'Welcome Committees'

by

A Gentleman Of Leisure.

[Immediate sequel to "The Sun Also Sets In The East"]

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Early September 2003.

1.

Giles twisted round in his seat as the car pulled up at the double gates at the end of the long drive, to look over his shoulder at the school.

"Well, it's beginning to look all right, isn't it?"

The Buffybot glanced in the rear view mirror as she waited for one of the girls to swing the gates open.

A good two hundred yards back up the gentle slope, the building looked quite impressive in the early morning autumn sun. It had started life as a large country house a couple of centuries ago, but now the ivy growing across the broad frontage helped to conceal the poor state of the stonework - the cracks, crumbling bricks, peeling paintwork - the whole overall shabby condition of the exterior. Half of it was covered in scaffolding to allow access for repairs. Inside there was still a huge amount of work to be done as well, but at least some of it was now habitable, and the first intake of the new Young Slayers was now resident and in training.

True, most of them were taking turns working as builder's labourers under Xander's supervision, as part of the Watchers' Council workforce, but it was all good experience, and they were under proper instruction from Buffy, Willow and Giles himself as well. Hod carrying, and training as bricklayers in the mornings, followed by swordplay and unarmed combat among other things, in the afternoons, was going to make them very fit in a relatively short time, prevent any risk of boredom, and at the same time get a lot of the essential basic repair work done on the new Watcher's Headquarters. At the end of a relatively short but concentrated period of training they would be dispatched back to their home countries again with their own Watchers, to operate as part of the new worldwide Slayer network. The intention was that it would, as before, remain a secret organization, but would now be properly organized and funded, functioning as a sort of emergency service, with 'Hot Squads' ready to be dispatched at short notice to quell any outbreaks of vampire or monstrous activity, before the general public could possibly become aware of them.

"Looking good, Headmaster," she said, turning the steering wheel to the right and gently pressing the accelerator. "Just like the real thing."

"That's the idea, Bibi. To the outside world we want to look just like a proper Training College. There is one thing I still wish, though," he added.

"Yes, Headmaster? What's that?"

"That you'd stop calling me that. I still can't get used to it."

The Buffybot centered the wheel, and the Jaguar sped off down the narrow country road, heading for the motorway to London.

"What? 'Headmaster'? A bit late now, sir. Everyone calls you that now, don't they?"

"Yes, I know, but I really don't like it much. I really miss being just plain 'Giles'. And I absolutely refuse to allow anyone to call me 'sir'. Not even you!" he added firmly.

The Buffybot smiled. "You know what they've started calling the school, don't you?"

Giles sighed. He'd decided on the official name Sutton Place, in memory of his own preparatory school long ago. Of course, other people had had other ideas.

"Yes, I heard Dawn at breakfast the other morning - St Trinian's!" He shook his head, resignedly. "Really! I don't know."

The Buffybot grinned to herself. "I'll try to remember to call you Giles, in future" she offered.

"I won't hold my breath," Giles muttered, knowing perfectly well that with her perfect memory she could if she actually wanted to. He tightened his seatbelt a trifle, settled back, and closed his eyes.

"Let me know when we come off the motorway and join the North Circular, please. That'll give me time to wake up properly before we collect the welcoming committee from the house in Owl Street."

This was the terraced house in North London, which had once been the home of his late Great Uncle and Great Aunt. When she had died, aged 96, he had inherited the place. [1]

"OK, Giles." Bibi knew that the real reason he preferred to sleep when she was driving was that he couldn't bear to be driven fast, especially not at the sort of speed she enjoyed. She'd had the Jaguar saloon tuned up considerably, and it was now easily capable of a hundred and fifty miles an hour. It was only the problem of police patrols that kept her from approaching this speed very often. Naturally they couldn't dare risk being caught - not if they wanted to maintain their anonymity as an organization. She'd been spotted once by a motorway patrol, when she and Dawn had been out for a test run very early one morning, and she'd had do some very fancy driving, hastily getting off at the next motorway exit and losing them in a wild chase through narrow, winding country roads. That had been good fun, but all a bit close, and Giles had used some rather strong language when he found out about it.

"And remember, we're in plenty of time," he added without opening his eyes, so she knew he'd been thinking about exactly that same thing.

"Yes, Headmaster."

"Hmph!" said Giles, and settled himself more comfortably for the long drive. It would take all of an hour to get to Owl Street at Bibi's usual cruising speed. With her special abilities she could detect the approach of police patrols before they were even within visual range. Very useful. He yawned, and almost immediately he was asleep. Bibi very gently pressed the accelerator just a little harder.

2.

"Miss Chiyo Mihama? Juvenile passenger travelling unaccompanied from Tokyo, Narita to London, Heathrow? You will be the first to disembark. I'll just get your hand luggage down for you, shall I?" the stewardess said, reaching up to the overhead locker.

Chiyo, surprised, but obedient by nature, unfastened her seatbelt and stood up.

"Now, would you like to follow me, miss? This way. Please make sure you have your passport and all your other documents ready."

Chiyo just had time for a last quick look out of the window at the view of Heathrow's terminal buildings, and then she was being escorted down the aisle to the front exit. She was acutely conscious that all the other passengers in First Class were staring at her with intense curiosity, while they were still sitting waiting for the announcement that they could unfasten their own seatbelts. Everyone was obviously wondering who she might be, and why the special treatment, and she tried to ignore all the eyes following her down the aisle towards the exit.

The passenger steps were just being rolled up to the doorway as it was being opened, and as soon as they were in position she and the stewardess trotted down to the tarmac. As they did so, a black Mercedes with tinted windows and flying a small Japanese flag, came sweeping up to the foot of the steps, closely followed by a Land Rover marked Airport Police, which contained two large police officers. A slim young Japanese man jumped out from beside the chauffeur of the Mercedes, bowed, and opened the passenger door for her.

"Mihama-sama, desu ka?" he asked in Japanese. "Good morning. I hope you had a good journey. My name is Miyazaki. I am from the Japanese Embassy. We are going to the VIP Lounge, where His Excellency the Ambassador himself is waiting to welcome you to Britain."

Chiyo stood looking at him in astonishment. She opened her mouth and tried to speak, but nothing would come out, and for a moment she could only stand there dumbstruck.

"The Ambassador? Waiting for me? But... why?" she managed eventually.

"Mihama-sama, your honourable father is highly regarded by the government as a very important person. Perhaps you don't realize how important. Therefore his Excellency has offered to be responsible for your safety and well-being while you are studying here at Cambridge. Did you not know that?"

"No, I didn't," said Chiyo, shaking her head, thoroughly confused. "Forgive me, Miyazaki-san, but there must be some mistake. I am going to be met by friends who live here in England. It was arranged with my father after we met them in America," she said.

"I'm afraid I know nothing about that," said the young man. "I just have instructions to collect you and take you to the Ambassador. Please don't worry - I'm sure that any confusions will be sorted out right away."

Unable to do anything but acquiesce, Chiyo could only bow politely, and obediently get into the Mercedes, to be whisked away across the tarmac, escorted in turn by the Airport Police.

3.

"We're going to be late," said Giles, checking his watch.

"No, we're not," Bibi said. "Look, the girls from the Owl Street house have already parked their minibus. They'll be in the Arrivals Hall in plenty of time."

She checked her own watch, although it was only for show; she knew to the millisecond what the time was.

"The plane will only just have landed. You know what airports are like these days - it'll take Chiyo ages to get through Customs and Immigration, and Security."

"Good. I'm glad at least someone will be there in time to meet her. We promised her father she'd be in our care from the moment she stepped off the plane," Giles reminded the Buffybot.

She stamped on the brakes and the Jaguar pulled up abruptly, perfectly aligned in its space in the Short Stay car park.

"I wish you'd warn me when you're going to do that," said Giles plaintively, unfastening his seatbelt and reaching down to rescue his jacket from the footwell, where it had suddenly been projected.

"Oops!" said the Buffybot with a wicked little grin. "Sorry, Head!"

She was out in a flash and over at the ticket machine, pushing coins in as fast as they would go. Then she stood tapping her foot impatiently as the ticket slowly emerged.

Giles finally unfolded himself and got out. By the time he had stretched to ease the stiffness of being seated for the duration of the long journey, and slipped his jacket on, Bibi had put the ticket on the dashboard where it could be seen by the parking inspectors, and was round at the car's boot.

"Come on, Bibi. What have you forgotten?" Giles asked a trifle grumpily.

"I never forget anything, Giles. You know that," she reminded him. "I'm just getting something to welcome Chiyo."

She pulled out a bag and slung it over her shoulder, slammed the boot shut and locked the car. Giles had already started out across the vast car park, heading for the Arrivals Hall in the distance, and she ran to catch him up, and tucked her arm in his.

"Well, Boss," she said, "here we are at the beginning of the next stage of the development of the New Watchers' Council. Our new asset doesn't know what she's getting into yet. Let's just hope it works out."

"Well, it's as much your idea as mine and Willow's," Giles reminded her with a smile. "I must say, the next few years look like being very interesting indeed!"

4.

It only took a few minutes for Chiyo to go through VIP Customs and Immigration, and Security, where her passport and visa were thoroughly examined and then stamped, her student's permit to stay for the duration of her studies checked, and her hand luggage examined. She explained that the rest of her bags had not yet been unloaded from the plane on which she'd just arrived. Miyazaki-san said it would be brought to the VIP Suite for checking directly from the plane, where it was stowed separately from the First Class baggage so it could be accessed first of all. This surprised her as she'd had no part in making her travel arrangements - that had all been managed by her father's company Head Office. The bags would be examined and after which a junior member of the Embassy staff would bring them through to her.

Then Miyazaki-san led her through into the VIP Arrivals Lounge itself where a small number of her fellow countrymen were standing around in a group. As she entered, they all turned to look at her, and she heard several subdued murmurs of "Kawaii", and "Isn't she young!" Chiyo blushed and sighed. In the three months back in Japan since finishing her year's college in the USA, she had forgotten what it was like to still have people staring at her all the time, even though she had grown several centimetres in the year and a half since graduating from Azuma Highschool. She supposed she would have to get used to it again until she'd settled in at Cambridge, and her fellow students had got used to her extremely youthful appearance.

"Here is Mihama-san, Ambassador-Sensei," Miyazaki-san announced, leading her up to a grey haired, middle aged man at the centre of the waiting group. He was perhaps half a generation older than her father, she thought as she folded her hands formally in front of her and bowed deeply.

"Mihama-sama, I have the honour to present you to His Excellency Saegusa-Sensei, Ambassador to Britain," said young Miyazaki.

"Your Excellency, I am honoured," said Chiyo, her surprise still obvious for everyone to see. "My father told me I should call at the Embassy as soon as I arrived, and make my presence known to you. It is an unexpected honour that you should have come to meet me."

To her great surprise, the Ambassador made a deep bow to her in his turn.

"Welcome to Britain, Mihama-san. I hope you had a good journey."

Chiyo bowed again, and said she had been very comfortable, thank you. Puzzled by the official welcome, she had no idea why all these people were there, and all she could do was wait politely to see what would happen next.

"It is a real pleasure to meet you," the Ambassador said. "Your father has told me of your educational achievments, and I think I can safely say our country is very proud of your progress."

Chiyo blushed with embarrassment.

"The Ambassador-sensei does me great honour." She paused for a few seconds trying to gather her thoughts, covering her uncertainly with another bow. "I had no idea my education was of interest to anyone outside my family."

"The nation is always interested in its most intelligent students. They are the future - you are a part of that future. Japan has great hopes for its young people, you understand?"

Chiyo bowed yet again. "I hope I will be able to fulfil the hopes of my parents for me," she said. "You do my father and the whole family great honour by your interest in my progress."

"It is my pleasure to oblige your parents, Mihama-san. When I heard you were transferring to a university in Britain, I spoke to your father and promised him I would keep a special eye on you."

He gestured for her to sit down with him, and someone appeared with a tray of English tea and toast, placing it on the low table between them.

"I imagine you haven't felt much like eating during your flight," he said. "I never do, myself. Please..."

He gestured for her to help herself, and Chiyo suddenly realized how hungry she felt. Apart from the obvious fact that it was daylight, she'd lost track of whether it was morning or afternoon here. However, whatever time it really was, her stomach said it was time to eat, though which meal it might be she could only guess.

"You see, it's a curious country, this," the Ambassador continued. "In some ways it is quite like ours, with long traditions reaching back many centuries into the past, just as we have in our own history, but it is also a place where you have to be careful. For instance, it's better to avoid talking about certain things. History, for instance. Particularly the relatively recent past, you understand? You must remember that memories are long here, especially among older people, even now."

Chiyo thought of her history lessons with Sato-sensei, back in high school, with their curious, unexplained vagueness on certain subjects, and she nodded.

"Also, it's not nearly as safe a country as Japan. Some parts of the big cities can be unsuitable for inexperienced young people to visit - there is a lot of violence, and crime of all sorts. You must be careful. We want to be sure you are safe, and that nothing will happen to you."

"Your Excellency means perhaps that the daughter of a rich and important person could be a target for kidnapping and ransom?" Chiyo bowed again, a smile suddenly coming to her face. The Ambassador nodded.

"Your Excellency, I can assure you I shall be as safe in England as if I were shopping at the Mitsukoshi department store in the Nihombashi district of Tokyo," she said confidently. "Possibly more so, since there are probably no Yakuza here. I am being met by friends - very special friends - people I met when I was studying in Amerika earlier this year. It has all been arranged with my father. You see, these friends, they saved my life when I was attacked by... er... some sort of wild animal there. Now, our family has a debt to pay - giri, - 'a debt of honour' I think they call it in English," she explained. "My father has placed me in their care. I am sure you understand," she added politely.

"Yes, of course I see," Ambassador Saegusa replied. "We are aware of all this. I do understand very well what you say," he continued, "but Mihama-san, since your father's work is so important to our nation's economy and future, we of the Diplomatic Service feel we have an obvious responsibility for your safety as well. We know all about your misadventure in Amerika, though since it was a wild animal it does not really concern the government, as such, but your personal safety while in Britain does."

"Because of who my father is?" Chiyo said thoughtfully, trying to remember not to talk with her mouth full, a bad habit she'd picked up at College in Amerika, where if you didn't interrupt, you never got a word in. "My parents have always tried to let me live like any other young girl of my age, in order to give me self-confidence. Though now I'm older of course I can see that I had advantages I was much too young to recognize or appreciate at the time."

"Don't be surprised, Mihama-san - your father obviously realized that the more normal life you could lead, the better. If I may, I would say you have already shown his choices for you were correct."

Chiyo nodded slowly, considering this.

"Thank you, Excellency. Ordinary friends, an ordinary life, and my personal independence. Naturally, I can see that these would be very good reasons to send me to ordinary state schools, and not an exclusive private boarding school. I suppose he intended that in this way I would not grow up to be a spoiled little rich girl. I never really thought too much about it before."

"I imagine you were never really supposed to," said the Ambassador. Then he added thoughtfully, "Perhaps I should not have taken it into my head to intrude. Truly I have only done so because I was concerned for you, and your safety and well-being."

Chiyo bowed deeply to him once again.

"Your Excellency, I am highly honoured, and most grateful you have come."

The Ambassador smiled. "Good. We understand each other, entirely. Excellent. Now, I imagine your friends are probably waiting patiently for you. I wonder if you would do me the honour of introducing me? It would ease my mind. Shall we go and find them? I suspect they might be wondering where you've got to."

Chiyo eagerly scrambled to her feet. "Of course, your Excellency! Mr. Giles, and Miss Buffy and Miss Bibi would be delighted to meet you, I am certain. It would be my honour and pleasure to introduce them."

5.

"Hey, is that her?" one of the young New Slayers called out, pointing at a group of Japanese coming out from the VIP Arrivals Lounge, accompanied by two armed police officers. "Looks like she's with a load of bigwigs."

"I think it is..." said Giles uncertainly, removing his glasses in order to give them a quick polish.

Bibi said "Yes," firmly, and nodded to the others in the group. There were six girls, and three of them immediately clambered onto the shoulders of the other three.

"What are you doing?" Giles said, as Bibi opened her shoulder bag and passed up a large roll of white cloth to the pair at one end, but she ignored his question. Hastily they began to unroll it as Bibi turned back to watch the approach of the VIP party, and started to wave both arms vigorously. Giles too waved, but rather more decorously, just in a reserved, English sort of way, with the one hand, casually, as if he was a bit embarrassed about even doing so in the first place.

"Hurry up!" he heard someone say behind him, and glanced round to find that the six girls had unfurled a long banner with Japanese calligraphy on it, and moved apart to stretch it out to its fullest extent.

"Chi-yo! Chi-yo! Chi-yo!" they started chanting, and Bibi joined in, her clear voice, though not loud, easily penetrating the background noise in the Arrivals Hall. One of the Japanese pointed, and the group changed direction towards the British welcoming committee. They could see Chiyo walking beside a grey-haired, middle-aged man in a formal suit.

"Someone pretty special, by the looks of it," Giles said.

"Embassy, I'd guess," said Bibi, waving even harder. As they approached she was surprised to see that Chiyo was trying really hard not to laugh at something - she had both her hands over her mouth and had gone pink. Sudden suspicion made her look round to check the banner was fully extended and could be read clearly. Horrified, she realized what was wrong.

"Other way up, you idiots!" she yelled at her team. "Other way up! Have you any idea how long it took me to write that? It's bloody upside down!"

6.

Chiyo came to a momentary halt at the strange scene that presented itself, wondering how to react in front of the Ambassador.

"Your friends?" he asked gently. "It seems they care greatly for you. That banner is a nice piece of work."

The team of six were hurriedly turning the twelve-foot strip of white cloth end over end, and stretching it out again so that the calligraphy could be seen properly. The banner could now be seen to read 'Mihama Chiyo welcome to our family'.

"I had no idea any of them knew kanji well enough to do something like this," Chiyo said, dreadfully embarrassed.

"Someone has made a lot of effort for a Westerner," the Ambassador said. "He is to be congratulated."

"Actually, Excellency, I rather think it's probably done by the woman in front. She is the one who saved my life."

The Ambassador's eyebrows lifted slightly in well-controlled surprise. He saw an attractive, brown haired Western woman in her early twenties, barely any taller than the average Japanese, leaping up and down, waving excitedly, and calling Chiyo's name. With her in front of the banner-waving team of six girls was a classic tweed jacket wearing Englishman, looking perhaps a little embarrassed by the antics of his companions, also waving, but discreetly.

"Ambassador-Sensei, please excuse me a moment," Chiyo said, and before he could answer she had dropped her bag and run towards the group to fling her arms round the woman, who responded by hugging her tightly in return. The Ambassador watched as she then turned and bowed as deeply to the Englishman as she had to him. To his surprise the Englishman took both her hands and they spoke together for a moment. When she turned back towards the Japanese group he was surprised to see her wiping tears from her eyes, but a big happy smile on her face.

Sedately she walked back to him and bowed.

"Ambassador-Sensei. Please accept my apologies. Would you please now allow me to introduce my Amerikan and English friends," and she escorted him forwards, as they advanced to meet them. To his surprise she introduced the woman first, though this was not proper Japanese etiquette, but when she spoke, in English now, he quickly understood why.

"Mr. Ambassador, please may I introduce Miss Bibi Summers from the town of Sunnydale, in California, USA. She saved my life when I was attacked by a wild animal in the spring of this year while I was in college in the USA. She fought it off barehanded, until friends arrived and helped to kill it. She was very badly injured. My family owes her my life - a debt which can hardly be repaid in a lifetime," she said quietly in a formal manner.

The Ambassador bowed to Bibi, who very correctly folded her hands in front of her as Chiyo had, and bowed in return. Then he shook her hand. "We greatly appreciate what you did for this young lady, Miss Summers. I hope you have recovered from your injuries."

Bibi smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, It is a great honour to meet you. As you can see, I'm as fit as a fiddle again." She switched to Japanese. "It has been a privilege to have helped young Chiyo. She is now a very special friend to us."

"As I can see by your banner," the diplomat said, also reverting to his own language. "Where did you find such a good calligrapher to make it for you?"

He was surprised when Bibi actually blushed, something that surprised even Giles, and said she was honoured by his approval.

"You wrote this yourself? It is very good, Summers-san. You must have been learning Japanese for a long time - you speak it almost like a native."

Chiyo bit her tongue to stop herself blurting out that it had actually only been about four months, and she caught sight of Giles' worried expression, even though he couldn't understand the last exchange between the two.

Bibi just bowed, and thanked him, so Chiyo hastily jumped in and turned to Giles.

"Excellency, may I now introduce Mr. Rupert Giles? He is the Headmaster of 'Sutton Place' Ladies College. He was leading the group Miss Summers was with when we met in America. It is he who has been able to arrange for me to enter Cambridge University as a special undergraduate to study Ancient Languages. It was his own speciality when he used to work in the Western Asiatic Antiquities Department at The British Museum."

"An honour to meet you, Mr. Giles," said the Ambassador and the two shook hands.

"And for me to meet you, Mr. Ambassador. The school is a new venture. Miss Summers is now my Bursar and Deputy Head, and these energetic young people are a few of our first intake," Giles told him. He waved vaguely at the six girls behind him, who had the good sense to bow politely to the Japanese group in general.

"We hope that Chiyo, Miss Mihama, will be happy to spend time with us whenever she wishes. We intend to be a home away from home for her while she's studying in England, for as long as she wants. Her father has greatly honoured us - letting us accept responsibility for her by putting her in our care whenever she is in Britain."

"You are aware, I'm sure, that he is a very important man, Mr. Giles. To do this he must feel the greatest trust in you that a father possibly can," Ambassador Saegusa said.

"Please be assured, Ambassador, we understand this. You may be certain we do indeed," Giles said, looking him straight in the eye. Then he added, "And please feel yourself welcome to visit us whenever you wish. Just have your secretary phone us up so we can prepare for your arrival."

"Though I'd give it a few weeks yet, Mr. Ambassador," Bibi put in, also in English. "You see, we're still in the middle of renovating the school buildings. They needed rather a lot of work doing to them when we acquired them. This was only recently, and we haven't nearly finished yet."

"Excuse me, Mr. Giles," Chiyo said a little diffidently. "Perhaps the Ambassador might send like to someone with me now, to see the school? Would that be possible?"

Giles realized that Chiyo had just put her finger on something that could have been extremely awkward and embarrassing for the ultra-polite Japanese to ask. If one of their staff accompanied her, the Embassy could be reassured that things were precisely as they should be, and that her father believed they would be, and that Chiyo was perfectly safe and comfortable, and most of all, happy to be with her Western friends.

"This sounds ideal," he said. "Would that please you, Mr. Ambassador?"

The representative of the Imperial Government of Japan smiled delightedly. Awkwardness was avoided, and young Mihama Chiyo had just demonstrated her intelligence and diplomacy to him, as had her Western friends. He smiled broadly with pleasure and bowed.

"What an excellent idea, Mr. Giles. I wonder if perhaps our young Mr. Miyazaki would like to undertake this?"

Miyazaki was of course utterly delighted. It wasn't necessary for him to be told to take on the commission; anything the Ambassador thought would be a good idea could be considered as an instruction carved in stone.

Only one thing remained to do before they could start - collecting Chiyo's luggage. The Ambassador waited politely while young Miyazaki cheerfully went back to the VIP Lounge to see if it had arrived. After ten or fifteen minutes he returned looking angry and severely embarrassed. He bowed deeply to the Ambassador and to Chiyo and apologized most humbly. There was no trace of her bags, despite them supposedly receiving special VIP treatment. It seemed that the airline had somehow mislaid them. There was no sign of them anywhere in the hold, and it looked as if, due to some mix up at Narita, they'd not been loaded onto the plane at all. He'd made several furious calls to Japan already, and the airline had made a hurried search, but with no result. As everyone knows, there is a special sort of Bermuda Triangle, of infinite size, specifically designed for air passengers' luggage, and it looked as though that was where they'd gone.

After a short while, in which everyone stood around, disconcerted, uncertain what to say or do, the Ambassador said he most deeply regretted not being able to stay any longer, but an official function later in the morning had to be prepared for, and unfortunately he must depart. He assured Chiyo that Mr. Miyazaki would eventually track down her bags, however long it took. Mutual best wishes were exchanged all round, and the Slayers' party were left forlornly standing in the Baggage Claim Hall watching an empty carousel going round, while at others people rushed forward to eagerly claim their own bags and depart happy.

Bibi stood there with her arm reassuringly round Chiyo as they wondered what to do. Chiyo wondered sadly if all those nice new clothes she'd spent time and effort buying had just vanished, never to be seen again, or if they would eventually turn up, apologizing for having gone for a round the world trip on their own.

"Enough," said Bibi firmly. "We're all wasting the day. I propose we abandon the luggage for now. The Embassy can keep looking for it - they've got a much better chance than we have - right, Mr. Miyazaki?"

He nodded eagerly, anxious to make amends for the loss of face. This was perfectly true, he said.

"We'll borrow clothes for you to wear from the other girls for now, and if your stuff doesn't turn up, we'll go shopping! Fancy that, Chiyo?"

Chiyo looked up, smiled, and nodded. That sounded good. Though she felt sad that all her nice new belongings had seemingly gone for ever, like every young woman, an excuse to shop for clothes was never something to be turned down out-of-hand. And at least all the most important things she owned had been in her hand luggage, including her little laptop, so she could still keep in touch with everyone back at home.

"Let's go then. At the speed I drive we can be back in time for lunch!" Bibi said.

"Ahem," said Giles gently. He had noticed that Chiyo's face had suddenly gone quite pale at Bibi's enthusiastic remark. "I think perhaps Chiyo would prefer to go in Mr. Miyazaki's car. Bibi drives a little fast for my, and most other peoples' taste," he explained quietly to her.

She gulped, and nodded gratefully. She'd been instantly reminded of her form teacher, Miss Yukari, and the infamous Yukarimobile.

"Oh, our chauffeur has been trained in special security escape and evasion driving techniques," said Miyazaki confidently. "We won't lose you, so long as you don't break the speed limit."

"You're on!" exclaimed Bibi. "Last one there's a sissy!"

_______

END.

[1:See my story 'What I Did In My Holidays']

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