Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch55 updated 16/6: Japanese is so hard!]

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ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch44 Updated 5 Feb 2021: Cousin Collaboration?]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Mon Mar 15, 2021 4:32 am

Chapter 46: Clutch

“Three minutes left!”

While the staff hurry to perform final checks on their equipment, I close my eyes in an attempt to calm myself down.

This is it, the final battle. Shizune is watching. My parents are watching. Lilly is listening through TV. Students of Kasshoku are watching at home. The whole prefecture, no, the whole Japan is waiting for this moment!

Unlike the preliminary round, this time we only have a 40 point lead over the second place. If we cannot score well on the first part, the second part will become dicey.

My heart has been pounding heavily for more than ten minutes. I can only pray that my condition does not trigger during this final.

Let’s distract myself with something else. Think about something other than the JUSC. Anything.

Last Monday, after the principal allowed Shizune’s team back into the election, with the catch being her relegated to the role of vice-president, she and I spent the night together for the first time. We acted as lovers for just one night, pouring out our love towards each other. The next morning was a little awkward though, as right after we woke up, she immediately declared that we’re not lovers any more, and, after allowing me to clean myself up, she booted me out of her apartment, leaving me to go to school myself… except that she texted me right after, asking me to wait for her downstairs.

Luckily I’ve been carrying my medicine with me the whole time. Otherwise I would have skipped that day’s portion.

The same afternoon, Lilly invited me to lunch. When I called her on Monday afternoon after having lunch with Shizune, she just woke up. She indeed overslept, and missed the classes in the morning. During lunch, she told me about the urgent meeting on Sunday with Shizune and everybody. She was thrilled that the Principal accepted her performance, and she planned to invite her parents to the Open Day. I wonder if we should invite Hanako too.

Although the matters regarding the cousins were resolved, I still didn’t have much time to relax, because there were tests on Wednesday and Thursday, in addition to Wednesday’s JUSC drill. The tight schedule means that I had to skip exercises for the whole week.

On Friday, the re-election of the Student Council took place in the plaza. Needless to say, Shizune’s team, or I should say Sakura’s team, received more than enough votes to win the election. They obtained 2679 votes, which is around half of the school’s population. A convincing victory indeed.

“Everybody, get ready!”

I open my eyes, and switch myself into battle mode.

“Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Start!”

The familiar background music plays, and, after the clapping, the moderator welcomes the audience to the show.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the grand final of the Joint University Science Contest! (Claps)”

“After nine preliminary rounds and three semi-final rounds, we have three teams competing for the Champion of this year’s JUSC. Let us introduce the teams!”

“The Red team, Tokyo University, the defending champion! (Claps)”

“The Green team, Midori University from Kanagawa Prefecture! (Claps)”

Tokyo was the champion last year, beating Midori by a mere 20 points. Both colleges are in the final once again.

“The Blue team, Kasshoku University from Chiba Prefecture! (Claps)”

I’m on television for the second time! Let’s dethrone Tokyo University and take the JUSC crown for ourselves!

==== Meanwhile, far away from the studio, in Midori University, Kanagawa ====

“The grand final is about to start! Hurry up!”

“Alright, I’m coming!”

I finish peeling an apple, take a bite of it, and hurry to sit next to my classmate in front of the television.

Normally I would be staying at home on Sunday, but tonight is different. It’s the JUSC grand final! Of course I want to support my schoolmates! Yet I don’t have a ticket, so I can only watch on TV in my classmate’s school dormitory.

“The Red team, Tokyo University, the defending champion! (Claps)”

Our major opponent in the final. Last year we lost by only 20 points. This year we’re leading them by 30 points. I received news that Tokyo’s ace in the team didn’t join this year’s contest because of health reasons. We’re going to take revenge!

“The Green team, Midori University from Kanagawa Prefecture! (Claps)”

“Yeah! Midori! Midori!”

Our teammates! This year we have a strong lineup, with five third-years and one second-year. We’re winning this! Go, Midori!

“The Blue team, Kasshoku University from Chiba Prefecture! (Claps)”

Probably the weakest team in the three, although leading by score…

“Wait!”

I watch the screen in shock as I drop my apple onto the table.

“He’s… he’s…”

“He’s Hisao!!!”

==== Back to Tokyo TV studio ====

“Let us take a look at the paper test scores, which will serve as the starting score of the contest.”

“Red team, 450. Green team, 480. Blue team, 520. (Claps)”

“We now commence the mandatory section. In front of me are ten sets of ten questions inside envelopes numbered one to ten. Each team picks a number, and the team will have to answer each of the ten questions. After I read out the question, the team has ten seconds to answer it. A correct answer yields twenty points, and a wrong answer gets no penalties. A fifty-point bonus will be awarded if all questions are answered correctly.”

I’m sure the other two teams will get at least eight questions right. We need to score very high.

“Now we start with the red team. Please pick a number.”

“Eight.”

The moderator opens the envelope with the number eight on it.

“Okay. Get ready.”

***********************

“Seven”

“Correct.”

“After ten questions, let us look at blue team’s score. (Camera zooms in) 700. (Claps)”

We answered one question incorrectly. Unfortunately, that was also the only wrong answer given in the entire evening so far. This means that we not only lost 20 points, but also failed to get the 50-point bonus, which both of our opponents managed to get. They’re certainly strong today.

==== Midori University ====

“After ten questions, let us look at blue team’s score. (Camera zooms in) 700. (Claps)”

Midori is leading now! Although only by 30 points.

“Hey, did you say he’s your high school friend.”

“Y-yes.”

“They’re trailing us. Well, for a debut finalist, they’ve already done a great job.”

I throw away my eaten apple and clean my hands.

“We’ll see. The scores are still very close.”

==== Tokyo TV studio ====

“Let us take a break, and we will come back with the second part of the contest.”

As the audience claps once again, the moderator signals to us that we can take a bathroom break if needed. Meanwhile, the staff in the studio are re-arranging the assistant’s table for the second part.

“Nakai, it’s alright. We’ll just try our best. No pressure. The pressure’s on their side right now.”

I nod. Yeah, let’s just have fun. Against the defending champion and a last-year finalist, losing is definitely no shame.

Once again I close my eyes to relax just a little bit. After a very hectic fortnight, I feel like I’m already approaching my physical limit. I’ll have to take a long rest after today, no matter what the result is.

Rest. Rest. Just keep resting.

“Everyone ready? Five, four, three, two, one, go!”

It’s time! I open my eyes, and prepare to enter full battle mode.

“(Music and claps) Welcome back to the Joint University Science Contest. We are about to start the second part of the grand final. Before this, let us review the scores of the three teams.”

“Red team, 700. (Claps)”

“Green team, 730. (Claps)”

“Blue team, 700. (Claps)”

“Here are the rules of the second part. I will read out a question. The first team to press the button gets to answer the question. A correct answer gives 30 points, and a wrong answer deducts 20 points. If a wrong answer is given, the first of the other two teams who presses the button can answer the question. A correct answer gives 20 points, and a wrong answer deducts 10 points. Notice that once the button is pressed, I will stop reading the question. You have five seconds to answer the question. The contest time is 10 minutes.”

“Before we start, let us verify each team’s buttons. Red team, please press your buttons one by one. (Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong!) Green team… Blue team… Good, the buttons are working.”

“Alright. Let’s start the contest!”

Here we go!

“Which element was discovered along with Polonium in the same year by the same persons?”

“Ding-dong!”

As I hurry to press the button, I hear multiple button spams on my right side. I think everybody was pressing. Who was the fastest?

“Blue team.”

“Radium”

“Dingdong-dingdong!”

“Correct.”

Yes! We’re tied with the Green team!

“Refer to the diagram on the screen… If water is added into the beaker on the left, what will happen to the beaker on the right? A: The liquid will turn green. B: Black substance will appear. C: Bubbles will appear.”

“Ding-dong!”

Another button spam, this time won by the team on my right.

“Green team.”

“C”

“Dingdong-dingdong!”

“Correct.”

Darn! They’re leading us again.

***********************

After an intense, fast-paced battle in which there were only two errors, both committed by the Green team (one of which was immediately picked up by the Red team, and the other, surprisingly enough, was left unanswered), we’ve arrived at the end of the contest. Right now Midori and Tokyo are tied, and we’re trailing by 20 points. We still have a chance! The timer on the screen is now at 00:20. There’s only enough time for one more question. In other words, this is the decider!

“Please refer to the diagram on the screen.”

Wait, I’ve seen a similar diagram before!

“This diagram demonstrates a technique of finding similarities between two genetic chains, and is also used in computer science. What is its name?”

I press the button immediately.

“Blue team.”

I know the answer! I can win the contest for my school right now!

Throb.

Oh no!

Throb throb.

My chest pain!

“Ding, ding…”

At least let me answer it before I collapse!

“…ding, ding…”

I use all of my remaining strength to force out the answer.

“Dynamic pro… gramming.”

Throb throb, throb throb.

So painful! My vision is fading!

I’m going to faint in front of the TV!

No. I have to stay strong. Take deep breaths. It’s all over now, the match is over.

Throb throb, throb throb.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I cannot hear anything else except my heartbeat.

Throb, throb.

Stay calm. I can get through this!

==== Midori University ====

We’re now tied with Tokyo! Only 20 seconds left! My classmate and I are both sitting on the edge of the sofa. She is biting her nails.

“This diagram demonstrates a technique of finding similarities between two genetic chains, and is also used in computer science. What is its name?”

It’s the last question! Midori, come on! Win this!

“Ding-dong!”

“Blue team.”

My classmate screams when the blue team gets the right to answer the question.

“Ahhh… Oh no! Don’t be correct! Don’t be correct!”

Hisao’s pressed the button! Does he know the answer?

“Ding, ding…”

Is he… is he clutching his chest?

“…ding, ding…”

He’s definitely clutching his chest!

“Dynamic pro… gramming.”

“Dingdong-dingdong!”

“Correct!”

“OH NO!!!”

The very next moment, several events happen at once: My classmate puts her hands on her head. The blue team’s fans in the television are cheering. Hisao’s still clutching his chest. I cover my mouth with my hands and gasp.

Oh no! His condition! In the middle of the contest!

“Ding, ding, ding, dingdong.”

“Time is up. Let us take a look at the final scores.”

Is he alright?

“Red team, 900 (Claps). Green team, 900 (Claps). Blue team, 9… What’s going on? What’s wrong? First aid! Quick!”

Hisao’s clutching his chest in pain, and the first aid team arrives in seconds. They’re now blocking the camera, so I cannot see Hisao in front of the TV. It seems like they are not taking any action. Rather, they’re just monitoring.

Hisao, please be alright.

You deserve the victory. Please, be fine, and take the trophy.

“There’s an emergency situation. A blue team member seems to be feeling unwell. The first aid team is now standing by. From my point of view, he is suffering from chest pain. I hope he is alright. He was probably too nervous in the last question.”

Please, Hisao. Don’t die!

My classmate, who has slumped onto the sofa after realizing we’ve lost, pats me on my shoulder.

“Isn’t that your high school friend? What’s going on?”

I don’t think I should reveal that piece of information to her.

“I hope he’s alright. He’s probably too exhausted.”

The first aid is still doing nothing except blocking my view. This makes me think Hisao’s recovering. If he is fainting, they will certainly call for the stretcher.

No, I don’t want to see you collapse! Please! Hisao, hang in there!

==== Tokyo TV studio ====

Throb. Throb.

My vision slowly recovers, and my heartbeat starts returning to normal. Everybody must be staring at me right now.

Throb. Throb.

My hearing also returns. Thank goodness, I think I’m going to survive this.

Somebody wipes my sweat away with a handkerchief. Another person puts a glass of water onto the table.

After taking a few more deep breaths, everything gradually returns to normal. In front of me is the first aid team.

“Are you feeling better?”

I try to speak, but discover that I don’t have enough strength yet, so I nod.

“Here. Drink some water.”

The staff feeds me the water from the table. After another minute, I feel a little better.

“Yeah, I’m fine now. Sorry.”

Everybody is relieved. Behind the first aid, I can see Shizune and my parents staring at me with concern. I smile at them to ensure them that I’m alright.

“You need rest. We’ll carry you to the waiting room.”

Sure, but something’s more important.

“Please announce the results first. It’s a live broadcast, isn’t it?”

“Are you sure you’ll be fine?”

It’s a live broadcast! Of course I HAVE to be fine!

“Yes. I’m fine now. Please let the moderator announce the result.”

The first aid team and the spectators gradually return to their seats. My worrying teammates, who gave way to the first aid, also return to my side. The moderator takes another look at me, and I nod back. He then signals to the cameramen.

“It looks like the blue team member has recovered. We apologize for the inconvenience caused. Let us once again take a look at the final scores:”

“Red team, 900 (Claps). Green team, 900 (Claps). Blue team, 910 (Claps).”

“The champion of this year’s JUSC goes to… (camera zooms in) Kasshoku University from Chiba Prefecture!”

My schoolmates are cheering. My teammates are exhilarated. Shizune and my family, while still obviously concerned, show us a dazzling face while clapping.

I’ve won! I did it for the university!

“Now we will hand over the trophy to our winning team, Kasshoku University.”

We leave our seats and come up to the front, my captain acting as my crutch. My other three teammates join us here. The director of the Education Bureau arrives at the scene, grabs the medals and the trophy from the staff, and approaches us.

“Well done. Congratulations!”

“Thank you.”

Each of us is awarded a gold medal for our accomplishment. After that, our captain takes the trophy from the director, and lifts it up.

“Yeah!!!”

What a glorious moment! I’ll never forget about today, for the rest of my life.

The press comes over to us. She whispers to me.

“Can we have a short interview? Just one minute.”

We’re live on TV. If we don’t do the interview now, the program will end, and an interview offline won’t be as effective. I’m tired, but I think I can handle this.

“Okay, if I’m allowed to sit down.”

My captain brings a chair for me to sit down on.

“Let us hear from the blue team. First of all, how are you feeling right now? What exactly happened?”

I cannot afford to reveal my disability, so I have to come up with something.

“I’m fine. I apologize for the accident. I was so nervous on the last question that I could hardly breathe. I also didn’t eat enough for lunch today because I was making final preparations for the contest, so I almost fainted.”

“Understandable. I promise you, you can have dinner right after the interview. You guys have to treat him, don’t you?”

My captain gently hugs me on my shoulder.

“Of course! He won the match for us!”

“Hahaha… Treat him big tonight. Don’t make him hungry again.”

“Sure, sure. I’m sorry Nakai, the training must have been really tough for you.”

“What were you thinking during the last question, before you almost collapsed?”

“I saw the clock was on 20 seconds, and we were trailing by 20 points, so I thought, we can actually win this if we can take the last one. Then the screen appeared, and I immediately recognized the diagram because I saw it in one of the books I’ve read. I pressed the button, and luckily I was faster than my opponents so I got to answer it. Then I became so nervous that my body started to collapse, but I managed to answer it before the timer expired. I was so happy I made it in time.”

“Wow. That was really close! Congratulations! Captain, this is the first time your team entered the grand final, and you beat the two last year’s finalists, including the defending champion. How do you feel right now?”

“Obviously I’m very happy. Last year we were eliminated in the semis, but this time we’re able to make it into the finals. We have a strong team overall. Nakai was clutch for us; he contributed very consistently in the paper test, and of course he won the match for us tonight. Tanaka was also brilliant; he scored the question that gave us the lead in the semi-final and eventually won the match for us. Everybody did well. I’m so proud of this team. We were the underdogs entering the final, but I always believe that my team’s strength is on par with the other two teams. We’re so happy that our full potential is displayed tonight. We’re definitely coming back to defend our crown next year.”

“Thank you very much. I’m going to let them have dinner as soon as possible, so I’ll hand the time back to the moderator.”

“Thank you, Miss Watanabe. This is the conclusion of the Joint University Science Contest. Thank you for watching, and let us congratulate our winner once again, Kasshoku University!”

The background music plays, and when the cameras are switched off, my schoolmates all come over to congratulate us. Shizune and my parents are the first to approach me.

“Hicchan, I was so worried about you!”

Mom! I hate being called by that nickname, especially in the public!

“Sorry, mom. At least it’s over now.”

“You need to take a break from school tomorrow, and have your health checked.”

“Yes mom, I’ll arrange things tomorrow.”

Dad pats me on my shoulder.

“You did it. I’m so proud of you.”

Shizune gives me a gentle hug, and, after releasing, makes a sad face.

[You lied to the interviewer, didn’t you?]

Of course. She knows.

[Yeah. How can I speak the truth?]

She gives out a deep, silent sigh.

[Take a rest. We’ll figure things out later.]

[Yeah. These few weeks were hectic. I must rest. You too.]

She nods, but before she can sign anything else, my captain interrupts.

“Nakai, we’d like to celebrate for the win, but you’ve got to rest tonight. We’ll treat you on Wednesday, okay?”

“Sure. I should fully recover by that day. I do need a couple of days’ rest.”

“Alright then. Again, thank you so much for your contribution.”

The evening ends after everybody eventually leaves the studio, and, after confirming to the first aid team that I don’t need further medical assistance, my parents pick me up, have dinner with me, and drive me back home.

For tonight’s win, we also obtained a sizeable amount of cash prize, which, when equally divided, is worth more than my monthly income.

Today has to be one of the best days ever in my life.

Chapter 47: A Friendly Reunion
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Wed Mar 17, 2021 4:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch46 Updated 15 Mar 2021: Who's back?]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Wed Mar 17, 2021 4:02 am

Chapter 47: A Friendly Reunion
Dear Hisao,

How are you doing? I saw you on TV. Congratulations on winning the JUSC! You probably don’t know yet, but I’m now studying in Midori University, which you just competed against. I watched the live broadcast to support my schoolmates, but you surprised me! You deserved the victory.

I saw it. You were clutching your chest. It was your condition, wasn’t it? I was really afraid that you would collapse in front of me. Words can’t tell how relieved I was when you finally managed to get out of it. Does your condition still trigger often? I’m studying pharmacy right now. Maybe I can help?

It’s been quite a long time since we last contacted. I know you’ve been busy with schoolwork over the year, as I was also studying very hard trying to get into university. There is so much I’d like to talk to you, but I’m not sure if you’re still open to have a conversation with me. It’s fine if you don’t want to, but I’ve written down my phone number at the back of the letter.

Wish you well in your schoolwork. I hope I can hear from you soon.

Best regards,
I take a final look at the letter, concluding that I didn’t spell anything wrong, and then write my name at the bottom and seal the envelope. I’ll deliver it tomorrow.

I don’t think I wrote the letter very well. He might not like it. Am I too pushing? I don’t know, but if I don’t take the initiative, there won’t be any further contact.

“I’m turning off the lights now!”

“Okay, I’m coming!”

Since it’s already late at night, I decide to sleep in my classmate’s dorm room for tonight. I don’t like sleeping on the floor (there are spare mattresses available, so it’s not literally “on the floor”), but going back home for the night just to come back school tomorrow seems too much a waste of time. Also, I can chat with my classmate before I fall asleep.

After putting the letter into my bag, I put on hand cream and lipsticks before going to bed. I mean, to my mattress. The lights are then turned off.

“I still can’t believe we lost.”

“That was unfortunate, second place for two straight years.”

“But your friend’s really good. He’s so clutch.”

“Yes. I was surprised he was in the contest. Sigh. I hope he’s fine. That was very scary.”

“I saw it. You were unusually anxious back then. Are you good friends with him? Or is he your ex-boyfriend or something?”

Nice guess. It’s… complicated. My relationship with him is somewhat special. I can’t disclose anything to her though.

“He’s just a friend of mine. I haven’t met him in a long time though.”

“Fair enough. He’s quite handsome by the way. That bit of stray hair is especially cool. Maybe you can introduce him to me?”

HUH?

It comes so sudden that I find myself struggling for a response.

“Uhm… Are you serious?”

“Well it depends. Maybe he has a girlfriend already, given how handsome he is.”

Maybe? I don’t think he wants to date such a fat girl like you anyway.

“Hahaha… Uhm… I’ll try to talk to him. I don’t know, maybe he already forgot about me. It’s getting late. I’m tired. Let’s talk about that later.”

“Sure. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

Relieved that the topic is now dropped, I turn away from her and try to fall asleep as soon as possible.

I hope he replies to my letter. It would be nice to talk to him again.

***********************

“Welcome home, dear. Have you eaten yet?”

I put down my bag on the sofa and change my clothes while replying mom.

“Uh huh. I was very hungry after class, so I ate in the cafeteria.”

“Sure. Hey, a letter for you. Hand-written. No name.”

Is it…? I feel my pulse rising. I need to stay calm in front of mom though, or she would get suspicious.

“Oh, thanks!”

I take the letter from mom, grab my bag, and quickly enter my room at the back of the apartment while singing Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2.

“Wait! Apple for you.”

“Thanks a lot!”

I close the door, and carefully remove the seal to take out the content.

Yes, it’s probably him! I can hear my heartbeat now.
Thank you for the letter. I should have replied you earlier, but I was so busy with schoolwork, part-time jobs, and JUSC training that I don’t really have much time to sit down and do my own things.

I’m feeling much better now. Yes, you’re right, it was my condition that triggered in the match. I’m so sorry that you have to see it again. Actually it was the first time my condition triggered in more than a year. I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle, watching my diet, and doing exercises. But the past fortnight was very hectic because of the JUSC and some issues related to my friends. I didn’t get to sleep much, and I ditched my exercises. And, of course, the final question, I was so nervous. I didn’t know you’re in Midori University! Sorry for snatching victory from your school’s hands. It was a great game anyway.

I also have a lot to talk to you, but I don’t know, I feel like I’d rather text you instead. It’s still too awkward for me to talk to you on phone just yet. Maybe later. I’ve written down my account name and number at the back, so we can text. I’m free this week since I’ve exempted myself from all part-time jobs except Saturday for recovery, so you may reach me in the evening.

I’m looking forward to meeting you on the computer.
Uh… okay. Text is fine too.

So, after taking a bite on my apple, I turn on my computer, click the instant message icon, and enter Hisao’s account number. Then I send him a request. After a while, he accepts. He should be available right now.

Alright, here we go. Take a deep breath.

{Hi.}

I’m getting nervous! Let’s listen to some music to calm myself down. How about some Mozart pieces?

{Hello.}

{Are you free right now?}

{Yes. Just returned home. Thanks for the letter by the way.}

{Sure.}





Looks like the ice is very hard to break! I’ll take the initiative.

{Congratulations on winning! You performed really well!}

{Thanks. I’m very happy about the victory.}

Ah, Sonata No. 16 in C Major K.545 is in play! My favorite!

{How’s your recovery?}

{Good. I took a full day’s rest on Monday, then on Tuesday I went back to Yamaku for a health check. Yesterday I resumed school and had a light celebration party with my teammates. Today I did some small exercise, jogging around the sports field. I’m taking things slowly for this week.}

Thank goodness! He’s alright! I was quite worried.

{That’s great! Take care.}

{How about you? We didn’t quite catch up for a long time, did we?}

What should I type? Uhm… let’s make things generic for the time being.

{Indeed. Nothing too special here. As I said, I’m studying Pharmacy here, and schoolwork is quite busy.}

{I see. I’m studying Science here.}

{Uh huh.}





As the music changes to Turkish March, meaning that five minutes have passed, I find myself struggling for a continuation. Even though there’s so much I want to talk to him, I find it very hard to communicate!

Let’s ask about his part-time job.

{So, you said you’re doing part-time jobs?}

{Yup. Librarian, private tutor, and tutorial center.}

{So many?}

{Yeah. You know, my medical expenses. My family is not rich either.}

Oh no… Sorry about that…

{I’m… so sorry…}

{Never mind.}

{…}

{…}

But I’m curious…

{Where’s the tutorial center? What subject do you teach?}

{It’s in Tokyo. I’m teaching Math and Science right now. I go there on Saturdays.}

Really? I’ve got an interesting idea.

{Hey Hisao, do you mind if I ask you a question?}

{Sure.}

Will it work?

{You see, my family is not rich either. I’m also thinking about doing part-time jobs.}

{I see what you mean. Sure. If you’re willing to teach Biology, I can introduce you to the center. It pays fairly well.}

Is it for real?

{Really? I can! I’m free on Saturdays!}

{Sure. I’ll tell the director. You can come this weekend for an interview.}

{Can I? Thanks so much!}

{No problem. We’re in need of teachers anyway. You joining us would be a great addition to our tutorial center. As long as you love children.}

{Okay! I’m in! But… are you ready to meet me face to face?}





I await his response as the music changes into Sonata No.8 in A minor K.310.

After what felt like ten minutes, a new message appears in the chat box.

{Well, look, we’ll have to face it at some point anyway. Let’s get this done as early as possible. Actually I’ve a feeling it’s not going to be that bad.}

{You’re probably right. I mean, if you can forgive me…}

{Nah. It’s me who should say sorry. It wasn’t your fault anyway. How in the world would you ever know… that would happen?}

He’s really grown up. So different from the one I talked to last year.

{Then we’ll apologize together, okay? Let the past be the past.}

{Fine with me.}

{You have my phone number. You can call me when you’re ready.}

{Alright, please give me some time to prepare. I do have a lot to talk to you.}

{Okay, sure.}

I’m quite nervous about his call! Let’s change the music to calm myself down. How about Moonlight Sonata?

***********************

Eventually my phone rings in the middle of the third movement. I stop the music and pick it up.

“Hello?”

“Hi. Uhm… It’s been a long time.”

“It’s so nice to hear from you again.”

“Yeah. Well, I have to apologize for…”

Let’s stop his “I’m sorry” talk right now, or the conversation will become awkward.

“Me too. Let’s not talk about it anymore, shall we? Let the past be the past.”

“Uhm… Alright then.”

“Let’s catch up then. What happened after… you left the hospital?”

“Long story. It’ll take a while.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Alright. Uhm… You know, after I left the hospital, I was forced to transfer to Yamaku high school. I didn’t want to go there at all! I was like, it’s a school for the cripples! I don’t want to be classified as disabled! It’s so far away from my hometown as well. I’ll be so lonely over there, without anyone to talk to.”

“Sigh. I can understand. If I were you, I would feel the same way as well.”

“But listen. In the first week I transferred there, I made a couple of friends. They were very zealous towards me. They dragged me to lunch gatherings. They explained everything about the school for me. They pulled me into the Student Council room and played board games with them. At last, I was forced to join them in the Student Council.”

“They forced you into the Student Council? That’s so funny! What are their names?”

“Shizune and Misha.”

“They don’t sound like boys’ names. Are they girls?”

“Yes. Shizune is deaf. She’s now studying in the same university as mine. Misha is a nickname. Her full name is Shiina Mikado. She’s currently studying in America, but we talk using text regularly.”

Close friends with two girls, huh.

“Uh huh. Then what happened?”

“A lot. We organized a few festivals. We visited Shizune’s family during the summer break. We studied together for the Center Test – I still remembered Shizune setting up a strict revision timetable for us, how Misha helped me with English, and how I competed against Shizune with past papers and lost all the contests. The three of us experienced many ups and downs. We had a period of difficult time, but we managed to pull through with the help of each other. In the end, we’re able to establish a close bond. After a lot of hard work, all three of us were able to enter university. Shizune and I received scholarships as well.”

“That’s great for you!”

“They made me realize the importance of friendship. I didn’t treat my friends well enough in the past; you know how poorly I behaved back in the hospital. I realized my mistakes. I never regret transferring to Yamaku for the year.”

What an interesting turn of events.

“You certainly changed a lot! At the very least, I didn’t recall you being a ladies’ man back then.”

“Uh huh. I bet you’ll be even more surprised if I tell you I’ve made several more female friends since then.”

“Really?”

“Yup. About two months ago, I went on a trip to Tokyo Disneyland with four Yamaku girls. We each have a disability, but we managed to make the trip successful. We’ve been friends for quite a while already.”

“I’m very curious! Do you mind if I ask who they are?”

“Not at all. I’ll send you our group photo… Here. Check it in your instant message.”

I click on the download button and open the picture.

“Got it.”

“Look. On the left is Suzu Suzuki. She has narcolepsy, which means she easily falls asleep uncontrollably. Next to her, who’s making a pose, is Miki Miura. Well, I don’t think I need to tell you about her disability. She’s a very close friend of Suzu. Next in line is Hanako Ikezawa. You may already notice her s… I mean, you know…, but she very sensitive about her disability. On the right is Lilly Satou. She’s blind.”

“All of them are your close friends? I can’t believe it!”

“Yup. I’ll send you another photo… Here. Check this out.”

“Uh huh. Got it.”

“This is my graduation photo with Shizune and Misha. Shizune’s the slim one.”

“Wow, they all look so pretty! So these are the friends you made in your other high school.”

“There’s another one called Emi, but I don’t have a picture with her.”

“You’re certainly popular among girls, Hisao.”

“Well, considering the fact that most of my classmates in the university are boys, you can say I’m pretty lucky to have them.”

Hmm… My feeling is a mixed bag. On one hand, I’m delighted to see him getting back on track. On the other hand though… After knowing that he has so many female friends, I don’t know… I’m probably being selfish, but a part of me is still waiting for…

Anyway, I’m happy for him overall. At least it makes me less guilty.

“To tell you the truth. I’m very glad that you’ve changed so much since I last met you. I feel so relieved right now.”

“Thanks. Now I feel so ashamed treating you like that in the hospital.”

“It’s alright. I didn’t do my best either.”

“You know what? I’ll peel you an apple when I see you on Saturday.”

I can’t help but laugh at the seemingly ridiculous offer.

“Hahaha… You must be joking.”

“Oh, yeah, about Saturday. Meet me at Tokyo Station at 8:30am.”

“Sure.”

“The director is a kind person. Just relax. He’ll probably give you a written test, and then ask you to make a short presentation in front of one of the teachers.”

“Okay, I’ll prepare for the interview.”

“That’s pretty much it. Well, let’s hope that when I see you this Saturday, THAT won’t happen again.”

No! That would be a disaster!

“No, don’t do that again, please!”

We share a laugh as the conversation draws to a close. Wish me good luck this weekend!

Chapter 48: No Surname No Problem
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Fri Mar 19, 2021 1:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch47 Updated 17 Mar 2021: She returns!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Fri Mar 19, 2021 1:34 am

Chapter 48: No Surname No Problem

I take out a small mirror from my bag to check my makeup. I bought this mirror when I went sightseeing in Kyoto last year.

Hisao notices and gives me a thumbs-up.

“You look fine. Don’t worry.”

Alright then. I put it back into my bag.

My reunion with Hisao didn’t turn out as dramatic as I thought. He was like, hey, it’s been a while, and, because I was slightly late, we had to rush a little bit in order not to be late for the interview. I’m so sorry! I overslept! I ruined our reunion!

Of course, his condition didn’t trigger. What a relief!

As we approach the entrance of the tutorial center Hisao’s working for, I can see several students waiting outside, some of them carrying notes. There are a few parents reading the leaflets next to the glass door. Those are probably course information. Above the glass door says “Tanpopo Education Center”. I see. So the center’s name is “dandelion”.

Hisao presses the doorbell, and the door is unlocked after a few seconds. We enter the center, and the reception staff greets Hisao with a bow.

“Good morning, Mr. Nakai.”

Hisao bows politely in return.

“And this is…”

I’ll save Hisao’s effort by introducing myself.

“My name is Iwanako. I am a friend of Mr. Nakai. He has scheduled an interview with the director for me this morning.”

“Good morning Miss. Please come in. The director is in the room at the back.”

“Thank you.”

The reception hall is about the size of one in a piano tutorial center. There are several benches on the sides, probably for students and parents waiting for classes. There are two corridors, one on the left and one on the right, leading to several classrooms. Hisao leads me through the right corridor, and I can see the classroom numbers 201 to 206, with the odd numbers on the left side and the even numbers on the right. The two corridors meet at the back, where both the staff room and the director’s room are located…

“Oh no!”

*Thud!* *Splash!*

A boy just tripped and dropped his documents all over the floor in front of the staff room! We hurry over to see if the boy is okay.

“Are you alright, A-ru-bin-san?”

“I’m… I’m fine. Thanks. Sorry about that.”

“You’ve got to be more careful, man. Look, you scraped your elbow! I’ve bandage. I’ll help you.”

“T-thanks…”

A-ru-bin-san, huh. What a weird name.

While Hisao’s putting bandage on that boy’s elbow, I help him collect his documents. His notes look very neat, by the way.

The director’s door behind us opens, and a middle-aged man appears. He frowns upon seeing the boy sitting on the floor.

“What’s the matter? …Oh no, A-ru-bin, are you alright?”

The boy scratches his head.

“Y-Yes, sir. I just tripped over my shoelace, I think.”

“Oh… (sigh) be more careful next time, will you?”

“S-sure. Sorry, sir.”

“And this is…”

“Yes, sir, this is my friend, coming for the interview.”

First impression is important! I make a standard bow to the Director.

“Good morning, sir.”

“I see. Alright, Nakai, I’ll take care of the interview. Please help A-ru-bin to the staff room. Miss, please follow me.”

Hisao gives me a nod, and I enter the Director’s room, leaving the boys behind.

Wish me good luck!

“Welcome to Tanpopo Education Center, Miss. I am Nagase, the director of this center. Would you please introduce yourself briefly?”

“Yes. My name is Iwanako. I am currently a first-year student studying in Midori University in Kanagawa, majoring in Pharmacy. My strongest subjects are Biology and Chemistry. I received a distinction in the first semester.”

“Uh… Please correct me if I am wrong, but I have not heard of a surname called ‘Iwanako’. How should I address you?”

That’s a question I’ve been facing for so many years. It’s still quite tough for me to answer.

“I have written down my surname in my resume, but it is a bit embarrassing, so I prefer others to call me by my first name. Is it too inconvenient?”

The Director laughs out loud at my response, catching me by surprise.

“Hahahahaha… Not at all! There’s another person in this center just like you, who would like to be addressed by his first name! The one you just saw, Alvin.

What a coincidence!

“Re… Really?”

“Yes! No surname, no problem! By the way, he’s the best teacher in the center.”

That bizarre guy is the best teacher?

“Oh…”

“Anyway, enough of that. Sure, I will just call you Iwanako then. My name is Nagase, and this is my business card.

I collect his card with both hands. In a few years, I will have my own business card as well, but I’ll hate putting my surname onto it.

“Do you have any teaching experience?”

“Uhm... No.”

“I see. Why do you want to come here?”

Hisao said this is a standard question, so I prepared in advance yesterday.

“Mr. Nakai told me about the tutorial center. After he shared with me his teaching experience, I find the job very meaningful. I can share my science knowledge to kids. I can not only help them get better scores in tests, but also stimulate their interest in the subjects, potentially helping them choose their career. This is why I would like to give this job a try, even though I do not have any experience.”

The Director seems to be pleased by my answer.

“Very well. Let me introduce to you our tutorial center. As you can see, this is not a very large center, and we only hold classes up to eight students. We want to take care of every student who studies here, not only in academics, but also their general behavior. We even accept one-on-one classes if the parents are willing to pay extra money. We treat students and their parents as friends, so we communicate with them frequently. The staff and I usually chat with them in the reception hall, so you don’t see me in this room often. We specialize in science subjects, but we also have a tutor for business-related classes. Here are some of the materials for our classes, and there are some more in soft copy. We have ten classrooms in total, six on the right, that are rooms 201 to 206, and four on the left, that are 207 to 210. We currently have around 1000 students.”

That number’s much more than I thought.

“We want tutors who are caring and friendly, and are also knowledgeable in science subjects. We want the tutors to not only teach, but also care for students as if they are our own kids. Do you think you can do this?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now, I need to give you a small assessment. If you are good at science, you should have no problem with this test.”

Alright, test, here we go. I’ve prepared for this!

“Sure.”

“Let’s move to room 210. We don’t have a class in that room until 10 o’clock.”

Mr. Nagase gets up and escorts me out of the room. After passing by the staff room, we arrive at room 210 on the left side of the center.

“You complete your assignment here. I will be back in 20 minutes.”

“Okay.”

No worries, Iwanako. I’ll be fine!

***********************

The door opens, and Mr. Nagase approaches me along with the boy I just met.

“You scored pretty well in the test. There are a couple of errors, but it’s not a big deal. Here, d’you remember him?”

“Yes. How is your wound?”

“I’m fine, no worries.”

“Hey Alvin, this is Miss Iwanako. You see, you two are of the same type. She also hates using her surname.”

“Hontou-desuka. Hajime-mashite. A-ru-bin to mou-shimasu. (Really? Nice to meet you. My name is Alvin.)”

“Iwanako-desu. Hajime-mashite. (I’m Iwanako. Nice to meet you.)”

We shake hands, and the director continues.

“He is a Chinese, coming from Hong Kong. He’s very good at mathematics. As I said, he’s the best teacher here. Many students love him. He has helped us a lot.”

“Arigatou-gozaimasu. (Thank you, in polite form.)”

So he’s Chinese? Wow! His Japanese is perfect!

“Now, as your final test, Alvin will be your assessor. He’ll give you some materials along with a teaching plan, and you prepare yourself for a short tutorial class, with Alvin as your student. Okay?”

So my second interviewer is this weird boy? Uh… I can hardly say no.

“Okay.”

“Then, Alvin, I’m leaving everything in your hands.”

“(Japanese unless otherwise specified) Yes, sir.”

“Have fun, you two.”

The director leaves the room, and Alvin hands me the teaching plan.

“Iwanako-san (Miss Iwanako), here is your task. You’re going to teach me basic life processes in plants. I suppose you are familiar with the materials here.”

“Yes, Mr. Alvin.”

“We have eight pages here. Three pages are the examples, and five pages are the exercises. You try to give students at least 60% of the time to do exercises.”

“I see. May I spend a few minutes on preparations?”

“Sure. I’ll wait for you here.”

***********************

“As a newcomer to the realm of teaching, you performed fairly well. There are a few issues you can improve on, but overall there are no major flaws. I’ll give you a pass in your final test.”

Yes!

“I’ve a class in 15 minutes, so I’ll hand you back to the Director. Good luck for the rest of your day.”

“Thank you, Mr. Alvin.”

Alvin leads me to the Director’s office and knocks on the door. The Director comes out, takes the documents from Alvin who leaves the room, and signals me to sit down in front of him.

“It appears that you have passed your teaching test. Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“Let’s talk about our offer. We’re in need of a Biology teacher. You can teach Biology and Chemistry for us. For now I have two classes for you, but I will try to open a few more classes for the next few days. I will tell you about the exact arrangements early next week. About your wage, since you’re a part-time tutor, we offer hourly wage. You have no experience yet, so how does 2500 yen per class sound? A class is one hour.”

Wow, it’s much higher than I thought! I might not have many students at the beginning, but I can take it step by step. Two classes should be fine for me.

“Okay then. I accept.”

“And if you perform well, I’ll consider raising your salary.”

Really?

“I will try my best, Mr. Nagase.”

“Good. When will you be available?”

“Uhm… Next week, I think.”

“Okay, I will arrange classes for you in the upcoming week. Now, do you have any appointments for today?”

“No.”

“Alright. Alvin has a class at 10 o’clock in Room 208. You’re sitting through his class. Then you can study the materials for next week’s classes for the rest of the morning.”

“Yes sir.”

“Now, follow me to the staff room.”

Mr. Nagase leads me into the staff room. It’s a bit larger than the director’s room. There is a large table in the middle, and I can see Hisao sitting there preparing for his next class.

“Here is the staff room, or the commons we usually call. Tutors prepare for their classes here. Over there are some computers. We have two juniors who help design class materials. And we have Hakamichi working on admin and finance.”

Upon noticing my presence, Hisao smiles at me. I smile back in excitement. I’ll be your colleague next week!

“Here are the lockers. You may put your belongings inside, and then attend Alvin’s class. Afterwards, prepare for your classes here, and leave when you are done.”

“Thank you, Mr. Nagase.”

“For now you have two classes in October, both of them being new classes. If I have another class for you, then I will give you a call and send you the corresponding materials. Here are your materials for next week, and your schedule. You might be asked to fill in for classes in case a tutor is unavailable, for example due to sickness, and you’ll be paid at the same rate. We will prepare a contract for you to sign next week. Any questions?”

“No, sir.”

“Then I will go back to my room. Thank you for coming to the interview.”

I greet the Director with a bow, and, after Mr. Nagase is gone, Hisao comes over.

“Hey, how did it go?”

I give him a firm nod.

“We’ll be colleagues starting from next week!”

“Congratulations!”

We shake hands, and, since it is almost 10 o’clock, I set off towards Room 208 while Hisao prepares to conduct his class.

***********************

Hisao decides to treat me lunch before I go back to Kanagawa in the afternoon. The weird boy Alvin, who’s actually attending the same university as Hisao’s, is tagging along as well.

“Hey Hisao, is Hakamichi not coming?”

“She said she’s busy with work today, so she asked me to bring her take-out lunch.”

After attending Alvin’s class, Hisao introduced Miss Hakamichi to me, the slim girl I saw in one of the photos he sent me the other day. She’s very pretty. I’ve a feeling that Hisao likes her; I don’t know, it’s just my sixth sense. I also speculate that the feeling could be mutual, because when Hisao introduced me to her, she frowned for a split-second. She also didn’t come with us for lunch; I don’t know whether she’s really busy, or if she just wants to avoid me.

“Okay then, I guess it’s just the three of us.”

“Iwanako, is ramen okay for you?”

“Sure! Let’s go!”

Since Hisao has a class at 1 o’clock, we chose a ramen restaurant nearby. We ordered a bowl of ramen for each of us, and also some snacks for us to share. When Hisao paid in front of the cashier, Alvin came over in an attempt to share the cost, but he accidentally pulled out a bunch of banknotes and dropped them onto the floor, causing a bit of a chaos. What a clumsy boy! I hope he didn’t leave any banknote on the floor.

“So, you’re Hisao’s high school friend, you say?”

“Yes. We studied in Chiba together for a few years.”

“Iwanako’s now studying in Midori University. You know, the one we faced in the JUSC final.”

“Oh yeah. It was a close match, wasn’t it?”

“Yes. I was watching the broadcast on TV. We lost, but as your former schoolmate, I’m proud of you, Hisao.”

“Thanks so much. The victory means a lot to me. I’m so glad I can bring glory to my university.”

“So how’s your health? It wasn’t anything serious, was it?”

Did Hisao tell Alvin about his condition?

“Nah. Just had to take a couple of days’ rest. Now that the JUSC and the Student Council thing are out of the way, I can finally make up some sleep.”

“That’s great news. So are you planning to join the JUSC again next year?”

“I consulted the Nurse about it. He said as long as I don’t push myself too hard, I should be fine. So I’m probably going to join, although I’ll have to work hard on persuading my parents. They’re worried about my physical condition after all.”

“Understandable. Take care of your health, and hope to see you on TV next year.”

“Sure. Hey, you’re using your chopsticks upside down again!”

“Oh really? I am! Hahaha… Never mind. I always get it wrong!”

I laugh along with the two boys. Alvin’s such a funny guy.

We continue to eat while chatting. The food is great, and their banters are awesome. Working alongside them should be fun.

Time flies, and lunch is over. Hisao goes to the counter to buy another bowl of ramen for Miss Hakamichi, and returns with a knife from the restaurant.

“Hey, Iwanako, guess what I’ve brought you?”

Hisao reaches his bag and takes out an apple! Oh my goodness, he remembered!

“I promised to peel an apple for you, so here you go.”

Using the knife, he carefully peels the apple for me as Alvin and I both watch in amusement. To be honest, I feel quite moved by his kind act.

“Hey Hisao, I don’t know, but aren’t we supposed to eat only the food from the restaurant?”

“It’s alright, just an apple. I promised her. It’s… long story, isn’t it?”

“Y-yes.”

“Here you go. Take a bite!”

I happily accept the offer. It’s very delicious. Apple is my favorite fruit!

“Thanks a lot, Hisao. It means a lot to me.”

With this, I suppose we’re officially reconciled. Let’s make it a symbol of our friendship as well.

***********************

After lunch, Hisao has to go back to the tutorial center, so he asks Alvin to escort me to the train station. I feel a bit awkward walking with this stranger, but I don’t think I can find my way back without him.

But… other than being a bit clumsy, he’s actually a pretty nice boy. Since he’s the best teacher in the center, I can probably learn a lot from him.

“So, you live in Kanagawa?”

“Yes. It’s not too far away from here. Thirty minutes of train ride is all it takes.”

“When is your first class next week?”

“11 o’clock.”

“Okay then. You should be able to make it on time.”

Yup. I’ll remind myself not to oversleep next Saturday.

We pass through a shopping arcade on our way towards the station. I can hear sounds of piano on the right side.

“Hey, a music shop. I don’t remember seeing one when I last came here, so it must be new!”

A teenage girl is playing Mozart’s Turkish March. I slow down my pace to listen to her performance.

“Do you like music, Miss Iwanako?”

“Yes. I play the piano. How about you?”

“I can play a little bit. I learned how to play piano by myself. I haven’t played it for quite some time though.”

“Really? You learned piano all by yourself?”

“Uh huh. My parents bought me a keylight electronic piano as my thirteenth birthday present. It had step-by-step tutorials. After some research and practice on my own, I eventually managed to remember several music pieces. It took me a lot of effort though.”

“That’s very cool! I don’t think I would be able to play piano without a teacher.”

“But I don’t think I can play very fluently anymore though.”

I’m interested! Let’s see how good you can play piano by self-learning!

“Can you try? I’m your audience.”

“Are you serious? I mean, playing in front of a piano expert…”

“I promise you, I won’t criticize, okay?”

“Er… Alright then. Hmm… Hey look, isn’t this a nice electronic piano? I’ll use it.”

Alvin slowly places his fingers on the white electronic piano. His left thumb is on the key C4. His right thumb is on G4. His right middle finger is on C5, and his right ring finger is on D5. I wonder…

He takes a deep breath, and starts playing: C4 G4 C5 D5, four times in a row…

I know this song.

…Then C3/C4 G4 E5 G4 four times in a row…

It’s a beautiful song.

…He moves his left hand gracefully to play the C chord while playing a sixth interval of G4/E5 with his right hand. Three beats later, he plays the G4/E5 again and moves on to A4/F5 while switching to D minor chord.

I can’t believe it. He can play this without a teacher? It’s amazing! His coordination is perfect. His touch is beautiful. The music is soft and elegant.

Then comes the G chord with B4/G5, followed by the C chord again. The cycle repeats once more before entering the second phase.

The A minor chord is played while the right hand gradually goes down from C6/E6, to B5/D6, to A5/C6; then E minor chord with G5/B5, to F#5/A5, to E5/G5. This is the part I love the most.

Admittedly this is not a difficult song at all, but being able to figure this out all by himself, he’s a genius! He’s playing with such a strong and beautiful finger motion, you can actually feel his soul through the music.

F chord, G chord, then C chord. The right hand again goes down, this time an octave lower, starting from C5/E5 and ending at E4/G4. F chord, G chord, and then this is the hard part: A series of increasingly higher thirty-second notes involving the G7 chord with the right hand. It seems he’s unable to play all the notes with the right hand alone, so he uses his left hand to help with the lower notes. He’s really skillful! He disguises his weakness so well that the help from his left hand looks intentional. Only an expert like me can see through his disguise.

His fingers are pretty short. He’s going to have a problem playing octaves. I think this is why he never learned piano seriously. His beats are slightly off, which means he probably never used a metronome in his training.

I’ve never played this song myself, but I think I have all the right-hand notes memorized by now. I have an idea.

The song goes back to phase one, with a slight variation. After the C, D minor, and G chords, the song goes to C chord, then a short E flat, F, G, and then back to C and repeat. He’s handled this section very well.

It might be a bit too forward, but I can’t wait! It’s so tempting!

I slightly push him on his right shoulder. He startles, but doesn’t stop playing. I quickly stick out my right hand to the C6/E6 keys. He looks surprised. I give him a smile and a nod. He seems to understand my intention, as he moves a bit to the left as the song goes to the second phase again.

He plays the A minor chord, and, brimming with confidence and excitement, I cooperate by playing the C6/E6 - B5/D6 - A5/C6. The E minor chord follows, and I play the G5/B5 - F#5/A5 - E5/G5. Very good! Everything’s going well so far.

The F – G – C chords follow, and then comes the lower octave: C5/E5 – B4/D5 – A4/C5, and G4/B4 - F#4/A4 – E4/G4. The F chord follows, and then the hard part is where I’ll shine! Confidently, I start by playing C4 D4 F4 G4, followed by D4 F4 G4 D5, and then G4 D5 F5 G5… I fly through this section of thirty-second notes with perfect accuracy, which earns me a big smile from my fellow performer.

Of course! I’m an expert after all.

There is no other technical part after that. We finish the remaining parts of the piece easily. As I finish the song with a last note of E6, we share a smile. It was a great collaborative work.

Really awesome, considering that we just met today.

I hear an applause from behind. We turn around and realize that there is a sizeable crowd of twenty or so listening to our little impromptu performance. Obviously embarrassed, we flee from the music shop at once and run towards the train station, where he sees me off.

We’ll definitely have a lot to talk about when we meet again next week.

Chapter 49: A Kind Gentleman
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Mon Mar 29, 2021 1:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch48 Updated 19 Mar 2021: More Iwa-chan!!]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Mar 20, 2021 12:26 pm

That Japanese bit in the middle was really jarring - especially since the whole of the story is supposed to be in Japanese...
A bit as if suddenly learning that up to this point they all were speaking English^^°
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch48 Updated 19 Mar 2021: More Iwa-chan!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Mon Mar 29, 2021 1:19 am

Chapter 49: A Kind Gentleman

“It’s 1500 yen, please.”

I take out two 1000 yen banknotes to the cashier. He gives me the change of a 500 yen coin and the shopping bag, which I take with my left hand. I’m about to check the items inside the bag when I discover something is wrong.

I carefully feel the characters written on 500 yen coin on my right hand. This isn’t right. The numbers on the coin clearly write “100”, not “500”.

This has happened multiple times when I go to convenient stores or shops. I’m pretty sure they do this on purpose, trying to cheat on a blind girl. They thought their evil plan would succeed. Not today.

“Excuse me. This is not a 500 yen coin. This is a 100 yen coin.”

“Uh… Oh, I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Here you go.”

Now I get a 500 yen coin. He, of course, claims that it’s a mistake, but I don’t trust him. I can’t believe such cheaters exist in a disciplined country like Japan.

Throughout my 19 years of living as a blind person, I’ve been cheated enough times to learn how to distinguish between different coins and banknotes. For coins, I can easily read the characters by feeling them with my hands. For banknotes, the subtle size difference tells me whether it’s a 1000 yen, 2000 yen, 5000 yen, or 10000 yen banknote. I still cannot distinguish between real and counterfeit money, so whenever I need to buy something of a high value, I opt for credit card instead.

Let’s check the items in the shopping bag... This should be everything.

The automatic door opens, and I exit the convenient store. The bus stop is on my left side, according to my classmates. We’re supposed to meet here.

“Hey, Lilly!”

The cheerful voice of Tatsuya draws my attention. I hear footsteps approaching, so I step aside the exit and wait for him.

“Good morning, Tatsuya.”

“Good morning. We’re waiting over there. Let’s go. Let me take your shopping bag.”

“Thank you.”

“Hmm… Candies. Thanks so much, Lilly.”

“You are welcome.”

Tatsuya leads me to our classmates, and we chat while waiting for the others. A few minutes later, everybody has arrived, and we are set to go.

Today we have sixteen students joining the picnic. It was originally scheduled to be a couple of weeks earlier, but due to the discrimination incident, we delayed it until the matter was resolved. I need to thank my classmates for their support. They not only wrote a letter of complaint to the university, but also joined the Sunday meeting with the Principal. Without their speaking out, I would not be able to represent the school on the Open Day. Therefore, I have made some nice food for them, in addition to the candies I bought in the convenient store.

After a short bus trip and a few minutes’ walk, we have arrived at our picnic location. The occasional breezes, the humidity of the surroundings, and the grains of sand I’m stepping on tells me that this is probably a beach. There isn’t much noise nearby, which indicates the site is empty right now. How fortunate!

“Hey guys, can you all help me build the stove up please?”

“Where’s the charcoal?”

“Kozuki has it.”

“Hey Kozuki, we need the charcoal!”

“I’m coming!”

“The girls can settle everything down on the table over there. Yumi, please lead Lilly to sit down. Hikari, please help with the food.”

“Sure. I’m on it.”

“Lilly, please come.”

I follow Yumi’s lead to the table, and then unzip my backpack and take out a bunch of tuna sandwiches. I received this backpack from Mother last week. Backpack has never been my outdoor outfit, but since I need to carry a lot of food today, sharing the load with my shoulders is the most sensible option.

“Everybody, I made sandwiches for you all. This is my gratitude for supporting me during the Open Day incident.”

“Wow, Lilly! Thank you so much!”

“Wow! It looks so deluxe!”

“I’m hungry! Thanks so much Lilly! Take a bite right now… Mmm! Tastes really good… *Cough cough* *Cough cough*”

“Sigh. What a kid, Kentarou. You didn’t eat breakfast, did you?”

I am delighted to hear that they are praising my sandwich. I spent a lot of effort on them.

About half an hour later, the fire is set, and the picnic is in full swing. We have a lot of food here. Besides the candies and the sandwiches I brought, they bought barbecue food (including sausages, fishballs, steak, potatoes, corns, and mushrooms), bread, lettuce, and soft drinks. A few girls have brought their own shares of food. This is going to be a big feast.

The last time I participated in a barbecue event was in my previous middle school, so I had some difficulty using the barbecue fork. Fortunately, my friends are kind enough to offer assistance. Bread is my first priority. Although I do not like eating bread, if I can make it into toast then it becomes much tastier, especially if I put other food onto it. Accordingly, I hold a piece of bread each with my two barbecue forks, and stick them out above the fire. Since I have no idea how high I should hold my bread, my friends are going to help.

“Lilly, hold them a little higher… Yes, that’s it.”



“Lilly, turn your bread.”

Barbecue has been a game of trust for me, and today is no exception. I hope that my classmates are mature enough not to bait me into eating raw food today.

“Your bread is ready. My steak still takes a few minutes, so I’ll help you.”

I am very happy to have such caring classmates.

***********************

We finished our lunch without any issue. I loved the mushrooms and the corns the most. The steak is great as well after I attached honey onto it. After lunch, I decided to have a practice session for my upcoming speech, and the girls were willing to offer help. I kept on improving my intonation and gestures until they were satisfied.

Sitting on the bench alone resting my throat, I hear footsteps coming over.

“Hey, Lilly.”

“Yes, Tatsuya?”

He sits down next to me while bouncing a ball.

“I’d like to play a ball game with everybody. Do you want to join?”

With my inherent condition, sports is obviously not my piece of cake. In fact, I don’t think I’ve played a ball game since secondary school.

“Tatsuya, I am not confident that I can play a ball game without eyesight.”

My negative response does not seem to deter him.

“Lilly, if you couldn't play I certainly wouldn’t invite you. Trust me, it’ll be fun.”

I’ve made a lot of friends throughout my years of studying, but I don’t always trust everybody around me. Other than my family, Hanako, and Hisao, Tatsuya is one whom I can safely put my trust on, especially after his brave rejection in front of the school administration last month.

I guess I will have to personally find out how fun it will be.

“Alright then. I will try.”

“We’ll play in the sand, so we’re taking off our shoes to avoid covering them with sand. We’ll wash our feet afterwards. Is it okay for you?”

“Alright then.”

I remove my shoes and follow Tatsuya towards the group. I’m both excited and a little worried about what is to come.

“Is everybody here? We’re going to play a ball game.”

“Volleyball, huh? There’s no net though.”

“No, not volleyball. This game is originated from China. It’s called ‘Number Ball’.”

“Number Ball? Like in Snooker?”

“No. The rules are simple. We assign a number for each person. At the starting position, one of us will hold the ball, while the others gather around. The person with the ball throws it upward while calling a number. The one whose number is called must catch the ball as soon as possible while everyone else runs away. After catching the ball, he or she calls STOP, and everybody must halt. The person can then walk at most three steps, and attempt to hit another person with the ball. The targeted person can dodge by moving his or her body, but not by moving the feet. If that person is hit, he or she loses a point; if the ball misses or if the ball is caught mid-air without touching the ground, then the thrower loses a point. Three points and you’re out. How does that sound?”

“Interesting!”

“A couple more rules. One: No throwing at the feet, because the target cannot move the feet. Two: You cannot call the person who just threw the ball at you. So, for example, Number Four throws the ball at Number Five and hits. In the next round, Number Five cannot call Number Four.”

“How about if the ball hits the person, but the person manages to grab the ball before it reaches the ground?”

“That counts as a miss as well.”

“Okay.”

“So, any questions?”

“No, Tatsuya. It sounds fun.”

“And for Lilly, let’s make the game fair to her. When we call Lilly’s number, try not to throw the ball too high, so that she can catch it more easily. Also, if the catcher wants to throw the ball at Lilly, he or she can only take one step, and must call for her attention before throwing the ball. Are the rules okay for you, Lilly?”

A very unconventional ball game indeed. I would like to give it a try.

“Alright, I accept. Please do not throw the ball too hard on me.”

“No worries, Lilly. It’s just a game. Now, Lilly please pick a number for yourself.”

“Um… Ten.”

I choose the number that corresponds to Hanako’s birth date.

“Alright, guys, remember. Lilly is number 10. I’ll now assign numbers for everyone. I’ll be 1. You’re 2. Then 3, 4, 5, 6…”

I’m number 10. So, if anybody calls out 10, I must try to find and grab the ball.

“…16. Everyone, remember your number.”

“Okay!”

“Alright. Let’s play a practice round. I’ll throw first. Everybody, gather around the ball. Lilly, come here.”

I obey and wait for Tatsuya to call out a number.

“Number Three!”

As Tatsuya throws the ball up and everybody else starts running away, I quickly run towards a random direction while the person who’s number is called (I think it is Misaku) is in the process of catching the ball.

“STOP!”

I halt, and await my destiny.

I hear Misaku taking steps towards the opposite direction. She’s not targetting me. I can relax now.

“No, don’t throw at me!”

“Ah!”

“Haha… Hit! Yumi would have lost a point. Is it okay for everyone?”

“Yup. Got it. Should be fun.”

“Alright, everyone. Come back. Let’s start the game officially. Yumi’s going to throw the ball.”

Round One. Let’s hear who Yumi’s going to call.

“Number One!”

That’s Tatsuya. I again run towards who-knows-where, but the sand slows down my pace significantly.

“STOP!”

No! Don’t target me!

I hear footsteps towards my right side. I breathe a sigh of relief.



“Oh no, I missed!”

“Haha. You lose a point, Tatsuya. You’ll throw again.”

We gather around the ball again. Let’s see who Tatsuya calls.

“Number Ten!”

It’s me!

As everybody hurries to escape, I find myself scrambling for the ball. It doesn’t take too long though, as Tatsuya apparently didn’t throw the ball very high.

“STOP!”

Now I need to figure out everybody’s distance from me based on their breathing. The one closest to me seems to be behind me.

I turn around and take three big steps towards that person. While I’m walking, I notice that the person has held his or her breath, obviously trying to deceive me. That’s not going to work.

From the rising surrounding temperature, I know that he or she is only a few meters away from me. After confirming my target’s location, I throw the ball.

“Ah!”

“Hit. Misaku loses a point.”

“Great job, Lilly!”

“Thanks, Misaku.”

We gather at the center again. Here comes the third round.

“Number 16!”

Since it’s not 10, I need to run again. This game is really tiring!

“STOP!”

Oh no! I only managed to take a few steps before Kozuki calls out.

“Lilly, prepare to dodge.”

Me? Oh no! I turn to face Kozuki’s general direction. I need to focus on the dodge.

“Are you ready? Here I go.”

Unable to predict his throwing direction, I simply crouch when I hear the ball being thrown. I feel the ball flying past over my head.

“Miss! Kozuki loses a point.”

Hurray! I managed to dodge a ball!

Next round, here we go.

“Number Eight!”

Run for my life!

Tatsuya is right after all. It’s a fun game.

***********************

After what felt like an hour, the game ended without any of us being eliminated because most of us are so exhausted from running in the sand that we had to call it a day. I had a lot of fun though. It had to be the most enjoyable sports game I have ever played. We then line up in front of the showering area to wash our feet and dry them with handkerchiefs brought by Tatsuya.

He probably planned the game beforehand. He’s such a nice boy, maybe even nicer than Hisao. What a kind gentleman he is.

We sit down, take a drink, and do whatever we want. I chat with Misaku and Yumi. I can hear a few classmates playing board games. A few boys who still have extra stamina play their own ball games.

“So, what are your plans during the winter break?”

“Me? I’m going back home for Christmas. My high school friends organized a gathering in a deluxe restaurant.”

“Wow! You’re so lucky, Misaku. I had to stay in the campus!”

“Why?”

“My parents are renovating our house. They’re staying in a hotel right now, so even if I go back, I’ll have to book another hotel room. Might as well stay in the campus.”

“When will the renovation be done?”

“The work will be done next month, but since we repainted the house and renewed the furniture, it takes at least two extra months for ventilation. You know, there’s the chemical that has no smell but is very dangerous. I think it’s called Formal something.”

“That’s Formaldehyde.”

“Right. So it will be done in late January.”

“That’s not too bad. At least you’ll have a new home to live in.”

“That’s only good for mom and dad. I’m mostly staying in the campus for four years anyway.”

“You may treat it as your vacation home.”

“You’re right, I guess. By the way, are you going to buy a new dress to the party?”

“Uhm… I haven’t thought about it yet. Why?”

“Why? Isn’t it obvious? A great chance for you to find a boyfriend!”

“Hey, I don’t go to the party just to grab a boyfriend!”

“You never know, Misaku. You’ve got to grab your chances, you know. How about you, Lilly? Where are you going during the break?”

To be honest, over the past two months, I have been pre-occupied by schoolwork and the Open Day incident so much that I never thought about the break. The default option is, of course, family, but doing some traveling does not seem too bad. Unfortunately, I will most likely not bring Hanako with me, because she will be busy studying for the Center Test and Entrance Exams.

“I have not thought about it yet. Right now I would like to focus on the Open Day recital first. After that, I will consider my options.”

“Cool. Don’t worry, Lilly, we all support you.”

“Thank you so much.”

Speaking of the recital, there is something I planned to do before the end of the picnic. Now should be a good time to do this.

“Yumi, would you please ask Tatsuya to come here? I would like to have a word with him.”

“No problem. Hey, Tatsuya, Lilly wants to talk to you.”

“Sure. A moment please… Yes, Lilly?”

“Tatsuya, would you mind if I have a word with you in private?”

“Not at all. Do you want to take a walk on the beach?”

“That would be great. Thank you.”

I take out my retractable cane from my bag and stand up.

“Misaku, Yumi, I will talk to you later.”

“Sure. Take care.”

I follow Tatsuya towards where I suppose is the seafront. The afternoon breeze in the middle of October seems to be singing a lullaby to me. The temperature is not too hot. Autumn is definitely the best season for a picnic.

“Would you mind describing the surroundings to me, Tatsuya?”

“Not at all. We’re now standing at the edge of the sea. There are a few small islands in front of us. I can see several boats. One of them is quite close to us. The man on the boat is currently fishing. Far away into the ocean is a jet ship.”

He pauses for a short while before continuing.

“To your left is a small mountain. It seems like there is a narrow path to climb up there. We may try it out if we want to. To your right are some private villas. They must be pretty expensive. Owning one of them would be a dream come true for any typical Japanese.”

“Indeed.”

“And on the ground are some seashells. If you’d like, you may grab some back home.”

Seashells? Interesting. I’ll grab some for Hanako.

“Really? Where are they?”

“They’re just in front of you.”

I crouch and search out the sand. He’s right. I find two seashells within seconds.

“I’ll go get some as well. Let’s pick some for our classmates too.”

“Sure. Oh, here’s another one.”

After several minutes, we have enough seashells for everyone in the class and more.

“Lilly, please pick the ones you like the most.”

I scan through all the options and pick the one with the best curves.

“Would you please help me pick one for my best friend?”

“Sure. Hanako, isn’t she?”

“I appreciate that you still remember my best friend’s name.”

“Of course. Kozuki’s still talking about her, like, every day.”

Really? I cannot suppress a smile upon hearing that. Is Hanako going to get a boyfriend right after she enters university?

Boyfriend. I recall what Yumi said earlier. You’ve got to grab your chances.

Several months ago, after I entered Kasshoku, Hanako had a lengthy phone call with me one evening. We talked a lot about each other. After knowing that I do not yet have a boyfriend, she asked me what kind of person I would like to choose to be my boyfriend. I told her some of my conditions. She then suggested that Hisao would be a feasible choice, now that he is officially single after breaking up with my cousin and we’re in the same school.

Indeed, maybe if circumstances had been different, I could have fallen for him. I admit that I am not one to fall in love with someone at first sight. In order for me to fall in love with someone, I need to come to know him and like him over time, and he must also show an interest in me, so that I can be open to the possibility of a relationship. However, based on our interactions so far, it is clear that Hisao is still solely in love with my cousin. Therefore, I shut that possibility down and leave it to my cousin to take the initiative.

Tatsuya was not the most extroverted person in the class at the beginning of the school year, but over the time he has gotten warmed up with my classmates. To be honest, I find him quite similar to Hisao (I remember that Hisao was also very shy the first few weeks he transferred to Yamaku, but he slowly acclimatized himself in the school, and made a lot of friends). I really would like to know why Tatsuya provided me with that amount of support during the Open Day matter: Is it really his nature, or did he do this out of pity? If his intentions are pure, maybe…

“Here you go. I think this is the best one in terms of color. My taste might not be the best though.”

“I will trust you. Thank you.”

With a bunch of seashells on hand, I think it is time for me to bring forth my intentions. I try to face him as directly as possible.

“Tatsuya, I would like to thank you again for your support earlier. You could have replaced me as the school’s representative, but you rejected the school’s offer and helped me fight against discrimination. Please accept my deepest gratitude.”

I give him a standard 30-degree bow.

“It’s okay. It’s not that big of a deal. I just did what I think was correct.”

“Tatsuya, it might sound a little forward, but to express my gratitude, I would like to invite you to dinner at my home after the Open Day event.”

“Uh… Really? Are you serious?”

“Of course. You deserved it.”

“Um… I’m of course… happy that you’ve invited me, but… is it appropriate for me to accept the offer?”

I grin.

“If you reject my offer, I would treat it as a disrespect.”

“No! Of course I respect you. Okay then. Thank you so much.”

“Fantastic! Now let us distribute the seashells.”

With everything settled, we head back towards our classmates to enjoy the rest of today’s picnic.

Chapter 50: The Great Escape
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Fri May 07, 2021 3:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch48 Updated 19 Mar 2021: More Iwa-chan!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Mon Mar 29, 2021 1:49 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 12:26 pm
That Japanese bit in the middle was really jarring - especially since the whole of the story is supposed to be in Japanese...
A bit as if suddenly learning that up to this point they all were speaking English^^°
Understood. The story is in Japanese. They're all speaking Japanese.
I was trying to depict the situation when someone's not supposed to speak Japanese but turns out speaking it fluently.

I'll think about it. There will be another similar situation a few chapters later, so I'll have to handle it a little better.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch49 Updated 29 Mar 2021: Lilly's Big Chance?]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Tue Mar 30, 2021 10:38 pm

Chapter 50: The Great Escape

After my vision gets restored, I find myself locked in a closed room. I look around. There are quite a lot of stuff here. Let’s investigate them one by one.

There’s a green door in front of me. It’s locked, unsurprisingly. I need to find the key that belongs to this door.

To my right is a desk with three drawers. Let’s check each drawer one by one. The top two have several buttons on them: The top one has four arrow buttons pointing up, down, left, and right, while the middle one has four square buttons colored red, blue, yellow, and green. It looks like I need to find the correct pressing sequences to unlock them. The bottom one has no buttons, but it won’t open. On top of the desk is a pumpkin that can’t be moved.

Opposite to the green door is a bookshelf with several books in it. To the right of the bookshelf is a strange painting. I try moving it, but it won’t budge.

Opposite to the desk is a television set. Let’s try turning it on… Nope, it looks like the buttons are not working. Maybe I need a remote control to make it work. Under the television is a shelf with two drawers. The left one has a blue box in it, and the right one has a single battery. The blue box has a number pad on it. I probably need a number password.

Next to the green door, under the air vent, is a clock. It seems like there’s a piece of paper in it. Can I open it? Let’s pry it open… Oh, there’s a screw on the side. I need a screwdriver.

Screwdriver… Screwdriver…

Is it locked behind one of the drawers? But I can’t find any sort of clue to the passwords. What should I do?

Let’s search more carefully. Any other hints? The television? Maybe the door? The bookshelf looks suspicious. Maybe one of the books holds a clue? Hmm… The books are not really books; they are just dummies. They are of different colors though, so they might be the hint to the middle drawer.

The desk… The pumpkin looks suspicious, but I don’t get anything out of it.

Can I move the desk? No. It’s hammered to the floor. If I have a crowbar I can remove the nails, but I don’t think I should do so anyway.

OH!!

There’s a screwdriver behind the desk, stuck inside the gap between the desk and the wall! I can’t reach it though.

There’s got to be a stick or a similar device available in this room. I need to search the room more extensively!

Wow, this game is much harder than I thought!

***********************

After a thorough search in the brown bookshelf, I finally discover a brown stick cleverly hidden at the bottom layer, behind the wooden board!

Using the brown stick, I meticulously retrieve the screwdriver from the desk. Now I can unlock the clock!

Let’s see what the little piece of paper says…

What on earth is this?

There’s a simple drawing of several Yamaku students standing in a row, with hands raised. In order they are: Me, Hisao, Emi, Yuuko, Misha but upside-down, my cousin, Miki Miura but upside-down, and, finally, the English teacher sideways.

Huh.

I’ve not a single idea.

Let’s look at the back of the note. Two drawings of my homeroom teacher Mutou. The left one is raising his right hand (“left” from my point of view), holding a sign that says “A”. The right one is raising his left hand, holding a sign that says “M”.



Oh! I get it!

Let’s work this thing out. So, from my point of view: Me, left; Hisao, right; Emi, left; Yuuko, right. Misha upside-down, both hands… Hmm. Lilly, right; Miki upside-down, left; Miyagi rotated 90 degrees anti-clockwise, right.

What a clever idea!

A couple of minutes later, I manage to crack the code on the top drawer of the desk: South, North, East, South, South, West, South, West, and East*. Assuming that the arrow pointing up is North, I can press the buttons in the right order…

Nope. It doesn’t work. Why?

Oh!! There’s a small sign on the top-left corner of the drawer! So the right arrow should correspond to North! Okay! Now let’s try it again: Left, Right, Down, Left, Left, Up, Left, Up, and Down.

Click.

Great! The drawer is unlocked!

Remote control acquired!

Put the battery into the slot at the back… Oh no! I need TWO batteries!

Well, while I was solving the top drawer puzzle, I noticed another small sign on the top-left corner of the second drawer. Hmm… Eye mask plus rectangle?

What does it mean?

Oh!!

I was blindfolded when they led me into this room. After removing the blindfold, I threw it onto the floor and started searching the room right away. I’ve neglected it all the time!

Grabbing the blindfold on the floor, I carefully inspect the item for possible clues. There seems to be nothing out of ordinary on the blindfold until I realize that there’s an opening at the side, which reveals a note inside!

Alright, let’s open it! Um… A piece of paper with random holes and arrows?

Ah!! I get it! The rectangle in the small mark means the picture frame. I must put the piece of paper on that strange picture!

Now let’s see… Okay! The holes reveal the colors I need to press on the second drawer, and the arrows give the order. Good! Let’s input the code: Yellow, Red, Green, Red, Yellow, and finally Blue.

Click.

Excellent! The drawer is unlocked!

Battery obtained! Newspaper obtained!

The next step is obvious: Insert the second battery, and press the “ON” button. Yes! Television is on!



A crossword puzzle? Yikes!

Alright, I’ll do it. I asked for the toughest difficulty after all.

“Instructions: 1. English. 2. Use surnames. 3. Do not add space. So, if your answer is ‘Baby boy’, then it will become ‘Babyboy’. 4. All related clues correspond to your third year of study in this school.”

Alright, here we go.

“Across 1: Student Council member.”
“Across 2: Popular in Halloween. Often placed in front of houses.”
“Across 3: Often stays in the library.”
“Across 4: Room often occupied by someone who’s blind.”
“Down 1: ___ Thing on No Legs.”
“Down 2: Name of this school.”
“Down 3: Third-year Newspaper Club member.”
“Down 4: Class 3-3 student. Boy.”
“Down 5: Eats blood. Often cosplayed in Halloween parties.”
“Down 6: Completed the mural project.”
“Down 7: Editor in Chief.”

Some of them are easy, but others have several possible answers. I need to figure them out using the puzzle itself.

Let’s start with those I’m sure of. Down 1: Fastest. Down 2: Yamaku. Down 5: Vampire. Down 6: Tezuka. Down 7: Inoue.

Across 1 has six letters and starts with the “M” coming from “Yamaku”. The only Student Council member that fits the criteria is Misha, which is Mikado.

Across 3 has seven letters, and the third letter is “E” from “Fastest”. “Satou” only has five letters, so this must be “Ikezawa”.

Across 4 has seven letters starting with “T” from “Fastest”. “Blind” most likely refers to my cousin. So the answer is “Tea room”, without the space.

Now, Down 3 has three letters, and stems from the “O” from “Tea room”. The only Newspaper Club member starting with O is Natsume. So the answer is “Ooe”.

Across 2 is very long. 12 letters. The clue probably refers to the pumpkin. Its English name is… Something-o-lantern? Yup, it fits. I don’t know the first word, but luckily I don’t need that in the puzzle.

Down 4 is five letters with the form _A_A_. I have a good idea who he is.

Okay! Now, some of the squares are colored. The blue squares spell S, E, E, N, V. The red squares spell O, E, R, Z. The green squares are F, U, O, R. The yellow squares are T, W, O. The bottom of the screen says Yellow, Green, Blue, Red. Easy. I’ve got the code: 2470.

Put 2470 into the number pad… Yes! It works!

I’m actually quite proud of myself. *Adjust glasses*

Key obtained! Let’s unlock the green door with it…

Oh no. It doesn’t fit. Didn’t expect that to happen.

Well, it has to fit in a keyhole. I must find it.

I have a feeling that it’s related to the third drawer. Let’s search the desk more.



Finally found it! The pumpkin!!

The suspicious pumpkin has a keyhole inside. Since I’m short, I had to raise my feet and look into it to see that keyhole.

Alright! Insert the key, and, with a click sound, the bottom drawer opens!

Er… A knife? What am I supposed to do with it? I don’t want to destroy the room.

There’s nothing special about the knife. Just a simple kitchen knife.

It’s time to search for more clues.



Found the clue at last! Deep in the bottom drawer is a mark: Door lock with key + knife + rectangle = key. But what does it mean?

***********************

It took me another ten minutes to figure this out. It’s a very clever trick. By peeping through the green door keyhole, I can see that the key is actually stuck inside the opposite side of the keyhole. In order to retrieve the key, I need to first put the newspaper I took from the middle drawer through the gap underneath the door, then use the knife to push the key out of the keyhole, dropping it onto the newspaper, and finally pull the newspaper back to get the key.

Well constructed puzzle.

I unlock the door, and finally completed my great escape! *Adjust glasses*

The Student Council members are waiting for me outside. They clap hands upon witnessing my extraordinary performance. It took me 48 minutes and 53 seconds to get out of there.

Nicely done, Student Council. I enjoyed the game a lot! Thanks for inviting me as a tester. It will serve as a great element in the upcoming Halloween event.

I wonder how my fellow tester is doing. I don’t see him around. Did he escape already? Did he manage to beat my time?

[Hey, where’s the boy? Is he done already?]

Luckily Yamanashi is able to communicate with me in sign. He joined the Student Council earlier this year, and acted as my translator before I left Yamaku.

[He gave up about half an hour ago. He then took a phone call and left, saying that it is an emergency. He asked me to inform you when you come out.]

What? No way!

So, I escaped from the room, and he escaped from me? That’s not fair!

This is very rare of him, dumping me behind like this.

I anxiously take my bag back from Keiko, grab my phone, and text the boy.

{What happened? Where are you?}



Let's ask the Student Council for more information.

[Do you have any idea where he went?]

[No. He looked quite worried though. It must be something very serious.]

[Can you help me ask your classmates if they have noticed the boy?]

[Sure. I’ll help.]

Yamanashi hurries towards the main building as I check my phone again. There’s no response. Very unusual of him.

I’ll call him.



It doesn’t connect. Has he turned his phone off? What’s going on?

Stranded outside of the test room, being left behind by my companion, I find Aoi and Keiko standing helplessly next to me. I’ve been neglecting the president duo since I escaped from the room. Since my translator is gone, I take out my notebook and start writing.

{Nice work! How long did you take to make that room?}

{A whole month! Isn’t it great?}

I can’t help but praise their effort. The tricks are amazing. The ideas are creative. I like the fact that they added elements of our school into the puzzles, and the contents are tailor-made for me. They’re probably going to make the puzzle questions more generic in the upcoming festival.

This is interesting. If they can come up with this, there’s no way I can’t make something better.

{I’ll make something better in my university. I’ll beat this!}

The current Student Council president smiles at my ambitious claim.

{Hahaha. We’ll see what you can do.}

{You two should come visit me in Kasshoku when I’ve finished my own room escape game. I think it’ll be in the spring festival next year.}

{Sure. Don’t disappoint us. By the way, is the Kasshoku Open Day going to be next Sunday? We want to come.}

{Really? You two want to enter as well?}

{Yup. Yamanashi too. Since three Yamaku students managed to get into Kasshoku in the last school year, our homeroom teacher is now recommending the school to anyone who might want to study in Tokyo or the nearby area.}

{Sure. I’ll be there, although I might be busy throughout the day. I can invite you all to dinner after the visit.}

{Great! We’ll go then. I really want to see if Kasshoku is an appropriate choice for me. What do you think? Do you like the school so far?}

{Of course! You two should try to get in. Try to grab the scholarship as well.}

{That will be in two years, but sure, we’ll study hard to get in.}

We continue chatting on paper for a few minutes until I see Yamanashi rushing back towards us. Has he found the boy?

[Hey Hakamichi, I’ve got some information for you.]

[Where’s the boy?]

[There was an emergency in the girls’ dorm about thirty minutes ago. The stretcher was called. According to the witnesses, the student in question was a tall long-haired girl. A couple of students were seen accompanying the girl onto the ambulance. One of them was a tall girl with blonde hair.]

Uh... okay...

Only five sentences, but so much information. I need time to sink everything in.

[Okay, thank you. I’m going to find the boy right now. If I don’t see you later today, we’ll meet again next Sunday.]

[Sure. See you soon. Bye.]

I say goodbye to my Student Council successors and walk towards the main building.

Let me think. It’s pretty clear the boy is in the medical room with the girls, but the reason they ended up together is a mystery.

I consider visiting the boy, but I don’t think that is the correct action to take, so I end up exiting the school and setting off towards the train station.

Misha’s words way back in February comes to my mind. She’s probably right.

I need some time to figure this whole issue out. However, first thing first: Student Council work tomorrow.

*Puzzle spoiler: Shizune Hakamichi, Hisao Nakai, Emi Ibarazaki, Yuuko Shiragawa, Shiina Mikado (M upside-down is W), Lilly Satou, Miki (M upside-down is W) Miura, Miss Miyagi (M anti-clockwise 90 degrees is E), so “SNESSWSWE.

Chapter 51: Very Tough Assignment
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch50 Updated 31 Mar 2021: Tricky Puzzle!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:30 am

Chapter 51: Very Tough Assignment

“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing, Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing…”

“NO!!! PLEASE, SPARE ME!!!”

I try to run away from the lethal attack of the flesh-eating giant cell phone, but my feet won’t listen to me.

“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing, Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing…”

It’s getting closer!

Why is the phone chasing me? It’s ridiculous! I’m not food!

“HELP! SOMEBODY HELP ME!”

It’s too late! The keys on the phone transform into spikes, and the screen changes into a big mouth. It’s going to swallow me alive!

“WAAAAAA…”

Suddenly, a shadow appears above my head, and the phone gets knocked back. What just happened?

“Rrrrrraaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr…”

It’s Lilly! With an ear-piercing feminine roar, a giant Lilly about the same size as the phone enters the scene with her retractable cane, which is as thick as a lamppost. She has come to save me!

“Lilly! Help me!”

The phone retaliates by shooting out its spikes at Lilly, who blocks them by spinning her cane.

“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing, Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing…”

The phone gets really angry, and summons another phone to help! The buttons on the other phone can throw out quick punches. Lilly tries to block with her cane, but with two enemies attacking at the same time, she easily gets overwhelmed and takes several punches to the face. Oh no!

“Rrrrrroooooaaaaarrrrrrrr…”

With a masculine roar, another giant figure appears! It’s Hisao! He doesn’t carry any weapon with him, so he removes his green sweatervest and rolls it into a make-shift whip. He repeatly whips at the punching phone’s screen, causing it to miss its punches. He then takes out several bandages from his pocket and seals up all the buttons, incapacitating the punching phone!

Meanwhile, giant Lilly is still fighting the first phone and its spikes. Hisao tries to whip at the phone’s screen again, but it dodges. Realizing that its ally is now trapped, the spiking phone shoots out a stream of flames at its friend, freeing its buttons from the bandages. However, the fire also damages the punching phone, scorching the buttons and stunning the phone temporarily. Lilly seizes this chance by jumping up and then delivering a huge strike with her cane onto its screen, shattering it into pieces!

Witnessing its ally’s defeat, the spiking phone retaliates by shooting laser beams at my two friends, who manage to narrowly dodge them. Lilly then takes out her secret weapon – a plastic shopping bag! She jumps up and covers the phone’s screen with the bag. The phone tries to counter by shooting flames, but they backfire and the phone is now trapped in its flames. Hisao then delivers the killing blow by sealing the plastic bag with his bandages, trapping the flames and suffocating the phone. After a while, the phone finally falls, ending its annoying ringing sound.

I’m saved! Thanks, Lilly and Hisao!

“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing, Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing…”

I’m about to give my best friend a hug when I hear a thunderous ringing sound behind them. It’s the boss phone!

Giant Lilly and Hisao turn around to face the boss, but before they can react, the boss’s screen fires off huge beams of energy that completely decimate my two friends in one hit! Then, before I can even respond, the screen transforms into a big mouth and shoots out hot flames at me!

“WAAAAAA!!!”

“Huh!”

The next moment, I find myself back in my room, sitting in front of my desk. I must have fallen asleep, even though I’ve been trying not to sleep.

My legs have been shaking. I don’t think they have stopped shaking since this afternoon. I might have escaped from the giant monster phone, but what’s about to happen is even scarier.

If I go to sleep, the nightmares will come back; if I stay awake, I'll have to face an even scarier monster. There’s simply no way out!

My stomach is growling loudly. I haven’t eaten anything since I received the news. I know that if I don’t eat, I’ll die; but I’m seriously considering dying over staying alive right now.

I must be the only person in the world who would voluntarily starve oneself to death; I’m also the only person in the world who would get scared to death by one of the simplest tasks ever: To attend a lecture.

I must be the most useless person in the world. Who would be scared of a lecture? Nobody is afraid of a seminar. A seminar is supposed to be enjoyable.

My legs eventually get tired. They don’t have enough energy to shake. If I keep on starving like this, I’m most certainly ending my life here.



But I know… If I want to realize my dream, I have to go there.

To meet Lilly over there… to live with her…

Deep inside my heart, I know that I MUST complete my mission! At all costs! This is my promise to Lilly!

But… can I do this? Will I return triumphantly, or will I suffer another devastating defeat? Self-confidence is an attribute I’m hopelessly lacking, probably for the remainder of my life.

Maybe I should give up. My life has been miserable anyway. I don’t see any hope in my future. Lilly deserves a better friend. A more competent friend.

Sorry, Lilly. Sorry Hisao. I’m going to let both of you down. I can’t do that.

I think I’m fainting. My body is lacking energy to continue its operation.



I vaguely hear quick footsteps approaching. Are they junior students who just finished their Saturday morning classes?

The footsteps suddenly stop in front of my room. Oh no! Is the dorm keeper coming to check on me?

“Is she inside?”

The dorm keeper! I recognize her voice!

I don’t want to respond. Well, it’s not like I have the energy to respond anyway.

Will she open the door with the spare key?

But who is she talking to? I don’t hear a reply…

“She is. I hear the breathing.”

WHAT?

*Knock knock knock*

“Hanako?”

I gasp. Isn’t Lilly supposed to come tomorrow? Why is she here?

“Hanako? What’s the matter? Are you alright?”

I’m starting to feel dizzy. Everything I see is blurring. Without enough strength to speak, I can only whisper one last word before darkness absorbs me.

“L-Lilly…”

***********************

Mmm…

“Beep Beep. Beep Beep.”

What’s that sound? Where am I?

I find myself lying on a bed. There’s something covering my nose and mouth. I try to open my eyes; it takes a few tries before my eyelids finally give way.

Am I in a hospital? What happened?

I try to lift my hands, but immediately realize that something is attached to my left hand. There’s a bag of liquid hanging above me. It must be glucose.

“You’re awake, Ikezawa.”

It’s the head Nurse. He removes the device covering my face, allowing me to speak.

“Am I in the h-hospital? What h-happened?”

“You? No, you’re in the back yard of my private villa. We found you lying unconscious in your room. After performing preliminary diagnosis, it is evident that you fainted because of severe hunger. I figured that since you don’t even have the money to buy food, you probably went bankrupt, so I made a deal with the Principal and the Japanese government to repay your debts and purchase you as my housemaid. You’re going to serve me for the rest of your life. Hahaha…”

The Nurse enjoys his own joke at my expense while I search in vain for an appropriate response. A few seconds later, he takes back his laughter and faces me directly from above.

“Jokes aside, you are warned that under no circumstance should you starve yourself to death. This is irresponsible to yourself and the people around you.”

His stern facial expression makes me wince. I reflexively utter the word with the highest frequency of usage from my end…

“S-s-sorry…”

…which I know is also the most useless word ever.

“You were lucky to have Satou and Nakai visiting your dormitory at the right moment, and don’t you also have to thank Yamaku for providing dormkeeping service even on Sundays, eh?”

Upon hearing the word “Sunday”, the beeping machine next to my bed immediately spikes up.

“S-Sundays? Is today S-Sunday?”

The Nurse frowns at my foolish question.

“If you can’t even keep track of the dates, I’ll have no choice but to bring you back to my private garden and train you. If I have one, that is.”

So today is Sunday! Not Saturday! No wonder Lilly came! And, more importantly, I just realized that I haven’t eaten for two days! No wonder I fainted.

I let out a deep sigh. I’m feeling so guilty right now.

I don’t think explaining my situation to the Nurse will do me anything good.

“Are they s-still outside? May I m-meet them?”

The Nurse takes out some chocolate bars.

“Well, yes, but you have to eat these first. Your friends brought them for you.”

Deeply suffering from hunger, and eager to meet my two best friends as soon as possible, I munch down on the chocolate like a mad wolf.

“Your friends surely care for you. You know what? You’re a lucky girl.”

I almost choke my food at that comment.

I’m a lucky girl? I can never agree with that! Not in a million years! Since the accident that permanently changed my life, I’ve convinced myself that I’m one of the world’s unluckiest persons, probably ranking within the top 50.

However, on second thought, maybe he’s at least partially right. If they didn’t come to see me, I probably would have died. The fact that Lilly still treats me as her best friend, despite her having so many friends already, means I do get my fair share of luck. As for Hisao, if he didn’t stop me from exiting the school earlier this year, I can’t imagine where I would’ve been right now.

That said, the fact that I’m still alive means that I’ll have to face that dreadful Miss Yumi assignment in seven days. Once again, I’m not sure if I want to survive.

For now, let’s meet my two best friends.

After I finish eating, the Nurse carefully removes the needle attached to my left arm and applies bandage on the wound. He asks me to press on it for a while and exits the room, leaving me alone in his “back yard”. Well, considering the fact that this is the inner room of his office (I know because I’ve been here for a few times), to say this is his back yard is not completely absurd.

I hear approaching footsteps and the sound of a poking cane. Soon enough, my two ex-classmates appear in front of me, both unsurprisingly worried.

“Hanako, are you here?”

My benefactor leads Lilly towards the bed who, after feeling out my presence, pulls me into a firm embrace. I’m immediately in tears.

“I was worried! Are you alright?”

For one moment, my inner devil returns and tells me that Lilly is just pitying me, but Hisao, seemingly seeing right through me, stares at me with a pair of soft yet authoritative eyes, and I throw that evil idea away at once.

The feeling of guilt towards my two confidants, combined with the fear from the upcoming assignment, causes me to lose control and sob on Lilly’s shoulders, soaking her blouse in the process.

We stayed like that for several minutes in front of a watching Hisao, who briefly left the room but then came back a minute later. Then I finally release, and signal Lilly to sit down next to me. Hisao hands me a handkerchief, which reminds me of his kind gesture back in March. He’s still the nice gentleman I’ve known him for a little more than a year.

“Well, Hanako, we certainly didn’t expect to have our reunion right here in the Nurse’s office, but I just talked to the Nurse, and he said that since today is Sunday, we can stay here for a little while longer. But we probably don’t want to trouble him any further, given that today’s a holiday, and, in addition, I don’t think we want him to eavesdrop our conversation. So, how about we let the Nurse finish up your health check, and we can talk elsewhere. Is it okay for you?”

I certainly don’t want the Nurse to know the reason behind my two-day fasting.

“O-okay.”

***********************

After retreating into my room, I told my two vistors everything about Miss Yumi’s big challenge and my reaction. I briefly considered hiding the truth from them, but quickly decided against it: They came all the way from Chiba just for me, and they saved my life.

Lilly gave me a call last week, saying that she wanted to visit me here on Sunday along with Hisao. She said that it was several months since we last saw each other in Tokyo Disneyland, so it would be great to hold a small reunion before we dive into our respective exams. After the Disneyland visit, she and her parents asked me to assist her in using a computer. I received the computer from her mother, then installed a speech recognition software on it and established an e-mail account for her. I also put braille stickers onto the keyboard so that she can type more easily. We then exchanged e-mails for a while before switching back to phone calls. Even though we still communicate regularly, I am of course delighted to meet my best friend again. I also speculate that their visit might have an ulterior motive. Since Lilly is chosen to speak in the Open Day event, she might have wanted to figure out if I am open to the idea of attending Lilly’s performance. None of us expected the reunion to turn out like this, and now, regardless of whether I choose to be Lilly’s audience or not, I’ll have to attend the Open Day anyway, because I didn’t die.

“Hmm… It is certainly a harsh assignment for you, is it not?”

Lilly looks worried while Hisao plunges deep in thought.

“Well, Lilly. With the situation as it is, I think we should tell her about it.”

“Hmm… You’re right, I guess.”

It seems like my speculation is correct.

“Uhm… Hanako, thanks for being honest to us. We really appreciate it. I guess we should be honest to you as well. In fact, one reason we want to visit you today is…”

I’ll save him an embarrassing moment.

“Y-you two want to invite me to L-Lilly’s Open Day p-performance. Is that r-right?”

Lilly chuckles.

“It appears that I cannot hide anything from my best friend, can I?”

“I knew you w-would like to invite me. I r-really want to go, b-but…”

There’s no need to finish the sentence, as all of us know about the issue. A complete silence follows. None of us knows what to say right now.

A minute later, Hisao shrugs lightly. What does he have in mind?

“Well, Lilly, I guess we could still go on with our plan. With some modifications.”

“I would like to hear more about it, Hisao.”

Hisao turns to face me.

“The thing is, Lilly’s family is coming to watch her performance, and that’s going to include Akira as well.”

“She f-flew from S-Scotland to watch L-Lilly’s performance?”

“Yup. We figured that the two of us alone probably won’t be able to persuade you to attend the recital, but Akira’s presence should bring you more security…”

What Hisao said is probably true. Even though Lilly is my best friend and I feel most secure with her around, she unfortunately has the disadvantage of always being the receiving end of public attention. And while Hisao is a dependable companion, we obviously need to maintain social distance if I don’t want to induce Shizune’s wrath. Akira is the best option for me to go out with in public.

“… So our original plan was, if we say Akira is coming, we’ll significantly increase the probability of you answering our invitation.”

Lilly chuckles again.

“Hisao, I believe that both of us already know how proficient you are in mathematics, that there is no need for you to speak in technical terms in front of us.”

My closest male friend scratches his head.

“Uhm… I’m sorry. I spoke it out of habit. Anyway, now that we know about your therapist’s assignment, we can still continue with our plan. Let me confirm once more. Hanako, your therapist only asked you to attend that lecture, right?”

“Y-yes.”

“Only that lecture. You don’t need to attend the whole program, do you? Then we’ll stick to the schedule before Lilly’s performance. You’re going to follow Akira for the whole day. In the morning, you can do whatever you want with her. You can take a walk in the campus. You can sit in Akira’s car. You can even leave the campus and have some great food. To be honest, I don’t think you need to listen to those introductions; you’ve already determined your major, haven’t you? In the afternoon, we’ll attend Lilly’s performance together. I’ll be there too. I was supposed to demonstrate some experiments to the highschoolers, but I can find a substitute in the afternoon.”

Hisao takes a sip of tea and continues.

“The original plan was to leave the school before the exit gets too crowded, and then we’ll retreat to Lilly’s apartment for dinner. We’re still doing the same, except that we’ll first attend the seminar with you after the performance. I still don’t know what happened to you last year – I’m not going to ask, and you don’t need to tell me – but with so many of us around, it’s virtually impossible for an accident to occur this time around. And if anyone dares to laugh at you or whatever, then that person will have to fight against a whole gang of troops led by Akira, who’s probably the best fighter in our group.”

The last sentence is so funny that both Lilly and I can’t suppress a laugh. He’s probably right by the way. The three of us are disabled, and Lilly’s parents are in their fifties, so Akira should be the most energetic person in the group, followed closely behind by Lilly’s mother.

With my two friends and Akira factored in the equation, the prospect of this visit suddenly becomes much brighter.

“B-but will I b-bother Akira too much?”

“No. I bet she’ll be happy to drive you around the campus looking for nice food. Maybe she’ll find some secret places we haven’t explored yet.”

“That would be excellent! However, I just think of a flaw in your modified plan.”

“Huh? What’s that?”

Lilly’s smiling. Mischievously.

“I am sorry to say that, but I believe that your presence during Hanako’s assignment will be redundant.”

What? Why?

“What do you mean, Lilly?”

Lilly holds out a finger to indicate that she is actually serious.

“Hisao, remember you just appeared on TV one month ago? Do you not realize how many high school students were watching that contest? I have every reason to believe that you are now a famous figure among Japan’s high school students. Will you not attract attention towards our group? I am confident Hanako would not enjoy such attention.”

“Uh…”

Lilly’s words may be a bit too harsh, but she’s probably right. The last thing I want in completing my assignment is to receive attention from strangers.

“Well, Hanako, if you don’t want my presence, it’s fine. You just go with the Satous. But if you do want me around, we’ll both wear masks.”

Mask, huh. Just like what I did in Disneyland.

Even if Hisao wears a mask, his trademark stray hair is still going to expose his identity. As much as I want him with me, I simply cannot risk this.

“Uhm…”

I turn my eyes away from Hisao, trying to find a way to indirectly reject him. He seems to take the hint though.

“It’s fine. I’ll just go back to the Science Department after the performance. I’ll meet you all in the evening.”

“S-sorry…”

“It’s alright. Please, Hanako, study hard and be our schoolmate. We all miss you.”

“T-thank you.”

“Hisao, are you sure you will be fine joining us in the Open Day? Will my cousin not need your help on that day?”

“She’ll okay. I told her I have Department duties, so she already found help elsewhere. Speaking of Shizune…”

Hisao reaches his bag and take out his phone, then gasps.

“Oh, no! My phone is off! The battery must have run out! I’m supposed to text her!”

“You forgot to charge your phone last night, did you not?”

“I must have forgotten! This is bad! I need to go now. I’m actually coming to Yamaku with Shizune, and she’s now with the Student Council. She must be waiting for me right now.”

Really? Did I just occupy his dating time? I’m feeling even more guilty right now!

“No w-worries. T-thank you for everything.”

“Take care. We’ll meet again next Sunday.”

“Sure. Goodbye, Hisao.”

“Bye Hanako. Bye Lilly.”

Hisao hurries to leave the room, and it’s now the two of us. I pour some more tea into Lilly’s teacup. It’s been quite a while since we last had a tea party.

“Hanako, there’s something I would like to give you.”

She reaches her bag and takes out… two seashells?

“We picked these up during the picnic a few weeks ago. Tatsuya helped me choose a few for you. He said these are the most colorful ones. Do you like them?”

They are really colorful! Her friend surely has a great taste.

“Yes. T-thank you! They are r-really beautiful!”

I’ll treasure them! Thanks so much, Lilly!

“Fantastic! By the way, Hanako, there’s something I need to confide to you.”

Huh? Confide to me?

She comes over to sit next to me, and whispers something into my ears.



“WHAT? You did?”

“Yes.”

“How d-did it go?”

“Hmm… I’ll think about it.”

So she said, but she’s smiling all ears.

According to the information I’ve gathered so far, I know that none of my friends nor affiliates are in an official relationship right now. Hisao, Shizune, Miki, Naomi, Natsume, Jun, even Yuuko, none of them. Maybe Lilly will be the first one...

“And by the way, Hanako, there’s something else I’d to tell you.”

She whispers another shocking news into my ears.

“WHAT? No way!”

Another mischievous smile appears on her face as I struggle to respond.

University is definitely an interesting place. Hopefully I’ll experience it in a few months. First of all, though, I need to tackle Miss Yumi’s assignment. Wish me luck.

Chapter 52: Quieres Buscar un Novio
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Fri May 07, 2021 4:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch51 Updated 5 Apr 2021: G-Max Lilly haha!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Wed Apr 14, 2021 5:11 am

Chapter 52: Quieres Buscar un Novio

Ramen? Burger? Rice? Or pasta? Hmm… It’s so hard to decide!

Mindlessly spinning my pen around, I find myself staring blankly at the whiteboard, my mind already teleported to the cafeteria several streets across.

I hate studying~~~~!!!!

Why do I have to study linguistics in my freshman year? Why is the practical training starting in the second year? I want to be a sophomore right now!

After what felt like a million years, the bell rings, and the class is finally OVER! I give my body a nice stretch and proceed to collect my belongings before exiting the lecture hall. My next class will be after lunch near the cafeteria.

As I step out of the building and prepare to head towards lunch, my eyes meet a familiar face.

“<In English> Hi, Daniela~~”

“Hey Misha, how’s it going?”

Huh. Quite surprised to see Daniela here. I know she’s studying business, and she doesn’t have a language-related class this semester, so she shouldn’t appear in this area of the university.

“Aren’t you in the business school~? Do you have a class here~?”

Our dorm rooms are directly opposite to each other, but I don’t see her often because I always go to sleep early at night. I don’t know too much about her except that she has a boyfriend called Fred who lives across the hallway.

My hallmate smiles.

“I’m waiting for my boyfriend. Oh, look, there he is.”

I turn around. That’s strange. I don’t see Fred anywhere.

“Hey there!”

Daniela steps forward and greets the tall boy who I know as Dan with a sweet kiss on his lips as I’m left shell-shocked.

WHAT?

Oh my goodness! She was still dating Fred last week! And now she’s with Dan?

Uh… Okay…

“Hey Misha, how’re you doin’?”

I try my best to appear nonchalant.

“Hi~!! Where are you two going next?”

“Lunch in the cafeteria. How ‘bout you?”

Awwww… I wanna have lunch there too! Well, I don’t want to be a third wheel, so I guess I’ll have to get lunch elsewhere.

“Me? I’m going to grab a sandwich at the fast food shop~!”

“But don’t you have humanities class after lunch? The fast food shop is so far away from there!”

Oh no! I just got caught lying! Now I must cover up my lies.

“Wahahahaha!!! I dunno, I just want to have sandwiches today~!! If my tummy wants to have sandwich, I’ve got to answer its request, right? Right~! Wahahahaha!!!”

“Fair enough. See you in the evening then.”

“Hehehe… Bye~!”

After successfully getting away without causing any suspicions, I turn around towards the fast food shop in order to fulfil my prophecy. Sigh… I really wanna have ramen today~~

Me and my… lying mouth, I guess.

Nah. “Me and my big mouth” is fine. I love eating. Wahahahaha!!!

But what a shocker! Daniela and Dan~! In just one week!! Fred must be heart-broken! It’s going to be awkward when I go back to my room this evening, as all three of them are my hallmates.

Although I’ve been quite used to American culture, being migrated to the States since I was small, this is one thing in the country I will never get used to. Romantic relationships are so volatile here~! I’m still not sure if this is a university-only thing, but why is everyone here swapping partners like changing clothes? I still freshly remember Angel, a girl I got to know during the orientation event. She was so chaste when she just entered university – she scored a whopping 94% in the purity test*! But~! Only two months into college, and she already changed two boyfriends! Needless to say I was shocked when I met her again last week!

As I stroll slowly towards the fast food shop, the words “changing partners” keep haunting me in my head.

While I’m sort of “accusing” my schoolmates for swapping their partners with the blink of an eye, I can’t help but think back to myself.

Was that it?

Was the culture, or idea, of volatile relationships already planted into my veins subconsciously? I never thought about that possibility! When THAT mistake happened, did that kind of mindset urge me into committing such a terrible error?

No. It was my own fault. Even if my “volatile relationship” mindset has affected me, I shouldn’t use that as an excuse. The mistake I committed was a total disrespect towards Shicchan, and it doesn’t matter whether it occurred in America or Japan.

Makes me wonder what Fred is thinking right now.

Why am I thinking so much? I’m supposed to be a simple-minded girl, right? Right~!

“Supposed to be”. Sigh. Sometimes even I myself grow tired of these cover-ups.

Now I’m feeling awkward meeting Shicchan again at Christmas.

In our previous text conversation two weeks ago, Shicchan asked me to come back to spend time with her during winter holiday. I asked if that would get in the way of her Student Council business, but Shicchan just shrugged it off, saying that meeting me is the higher priority.

It’s so rare for her to rank something, or someone, higher than the Student Council. She still trusts me, even though I’ve betrayed her trust before.

Of course, this is only possible because we decided to conceal the truth from Shicchan. I can’t imagine how Shicchan would react if she gets to know what really happened. I know I’m a master of disguise – to say that this is my “disability” might not be exaggerating – but I’m really afraid of somehow spoiling the truth! If that happens, not only my friendship with Shicchan would be over, Hicchan would... No, I MUST keep my lips sealed!

Anyway, let’s keep the status quo for the moment. I’m a simple-minded girl~! Lunch in cafeteria~! Wahahahaha!!!

…except that I’m heading towards the fast food shop. Awwww… I really want to have ramen~~!!

No, I’m not returning to the cafeteria. I definitely don’t want to be a third wheel.

Speaking of third wheel, I wonder if Shicchan will bring Hicchan to our gathering. In the last few months of my Yamaku days, I was like a third wheel between Hicchan and Shicchan, although I think my position was more like a match-maker. It was quite an awkward position in either case.

I wonder how Hicchan and Shicchan are doing. In terms of their relationship.

“May I help you?”

“BEEF RAMEN! Wahahahaha!!!”

“Uh… I’m sorry, we don’t serve ramen here. You have to go to the cafeteria for that.”

“Hehehe… I know I know~~ Chicken sandwich please~~”

***********************

“Phew!”

After putting down my backpack and taking off my “Bush Cheney 2004” shirt in front of my roommate Natalie, I grab my towel and clean clothes and prepare to reward myself with a nice shower after sitting through a barrage of incredibly boring and useless lectures.

“¡Buenas noches! Tough day, huh?” <**Spanish translations at the end>

I sigh heavily and shake my head, causing my bubblegum hair to swing around. I considered keeping my hair short permanently, but after moving to America, I decided to revert to my trademark curly hairstyle, simply because I love it.

“Oh man~! I hate Wednesdays! You know, linguistics, humanities, philosophy, all the boring classes on the same day~~!”

“I feel for you. I also had a rough day, with lectures after lectures.”

I’m about to leave my room for shower when I suddenly remember today’s event. After a long day of boring classes, I totally forgot about it already, and I didn’t see any of the three on my way back.

“Oh, by the way, do you know Daniela and Dan?”

“Daniela and Dan? Of course I know them. What do you mean? Are you saying…?”

“Yep. They’re dating. I saw them together this morning.”

“¿De verdad? ¡Qué sorpresa! Wasn’t she dating Fred?”

Natalie’s from Venezuela, and she has a habit of getting in a few sentences of her mother language while talking. Luckily I know some basic Spanish, or I’ll have to ask her for translations every now and then.

I shrug.

“I was thinking the same question! I can’t believe Daniela managed to change a boyfriend within a week~!”

Natalie shakes her head.

“Sigh… It seems like everybody here is switching and trying out different partners planning for their future marriages. Maybe I need to think about myself as well. ¿Y tú? ¿Quieres buscar un novio?”

I think that translates into “And you? Do you want to find a boyfriend?”

I haven’t told my roommate about my sexual preference yet~. Natalie is actually a pretty girl. She’s slim, cute, and has big eyes. I don’t know why she hasn’t gotten herself a boyfriend yet; maybe she has a high standard? But~! Sadly, I don’t have any feelings for her~~. Actually, since I’ve arrived in America, I haven’t found anybody, boy or girl, who I’ve developed feelings for! I wonder why~~!

“¡No sé! I haven’t found anybody I’m interested in just yet~!”

Natalie looks surprised.

“Really? Nobody? But there are so many boys around!”

She then backs away a bit and stares at me curiously.

“Don’t tell me you’re actually into girls!!”

WOW! She actually guessed it~!! No! I’m not ready to tell her that secret just yet! At least I’m not admitting~!

“Wahahahaha!!! Of course not! I just haven’t found my match, that’s all~~”

Natalie laughs.

“Haha!! No worries! ¡Estoy bromeando! Hmm… Actually, guess what? Maybe we’re facing the same issue.”

“Issue?”

“Sí. You know I’m from Venezuela. Do you know why I haven’t found myself a boyfriend yet? It’s probably because the only boys I’ll fall in love with are my countrymen. Or at least South American. ¿Eres japonesa, no? I’ll bet you can only find true love with a Japanese.”

Countrymen huh. I never thought about that~!

“Hmm~~ I guess you have a point, Natalie. I’ll think about it in the shower. See you in a minute~~”

I wave Natalie bye and head towards the bathroom. Unload my belongings onto the basket. Enter the shower. Hot water~~!!!



Natalie’s reasoning is quite interesting. Although in my case, the logic can be further narrowed down from “Japanese” to “a particular person”. Whenever I see somebody, I tend to subconsciously compare him or her to Shicchan. No wonder I don’t find anybody attractive! Shicchan is just so good~~!!!



Maybe I can make an argument for Hicchan as well~~. I like him~~ I do like him~~ But I cannot betray Shicchan anymore! Sigh.

Natalie’s words keep ringing over my head. “¿Quieres buscar un novio?”

¿Quiero buscar un novio? Or “una novia”? Hmm… Let’s assume my partner isn’t Shicchan or Hicchan. Can I find anybody here to spend the rest of my life in America with? Or, if I want a Japanese instead, I’ll need to go back to Japan to find one…

…which will be two months away, although I doubt I can find one within a few days.

Hey! I’m a simple-minded girl! I shouldn’t overthink things, right? Right~!

Hot water for shower~~!!! Yay!!!

***********************

Natalie greets me in our room after I finish cleaning myself.

“¡Hola! I forgot to ask you: Friday is Halloween! And no school next day as well! ¿Qué quieres hacer? I think I’m going to party hard.”

Halloween? Yup, I’ve got my plans already~! I planned it way back from last year!

“Wahahahaha!!! I’m going to a cosplay party~! I’ll bring a broom and a hat and make myself a witch! Isn’t it awesome? Wahahahaha!!!”

Natalie bursts into laughter.

“Interesting! You’ll look fabulous in your witch outfit! Definitely wear your costume in front of me. I’ll take pictures of you!”

“No problem~!”

“By the way, they’re holding a party downstairs right now. Do you wanna go? Maybe you can even grab a boyfriend! I’m going.”

“Nah. I promised Shicchan to text her tonight~.”

“Ah~~! Shicchan. ¿Tu amiga, no? ¡Vale, vale! I’ll be late. You sleep first. No need to wait for me, okay?”

“¡Vale! See you tomorrow~~”

“¡Hasta luego!”

Alright! With Natalie gone, let’s find Shicchan online~. It’s now eight o’clock. Shicchan should be awake by now. We only have around half an hour to talk.



{<Janapese, obviously> Hi~~}

{Hey there.}

Let’s start with her favorite topic~.

{How’s Student Council?}

{Great! It’s already been more than two weeks since we got our hands on the club, and we’re already on our way to implement most of our plans!}

{Haha… What’s the first plan you’ve implemented?}

{Distribute the goodies, of course. The tests and exams are coming up, so the students will need food and drinks to study overnight. We first try to obtain their full support, then, when we gather enough forces, we’ll proceed to dominate all the clubs and become the dictator of the school!}

Yup, that’s the Shicchan I’ve known since Yamaku.

{Wahahahaha!!! I’m glad you’re happy with your job over there.}

{How about you? Halloween is coming soon. Any plans?}

{Yup, as I mentioned, I’ll wear a witch costume for the school’s cosplay party!}

{Send me your photos, will you?}

{Of course! I’ll have my roommate Natalie do that for me. How about you? Any Halloween events for the Student Council?}

{We’re going to hold a festival, similar to the ones in Yamaku. We don’t want to hold another party because we discovered that most of the other clubs are holding parties themselves, so we might as well make something different. We did a survey before the elections, and found out that the number of students who love parties is lower than expected. On the other hand, many students love the idea of a festival, in which you can play games, buy food, chill out, and relax, instead of just loud music and alcohol. For the Halloween event, we’ll include more stalls that fit the theme, but otherwise the festival will be similar to Yamaku’s.}

{I think that’s a great idea, Shicchan. In America all we have here are parties after parties and beer after beer. I’ve lost interest in them already.}

{I can feel for you. I promise, we’ll have fun when you return to Japan.}

Christmas, huh. The visit that I’m feeling quite awkward about.

{What are we going to do in Japan?}

{Let’s go on a trip. Maybe Kyoto? Or Okinawa? Hokkaido is also fine if you don’t mind the cold.}

{Hmm… Okay~! Okay okay~~!! Anywhere is fine~~ Just bring me somewhere with great food, and I’ll be happy!}

{We’ll make the plans later. After I’m done with this month’s Student Council work. By the way, I need to discuss something important with you.}

{Uh huh. Sure.}

{I’m starting to think, maybe what you said earlier was right.}

{Huh? What do you mean?}

{Remember last week I told you about the room escape tester thing?}

{Oh I remember! You and Hicchan were invited to test out the Halloween room escape game made by the current Yamaku Student Council! How did it go?}

{The room itself was well made! They employed a lot of clever tricks in the design! I think it will be a success on Friday. But the point is not the room escape itself.}

{Uh huh?}

{Guess what happened after I escaped the room?}

{Uh… the Student Council made a surprise for you?}

{Surprise is right, but not the Student Council. It was the boy! He was supposed to be my fellow tester, wasn’t he? It was not until I finally escaped from the room that I was told the boy had already gone!}

{He was gone? Did he beat your time?}

{Beat my time? Hmph! If he did, I wouldn’t need to discuss with you! It turned out he had given up half an hour ago, because he received an urgent phone call. Guess who needed medical attention?}

{Uh… no idea.}

{You had no idea either, huh. Yamanashi helped me ask his classmates for the boy’s whereabouts. A while later, he reported to me that a tall long-haired girl was sent to the medical room through a stretcher, and accompanying her onto the ambulance was a tall girl with blonde hair. Ring any bells?}

{Hmm… Licchan and Ikezawa?}

{Bingo! I didn’t know how in the world my cousin would call the boy, but apparently he left me behind to visit Ikezawa. And then his phone was turned off, so I couldn’t even talk to him. I decided to leave Yamaku alone in the end.}

{Didn’t you visit them in the medical room?}

{I considered it briefly, but ultimately I thought it wasn’t the right action to take.}

Sigh. It seems like their relationship is still pretty unstable.

{Maybe Licchan happened to notice you two in Yamaku while she visited Ikezawa?}

{It could be the case, but it’s much more likely that when the boy accompanied me to Yamaku, his secret second mission was to visit Ikezawa with my cousin. And somehow that weakling managed to get herself into trouble.}

{Hmm~~ It is possible. If what you said is true, then he had every reason to hide his second mission from you.}

{Anyway, he later apologized to me, saying that his phone ran out of battery. That’s okay. But I’m actually thinking, what you said way back in February was quite right.}

{Uh… What did I say again?}

{Remember what you told me in my room? You mentioned that the boy’s getting along with a bunch of lady friends. You asked me to treasure him, and if I keep pondering, I’m going to miss the chance.}

{Yup. I remember that.}

{I tell you. You were absolutely right back then. A few months ago, we visited Yamaku along with his two Tokyo friends. During that trip, I noticed the boy already taking a liking to Miura. A month ago, the boy introduced another girl to work in the tutorial center. I remember her name. She was the one who wrote a letter to the boy that we secretly looked at its content before delivering to him.}

{Oh I remember! The letter with pink ink, wasn’t it?}

{You’re right. She was probably his ex-girlfriend. And now they’re working in the same place. In front of me. Who knows what will happen between them next?}

{Then isn’t it obvious? You have to take action right now!}

{I don’t know… He’s surrounded by so many girls right now… I’m hesitant.}

{Hmm… I see what you mean. Are you saying that even if you two get into a relationship, you’re not sure if it will stay?}

{Sort of. I can’t blame him, as I was the one who encouraged him to make more friends. I just didn’t expect him to get along with his friends so well.}

That’s Shicchan in a nutshell. Pulls others towards her, and pushes them away. I can feel for Hicchan. Being Shicchan’s boyfriend must be really hard!

{So, what are you plans right now?}

{I don’t know. I’m thinking of giving up. You know, I have Student Council to work on, and I don’t think I can manage a relationship very well especially with such a huge responsibility to bear. I can still deal with relationships and marriage issues after I enter the society.}

Their situation is getting even more complicated!

{Hmm… Have you talked to Hicchan yet?}

{No. To be honest, we haven’t been communicating much recently. There’s Student Council. There’s the Open Day. We’ve been pretty busy these days.}

That’s not an excuse at all, and I’m sure she knows it.

{You’ve got to talk to him! Try to find a time to put down your work and find him!}

There’s a minute of pause before the textbox is updated again.

{Uhm… Actually… What I’m going to say might be a big surprise to you, but…}

Huh?

{…Misha, I know. You like him, don’t you? You can try. I’m not officially in a relationship with him, so he is up for grabs.}

WHAT?

My mouth is blown wide open after seeing the message on the screen.

NO! How can I betray Shicchan again? I hurry to type a rejection.

{No! I cannot!}

{Why? Are you afraid of me? No need. You have my consent.}

Wait! It’s… It’s just nonsense!

{Don’t do that, Shicchan! No! Why in the world? Cool down!}

I don’t even know what I’m typing. The only thing I want to do right now is to stop her foolish idea.

{I’ve thought about it for quite a while. I think what I’m doing is the best for all of us. I give up the relationship to focus on the Student Council. He doesn’t have to wait for me anymore, and gets a chance to try other partners. You can’t find a partner in America, can you? Well, you have a chance to try the boy. It’s the best solution! I can’t think of anything better than this!}

Her words are so logically correct but so ridiculous at the same time! And there’s a bit of sarcasm in it too! No, Shicchan, this is not what you want, is it?

What should I do right now? Somebody help me!

It’s true that I like Hicchan, but even if I want to date him, I don’t want to do it at the expense of Shicchan! That mistake was just a one-time stupidity! If, let’s say, they get into an official relationship again and then break up, then maybe I can consider trying. But what Shicchan suggests is just so wrong!

What a mind-blowing statement from Shicchan!

Keep cool, Misha~! Shicchan is in trouble. If I can’t help her, who can?

Let’s buy myself some time.

{Give me some time to think.}



I’m generally a simple-minded happy girl, but in this particular situation, I need to think hard. I need to give Shicchan an appropriate answer!

I close my eyes and attempt to concentrate. I need to pull her out of this. I did it once last year, so I know it’s not impossible. I have to show Shicchan my resolve!

Let’s figure this whole thing out.

For almost three years of my Yamaku life, I was acting as Shicchan’s interpreter. Due to Shicchan’s dominating personality and the technical difficulty of adding my own words while translating for Shicchan, I allowed myself to become like an empty shell, only relaying (and agreeing with) Shicchan’s ideas without processing it myself – I think it is called “critical thinking”. Licchan told me once that I’ve become Shicchan’s sycophant, which was some harsh words from her but is probably true. Yes, I’ve even sacrificed my own grades for Shicchan’s sake. However, Hicchan’s joining of our little Student Council group changes everything, especially after he proposed to Shicchan. She has another person to translate her sign language and spend time with, so I can start being my own self again. I started to have my own ideas and considerations, and stopped agreeing with her all the time. I started to pick up my grades. This is why I managed to study here in America.

I’m feeling so embarrassed right now. Before she left the Yamaku Student Council, Licchan actually warned me about my total obedience towards Shicchan enlarging her ego and hurting me in the process. I never listened to her. She was right after all! If I had accepted her advice, I wouldn’t have to wait until Hicchan’s arrival to start picking up my grades again. I heard from Hicchan that she’s now using e-mail. Maybe I’ll send an e-mail to thank her.

This morning, I thought about my relationship with Shicchan. I had a tendency of comparing everybody around me to Shicchan. Now that I think about it, I don’t know! Shicchan is awesome, sure, and I’d glad to be a close friend of her, but maybe I shouldn’t make Shicchan my standard of choosing a partner! Actually, I’m not sure if I want to be in a relationship with someone like Shicchan now, because if I do that, I would certainly lose my own self again! Being in a romantic relationship with Shicchan or someone like Shicchan is not healthy for me at all! On the other hand, Hicchan can be Shicchan’s boyfriend alright because unlike me, he won’t get controlled by Shicchan. Hicchan is definitely the best match for Shicchan, because they benefit each other.

Oh! I see! This is why despite having so many female friends, Hicchan’s still not in a relationship! Hicchan MUST have realized who he really needs as a girlfriend, so he’s willing to wait for Shicchan even though it’ll take him ages!

Yes! I finally understand! This is also the way to answer Natalie’s question! She asked me if I want to find a boyfriend or not. I must first figure out what kind of boyfriend or girlfriend I really need! Shicchan is not the one I need as a partner. Hicchan… I’ll have to think about it, but I’d say he’s probably not either! Is my partner an American or a Japanese? I don’t know, but it’s not the key issue. The more important issue here is: If I don’t know what I need, how am I going to be ready for a relationship?

And the same must be true for Shicchan as well! I can finally give an appropriate response to her ridiculous offer!

Shicchan, I cannot agree with you all the time! Misha is Misha, Shicchan is Shicchan. Misha likes Shicchan, but will never obey her without thinking things through. When Shicchan is in trouble, Misha will help!

{No, you’re absolutely wrong, Shicchan! I’m very serious. You MUST listen to me!}

{…Why? I’ve never heard something like that from you…}

{Yup. Shicchan, I’m 100% sure Hicchan’s not in love with anybody else, and I am NOT in love with Hicchan either. Trust me.}

{Why are you so sure?}

{Don’t ask. You’ll understand later. Go, talk to Hicchan. You two need to sit down and talk. Put down your Student Council tasks and find him.}

{…But… I’m… not ready yet…}

Are you so not used to talking to him already? Seriously? It’s only been a month!

{If this week is too busy, do that after you’re done with the tasks. Stop thinking about your crazy ideas and TALK TO HIM!! If you don’t do that, I’m NOT coming back for the winter break!}



{…Okay, okay. I’ll prepare for it. I need to work on the stalls now. See you later.}

She goes offline before I can respond. I think she gets my message.

Am I too angry? I think I just slapped her on her face online. However, I’m very happy I actually did that. I hope this is for everybody’s benefit.

I shut down my computer and lie on the bed, but I don’t think I can sleep. Well, maybe I can think about the question I’ve left for myself: What kind of boyfriend or girlfriend do I really need?


Notes:
*Purity test: For those who don’t know, in many American universities, freshmen who enter the orientation are usually asked to take the purity test consisting of a list of (usually 100) true-false questions about your “purity”, such as “have you ever kissed someone underwater”. The lower your test score, the more “contaminated” you are. The lowest score I have witnessed was 13, although I’m pretty sure a score of zero should exist somewhere in the world.

**Providing Spanish translations mid-story would be too annoying to read, so I write them down here.
“¡Buenas noches! = Good evening!
¿De verdad? ¡Qué sorpresa! = Really? That’s surprising!
¡No sé! = I don’t know!
¡Estoy bromeando! = I’m joking!
Sí = Yes
¿Eres japonesa, no? = Aren’t you a Japanese (girl)?
¿Quiero buscar un novio? = Do I want to find a boyfriend?
una novia = a girlfriend
¡Hola! = Hi!
¿Qué quieres hacer? = What do you want to do?
¿Tu amiga, no? = Your (lady) friend, isn’t it?
¡Vale, vale! = Okay, okay!
¡Hasta luego! = See you later!

Chapter 53: Stellar Performance
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Mon May 10, 2021 6:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch52 Updated 14/4/2021: Misha's Resolve!! (Ch53@90%)]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Mon May 10, 2021 6:08 am

Chapter 53: Stellar Performance

*Cluck*

*Glug glug*

*Ah~~~~*

Man, this hits the spot!

Yup. A beer a day keeps the troubles away. This is always going to be my personal motto. With just one dose of beer, you temporary forget about all the pressure from work and from facing the folks. Beer, hands-down the best drink in the world.

From the driving seat, I see two girls coming out from the elevator. Left, tall blonde with cane; right, long-haired girl with a lock of hair partially hiding her right eye. They’re finally here. I don’t expect them to be early, but 8:25 is really tight. I wonder what keeps them so long. If we want to arrive at half past eight, I’ll definitely have to step up a few gears. Literally.

“Yo, lils.”

“Akira! It’s so nice to see you again!”

Lils is wearing the same dress as the one on her graduation day: A pure white dress with golden fringes, decorated with yellow ribbons, is a perfect display of feminine elegance. Hanako’s wearing the birthday present I gave her a few months ago: Dark green shirt and dark blue trousers are exactly what she desires – look as ordinary as possible. She’s also wearing a mask, which I think is a smart move on her part.

“C’mon, hop into the car quick, or we’ll be late. Yo, Hanako.”

“G-good morning, A-Akira.”

Hanako. The person other than lils who makes my trip enjoyable. According to the plan, I’ll spend the whole day with her and assist her with completing a brutal assignment. This is going to be rough. Let’s hope for the best.

Without further ado, both girls quickly get into position, with Lilly sitting next to me in the front and Hanako at the back. I release the brakes, change the gear, and prepare to show off my high-speed driving in front of the girls while praying that I don’t bump into the police.

“So, how do you feel about speaking Japanese again after missing it for four months?”

“Hey lils, we’ll talk in the evening. If I don’t concentrate on driving, you’ll most likely be late for your preparations.”

With a chuckle from her, we blitz through the first set of traffic lights on our way towards the university.

***********************

“This is probably the closest spot to the English Department. I’ll drop you off here. Don’t disappoint us in the afternoon.”

“Thank you so much, Akira. I will assure you of an adequate performance.”

“Attagirl. See you later.”

Lils gets off from the car, and I invite Hanako to sit in the front. Now that I can see her more clearly, she’s obviously looking very nervous.

I haven’t had many chances to talk to Hanako since the day I got to know her a little less than two years ago. The first few times I saw her were when I visited lils in her dormitory. She was almost completely silent every time, only listening to the two of us chatting. I did find her a bit strange at first, but later I realized that this girl would probably make a good friend of my little sister, at least way better than the Student Council duo. My observation turned out to be correct, as they eventually became best friends. Then, a week before lils and I flew to Scotland, I joined her mini birthday party, bringing two bottles of alcohol for the girls to enjoy. That was the first time I saw her smiling. After drinking a bit of wine, she eventually got dizzy, and I had to escort her back to her room. After migrating to Scotland, I can’t meet them in person unless I fly back to Japan, so my major means of connection with the two of them are phone calls. In November, we met again here in Kasshoku for the Open Day event, when that tragic accident happened. I personally witnessed how serious her condition is: Let’s say it’s on par with Lilly’s blindness. After the accident, her condition worsened, and all hopes seemed to be lost after she failed her Mock Exams. The situation completely changed four months later, however, when I returned to Yamaku for lils’ graduation: We witnessed the miracle of Hanako being accepted as a fourth year. Since then, her social anxiety condition has slowly improved, thanks to the recovery program organized by her therapist. Another four months later, we met again in a hotel for her 19th birthday party, and thanks to Hisao’s careful planning, I was glad to see her in her best mood ever.

Today, however, won’t be as happy as her birthday party. After receiving the assignment from her therapist, Hanako starved herself for two days and eventually fainted. She was saved only because lils decided to visit her dormitory. That was really scary. I’m quite nervous about being her travel partner today, especially given how the last trip to Kasshoku went. I thought about dropping this hot potato, but ultimately changed my mind after realizing that escorting Hanako is a much better proposal for me than staying with my parents without lils’ presence. Luckily for me, her assignment comes in the afternoon after the recital, so I’ll have my sister around at that point.

“Are you feeling nervous, Hanako? Let’s relax for a bit. We can go to the park nearby and take a walk.”

Eager to leave her school of disaster as soon as possible, I’m about to make a U-turn towards the exit when Hanako sticks out a hand on the steering wheel.

“I w-want to attend the information s-sessions.”

HUH?

“W-w-what? Are you serious?”

The girl sitting next to me gives me a defiant nod. Her body is shaking, but her eyes look extremely determined. Now I’m REALLY nervous.

“Why d’you want to sit through those lectures? You don’t have to do that.”

My companion closes her eyes and takes a deep breath before answering.

“If I’m s-scared of them, I w-won’t be able to attend any c-classes here.”

So she’s trying to combat her Kasshoku fear! It doesn’t look like a spur-of-the-moment decision. Did she make up her mind beforehand?

I admire her bravery, but this is so risky. Traveling in a crowded place is already a dangerous mission for her, but attending the lectures makes the situation even more precarious. On the other hand, how can I afford to pour cold water into Hanako’s red-hot ambitions?

I need to tread very meticulously.

“Are you sure you’ll be fine?”

“P-please sit on my right s-side during the l-lectures.”

To hide her scars, huh. That’ll help.

“Sure. If you need anything while attending the classes, just whisper to me, okay?”

Hanako nods, and, after finding a place to park my car, we set off towards the Journalism Department. I wonder if Mom paid a visit there when she accompanied lils to school in the first month she studied here.

Our destination is not too far away: only a ten-minute walk, passing by the administration building. While we’re walking, Hanako is constantly shaking, so I have to distract her by talking about lils and making fun of her late-rising problem. Sorry pal.

“Oh no.”

As if things aren’t complicated enough, when we pass by the administration building, our eyes meet a familiar figure. A short, smart-looking, sharp-eyed relative of mine, wearing a set of formal dressing that shows off her curvature to the uttermost (I’m not jealous, definitely not), and holding a box with both hands. Considering her relationship with lils and Hanako, we might run into some big trouble if I initiate a talk with her. On the other hand, we cannot simply ignore her either.

I have to stay calm. I’ve been working in Dad’s company for a few years. Handling this situation should be a piece of cake for me.

I wave her hi and briefly consider taking out a piece of paper when I suddenly remember what Hisao told me about her, so I speak to her directly.

“Yo! It’s been quite some time, huh.”

With her hands full, and knowing that we won’t be able to interpret what she’s signing anyway, she simply nods at me and Hanako, who gently nods back.

Keep things generic. Don’t say anything that causes trouble. Praise others if possible. These are my lessons learned from the job environment.

“Busy with Student Council work, aren’t you? I got the news. Vice President huh. Congratulations.”

She smiles proudly while adjusting her glasses, holding the box with one hand in the process; her aura of self-confidence never ceases to amaze me. She then puts down her box and points a finger at Hanako, who flinches at the sudden gesture.

I’m sweating. No, please don’t make a fight here.

My cousin moves on to make a gesture of reading a book and writing frantically, followed by a gesture of coming, and, finally, pointing to the ground. I hope this translates into a friendly statement. No, I HAVE to translate it into a friendly statement!

“Are you asking Hanako to study hard and get into Kasshoku next year?”

Shizune nods, then gestures an “okay” sign while tilting her head as if asking for a reply. There’s obviously no need for translations on this one, and I’m glad that my previous translation worked.

Hanako takes a deep breath before replying Shizune with a defiant nod. This is the second time I’ve seen this gesture from her today. The Vice President smiles in approval, then, to my surprise, invites Hanako to a handshake. Hanako hesitates for a bit, but ultimately accepts. Shizune then picks up the box, waves us goodbye, and walks her own way.

Good job, cousin. You just displayed a stellar performance by not picking up a fight in public against someone you don’t like. You’ve definitely grown.

I think about the photo of the three Yamaku Student Council members holding a festival together. It’s still in my wallet. Maybe some time later I’ll share this with the girls. Obviously not today.

We arrive at the Journalism Department unscathed. After picking up the leaflet, we proceed to enter the classroom of the first session, trying to get there as early as possible in order to pick a better seat and avoid the crowd. We manage to occupy the seats at the far-right corner of the classroom, where the chance of her getting noticed is minimal. We take our respective seats, then Hanako rummages through her bag and, to my surprise, takes out her notebook and pen!

Is she really going to take notes? Or is she just pretending to do so?

Students start to file in the venue as Hanako focuses herself on scribbling on her notebook… *take a little peek* seems to be some revision schedule. Good move. You can hide most of your face while making the impression to others that you’re a hardworking student.

The professor enters the classroom and starts his boring speech. It’s been such a long time since I attended a lecture in a classroom! Unlike Mom, I’ve absolutely no interest in journalism, so, without even bothering what the topic of the lecture is, I decide to read a book to kill time. Manga, to be specific, but I use a book cover to hide the front page so that as long as I’m sitting in the back row, nobody will know what I’m reading. I prepared my manga for Hanako’s assignment in the afternoon, but since she chose lectures over enjoying a car ride with me, I have to use this secret weapon in advance. It’s a bummer that I cannot laugh out loud while reading though.

As the lecturer drones on and the manga is getting consumed, I can see Hanako writing on her notebook frantically. She’s really serious about it.

What’s wrong with her? First she stopped me from leaving the school, then she brings out her notebook and takes notes from the lectures. Has she planned everything beforehand? I’m impressed. Especially considering that she fainted after receiving the assignment.

The first lecture finally ends after I’m done with three-quarters of the manga. Hanako is still writing as everybody else starts exiting the classroom. I learned from lils that in Yamaku she usually leaves around five minutes before the end of classes, and teachers are already used to her latency. The same obviously cannot be done in Kasshoku. What is she going to do? I put away my manga and patiently wait for her next action without saying anything.

She keeps on writing, then, after all students are gone, takes several glances around the classroom, and, after making sure nobody’s around, swiftly collects her belongings and whispers my name. By this point I already have a good idea on what she’s doing, so I cooperate. We get up and quickly exit the classroom. Then she takes the lead and walks briskly towards another classroom in an attempt to find the best possible seats while the students are taking a break. Thanks to her smart planning, and, since there’s a fifteen-minute interval between the information sessions, we manage to secure the far-right corner for ourselves again.

I wonder if this will be her survival method if she does get accepted into Kasshoku. It will be very tiring. She’ll need to look for the shortest paths between classrooms and plan her daily routine beforehand. It’s going to be so stressful, possibly even harder than my work.

Sigh. Having a disability is such a disadvantage in your life. Look no further than lils for a typical example. Even though she’s been finding ways to mitigate her sole weakness, life is still going to be unfairly tough on her. The recent university discrimination incident is most likely just the tip of an iceberg. When you come out to work… well, I seriously doubt if lils can even find a job in the first place. Dad once told us that a reason he has to work so hard, to the point of risking a heart failure, is to set up a trust fund for lils, so that she can survive with affluence even if she cannot make a living by herself. As nasty as his statement sounded, if you think logically you have to admit that he does have a point. Seriously, what school would hire a blind teacher who cannot even read her students’ hand-written homework? And even though she’s pretty and elegant and rich, who would, other than possibly another disabled, be willing to marry someone who can’t even distinguish between black and white? And, ridiculously enough, the blindness is not even lils’ fault to begin with.

If even my sister’s case is so bad that her father is willing to risk near-death just to give her a passable life, then Hanako… I can’t imagine how she managed to survive until this point. Parents gone. Permanently scarred. Constantly the target of bullying. Post-trauma mental issues. It’s like when you play Mahjong, and you’re dealt with non-consecutive numbered tiles of each suit every game, and whatever tile you discard this turn, you draw back the same tile next turn every time. Or when you play Bridge, and every time you’re dealt with cards lower than eight in all 13 cards, every game. You just don’t want to play any more. If I were Hanako, I probably would’ve given up life already. The fact that she’s still fighting against the odds is admiring, but, sarcastically enough, she’s fighting a losing battle. The one fortunate factor for her is she still has lils to fight alongside her.

If they didn’t have their respectively disabilities, how different will their lives be! But then they wouldn’t be such close friends either. Well, the reality is they’re disabled, and there’s no way to change that, so might as well try as hard as possible.

Halfway into the second lecture, I’ve already finished my manga. Luckily, here comes another one! I predicted that I might need more than one of these, so I prepared in advance. Maybe I can read one with Hanako during the lunch break, so that she can relax a little bit after a tiring morning session.

***********************

After attending three of the information sessions, we retreated to the car and had lunch at a sushi restaurant a few kilometers away from the school. It took me quite a while to convince her not to pay; she probably doesn’t want to owe anybody anything. We then read some manga together in the car before meeting up with my parents at the English Department. We’re now sitting in the back row of the lecture hall, listening to boring speeches again. Seriously, just let my sister in!

“Up next, our first-year student, Lilly Satou, will perform recitals on three famous short poems in English. Please enjoy.”

Finally! Thank goodness!

A big applause follows as my younger sister gracefully makes her way from the backstage to the spotlight without using a cane. She probably practiced this walk countless times. Even though lils is never ashamed of herself being unable to see, using a cane in the middle of a performance is simply awkward and will lose her a lot of first impression points.

“This is it, Hanako. I’m excited. How ‘bout you?”

“Me t-too.”

Lils makes a deep bow towards the audience. The projector screens behind her display the text of the first recital, both in English and translated Japanese, along with background pictures for support.

It looks like the first poem is about daffodils. Suits her quite well, given the dress she’s wearing. Her attire today must have been planned beforehand.

C’mon, lils. You’ve got this.
==== The Daffodils (I wandered lonely as a cloud), by William Wordsworth ====

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Not a fan of poems, and can’t appreciate them, but I still enjoy the beautiful voice of my younger sister. I’m impressed: Even though she is facing a huge crowd and is under big pressure, she doesn’t sound nervous at all.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
Given how much I “love” literature, I would certainly take out my manga if the person on the stage was not lils. But she is, so I keep my eyes fixed on the stage.

Truth be told, she’s really good at this. Hanako told me she practiced this for hundreds of times, and I can say her effort has surely paid off. Now I wish I could sit in the front row instead, but, of course, I need to accommodate Hanako.
The wave beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
From the top row of the lecture hall, I can see that lils has drawn attention to almost everybody, if not everybody here. Even some of the students who were playing games stopped playing (the Open Day could be a mandatory school assignment for them, so they have to attend even though they have no interest in entering the school). I’m sure quite a few boys here will fall in love with her, possibly considering getting into the English Department just to get close to her, especially if they manage to know that she’s single.
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Lils bows to her spectators, signaling the end of the first poem. Everybody in the hall responds with applause. Hanako’s clapping happily as well. She must be feeling proud of her best friend.

One down, two to go. I’m supporting you, lils.

When the second poem shows up on the screen, I have a feeling that lils might have chosen this by herself.
==== On His Blindness, by John Milton ====

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
I like how this poem fits her: Not only does it obviously refer to her blindness, but it also links to her Catholic background. I wonder if any of the students here manages to figure out her secret of being blind.
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.” His state

Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.
Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, huh. I’m not exactly a religious person, so I don’t want to comment too much on the text, but it is always encouraging to hear that no matter how much deficit in life you’re in, just do your best and run your own race, and everything will supposedly be fine. I wish lils and Hanako all the best after I return to Scotland.

Another huge applause follows after Lilly bows to the audience again.

Let’s see what her third recital is.
==== Invictus, by William Ernest Henley ====

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
What an interesting pick!
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Wow. Just wow. Fabulous. Rich body language. Fluent English. Beautiful voice. A strong will and determination. Everything about this recital is mesmerizing. Mom is watching intently while holding Dad’s hand. Even Dad is nodding his head in approval.

Wait, did she recite this poem with her discrimination incident in mind?
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
My sister pauses for a second, then, brimming with confidence, takes a deep breath, spreads her hands wide and finishes her performance of the day with two final statements.
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
Subarashī! (Excellent!)”

A man sitting in the first row rises to his feet, and soon everybody in the hall follows suit. A thunderous clap ensues. Dad and Mom are, needless to say, absolutely thrilled with her performance. What a powerful finish!

I turn to Hanako, who’s clapping as hard as she can. She actually removed her mask! Why did she do that?

The clap continues for about a minute before lils finally steps down from the stage, leaving the rest of the session to the moderators. After that, seriously, I don’t think anybody really listens to whoever is on the stage. Everybody is still stunned by my sister’s stellar performance. In fact, I can see a lot of students murmuring to each other while the staff on the stage is still talking. Perhaps sensing that Lilly has already advertised the department well enough, to the point that there’s no need to continue his speech, the staff quickly wraps up the session and invites the audience to thank Lilly once again with a round of applause.

Judging from the crowd’s reaction, I’ll be surprised if a Lilly fan club doesn’t get established tonight. If she hasn’t gotten herself famous from the discrimination incident already, today certainly will.

I’m so proud of you, sis.

***********************

Finally, here it is. We have to face it now. It’s Hanako’s assignment.

Unfortunately, lils’ plan of accompanying Hanako in person didn’t work out because she was immediately surrounded by congratulating school staff and classmates after the session, and it would be too impolite for her to run away from them. So I’ll have to help Hanako with her task without Lilly’s presence. Which is scary.

I feel my blood pressure increasing. I don’t want to suffer a heart attack like Dad did back in Scotland.

Since the walk from the English Department to the Journalism Department takes as many as fifteen minutes, we decide to run the distance so that we can, for the last time of the day, occupy the far-right corner of the venue. Right after exiting the English Department, the two of us make a dash towards that lecture hall while Dad, accompanied by Mom, slowly walks behind us. We get off a good start on the assignment – the lecture hall is empty when we arrive. Hanako promptly goes for the corner, and I occupy the seat next to her on the right. I also reserve the two seats in front of us for my parents; this way, she is guaranteed to be shielded in every major direction. I find this formation pretty funny: This looks like chess, in which the king, after castling, is shielded by the castling rook and the pawns in front of him. Um… No, I’m not implying that Dad and Mom are pawns and I’m a rook, but, well, you get the idea.

Students start filling in, and my parents eventually arrive fifteen minutes later, after I finished my third manga. Haha, I still have a fourth! I’m well-prepared, baby! As a side note, Mom confirmed to me that she did visit the Journalism Department when she accompanied lils to school in April, so she was able to find her way here.

I turn to Hanako. She’s taking out her notes again! Wow, she’s determined to take this assignment head-on! I was about to suggest her to either sleep it through or read some of my manga, or maybe put on an earplug, but she has other ideas.

For the last time of the day, the lecturer arrives, and once again we have a boring speech. Hanako’s writing. Mom’s also writing; I don’t know why she’s taking notes – that kind of stuff should be too elementary for her. Dad’s listening, most probably out of courtesy. And I'm really tired. The dim light of the lecture hall, an unexciting topic, the sushi in my stomach, everything seems to be hypnotizing me. My eyelids start to fall, and soon after I lose consciousness.



*Claps*

The sound of clapping wakes me up from deep sleep. How long have I been asleep?

Where’s my manga? Oh… It fell to the ground. Pick it up. Fortunately I hid it in a book cover, or the one sitting next to me would notice that I was not listening. Heck, I was sleeping all along, so I wasn’t listening anyway.

I take a look at Hanako. She’s shaking with nervousness, but it looks like nothing is out of ordinary. Well, if anything went wrong, I’m sure either Hanako or my parents would have woken me up. The fact that I was allowed to sleep means that everything was fine.

Phew. The boring lecture is finally over! The assignment is over! My task is done! To be honest, I didn’t really do anything, but maybe that’s enough. Now we just need to leave the hall, and we’re good.

Sometimes sleeping through is the best way to deal with problems. Lesson learned.

I whisper to my neighbor.

“Are you alright, Hanako? Sorry I fell asleep.”

Probably realizing that her assignment is complete, Hanako gives me a weak smile and whispers back.

“It’s o-okay.”

Once again, we wait until all the students are gone before making our way out. Perhaps trying to avoid the bus lines and return home sooner, the venue is almost empty within a minute. It’s probably time for us to go as well.

Then I notice a male student approaching the speaker, asking him some questions. Since he has his back turned towards us, the only thing I can see about him is a bit of stray hair sticking to the side.

Wait. Isn’t that Hisao?

Looking more in detail, he’s definitely Hisao!

He’s not in the Journalism Department. Why is he asking the speaker questions? He shouldn’t have anything to do with journalism, should he?

Then he slightly glances towards us and makes a gesture with his left hand.

OH! I know! He’s stalling time with the speaker so that we can leave the venue safely! Nicely done, Hisao. Getting his hint, I immediately whisper to my neighbor.

“Hanako, it’s time to go.”

No response. She has her eyes closed, and her right hand is reaching into her bag. What’s going on?

“Hanako?”

Still no response. I’m worried.

“Hey, Hanako. Everybody’s gone now. You’re safe.”

I am the m-master of my fate. I am the c-captain of my soul.

Huh?

Hanako suddenly opens her eyes, takes out a sheet of paper from her bag, and stands up.

“L-let’s go.”

Uh… Alright. I look at Mom for a clue, who simply shakes her head in confusion. Dad shrugs. Nobody knows what she’s up to. Anyway, the only action we can take is to follow her.

She goes downstairs, and then, instead of heading towards the exit, she proceeds to approach the speaker! What is she doing?

Hisao, who’s still having a conversation with the speaker, looks shocked when he notices Hanako standing next to him. Before he can respond, Hanako talks to the speaker.

“E-excuse me, sir?”

“Yes, Miss?”

The fourth-year Yamaku student takes a deep breath and hands him the paper.

“W-would you p-please k-kindly read this?”

The speaker looks surprised, but obliges anyway.

“Sure.”

While Hisao and my parents are left dumbfounded by what Hanako is conveying to the speaker, by now I already have a good idea on what is written on the paper. There is only one possibility about the content of the paper that logically makes sense. As the speaker reads the letter, I recall what has happened so far today, and suddenly a sense of realization dawns within my head. Yes. Now everything starts to come together.

Hanako, you produced a stellar performance today. No matter what the result is, you have won. You not only aced your assignment, but also made a huge breakthrough in your life. I’m so proud of you.

“I see.”

The speaker finishes his reading, then turns to face Hanako directly.

“You are a brave girl, Miss. I admire your attitude. Possessing this trait will go a long way towards your success in the future. As for your apology, please do not worry. Your apology is accepted.”

“A-accepted?”

“Yes, of course. It was never a big deal to begin with anyway. If you did not mention it, I would have forgotten about it already. However, I am now slightly concerned about your situation.”

“M-my situation?”

“Yes, Miss. I hope that you did not worry too much about the incident one year ago, to the point that you hindered your studies. The Center Test is two months away, and you will not be able to appear in this lecture hall again as a student next year if you do not focus on your studies right away.”

I chuckle in my heart. Your worry is legitimate, sir. Hanako looks shocked though.

“C-can I be a s-s-student here next year?”

“Why not? You think that little accident is going to put you into our ban list? It would be so incredibly stupid for me or for the university to do so. Something like a mobile phone going off during class is happening in this school like every week; for your reference, it actually happened in one of my lectures last Tuesday. Why would I bother going all the way to the school administration just to ask them to ban some random high school student from applying the school? I would rather spend the time doing my research work that may get me promoted. So, yes, you are not in any ban list. Like I said, your bravery is appreciated, but if you fail your Center Test or Entrance Exam, sorry, you WILL be banned from entering the university.”

What he said is so true.

A huge sigh of relief, followed by a little smile, is more than enough to indicate how she is feeling right now.

“T-thank you. I will s-study hard for the upcoming tests.”

“You are welcome. I hope to see you again next April. I will be on my way then.”

The speaker bows to us, picks up his briefcase, and leaves the scene, completely forgetting about the fact that he was in the middle of a conversation with Hisao. Of course, that became obsolete anyway.

Hanako’s sweating heavily, but the huge smile is a strong indication she conquered her assignment perfectly. She turns towards me and throws her arms around me when I am least expected.

“T-thank you, Akira!”

I hate hugging somebody so sweaty (that’s including Yuichi), but I can hardly reject her hug offer. Of course, since this is Hanako we’re talking about, I wouldn’t mind it anyway.

“I didn’t do anything, but congratulations.”

For the first time in my life, I find myself comforting somebody other than my sister, although I think I’m doing it the same way as I comforted lils. We’ve known each other for almost two years, so I can’t believe this is only the second time we hugged, the first time being last Christmas. I’m not going to see her again unless I come to Japan (but who knows when), so I might as well treasure the moment.

The other three people in the room watch on without saying anything. Unless lils spoiled the secret to any of them, which I highly doubt, they should know almost nothing about the incident one year ago, involving her mobile phone going off in the middle of the lecture and her running away in fear, but the conversation with the speaker probably revealed something. I don’t think I need to fill them in. It’s best to keep the remainder of the secret hidden.

Hanako releases me and turns towards Hisao. It looks like she wants to hug him as well, but then settles for a handshake, which Hisao is glad to take.

“T-thank you, Hisao. For everything.”

“I didn’t do anything. You were amazing. Congratulations.”

The soon-to-be university student gives my parents a polite bow.

“Thank you, Mr. Satou and Mrs. Satou, f-for accompanying me t-today.”

Mom approves her performance with a smiling nod.

“You’re welcome, Hanako. Great job.”

Lils’ best friend then looks around in confusion.

“Where’s Lilly?”

“Lilly? She’s probably waiting for you outside the Journalism Department. After the recital, she was immediately swarmed by her classmates, so she couldn’t make it here in time. She told me she would be able to walk all the way to the department entrance, but she doesn’t know the location of this lecture hall. I’ll call her for you while we leave.”

The phone call turns out to be unnecessary, as right after we step out of the lecture hall, we see lils sitting on a bench at the end of the corridor.

“Lilly!”

My younger sister stands up at once. Even though she’s like 100 meters away from us, she’s still able to pick up Hanako’s voice. Amazing hearing.

Our future journalist dashes at full speed towards probably the most important person in her life. With two patients of heart condition in our group, we decide to take the walk easy, giving the two girls some private moments.

Everybody did fabulous today. Shizune was great. Lilly was awesome. Hanako was fantastic. Even Hisao did his job well. The three of us didn’t do much, but it was enough. This trip is so much different from the one last year.

***********************

“So, I am the master of my fate, huh.”

“Correct. I chose that poem myself.”

“For real? Weren’t the poems supposed to be selected by the school?”

“They were. However, after the discrimination incident, the Principal made a special arrangement for me. The three poems would be selected respectively by the English Department head, the Principal, and me.”

After successfully completing their respective missions, the two teenagers thanked us for our support and were ready to leave the university. The five of us then hopped into our respective cars heading towards Lilly’s apartment for a little celebration. We invited Hisao, but he elected not to join, saying that he doesn’t want to spoil a girl party. We assured him it would be fine, but he insisted, so we didn’t push; he probably wants to spend time with Shizune instead.

The drive to Lilly’s apartment, when we’re not in a hurry, took only ten minutes. Since the girls did so well today, Mom and Dad decided to give them a deserved rest and do the cooking for all of us. They also correctly deduced that it would be an absolute nightmare for me to participate in the cooking, so I was allowed to accompany the girls. Hanako, however, elected to complete the second part of her assignment, a short report of the Open Day visit, before her memory fades, so I’m now drinking Orange Jaipur with lils in her room.

“Hmm. If the third poem was your choice, then the Principal must have chosen the second poem for you, hasn’t he?”

“Nice deduction, Akira. I am exhilarated that the Principal came in person to watch my performance.”

“He did? Where was he?”

“Hmm… Did you hear a man shouting ‘Subarashī’ after the recital? That was him.”

“Really? Wow. I’m so proud of you, lils. Getting the Principal’s approval is not a small matter. You’ll get many more chances to represent the school.”

A proud smile appears on my little sister’s face. Today was probably the best revenge against the staff who banned her from the recital earlier.

“And I am looking forward to them.”

“By the way, I don’t think you know about how amazing Hanako performed today, do you?”

“No, I don’t.”

“D’you want me to fill you in, or d’you want to ask her by yourself instead?”

“Please fill me in.”

“Well, first of all, right after you left the car, Hanako said she wanted to attend the information sessions. So we sat through three whole lectures in the morning instead of walking in the park. She even took notes during the lectures.”

“Oh my! I can’t believe she did that!”

“And about the final session in the afternoon, she actually removed her mask, and continued to take notes. But that’s not all.”

I take another sip of tea and continue.

“After the lecture, we waited until all the students were gone, then you think we’re about to leave, right? She had other ideas. She took out a piece of paper from her bag, and, I give you three guesses on what she said.”

“A piece of paper? Hmm… I’ve no clue. Maybe ‘I finally made it through’?”

“Nope. Not even close.”

“Maybe something like ‘I want to enter this university’?”

“Nope. Not even close.”

Lils looks perplexed, which is expected.

“I forfeit. What did she say?”

“I hope I won’t get it wrong, but listen. ‘I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.’”

“What? But how… What did she do with the piece of paper?”

“She then approached the speaker and handed him the document. It was a letter of apology. Man! Hanako apologized to the speaker on the incident last year!”

Upon hearing the news, the stunned expression on Lilly’s face is priceless.

“What? No way!”

“Yup. Everybody was shocked. Even Dad and Mom were speechless.”

“How did the speaker respond?”

“His response was positive. The apology was accepted, and he asked Hanako to study hard and try to get into the school.”

“No wonder she was so happy back then when she hugged me!”

“She was fantastic alright, but the most amazing thing is that she must have planned everything right from the start. I don’t think she wrote the letter on the fly, or I surely would have noticed it. Attending the lectures, bringing her notebook to take notes, walking from classroom to classroom without even looking at the map, the letter of apology, everything about today’s Hanako shows that she’s come here prepared. Doesn’t look like the Hanako who starved herself and fainted just seven days ago, huh.”

I take another sip of Orange Jaipur and continue.

“Now the question is why.”

“Hmm…”



For a while lils looks as confused as me, but then she smiles in realization and nods.

“What d’you have in mind, lils?”

“Akira, I believe I unintentionally did the best thing I have ever done in my life. When I visited Hanako on Sunday, after Hisao left us, I proceeded to stay behind until dinner time. During those hours, I demonstrated a poem to her and asked for her opinion. The poem I recited was the one you just mentioned.”

Ah! Now everything makes sense!

“Are you saying that Hanako gained inspiration from the poem you recited?”

“Most likely. We may ask her for confirmation after she finishes her writing.”

Suddenly, a mischievous idea appears in my head.

“You know what, lils?”

I then whisper something into her ears, and she nods in amusement.

“Let’s go.”

We leave Lilly’s room and head towards Hanako in the living room, who’s still busy with her report.

“Hey, Hanako.”

“Y-yes, Akira?”

Even though she’s still stuttering in shyness, I can feel the happiness and relief coming out from her voice.

“Lilly and I want to guess the content of your report.”

The happy girl looks surprised and hurries to cover her writing with her hands.

“You c-can’t look at my r-report!”

Smiling mischievously, Lilly takes a seat next to Hanako on the left, while I sit on her right side, sandwiching the startled girl in between. Hanako doesn’t know where to look at, and is completely dumbfounded.

“Hey lils, on the count of three.”

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three.”

I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.

The master of Hanako’s fate and the captain of Hanako’s soul breaks into a broad smile, and we proceed to enjoy a cute moment together.

Chapter 54: Pearl of the Orient
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Wed Jun 23, 2021 2:11 am, edited 2 times in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch53 updated 10/5/2021: Master of Fate, Captain of Soul!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Thu May 20, 2021 4:38 am

Chapter 54: Pearl of the Orient

Reaching my backpack for the key, I open my locker and am about to store my notes when I realize that the locker is already almost full. I can squeeze everything in, but I don’t think this is the best idea. Rather, what I should do is to sort everything out and throw away outdated notes so that the locker has more space to store stuff. This is going to take a while though.

Lunchtime is coming up, and I’m hungry. Let’s squeeze everything in for the moment. I have an hour of preparation time in the afternoon to do the tidy-up.

I can’t believe it’s been already more than four months since I joined Tanpopo Education Center. I’m now conducting six classes per day, earning me 18000 yen a week. This job alone gives me almost the total amount of money I earned in a week of May, when I first started part-time jobs. Definitely have to thank Shizune for introducing me to the center. In addition, I’ve become good friends with Alvin, and I’ve brought Iwanako to the Center who, according to Director Nagase, has been performing well on her job.

“Lunch together?”

I turn around, and find the aforementioned two waiting for me.

“Sure. Let me put everything in the locker first.”

The girl who triggered my heart condition takes a glance at my locker and shows me a displeased look.

“Hisao, you really have to clean up your locker!”

She then takes out her key and opens her locker.

“For your reference, mine is very tidy.”

It’s been a month since Iwanako became my affiliate again. Before I transferred to Yamaku, I didn’t know much about this girl who proposed to me before. Now that we’re working together, I get to know a lot about her. Needless to say, being very forward is her signature character, considering the fact that she dared proposing to me in the middle of a snowfield. She was also the one who contacted me again after my JUSC victory. Besides that, a single sight of her locker reveals to me her tidiness, a trait she shares with Shizune and Lilly. She’s also a skillful pianist according to Alvin, who witnessed a stellar performance from her in a music shop after they left the tutorial center together a few weeks ago.

I’m going to be frank: If Shizune didn’t exist, I might consider going after her, even after such a horrible start. I can’t believe I’m thinking about this. Yes, the same wouldn’t be true one year ago, when I was still a selfish boy who only cared about myself. Now that everything’s water under the bridge, I actually find this girl pretty attractive.

“I know! I’m going to do just that in the afternoon!”

The Biology teacher shrugs.

“Hmm… As you wish. So, where to go?”

“Hey, how about some Chinese food? It’s been a while.”

“No objection. How about you, Hisao.”

“Me neither. Let’s go.”

After some effort, I manage to stuff everything into the locker and join the two.

“Where’s Hakamichi? I can’t see her today.”

“She’s taken leave today. She has some business to take care of.”

“I see. Well, it’s the three of us then.”

Uhm… It’s ALWAYS been “the three of us” anyway.

As we walk past Shizune’s desk, I can’t help but think about our recent relationship. We shared a fantastic night together a few days before the Student Council re-election, after a roller-coaster ride involving discriminations from school staff and a reconciliation between the cousins. However, things have gone quite a bit downhill since then. My bold move of introducing Iwanako to the tutorial center might prove to be a mistake. Ever since she arrived, I haven’t gotten any chance to have lunch with Shizune on Saturdays because she’s been constantly claiming to be busy with work. I have a feeling that for some reason she’s avoiding Iwanako. I wonder why, because there’s no way she can know about our past.

In addition to Iwanako’s presence indirectly affecting our relationship, after Shizune was elected to be Vice President of the Student Council, she became so involved with the club that we couldn’t get to communicate much these days. In the entirety of October, we never did exercises together nor had lunch together in school. It seems like she has prioritized Student Council over everything else (including schoolwork, according to Akemi who I ran into last week), and, unlike in Yamaku, I’m not in the Student Council this time around, so contact between us has become scarce. We still sometimes text each other, but we’ve only been talking about generic stuff, and I’ve a feeling that an invisible barrier has somehow been established between us.

A few weeks ago, Shizune asked me through text if I wanted to accompany her to be a fellow tester of the room escape game developed by the current Yamaku Student Council. I happily agreed, thinking that I might finally get a chance to talk to her during the train ride – only to be told that we would travel separately due to some family matters she had to resolve first in Saitama. Then Lilly asked me to visit Hanako on the same day, to try to persuade her into attending Lilly’s Open Day performance. I figured that if I can hide my second mission from Shizune, I should be in the clear, so I decided to travel with Lilly instead, and dropped her off in the library, saying that I had an appointment with Mutou while in reality I was playing room escape with Shizune, intending to visit Hanako with Lilly later. However, what we didn’t know was that Hanako received an extremely terrible news two days prior to our visit, and, as a result, she didn’t eat anything since then. Lilly tried to call her before and after we arrived at Yamaku, but there was never a response. She eventually got worried, and went straight to the girls’ dorm by herself. She ran into the dormkeeper and a few girls, and was informed that Hanako was never seen leaving her room nor walking around. One junior girl in particular witnessed Hanako entering her room under great depression on Friday, which was not surprising for her before our graduation but has become quite rare since her fourth year. Sensing a potential danger, Lilly and the dormkeeper approached Hanako’s room, and, after confirming that Hanako was locking herself inside, used the spare key to open the door to find Hanako lying unconscious on the table.

“Hey, Hisao.”

Lilly immediately called me, and I was forced to end my escape game at once and hurry towards the girls’ dorm. Soon after, Lilly and I were transported to the head Nurse’s office. Fortunately, Hanako was only starving – she didn’t fall ill or get beaten – but she probably would have died if Lilly didn’t discover her in time. The dormkeeper was heavily scolded for leaving her unattended throughout the weekend. After regaining her senses and eating some chocolate bars brought by us, Hanako fully recovered and told us about her terrible assignment and everything.

“Hello, Hisao? Do you hear me?”

We came up with a great plan for Hanako to complete her assignment, which worked quite well a few days later in the Open Day. However, I forgot to recharge my phone before the Yamaku trip, and the phone ran out of battery at some point during our Hanako visit. As a result, I missed all the messages and phone calls from Shizune. When I finally rushed back to the Student Council, they told me Shizune was looking for me. Aoi texted her for me, only to be told that she had already gone back home.

“Hi~~~! Hisao?”

I felt extremely guilty, and, not in the mood of trying the escape game any more, I apologized to my ex-girlfriend both through Aoi’s phone and after getting my phone recharged back home. She shrugged the incident off, but I suspect that my mistake has hindered our relationship even further.

I’m not sure about her absence in the tutorial center today. Maybe she does have some urgent matters to take care of. I’m afraid that she might be starting to avoid me, which would be really bad.

“Hisao!!”

I feel a strong pat on my shoulder.

“Huh!”

I turn to my left to see a frustrated Iwanako.

“What happened? Why are you not responding?”

“I’m sorry. I was spacing out.”

“Sigh. What a daydreamer you are!”

I chuckle. Yeah, I’m a daydreamer. I got the same comment from Miki.

“I’m sorry. I was thinking about stuff. What’s up?”

“Alvin asks you about your plans during the winter holiday.”

Winter holiday, huh. I haven’t even thought about it! I’d like to spend a nice Christmas with Shizune, but I’m not sure if it’s feasible any more. Last year I invited Shizune and Misha to my home, and they had a great time with my parents. Come to think of it, maybe dad and mom will ask me to bring the girls back home again this time around.

“Hmm… I haven’t decided yet. How about you, Alvin?”

“Me? I’m going back to Hong Kong. Probably stay there for the whole winter break.”

The conversation is paused as we arrive at the Chinese restaurant, and Iwanako sticks out three slim pianist fingers.

“Table for three, please.”

“Yes. Please follow me, Miss.”

We sit down on a table for four, Alvin sitting opposite to me and next to Iwanako, and Alvin shares the menu with us.

Let’s see what we have here…
Set Meal, served with rice (Options A to D only) and Chinese soup. (Lunch special offer: 700 yen excluding tax)
Soup of the day: Carrots, corn, and lean meat soup.
Soup can be exchanged for a hot drink. Add 30 yen for a cold drink.
I recall the soup made by Miki and Suzu a few months ago. It was really good.
Choose from one below.
A: Steamed diced pork with preserved vegetables
B: Steamed fish
C: Kung Pao chicken (spicy)
D: Sliced beef with mixed vegetables
E: Fried rice in Fujian style
F: Fried vermicelli in Singaporean style
Not bad. I already have a choice.

“Hmm… What do you recommend, Alvin?”

“All of them look great! Er… If you love spicy food then you can obviously choose C. I’d recommend Steamed fish. Great for health.”

“I don’t mind spicy food, but probably not today. We’re conducting classes in the afternoon, and I don’t want to hurt my throat. So Steamed fish then.”

“Sure. Hisao, how about you?”

“Fried rice in Fujian style.”

“Great. Excuse me, waiter!”

“Yes, may I help you?”

“A Steamed fish, a Fried rice in Fujian style, and for me, er… Set D, please.”

“So B, D, and E. Drinks?”

“Soup. How about you two? Both soup? …Yeah, soups please.”

The waiter finishes the order, and, after a while, brings us the bill and the utensils.

“So, back to Hong Kong, huh.”

“Yeah. It’s been a year since I last visited my family. I miss them a lot.”

“I don’t know too much about Hong Kong. How about you, Iwanako?”

“Me neither. Alvin, can you tell us more about Hong Kong?”

“Sure. Well, for starters, it’s a Special Administrative Region of China, which means although it belongs to China, it runs a different political system. For example, Hong Kong has its own laws, and the laws of mainland China doesn’t apply in Hong Kong.”

“Is that something like the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ that I’ve heard about?”

“Exactly, Iwanako. Hong Kong is an international financial center, and it is exactly the policy you just mentioned that keeps Hong Kong in its status. That’s why people call it ‘Pearl of the Orient’.”

“Pearl of the Orient?”

“Yup. Orient means the East, because Hong Kong is located east of the European countries, most notably the United Kingdom.”

“You told me Hong Kong was occupied by the United Kingdom in the past.”

“Good memory. In the 19th century, the Chinese Qing Dynasty was exceptionally weak. After several conflicts with other countries, China was forced to sign a series of unequal treaties, first to the United Kingdom and France, then to Japan, and then to many other countries. Hong Kong was occupied by the British during that period of time.”

“Sorry, I don’t know much about history, but how come it is now a part of China?”

“Uh huh. Hong Kong was given to the British in three phases. The Hong Kong Island in the south was occupied in 1842 after the Opium War. The Kowloon peninsula, which is north of Hong Kong Island, was ceded to the British in 1860 in the Convention of Peking. The New Territories, which consists of a piece of land north of the peninsula, along with many outlying islands, were leased to the British for 99 years in 1898. Hong Kong was briefly occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, but was restored to British rule after Japan was defeated. In 1984, the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed such that China can resume sovereignty over Hong Kong. In 1997, which was 99 years after 1898, the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to China.”

“I see. I didn’t know Hong Kong has such a rich history.”

“Indeed. Hong Kong has many advantages. People are bilingual – they speak Chinese and English, which are two of the most spoken languages in the world. Situated next to the sea, it’s a perfect city as an entrepôt. The 99 years of building-up by the British, low tax rates, plus the huge Chinese economical prospect, makes Hong Kong a stable international financial center.”

“Interesting! So, what is Hong Kong famous for, besides being a financial center?”

“I’m glad you asked! Simple. Shopping paradise. Food paradise. You can buy all kinds of clothes and eat all types of food in Hong Kong. Take food as an example. Japanese, Korean, Thai, Taiwanese, American, Spanish, Italian, everywhere in the world you can think of, cheap to expensive, you literally have unlimited choices.”

Iwanako and her enlarged eyes are looking hugely excited.

“Really? It sounds so attractive! I wanna go!”

“And there are quite a few tourist spots. You have the two theme parks of Disneyland and the Ocean Park. A lot of museums. You can also climb the Peak in the evening to appreciate the stunning night view of the Victoria Harbor. And, of course, there are countless shopping streets and centers.”

The sole girl in this table is literally sparkling with her eyes.

“Alvin, if I visit Hong Kong during the winter holiday, do you think you can be my tour guide for one or two days?”

Yup. Typical Iwanako. So forward. Sitting opposite to them, I start to think maybe they can form a nice pair.

“Sure. Actually, if you come to Hong Kong, you probably want to visit Macau as well. It’s just an hour of ferry ride away.”

“Macau? What’s it famous for?”

“I’ll tell you if you come.”

“Okay! I’ll go back and ask my parents! How about you, Hisao? Do you want to visit Hong Kong with me?”

Me? Huh. What an interesting idea.

“Fried rice in Fujian style. Steamed fish. Sliced beef with mixed vegetables. Three bowls of soup. Enjoy.”

The waiter puts down all the food, and we pick up whatever utensils we need to start our lunch. A small but surprising event does not escape my eyes: Iwanako cleans the chopsticks with her tissue, then hands them to the boy sitting next to him, making sure he’s not holding his chopsticks upside down.

She’s such a caring girl. If Alvin gets her, I’ll be happy for them. I’ll be even happier if Shizune accepts me again. Then we’ll have two pairs working in the tutorial center.

Let’s try this fried rice… Pretty good! Not too salty, and not too bland either. I can see why they say Chinese food is great. Iwanako is nodding in satisfaction.

“Great fish! Fresh and well cooked. I think I’m coming back to this restaurant. Nice recommendation, Alvin.”

“Glad you like it. You’ll be able to taste more Chinese food if you come to Hong Kong during the winter break.”

“Uh huh. Hey Hisao, you didn’t answer me. Want to visit Hong Kong with me?”

That’s a hard question. If possible, I’d like to spend time with Shizune instead. If I go to Hong Kong with Iwanako, Shizune might hate me even more. But will she even care? Maybe she already has a schedule, knowing that she always plans way ahead. Maybe she’ll continue with her Student Council preparations. A trip to Hong Kong with a local is a rare chance, though. Should I accept?

“Er... I’ll have to think about it. I hope my parents haven’t planned the vacation for me just yet.”

“You should come with me. I don’t want to travel alone. Maybe bring Hakamichi too.”

“I’ll try to ask her tonight, okay?”

“Uh huh.”

As if I had a chance to do that.

“Wait. Alvin, there’s a problem.”

“Huh? What’s that, Iwanako?”

“Did you just say Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese?”

“That’s right… Oh! I know what you mean. Are you suggesting that you might be discriminated by the locals?”

“Sort of. Do they still hate the Japanese?”

“Well, I understand your worries, but you’ll probably be fine. Yes, the three years and eight months of Japanese rule was definitely a nightmare, but it’s been more than sixty years since the Second World War, so only the elderly people experienced it first-hand. They probably will reject the Japanese. As for the new generation, we all know it’s the fault of the people in the past and not the present. Japan is now a very popular place for Hong Kong people to spend their vacations in. You can see them everywhere in Tokyo, especially during holidays. There are some Japanese citizens living in Hong Kong. I believe many of them live in Whampoa, in the south-eastern corner of the Kowloon peninsula. I think the only time Hong Kong people, in general, would show a dislike towards Japan would be during the Olympics, say, if the final match of an event is China versus Japan.”

“I see. So, I’ll be fine, won’t I?”

“I think you should worry more about being unable to communicate, especially if your English has a strong Japanese accent. Unless you run into someone like me who knows Japanese, nobody will understand you if you pronounce, for example, ‘Where is the bus stop?’ as ‘we-a izu za basu stoppu’.”

Well, that’s exactly how I would pronounce that sentence.

“Really? They wouldn’t understand?”

“Nope. Even though a lot of young people in Hong Kong learn Japanese, mostly to enjoy anime, they can at most translate English words into Japanese Katakana, but not the other way round. Maybe with some luck they can grab a few key words, but not any further.”

“I see. You definitely HAVE to be my tour guide then.”

“Sure. If you confirm you’re coming, I’ll make a schedule.”

“Thanks, Alvin. Hey, Hisao. Do ask your parents. And Hakamichi too.”

“Okay, I’ll try.”

I think my ex-pursuer has totally forgotten about my heart condition. I don’t even know if I am allowed to board a plane. If I really want to go, I will probably need to call the Yamaku head Nurse again.

Iwanako wants to know more about Hong Kong, but Alvin refuses to reveal more information, claiming that if she gets to know everything, there will be no more surprise when she pays the visit next month. We proceed to talk about our tutorial students for the remainder of the lunch break.

***********************

“Nice job, Hisao. That’s more like it.”

It took me almost half an hour to clean up all the contents in my locker, but at least I’m happy that Iwanako acknowledges my work.

“Yeah, I feel much more comfortable facing my locker now.”

“Good. Remember to ask your parents and Hakamichi about the Hong Kong trip. See you next Saturday!”

“Alright. Bye Iwanako, bye Alvin.”

As the two of them leave the staff room towards the exit, I sit down and fill in the remainder of my Job Record. Then I realize I haven’t checked my phone for a few hours. Did anybody call me or text me?

Oh, wow. It’s Shizune! Haven’t heard from her for a while.

{I need to talk to you. Kasshoku.}

Really? No Student Council?

Her blunt way of requesting tells me it’s not going to be an easy talk. I try to stay nonchalant and reply carefully.

{Sure. When?}

I’m almost done with my Job Record when my phone vibrates again.

{7pm. Kasshoku entrance.}

This means I need to leave right now. It’ll be a bit rush, and I’m hungry already, but I don’t think I’m in a position to negotiate with her.

{Okay. See you there.}

Leaving my completed Job Record on the shelf, I grab my belongings and leave the tutorial center, heading towards the train station.

During the trip back to Chiba, I recall the dreadful morning Shizune came to my dorm room to end our relationship. I was totally at fault, but the ex-president put all the blame to herself, even though she was probably sarcastic. She blamed herself for being too competitive, always trying to one-up others, even in terms of relationships. Then she said she couldn’t trust me any more. We parted ways shortly afterwards.

Will the same outcome happen tonight? Will she blame herself again and then say she cannot trust me any more?

Even though I still feel very guilty cheating on her back in Yamaku, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong since then. Unless Misha somehow spoiled the truth to Shizune, I’m not scared of any accusations. That said, if the girl wants to blame herself or scold me, she can make up a lot of excuses. Anyway, I’ll simply stay quiet and let her rant everything out before choosing my moves.

The first thing I need to make sure is not to be late. Her gold wristwatch is extremely unforgiving.

***********************

It’s 6:58pm. Unless her watch is somehow faster than the standard time, I won’t suffer another death stare from her.

After turning the last corner, I can already see my ex-girlfriend leaning at the school gate. I rush towards her and give her a warm smile, trying to stay positive.

[Hi Shizune.]

The Vice President signals towards the bench under a lamppost, so that we can see each other’s signs. I agree, and we proceed to sit on the bench.

I haven’t had much sign language practice this month. I only used it when I ran into Akemi last week. Let’s hope I don’t mess up with my signs.

She gets to make the first move. As always.

[Misha asked me to talk to you. I still have Student Council work so I don’t have much time. Let’s make this quick work.]

That’s definitely not what I want to hear as the opening words, but I try my best to stay calm and smile. Probably not expecting my lack of reaction, she hesitates for a bit before firing off her attacks.

[You know I’m not good at hiding my emotions, so I’ll get straight to the point. I’ve wanted to become a Student Council member since I was young. I forgot, maybe ten years old? Anyway, I’m very glad to be a part of the Student Council, both in Yamaku and Kasshoku. I love what I’m doing, and I’ll most likely continue to be a member of the Student Council or the society’s equivalent for the rest of my life.]

It’s not difficult to predict her next move, but I remain unfazed.

[As you can see, I’ve been so busy with Student Council work that I just can’t spare much time to do anything else. I know this might be too extreme for other students, but for me, Student Council is my dream. I’ll gladly put everything else down just to fulfil my dream.]

Given how much I know my closest female friend, I kind of half-expected this to happen after the re-election.

[Anyway, cutting things short, I know I haven’t been able to talk to you or do anything with you these days. I didn’t keep up to my promise of watching over your exercise. Sorry about that, but I do have important work to do. I also know that you’ve made quite a few female friends, including the girl you introduced to the tutorial center. I understand it’s not ethical for me to hold you off like that for a prolonged period of time. That’s why I’ve made the decision of letting things go. You should be given the freedom of choice. So, go and find the one who suits you, and don’t wait for me any longer.]

Yup. As predicted. It certainly hurts, but I’ve got to deal with this.

Perhaps surprised at me not flinching, she frowns slightly, then signs again.

[Are you not going to respond? If so, I’m leaving. I still have a lot to do.]

She turns away and tries to get up, but I stick out a hand to block her. If she wants to push my hand away, she probably can, but she doesn’t.

[I must be allowed to make my defence.]

She gives me a displeased look and signs again.

[Playing lawyer, huh. Alright. Let’s see what you have. You only have two minutes.]

The Vice President then sits back down and folds her hands.

Staring straight at her blue eyes, I give myself as much time as possible to consider the best action to take. Shizune’s little speech reminds me of Akira. According to her sister Lilly, after confirming that she’s going to work in Scotland on a permanent basis, Akira visited her boyfriend’s apartment to break up with him without asking for his consent, thinking that it’s not practical to maintain a long-distance relationship. They still remained in talkable terms though. The next year, when they met again in the same apartment, it was revealed that her boyfriend had actually wanted to move to Scotland with her, but he wasn’t given the chance to explain anything before Akira left. They eventually reconciled, and now they’re both working in Scotland. The last time I heard about them, they were trying to own a house and live together.

Well, Shizune at least gives me two minutes, no, only one minute left, to explain.

I can see only two ways to solve this problem. One, persuade her to drop Student Council. Two, convince her that the relationship can still be maintained. Since option one is nigh impossible, I’ll most likely have to choose the second route, even though it will surely be a bumpy road.

I already anticipated this to happen, but I still can’t find a solution. How in the world am I getting out of this?

She’s getting impatient.

[Thirty seconds left.]

How did we maintain our relationship back in Yamaku?

In Yamaku…



That’s it! I’ll simply follow what Akira’s boyfriend did!

It is at this moment I suddenly find a third path to victory. Why am I so stupid! I hit myself on my head as my crush frowns in doubt. I shrug nonchalantly.

[Tomorrow I’ll ask Sakura to invite me into the Student Council. Then I can see you every day.]

Even though she only backs away by a bit, this is the most shocked response I’ve seen from the Vice President ever. Yup. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

[No! We don’t have a post for you, and you also need to take care of your schoolwork and finance!]

[I’m now earning enough on Saturdays that I can afford to drop my private tutor work. Thanks for introducing me to the tutorial center by the way. As for the other question, I think you did the same to me back in Yamaku, didn’t you?]

[This is Kasshoku, not Yamaku.]

[So what? Okay, if you cannot make me an official member, I can be a volunteer. I bet Sakura would be very glad to receive help, especially a sign language translator. You know, she’s the President after all, so she’ll have the final say to this matter.]

My utilization of Sakura’s position seems to knock her off balance as she hesitates to respond. She recovers soon, however, and fights back.

[Even if you can make yourself into the Student Council, I still don’t think you should wait for me. You have many choices. This is for your own good.]

This is music in my ears! I’ve wanted to explain everything to her for a long time!

[I think I’ve made it clear in the past. My only choice would be Shizune Hakamichi. Anybody who doesn’t bear this name will never be my choice.]

She lets out a silent sigh before continuing.

[Why? Both you and Misha said the same thing. I don’t know why you two are so stubborn. Isn’t it obvious? You have the Tokyo duo. You have my cousin and her best friend. You have the friend you’ve brought to the tutorial center. I don’t want you to keep going after me. You have better future if you invest on somebody else!]

I chuckle in my heart. It’s not only Misha and I who are stubborn. Most of the Yamaku students I know are stubborn. Lilly is, Hanako is, Emi is, everybody is. And that includes you too, Shizune.

[You know the deal. I have no feelings towards any of them. We are good friends, but no more than that. For the two in Tokyo, yes, I admit I had some feelings towards Miki. We actually talked about it, but we concluded that we’re best staying as good friends. You can even ask Miki for proof. About Iwanako, she’s a friend from my other high school. Like my case, she also wants to make more income for her family, so she asked me to introduce work for her. I think she’s way more likely to approach Alvin than me. I apologize for what happened in Yamaku the other day. The reason Lilly and I wanted to visit Hanako was to persuade her to come to Lilly’s performance. Hanako wants to study here. Isn’t it great if we have more Yamaku students entering Kasshoku? And you know I have no feelings towards the two.]

The future dictator of Kasshoku University lets out another deep silent sigh. That catches me completely off guard. I expected my proclamation to capture her heart right at the spot. Instead, she looks away from me briefly before replying.

[Don’t you realize you’re putting me in a lot of pressure? I don’t want to choose between fulfilling my dream and maintaining a relationship! I have a lot of time in the future to deal with my marriage issues, but I have less than four years to do Student Council work, and that’s assuming I’m winning the elections every year. Please, don’t force me to make this decision prematurely!]

Marriage. This word pierces through my heart. It tells me how she values her relationships. If we didn’t break up two years ago, we wouldn’t have been in this tough situation. Yeah, sure, she would still be busy achieving her dream, but we would be able to maintain a long-term relationship that is likely to bring to fruition in several years. Now she has an excuse to be flexible, and I am allowed to be flexible, even though I would highly prefer not to be.

I can feel the butterfly effect of the mistake I made with Misha back in Yamaku. It’s like a loan you borrowed that constantly generates interest, but you’re unable to repay all the debt. I got bailed out of my error after miraculously restoring my friendship with Shizune, but the long-lasting effect of the “poison” is not going to fade. I’ve already suffered enough nightmares throughout the months. Shizune is now holding me up longer and longer, and my dream of holding her hands again is drifting further and further away. Sometimes a glimmer of hope appears, but then it dies down before I can grab it. This is simply torture.

Well, given how things are going, I’ll just have to bite the bullet and pay my interest until somehow I can be released from my debt. As for now, comforting her is the first priority though.

[I understand. Don’t worry. I made this choice myself. I’m not in love with anybody else anyway, so I don’t mind maintaining the status quo and continuing to be your friend. If I find anyone who I really love, I’ll go for her. Is it okay?]

[Are you sure you’re not interested in anybody else just yet?]

[Yup. I promise. If I meet anyone who I fall in love with, I’ll tell you. So, no pressure. Go and fulfil your dream, but still, let me be a part of your life. You know, I want friends, because friends are precious.]

The girl I’m forever in debt with finally lets off a smile.

[Friends are precious, huh. I like this phrase. Okay then.]

She sticks out a hand, and we shake hands to confirm the status quo.

[No need to join the Student Council. You’re still better off doing private tutorials. You need your medicine to stay alive.]

[But I really want to join!]

[Hmm… I’ll talk about it with Sakura. By the way, I’m hungry. Want to have dinner with me?]

[Didn’t you say you have Student Council work?]

[Sometimes I rank friendships over Student Council.]

I chuckle. She is always her own rulebook. Alright then.

[Sure. Cafeteria then. Hey, by the way, there’s something I want to ask you. Alvin invites me and Iwanako to his birthplace of Hong Kong. Do you want to join?]

[Hong Kong?]

[Yup. Pearl of the Orient. Shopping center. Food paradise. Sounds great?]

My best friend ponders for a while before responding.

[Do you mind if Misha also joins?]

[If she does come back, I don’t see anything wrong with inviting her over too.]

[She’ll be back. We can discuss the details during dinner.]

Chapter 55: Honorifics too Stuffy
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Wed Jun 16, 2021 3:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch54 updated 20/5: NEVER cheat on your gf; Ch55 Wednesday]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Wed Jun 16, 2021 3:32 am

Chapter 55: Honorifics Too Stuffy

“If you wanna wear this dress… hmm… look. You’ve got to match it with this blouse. See? Much better combo, isn’t it?”

Boss comes over and gives me a big frown. Sup?

“Miki! How impolite of you! Even though Miss Yoshida is a frequent customer, you should still use honorifics!”

She then makes a deep bow towards Miss Yoshida.

“I apologize for my subordinate’s rudeness, Miss Yoshida.”

Oh man, can’t expect me to use those stuffy words all the time!

“No worries. I actually love the way Miki talks. It makes me feel right at home.”

Ha! You see, Boss!

“Sigh. Alright then. I am most pleased that you are enjoying your experience here. Thank you for supporting us all along.”

Miss Yoshida takes her blouse and heads towards the fitting room joyfully.

“Sure. Miki is doing a great job. The clothes she has picked for me are fantastic. Every time I go to gatherings, people praise my outfit.”

Thanks! Very proud of my expertise!

“She still has a lot of skills to learn, but I am most delighted that she can be at your service.”

Can be at your service, huh. Dunno, don’t think I can ever speak like Boss.

Miss Yoshida smiles, and proceeds to enter the fitting room. Boss turns towards me, still frowning.

“Sigh. You’re such a lucky girl. Typically, with the way you’re talking to your customers, I don’t think you’ll be able to find a job anywhere else in Tokyo. But, strangely enough, the customers here seem to like you a lot.”

I scratch my head with my lone hand.

“Hehehe… Sorry, I tried, but honorifics is just too hard for a country girl like me.”

Boss shakes her head in disapproval.

“Don’t you have to study proper manners in the Training Center?”

Oh sh*t, don’t talk about that! Very nervous about it! …That said, maybe it’s now the right time to think about it ‘cause…

“Man! You’re right. In fact, exam next week! I’m nervous!”

“Well then, congratulations. How about you practice a few sentences with Miss Yoshida? It might help.”

Oh no! I sigh and shake my head as Miss Yoshida comes out holding her blouse.

“Nice! It fits me perfectly. I will take this. And the dress too.”

“Miki, cashier time. Miss Yoshida, she has an exam on proper manners next week, so she needs some practice on her speaking. Would you mind helping her a little bit?”

“Really? Of course not!”

Miss Yoshida approaches the counter and takes out a 10000-yen banknote. Alright, here we go. I’m nervous! Sweating right now.

Ichiman-yen kara o-azukari-shimasu. (I receive from 10000-yen.)”

Upon hearing my statement, Boss and Miss Yoshida both burst into laughter. No way! I probably made a mistake. Oh no!

“Sigh. Miki, what on earth are you going to receive FROM 10000-yen?”

Uh… She’s right. So embarrassing!

“Sorry.”

“Try again. Just omit the ‘from’.”

“Alright. Ichiman-yen o-azukari-shimasu. (I receive 10000-yen.)”

“That’s more like it. Go ahead and hand over the change.”

The price is 9200 yen with tax, so the change is… the screen says 800 yen. Even though I got a passing grade in Math in my Center Test, I still don’t trust my math.

“Er… Go-tsuri-wa 800-en desu. (The change is 800 yen, misused honorific “Go”.)”

Both ladies fail to hide another laughter. Oh man, this is killing me! Am I really this bad? …Oh! I know my error! Lemme try again, please!

O-tsuri-wa 800-en desu. (The change is 800 yen.)”

“There you go, Miki.”

I grab a bag to put the blouse and dress in while Miss Yoshida collects the change.

“Good luck on your exam, Miki.”

“Gee, thanks. Really need it!”

“Look at you, Miki. Immediately changing back to informal. Can’t you even hold on for a bit longer?”

This is so hard…

Miss Yoshida smiles and leaves the shop. Boss reaches the drawer below the cashier and hands me a set of notes that I saw half a year ago.

“Did you already forget everything in this set of notes on honorifics I asked you to study for when you first came here? You need a refresher training. There are no customers at the moment, so you can study them behind the cashier. You need to get at least a pass on next week’s exam. If I need your service, I’ll call you. Okay?”

Hate studying, but how can I reject Boss’ kind offer?

“Okay. Sorry about that.”

I take the set of notes from her and sit down behind the cashier. Boss’ right. As much as I hate honorifics, if I don’t study them well, I won’t be able to graduate from the Training Center.

Alright. Here we go.
List of irregular honorifics and humble verbs (extract):

Eat (Taberu) -> Please have a taste (Meshiagaru) -> I humbly eat (Itataku)
Go (Iku) -> Please go (Irassharu / Oideninaru) -> I humbly go (Mairu)
Come (Kuru) -> Please come (Irassharu / Oideninaru) -> I humbly come (Mairu)
Speak (Hanasu) -> Please speak (Ossharu) -> I humbly speak (Mōshiageru)
See (Miru) -> Please take a look (Goranninaru) -> I humbly see (Haiken-suru)
Do (Suru) -> Please do (Nasaru) -> I humbly do (Itasu)
So boring! Honorifics are too stuffy!

Why’s the language in my country so hard?
Examples:
Where are you going today? (Kyō-wa dochira-e irasshai-masuka)
What are you doing at work? (Shigoto-de nani-o nasatteirun-desuka)
I am Tanaka. (Watashi-wa Tanaka-to mōshi-masu)
Excuse me. (Shitsurei itashi-masu)
Don’t think I’ve ever used “Shitsurei itashi-masu” in real life. I always use “Suman”, the very informal form.
Formal vocabulary (extract):
Good – Yoroshī
Sorry (1) – Mōshiwake arimasen
Sorry (2) – Osore irimasu
This way – Kochira
This is xxx – xxx degozaimasu

Examples:
I’m sorry, there is no yellow color. (Osore irimasuga, Kīro-nowa gozaimasen.)
The fitting room is here. (Kochira-wa shichakku-shitsu degozaimasu.)
What in the world… I never use any of them.
Form of Standard honorifics:
O-xxx-ninaru/desu/kudasai or Go-xxx-ninaru/desu/kudasai

Examples:
To make a request properly. (Yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu)
Please wait a moment. (Shōshō o-machi-kudasai)
Please look this way. (Kochira-ni go-ran-kudasai)
I receive 1000 yen. (Senyen o-azukari-itashimasu)
That’s what I just said earlier, although with the “itasu” making it even more polite. Nah, I didn’t study. Simply copied what I heard from Boss.
Sorry for keeping your waiting. (Sumimasen, omatase-shimashita)
Please come again. (Mata okoshi-kudasaimase)
I think I’m falling asleep…

***********************

“Hey, Miki!! Wake up!!”

Mmm… Where am I?

“Wake up!!”

Waking up from my slumber, I find a furious Boss standing next to me with hands folded. Oh no! I’ve fallen asleep during my honorifics study!

“I asked you to study, not to fall asleep!”

Suman…”

I quickly realize my mistake and correct myself.

“No no no, Mōshiwake arimasen. (Sorry, formal form)”

“Hmm… good use. At least you studied. But quick, clean yourself up. You have got customers.”

Really? Oh no! I quickly grab my bag, turn away towards the wall, and tidy myself up. After making sure I’m at least presentable, I turn around and stand up.

“Yes. May I help you?”

Two boys wearing masks come over to greet me. Somehow they look familiar.

“Excuse me, we would like to try this shirt on. Do you have another color?”

“Er… This one? Think so. What color d’you want…?”

Boss frowns at me again, and I swiftly change my response to the formal expression, using the phrases from the notes I just studied.

Mōshiwake arimasen. Dono-iro-ga yoroshī-desuka?

The two boys look at each other for a while before answering. Are they shocked? I can’t see their emotions because they’re wearing masks.

“What colors do you have? We’d like to try out different ones.”

“Let me check the list… We have black, dark blue, green, orange, and brown.”

“Please give us black, dark blue, and brown.”

With Boss still staring at me like a tiger, I’ve no choice but to apply the notes again.

“Yes. Shōshō o-machi-kudasai. (Please wait a moment)”

Boss gives me a pleased look as I go upstairs for the goods. Yes! Boss approves! I might have a chance in the exam next week!

But that’s very strange. Why did Boss wake me up? She doesn’t need me to take goods upstairs. She can do it on her own.

I’ve been working in this shop for more than half a year. Besides selling typical clothes, I also act as an amateur fashion designer and consultant. Customers like Miss Yoshida come to ask me for advice on wearing combinations. Sometimes I even do tailor-made designs. From Boss and the owners of nearby boutiques, I’ve learned a lot on how to open a shop. I’m fairly confident in my fashion design talent, but formal speaking is one area I really suck at. If I want to open my own shop, I need to speak like Boss. This means I need to pass my upcoming test. That said, with my horrible formal speech, I’m very happy that Boss keeps me under her wings, allowing me to learn from her.

But who are the boys anyway?

Whoever they are, I grab the clothes and bring them downstairs. Sigh. Need to speak formally again.

Sumimasen, omatase-shimashita. Please try them on.”

The boys look at each other again before taking the clothes from me and heading towards the fitting room. Boss gives me a thumbs-up.

“Good job, Miki. You have talent. Study hard, and pass your test.”

“I’m still very nervous.”

“Then dive back into the notes.”

Oh no. Well, the boys are inside the fitting rooms, and we don’t have a customer who needs my service right now, so might as well grab some time to study.



The boys, who are still wearing masks, eventually finish their selections and hand their shirts of choice to Boss, who transfers them to me. Boss gives me a nod. Of course, I’m sitting in front of the cashier, so who else?

“The total is 3350 yen.”

One of the boys hands me four 1000-yen banknotes. Boss is still staring. Remember, no “kara” (from) this time.

Yon-senyen o-azukari itashimasu. (I receive 4000 yen)”

Boss is smiling in approval. I nailed it this time!

The change is 650 yen. I grab a bag and put all the clothes in. The boys receive the change and the bag, and then remove their masks to reveal…

Oh my goodness! But how?

“Why are you two here?”

“School project. When will you be leaving?”

“Erm… 6 o’clock.”

“Perfect timing. We’ll complete our assignment, and then come back to you. Bye.”

The boys turn around and leave without waiting for my response while I’m left shell-shocked. They must have deliberately used masks to hide their identity from me.

“Miki! Help me out on this!”

With another task on hand, I’ve no time to process what just happened.

***********************

“You’ve done a great job. See you on Tuesday, Miki.”

I take my bag, wave Boss goodbye, and head towards the boutique exit where my two friends are waiting for me.

“Sup, Miki?”

I exchange high-fives with Haru and Yukio, who come all the way from Osaka.

“Hey there! Surprised to see us here?”

“Of course! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“Surely it has. By the way, the way you spoke in the shop, so shocking. Mōshiwake arimasen. Omatase-shimashita. Doesn’t sound like our good old Miki, right, Haru?”

“Can’t believe those words comin’ out from you, Miki.”

I proudly give them a V-sign.

“Yup. Business etiquette. I’ve been working hard on it.”

“We’re impressed! Try your best. We’re rootin’ for you, baby.”

“Gee, thanks. How’s your project?”

“We’re done. Took a lot of photos. The report should be rich in content.”

“Great! So, where are you two goin’? Dinner here or head back to Osaka?”

Yukio folds his hands in displease.

“What the hell, Miki? We’ve come all the way from Osaka to see you, and you’re just gonna say hi and kick us back home for dinner?”

“No, I mean… I dunno if you two have plans for yourselves already…”

“Are you kiddin’ me? Of course we have plans! Yukio already booked a table for five. Sushi restaurant. Deluxe style. Aren’t you hungry?”

Speaking of food, I realize my stomach is already growling. All the honorifics studies surely work up some appetite.

“Surely I’m hungry. But table for five? Who else?”

Haru puts a hand on my forehead, trying to measure my body temperature. We’ve been familiar with each other enough that body contact is not a big deal, even though we’re of different sexes. I mean, they’ve been treating me as a boy anyway. But, seriously, who else?

“What’s wrong with you, Miki? Who else? Are you teasing us, or are you having a fever?”

Hold on… Really?

“Wait. Are you saying Hisao and Suzu’re joinin’ us?”

Yukio gives me a thumbs up. But how?

“There you go! That’s the Miki I’ve known for long… What’s wrong? Why are you puzzled? Are you not happy to have a reunion with Hisao and us?”

Of course I’m happy. I hurry to deny.

“No, no, no. Of course I’m glad to have dinner with you guys. But I’m just curious. How did they come? Did you plan this in advance?”

“Yup. I called Hisao yesterday. He’s happy to join.”

“But you didn’t call me yesterday! What if I’ve got another appointment, don’t know, like a meeting or a date or anything?”

The two best friends of mine burst into laughter.

“You? A date? Hahaha… Are you kiddin’ me? Hahaha…”

I wanna punch them in their faces at the same time, but I only have one hand, so I resort to hitting them one at a time.

“Ouch!” “Ouch!”

It’s time to show my feminine guts in front of the pesky boys who were constantly laughing at me back in the Yamaku days, suggesting me to find a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend, despite them still being single themselves.

“I tell you, Haru, I WILL find myself a boyfriend. I’m a lovely, stylish fashion designer after all. YOU, however. What d’you have? Can’t see how you can find a partner of your own!”

My threatening words doesn’t flinch him a bit. He wags a finger in front of me.

“Miki, I guess we really haven’t seen each other for a long time. You forgot about the fact that I have these.”

He reaches his wallet and fans out several 10000-yen banknotes as I growl in disgust. Even though I’m not that short of money compared to last year, I still envy the fact that he has a rich dad. Indeed, being rich does give you a huge advantage in the marriage market. But I don’t wanna lose!

“Oh sh*t, I totally forgot about this! Grrrr… Hmph! You’d better watch out! I’ll find myself a boyfriend in time!”

Haru continues to fan his money in front of me.

“Bluffin’ in front of me, huh? Alright. If you’re that confident, find yourself a date tonight. If you can find one, I’ll give you one of these. Otherwise, you’ll be treating us tonight. How’s that sound?”

Grrrr… I can obviously reject the offer, but I really wanna get the money!

Hold on.

I’ve got a sneaky idea. Yup, this might work.

“Alright. Deal.”

My daring response seems to surprise the boys as they reel in shock, just like when they first heard me using honorifics this afternoon. Haha! Didn’t see that coming, huh? I’m calling your calling of my bluff!

“Are you sure, Miki? I mean tonight. I say again. If you can’t find a date tonight, you’ll treat us dinner. Deluxe sushi restaurant. Not cheap. You’re making this bet?”

If I appear too confident, they might get suspicious. Let’s downplay it a little bit and catch them by surprise later.

“Yup, I’m okay. Since you two came all the way here, I guess I should treat you both. I’m already earning money, so it’s not like I’m too short of cash.”

“Well, if you say so, alright then. I’ll thank you in advance. Let’s go. Hisao and Suzu should be waiting for us there.”

Yes! It looks like I’ve managed to avoid any suspicions. You’ll regret it later!

During the ten-minute walk, they introduced me their school project, which is a report on the cultural differences between the old and new capitals of Japan: Kyoto and Tokyo. First-hand photos are required, that’s why they need to travel. Even though Kyoto and Tokyo are both big cities of Japan, and they are both capitals, the two cities cannot be more different from each other. For starters, the languages are not the same. In Tokyo we use the standard Japanese language, which may sound a bit too formal compared to other Japanese dialects. In Kyoto, which is part of the Kansai area, they use the Kansai dialect, which sounds more casual and friendly. A lot of informal words that are unique to the Kansai dialect cannot be comprehended by Tokyo citizens. For example, the word “jibun” normally means “myself” in the formal language, but in the Kansai dialect, it means “you” informally. Next, Kansai people are generally more welcoming and amiable, but more traditional, while in Tokyo people tend to be more individualistic, but also more open-minded. In terms of culture, Tokyo is one of the busiest metropolitans in the world, full of tall buildings and different kinds of boutiques. Kyoto, on the other hand, is the home to many shrines, temples, museums, and antique shops. The two boys spent several hours taking useful pictures such as buildings, people’s clothings, and the surroundings in general. They also recorded conversations so that they can make comparisons on the two languages after they go back to Osaka. They’re determined to get an A grade in both their report and the in-class presentation.

“Sup, Miki?”

A familiar, sweet voice enters my ears as I’m checking their photos while following the boys’ guiding footsteps. I look up and am delighted to meet my roommate along with the stray-haired boy, the intended conspirator of my little scheme.

“Sup, Hisao? It’s been some time! How’s it going?”

We do a high-five and give each other a little hug. It’s been a few months since we last met, our last meeting being in Disneyland. I wonder how he’s doing, especially in terms of relationships.

“Just finished my classes. You? Just finished with work too?”

“Yup. Thanks for joining us.”

“Sure. Always happy to see you.”

“Hey guys, what’re we waiting for? Let’s get in. Aren’t you hungry, Miki?”

I am, but now is the perfect time to execute my wicked plan. Haha!

“Yeah. But lemme go to the bathroom. You all go in first.”

The four of them enter the Sushi restaurant as I excuse myself to the bathroom… except that I’m not going to. After waiting for 30 seconds, making sure everybody must have sit down, I take out my phone and dial Hisao’s number.

“Yes, Nakai speaking.”

I lower my voice so that I won’t be heard by the guys through Hisao’s phone.

“Hey Hisao, I wanna talk to you quick. Come out and meet me. Don’t hang up. Don’t mention my name either.”

“Uh… What’s the matter?”

“Don’t ask. Just come out! Don’t hang up.”

“Alright, alright.”

***********************

Hisao and I enter the restaurant again and stand in front of Haru with an evil smile.

“Hey Haru. Guess what?”

“Huh?”

“Hisao’s agreed to be my date for tonight. Money plz!”

“Wait, WHAT? Hey! That’s not fair! You two set me up! That doesn’t count!”

You’re not getting away from this!

“Haru, you asked me to find a date tonight. You didn’t specify who I can or cannot invite. I’ve found Hisao tonight. There’s no way he doesn’t count.”

Hisao’s helping me out.

“Yup. I’m dating Miki tonight.”

That was my scheme. Once we’re away from the restaurant, I told Hisao about my plan of acting as a couple for tonight in order to share Haru’s 10000 yen. I was half-worried that he might reject me, fearing Hakamichi, but he gladly agreed. If all of us keep our lips sealed, she shouldn’t know about it.

Haru shakes his head in disapproval.

“I can’t believe this. Well, you’re on a date, aren’t you? Then hold hands. Every couple holds hands. If you two hold hands then I’ll give.”

That’s a problem. We didn’t think about it. I really wanna get the money, but I’m not sure about him…

I turn to look at Hisao, trying to find his opinion. He ponders briefly, then shrugs.

“Sure, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course not! I mean, hold hands for 10000 yen. Sure, why not?”

“Alright then. May I?”

He reaches out a hand as invitation, and then, realizing that I only have a stump on my left hand, walks around to my right side and grabs my right hand with his left.

This is the first time a boy holds my hand, even though this is just an act. I’m feeling quite nervous, especially when I see Suzu staring at me with a pair of analyzing eyes. On the other hand, Hisao’s warmth through our entwined fingers is sending me waves of happiness and security.

“There you go, Haru.”

Haru’s only option is to resign.

“Fine, fine. You two have gone such great lengths to rob money from me. You deserved it. Here you go.”

My plan worked!

“Haha. I’ll gladly take it!”

Hisao releases my hand, allowing me to take the banknote from Haru. While getting the money is awesome, I feel somewhat disappointed that our body contact was so short-lived. I wish...

Suzu’s still staring at me. She knows.

A few months ago, Suzu and I held a mini-party for Hisao in our home, as a way to say thanks for his timely help during the Center Test period. After Suzu went to bed, Hisao and I had a long chat in my room. We implied interest towards each other, but ultimately decided that we’re best staying as best friends. We even high-fived each other to confirm our decision. But when I told Suzu the decision, she wasn’t convinced at all. This was what she said:

“I still believe that the chance is yours to grab. It’s just a matter of whether you want to or not. If you take the initiative, there’s a very high chance you’ll win him.”

I admit I have a mild crush on Hisao, but to start a serious relationship with him might be stretching things too far. We’re not even officially adults yet. Anyway, with the banknote safely in my possession, let’s make a plan on how to spend it!

***********************

“♪ I’ve been searching in the woods,
And high upon the hills,
Just to find, to find my samurai.
Someone who won’t regret,
To keep me in his net,
Yes I need, I need my samurai.”

As Yukio and Suzu continue to challenge each other in front of the dancing machine, playing the most popular dancing song ever, Hisao and I sit down on a bench nearby taking a rest from our previous dancing match, which I won, while Haru leaves the game center to bring us some drinks.

“I’m sorry for pulling you into my scheme.”

“Nah, it’s alright.”

“By the way, here’s your share of 5000 yen.”

“No worries. You can keep it.”

“Didn’t we agree to share, boy?”

Hisao shrugs.

“Alright then. Thanks.”

“By the way, aren’t you afraid of Hakamichi?”

The JUSC winner shakes his head. What’s wrong?

“Nah. If anything, she actually wants me to reach out to other girls.”

“Why? Is she not liking you now, boy?”

“Nah. She said she wants to focus on the Student Council and delay relationship matters until later.”

Man, that girl is such a tough cookie. Poor Hisao.

“Wow. That’s rough.”

My crush chuckles.

“Student Council is her life. Everything else has to give way.”

“Indeed. I can feel for ya. So, what’s your plan?”

“The winter break. I’m going on a trip to Hong Kong with Shizune, Misha, and two of our tutorial center colleagues. It might help, but I’m not counting too much on it.”

“Hong Kong, huh. Interesting. Wish you good luck. You’ll need it, boy.”

“Definitely. By the way, how’s your work today?”

It’s now my turn to shake my head.

“Man! How rough! Y’know, I’m never a master of formal speech. Boss is now forcing me to speak in honorifics to customers! How cruel. Today she asked me to study formal speech notes behind the cashier, and I fell asleep during the study. What’s more, I’ll have an exam on proper manners next week. Really feelin’ the nervers right now.”

“I see. Well…”

“♪ Boys, boys, be my boy,
I wanna feel your body.
Boys, boys, be my boy,
Tonight I’m ready honey.
Boys, boys, be my boy,
I wanna be your lover girl,
Be my lover boy.”

As they switch to another song, Hisao pats my shoulder in encouragement. Other than the usual high-fives and the holding hands act earlier today, I haven’t had much body contact with Hisao, so his pat caught me by surprise. Then I realize that I’m technically still on a date with him, so his touch is legal, I guess.

Of course I don’t mind it. To be frank, I enjoy his touch a lot.

“I suppose there’s no way around it. You’ve got to study and practice it, and tough it out. I can give you a hand if you want to.”

“Thanks, but I don’t feel like talking to you formally.”

“To be honest, you’ve been talking way more politely than when I first met you.”

“Really? Maybe. But it’s different in the working environment, you know. My speaking isn’t gonna cut it, and studying for those is way too tough for me. Maybe I should give up? I dunno.”

Hisao smiles, then snaps his fingers, and signals me to wait a moment. He reaches his bag, searches for a while, and takes out a piece of paper.

“My tutorial center colleague, Alvin, wrote this. It’s a Chinese saying. He often uses this to encourage lazy students to study.”

There are seven Chinese characters on the paper, along with presumably the Chinese pronunciation:

Shudao Yongshi Fanghenshao

I can read some of the characters because the Chinese language shares many characters with the Japanese kanji. In fact, most, if not all, Japanese kanji were originated from China.

“Er… Book… Use… Time… Er… Less?”

“It means: When the time comes to put your book knowledge to use, you lament the fact that you studied too little.”

“Sigh. Indeed. It certainly applied to my job today.”

“It’s not too late, Miki. If you don’t study now, you’ll discover that it gets harder and harder to study in the future, especially after you start bearing social responsibilities. That’s what Alvin told me. So, I know it’s tough for you, but at least you don’t have a heavy burden right now, so please try your best to work on it. You won’t regret it.”

He’s right. I can imagine what will happen if I have a job that works overtime while there are two children waiting to be fed at home. I probably won’t have the time or even the mood to study. I’ll definitely divert all my attention to making more fast money instead. Even if I make up some time to study, I most likely will fall asleep in front of the books, like what just happened this afternoon.

“Hmm… Alright then. I’ll study hard. I promise you.”

“Good girl. But let’s leave it for tomorrow. D’you want to continue on our date? It looks like Yukio and Suzu are done. Let’s have a rematch. I’m not losing this time.”

Oh yeah, I’m still dating.

“Sure.”

“Then…”

Hisao gets up and reaches out a hand as an invitation.

Miura-san, isshō-ni odori-mashōka. (Miss Miura, shall we dance together?)”

I grin at his semi-formal speech (since we’re of the same age, we don’t need to use formal speech). Are we “miai”-ing (marriage meeting)? I gleefully take his hand and get up. I guess I can afford a little bit of polite speech as well.

Hai. Shōtai-sarete ureshī-desu. (Yes. I am happy to be invited.)”

It wasn’t so bad. To be honest, polite speech does sound quite elegant. Maybe honorifics aren’t that stuffy after all.

Chapter 56: Diamonds in Diamond Hill?

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