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Kyoko pretended she didn’t see the gang of third years following her. She might not be the fastest on the uptake in the boy meets girl game, but she knew trouble heading for Kuri-chan when she saw it.

Idiots! I have to pretend to protect Kuri-chan while she hurts you all over again. But then some people really never learned. This time it was Ryu walking around with Kuri-chan as his new-won prize that fed their anger. And Kuri-chan, you’re an idiot as well.

Kuri-chan saw her, and Kyoko waved to her friend, all too aware the gang behind her would catch up when the two of them met. Kyoko barely had time to get away from Kuri-chan’s mandatory hug before the voices reached them from behind.

And she goes for the kill again. What's with you and hooking up with lookers?”

Kyoko noted how Ryu had made himself scarce, but she had no doubt he stood hiding somewhere close.

With her grades, how did she even end up here in the first place?”

The mood was turning just as ugly as Kyoko suspected. She could understand why the girls felt the way they did when Kuri-chan showed up on Ryu's arm the very first day of the new school year, but still.

I got a scholarship,” Kuri-chan answered.

Kyoko knew that voice. Don't make it worse, Kuri-chan!

Scholarship? What need would this school possibly have for you?”

You just had to, Kuri-chan!

Kuri-chan turned, ever so slowly, and faced her adversary. “The school was in desperate need of a makeover. I make it look better. One me can easily make up for an entire class of ordinaries like you, wouldn't you agree?”

Kuri-chan! That was brutal. That was totally uncalled for. You'll never keep friends that way.

Then Kyoko recalled that the only real friends Kuri-chan had made were all members of the club.

The girls flinched.

Here we go again. Kyoko made ready to face the group together with her friend. This time she only felt sorry for them. She had seen Ryu pretend to walk away, and Kyoko knew he was somewhere near waiting for the perfect moment to arrive.

Stage monkey! The right wing classrooms towered close by, and Kyoko saw students looking out the windows. They didn’t want to miss the latest show featuring their famous fellow student. And you, you deserve getting your faces chewed off! What kind of morons stage an attack like this in full view of half the school?

You bitch! Just because you got a little famous you think you can say whatever you want?”

Kuri-chan grinned. “That’s wrong,” she calmly stated.

Don’t fall for it. Don’t be as stupid as you look!

What do you mean with wrong?”

OK, you really deserve everything you get.

I mean that because I’m famous all over Japan I know I can say whatever I want. You got a problem with that?”

Kyoko shook her head. Above her she could hear gleeful laughter from the second year floor. The row of first year windows only let out the occasional loud gasp. The third year row, well the third year row showed a more mixed reaction. Angry shouts together with jeers. Kuri-chan had made fans as well as enemies among the former juniors.

In front of Kyoko the four third year girls paled, and at her side Kuri-chan dressed up in a smile belonging to the haughtiest version of the Billion Dollar Empress Kyoko had ever seen.

Girls, was there anything more you wanted? I’m pressed for time. Vogue needs me for another shoot.”

They’ll never forgive you, you know that? Kuri-chan probably did. Kyoko couldn’t understand why her friend deliberately made more enemies. Was building a reputation really that important?

At least the group knew when they were beaten, or in their case, publicly humiliated and beaten. Barring physical assaults Kyoko couldn’t see how anyone would dare bully Kuri-chan again.

At that very time Ryu popped up from nowhere, or from wherever he hid during the exchange.

Hi Kuri. I was just looking for you.” Then he turned to the third years. “Oh, made some new friends?”

That was mean of you, Ryu. They’re your fans after all.

Ah, just chatting. If they’re your friends then they’re mine as well,” Kuri-chan lied, and Kyoko saw the girls blanch even further.

We were just having a talk, Wakayama-san,” one of them said. After that they vanished in a hurry.

Kyoko stared out over the empty soccer field and waited for Ryu and Kuri-chan to finish their act. False, even if they were her friends they still played false. I hate that! I know I’m naive and too trusting, but I hate that.

With that thought Kyoko knew she didn’t want to wait any longer. With brisk steps she left her two friends to their own deliberations and headed for the entrance. Kuri-chan called once after her, but Kyoko pretended she didn’t hear and continued.

For once she didn’t long for Yukio, but for Urufu. There wasn’t even an ounce of romantic feelings in that feeling of longing. Right now she needed a sane adult to speak with. With a bit of luck Urufu was still sane, even though his grabbing his bike and leaving Tokyo didn’t exactly raise her hopes.

That he hadn’t returned in time for their second school year scared her, but her fear was second hand. She knew that. Even though she knew his fears after being assaulted and losing Kuri-chan, she hadn’t experienced them. She hadn’t even witnessed it the way Yukio and Ryu did.

An angry outburst left her lips as she switched to her indoor shoes and climbed the stairs to the short home room class that would end their first school day.

With no club activities the only thing that remained after that was climbing into a car and get driven home. Walking home with armed guards was out of the question.

Club activities. Are they going to stand guard like in some manga comedy outside the Haven? Kyoko pictured the insanity in her head, and the last steps to her classroom she giggled a little.


***

 

Two days late Ulf returned to school. He got his arse handed to him by Amaya the evening before, and after that a desperate hug from her where she showed how worried she had been.

Then, to his enormous surprise, James appeared at the door, only to leave together with Amaya. Things had progressed in an interesting direction during Ulf’s absence it seemed.

Right now he got his arse handed to him by the moron someone mistakenly had led into the principal’s office. Said moron even tried pretending he held the competence needed for the job.

Ulf thoroughly despised the specific kind of incompetence inherent in the type of person personified by Kareyoshi. A small-minded, self-important narcissist who wrongly believed he had anything to provide to human society. In short the kind of person Ulf made short time of whenever TAP made a horrendous enough mistake when it came to employment. As those years went by, such mistakes became exceedingly rare.

Now, however, Ulf faced the prospect of spending his remaining years in high school with the arse as his principal.

It began in accordance with what Ulf had expected. As punishment for arriving two days late he got suspended for a week. A true genius! Someone plays hooky and you reward the absentee with another week of no school, rubber-stamped by the principal.

Ulf didn’t mind. He’d learn more efficiently away from the classroom than in it. You didn’t get two academic degrees by depending on the presence of a teacher.

Facing Principal Kareyoshi Ulf made an attempt at looking repentant. He failed gloriously.

Then Kareyoshi dropped the bomb.

I’m going to disband that filthy club of yours.”

I thought that was for the student council to decide,” Ulf said, still reeling from the shock.

The former principal was your advisor. I don’t plan to take on that role.”

We could find another,” Ulf responded.

No, as a matter of fact, you can’t. Besides, the student council will do what I tell them, if they know what’s good for their futures.”

He openly threatens the student council? How fucking stupid can he be? Ulf fingered the recorder in his pocket to make sure it was still on. Can’t use it any-time soon. Just adding shit to pile on him for later.

Because that was the problem. Kareyoshi was on the inside. The other side of the inside, but inside still. Flushing him out would only be possible if they could add enough shit to him to endanger the very organisation that lay behind the secrecy around the arrivals.

I hope you’re aware the exam results average for club members have risen substantially compared to the rest of the first years.”

I hope you’re aware you should shut up when you talk to your elders.”

Hard case that one, Ulf thought. How did he come up with me talking and shutting up at the same time. Then another thought struck him, and Ulf decided to test it. We arrivals are basically exempt from the rules concerning expulsion from Himekaizen.

Then I expect you to shut the hell up in my presence from now on,” Ulf said.

Kareyoshi paled. “What did you...”

Shut the fuck up kiddo!” Ulf still remembered the command voice from his time as a conscript. Thirty years of budo had just polished it further into a weapon.

Kareyoshi reeled from the force. It took him a while to recover. “You little...”

Silent! I haven’t given you permission to raise your voice in my presence.” This is more fun than I expected. Will be hell to pay, but I just don’t care. “I’m at least a few years your senior, so shove it, kohai! If you at least had deserved to be my kohai, but you can’t get everything in today’s degenerate world, wouldn’t you agree?” Now, how could I possibly be more insulting than that?

An idea came up. Ulf turned and left the room. When he was almost to the door Principal Kareyoshi rose from his chair. Ulf turned and stared at the raging, red face.

Sit! Stay in that chair until I send someone here with permission for you to rise!”

Kareyoshi sat. Obviously he wouldn’t remain seated, but for now it was enough. Ulf opened the door and entered the corridor. For the first time in weeks a grin as wide as honestly felt spread on his face.

I wonder how he’ll take revenge. Well, I guess I’m part of the game now. Could as well make it official. Ulf picked up his phone and called Ryu’s father. He and his wife were involved with the aftermath to Kyoko’s stabbing, Ulf was certain of it.

Two minutes talk over the phone later he had confirmed those suspicions. For added security he transferred the entire audio from his interview with Kareyoshi. Both the Wakayama seniors as well as Amaya were better equipped than he was for this kind of fight. He could just as well hand ammunition over to them.

Ulf was on his way down the stairs when he heard Kareyoshi roaring through the corridor. With the knowledge that he couldn’t be expelled Ulf grinned and let the moron scream his lungs out.

OK, this system has to go. What if more arseholes like me arrived here in Japan. They really need a way to keep us in place. I’ll have a talk with the old goat about it.

Thinking of himself as an arrival gave birth to yet another thought. Maybe, maybe there are more of us now. I should check the freshmen out. Maybe not alone.

So Ulf went in search of Ryu and Yukio to help him look for arrivals among the first years. Noriko would do as well, but Ulf didn’t feel confident she wouldn’t involve Kyoko and Christina as well, and he still didn’t have the strength to meet her yet.

He’d come and go as he wanted. Kareyoshi’s suspension wasn’t worth the paper he wrote it on. All in all this was a promising start to a new school year.

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