Book two: Chapter five, 2016, extended stay

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Midsummer's eve,2040, meat or fish

Noriko listened to the music from where the youngsters had their own party together with the local youth.

There will be a few broken hearts later this summer, she guessed.

She held on to her plate and stood standing in front of the grills Ulf had expertly used. Meat or fish? I don't want to choose. She picked up a slice and Ulf helped her with the fish. Last she got a large baked potato on her plate.

When she returned to the table Ryu was gone. She looked for him but he was still gone.

"Looking for your brother?"

Noriko looked over her shoulder. "Yes, do you know where he went, James?"

James smiled and put down an impossible number of glasses he had held in his hands.

Bah, I always forget he never really quit standing behind that counter of his.

"Yes, he'll be back with the fireworks." James placed the glasses on the table and fished out a couple of bottles he had managed to keep hidden in his pockets.

"Fireworks? You know we don't do those in Sweden during midsummer?" Noriko watched how he mixed drinks with the liquor he had brought and whatever was in the bottles on the table. But he's not winging it, not really. He was a professional after all.

"I don't think that brother of yours cares. Whenever he sets his mind to something he usually just charges ahead."

She had to admit the truth in that. So fireworks in the summer even in Sweden. An unplanned prolonged stay would make the similarity hilarious.

Chapter five,2016, extended stay

With the field trip formally at an end Christina focused on her remaining shoots. She would have preferred to study together with Ulf, but he needed to clear out his last remaining subjects before the next group with paying course attendants arrived.

She hated that, but she went through with her work, and she even built a small reputation for having an uncanny taste when it came to pick out which clothes were best for a certain shoot.

After that the positively most boring week in her life started. Principal Nakagawa acted as her teacher, and she was the class. The days started at seven and ended at ten in the evening. She only got breaks for two meals, and all the while the hotel echoed with the activity of Ulf and the others running workshops. There was only silence when they were out walking talking.

In three days she nailed her make up exams but for Japanese. Then it was cramming Japanese thirteen hours a day. At night she was so tired she even forgot to sneak out of her room twice, and even when she slept in Ulf's arms she barely had the energy to enjoy a quick kiss and the feeling of safety when she burrowed her back tightly against his body.

Ryu and Yukio never said anything, and neither did Noriko nor Kyoko when she stole her way back early mornings.

On the verge of breaking down, after over a week's worth of cramming, she finally passed her last exam. That made her by a wide margin the worst freshman in all of Himekaizen. She didn't care one bit. Cramming hell was over and there were still a few days left of summer break.

That was yesterday, and now was her first morning of freedom. She woke to the amused snorts of Ko-chan.

When did I crawl back to my room? Christina stretched, or rather tried to.

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