What is that?”

That?” Ulf pointed at a bottle with yellow liquid inside.

Noriko nodded.

Punsch. Sweet liquor. It's a Swedish speciality.” At least I'm not making a fool of myself this time. Yeah, that party was awful, really awful. Ulf grinned at the memory.

You should wait for the coffee though,” Christina added from the left. She played around with the flower decorations on the table.

Noriko nodded again and hesitantly agreed to have a small amount poured into her glass. “We don't have this at home,” she said. “Swedish speciality and all.”

Well, we don't have umeshu at home neither,” Christina countered. “Japanese speciality and all.” And with that she placed another bottle on the table.

The two women eyed each other as if sizing each other up. Tall, blond beauty versus the Wakayama midget. “I guess,” Noriko broke the silence first, “that it could serve as this punsch of yours?”

Yes, it's definitely one of the things I like with Japan,” Christina agreed, and the tension between them vanished as if it had never been there. They laughed and drunkenly high-fived each other.

So it was all an act after all. Ulf sighed in relief. “You bring to home what you take from home,” he said in a rather lame attempt at making a joke.

On the other side of the table Ryu lit a cigarette and smiled. “Coffee is served,” he announced. “Umeshu or Punsch? Take your pick from home.” Flashing his more childish side he stuck his tongue out at Ulf. “Last time it would have been illegal, but sorely needed.”


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