Book three: Chapter one, 2016, the value of friends

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Midsummer's eve,2040, nightfall

Some kind of darkness came even to this strange country in the north. It was slow in coming, but it did.

Yukio had gone looking for his wife earlier, but when he found Kyoko she sat in a sofa with an extra blanket folded in her lap. It wasn't for him. He knew her too well to make such an assumption.

She's still your most important friend. You two should have this time alone my love.

He returned and looked for Urufu instead. There was a lot to be said about spending time with your best friend. He'd still be married tomorrow, or the next week or in ten years' time if he behaved in a way to deserve it.

Friends though, the best he had or others for that matter, weren't as easy to meet every day in the week, and for that reason alone he should value the time he got. Maybe now more than ever before.

"Urufu, there you are, what about checking on the kids discreetly?"

Urufu looked over his shoulder and shot him a grin in the growing darkness. "There's nothing discreet to their party. They'll be going on until morning. Let them have their fun."

Yukio smiled. "You don't think we should see what they're doing?"

Urufu slapped his hands to his ears in an exaggerated gesture to block out the rhythmic music that hammered its way up the hillside. "Thank you but I have a pretty good idea about what they're doing even standing up here. Don't worry, a lot of them are older than we were back then, and we even had to plan our parties all on our own."

Yukio laughed at the memory. Madness, it had been madness, and even though Urufu had done most of the planning Yukio still took pride in having been there to cover his back.

Then he remembered all that had happened apart from the planning sessions, and mirth left him in an instant.

Chapter one,2016, the value of friends

When Noriko opened her shoe locker she found both her shoes shredded. 'Die bitch!' a sign at the back of the locker greeted her.

Nao-sempai, I'll have your hide for this! Noriko punched up a contact on her phone and dialled.

"Kyoko here. You forgot anything?" came the expected answer.

"In a way," Noriko said. "Could you do me a favour and come down to the shoe lockers with my sneakers?"

She could hear the hesitation in the silence from the other end of the phone call. After all she could just as well have walked back up to their classroom and fetched them herself, but she wanted Kyoko to see this.

It scared her a little bit more than she wanted to admit. She'd never been the target of bullying before in her life, and even though she knew exactly what was going on, Noriko felt like something unknown out there was looking maliciously at her.

She understood that things would hardly degenerate the way they had done with Kuri during their first term. Kuri had been the stunning looker with only one friend, but Noriko was, without wanting it, part of her brother's fan-club from the very start. On top of that their club was up to thirty members by now, and she was one of the top three students among the freshmen to boot.

If things went down the drain for real the school was likely to explode with indignation, or at least all eight, no nine now, freshman classes. Especially 9:1. Rumours had it the new class included a few partially reformed thugs who took it upon themselves to patrol the school grounds in search of bullies.

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