Exceptional

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"Sweden?"

"Yes Jun, I'm transferring there in September and I want you acquainted with a new culture before I move."

Jun groaned. If his father said they were spending a prolonged vacation in a backwater country on the outside of the known world, then they would do so, and the last summer break in high school would go with it.

He'd miss the last field trip with the club and a lot of stupid fun with his other friends as well.

At least he didn't have to worry about a girlfriend any longer. She dumped him after she found him ogling the foreign beauty in 3:1. He really had no right to complain. He did the ogling, she did the dumping. Fair and square. To be honest their relationship hadn't really worked out from the start.

To be honest he wasn't all that good at relationships to begin with. They scared him, and he was genuinely happy with the arrival of this year's freshmen. Especially with that Wakayama boy attracting so much attention among the girls. That combined with Jun dating Kaneko-chan made him more invisible. He never tried to be popular with the girls, but he disliked being impolite to them as well and somehow he ended up being the centre of female attention in his class.

"Jun?"

"Ah, yes father. When do we leave?" He didn't have to ask that question, but it was the respectful thing to do.

"As soon as your finals are over. Don't fail any exams."

He wouldn't. Jun wasn't a top student by any means, but he also wasn't anywhere close to failing an exam. He'd take his entrance exams later that year, and he'd enter a decent university in Tokyo. Not Tokyo university, but one with a pretty good reputation.

Well above average, but never exceptional. That was Jun. Studies, sports, looks and popularity. It was all the same. Ran in the family, he guessed. Well to do but not exactly rich. His father a ranking government official, but not a high ranking one, and his mother working as a university teacher, which was more than most women could hope for in Japan. He even had a younger sister attending Irishima High with better than middling grades.

He looked at his father. "Two weeks from now then," he said to confirm both that he had understood and that he wouldn't fail any exams.



***



The lorry trudged through, but Jun stared at the greenery behind it. This city is so small, he thought. They hadn't even gone to the capital of the small country, but to an even smaller city on the west coast. Gothenburg, with more trees than streets. It was more of a large town than a city.

His first impression was a strange place. It looked distinctly European but with an abundance of space and parks everywhere. For sheer size it could only compete with some no-name city outside the top twenty in Japan. In Sweden it was the second in size, and for that reason it behaved like a much larger city.

And the people were tall. For once he found himself in a situation where he wasn't well above average. In fact he was probably shorter than the average here. Even the girls were tall, and a lot of them taller than he was, and they all looked like foreigners to him.

Jun smiled. He was the foreigner here. Most of the conversations around him ran in a strange sing song language he was told was the native Swedish, but a fair amount were held in English. There were a lot of tourists; looking like those living here but foreigners just like him.

After arriving here his father handed him a primitive cash card phone and for the third day since arrival Jun found himself abandoned in a café. Or rather outside a café. Everyone in this strange city seemed to sit outdoors. The entire city was littered with open-air restaurants, beer gardens and pavement cafés. They lined almost every street, and he wondered if the entire population sat outdoors bundled up in layers and layers of clothes during winter.

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