Book four: Chapter three, 2017, old and new

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Midsummer'sday, 2040, lazing in the sun

"Do you really celebrate midsummer's day as well in Sweden?"

Ulf looked at Kyoko who had climbed down to the cliffs by the water. "Officially not," he said. "But if you travel out of the cities, like we've done, it only makes sense to spend the weekend though."

Kyoko spread her blanket on the rock and waved for Yukio to join her.

"You know, I can't get used to this kind of coast," she said after she had failed to find a comfortable way to lie down.

Ulf shrugged. "I grew up with this. It's how we sunbathe in the archipelago, unless you prefer the crowds on our crappy sandy beaches."

"That's an alternative, but no thanks. I'll take the discomfort together with you guys."

Thanks Kyoko. You were always a good friend. Ulf smiled but refrained from answering. There really wasn't much to say.

Behind them Yukio got caught in a conversation with James, so Ulf tapped Kyoko's blanket and pointed up the hill. She looked in the direction of his hand and grinned.

"Let him. It's been a long time since they last met," she said. Then she turned serious all of a sudden. "Do you regret it?" she asked.

"Regret what?"

Kyoko could be really cryptic sometimes, and more so after a long marriage with Yukio, where they must have learned to communicate telepathically with each other.

She squinted against the sun and drew a deep breath. "Destroying Red Rose Hell," she finally said.

Ah, of course. "No, not at all. That hell-hole had to go." Ulf smirked when he realised he hadn't been entirely honest. "I regret what came after," he admitted silently.

There was something pained in Kyoko's eyes, but Ulf saw how she shook it off before she lay down on the blanket. "Just wondering," she said. "If you don't mind I'll do like you Swedes and tan in the sun like a moron."

"Be my guest," Ulf said. I'm so sorry, Kyoko. I'm so sorry.

Chapter three,2017, old and new

Who the hell decided hatsumode at a major shrine was a good idea? I mean, what's with this crap?

For the umpteenth time Ulf regretted that he'd allowed himself to be talked into visiting the Meiji shrine because 'that was what someone living in Tokyo did for New Year's eve'.

It was insanely crowded, and he had long since given up on finding Christina among the mass of people surrounding him. In theory he could have called her, but the cell network was brutally overloaded, and his smart-phone only served as a paperweight in his pocket.

Screw this! It was the first day off for Christina since they spent Christmas together, and for the rest of the winter break there would only be tomorrow as a free day. All the others she was booked solid.

Damn, they got her good this time.

Those thoughts didn't help. Ulf pushed his way a little further inside the compound and grit his teeth. While her schedule for all effective purposes created something like a prison, it also accelerated her fame towards the point where her career became stable. That magazine, Vogue, used her, and Ulf could only hope Christina used them in return.

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