'Fuck it! They got me good this time.' Christina swore a little more, and this time she didn't even bother with giving the representatives from Vogue a false smile.
The new year was already an hour old, but any opportunity to see Ulf vanished several hours earlier, when she boarded a helicopter for a flight to a domestic airport where a private jet waited to take them as close to Kyoto as possible.
Another short flight with helicopter later, and an even shorter drive in a gaudy limousine, she arrived at some shrine where her celebrating hatsumode turned into a monkey show with her entering and exiting a freezing tent to change clothes over and over again.
The exhausting shoot took over two hours, and when it was finished she was dragged inside to play the exotic and awestruck foreigner visiting a shrine for a New Year's celebration Japanese style.
They even took her phone away, so she hadn't been able to tell Ulf that she wouldn't show up. He'd forgive her when she explained, Christina knew that, but right now he was probably angry and sullen.
'And they'll just keep going. How did I end up in this shit?' Winter term would come as a liberator a week down the line, but until then she was tied up with shoots every day.
To make things worse she didn't have Dai, her personal photographer, with her. He was still tied up by his contract with her old employer. 'Damn arseholes! They sold me like cattle.' Christina grimaced. She hardly had any right to complain about that part. After all it was she who had forced the issue. She just hadn't been prepared for them to play her just as well as she had played them.
More or less without thinking she went from pose to pose, each kept to a minimum. It should show she was aware of the camera, but nothing more. It took all her experience from being a super model to make it look like she was chatting with her best friend, who just happened to have a camera instead of a face.
'This is my golden prison.'
That she was a golden opportunity for Vogue went without question. The number of sixteen year old models with fifteen years experience from modelling was exactly one. Add twenty year's worth of experience from designing and marketing global fashion, and you had a monstrosity that had no right to exist. 'But I wonder who's the real monster. You or me?' Thinking of Ulf made her heart hurt, but the question remained. Sometimes she fantasised about Ulf wanting to change the destiny of an entire nation, and sometimes she wondered if she had fantasised in the first place.
'I hate this!' Christina resolved to give Ulf a call first thing in the morning. After that she had to call the Wakayamas, the older version of them. Either parent would work. Her legal guardian had sold her out, because she doubted Vogue would have dared to fly her from Tokyo to Kyoto for an overnight stay without the written consent of the old hag.
'Maybe I should ring Ulf's Amaya as well.' Ulf's thirty year old guardian was one of the few persons who could shut Christina up with a single glare. Christina had the utmost respect for anyone who could, and she admired the woman more than she wanted to admit.
Besides, Ulf's guardian knew how to pull strings. The débâcle with Vogue's security detail during Christmas had proven that.
While the camera crew switched positions and waited for lightning to change, Christina looked sideways and sent an apologetic shrug to her right. 'My bad. I got you caught up in this as well.'
Nao shrugged back and closed the distance between them.
"I know what you're thinking. I don't mind, the way you do."
A mug of almost hot tea materialised in her left hand and Christina sipped it before answering. "What about Noriko?"
There was a smile on Nao's face that Christina didn't entirely like. One that she would have loved twenty years ago.
"This is the best career chance I'll ever get, but I'll tell Noriko I was forced to. With your New Year's celebration down the drain as well she'll believe me," he said and confirmed that he was indeed fully devoted to a modelling career.
'Careful kiddo, it'll cost you.' But then maybe he didn't care all that much. "Why did you confess to Noriko if you're going to lie to her about this?"
"Are you going to tell on me?" Nao asked instead of answering Christina's question.
She drank some more of the tea, which had cooled considerably, and slid into a new pose just in case someone was shooting.
"No, I'm not," Christina said after she had swallowed the by now lukewarm drink. "Still want you to answer my question though."
Nao climbed a peg or two in Christina's opinion when she saw him giving that answer a good thought. At least he was going to be honest about it.
With both hands combing through his hair, and destroying over fifteen minutes of work for some poor sod at make-up, he sucked at his lips before meeting Christina's gaze.
"I like her," he said. "I really do, and I did back then as well, but it's not like I plan to marry or anything."
"Go on," Christina nudged.
"Noriko's like super smart, and I'm not. After I graduate we'll break up one way or another. I'm good at modelling and she'll be good at whatever university brings her."
'Well, there's that. Fair enough. He's just a lot more grown up than I gave him credit for.' Reassured that Nao wasn't just another good looking arsehole Christina smiled at him and nodded. "You don't have to lie about it, you know. I think she knows."
"That's what I'm afraid of," he answered with a sheepish grin. "I don't want to lose her just yet."
'Ah, maybe I should worry about Noriko after all.'
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