Something had broken between Urufu and Kuri-chan, but strangely enough their ties with each other grew stronger as well.

And Kyoko was filled with shame. And so was Yukio. So now they shared both new-found love as well as shame.

But I have to make a choice, and you're the most important to me, Kyoko thought and threw Yukio a guilty glance. She received one in return.

They were shaking along the rails on a regional train to a resort where the Wakayama parents had called in a favour to find the club a hotel they could afford. The Shinkansen was the better alternative, but most members in the club wanted to avoid the premium cost.

Our first field trip. Because four days and three nights by the sea counted as their first field trip together.

Two rows ahead Urufu and Kuri-chan sat nestled together sharing silence. Kyoko could only guess what it contained, but she felt it wasn't empty. Silence filled with meaning, like the one she shared with Yukio, and yet nothing at all like it.

She went through their schedule in her mind again. The most important part of it. After they chose their rooms and settled in Urufu promised to give them a more coherent explanation of what had happened. He had to. The entire club regarded Red Rose Academy as a personification of everything bad and evil, but Kyoko believed that was too simple a description.

She had spoken about it with Yukio, but he remained adamant that Red Rose Hell, as he called it, was indeed evil incarnate, and so she wanted Urufu's side of it. Loving Yukio didn't mean she took everything he said at face value.

This was too important to be analysed by teenagers only. Urufu would have an adult's insight, and Kuri-chan could be counted on to share her pool of experience as well.

If it wasn't for that silence.

Since the night he drank himself to a stupor, with most of the club members sitting in the next room, Urufu hadn't spoken much. Kuri-chan forced a promise from both Yukio and Kyoko not to leave his side when she was away on her modelling sessions, but Kyoko wondered how smart that really was. Urufu never got any time alone.

She watched the backsides of their heads close together. They would open up and talk and laugh when they were ready again. With that thought she snuggled up closer to Yukio and was rewarded with a shy kiss.

The train staggered onwards tapping its thudunk, thudunk, thudunk onto the rails as it ate the distance to their destination. Outside the windows suburban Tokyo slowly gave way to small stretches of countryside interrupted by smaller towns mixing up the rice fields with shopping malls, old industries and apartment buildings, with the odd temple or shrine thrown in for good measure.

Behind her Kyoko heard the club members with the poorest finals results discuss the make-up exams they had been through this far. Apparently most of them were done for summer break, and if what she heard was true even Kuri-chan and Urufu only had small leftovers to handle.

She looked at the objects of those rumours. They hadn't spoken much about summer school at all, and as Kyoko cleaned out her score at her first attempt she didn't know how well they did. I'll ask Noriko later.

Both twins sat some distance behind her. Noriko most likely asleep, but Ryu kept up his role as the prince of Himekaizen and entertained both his and Kuri-chan's fans to make certain she got some time alone with Urufu. Kyoko sent him a thought of gratitude for that. It had to be hard on him as he was still in love with Kuri-chan.

The Wakayama twins. I can see you both are true to the loves you declared. But why don't you move on? Beside her Yukio stirred as he slowly fell asleep while hugging her close. Stupid question. You can't, just as I couldn't. But I got my reward in the end, and there is nothing coming between those two.

Kyoko looked between the heads in front of her. The backsides of blond and almost black leaned close to each other. Urufu and Kuri-chan kept their silence. Kyoko didn't think they were asleep, but she couldn't hear the singing Swedish language they used whenever they felt the need for privacy among people.

I guess they speak Swedish when they're alone as well.

For now Kyoko had to satisfy herself with rice fields and rivers passing by as the train rattled further south. Two short stops ahead of them and after that Nagoya where they had to wait for half an hour. Then the last long stretch. At the end of the line a small town taxi company stood prepared to handle the arrival of two dozen high school students.

With that thought, and with the sound of Ryu's merry bantering behind her, she nestled closer to Yukio and allowed the drowsiness to overtake her. His breathing was like the ocean, a steady rhythm of rising and falling, filling her with calm and in the cradle of his arms she finally fell into a restful sleep.


When Noriko awoke night had fallen and the train slowed its speed heralding their arrival to a station. Beside her her brother curled up on his seat and slept soundly. They had changed trains in Nagoya, and when the entire club entered one car most other passengers avoided it.

Lucky it's only us in this car, she thought when she saw a couple of his fans fast asleep on the floor. Idiot bro, pick some fans with brains will you?

Outside she could make out the shadows of some houses flickering past in the cold whiteness from street lights, and ahead of them she saw how those lights gathered together in a small cluster. Almost there. I'd better wake them up.

She started to shake one of the girls on the floor awake. Hitomi-chan, is it? One of the new members, and a real beauty. “Kojima Hitomi!” Isn't she in Urufu's class? Noriko threw a glance further ahead in the car until she saw Kuri's golden hair. But for you this girl could have carved out a kingdom of her own in Himekaizen. And Hitomi-chan could still become a rival for Urufu's attention should his and Kuri's relation turn sour.

Secretly Noriko allowed herself some satisfaction that the classic beauty had chosen to hover around Ryu instead. “Kojima Hitomi, wake up!” Beautiful, but not too smart. Ryu would never fall for you, but you wouldn't understand why.

The girl groaned sleepily but started to wake, and Noriko turned her attention to Midori-chan with her huge unruly hair. Get to a hairdresser some day! You know you'd be really cute if you fixed your hair? “Midori-chan, wake up! We've arrived.”

In the meantime more and more of the members woke up as the train screeched and slowly came to a halt. When the driver came in from the car in front there was no sign of teenagers sleeping on the floor, and Noriko sighed in relief as she shouldered her backpack and left the car.

It was time for the more underhanded part of their field trip. Outside her parents waited. Outwardly to show off the money available to spoiled and rich kids by paying for all the taxi rides, and later for their rooms, but that wouldn't have explained the presence of Urufu's guardian.

Noriko greeted her parents with a wave and bowed to Sato-sensei. From the corner of her eye she could see Urufu do the same but opposite, waving to his guardian and bowing deeply to her parents. As far as he knew the adults were there to secure Kuri's independence from her more than a little shady guardian. Well, he didn't need to know everything right now. Not in the state he was in.

It was time to play the obedient daughter to give Sato-sensei a good impression of their family. After that the adults could commit to their business on their own.

Mother, father,” Noriko said and gave them a cursory bow. “This is Hamarugen Urufu and his girlfriend Ageruman Kuritina.” She turned to Sato-sensei. “It's my pleasure to meet you.”

Such a polite child. You brought her up well,” Sato-sensei said to her parents in a tone that told Noriko she hadn't been taken in at all by Noriko's childish attempt at acting. And it hadn't even been all acting. Anyone who earned Urufu's trust deserved respect.

Noriko stood still under the lamplight and watched their group grow smaller and smaller as they vanished four and four into taxi cabs that drove away into the darkness. Just think of anything for a while and pretend you're reflecting on your actions. Like the trip. Four days and three nights. As field trips go this is a long one, and with a train ride like this it had better be. She shook her head. Should have taken the Shinkansen instead, but I guess most parents balked at the cost.

She decided she had weathered out Sato-sensei's displeasure long enough and rose. Noriko sensed how her brother shared her discomfort and stood to attention behind her. He was funnily loyal that way, always trying to shield her from the brunt of adult attacks.

Why don't the four of you take the next taxi?” her mother suggested.

Mom, that's your game voice! Noriko turned and caught Sato-sensei giggling. I've been had! They turned my act on me and I bought it all! She smirked and curtsied ironically in the old-style western way. Gah! You got me real good this time.

Sis?” Ryu said.

Noriko trusted that he knew her antics when she needed to admit defeat. This time he just didn't know why that had happened. “Nothing,” she said in return, “nothing but me being childish,” she finished as she climbed into the waiting car. She could see her mother and Sato-sensei nodding in agreement.

They're up to something, and I thought we were the schemers here. She'd ask her mother directly later. There was no fooling her, and it didn't matter. As far as Noriko was concerned her mother was made of pure awesome, and she knew her brother shared that sentiment even if he'd never admit it to his fans. Friends probably, but not fans.

Ryu took the front seat, and Noriko moved away to let Kuri into the middle. Normally Noriko would have been saddled with that seat, which didn't mind her at all as it would have left her squeezed to Urufu, but right now he desperately needed Kuri's presence.

They buckled up and left the station. It wasn't until then that Noriko noted how none of the wingmen took care of their charges. Kyoko, Yukio, what's happening? You need to wake up from that rose tinted dream of yours. Love birds in paradise and all that, but I need you back. Both of you.

The taxi snaked its way into the darkness on roads Noriko only dimly remembered from an earlier childhood. In the front seat she could see the frowning profile of her brother as he pushed his nose to the window. He must be struggling to remember just like she was.

A friend, or a business partner, or most likely both. Someone who knew their parents and owned a resort. She dimly recalled an old fashioned onsen by the sea and how she had played there with her brother. She couldn't remember anything more.

Beside her Kuri and Urufu ran a silent conversation in the melodic language of theirs. From their voices it didn't seem the topic was anything they wanted to keep a secret, more like loving memories from a different life best expressed in the language they had each lived that life with.

She envied them a little, and it hurt a little, but if she was to be true to her love for Urufu she had to admit he needed Kuri above anything else.

Noriko would give her support to both of them. She had promised herself that and even come up with this hare-brained plan of hers. To her astonishment her parents went with the plan without saying a word, and Noriko pondered on that as the taxi pulled up on the courtyard and stopped.

Support "Transition and Restart, book two: The Billion Dollar Empress"

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