Noriko found the only stretch of beach that felt like one. A miniscule bay, only a few metres wide with sand under her feet. She let her toes dig down, grabbed her skirt with her hands and waded into the water.

It felt cool against her feet, and salt water splashed onto her legs when a small motorboat raced by and left its wake spreading onto the shore.

Back in Japan the thought wouldn’t even have occurred to her, going into the sea at temperatures like these, but this was summer in Sweden. Another week or two, and the temperature would reach what she considered summer herself, even though it was a far cry from the murderous Tokyo heat during July and August.

Then, again, back in Japan she did things that never occurred to her before she did them. Her friendship with Kyoko and Kuri shaped her, and so did watching Yukio grow as a man. But in the end, falling in love with Urufu for the third time made her grow in ways she hadn’t thought possible.

She had to, the third time she knew about his background. Mentally he was already a man when she was merely the high schooler they both looked like.

Noriko sighed and allowed the water to lap her thighs. The hem of her skirt was long since gone wet, so she simply let it go and allowed it to float like a deflated balloon on the waves.

Most improper, as Kyoko once would have said. She seldom did these days. In truth hadn’t since the spring term of their second year.

Noriko clenched her fists and hid them in the water. With her current understanding of people it no longer surprised her why the conflict erupted into open warfare the way it did.

With a second sigh she returned onto the beach. She wrung most of the water from her soaked skirt and went in search of Urufu and Kuri. She had to ask them if they thought of it the same way.


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