Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch62 @ 12 May 2022: So the bomb exploded...]

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ShizuneFan2019
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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch58 updated 22/10; Ch59 resumes writing!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Sat Jan 15, 2022 3:13 am

Chapter 59: Top of the World

“I tell you, Alvin, you’re the best. How are you always able to locate these secret gardens? I’m so impressed!”

“Haha, you can say I’ve developed a special interest in secret parks. I hate crowded places. I seldom go to, say, countdown events for the New Year, or shopping centers when there is a sale.”

“Then we’re on the same wavelength. How about you, Misha?”

“Yup, I also like peaceful places, especially since Shicchan and I have become best friends~!! Since we talk in sign language, we don’t make any sound, so~ I’m now very used to quiet environment! Wahahahaha!!!”

Except that she just turned the quiet environment into a noisy one.

“Shhh!! Turn down your volume, Misha.”

“S-Sorry, hehe~~”

Hisao told me that Yamaku High School is a tranquil place, vastly different from the city where we’re living in. I’ve never been to Yamaku; if the three of them invite me, I think I’ll pay a visit.

“But where are we anyway? I can’t read the sign. Is it in Portuguese?”

“It is Portuguese, and I can’t read it either, but the Chinese words below it says Pigeon Nest Park. Next to it is a cemetary, and we’re visiting it too.”

Macau, the casino city, was a colony of the Portuguese until 1999, when its sovereignty was returned to China. The local people here mostly speak Cantonese only (which is also the spoken language in Hong Kong), but the roadsigns always contain both languages.

“Cemetary? Are you sure, Alvin? I don’t know; I think I might have to pass this one.”

Since his heart attack, he has become exceptionally cautious dealing with his health. Yet he is putting his life on hard mode by chasing one of the toughest girls in the world. I wonder he manages to handle her.

“Haha. You think cemetaries are scary huh. But not if it is Christian!”

“Christian?”

“Yeah. The Christian cemetary we’re visiting is the resting place of Robert Morrison, the first missionary of modern Christianity to China. He translated the Bible into Chinese, and wrote an important Anglo-Chinese dictionary. He suffered a whole lot during his 25 years of missionary, and finally died in China. He baptized the first Chinese Christian ever.”

Shizune, who’s holding her guidebook, nods to show her agreement.

“I see. You know a lot of stuff, Alvin.”

“Nah. I searched Morrison with the hotel’s computer last night.”

We returned to the hotel pretty late last night after watching the fabulous “A Symphony of Lights”, and he was kind enough to sacrifice his rest time to read information on the computer just to serve as our guide. His generosity prompts me to chip in a well-deserved compliment, giving him a thumbs-up.

“Thanks for all the hard work. You’re the best, Alvin.”

My tutorial center colleague smiles bashfully as we enter the central part of the garden, edging closer toward said cemetary and Morrison’s grave.

At 6:30 this morning, I was delighted to receive a warm-heartening morning call from Alvin, although I was already awake by that time thanks to my music alarm. After waking everybody else up, the five of us had a simple breakfast downstairs before hurrying towards the ferry pier (by hurrying we mean walking at a slightly faster pace, because we need to accommodate Hisao), where we boarded a ferry to Macau. We were so tired that all of us slept through the 1.5-hour trip, so nobody knew what happened in between. After landing, we took a shuttle bus straight to the most well-known landmark of Macau: The Ruins of Saint Pauls’, which is the remains of a burned church. The ruin itself isn’t particularly attractive – it’s just an old wall – but it bears a huge symbolic meaning; it’s like if you don’t visit here, don’t tell others you’ve been to Macau! We took a group photo in front of it (well, what else?), then, instead of following the crowd of visitors back to the main streets, Alvin led us through the wall to the back of the site, and, after a ten-minute walk with the surroundings becoming increasingly quiet, we finally reach this garden.

Alvin is one of the most interesting boys I’ve ever gotten to know. True, he can be clumsy and careless at times (which he hasn’t shown during the trip so far), but he also has many positives. For starters, he knows a lot of stuff. Not only can he play the piano, he is also highly skilled in the guitar: He plays it just as well as I play the piano. He manages to bring us to delicious restaurants every time, whether we are in Japan or in Hong Kong. During this trip, he is able to locate so many peaceful secret gardens for us. He knows a lot of sports: soccer, basketball, tennis, table tennis, golf, badminton, just to name a few; he doesn’t necessarily play them well, but at least he knows all the rules. He’s also a potent swimmer; he revealed it yesterday while we’re chatting, and Misha has shown interest in testing his abilities in the hotel swimming pool before the end of our trip.

In addition, his academic performance is excellent. He has topped his schoolmates in every single term, and has already received enough scholarships to cover both his tuition and accommodation fees. When he told me about all these two days ago, I was shocked to hear that he never revealed his scores to any of his schoolmates, including Hisao. In the university, due to privacy concerns, teachers usually refrain from announcing individual exam results in front of the whole class. Whenever Alvin’s friends ask him about his exam scores, he simply replies something generic like “alright”, “not too bad”, or “I need to improve”. He’s trying to be humble and friendly towards his friends. Now come to think of it, there’s no surprise he scores so well in tests: he’s the best math teacher after all! Without a doubt, he’s going to have a bright future.

However, what he attracts me the most is, of course, his caring and gentleman nature, as shown two day ago during Hisao’s accident. While I was completely stunned and couldn’t do anything useful for my ex-schoolmate, Alvin managed to fend off the driver and then consolated me by hugging me tight. I never told him afterwards, but at that moment, I pretty much settled down on my future husband choice, despite still being a university student myself.

And that’s why I’m so keen on learning Chinese right now!

“Here it is, Mr. Robert Morrison’s grave.”

Alvin’s right. Despite standing in the middle of a cemetary, I don’t feel scared at all. Rather, I feel sacred. The atmosphere feels solemn, pure, and maybe even divine. I’ve never had this feeling at all. Are there angels surrounding me right now?

In front of us are three gravestones. The middle one is Mr. Morrison’s. The left one buries his wife Mary, and the right one rests their child John Robert. The gravestone in the middle reads, in English, the following:
SACRED to THE MEMORY of ROBERT MORRISON, DD.,
The first Protestant Missionary to CHINA,
Where after a service of twenty-seven years,
cheerfully spent in extending the kingdom of the blessed REDEEMER
during which period he compiled and published
A DICTIONARY OF THE CHINESE LANGUAGE,
founded the Anglo Chinese College at Malacca
and for several years laboured alone on a Chinese version of
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES,
which he was spared to see completed and widely circulated
among those for whom it was destined
he sweetly slept in Jesus.
He was born at Morpeth in Northumberland
January 5th 1782.
Was sent to China by the London Missionary Society in 1807
Was for twenty-five years Chinese translator in the the employ of
The East-India Company,
and died at Canton August 1st 1834.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth
Yea, saith the Spirit
that they may rest from their labours
and their works do follow
them.
A stone tablet with Chinese writings stands next to the three graves. I can recognize some of the characters, but the words make no sense to me.

“Alvin, does that tablet say the same as the gravestone?”

“Hmm… let me read… Ah, it’s a memorial tablet for Mr. Morrison a hundred years after he passed away. The text here is a bit hard to read, but I can figure it out… Wow… Um, to be honest, the content is quite touching.”

“What does it say?”

“I’ll try my best to translate. Mr. Morrison was a missionary sent to China. In order to complete his mission, he studied astronomy, medicine, and Chinese in advance as preparations. In 1807, he travelled for 220 days to China using the identity as a merchant, but secretly preached Christianity after he arrived. He was under close monitoring by the Qing government and Roman Catholic, but he remained unfazed. He established a printing press, translated the Bible and related publications, and found the Anglo Chinese College. During that dark and autocratic age, he worked bravely without fear, which was impossible without God’s help. His health was poor, the living condition was difficult, and he had no relatives next to him except his first born son. His family tried to communicate with him more than 200 times, but only two letters reached him. Under extreme conditions, his diligent work established the foundation of the Chinese churches. He passed away on August 1st, 1834 due to sickness. On his death bed, only a few crying disciples accompanied him, but he consoled them, saying the number of believers will multiply to 10000 times after a hundred years. His piety in his belief was extraordinary. It is now 100 years since his passing away. The Chinese Christian churches establish this memorial tablet as an eternal respect to Mr. Morrison. Sorry, my translation probably isn’t very accurate, since the Chinese used in the tablet is of an ancient form, so I can’t interpret some of the characters.”

“That’s good enough, Alvin. Even though I’m not religious, I’m still so touched by the words. He deserves such respect.”

“Not to say that his prophecy actually came true. The number of believers in China did multiply to 10000 times one hundred years after his death, and I think it might fulfil again in 2034, given that there are already around 100 million believers in China right now.”

This is another reason I like Alvin so much. He tries to make every event meaningful. We’ve visited quite a few museums and parks already, and I’ve been educated a lot about Hong Kong and Macau. When I return home, I’ll have a lot to share with my parents, who may then given me green light to develop a relationship with him, assuming that I can complete my mission by the end of the trip.

“Rest in peace, Mr. Morrison.”

All five of us stand in silence. Even the noisy Misha doesn’t utter a word; she probably realizes that the appropriate action for her is to keep quiet.

After reading such a touching story, I feel a little bit guilty about not being a believer of Christianity. Who is Jesus, by the way? I’m curious. Nobody told me about Jesus. I don’t think any of us is a Christian, but I heard from Hisao that his blind friend is a Catholic. I’ve never met her before. Maybe I’ll ask Hisao to introduce her to me after we return.

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

While practicing the sentence over and over again, I try to squeeze myself into the crowd in front of the famous shop. Unlike the Japanese, here in Macau (and Hong Kong) people don’t properly line up, so you have to compete with others if you want to place your order earlier.

Finally getting into position, I glance towards Alvin who gives me a thumbs-up, take a deep breath, and boldly talk to the shopkeeper.

“Ng5 ko3 jü1 pha2 pau1. (5 pork chop buns)”

She takes my HKD banknote (Macau has her own currency, MOP, but people here also accept Hong Kong dollars, HKD, in the ratio 1 to 1, although HKD is slightly more valuable than MOP, around 1 to 1.03), and returns me the HKD change that equals the difference between the value of my banknote and the cost of five pork chop buns. (If given HKD, they usually try to kindly return HKD if possible, but if they run out of HKD, then they give out MOP. However, MOP is not acceptable in Hong Kong. Therefore, if I receive any MOP here, I need to find a way to spend it before we take the ferry back.)

I made it! That’s another sentence down!

I triumphantly take the five freshly made pork chop buns to my groupmates, taking one for myself in the process. Everywhere around is so crowded that there is no space for us to sit down, so we hide in a corner nearby to enjoy our food. Almost immediately after I take my first bite, I understand why the shop is so popular: This bun is amazingly good! The juicy boneless pork chop in the middle is one of the best meat I’ve ever tasted; seriously, how did they manage to make this? The softness is exactly right. There is almost no grease at all. Not too salty, not too bland. Almost every aspect about it is perfect. And it couples nicely with the two pieces of bread sandwiching it. The only problem with the product is that there are no vegetables, but with a price of 25 HKD, I can’t complain.

It looks like my groupmates are sharing similar thoughts with me. Misha’s eyes are visibly flowing with tears.

“I’m such a lucky girl~~ to be able to taste this~~ Macau hurray!!!”

Shizune adjusts her glasses, then gives me and Alvin a thumbs-up. If even the picky Shizune is satisfied with her food, then it has to be really good. Of course, my potential husband always picks the best food for us.

One pork chop bun is not going to fill our stomachs, and we certainly don’t want to eat only pork chop for lunch, so our tour guide leads us back to the main tourist area of the Senado Square (Largo do Senado), where we dropped off the bus this morning to visit the burned church. We first enter a famous Chinese restaurant called Wong Chi Kei to enjoy some tasty noodles, as we’re still hungry. Then we spend some time walking around the area, visiting historical buildings such as the Holy House of Mary (built in 1569), the General Post Office (1929), and the Leal Senado Building (1784), where we’re able to find a few seats to rest on and consume snacks that we bought along the way. Noticing that some of the cake shops are flooded with visitors, we naturally want to get in to take a look, but Alvin says we’ll eventually encounter the same brands later in the evening and buy souvenirs, so it’s unwise to shop here and burden ourselves with luggage for the rest of our journey.

After filling our hunger and resting sufficiently, we set off for our next destination at around 1:30pm. First we have to walk along the main road (that’s Avenida do Infante D. Henrique) for around ten minutes until we reach the Grand Lisboa Hotel, which is the first casino we’ve visited in Macau so far. Before the trip, Alvin solemnly requested that we do not participate in any gambling activities, or else he will not bring us here. However, we do need to enter this casino building because we want to get tickets to one of the free casino shuttle buses that carry visitors around gambling venues to throw their money away.

Macau is a small city with a population of about 600,000 and an area of 33 square kilometers. It is composed of three main areas: The Macau Peninsula, where we are right now; Taipa, which is linked to the Peninsula with three bridges; and Coloane in the south. Macau is known as the “gambling capital of the world”, with gambling tourism being its biggest source of revenue. Famous casinos in the Macau Peninsula, besides Grand Lisboa, include MGM, Wynn, Casino Lisboa, and Sands. However, the biggest casino, where we’re visiting now, is in Taipa. With so many casinos scattering around the city, citizens and visitors make heavy use of free casino shuttle buses to travel between places. I wonder if the public transport here still makes money.

Along the walk towards Grand Lisboa, I noticed a lot of pawn shops on either side of the road. Most of them only consist of a door and a counter which is almost two meters tall (as Hisao, even with his bit of stray hair taken into account, is not taller than the counter). Unlucky gamblers who lose all of their money in the casinos can visit one of these pawn shops to exchange their valuables for cash. The counter is deliberately set so high for security reasons. The symbol (neon lighting) for these pawn shops is usually a bat holding a coin: The bat signifies fortune (“bat” and “fortune” are homonyms in Chinese), while the coin means benefits. I think such fortune and benefits usually belong to the pawnbrokers and casinos instead.

We don’t want our possessions to be taken by pawnbrokers, so we pass by all the slot machines, roulettes, blackjack tables, and baccarat tables towards the free ticket counter, while resisting the temptation of throwing away our funds (I’m actually quite proud of us, by the way). And, no, we cannot just wait for Alvin to collect all the tickets because one person can only get one ticket. Then we take the return trip, passing by all the potential gold mines again towards the shuttle bus stop, with me daydreaming about whether the 100-dollar banknote on my hand can turn me into a millionaire by multiplying itself 10000 times (sorry, Mr. Morrison).

“Iwa-chan, you don’t need a refresher class on probabilities, do you?”

He knows what I’m thinking. Well, who needs a slot machine if you have someone like him next to you? Marrying him will probably be my biggest fortune.

“I guess not, dear.”

The bus ride only takes around ten minutes. After crossing one of the three bridges, and passing by casinos after casinos, we finally arrive at Taipa, where we’ll spend the afternoon in. Several kilometers after, I finally get to see the second largest casino in the world. I simply cannot believe my eyes.

The Venetian.

“W… wow…”

This is a casino? No way! Three glamorous golden blocks of at least 30 floors in the formation of a quarter of an octagon, this is none less than a luxurious hotel! I wonder how much they charge for one night.

“Shizune says it gets better when you go inside.”

Alright. Let’s go. Front entrance. Okay, not too special. A lot of people blocking our view. Into the casino area: Generic roulettes, blackjack, baccarat; pretty cool, but I’ve seen similar stuff a while ago. We go up the escalator towards the shopping mall: The escalator hall is octagonal, with four long escalators and a staircase in the middle, and everything around, except the escalators, is decorated completely in the color of gold, shining in extravagance due to the strong lighting.

Into the hotel area and the shopping mall: Shizune is right. This is simply fascinating! In the middle is a small clean blue river. Either side of the river are numerous shops of three floors, with the upper floors decorated in European style: The walls are either brown or yellow-brown, with pentagonal windows (thin rectangles with triangular tops) aligning in groups of three to four. Some of them have balconies in front of the windows, and flowers are decorated in the open space of the balconies. These upper floors are probably reserved for the shopkeepers or the staff around here, as they are inaccessible to the public. The ceiling is a painting of a clear blue sky. I feel like I’m in Europe right now!

What on earth? This is a casino!?

“Iwa-chan, come here!”

My lover calls me over to a bridge across the river to take a group photo as I’m busy setting up my camera.

“I’m coming!”

Standing on the bridge, I can see more of those window designs, with slightly different variations: Rectangular ones, arc-shaped ones arranged in a spiral, just to name a few. If I show my parents this group photo, they’ll never believe we’re actually inside a casino.

“Wow, Alvin, I’ve never seen something so grand. What can I say? I don’t regret spending the time and money to join this trip.”

“Thanks, Hisao. It’s also possible to join a tour, but you might be forced into some of those shops and must stay inside for like fifteen minutes before you’re allowed to leave.”

“Huh? What? But why?”

“Simple. The tour guides get paid by the shops by introducing tourists, so they can kind of force tourists into the shops, taking advantage of the fact that tourists usually cannot find their way back to their hotels. Some of them even threaten tourists to spend money inside or risk being left behind for the rest of the trip.”

“Really? Does that happen often?”

“I don’t know about Macau, but I’ve heard about it in Hong Kong, although not too frequently. But usually the guides only give you like one hour to look around, and if fifteen minutes are wasted waiting inside some jewellery shop you’re not interested in, then that’s already a quarter of your time down the drain.”

“How could they!”

“That’s the downside of joining a tour. You’re unfamiliar with the area, so people take advantage of you. That’s why I prefer making my own trip.”

“With such a great tour guide on our side, nobody can take advantage of us~!! Wahahahaha!!!”

“By the way, speaking of shops, you’re now free to shop. We can walk together, or we can split into groups. If we split, then we’ll meet up at this spot, okay? So, it’s up to you guys.”

“Yay~~!! Shopping time~~~”

While a spinning Misha is completely absorbed into the joy of shopping, totally ignoring Alvin’s request of making a decision, Shizune ponders for a while before signaling her two ex-Yamaku schoolmates to follow her.

“Wait! Are you not shopping with Iwa-chan~?? No!!”

Shizune firmly shakes her head. That’s unexpected.

“Really~? But…”

A loud snap of fingers, followed by some seemingly random hand movements, causes everybody to flinch, even with the surrounding being so noisy. I guess she means “no arguing”.

Shizune then grabs the arms of her two friends and, with a strength not matching her tiny stature, she pulls them into the boutique nearby and quickly vanishes from my sight, while I’m left totally dumbfounded.

Uh…

Alvin and I take a look at each other. He’s similarly unsure what just happened.

Wait! Is Shizune setting us up?

My potential soulmate for the rest of my life shrugs.

“Hey Iwa-chan, how about we go buy some dessert for the group while you can practice Cantonese?”

Private time with my lover? Of course yes! I nod, and boldly wrap my left fingers around his right arm. He doesn’t resist, and points to supposedly our destination.

“Over there.”

Passing by boutiques with price tags way higher than I can afford (one of them seems to be an official store of a famous soccer club in England), we arrive at a small dessert stall next to the river. It’s so popular that I can’t see the end of the line.

Huh. I thought we’re entering one of the European style shops, but instead we end up with a stall.

Nevertheless, I trust him. He’s never disappointed me.

“Margaret cake shop. There’s a restaurant in the Peninsula, but since we missed that, we can settle for this stall instead. There’s some history about this shop, but I’ll talk about it later. You take a look at the food first. I’ll line up.”

“A box of egg tarts please.”

A tourist with blonde hair orders egg tarts as I skim through our options: Not many. It looks like we’re dealing with an egg tart specialist here. Considering that the line is so long, and that the people sitting around are all eating egg tarts, that’s probably what we’re going to order.

After reuniting with Alvin, we take a look at the surroundings while waiting in the line. It looks like somebody is riding a boat on the river next to us.

“Hey Iwa-chan, how about we take a boat ride after we feed our companions?”

“Really? So you can ride the boat here?”

“Sure. Of course we need to pay, but I’ll do it.”

“Thanks so much! Our friends will be thrilled!”

“So, how do you like the egg tarts?”

“I don’t know, it’s certainly popular, but there are some black dots among the egg yolk. Are they burned? Are burned egg tarts really that tasty?”

“No, dear. It’s actually caramel, the result of baked sugar. I searched the web yesterday, and found that this egg tart has a bit of history. Its origin was actually not from Portugal. There are egg tarts in Portugal alright, but it was Englishman Andrew Stow who invented this variation. He came to Macau in 1979, and married a local named Margaret Wong. The couple modified the Portugal egg tart recipe with less sugar and a different kind of egg yolk. They proceeded to open an egg tart shop with the new recipe. It became a great hit, and the couple became famous. Unfortunately, they could not agree with each other’s business ideas, and they divorced, with Margaret going her own way to open a shop under her name, while Andrew continued keeping the old shop. The recipe has now been passed to numerous fast food shops, most notably in the southeast Asian area.”

“Interesting! So, what’s so special about this egg tart?”

“Well, for starters, the caramel smells great. The outer bread crumble is crispy, while the egg yolk inside is soft. I don’t know how to describe; you should try it out yourself. I’m sure Misha will love it.”

“Sure! Let’s buy a few more for them. How about two boxes?”

“That’ll work. Now it’s time to teach you how to order egg tarts in Cantonese.”

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

After managing to speak another Cantonese sentence in front of the stall lady, we brought back two boxes of egg tarts (but nothing else, as the other available desserts are too generic compared to the egg tarts) to meet up with our friends. It looks like, instead of a bunch of dresses, they have instead bought a lot of candies and snacks as souvenirs to their university friends; among the souvenirs are egg rolls, peanut candies, ginger candies, pork floss, sliced pork loin, beef fillet, sesame biscuits, and others.

“Oh no!”

Alvin puts his hand behind his head in regret. What’s wrong?

“I didn’t realize there are these cake shops here as well!”

Uh huh. Then what’s the problem?

“I forgot to tell you that we’re going to the same souvenir shop in a couple of hours! You don’t need to buy them here!”

Ah, he’s talking about the souvenir burden issue again. Well, it’s irreversible now.

“…”

“Shicchan says it doesn’t matter~ We have Hicchan to carry all the stuff for us! Wahahahaha!!!”

Hicchan, or Hisao, shakes his head in defeat as Misha playfully mocks at him. I wonder how many times he was bullied by the two girls during his one-year stay in Yamaku. Alvin was kind enough to offer him some help.

“I’ll help you with the gifts.”

“Thanks a lot, Alvin.”

It’s time to for us show them our trophy as well. I reveal the dessert that I’ve carefully hidden behind me.

“Here you go, some nice egg tarts for you.”

The attractive smell of the tarts immediately draws Misha’s eyes, as she hurries to unpack one of the boxes and take one. Each of us then takes one, and, fortunately, there is an empty table for us just a few steps away.

As expected, the egg tart is one of the best desserts I’ve ever tried.

“Mmmmm~~!!!! *takes another bite* Maffffffau is yummy~!! *hand is already on another one* Can I take anofffffer one, please~~??”

“Your hand is already on it, how can I say no?”

“We can shffffare one if you want to~~ Or I can shffffare with Shiffffchan too!! *takes another bite* We shffffould eat them while they’re hot, rffffight~? Rffffight!! Wafafafafa!!!”

“But we’re taking a boat ride along the river. Will you be alright with a full belly?”

“Of course!! No problffffem!!!”

I smile in amusement. When Misha eats, she loses all of her sanity.

“Did you say we’re taking a boat ride?”

“Yeah. Around fifteen minutes. Doesn’t cost too much, It will be a wonderful experience.”

“Can I read your guidebook, Shizune?”

Hisao proceeds to take a look at Shizune’s guidebook and continues.

“Enjoy a romantic ride on a gondola at The Venetian and listen to Italian Opera music as you cruise through the Grand Canal Shoppes.”

Ah, so the name of this shopping center is Grand Canal Shoppes. Makes sense, as we have a canal in front of us.

“Sail past grand palatial buildings inspired by Venetian Gothic architecture. You may choose between three picturesque sailing routes: (1) The Grand Canal, (2) The San Luca, or (3) The Marco Polo. Relax as your gondolier serenades you with class Italian opera. Duration is 15 minutes. Costs 120 HKD/MOP per person, and 540 for a private boat. Maximum capacity per boat is 6.”

If we hire a private boat, that’s 108 HKD per person. It’s a bit expensive, but since the first two days of our trip were essentially free (barring traveling expenses), and we didn’t waste our money on casinos, we can afford this ride.

“What is a gondola?”

“Hold on, there’s more… here it is. The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat. It is similar to a canoe, except that it is narrower. For centuries, the gondola was the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft within Venice. In modern times, the iconic boats still do have a role in public transport in the city, serving as ferries over the Grand Canal. Now their role is to carry tourists on rides. It is estimated there were 8 to 10 thousand gondolas during the 17th and 18th centuries. There are just over 400 in active service today, virtually all of them used for hire by tourists.”

Should’ve read Shizune’s guidebook before I came!

“So, which route is the best?”

“I think all of them are pretty much the same. Just randomly choose one.”

“Of course!! All of them are equally tasty~~ I’ll randomly choose one!!!”

“Hey, Misha, don’t grab all the egg tarts!!”

It’s too late to stop her, as the bubblegum hair who completely ignored the context of our conversation already took a bite of her third egg tart.

“Well, she’s not going to be able to enjoy tonight’s dinner.”

“Dinffffer? Wafafafafafa!!! Don’t worrffffy! I haffffe a sffffomach for dessfffferts and one ffffor dinffffer~~!!!”

Our host shakes his head and shrugs.

“Hisao, if you want more egg tarts, I can buy some for you.”

“Nah, that’s fine. I’ve had enough sugar for the day already.”

Yeah, we’ve forgotten about Hisao’s health. Now I feel a bit guilty for not being able to do so, especially since I was the one who caused his health issue.

“Fair enough. Let’s finish up and go for the boat ride.”

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

“Amazing!”

This is the second time in this trip I’m standing at the top, watching the glamorous night view of a city. Instead of a bunch of skyscrapers, this time I have all the famous casinos in front of my eyes.

“What’s wrong, Misha?”

Instead of enjoying the spectacular view of Macau casinos with us, Misha somehow elects to stay behind at the center of the observation deck.

“Uh… I’m… I’m…”

“…”

Shizune presumably tries to persuade her friend, but Misha is still hesitating.

“Shizune, we should accompany her.”

The pair walks over to their bubblegum hair friend.

“Don’t worry, Misha. We’ll stay close to you, so you don’t need to be afraid.”

I see. Misha is afraid of heights. She didn’t panic though when we visited The Peak last night. Well, the context is quite different. Yesterday we’re on top of a mountain that’s not very steep, and, with so many tall buildings around, it didn’t look as scary; tonight we’re up on top of a tower, and, with everything around us being not quite as tall, the difference in heights makes standing at the edge of the tower, despite completely shielded by glasses, admittedly pretty terrifying.

“Al-alright…”

With the encouragement and escort of her friends, Misha slowly steps forward towards me…

“Look, isn’t the view amazing?”

“Uh… uhm… Ahahaha… Misha’s not afraid~~ With Shicchan and Hicchan, why should Misha be afraid~~??? Wahahahahaha!!!”

She is obviously still quite scared, but she’s trying not to be.

Believe it or not, I somehow find Misha’s behavior a bit strange. I’m not talking about her fear of heights. Rather, I’ve a feeling that she’s always putting on a mask to cover her true self up. I have no evidence; this is just my sixth sense.

Anyway, while the America based girl is trying to deal with her fear along with her two friends, I turn around to face the boy who’s only five Chinese sentences away from being my boyfriend. I’m sure he wants some private time with me. Or, rather, I want some private time with him.

“This view… reminds me of a song…”

We both look towards the lake below us…

“Which one?”

…which is next to Grand Lisboa, Wynn, and MGM…

“Not a classical music piece.”

…and Sands is further away.

“I thought you’re only into classicals. I didn’t know you like pops too.”

After finishing the boat ride, which was pretty cool but in my opinion not worth 108 HKD (like 60 HKD would be more reasonable), we went on to visit yet another romantic garden behind Venetian, which we failed to figure out the name, before walking for ten minutes to reach Cunha Street (Rua do Cunha in Portuguese). It’s a shopping street featuring a lot of restaurants and souvenir shops. We spent some time there, with Alvin and me visiting the cake shops that our friends went to back in Venetian, while the others bought something from a nice gift shop. We then split into boys and girls to continue on window shopping before reuniting to have dinner in one of the restaurants in the street. Despite claiming to have another stomach for dinner, Misha didn’t enjoy her meal at all, probably because we ordered relatively healthy food for ourselves, with Shizune brutally stopping her from increasing her BMI even further. Also, Alvin made the promise of treating me dinner because I pronounced “History Museum” correctly yesterday.

“No, it’s pretty old. Almost like a folk song. It was a big hit at that time though.”

We walked back to Venetian to take a casino shuttle back to Grand Lisboa, and then walked around a lake to reach the Macau Tower, killing some of the calories we’ve taken throughout the trip.

“English or Japanese?”

The Macau Tower is 338 meters tall, with an observation deck which costs almost 200 MOP per person to enter (again, not sure whether it’s really worth it). The bottom five floors of this tower are accessible for free. The fourth floor has a café, a theater of capacity 500, and eight event rooms. The third floor houses a Chinese restaurant and another eight event rooms. The second floor is an exhibition center. And the basement is… you know what? Slot machines! How (un)surprising!

“English.”

The tower has three big elevators with capacities of 50 persons each to carry tourists to the observation deck, which is the 58th floor. Below us is a glass surface, so that we can enjoy the view directly below us. There are three floors above the deck. The 59th floor has bars and restaurants. The 60th floor has a restaurant called “360 degree café”. The top floor is outdoor, where people can perform skywalking and bungee jumping. We don’t want to risk our lives there though.

“Hmm… I don’t know.”

On the 58th floor watching the magnificent city view both in front of me and below my feet, I feel like I’m on the top of the world right now.

“The Carpenters.”

“Ah! I see!”

Of course, the “only explanation I can find” for me being “on the Top of the World, looking down on creation” is “the love that I’ve found”. “Ever since you’ve been around, your love’s put me at the Top of the World”.

Thanks a lot, Alvin, for the trip!

I notice that Shizune is staring at me. I look over to her.

She’s smiling while adjusting her glasses.

She definitely set us up this afternoon.

I give her a glance at the boy standing next to Misha, and point towards Shizune and then the boy. This is the only “sign language” that I know.

Shizune seems to understand what I mean, as she very slightly blushes, then brushes it off quickly, adjusts her glasses again, and goes back to her Misha escorting task.

I continue staring at her for a while before switching my sight back to the casinos.

Shizune, you know you’re also on the top of the world, don’t you?

Chapter 60: Ocean Park Hurray~~
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Wed Apr 20, 2022 4:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch59 @ 15 Jan 2022; Ch60 postponed]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Wed Apr 20, 2022 4:40 am

Chapter 60: Ocean Park HURRAY~~

“Do you really want to take the seats at the back? I’d say we wait for the next ride.”

[We’re not afraid, are we, Misha?]

[“O-Of c-c-course we’re not afraid~! Wahahahaha!!!”]

“Look at you, both your voice and hands are shaking!”

[“N-No~~! I’m just excited f-for the r-ride!”]

Our traveling companion shrugs nonchalantly.

“Alright then. Your choice.”

She then takes a seat in the front row. Since all the middle rows have been occupied, Shicchan and I will go for the empty seats at the back!!

We’re in the “Crazy Galleon”!! The pirate ship in the Ocean Park, located in the “South China Sea” section of the park~~! To be honest, I’m a bit scared sitting in the back row challenging the steepest fall!! Shicchan’s guide says it all: “Tilting at a nearly 45 degree angle in either direction, 20 meters above the ground, this rocking journey is not for the faint of heart!” But~ I wanna ride with Shicchan!! Plus, we don’t wanna waste more time as there are SOOOOO many more attractions waiting for us to explore~!!

What’s more, even if I want to think twice, there’s no turning back now~~

While I do thank Iwa-chan for her concern of my health, I feel a little bit guilty misleading her~. She believed I was afraid of heights! Because I hesitated to move forward when we were in the Macau Tower last night! But!! I was in fact half-faking acrophobia!!! And she took the impression~~ Of course I was not afraid~~ I only feel dizzy on stairs~~. The reason I faked it was, of course…

[Have fun!]

Oh~~ The ship is starting to move! Wahahahaha!!! Have fun, Shicchan!!



“WAAAAAAAA!!!”

“AAAAAAHHHHH!!”

“OH NOOOOOO!!!”

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

Ugh… ugh… I… don’t… wanna… ride… this… anymore…

“Are you alright, Misha?”

No… I’m… not…

“I told you not to sit at the back.”

Yup… I… regret… my… decision…

“Take a seat. Here.”

Iwa-chan and supposedly Shicchan (who’s most likely signing frantically to me, but I can’t see her signs right now) each grabs one of my arms, and they escort me to the sitting area nearby. I want to vomit, but my stomach is quite empty because it’s almost lunchtime now, so I don’t have much to vomit.

I keep my head down and take deep breaths, trying to regain my senses.

Is this what happens when you’re traveling in a real pirate ship? I recall Ibarazaki always dreamed to become a pirate. Has she ever thought about being seasick?

“Shizune, I think we should start looking for lunch. Do you have any preference?”

I have my head down, so I can’t see her signs.

“Sure, let’s take a look at the guide.”

Iwa-chan doesn’t know sign language, so Shicchan probably took out her guide and pointed at it.

The sun is shining brightly in the Ocean Park, the biggest attraction of southern Hong Kong Island. I’m wearing a hat now to block some of the sunlight. The Ocean Park is divided, by a hill, into two sections: The Waterfront, where we started our journey, and the Summit. Transport to the Summit is by either a cable car or a small train ride. The Summit is further divided into four parts, from west to east: “Polar Adventure”, “Thrill Mountain”, “Rainforest”, and the largest part “Marine World”. All the thrill rides are located in the Summit. Shicchan’s plan was to dash towards the cable car station right from the start, thus skipping all the animal visits, so we could enjoy as many rides as possible without waiting for too long (Ocean Park doesn’t have a FastPass system like Disneyland).

“Here, Misha, some water for you.”

“Thanks Iwa-chan…”

The plan went okay, but it turned out we’re not the only ones who have the same idea, so we had to wait longer than expected. Still, we were able to try out everything in the “Thrill Mountain” area, including: “The Flash”, an insane ride which spins up and down like crazy; “Whirly Bird”, which puts you 30 meters into the air and spins gently; “Rev Booster”, a merry-go-round style ride on a racing car; “Bumper Blaster”, in which the three of us chased each other in bumper cars; and “Hair Raiser”, a traditional roller-coaster ride.

After we were done with “Thrill Mountain”, we proceeded towards the “Marine World” area for more excitement: “Wild Twister”, another crazy spinner, and the “Crazy Galleon” I just rode.

I think we’re done with rides. We should go get lunch, and then do some sightseeing.

Traveling with Shicchan can be tiring. When you’re in a vacation, you want to relax as much as possible, right? Right~! But~ Even a holiday trip is a game for Shicchan! She’s such a completionist!! She plans the route ahead so that we can exhaust everything in the park in the shortest amount of time, in order to extract maximum value out of the entry ticket, so she said. Seriously? Who spends a holiday like Shicchan does? But~ I still want to go with Shicchan. Because she’s Shicchan~~

I wonder how Iwa-chan thinks about Shicchan’s personality. So far it doesn’t seem she has a problem with it. Or, if she has, she hasn’t made it known to us.

Shicchan taps my shoulder. She probably wants me to translate.

[Look at the map. You see, it is of our best interest to buy food from the two kiosks that we passed by earlier. The other kiosks are a bit too far away. I initially planned to have lunch there on our way back, but we’ve wasted too much time waiting! Anyway, we have fried chicken! My favorite! And sandwiches too!]

FOOD!!!

[“YAY~~~ FRIED CHICKEN!!! Wahahahaha~~!!!”]

“Okay, you two buy fried chicken. I go for sandwiches. We’ll order for each other.”

[Deal. Let’s go!]

With my dizziness mostly gone, we stand up and set off towards said kiosks…

“MISHA!”

Huh? This is a familiar voice~~

I turn around, and, to my BIG surprise, in front of me is a pair of big lovely eyes of my Venezuelan roommate!!

“HEY THERE, NATALIE~~!!”

Why is she here? Isn’t she in South America??

“(In English and Spanish) ¡Qué sorpresa! I can’t believe we cross paths again here in Hong Kong!”

“¡QUÉ TAL!”

My large hat is not stopping us from giving each other a warm hug for our surprise reunion!! But~~ Since I’m almost twice her weight, so the hug is indeed a little awkward. Hehe~~ Sorry Natalie~~

“Nice hat, Misha!”

[“Thanks! Why are you here, Natalie?”]

Since Shicchan can’t lip-read English or Spanish, I need to translate Natalie’s words to her. But we’re using Japanese sign language, so it’s a double translation for me, which is tough work!

“I sent you an e-mail! Didn’t you read it?”

[“No~ I didn’t!! I came to Hong Kong right after arriving in Japan, and we’ve been so busy with our trip~~”]

And~ I’ve spent most of the rest times chatting with Shicchan~~

“¡Ah, vale, vale! Right after I went back home, my parents gave me a surprise! A holiday trip to Hong Kong! I immediately sent you an e-mail to tell you the news! I can’t believe we run into each other without telling each other the schedule!”

[“What a coincidence!! Wahahahaha!!!”]

“So, ¿Estas son tus amigas, no?”

[“Yup! This is Shicchan~!! And this is Iwa-chan~!! *Turn towards my groupmates* This is Natalie. She’s my roommate in America~~!”]

“Nice to meet you, Shicchan and Iwa-chan!”

Iwa-chan attempts to greet my roommate with her basic level spoken English.

“Nice to meet you, Natalie.”

I thought Natalie would, as a South American, passionately hug my friends as a welcome, but she merely shakes hands with them. Either the American culture has gotten into Natalie, or she realizes that my friends are not South American.

[“So, where are your parents~~?”]

“¡Al fondo! ¡Estan comprando maíz dulce!”

There are SWEET CORNS for sale!?

[“¿De verdad~? I wanna eat!! Let’s go~!!”]

I grab Natalie’s arm, and we dash together towards where she’s pointing to!! I’ve totally neglected the fact that I’m supposed to buy fried chicken with Shicchan!!

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

“So THIS is an arctic fox! Wow!”

“¡Increíble!”

[According to the guide, its short limbs and long, bushy tail help it adapt to the extreme cold environment. Its fur changes color from dark brown in the summer to white in the winter.]

With the cute sight of three sleeping arctic foxes in front of me, it’s hard for me to translate for the girls~ The foxes are almost pure white, which means the temperature beyond the glass must be freezing. If not for their small ears and long noses, I’d mistaken them as rabbits!

“So gorgeous! I’m so happy to be able to see one!”

After gulping down sweet corns, fried chickens, and sandwiches, Natalie decides to join us for the afternoon!! Yay~~!!!! Her parents, who only speak Spanish, are reluctant to leave their daughter alone with us in foreign territory. They are keeping us within eye distance so that neither of the groups will get lost.

With the welcoming addition of the Venezuelan, we first watched a water show in “Dolphin Explorations”: Two dolphins and a seal!! Let me recall what was in the show~~ It’s an oval-shaped pool with a small stage at the back. Suddenly, two dolphins jump up from the water!! They swim to the middle of the pool and jump up in sync again! After receiving some bait from a caretaker in green swimsuit, they swim and jump for a few more times before vanishing into the water! Then, the caretaker comes out to the stage along with a seal! It grabs a ball with its mouth from its master, then dives into the water under his instruction. The dolphins now come back! Three dolphins this time. They’re swimming in backstroke, showing off their white bellies~~!! The caretaker then dives into the water and plays with the dolphins and the seal!! After showing off their perfect synchronization, one of the dolphins carries the green-suited caretaker back to the stage. Now, another caretaker in purple swimsuit appears from the water. The two staff give the animals some bait, then they dive back into the water to swim backstroke again with the dolphins, this time swimming in circles!! They’re sooooo cute~~~ Wahahahaha!!! Look at how cheerfully they’re playing with their masters! I wish I could board the stage and swim with them too~~ Will I swim faster than them? I’m curious!

“Look, this one is walking!”

“Wow~~ So graceful!”

We then went to “Shark Mistique”: Several aquariums here, with all kinds of marine animals like sea urchins and various kinds of fish. And~ Of course, sharks! They’re not as scary as I thought, probably because they’re pretty small in size. They’re swimming so gracefully, seemingly telling us that they’re having a great time. Hey, look, a HUGE shark just swims across us!! Everybody in the room exclaims~ My camera can’t capture its whole body~! I wonder why it doesn’t feed off the fish here. Are the fish not afraid of living with such a behemoth? I guess the sharks must be trained. Come to think of it, despite losing their freedom, living in this big aquarium might not be that bad for the animals. At least they don’t need to guard themselves against potential predators all the time, and food is always available.

[Look, this sign says, the arctic foxes prey on rodents, birds, and eggs, and even dead animals. Due to global warming, the number of rodents decrease, so the arctic foxes also dwindle in numbers. If we can solve the global warming problem, each arctic fox can bear 16 children each time!]

The next stop was “Sea Jelly Spectacular”: Over 1000 sea jellies!! Wow~~! Under the special lighting effects, the fluorescent jellyfish shine like little lamps in a deep blue sea~~ In one corner, two white jellies are dancing serenely. In another corner, blue jellies are floating happily. In the next room, six green jellies are swimming with their long tentacles, with air bubbles coming out from their mushroom-like heads. In another room, lots of cell-like jellies are reflecting the light above the aquarium, shining in various colors such as dark green, yellow, red, and violet. And in the next one, Wow! Orange jellies with super long tentacles tangle with each other, so beautiful! Then they change into red, then blue~~!! So awesome!! They do live up to the attraction’s name: Spectacular!

And this concludes the “Marine World” part. We’ve had a lot of fun!!!

“Look! These two are eating!”

We then briefly visited the “Rainforest” portion, which displays various Asian animals such as toucans, piranhas, poison frogs, birdeater spiders (which despite the name rarely eat birds), anacondas, and roaches. None of us really liked those insects, so we just skimmed through everything. Then we set our foot into “Polar Adventure”, where rare animals like penguins, spotted seals, pacific walruses, polar bears, and arctic foxes live.

“Look, mommy! They are so cute!”

Ocean Park, along with Hong Kong Disneyland, is one of the two major theme parks in Hong Kong. The reason Alvin chose the Ocean Park for us is three-fold: 1. We get to see rare animals such as jellyfish, sharks, pandas, and seahorses. 2. We have Disneyland in Tokyo, and most of us, including me, already went there. 3. The ticket price is cheaper. We’ve enjoyed so many rides already, and, with all these cute animals in front of my eyes, I think Alvin made a fantastic decision for all of us!!

“Awwww… That one’s hiding inside the woods! Come out, baby fox! Hello!”

Speaking of Alvin, I wonder how he and Hicchan are doing~! Hicchan cannot enter the rides, unfortunately, so we decided to split into boys and girls before we started the trip~ We’ll meet each other again at five o’clock in front of the park entrance, and I’ll be showing Hicchan all the pictures we’ve taken in the Summit! Wahahahaha!!! Sorry, Hicchan~~

“Hey there, Misha.”

I turn around, and the aforementioned stray hair boy greets me with a smile!! I’m caught off guard as I’m thinking about teasing him~~!!

“Hi Hicchan~~ Uhm… What a coincidence!! How’s your trip?”

“Great! You should go down to check out the pandas. Super cute.”

Hicchan’s lover greets him with a trademark adjustment of her glasses.

[Hey there.]

[Did you enjoy the rides?]

[Yup. Sorry we can’t bring you with us.]

[It’s alright. Show me some of your pictures when we’re back in the hotel.]

[Sure. Remember, we’re on a race. Don’t fall behind.]

I forgot to mention that Shicchan is now playing a game with Hicchan!! Whoever gets to visit the higher number of attractions (excluding the rides) will be treated dinner for the night!!!

[No worries. I’m fully aware of it.]

“¡Hola! ¿Estos son tus amigos, no?”

Oh, I totally forgot Natalie’s here!

[“Natalie, this is Hicchan, and this is Alvin!! We travel together! Hey Hicchan, this is Natalie, my roommate in America!”]

“Oh! Hi, Hicchan and Alvin!”

Like Iwa-chan, Hicchan tries to communicate with the cute Venezuelan in English.

“Hi Natalie. My name is Hisao. Hicchan is a nickname.”

“Oh. Hello Hisao. Nice to meet you!”

Alvin is from Hong Kong, so he shouldn’t have any problem with spoken English~~ But~!! Then~~!! Alvin’s next action shocks everybody~~!!!

“Me llamo Alvin. Encantado.”

What?? I never knew Alvin could speak Spanish!!!

“¡Encantada! ¿Eres japonés?”

“No, soy chino. Hablo un poco de español.”

Iwa-chan is completely stunned, her sparkling eyes fully displaying their admiration towards their master’s crush.

“Y-you know Spanish? I never knew!”

The Chinese boy who’s also fluent in Japanese scratches his head.

“I took a Spanish course in my first year. Didn’t know it would be this useful.”

He then proceeds to speak a few more Spanish sentences before asking to exchange e-mail addresses with Natalie, claiming that he wants to improve his Spanish. My roommate happily agrees, but I wonder what Iwa-chan thinks about it.

The appearance of Shicchan’s golden wristwatch means we’re back in business of searching out every attraction in the park.

[Come on! We’ve got to go, or we won’t have enough time for the rest of the trip!]

Hicchan chuckles at his soulmate’s demand. I wonder if he’s already tired with that.

[Alright, alright. I’ll see you in the evening then. Take care, Misha.]

It looks like Alvin’s Spanish oral lesson is going to end here. Iwa-chan is probably relieved that she doesn’t have to deal with a potential opponent.

[“Have fun, Hicchan and Alvin~~”]

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

Even though the line is pretty long, Shicchan insisted in trying out the “Arctic Blast” roller-coaster before we leave the Summit area. So, Natalie’s parents go to buy more food for us as we wait, Shicchan and me sharing the photos of our cameras to kill time. Iwa-chan, on the other hand, is reading something out of her notebook.

I have a good idea what she’s up to~~ Hehe~~

It turns out Arctic Blast isn’t that worth of the wait; it’s just a generic roller-coaster, but everything around us is painted blue or white to resemble a glacier. And it’s not really scary; Hicchan can probably ride it too. But I think it’s mediocre to us only because the other rides were too awesome!

Anyway, we’re done with the Summit, so we enter the train station opposite to Arctic Blast to go down the The Waterfront. The train ride is not boring at all, as we’re treated with a colorful fish display on the roof of the train.

Our first action after dropping off the train is, of course, to visit the ace attraction of the park: The pandas!! As Shicchan rightfully suggested, you can’t leave the Ocean Park without seeing any pandas~!! Located opposite to a water fountain, the “Sichuan Treasures” has a HUGE panda statue in front of the staircase leading to the entrance of the pandas’ residence. Let’s say HI to giant pandas “Jia Jia”* and “An An”~~ Hey look~ Here they are!! Walking behind several trees! This is the first time I’ve ever seen a panda~~ They’re sooooooo cute~~~~ The panda’s whole body is black and white: Black are the ears, the eyes, the nose, the four limbs, and part of the body; the remaining body parts are white. It just looks like a huge doll~~!!! I’d like to take one back home and hug it when I sleep~~. According to Shicchan, China sent the pair to Hong Kong in 1999. Panda is the national treasure of China. Due to various reasons, it is now a highly endangered species. Look, they’re so lazy! Lying there taking a sunbath! No wonder they can’t really survive in the wild.

Then we go across the main path to arrive at Giant Panda Adventure to see another pair of pandas gifted by China in 2007 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the handover: “Le Le” and “Ying Ying”. They’re living with another red panda named “Tai Shan”. But… where are they? In front of me is just a pile of rocks, some trees, a few plants lying on the ground, and a small stream of water. I can’t see any of them. Oh~~ Look, here it is, the red panda, hiding behind a tree branch! C’mon~~ Let me see you~~ C’mon~~ Oh no, why d’you go hide again? Awww~~ Oh, hey~!! Panda!!! Behind a big rock!! Don’t be shy, come out~~ Are you eating? Eating leaves? Are they tasty~~?? Awww~~ Don’t hide again!! Why?? Huh, what? You say they’re afraid of my big bubblegum head? NATALIE!! You’re NOT getting away from this!!

Next we continue towards the Panda Village to meet some more Asian animals, including salamander, small-clawed otter, turtles, various species of goldfish, and finally a crocodile. It’s not as scary as I thought, probably because it’s alone, not what I usually watched in TV when there are a group of them living together.

Our last major stop is The Grand Aquarium, next to Sichuan Treasures. We’re welcomed by a tunnel-like escalator into the front entrance. “Rainforest of the ocean!” It says. We see a big pond right from the start~~! Let’s read: “A blowhole is formed by coastal erosion when a cave is eroded further and upwards. These holes can become very large from the continuous pressure from the waves. Watch out for the spectacular blasts of water and feel the power of the ocean!”

So, let’s see what we have here! Oh~~ Starfish!! So cute~~ A yellow one on the left, and a pink one on the right! And an eel is swimming across!! Great stuff right off the bat. In the next screen, we get to see different colors of corals~~ And yellow fish, blue fish, red fish, so colorful!! I can also see some seashells on the rocks! The next screen is even more amazing: Multiple colors of corals and fish in front of a blue background, what a scene!!

In the next aquarium, the creatures swimming inside have really strange shapes! One of them has a very slim body with horizontal light and dark stripes, and an extra long tail! It is called a White Spotted Bamboo Shark, a near threatened species. Another one has a flat round body with blue spots on its back; its name is Blue Spotted Stingray, also a near threatened species. The next animal swimming across the aquarium is a Brown Banded Bamboo Shark; its body looks like a plane with a fin pointing upward at the back. Behind the bamboo shark I can see another species with a cow-like nose; it’s called a Cownose Ray. I see!! So this particular aquarium is all about sharks and rays~!! Here is the description: “Unlike bony fishes, the skeleton of sharks and rays have no bones, only cartilage. Cartilaginous fishes appeared on earth around 450,000,000 years ago. Yet, many of them are now threatened by overfishing. Please help by not consuming cartilage products.” Okay!! Shicchan, we’re not going to eat anything containing sharks and rays then~~ Oh, they’re too expensive for us to taste anyway? Okay then~~ Okay!!

The next room displays numerous venomous fish. Really? I didn’t know fish could be poisonous too~~! Let’s see, what do we have here? Lionfish, a red fish full of spikes. Stonefish, which looks like a stone but with green spots, possibly to warn predators. Scorpionfish, which looks a bit like a pillar. According to the description, they all have venomous spines for defence, and are perfectly camouflaged in their environment. No wonder the Scorpionfish looks like the stone pillar behind it!

[Hurry up! If we don’t go faster, we can’t finish the trip on time!]

Sigh~~ Shicchan’s still has her mind firmly on her silly game with Hicchan~~

We briefly go through the next few rooms, which feature the Japanese Bullhead Shark, the Giant Pacific Octopus, and the Cherry Anthias. There are some jellyfish on display too, but these don’t have long tentacles. The next stop is the seahorse, including the Yellow Seahorse, the Three-spot Seahorse, and the Great Seahorse. WOW~~ What a HUGE stingray that just swam by!! Next in line is the Weedy Seadragon floating among the reeds, with a long slender body and a huge mouthpart. “The seadragon’s long, straw-like snout can suck up plankton among reef crevices for food. Their appendages are shaped like leaves, giving them effective camouflage so they can feed safely”. I see!! What an educational trip~~

In the next room, I finally get to know the name of the yellow fish I saw before: The Pacific Double-saddle Butterflyfish. The front part of its body is yellow, and the rear part is striped black and white. “The black spot near their tail confuses predators in expecting the false ‘eye’ to move one way while the fish actually escapes by moving the other.” So interesting!!

Next on display are several cylindrical aquariums. One has a whole bunch of small fish swimming with a big shark!

“Hey Misha, come here!”

“What’s the matter, Iwa-chan~~?”

“Look, a spider underwater! Isn’t it crazy? I’ve never seen one before!”

Me neither! On the bottom of the tank, there’s a red spider-like creature crawling with its eight legs. Can a spider really survive underwater? So strange!

It turns out the “spider” in question is actually a Japanese Giant Spider Crab. The red shell on its back helps it camouflage because that color is invisible in the deep sea. So, not a spider after all, but so creepy!!

Unfortunately for us, or fortunately for Shicchan, we’re towards the end of the Grand Aquarium tour. The rest of the show are more corals, stingrays, and a strange-looking fish called the Cardinalfish. Although few of them are new to us at this point, they are still a sight to behold.

For the last part of today’s trip, we decide to head towards “Old Hong Kong”, which is along the path we boarded the cable car but we skipped due to time constraints. As the name suggests, it features buildings and decorations of the old days of Hong Kong, including a giant set of Mahjong tiles, houses with foldable steel gates, kiosks, a red telephone of the British style, a cinema, and the like. After taking pictures of everything, we use the remainder of our time walking around randomly while chatting with Natalie.

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

Shicchan’s looking through her guide carefully. She has put checkmarks on all the locations she’s visited. And, just like what she does on a Risk board, almost all the attractions are occupied. By ticks, in this case.

“Hi Alvin!! We’re here!!”

With a huge crowd of visitors shouting around us, Iwa-chan raises her hand high while jumping frantically to attract her colleague’s attention. The boys eventually notice and squeeze through the crowd to reunite with us.

“Hi Alvin! How did your trip go?”

“Great! Even though I’ve been here a few times when I was younger, every time I come here it’s like a new visit! I’ve learned a lot about animals!”

While the two continue to share their experience, Shicchan quickly gets down to the business end of things by showing Hicchan her map guide.

[What’s your score? Look, this is mine. I don’t think I’m losing to you! Tell me! Tell me your score! I want free dinner!]

[“No need to ask. I’ll treat you.”]

Despite the fact that she just won by forfeit and thus got free dinner, Shicchan looks upset.

[You didn’t even try to beat me! You’re not treating this competition seriously!]

Uh oh. You’re in trouble now, Hicchan~

[“No, Alvin and I went through most of the content too, but then I stumbled on something, and decided to spend some time to buy this.”]

He then reaches his bag and takes out… Wow~~!! A beautiful glass panda figurine!!!

[“Thanks for taking care of me after the accident. But oh man! The line was so freaking long!”]

Shicchan is visually taken aback by the exquisite gift her crush just presented to her. She blushes, then struggles to regain her composure. The figurine is so pretty! With an Ocean Park logo on it too. It must have cost him a lot of money.

Eventually Shicchan adjusts her glasses and recovers.

[Why spend money on this thing? It doesn’t have any practical use.]

Her words are harsh, but she’s far from being angry. I’m sure her heart is thrilled. She probably doesn’t want her lover to spend this amount of money on her.

[No, this thing can act as a study lamp. Look. Here’s the light switch. Connect it to a socket. I checked the ratings. Pretty bright. The brightness is adjustable too.]

Shicchan apparently didn’t see that coming. After all, we ditched the souvenir shops in favor of the rides and the animals.

[Thank you so much! Alright then. I’ll treat you dinner.]

[“Well, I did lose the contest…”]

Hicchan’s lover snaps her fingers hard. The snapping would have flinched everyone if there wasn’t a noisy crowd nearby.

[No arguing. Let’s go. Misha must be hungry.]

Thanks Shicchan! I’m indeed hungry!!

Hicchan hurries to accept her invitation in order not to frustrate her.

[“Alright. If there’s nowhere else to visit, we can go for dinner.”]

The sky is quickly turning dark as the time approaches six o’clock. Natalie and her parents left us around ten minutes ago, saying that they have another event. With the boys joining us and Shicchan having received her gift, we’re set for dinner.

“So, are we set to go?”

Of course! I’m starving!! What are we waiting for!!

“Wait!”

“Huh? What’s up, Iwa-chan?”

Iwa-chan uncharactically fidgets nervously in front of us.

“C-can you all s-spare me a m-moment, p-please?”

As Iwa-chan for some reason behaves like Yuuko the librarian back in my high school, Alvin decides not to approach her in order to give her some space.

“Sure. Take your time.”

Iwa-chan nods, then nervously takes out a piece of paper!! Then taking a deep breath to calm herself down, she starts speaking!

I’ve a good idea what she’s going to do~~!! She practiced for this after all~!!

“Ngo5 k’yu3 ngam4 yü4 t’zi2.”

Alvin now also realizes, and he cooperates by translating for us.

“My name is Iwanako.”

“T’ai6 yat7 tzi3 lei4 heong1 k’ong2 ou3 mun2 waan2.”

“This is my first time coming to Hong Kong and Macau.”

“Mei5 sa1, k’au2 fu1, ts’ing6 yam1 t’ou1 yat7 tsai4 waan2.”

“Along with Misha, Hisao, and Shizune.”

Iwa-chan takes another deep breath. It looks like the hard part is coming.

“Heoi3 t’zo2 lik9 si2 pok8 mat9 kun2.”

“I went to the Museum of History. Nicely done, Iwa-chan.”

“Saan1 t’eng2 k’e3 ye6 k’ing2 ho2 leng3.”

“The view from The Peak is beautiful.”

“Hoei3 t’zo2 jung1 waan4 hoi2 p’un1 tai2 k’ik7 k’wong1 p’iu2 yin2.”

“Went to Central promenade to watch the laser show.”

“Hoei3 t’zo2 hoi2 yoeng4 k’ung1 yün2.”

“I went to the Ocean Park.”

“Hoei3 ou3 mun2 sik9 t’zo2 jyü1 pa2 pa’u1.”

“Went to Macau to eat pork chop bun.”

“T’ai6 yat1 tsi3 tai2 t’ou2 Wai1 Nei4 Si1 Yan4 ge3 wa4 lai6.”

“Saw the magnificence of the Venetian for the first time.”

“Ngo5 waan2 t’ak7 hou2 hoi1 sam1 a3.”

“I’m very happy with this trip.”

That’s sentence number ten! Iwa-chan has just earned herself a boyfriend!!

“Really nicely done, Iwa-chan! I’m proud of you!”

“YES!! I’ve passed!! Hurray~~!!”

An exhilarated Iwa-chan flings herself onto Alvin, who’s surprised and has no idea what to do.

I’m happy for Iwa-chan too!! I don’t mind enduring a bit of hunger to give them some congratulating time~~

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

[Only one more day… Can’t believe we’re leaving Hong Kong so soon~]

[But we did have fun, didn’t we?]

[We did!!! What did you enjoy the most~?]

[Hmm… The “South Lotus Garden Pool” was fantastic, but the Venetian was equally enjoyable. It’s hard to pick! How about you?]

Really? I thought she would pick the Macau Tower! Or the laser show!

The trip so far has been a blast!! We’ve been to History Museum, Science Museum, Star Avenue, Botanic Park, the Peak, The Ruins of St. Pauls’, the Venetian, the Macau Tower, and the Ocean Park~~. Hicchan’s condition triggering was an unfortunate episode, but if anything it furthered the bond between Shicchan and Hicchan!! Yay!! In addition, after successfully conquered the Cantonese oral challenge, Iwa-chan will be looking forward to love life once she returns to Japan!

[Of course the food!! Parfait, Margaret egg tarts, sweet corns, pork chop buns, the chicken wings, fried chicken, my stomach is smiling all ears right now~~!!!]

My best friend adjusts her glasses.

[I think, without you, the trip wouldn’t be as enjoyable for me. Thanks a lot, Misha.]

Sometimes I can’t help but think like she’s consoling me.

Even though I had a super fun time in the trip, very often I felt like I was the odd one out, although they were kind enough not to treat me as a burden, at least on the surface. I should have expected. Two couples, both working in the same tutorial center, and then me. Several times I wanted to give Shicchan and Hicchan some time alone. Like in the Macau Tower. The Cunha shopping street. The Peak. The reason I faked acrophobia in the Macau Tower was to give my two friends some private time on the platform! But Shicchan kept sticking to me instead of Hicchan, seemingly prioritizing me over her mate. A repeat of what we did back in Saitama after the Yamaku Festival. Was she concerned that I’d be left alone if the two went on a date? Actually I don’t mind! If their relationship can improve, I’m happy too! But so far the only time the two were alone was the afternoon Hicchan got injured. Yes, being able to play with my best friend and share a bedroom with her is nice, but I’d be happier if Shicchan could instead spend several intimate nights with Hicchan. Well, at least Hicchan did his job by buying her a gift.

[Are you sure… you’re happy with the trip?]

The ex-President looks puzzled, even though she shouldn’t be.

[What do you mean?]

The issue is, I don’t have an alternative! If I leave Shicchan to join the other group, I’ll also become a burden to the other two, who’re in a critical position of trying to engage in a relationship. I feel the most at ease when we’re split into boys and girls, like the Ocean Park trip today. But even in that configuration, I feel guilty of Iwa-chan getting left out, with Shicchan and me constantly chatting in sign. Luckily Natalie surprisingly joined in today, so Iwa-chan has another company. But how about tomorrow?

It is a big dilemma, no matter how I approach it.

But hey, why should I reflect like this? As long as my stomach feels happy, it’s fine. Right? Right! Wahahahaha!!!

Or maybe not?

[You should know what I mean, Shicchan.]

My former crush smiles in satisfaction.

[You’ve come all the way from America. You’re the priority.]

As expected. And I don’t think pressing the issue further will help the cause. If anything it would just ruin the good mood.

I’ll drop it.

No more reflection then!!

[Alright~~!! Shicchan no problem!! Thank you Shicchan!! I’m happy to spend time with you too~~]

My roommate sticks out a finger to indicate she wants to say something.

[Hey, Misha. Something has been bugging me for quite some time. I wanna discuss the issue with you tonight.]

[Huh? What’s that?]

[You know, we’re sign language users, aren’t we?]

[Uh huh.]

[But we haven’t yet developed a secret gesture for the two of us, have we?]

[Secret gesture~~??]

[Yup. Secret gesture. Like, whenever we meet each other, or when we celebrate something, we can use it. After all these years of Student Council with you, we haven’t even developed one! This should be fundamental! I can’t believe I missed it!]

Shicchan spreads her hands out wide to show her befuddlement.

[Uh… I don’t understand.]

[I had this idea since way back, at this year’s Yamaku Festival. When Hisao met Miura and Suzuki on the train, they exchanged high-fives with each other. Then when they met the boys, they did the same to each other. I was ashamed. We’re the sign language users! We should have our own common gestures, shouldn’t we?]

[Ah!!! Now I understand~~ So, are you saying we should make a common gesture when we meet each other too~?? That’ll be so cool~~!!!]

[Yup. That’s the idea. I have a few suggestions in my mind already, but I want you to pick the best.]

That’s a great idea! And maybe we can include Hicchan in the loop too!

But why does Shicchan allow me to choose for her? That’s a bit strange.

Hehehe. Let’s cheese her a little bit.

[Aren’t you the President? You should decide for me! *Pull a face*]

Shicchan probably didn’t see that coming. She freezes, her fingers hesitating, not sure how to respond. I, on the other hand, can’t suppress a giggle, which eventually turns into a laughter.

“Wahahahaha!!!!”

[Who taught you that? Hisao? Natalie? Who?]

[“It’s a secret!! Wahahahaha!!!”]

[Tell me! You little pink head!!]

[“No!! *Pull another face* Wahahahaha!!!!]

[Then I’ll grab your two bubblegums and tie a knot with them!]

She then comes over to grab my hair, but I duck and dodge her attack. In America, Natalie loves playing catch with me, so I’ve had a lot of practice! Haha!! You’re not catching me!! Shicchan lunges forward, but I predict her movement and go hide behind the chair. She pursues. I try to crawl under the chair, but I’m too plump for that, so I get stuck! She removes the chair, leaving me completely exposed. With nowhere to run, I jump up and try to pre-empt her with a surprise attack. We tumble towards my bed, and, after a series of hustle and tussle, she manages to grab hold of my left swirl of hair, while I successfully remove her glasses. We come face to face with each other. I don’t want to lose my hair, and Shicchan doesn’t want her glasses to be broken either, so we both release our hands and share a smile.

It’s been quite some time since we last played around like this in a bedroom. Makes me think of our Yamaku days.

[Anyway, I asked for your opinion because I want to win the majority of votes. Majority means more than 50 percent.]

Even though I’m not good at math, I know that one out of two is exactly 50 percent, not more than 50 percent.

[I know~~ Thank you~~ I was just teasing you~ Wahahahaha!!!]

[So, the first one in my mind is to snap our fingers.]

That’s her signature sign, but I don’t think snapping fingers as a way to greet is a good idea.

[Snap fingers? No! Absolutely not! It’s so strange!]

[Really? I thought it would be a great idea.]

[No! It’s so bad!! I don’t like it! Another one, please?]

[Okay. How about a double high-five?]

[Double high-five?]

[Don’t they do high-fives when they meet? We’ll do it with both hands.]

[That’s not too bad, but not spectacular either…]

[Hmm… How about a high-five with the back of our hands?]

[Sorry Shicchan~ It just doesn’t fit~]

[What do you suggest then?]

We both fold our hands to think. What would be a good gesture for us?

How about this?

[How about we incorporate some sign language into it~? We can still do a high-five, but with sign language!]

[Great! What do we want to use? How about “Student Council”?]

[That’ll be too long! Maybe just an “S”? Both of our given names start with S, and Student Council starts with S too! In English, of course.]

[That’s a great idea! So we’re high-fiving with “S” in American Sign Language? A fist with the thumb in front of the index finger?]

[Good~!! Let’s try!]

We exchange “S” high-fives (practically knocking each other’s fist) to celebrate the birth of our new secret gesture.

[I was thinking, we could include Hicchan in our loop too~~ But his name doesn’t start with an S~]

[He was in the Student Council too, so I’d say it counts.]

I clap my hands in agreement.

[“Okay~~!! If Shicchan says okay then it’s okay, right? Right~!! Wahahahaha!!! I’ll teach him our secret first thing tomorrow!!”]

[By the way, what are we doing tomorrow, besides the morning swim? Any clues? You know, I can’t lip-read everything, so maybe I missed something?]

Alvin invited us for a swim in the hotel’s pool early in the morning, before breakfast. Everybody except Hicchan will be there; Hicchan probably doesn’t want to expose his scars to us, especially when Iwa-chan’s present. He’ll use the gym room instead.

[No~~ Alvin always keeps everything secret~~ Do you have a guess?]

[Maybe some shopping? We’ve been sightseeing for quite a few days. I’d prefer a different event.]

[Shopping?? Hurray!!!]

So far we haven’t done much shopping except yesterday’s Macau cake shops and souvenir streets. I don’t need to buy Hong Kong gifts for Natalie, but I should buy something for my family members.

[So here, in the guidebook, it says “Women’s Street” in Mong Kok is famous for shopping. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from here. And, a few streets across, there are jade stones for sale.]

[Wow~~!! It looks exciting~~ I’m going!!]

[We have the guidebook with us, so even if Alvin plans something that doesn’t suit us, we can go separate ways.]

[Shall we ask Hicchan to join us?]

[Hmm… I prefer giving him the freedom of choice.]

[Okay!! Then, shopping we go!! Yay~~~]

[Remember to bring your money. Or credit card. I’m not going to pay for you.]

[Of course!! Hehehe…]

Looking at the hotel clock, it’s now 8:30. Almost time to sleep. I stretch my arms and give out a yawn. My roommate takes the cue, moves over to her own bed, and prepares to call it a day. But I wanna chat for just a little more.

[Hey Shicchan, what do you think about Hong Kong? Do you want to work here?]

My roommate, who was going to turn off the lights, retrieves her hand from the switch to sign.

[Hmm… I don’t know. I actually checked. A 3-room apartment in the Harbourside costs around 15 million HKD. This is a huge amount. I don’t even know if my father has this amount of money. Maybe my cousin’s father has.]

I reel in shock when I’m informed of the seemingly astronomical figure.

[15 million~!!! HKD!! What is that in yen?]

The ex-President who wants to own an apartment in the “Emperor of the World” sticks out two fingers.

[That’ll be ni-oku, 200 million yen.]

[Oh my goodness!! Are you serious??]

[Yes. So expensive! It probably costs ten times as much as my mansion in Saitama! How many years of salary will it take for me to reach this amount of savings? Ridiculous! I seriously wonder why the people in Hong Kong could afford these apartments. And it’s not like the flats are big. Only 3 rooms, around 800 square feet. That’s 80 square meters. There are larger ones available, like more than 1000 square feet, but they will cost even more.]

[Wow. That’s ridiculous!! So, are you saying you’re not going to work here~?]

[I’m still open to that option, but I certainly don’t want to, you know, work overtime every day, receiving a salary that is who knows how many zeros less than that price, and then traveling to work every day looking at the building I’d love to live in but unable to afford.]

[Well, you can rent.]

[That’s a completely different concept! D’you want to “rent” the Emperor of the World, or actually own it? What d’you think? Tell me.]

[Hmm~~ I understand. But I think it’s too early to give up just yet~~ You can ask Alvin how the people in Hong Kong can afford them.]

[Of course I’m not giving up! But what I’m thinking is, I’m not going to make it my short-term goal. You know, didn’t we say that we conquer territories one at a time, from Student Council to Student Council, from one club to another, from one city to another? Just like playing Risk!]

Oh man, she’s in Queen of Risk mode again!

[I’ll still go for it, Misha. And I want a bigger apartment too, those 1000 square feet ones. But I first need to find a highly-paid job. Then I’ll climb the ranks, until I can get a salary that is comparable to the price of the flat. And I’ll do some investments to further enlarge my capital. But thanks for reminding me; I’m going to ask Alvin for that question.]

When she’s excited, she’s signing so fast that her hands seem to be lashing out. Luckily I’m not translating it to anybody.

[And, of course, I’ve a competitor! My cousin! I don’t want to lose to her!]

We haven’t seen each other for nine months, and she’s still competitive as ever.

[Oh. Speaking of my cousin, my family is going to hold a gathering on the 28th. My home. D’you want to come? A final party before you go back to America.]

[Really?? Who will be there?]

[Hideaki and my two cousins, as far as I know. Maybe some adults, and their children, I don’t know.]

[So, will it be like last year’s summer? We had a great time fishing!!]

[Yes. But I don’t think Hisao is going this time. He already told me he’ll spend the remainder of the vacation with his parents.]

[Aww~~~ But it’ll still be fun, right? Right~!!! I’m going! Wahahahaha!!!]

[Great! I’m sure we’ll have a great time.]

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

Year ?? Month ?? Day ??

Running out of pink ink, I let out a sigh, put on the cap of my pen, and close my journal. I’ll have to visit the supermarket if I want to continue writing~~

I don’t usually write diaries, but I think it is worthwhile to write down everything that happened~!!

So, I guess this is all I want to write for that Ocean Park day. It was great fun!! And it was a pleasant surprise to come across with Natalie there~~

I still can’t forget about my quick, maybe even impulsive, decision of joining Shicchan’s party. Never did I know, and I’m sure Shicchan didn’t know either, that this SINGLE decision, which looked completely harmless, triggered a series of events leading to… well, very unexpected results.

Anyway…

Wahahahaha!!! Lunchtime! Supermarket time!!!

*Note: “Jia Jia” the panda died in 2016.

Chapter 61: Day of Despair
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Sun Apr 24, 2022 10:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch60 @ 20 Apr 2022: Finally!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Sun Apr 24, 2022 10:34 pm

Chapter 61: Day of Despair

I head upstairs to reach my destination for the night: The roof. Thankfully, the door at the top isn’t locked, but there’s a handwritten sign on it:

OFF LIMITS

The rooftop looks deserted, as expected. Near a place where the cyclone fence has collapsed, there is a pile of blankets that seems oddly out of place. Wait. Did that pile just move a little? That would be strange, as there is no wind at all. I carefully stick my hand out and give it an experimental prod.

“Hi.” “AHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Startled, I jump back.

“Who is it?”

“God damn it, Kenji. It’s me.”

“Oh damn, you scared me, man.”

“So what are we doing up here?”

“We’re having a picnic.”

“What?”

“Yeah. I have blankets, pretzels and whiskey. This is the ultimate setup, man.”

“Whiskey? Aren’t you a bit too young to drink alcohol?”

“I’m 20, y’know.”

“…you’re not.”

“I am and so are you.”

“What? That’s absurd.”

“Hey, at least YOU get something out of it, all I get is this bottle of whiskey…”

While I’m accusing Kenji of being absurd, I can’t help but wonder whether I’m the one who’s absurd, electing to spend the night here on the roof instead of my bed, and with the person I’ve been trying to avoid all the time.

But I guess whether I’m absurd or not doesn’t really matter any more.

“So why do you have a bottle of whiskey?”

“My mom couldn’t come visit me for the holiday, so she sent me some expensive Single Malt instead.”

“A likely story.”

“Want some?”

“…”

It’s not like I have anything to lose. This day can’t possibly get worse.

“…why not.”

There are still exactly three months until I officially become an adult, which means what I’m about to do now is breaching the Japanese law. As a star student of Kasshoku University and the reigning JUSC champion, I’ll lose all my dignity and possibly be kicked out of the university if I’m caught red-handed. But, once again, it doesn’t really matter now, does it?

We sit down on the pile of blankets Kenji apparently dragged all the way up here from his university dormitory (how he did this is out of my consideration). He produces an almost full bottle of whiskey and passes it to me.

“You didn’t even bring glasses?”

“No, this is not some romantic princess picnic. What the hell, man? This is a manly picnic. No glasses. No napkins. Whiskey only. The beverage of true men.”

I can’t believe how ridiculous it is for me to ask him that question, and his reply is likewise crazy.

“Whatever.”

“And pretzels.”

I take a closer look at the bottle. 12 year old single malt whiskey, as he said. Shrugging my shoulders, I take a swig. It burns my throat like acid, but the taste isn’t unpleasant. I feel it going straight into my head, and the aftertaste lingers in the back of my mouth, craving for another swig. While drinking, my mind keeps playing the hit song that I’ve been listening to these two days alone in my room:

(♪ Days of joy, days of sadness
Slowly pass me by
As I try to hold you, you’re vanishing before me)

I totally understand that what I’m doing is destructive to my health. Everything I have done to take care of my health since my accident might be undone today. But who needs health when all is already lost?

(♪ You’re just an illusion
When I’m awaken, my tears have dried in the sand of sleep
I’m a rose blooming in the desert)

“We should outline our counteroffensive and trashtalk women here, where they can’t hear us. Damn, I forgot to bring my graphs.”

Female conspiracy, huh. This might be the only logical reason I’m staying with this guy right now. I decide to play a drinking game with myself. Every time Kenji mentions “female conspiracy”, I’ll take a swig.

(♪ Endless rain, fall on my heart,
Kokoro-no kizu-ni (on my heart’s wound)
Let me… forget… all of the hate…, all of the sadness)

Halfly listening to Kenji’s rambling, the only thing in my mind is, of course, her.

(♪ I awake from my dream
I… can’t find my way… without you)

Four or five hours, or possibly several days later… (I lost track)

“You shouldn’t feel bad, man! Ease the f*ck up! Seriously, seriously!”

“I am relaxed, god damn it!”

Except that I’m not. How on earth can I relax?

“I’m telling it as I see it! Think about it. When did housing and land start becoming more and more expensive? When women began entering the work force, because it created two-income nuclear families. Yeah I forgot my graphs, but, and you’ll just have to take my word for it, women are connected to the decay of all society.”

(♪ The dream is over, koe-ni naranai
Kotoba-wo kurikae-shitemo (even if I repeat the words that cannot be sounded)
Taka-sugiru haiirono-kabewa (The gray wall that is too tall…)
Sugisatta-hino omoi-wo yumeni-utusu (…is writing the past memory into my dreams)
Until I can… forget your love)

“I see. That is kind of hard to believe.”

Despite the disagreement (while still looping the same song in my head), somehow I think he might have a point here. It seems crazy that I can, to some extend, agree with his logic; maybe it’s because I understand everything better when drunk. But I do think we shouldn’t blame everything on women. It’s my own fault, not the women.

“No man, think. Think! Think of the deeper implications! People could afford to start saying ‘Oh well, since two members of the family are now earning money as opposed to one, they can surely afford something like rising costs of ownership.’”

Two members of the family…

(♪ Endless rain, let me stay… evermore in your heart
Let… my heart… take in your tears…, take in your memories)

“I see your point. But land in Japan has always been expensive.”

“…And the price of land generally goes up when a country starts undergoing industrialization. …But no! It’s because of women! Correlation equals causation, you know.”

Right now, the only remaining evidence that can prove my fading sanity is my math.

“I thought correlation didn’t equal causation. Well, whatever, maybe you’re right.”

“I am always right. Yeah, I bet women created industrialization, too, to cover their tracks. How diabolical. So yeah, everyone can go f*ck themselves!”

He stands up, impressing me because I’m fairly sure I couldn’t even if I wanted. He yells extremely loudly as if he’s lost the concept of volume. I wince and almost want to cover my ears, and in the process my song stops playing.

“Aaagh, how nice it would have been if I could have been… But no. You see, thinking like that is a trap, you think you’re missing out on something, but at the end of that road is nothing but despair…”

Nothing but despair. That’s exactly what I’m feeling right now. How fitting.

Kenji snatches back the bottle and leans back his head, attempting to pour the alcohol into his mouth, but just ends up drenching himself in it.

“Dammit! See, my aim is terrible, and the bad thing about drinking is that it only gets worse the longer you go! Today is the day of despair.”

His voice immediately drops to almost a whisper, but he starts talking much faster than before, slightly slurring his words from the whiskey. As he talks, he waves the bottle around, spilling some of it here and there.

“Yeah, you know what was the most shocking event of my life?”

I have a hazy recollection of him telling about the second most shocking event in his life, which was a bird pooping on his head. I don’t have particularly great expectations of this, but I nod at him to continue anyway.

“You wouldn’t think it, but I had a girlfriend here once, I think it was last year. Yeah, I just blew your mind, huh? See, I have never told that to anyone.”

It’s true, the thought does blow my mind. I can’t believe there’s something in common between us: both of us have an ex-girlfriend.

“I was more innocent back then, and I thought she was sane, unlike most women. But then one day, we engaged in… sexual intercourse. It was pretty okay, but then immediately following the event that is the point of all such things, something strange and scary happened.”

Sex, huh. That’s going to be another thing we share.

He throws himself up against the fence, leaning on it, his eyes narrowed.

“I started feeling incredibly tired and sleepy! That isn’t normal, man! What the f*ck? I mean, normally, that would be a high-tension, adrenaline-pumping moment of anyone’s life, but my energy levels were dropping like a brick! Something sinister was in the works. I could feel it. That is when I knew… that women are dangerous, sapping the life force of all men through the one commodity that is almost solely theirs to control! Sickening. Yeah, you’re better off, dude…”

Er… well, that “something strange and scary” was unexpected. Nonetheless, he’s at least partially true that women are dangerous. I’ve experienced this several times over the couple of years already. And now my life is totally destroyed by women.

Kenji was right, this really is the day of despair. I take the bottle from him and drink more to avoid having to process what he just said. Or what just happened a couple of days ago.

“Now I am the last sane man in an insane world… when other people realize it, there will be a war, a great war between men and the forces of feminism. But the problem is that not all men would fight on my side… sh*t sucks. I could set the bar kinda low, any men are fine. But not the dudes raised by their mom or their sister, that’s for sure. And nobody into dickgirl porn.”

“Ha… That situation seems unlikely to me, like it wouldn’t happen, like… like it’s not very likely to happen.”

The alcohol must be working. Regardless, I still feel despressed that I’m up here today. I wasn’t really expecting to be able to hold Shizune’s hand again right after the vacation, but still, it would have been nice to at least maintain the status quo. It’s not uncommon for people to stay awake the previous night and climb a hill just to welcome the first dawn of a new year, signifying a fresh start. For me, though, boarding a night train all the way to Yamaku, climbing through the unguarded fences (as all the guards have gone back home for the holiday), walking the stairs just to talk to and drink alcohol with Kenji, what I’m doing is completely opposite to getting a fresh start. To me, it’s more like the end of the world.

“Damn, this is true despair… The worst part is that sometimes I feel like I have no choices in my life, you know? Like I never have a chance to make a decision, sh*t just happens. Like it was all preprogrammed. Like fate… or something. Like there is no way I can have a say in what I do. Quick, as me a question!”

“Uh…”

“Now!”

“I can’t really…”

“See? This is just another example of it! Damn! Sh*t! Damn! Do you see? Now, when I’m trying to go against my destiny and take charge of my life, the opportunity isn’t even there. Damn, man, you have failed me. Failed me for the last time. Jerk.”

I can feel for him, because I’m suffering almost the same fate as him, except that I did have one, a single, chance to make a decision. Then, as he said, everything else was all preprogrammed. No matter what I did afterwards, even though at some point the situation looked hopeful, the fact remains that the result had already been decided. That one “poisoned” commodity has become my ultimate nemesis, and, as time goes by, the effect of the poison finally takes place, bringing forth destructive consequence to my life.

Kenji slides to his knees and then falls over onto his side, lying on the gravel of the roof.

“Hey, are you okay?”

“No, I’m not okay, can’t you see I’m in despair?”

He’s speaking in a sarcastic tone.

Suddenly, Kenji sits up, clumsily pats himself clean, and puts his hand out towards me to reach for the bottle. I put it in his hand.

“What the hell? Damn, you killed almost the entire bottle. See, it’s like I have no options in life… Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of time?”

I just realized I’m sharing a drink with Kenji. The mere thought of it is terrifying.

“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be like that for the rest of time.”

Whatever he’s talking about. My head is spinning. I get up and lean against the fence, hoping it’ll help me focus a little.

“Yeah, I know. We have to fight the power with all we got. It’s the only way to live. You’re an all right guy. This brotherly bond is what keeps me going in these dark times. We should go trolling women.”

“Rolling women? What?”

“Trolling women. Trolling for women. But we have to do it now, before I lose this alcohol-related courage.”

He’s gesturing wildly. Madly, even. I take a step backward. He takes a step forward.

“What’s the matter with you? Not in the mood for love?”

If I tell him the truth, I can’t imagine how he’s going to react. I never told him about my love history. Is it a bit unfair for me to hide my experience from him, given that he just spoiled his secret to me?

“To be frank… no.”

I take another step backward. He takes another step forward. He leans in extremely, uncomfortably close.

“What the hell, stop leaning in like that, it bothers me.”

“Leaning in like what? Hey, you shouldn’t lean against the fence like that, it’s kind of unsafe.”

I try to move away from Kenji, but my balance isn’t so good. Reeling from the dizziness, I grab at one of the fenceposts, but then feel it give way as soon as I put my weight on it. …this isn’t good. Though my alcohol-addled brain doesn’t seem to be quite able of registering why. Kenji’s face seems to be becoming smaller though, which is a bit of a relief. Much smaller, in fact. And rapidly so. There seems to be a bit of wind now. Somehow it makes me feel almost weightless. I feel dazed, like my mind has gone blank.

“I am… falling…?”

I can see the early morning sky as I turn over in the air. The bottle floats out of my fingertips and disappears into thin air as I fall. I realize that this is the fitting end to a truly, truly bad day…

“HISAAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Chapter 62: Breaking Even
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Wed May 11, 2022 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 109
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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch61 @ 25 Apr 2022: What a surprise!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Wed May 11, 2022 11:04 pm

Chapter 62: Breaking Even

Mmm…

*Yawn*

The beautiful cello sound playing on my cell phone wakes me up from slumber. What time is it? It’s four in the morning. Great! I didn’t sleep through the morning! This means I’ll be able to start year 2009 by watching the first sunrise of the year on the roof! I’m so happy that I decided to sleep at eight o’clock last night.

Without leaving my bed, I turn on the lights, then the heater, and then remove my pajamas with my blankets still covering me up. I stick out a hand to grab the moisturizing cream from the desk, then apply it on everywhere required; it looks like I’ll have to get another bottle from the school pharmacy, as it’s almost finished. Then, before I step out of my bed, I put on my birthday presents: Dark green shirt and dark blue trousers from Akira, and a purple jacket from Hisao. Today’s going to be a cold day, and, if I wish to go out to the roof this morning, I need to be properly equipped, or I’d be frozen to death.

Picking up my cell phone, I immediately turn off the alarm. Even though I know that under vibration mode, my cell phone will only sound when I set off an alarm, I still want to eliminate all possibilities of my cell phone going off randomly. I’ll set the alarm again tonight.

The cello sound that woke me up just now was part of a performance conducted by Lilly, when I visited her and her family last week for Christmas celebration. The successful Open Day performance and a top-ranked academic results by Lilly, coupled with Mr. Satou finally getting a job in Japan after quitting his post in Scotland due to a heart attack, contributed to a fantastic mood during the party. The Satous were so happy that Lilly and her mother offered to play a piece together with their cellos. The piece played was called “The Concord”, originated from Canada. I recorded the performance, and, making use of the computer in the newspaper club room (I cannot officially join the newspaper club this year, but I’m considered an honorable member by the club, and the new Editor in Chief allows me access to the room), I extracted a loopable section of the music and stored it into my cell phone, setting it to be my alarm ringtone.

Before cleaning myself up, I take a quick look around my desk. During the first three years in Yamaku, my desk was almost completely empty all the time, except during exam periods when I put a few textbooks on it. Now, however, my desk is decorated with all the fond memories I’ve collected ever since I was accepted as a fourth-year student. The birthday cards from Miki, Suzu, and Misha (written by Shizune). The photos taken during the Yamaku festival in Jun’s room. The birthday party. The Disneyland visit. The Kasshoku Open Day after successfully conquering my mission as the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. And I have Shizune’s birthday present of exam drill workbooks on the left side of my desk, waiting to be completed before my second Center Test attempt.

I smile. Never in my life have I been so happy.

After all the washing, I return to my room and open the curtains. The sky is still dark because it is winter. Let’s go. It’s going to turn bright any minute.

Picking up my camera, which is Naomi’s birthday present for me, I turn off the heater (I don’t want to see another accident!), put on my shoes, and set off for the roof. The photos of the first sunrise in year 2009 are going to be stored in my personal photo album.

Wish myself good luck in year 2009! Pass my Center Test, conquer the Entrance Exams, get into Kasshoku, sit next to Naomi in class, live with Lilly, and I have a clear path towards success this year.

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

This is the first time I walk around the corridors of the main bulding so early in the morning. As expected, the hallways are completely quiet, to the point that it’s a little scary. Fortunately I’m not walking in the dark, as the dim light from the nearby lampposts shine onto the ground through the corridor windows. I take a look at the ground: The black and white tiles on the floor that I used to play a game with, only stepping on one of the colors. Now, obviously, I don’t really care.

I was so childish back then.

For almost three years in my Yamaku life, I was merely surviving. I had no friends, no affiliates, no events, no future plans, and no hope. Besides reading in the library, my only sources of joy were these little games that I pitifully played with myself. Now I have a best friend in Lilly, a close friend in Hisao, several other affiliates, and a goal to aim for. I don’t need to entertain myself with these silly tile-avoiding games any more. There are much better ways to spend my precious time on, and watching the New Year sunrise is certainly one of them.

If I manage to get into Kasshoku, I think I’ll visit my orphanage and inform the staff of the news. They’ll be thrilled.

Walking at a brisk pace, I reach the stairs towards the roof in no time. With my camera on my hands, I quietly climb the stairs one step at a time, trying my best not to trip over. Is someone already there waiting for the sunrise as well?

As I reach the top of the staircase, I find the door to the rooftop open, and then suddenly I’m met by a strong smell of alcohol! Ew… I almost want to vomit, so I cover my nose and turn away. What happened? Did somebody hold a party last night and create a mess in the process? I can’t believe such misbehaving students exist in this school for the disabled!

Sigh. I guess my plan of welcoming the first sunrise of the year on the rooftop is foiled. I certainly don’t want to celebrate a New Year in such a stinky place.

I’m about to head back to presumably my dorm room when I hear a boy’s voice coming from the rooftop.

“What the hell? Damn, you killed almost the entire bottle. See, it’s like I have no options in life… Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of time?”

Who’s that? I certainly have heard this voice before, but I can’t ring a bell.

“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be like that for the rest of time.”

But THIS voice I certainly recognize!

“Yeah, I know. We have to fight the power with all we got. It’s the only way to live. You’re an all right guy. This brotherly bond is what keeps me going in these dark times. We should go trolling women.”

Still covering my nose, I put down my camera next to me and take a slight peek into the rooftop through its half-open door which says OFF LIMITS.

“Rolling women? What?”

This is definitely him! Why is he here?

“Trolling women. Trolling for women. But we have to do it now, before I lose this alcohol-related courage.”

As the sky gradually gets brighter, I can see my stray-haired benefactor leaning against the rooftop dangerously. I reel in shock. How did he get up here? And why is he drinking, given that he’s not yet an adult? And the scarfed boy drinking with him, I’ve seen him before, he was a third-year Yamaku student too!

“What’s the matter with you? Not in the mood for love?”

“To be frank… no.”

What’s going on with them? They both look like drunk.

“What the hell, stop leaning in like that, it bothers me.”

“Leaning in like what? Hey, you shouldn’t lean against the fence like that, it’s kind of unsafe.”

My benefactor grabs a lamppost, but, due to the alcohol’s effect, he cannot hold onto it. He’s going to fall! Oh no!

“HISAAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Without thinking, I dash towards the lamppost while letting out a sharp scream. Hisao is falling! I dive onto the ground and manage to get hold of his left leg! Hanging on by the edge, with most of his body outside the rooftop, his weight is too much for me to hold on. At this rate, I might even fall down along with him!

Then I feel somebody grabbing me by my waist. I startle, which causes Hisao to drop just a bit further. With that person fixing me in place, I use the entirety of my strength to prevent Hisao from slipping any further.

“HANG IN THERE, HISAO!”

This is the first time I get handled (literally) by someone of the opposite sex since my accident, and I utterly despise this, especially since he can feel out my scars on the right side of my body. But this is obviously not the primary concern right now.

With all of my strength concentrated on my arms, I cannot exert any extra strength to pull. Nobody’s going to discover us. I need to do something! I’ve got to save him!

I try to flail my legs around, and, luckily for me, I find the lamppost with my right foot! This is going to help! I quickly wrap my foot around the lamppost, and, using it as a pivot, I can now start to pull with my hands!

It’s so fortunate that I left my camera on the stairs. Otherwise, not only Naomi’s birthday present would be crushed, but it would also get in my way of saving Hisao.

With the boy helping me at the back, I give everything I’ve got to pull Hisao back. Slowly, but steadily, we manage to pull his leg back to the ground. He’s also wiggling around with his right leg to grab hold of as much ground as possible.

The strong alcohol smell is nasty, but I can’t withdraw. I’ll just have to bear with it.

After another few pulls, Hisao’s waist is back on the rooftop. Having not eaten breakfast yet, I’m almost out of breath and energy, but I don’t lose my grip. Just a little more!

A little more… I can see his arms now!

Come on! You can do it, Hanako!

Almost! I don’t feel much weight on my arms now!



Finally! He’s safe!

With Hisao’s body back on the rooftop, I release my grip on his leg and relax face-down on the ground, panting heavily.

How dangerous it was!

All the adrenaline now fades out, and I start to feel pain throughout my body: I’ve used too much of my strength. My nose has adjusted itself to the nasty alcohol smell, so I don’t feel like vomiting now. My body calls for a rest, and I quickly oblige by falling into a slumber.

Before I fall asleep, I can barely hear somebody’s voice (probably not Hisao’s), but, with my body shutting down, I cannot figure out what he said.

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

The sound of something like glass shards wakes me up. I find myself still lying on the ground, the strong smell is now gone. I lift my head up, and I can see the New Year morning sunrays beaming happily on me.

Sigh. I missed the sunrise after all.

But I’ve just accomplished something much more important than seeing a sunrise.

“Hanako?”

I lift myself up to sit upright. Hisao is standing next to me on my right.

“H-Hisao?”

Putting down the plastic bag he’s carrying, he walks around to sit down on my left side. He probably doesn’t want to be accused of peeking into my scars.

“Well, how should I start? First of all, thank you so much for saving me.”

Having just woken up, I can only produce the most natural response.

“It’s o-okay.”

“Yeah, it was so embarrassing, wasn’t it?”

Indeed. Everything I just witnessed was beyond absurd.

“W-what happened? Why are you h-here?”

Hisao looks into distance and sighs.

“Well, it was long story.”

With my senses coming back, I can feel a nasty smell of alcohol coming out from his mouth. I reflexively cover my nose.

He notices. He covers his mouth in embarrassment.

“Do you mind leading me to the tea room? I’d like to have a drink.”

Leading a non-Yamaku student, let alone a drunk one, into the main building is probably violating school rules. But I don’t think anybody would see us anyway, at this time of the day. Also, if we want to make any further conversation, getting rid of the alcohol is a necessity.

“O-okay.”

Leaving the place where I was supposed to watch sunrise, I lead my ex-Yamaku classmate down the stairs towards the room I used to spend time with Lilly.

I haven’t been in the tea room for quite a long while. The last time I visited here was during the Yamaku festival. Without Lilly in the school, there’s pretty much no reason for me to choose this room over the library or my own room.

After he sits down, I boil some water and serve him and myself with Lilly’s favorite Orange Jaipur. I sit across him and take a sip of the tea. He does likewise while rinsing, in an attempt to neutralize the foul smell.

“Thanks a lot, Hanako.”

“You’re w-welcome.”

“You saved me. I probably would have died if you weren’t there.”

I give him a weak smile. I don’t know why he did something so reckless, but I’ll wait for him to tell me, if he wishes.

“I g-guess we now kind of b-break even, don’t we?”

Obviously I’m referring to his heroic save back in March. Now, with each of us having rescued each other once, I feel much less awkward facing him, no longer feeling the urge to pay him back every time. Maybe this will be beneficial to our friendship in the future.

“Yeah, I suppose it’s true.”

He then returns me my camera while still covering his mouth.

“Here you go. I picked it up. That’s Naomi’s birthday present, am I right?”

I forgot to take my camera with me back in the rooftop!

“Y-yes. I was t-trying to t-take some photos of the New Year s-sunset…”

“I figured. I’m so sorry for ruining your event. Look, I’ve done that for you, while you were still asleep.”

I scroll through the records in the camera. Indeed, he has helped me take pictures of the New Year sunrise. The quality of the photos is pretty good too.

“T-thanks a lot.”

“Nah. I started all the trouble after all.”

I’m curious. I’ll try to retrieve some information from him.

“So… W-what r-really h-happened? Why d-did you v-visit Yamaku?”

Hisao takes a sip from his cup and shakes his head, still covering his mouth.

“Sigh. Well, I don’t even know how to start. Frankly speaking, I would prefer not to talk about it again, but that wouldn’t be fair, considering you just saved my life.”

“Y-you don’t n-need to if you don’t w-want to.”

“Well, maybe let me sort everything out first. I’ll tell you when I’m ready. But please do me a favor: Don’t tell anybody about what happened today. Please?”

“S-sure. My l-lips are sealed.”

“Thanks so much. But I think I should leave soon. I don’t want to be seen trespassing the school ground.”

“W-will you be f-fine leaving alone? You’re s-still…”

“I’ll take a rest, but yeah, I’ll have to go, no matter what condition I’m in. I made this mess, so I have to clean everything up.”

After he leaves school, he’s probably taking a train back home.

Hey, I’ve got an idea. Assuming he can get rid of his foul smell with the tea…

“H-Hisao, do you mind if we t-travel together?”

“Huh?”

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

“I’ll raise you five.”

Hmm… I’ve a feeling he’s bluffing me.

“I’ll see you and raise you… another five.”

“Damn, you got me. I fold.”

Haha! He HAS been bluffing, and I’ve caught him! Hanging his head, he pushes over a large portion of his winnings.

I’m aware that playing poker with him won’t solve any of his problems, but at least it will lift his mood a little bit.

“So… are you s-sure you’re not coming to our g-gathering tonight?”

“Nah. I’ve got to make my amends. I lied to my parents after all.”

Hisao hasn’t told me about his secret yet, but he did confide to me that he lied to his parents yesterday, saying that he would be staying in his friend’s home for the night. Now that everything is over, he wants to go back home to spend time with his parents. He already spent his Christmas holiday with Shizune and Misha after all.

Hisao seemed to have recovered from the drinking party after spending some time in the tea room. Knowing that he desperately needed to clean himself up, I locked him inside the room (to prevent others from discovering him), and walked back to my room to bring him a one-time use cleaning set (which I took from the hotel after my birthday party). After washing his face in the restroom, we proceeded to clean everything up. There are some stains on my purple jacket and my jeans, which Hisao offered to pay for the laundry but I refused. My clothes are still intact, even after such a tough workout, which is solid proof that their birthday presents are high-quality stuff. It turns out that the plastic bag Hisao was bringing along was the shards of the alcohol bottle, which he broke when he was starting to fall. We made sure there was no trace of alcohol or anything suspicious in the tea room, then I went back to my room once again to get myself re-dressed, replacing my jacket and my jeans. I picked up my bag and met Hisao in front of the school gate which is now open. We walked the distance together towards the train station, and boarded the train to Hisao’s hometown.

Instead of distributing the cards again, Hisao puts the cards back into the packet. It looks like leisure time is over.

“I don’t know, but I probably need some private time to sort things out. And I think it’s time for you to dive back into your books as well. The Center Test is right around the corner for you, isn’t it?”

“Y-yes, unfortunately.”

“I’ll go get some hot water. D’you want some?”

“S-sure.”

As he sets off towards the train cafeteria, I open my Ethics exam notes and prepare for another cramming session. Before that, though, let’s go through my logic to try guessing the reason behind Hisao’s appearance in Yamaku today.

I still cannot figure out the identity of the scarfed boy who was drinking with Hisao. Surely he was an ex-Yamaku student, but we’re not in the same class. He apparently left the scene after I fell asleep. As far as I know, Hisao does not have a close male friend here; every non-staff affiliate he had in Yamaku were girls: Shizune, Misha, Lilly, Miki, Suzu, and maybe Naomi and Jun. The boy couldn’t be a Student Council member, as all male members are in the lower forms.

If that guy is not a very close friend of Hisao’s, then why would he trespass the Yamaku school gates just to drink with him? It wouldn’t make any sense at all.

One thing I’m pretty sure, though. Something very bad must have happened to him.

But what could’ve been so disastrious? Did he fail an exam? No, because Lilly’s results came a long time ago, so he must have received his results before the holiday. Did he get rejected from the JUSC team? Could be, but I don’t think it’s too big of a deal for him. And he’s not in an argument with his parents either.

There’s one more possibility. One real possibility that would explain everything he’s done so far. Now that all the other clues have been eliminated, THAT looks very likely. If that’s really the case, I don’t know what to say to him.

Let’s not open any wound. Focus on my studies first. If he wants my assistance, I’ll worry about it when he does.

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

After parting ways with Hisao in Chiba station, I set off towards my destination for the evening, the one I just visited last week. It’s already the third time I make this trip, so I should remember how to get there. It’s not very far from Lilly’s home. A bus ride is all it takes.



Satou. Yes, I’ve made it! Let’s press the doorbell.

“Coming!”

The owner of the voice is none other than the hostess of this apartment, Lilly’s mother, who I met a few times after she migrated back to Japan.

“Welcome, Hanako!”

“H-Happy New Year, Mrs. S-Satou.”

Mrs. Satou has offered me to call her by first name Karla, but I still can’t find myself comfortable enough to do that.

“You too, Happy New Year!”

“Hanako! It’s so nice to meet you again!”

Despite the fact that we just met each other last week, Lilly’s always thrilled whenever she hears my voice. She gracefully walks past her mother to give me a warm-hearted hug, which I happily accept.

There’s no way I will ever figure out why such a popular mixed-blooded blonde would select me as her best friend, especially after she confided to me that she has a potential date in the university. It’s not exaggerating to say that her presence has completely changed my life.

“Yo, Hanako!” “Welcome, Miss Ikezawa.”

Next in line to greet me is Akira, along with a similar-aged boy who I’ve never met before. He’s probably Akira’s boyfriend. They didn’t come to the gathering last week, so I suppose they’re making up for their absence.

“Happy N-New Year, Akira!”

The androgynous looking elder sister of Lilly offers me warm hug, which takes me by surprise a little bit. She helped me out a bunch during the Open Day assignment a couple of months ago, so I’m very much in debt of her.

“N-Nice to meet you.”

“Yuichi Imai here. I’m Akira’s boyfriend.”

“G-good evening, Mr. Imai.”

During the hug with Akira, I felt something attached to her finger. Now I notice that Mr. Imai also has a ring attached to his middle finger. I’m not the kind of person who go for a direct attack, so I resort to giving Akira an expectant smile.

“Yup, lils, she caught up on that. Told ya.”

Lilly lets out a giggle as Akira continues, raising her left hand to show me her engagement ring.

“Hanako, I’m proud to inform you that I’m officially engaged with my boyfriend.”

She then turns towards her partner.

“You should start introducing yourself as my fiancée.”

Her fiancée, colleague, and roommate scratches his head in embarrassment.

“Yeah, you’re right… It’s pretty hard to change a habit.”

Strange. Why do BOTH of them fly all the way from Scotland just to celebrate New Year with us? If Akira wants to see Lilly, she doesn’t need to bring her fiancée along. And, unless Akira has miraculously reconciled with her parents, which, from what I’ve seen so far, is highly unlikely, I don’t think she wants to start a new year with a family party. Then why?

Do they have some work-related mission to complete in Japan? Probably not; as she would just go straight to the office to sort matters out.



Ah! It all makes sense!

Staring at Akira’s finger and her ring, it’s easy to figure out the true purpose of their visit. They must be trying to get approval from Akira’s parents about their marriage! If that’s the case, they’re in luck, as the Satou family is currently in fascinating mood. If Akira’s fiancée behaves properly today, they will most likely obtain blessings from Karla and her husband.

“C-congratulations, Akira. I’m s-so happy for you two!”

But then this begs another question: Why do they want to marry in the first place? Lilly once told me that in Scotland, many people prefer to live together unmarried rather than tying the knot. Akira surely looks like she’s that kind of person; she’s already living with her boyfriend as well.

Is Akira pregnant? That would be a reason to marry. I don’t see any such indication on her stomach though.

I’ll have to ask Lilly after the party.

Behind the engaged couple are my two newspaper club friends. Naomi gives me an emphatic hug, then greets me with a series of sounds that sounded like total gibberish.

“I said: ‘Awrite! Hou’s it gaun? Happy freish year!’ You don’t know what that means?”

“Something, then Happy New Year, I suppose?”

“The first part means ‘Hi. How are you?’ in Scottish. Am I right, Mrs. Satou?”

“You’re spot on! Great job, Naomi!”

Upon hearing Karla’s comment, Naomi sticks out a V-sign to show off her Scottish success.

“You should reply with something like ‘A’m fine, slainte! Happy freish year!’ C’mon, Hanako!”

“Um… H-Happy f-freish year? I c-couldn’t get the f-first part.”

“It’s ‘A’m fine, slainte!’”

Naomi looks pleased with her performance, but Jun, who’s been standing next to her all the time, gives me a tired look.

“She wanted to greet Mrs. Satou in Scottish, so I looked up some Scottish phrases on the internet for her, and she’s been practicing them out loud ever since. Hopefully she’ll stop now. Happy New Year by the way, Hanako.”

Naomi playfully sticks her tongue out at Jun.

“You’re just jealous because my Scottish is better than yours.”

Jun just rolls her eyes on Naomi, shakes her head, and faces me again.

“Sorry, I don’t think I can embrace you, as my bones can get crushed if I do so.”

“I-it’s okay. H-Happy New Year, Jun.”

Karla chooses this moment to intercept.

“So, I suppose everybody is here, am I right?”

“Yes, Mother. I tried to call Hisao again this morning, but I could not reach him.”

So Lilly invited Hisao to the party too! Of course I know the reason why he didn’t answer Lilly’s call, but spoiling any information here would mean total disaster.

“Alright then. Girls, let’s officially start our dinner gathering!”

“WOOHOO!!!”

Two day ago, Karla invited me and the Newspaper Club members to her home for a small writing project while celebrating the New Year. We gladly accepted, favoring a reunion over more cramming sessions. We’re going to stay here for the night, then return to Yamaku together after the project is finished. Since the cram school Naomi studied in deemed her too dangerous and volatile to be taking exams with the other students, a special arrange was made to allow her to take her exams in Yamaku instead, so that she can receive immediate medical attention should something occur (but no, don’t have another episode, please!). So, Naomi will be sleeping in Jun’s room until the Center Test and the Entrance Exams are over, and we’ll be studying together in the Yamaku library starting from tomorrow.

But for now, let’s put the books aside and enjoy a dinner party with my precious friends!

Chapter 63: A Musical Date

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