seven

After the disaster at the café any serious talking had to wait until evening. Well, evening came, with a conversation and all, and in the end Ryu managed to convince both girls to attend a birthday celebration. One out of two since both Yukio and Kyoko were adamant they’d have the other for themselves.

Ryu found no flaws in their reasoning. He’d be damned if he had to give up on celebrating Kuri, and Noriko’s pairing up with Urufu at least carried the advantage of brother and sister no longer needing to express how much twins they were during their shared celebration.

He also found it rather cute and amusing how Yukio and Kyoko handled their birthdays. With their respective days of celebration just one week apart they apparently saw it as one event in two parts. That was, Ryu mused, probably the only sane thing to do. For Yukio and Kyoko this was a month long insanity with Valentines, two birthdays, white day and end of school more or less evenly spread out. A week to catch your breath, if even that.

Now that first birthday was here, the one that Yukio and Kyoko decided was a combined celebration together with friends. For an occasion like this Ryu didn’t have to go far, and neither did his sister. The entire gang, strengthened by Hitomi, Tomasu and Jeniferu all sat in the Wakayama living room. Another six people were on their way here.

You have everything you need?”

Ryu looked up. The question was superfluous at best, but during the last hellish year there had been few occasions for him to bring friends back home, and Ryu guessed his parents were worried. In the end he just nodded.

Then I’ll have dinner with Tadao. Please don’t be too late.”

It wasn’t like they planned to run around late at night, but since that dinner meant an overnight stay at an onsen Ryu accepted that his mother didn’t want over a dozen teenagers to run rampant in the house all night long.

Some of them are staying over,” he said. She already knew, but he wanted her to reaffirm that she did.

We only have six extra futons, remember?”

That had to do as confirmation. “I know mom. Have a good time.”

She just smiled. “We always do.” There was something naughty in her voice, something he’d rather hear from a classmate than from his mother. “It’s been a while since we had an outing just the two of us.”

He definitely preferred something like that from a classmate. “Take care.”

I will,” she said. She was halfway through the door when she turned and looked at him. “I won’t do anything you haven’t already done,” she added with a wide grin on her face. For a moment his mother’s face lit up like a mischievous devil, twenty years old rather than forty. Then she was outside, and Ryu wondered what kind of life she once led as a teenager.

What was that about?” Noriko asked from her seat in the sofa.

Ryu frowned. “Dunno.”

By Noriko’s side Kuri and Urufu looked at each other and laughed.

Bad girl!” Kuri said.

Very bad,” Urufu agreed. “There’s a bad boy waiting for her,” he said.

Look, that’s my mother you’re talking about,” Ryu protested.

Both Kuri and Urufu shook their heads.

No,” Kuri said. “That’s a girl ten years younger than me. Damn she’s cool!”

Grew into it?” Urufu said.

This time only Kuri shook her head. “Don’t think so. She probably dared everything I didn’t myself when I was fifteen. She’s a natural you know.”

Mum's awesome,” Noriko broke in.

Yeah, she is,” Kuri said. “She must have made a lot of enemies as a kid.”

A lot of friends as well,” Urufu countered. “I don’t think being on her bad side would be good for your health.”

Noriko bent forward and poured some tea for herself. “Mum’s awesome,” she repeated with a happy smile on her face.

Ryu looked at his sister. They were twins. While outsiders always compared him with their parents, in truth Noriko inherited the invisible parts. Brains to begin with, but also the inner strength their mother really had and their father pretended he had.

The doorbell rang and Ryu hastened to it. Outside Ai waited with her best friend. Behind them four former Himekaizen students, all members of the club, lined up by the gate. They carried paper bags in their hands, and Ryu suspected Yukio and Kyoko would return home laden with presents.

Then Ryu noticed a surprise guest. Oh, been a while! A classmate from middle school, and one of Noriko’s few close friends from that time. What connection, if any, she had to Kyoko Ryu didn’t know, and Yukio, well Ryu didn’t even remember him from middle school despite sharing the same grade for three years.

Guess food will be enough for one more. Wonder what she’s doing here though. He invited all seven and waited for Noriko’s surprised outburst when she saw who had come to visit.

It didn’t happen. When the unannounced guest entered the living room Noriko just nodded, excused herself and followed the girl up the stairs to her room.

With a tinge of irritation Ryu shrugged it off. A boyfriend and girlfriend each meant brother and sister were no longer as close as he’d grown used to. Maybe it was as simple as a matter of age. He didn’t know.

We’re having hotpot,” he announced after giving his sister another thought. “A lot of hotpot. Who’s helping me prepare it?”

Kuri smiled and raised her hand into the air like an elementary school kid.

That’s one. One more,” Ryu said. Spending time alone with Kuri in the kitchen wasn’t time wasted, but she was an awful cook.

Two more,” Jirou said.

Ryu looked for Sango by his side and she nodded. The couple followed him to the kitchen and with three and a half chefs they made short time of the ingredients. Preparations went even faster when Ai and friend unasked set the tables.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Chapter four, 2018, white Valentine, segment six

So, lunch date with your ex. What would Kuri say?”

She’d say I’m a decent man for not breaking off all contact because our relationship went south,” Ryu said. Once lovers but no longer they somehow still managed to grow an awkward friendship which allowed room for some friendly insults and bantering.

Around them tables quickly filled up, and Ryu noted how more than a few high school students were among the guests. By this time of the year seniors didn’t make anyone raise an eyebrow since the only thing they did was wait for the outcome of their entrance exams. However, if even half of the school uniforms here were seniors Ryu was willing to eat his own cardigan.

I’m bad company even for those I’ve never seen before. He accepted the smugness in that thought. It was all a part of being Wakayama Ryu.

Girls coming here as well,” Ai said and rudely ripped the carpet from under his feet.

Ryu glanced around him. The tables had filled with a lot less girls than he had expected. Sure enough, three of them only had female customers throwing him looks that were anything but shy, but the glances from boys weren’t directed at him.

Ai’s cute and all, but she’s hardly… Just as Ryu changed his mind and reconsidered how beautiful his former girlfriend had grown the last year Jeniferu boxed Ai on her shoulder and gave her a naughty grin. Seconds later a blast of charisma had just about everyone in the café rise from their chairs. Girls or boys mattered little.

Ah, I forgot.

It’s been too long,” Jeniferu said and giggled.

You’re a pain in the arse, but I’d like to see more of that side. That he had forgotten what she did to a room filled with people if she wanted reminded him of why he was here in the first place. Was if because Tomasu didn’t come running like a puppy whenever you pulled that stunt? Maybe. Ryu didn’t know, but he could see how someone like Jeniferu would be interested in men who didn’t react to her games.

One boy, a freshman most likely, proved braver than the others and tried to join the three of them at their table.

Do you mind?” he asked.

Ryu stared at eyes filled with experience from playing around. I could have been like you, he thought, but sis pulled in the reins. Suddenly Ryu felt a surge of gratitude for the midget sized bulldozer he grew up with. “We’re having a conversation,” he began in what he hoped was a polite enough voice.

We finally got to have the Prince of Himekaizen for ourselves,” Ai broke in. She put her cup to the table. “What makes you believe we’d be interested in anyone else?”

The boy fidgeted a little, but Ryu guessed he didn’t get those eyes from backing away at every setback.

He’s just one guy.”

He’s just the guy Ageruman Kuritina chose. Just your average supermodel boyfriend,” Ai responded and upped the ante. There was still a glimmer of resentment in her voice, but only students at Irishima High would know the reason.

There was a sound of another cup hitting the table. Ryu noticed from the corner of his eye how Jeniferu played around with a prank probably best left alone.

The door opened and another group of guests arrived. This time just girls who came to drink a little and stare at him quite a lot.

Ryu needs two girls to keep him occupied,” Jeniferu said.

Oh no, you don’t!

She blasted away once more and waited for everyone in the cafe to fixate on her. “Well, maybe just one of me. I was referring to mere mortals after all.”

That was nasty. Ryu felt sorry for Ai. Besides, you just got another two dozen enemies in here.

So I need her to keep me in check, which makes up both quite busy,” Jeniferu continued. Then she nuked the café a third time. “Don’t you agree?”

Poor sod! Ryu stared at how the boy deflated. He might be used to the boys and girls game, but no one got used to being around Kuri and Jeniferu. Kiddo, you’re out of your league.

Suddenly Ryu understood why Urufu used that expression. Over thirty years of added experience was another way to cheat in that game. Urufu might not have the natural ability, but he had years and years of added memories to compensate with. And he has his own way of shining like a star. Whenever chaos engulfed a group of people Urufu turned into an inhuman monster. Sometimes I just hate you. You eat chaos for breakfast and shit out order.

The sound of clattering metal brought Ryu out of his thoughts. He blinked and a teaspoon dancing on the table caught his eyes.

What did you just say?”

What? Damn, I just said that aloud, didn’t I? “I… nothing.”

Across the table Jeniferu guffawed. Ai threw her questioning eyes and Ryu wished he could vanish through the floor.

Now there’s a boy where one of me isn’t enough,” Jeniferu said. “He shits out order you said,” she added and laughed again.

By now Ryu thoroughly regretted coming here. No cafe after that ramen joint would have been a good start. No he should have bought something to eat and spent the lunch at their school. At least he was a known entity there, and a few girls aside this circus would never have happened.

What’s going on?” the boy asked. He still hadn’t left the table. Just like the everyone else in the cafe he stood rooted to the floor after Jeniferu’s brutal show earlier.

Just chatting about a friend,” Jeniferu offered. “He shits out order,” she clarified, “and he’s the only man I know who could give Ryu a run for his money.”

Ryu grinned. He threw the boy and evil smile just for the hell of it. “Welcome to reality,” he said. “Enjoy your high school days.”

The last month of his junior year turned out a lot more absurd than Ryu had expected. Like a prolonged Valentine’s day. More like a month long white Valentine to put him in his place.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Chapter four, 2018, white Valentine, segment five

Ryu swore a little. Then he tried to come up with an excuse to get out of it. After that he swore a little more.

With February turning into Mars the end of the year wasn’t just something close. Now it was breathing down his neck.

One good thing about being together with Kuri was her looks, and almost two years earlier that would have sealed the deal. Ryu was two years older now though, and while he certainly enjoyed staring at her beauty that was no longer the reason he loved her, or at least not a major part of it. For him she looked like Kuri. If anything he loved the Kuri-ness of her, if such a word even existed.

One good thing about being together with Kuri was how he himself became even more popular without having to reject girls confessing to him every so often. That was joy and the practical combined into one.

One not so good thing was how it took him the better part of two weeks to eat all the chocolate he had been given. He did eat it all. That was only being respectful. Besides he had nothing better to do while keeping tabs.

One bad thing was the keeping of tabs. White days closed in on him, and he’d make good use of the leftovers from Urufu’s inflated salary during winter break. Carrying his return gifts to school meant slinging one of Urufu’s atrocities across his shoulders, because the bag Ryu normally used simply couldn’t fit it all inside.

Still, a matter of showing proper respect.

Thus it was that Ryu grumbled and made his way to Irishima High. Sure, he could have caught up with Ai in the café, but that would be doing her a great disservice, and she deserved none of that. While his face was known at the other high school he was nowhere as famous there as at Himekaizen.

In his pocket he carried a letter signed and sealed by the vice principal of Irishima High. Ryu had acquired it last evening, and it gave him blanket permission to enter the school grounds.

He barely made it into the school before a teacher apprehended him.

Your business here?”

Ryu dug into his bag and showed his letter. “I’m here on behalf of the exchange club. There is a… are members in this school I’m meeting.” Jeniferu might be his real reason for being here, but not talking with Ai would be rude to put it mildly.


Hasegawa Ai and Cooperu Jeniferu, sensei,” Ryu said. He didn’t know where their home rooms were, so any help from the staff here was appreciated.

Would you mind waiting in the office until lunch?”

Ryu bowed and followed the teacher. While polite that question held undertones of: how come you’re skipping school? Apparently a letter signed by the vice principal here had less value than the fact that a student visited another school during what was obviously a school day.

Walking through a corridor and up some stairs was short business. Irishima High was substantially smaller than Himekaizen. In ways it looked more like a rural middle school than the prestigious private high school it was.

While Himekaizen by no means belonged to the group of schools with a poor reputation, being neighbours with Irishima High stained it. Not being as good as somehow came to mean pretty bad. In that sense Red Rose Hell served as a nearby example of what a school with poor academic performance really was, but now that hell hole had closed down. Sure, their middle school still had students, but nothing could save it from the downwards spiral, and besides you just didn’t compare middle schools with high schools.

Ryu left the train of thoughts when he was let inside the teachers’ office, found a chair by a window and sat down to study how these school grounds differed from the ones he was used to.

No large, gravelled expanse to begin with. To reach the buildings you had to walk a paved walkway separating sports ground from a line of bike stands which gave way to a narrow area where they grew vegetables. This school must have some kind of gardening club.

Would you like some tea?”

Ryu turned at the sound. “Yes, yes thank you,” he said. After that he returned to watching the outside. Somewhere in his mind a nagging voice told him he’d done something wrong, but he couldn’t find out what.

Here you are.”

Thank you.” He took the offered mug and sipped a little. Ah, of course! Three years at Red Rose Hell taught him a few bad habits. “Would you want me to buy something for you in the cafeteria?” Ryu asked. Just because the female teacher was young it didn’t mean he should take it for granted that she offered domestic chores.

Thank you!” Her face lit up. “But there’s no need, and besides there’s no cafeteria in this school.”

Ryu smiled. Now when she mentioned it Irishima High’s reputation was based on academic merits. It wasn’t a fashionable school in any way. If anything they took pride in being a little old fashioned – sailor uniforms and gakuran only reinforced that impression.

With nothing else to do he whiled away the time sipping tea and studying the school exterior until bell rang for lunch and he was showed the way to the first year classrooms. He’d grab Jeniferu there and pick up Ai on the way out. His letter allowed him to bring friends for a meal outside the school provided he escorted them back well within time for the next period.

The same shabby concrete floors he was used to from Himekaizen led him to a corridor feeding classrooms, and someone must have told Jeniferu of his arrival, because she stood waiting for him outside what he guessed was her classroom.

She led him to the second year area and minutes later they headed through gates and in the direction of a cheap ramen shop where you could have your fill even as a ravenous teenager. For once Ryu felt happy both girls discarded their girlishness in favour of a solid meal.