Noriko stared after Urufu when his shoulders sunk and he walked around the bookshelf to the office area. If they had been alone she wasn't sure she could have kept herself from hugging him.

That modelling job had better be worth it. You're hurting him, even if he's trying his best to hide it. A couple of months earlier that thought would have come with equal parts shame and glee, because Kuri hurting Urufu brought them that much closer to breaking up. Now Noriko only felt sad. Urufu hurting hurt her as well. That hadn't changed, but her own plans had.

I'm moving on, Kuri. If you break him I can't promise I'll be here to pick up the parts. It wasn't that she had stopped loving Urufu, but there was no coming between Kuri and him as long as their relationship worked. It was exactly because Noriko still loved him that she had to move on. To be the friend he needed she had to find someone else to love, or at least to get along with well enough to substitute for love.

Cold and cynical her brother called her. Well, no one tried to rape him. No one tried to take his body for money. That was probably the worst of it. They failed, and she had been rescued by not one but two knights in shining armour, so the feeling of helplessness left her long ago. But they had been paid. The bastards hadn't even tried to rape her because they wanted to rape her. Her body wasn't even worth taking unless you were paid in advance, and that still hurt.

Deep inside her she knew her self-loathing was a lie. Yukio had confessed to her – three times. And that model, Takado-sempai, singled her out that evening on the beach. And when she wasn't around Kuri's fan club stole glances at her, but then nobody could compete around Kuri. Not true. You could, Kyoko. Yukio never looked at Kuri that way.

Sometimes she wondered if she shouldn't have rewarded Yukio's persistence, but at a closer look it wouldn't have worked. He lacked the hardness of character she required.

Noriko, what's up?”

Someone was speaking to her. “What?”

Noriko, you should leave him alone. Everyone here can see that you like him if you stare after him like that,” Midori-chan said and placed a hand on her shoulder in sympathy.

Noriko blushed a little. Midori-chan had misunderstood some of it after all, but she was probably right when she said Noriko wore her feelings like an overcoat right now. “It's all-right, I've already confessed,” Noriko said. “He knows and he rejected me,” she continued and looked at Midori-chan's stunned face. “Don't give me that look. It's not like you didn't know anyway.”

You're awesome. You're so cool!”

That put a smile on her face. Cool was good. Awesome was better. She could live with that. “Sure, but it's nothing you need to announce. Will only make me look like stupid, you know.”

I wouldn't dream of it!” Midori-chan promised.

And it'll be all over the grapevine within days. Oh well, she's an airhead, can't be helped. “Thank you, that really makes me feel better,” Noriko lied. She took a few steps into the lounge part. That sofa by a low table looked really inviting, or maybe one of the arm chairs.

In the end she settled for an arm chair. More members were on their way and even though she was a midget, sleeping on the sofa would still have occupied three seats.

There would be some harsh words come autumn. Their club already attracted a lot of attention, and with their new room from out of the blue it would become clear they had a better contact with the principal than was normal. The student council had a lot of clout, but nothing near ordering the remaking of a run-down classroom. It even had an AC better than the one in their classroom.

Time to plan for the culture festival as well. I'll have to do most of the planning I'm afraid. Urufu never got to experience one, because he was incarcerated for saving me. She really did owe him. He'd even saved her brother from the fallout.

The door opened and Ryu arrived with parts of his and Kuri's fan club in tow. They carried bags with food and drinks and snacks. That left Yukio and Kyoko who had their own scavenging patrol. They had promised something great, but Noriko had no idea what it was.

When the door opened the next time two of the girls entered with a microwave. They were met with jubilation but just kept smiling as if they'd been let in on some great secret.

Peeps, need some guys out here for the carrying slings!” Yukio's voice shouted from the corridor.

Noriko watched some of the boys leave the room.

Whoa! Man!” she heard a while later.

It took a minute. It probably took several, and when Kyoko opened the door again Noriko heard the sound of people carrying something heavy. Then she saw one end of something shiny. Are you nuts? Are you for real?

The room filled with a roar of approval when the full height fridge was carried through the opening.

You're absolutely wonderfully insane you lot! With guys like you I'll never be able to keep my cool. For once she didn't try to avoid her brother when he came sailing through the room with a high five prepared.

Man, we've got cool, cause we are cool.” Yukio shouted from somewhere, and during the commotion Urufu came out from his hiding space and smiled at what he saw. With a calmer face he met Ryu's high five. Calmer, but he still met it with one of his own. It had to be some kind of male thing.


This time she made sure to fire up her smart phone immediately after the shots were done. Once was more than enough, and Christina didn't plan to exemplify some concept of stupid Swedes, if one existed in Japan.

Nothing major. She had missed out on today's festival planning, but it might run late, so she decided to chance it and head for school.

It was, she admitted, a mistake to email Midori-chan rather than Ulf, but she had known he would run late. She was the club president after all, so someone already inside the school should know. But maybe she should have emailed Ulf as well. Or text as he said when he started rambling about how Japan needed to join the twenty first century when it came to digital infrastructure. He was a geek, and she didn't understand half of it, but apparently something irked him. He did have almost all of his electronic gear imported, so apparently something was wrong with what could be bought in Japan.

Her studio wasn't too far away from the school. At least not with her new bike, and after she had changed into the all too hot but properly baggy set of clothes she used for avoiding being recognised, she made good speed on partially empty streets.

It had been a good day. Good shots and crowned by the message that Kinoshita-sensei was transferring studios on the condition he could work exclusively with her, or at least prioritise her whenever she was available. The two younger photographers in the studio were ecstatic at the news, and the oldest not so much. Probably because he just had his position as the most senior usurped.

Less than half an hour, about the same time as she would have used riding trains, it took her to get to Himekaizen. She locked her bike to the stands and made her way into the school. By the shoe lockers she realised she had forgotten her slippers, but she decided to risk it and climbed the stairs to their new club room. Midori-chan had told her where to find it.

It wasn't empty, but there was no sign of Ulf, so she made a polite round and signed a few papers concerning the upcoming cultural festival after she confirmed that the club would only apply for running a few food stalls.

In the end she was coerced into following Ryu and some of the less sane members of their fan club to the roof where they fired off a few very illicit fireworks. It was very stupid, a little fun and it probably strengthened her reputation as the daredevil beauty of Himekaizen.

After that she left the school feeling a bit disappointed. Should she call him? Maybe not. He was probably angry by now, and she was tired and didn't want to risk a quarrel over the phone when the only thing she wanted was to hug him close to her and just cling to him forever.

An email though. She had the next day off. She wrote a short message before unlocking her bike. Ten am by the statue they had used for their first date. That small square had become important to her. Stupid and childish, but that was how it was.

As she was riding home she felt her phone vibrate, and when she made a quick stop in a park there was a new email for her from Ulf. Ten am was perfect and did she want to go to the cinemas?

Christina sat down on a swing. She was far too tall for it, and her heels dug into the sand even though she didn't attempt to swing. Yes, the cinemas would be fun, and did he have time to make it a full day's date with their bikes?

And he did. And he longed for it. And Christina felt her heart jolt when she read that email. He wanted to be together with her. Alone with her, and he longed for the time they shared.

She sat there a bit longer than she had planned. Crying silently, but these were tears of joy. Slowly she started to accept just how important his words were to her. This last email would take her through another lonely night smiling. She couldn't understand how easily she had allowed herself to become spellbound by him.

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