Book five, Chapter one, 2017, a new year

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Midsummer's day, 2040, grilling

"When did your parents transit?"

Noriko turned to Yukio. She had studied him and Kyoko. Had studied them since high school as an example of how some couples get it right from the start. Just like her parents.

"Ten years ago," Noriko said and turned a slab of meat on the grill. "To help Nakagawa out."

"You're staking a lot on him arriving and building himself a position of power."

Noriko shrugged. "And you? You're transiting yourself. We don't even know if it works."

"It works, Urufu said it does. We have the signals. Sure, their future and cryptic like hell, but signals anyway."

That was trusting the Swedish branch of the transitioning foundation a lot. Noriko knew why Urufu did, but she had never been able to trust anything that blindly.

After turning the slab once more she decided it was good to eat. She took it on a plate and went to find a place where she could be alone. Transitions and arrivals as an everyday topic for their dinner talk. It had been years since.

And you say they'll be even more open about it in the downstream world. I hope you're right.

Because before trust came betrayal. Always betrayal.

Chapterone, 2017, a new year

Entrance ceremonies were supposed to be framed by a reasonably cute pink colour, and this year it was. Every stupid attribute promising a glorious new start beckoned to the new students with promises of a wonderful future.

A pity Wakayama Noriko wasn't a new student.

She entered the Himekaizen school grounds a junior. A second year, starting the best of her three high school years; the freshmen admiring them and the seniors envying them. The spring of her youth, and all that.

Then, given such an auspicious event, why was her stomach a hard knot of uncontrollable fear?

Urufu gone missing, Kuri a shallow shadow of her former self, and worst of all, she pretended to go out with Ryu.

What happened to Ai-chan? Ryu, you bastard. Did you hurt a girl deliberately?

Yukio and Kyoko were late, also deliberately. Sato-sensei, Urufu's guardian, created a huge ruckus when she forced the school to accept an armed escort to follow the pair to and from school.

The reason, the reason made Noriko want to throw up in fear.

How the bloody hell did we end up this way? How, how, how did Kareyoshi become principal?

Around her fellow schoolmates milled around, a third of them all shiny and new, and the rest in their worn beige blazer and black trousers or skirt. None showed any sign of Noriko's kind of fear, because for the rest of them Kareyoshi was only a dull English teacher best known for having a private war with the Japanese guy in 6:1 who wasn't Japanese after all.

She tried to pretend she was just nervous for the same reason as the rest of the second years. That she only wondered which class she had been assigned to, or rather which classmates.

Noriko walked over to the billboards where the second year classes were divided in two sections. One for sciences and one for liberal arts. That selection each student did themselves.

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