Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch64@13/9/22: Absolutely Rinsane!]

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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: 114
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: 114
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: 114
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

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
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Fri Aug 19, 2022 1:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 114
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch62 @ 12 May 2022; Back to writing!!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Fri Aug 19, 2022 1:11 am

Chapter 63: A Musical Date

“Ding-dong!”

The receptionist opens the door for me, and I step into my working place with a mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety.

Walking past the classrooms, I arrive at the Commons and head straight to my locker. I’ve a pretty busy schedule today, so I’d better prepare right away.

Hold on. Something’s not right.

I turn around. Two of my colleagues are present, both reading their notes. Everything seems normal, except for one particular detail.

“Hey Ohara!”

The Economics teacher who’s been working here for a few months lifts her head up from her notes.

“Good morning! What’s up?”

I point towards the accountant’s table.

“Where’s Hakamichi? She always arrives early.”

Ohara shrugs, then casually shifts her sight back to her notes.

“Don’t know. Maybe she took a day’s leave to visit her family? It’s New Year after all. You may ask Mr. Nagase if you want to.”

“Alright then. Thanks.”

“Didn’t you guys visit Hong Kong with her? You should know better than I do.”

The Hong Kong trip spanned a total of eight days, including one Saturday, and Mr. Nagase was kind enough to give the whole tutorial center, students included, the day off for Christmas celebrations.

“We did, but she came back earlier this week while I stayed in Hong Kong for a few more days with my family. I didn’t contact her afterwards.”

“I see. How was the trip?”

The trip was, of course, excellent, but I opt not to disclose her the details regarding that matter until the time is ripe.

“Pretty good! It was nice going back to my hometown once in a while.”

“Finally able to speak your mother tongue, huh.”

“Yeah, I guess. I missed the food too.”

“I’ve never been there. What’s famous in Hong Kong? I’ve heard about the Victoria Harbor. And the Ocean Park, I think?”

“You’re right. We went to both places. What’s great about Hong Kong? Simple. Great food. Shopping paradise. You have a clear choice for your next vacation.”

“Certainly sounds attractive. Alright, I’ll talk to my family. Maybe we’ll join a tour.”

“Great.”

I turn to my locker and take out all the materials I need for today, and set off towards Room 204 for my upcoming class. I could’ve stayed in the Commons for my preparations, but I decide against it in order to avoid someone.

No, I do NOT want to see her now. At least not until the time is right.

Eager to hide myself in Room 204 as soon as possible, I quickly exit the Commons and walk by Mr. Nagase’s room. I briefly consider greeting my boss and asking about Shizune, but quickly dismiss the idea. Then I turn a corner and…

“Hey there, good morning Alvin!”

Nooooooo!!! I was trying to avoid you!!

Now what do I do?

“H-hi! G-good m-m-morning!”

My nerves quickly get the best of me, and my physics notes are dropping!

“Be careful… gotcha!”

She dexterously catches my notes mid-air. What a nice save.

“T-thanks. I-I’m s-sorry.”

“Here you go. Are you alright? Sorry if I startled you.”

“N-no. I-I’m just n-n-nervous…”

“C’mon! It’s me! It’s not like we meet each other for the first time!”

“I’m j-just… You know… T-today is a s-special…”

The girl I was trying to avoid this morning shakes her head in amusement.

“It’s going to be alright! Just behave like yourself! No need to worry, Alvin!”

So embarrassing! I’m so ashamed of myself!

“Uh… okay. I’ll try my best.”

I’m just blurting out words right now.

“You’ll be in Room 204, right? I’ll open the door for you.”

“T-thanks a lot.”

Darn! Should’ve come back earlier! Then I won’t need to deal with this!

So she turns around, opens the door to the second classroom from the left, and invites me in. I carefully balance everything on hand such that nothing drops again. Let’s put everything on the teacher’s desk…

“ROAR!!!”

“Whoa!”

*Thud* *Splash*

Startled by the sudden roaring voice and the appearance of my student Mitsugu, I fall onto the ground, all my documents dropping onto the floor with a splash.

What a terrible start to today’s work!

So he hid himself behind the teacher’s desk to surprise me!

Well, to be honest, the roar wasn’t that loud. I was just caught by surprise because I was thinking about something else, not paying attention to the surroundings.

“Are you okay, Mr. Alvin?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Ecchan.”

“Mitsugu! Look at what you’ve just done! I told you not to do that!”

“Hehe… Sorry, Mr. Alvin. I think I shouted a little bit too loudly. Sorry.”

Mitsugu comes over to lift me up as his two classmates, Makoto and Ecchan, help me with the documents. Despite being a prankster, Mitsugu is a very kind-hearted young boy. He shares this trait with his two best friends.

“I told you it’s a bad idea! You never listen!”

The prankster scratches his head in embarrassment.

“I just wanted to play with Mr. Alvin. Sorry…”

The three kids have been studying in the tutorial center for quite some time. Before Hisao came, I helped conduct a math class for the three as a substitute teacher after the previous teacher resigned. Since then, Hisao has become their math teacher. I still vividly remember the first class Hisao had with them: Eager to see if he could flatten his new math teacher’s stray hair, Mitsugu impulsively charged towards him, only to fall down after Hisao narrowly dodged the tackle. Half a year has passed, and this proactive boy still hasn’t changed a bit.

“It’s alright. Don’t do it again.”

The three of them started studying science here since last September. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of fun with them.

Ecchan puts down my notes onto the table for me.

“Here you go, Mr. Alvin.”

“Thank you. Well, there are still ten minutes until class starts, so why don’t you guys each take a seat and prepare for your class? I also need to take a seat and sort out my notes. Thanks to you, Mitsugu.”

“Hehehe… Sorry… I made this mess. May I help you with this?”

I don’t know; if he gets access to my notes, something worse might happen.

“No, it’s alright. Just prepare your class and don’t make any more pranks.”

My three students take the cue and sit down side-by-side, taking out their notes from the previous class. While sorting out my own notes, my mind keeps shifting back and forth towards the two events that happened just now, and the one big event that’s about to come.

Oh man! Today could be critical! I’m so nervous!

I’m sure I’m sweating hard, even though it’s winter. I hope the upcoming classes will at least distract me a bit from thinking about the potential consequences if things go wrong this evening.

If only I could find help from Makoto, Mitsugu, and Ecchan!

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

Three grueling hours after, it’s time for lunch break! Usually I would have lunch with those two, but today’s going to be different. Accordingly, after quickly picking up my notes and cleaning up the whiteboard, I hurry towards Room 210, hoping to find Hisao inside.

But, through the small glass window, all I can see is another teacher already inside conducting her class.

Oh well, I guess there’s no way to avoid entering the Commons now.

Actually, since I need to put my notes back into my locker, I HAVE to enter the Commons no matter what.

I’m so dumb! What was I thinking?

Sigh. Today’s special situation is causing me so much trouble! Should’ve gotten things done on Friday instead!

Well, here we go. Taking a deep breath, I step into the staff room, hoping to find Hisao but not the one I want to avoid. But Murphy’s Law says that if something could go wrong, it WILL go wrong.

And… Of course, Murphy’s Law is correct once again!

“Hey there! How did your classes go?”

There are only two girls in the Commons, both of them I talked to this morning. While the Economics teacher greets me energetically, the girl standing next to her shakes her head and gives us a bitter smile.

“Tough morning, isn’t it?”

Being pranked by Mitsugu this morning in front of her, the only thing I can do is to follow her gesture.

“Yeah, kids are just so hard to deal with.”

Ohara shrugs.

“I mean, that’s our job, right? I’m thinking, when we were students, we probably gave our teachers a lot of trouble too. Arriving at school late, sleeping in class, forgetting to submit assignments, we did all these, didn’t we?”

“Yeah, I guess you’ve got a point.”

“By the way, Hisao came briefly and asked me to tell you that he has something urgent to do, so he’s not going to have lunch with you guys.”

No wonder I couldn’t find him in Room 210. Does his urgent task have anything to do with Shizune?

“Oh.”

“So, since Hisao isn’t joining us, I’m going to have lunch with Ohara instead. You can have lunch with the boys. They went to the restroom, and will come back very soon.”

That’s unexpected.

“Uh…”

The girl I failed to avoid this morning gives me a wink after suggesting me lunch companions. Well, I guess this is probably the best solution.

“Alright then. I’ll see you both soon.”

The girls proceed to exit the Commons while chatting about food. Being alone waiting for the boys to come back, I take a look around the Commons in an attempt to relieve a little bit of pressure.

Shizune’s seat is still empty. Her desk’s layout is exactly the same as the one this morning: Computer, documents in the tray on the top right corner, and nothing else. In other words, very tidy. She probably didn’t come to work.

She was completely normal during the Hong Kong trip. I hope nothing bad happened.

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

“I still can’t believe you actually chose THIS restaurant for us tonight!”

“Why not? Don’t you like Chinese food too?”

“Yeah, of course, but, you know, I expected somewhere more extravagant for this occasion. I’ve prepared the money for it too.”

“Haha… You mean those fancy Western restaurants where we order a bottle of Chardonnay and cut steaks while listening to a personal violin performance? Nah, I’d rather go for somewhere we’re more familiar with. What else is better than great Chinese food, you know?”

I guess not everybody is like Lilly Satou, the mixed-blooded schoolmate in the English faculty.

Imagine dating Lilly Satou in a restaurant she just talked about. You wear a tuxedo and a tie, which you’ve pulled out from your wardrobe after wasting them inside for years, while Lilly convincingly out-dresses you with a glamorous velvet dress along with a variety of accessories including hairpin, earrings, diamond necklace, scarf, white gloves, high heel shoes, and handbag, all of world-class brands. You two sit down in a corner and, with shaking hands, you put on your napkin while giving yourself a little bit of comfort that she cannot perceive your embarrassment with her eyes. You attempt to read the menu for her, but it’s filled with French words (well, I know some Spanish, but French is Mars language to me), so you try to read it out anyway and hope that she can understand. Realizing that your words make no sense, she will ask you to order for her anyway, which makes you even more nervous. Then, when your meals arrive, you don’t know which knife or spoon to use, but Lilly shows off her well-trained dinner etiquette in front of you while giving you a mischievous smile. You feel like you’re the one who’s blind! Finally, after all the embarrassing moments, you call for the bill. When you get to read the price, you discover to your horror that this dinner is going to deplete half of your savings. But then your date, noticing your gasp with her ultra-sharp ears, calmly shows you her credit card to share a majority of the cost.

I prefer sitting in a typical Chinese restaurant with the cute girl in front of me.

“And, being in a familiar environment can help you relax a bit, right?”

She’s so caring. I’ve been so freaking nervous since this morning!

“You’re so right. I just haven’t been myself today.”

“Don’t worry Alvin! Just treat today as any other day! I’m doing it, as an example.”

“Alright then. Thanks. I feel a bit better now.”

“So, what d’you want? I’ve already chosen. Beef with vegetables. Chinese soup. Here’s the menu.”

She’s really practicing her words, treating today as any other day. Let me scan through the menu…

“D’you want to share with me? You know, we girls like to share, but I know you boys never do. It’s okay if you don’t want to.”

It’s true. For instance, I’ve never shared a meal with Hisao, at least in Japan. I don’t mind sharing dinner with her though.

“Sure, let’s share.”

“How ‘bout this? Braised eggplant with shredded pork. Sounds good.”

“Oh wow, they have this available? Nice! Yeah, they never had it during lunch. In case you don’t know, this is a great Chinese dish. You’ll love it.”

So I call the waiter and, because we’ve been here for quite a few times already, the waiter knows that I’m Chinese, so I order food in Chinese. Mandarin, to be specific. The waiter, who’s working here part-time (“albeit” as we say in Japanese) earning money for his graduate studies, jots my order down and serves us with water and utensils. It’s great to be able to speak Chinese again after coming back to Japan.

“Hey Alvin, I don’t know if I should talk about this, but something’s been bugging me throughout today.”

“Oh. Uh… If you mean all my failures today, then I’m really sorry.”

“Of course not, dear, I know you’re nervous! I can understand! But I’m talking about Hisao. Don’t you think he’s acting really suspicious today?”

So she noticed too.

“Yeah. A little bit. I mean, he used to have lunch with us.”

“I never saw him today. Ohara told me that he arrived almost at the last second, and left for his urgent matter right after the classes ended. And I couldn’t see him in the evening either!”

“I’m thinking, maybe this has something to do with Shizune? She’s absent today.”

“You noticed too? I dunno, but my sixth sense tells me something’s wrong. You know, woman’s sixth sense. Very accurate.”

“Did you try calling Hisao?”

“I did! But his phone was off. I hope he’s fine. I thought you might know some info about him, that’s why I mentioned.”

“Sorry, you know, I just came back, so I never got in touch with him. But the four of you returned earlier this week, didn’t you? It’s been only a few days since then. What would go wrong within one week?”

“Hmm… So you’ve no clue either, huh?”

“No. Man! I should’ve talked to Mr. Nagase about Shizune’s absence! I thought about it, but I didn’t expect it to be a big deal. You know, I thought she was just visiting her family. It’s New Year after all.”

“Well, Shizune’s absence by itself isn’t a problem. The thing is, Hisao’s acting really weird today. It looks as if he’s avoiding us! But why? I didn’t make him angry, did I? Or did I somehow infuriate Shizune, so they both avoided us?”

“No you didn’t in Hong Kong, unless you did something wrong during the week I was with my family.”

“I was staying with my family too. Didn’t contact any of them during the week. There’s, however, one potential clue. But it’s a very long shot.”

“Well, any clue is better than no clue.”

“It’s about Misha. During the Hong Kong visit, she told me that she’s been keeping a diary website which she updates almost every day unless she’s too busy. After the trip, she’s updated her diary with the photos taken in Hong Kong.”

“You saw anything wrong in the photo?”

“No. She then revealed in her diary that she was going to join a party with Shizune in her mansion in Saitama before heading back to America. Shizune’s family would be in the party.”

“Uh huh.”

“But then, there was no more update in her diary since the day before the party. If the party went well, she should’ve posted at least a group photo, or a picture of the two of them standing in front of Shizune’s mansion.”

“Hmm… Maybe she was too busy to update?”

“But that’s not all. During the trip, Misha also told me that her next semester is starting on the first week of January, which is next Monday. This means she most likely has already gone back to America, or at least she’s already on the plane. She promised to text me through Shizune’s phone before she heads back, but apparently she failed her promise.”

“Braised eggplant with shredded pork. Beef with vegetables.”

“Wow! It looks really good!”

This Chinese restaurant never disappoints me. The braised eggplant smells so good. Chinese food is awesome! We’re in for a treat!

“Thanks for today, Alvin.”

I blush while scratching my head.

“I mean, you picked the restaurant for us, so I should thank you instead.”

“Haha. You know, I’m simply cherishing our moments together.”

I smile and raise my cup of tea, and she follows suit.

“Cheers!”

We proceed to, since we’ve agreed to share our meals, distribute the food in front of us onto our respective bowls of rice.

“I understand your speculations, but I think it’s still too early to call. Maybe something’s wrong, but maybe everything’s fine, and they’re simply too busy with family celebrations.”

“I hope so. Is there anything we can do? Maybe we can send them a message?”

One reason I like her is that she cares deeply for her friends.

“Good idea. But let’s not make a fuss just yet. Hmm… We can make things generic. Wish them a happy New Year, and hope to meet them again next Saturday. Then, depending on their response, we can discuss our next step.”

“Sure. So, how about this? I’ll send a message to Shizune, wishing her happy New Year, and then… Uh… What should I say? See you next Saturday? Sounds odd.”

It indeed sounds a bit odd. Even though the two girls have been working in the same tutorial center for a few months, due to the fact that Shizune is deaf, their only means of communication are through pen and paper or sign language translations when available. So it’s unsurprising that they’re still not very familiar with each other, even after they’ve gone on a trip together.

“Hmm… Hey, let’s think about it later. It’s not urgent. We should eat first.”

“Oh yeah, let’s go! The food smells really good!”

With the disabled trio topic temporary suspended, we proceed to enjoy our dinner in relative silence. Not because we’ve run out of topics to discuss, but because the food is so good that we’re completely occupied with eating.

Braised eggplants with shredded pork in Hong Kong style. The Chinese name literally means “Fish flagrance eggplants”. The original version comes from Sichuan of China. As the name suggests, the dish has the flagrance of fish, but in fact there’s no fish in it. Rather, the flagrance is made out of spices such as chili, ginger, garlic, sugar, salt, and soy sauce. The Hong Kong variant adds in salted fish to amplify the fish flagrance while reducing the amount of chili in order to suit the locals better. This is a great dish that will make you want to eat more rice! Luckily, here we can request a rice refill free of charge.

When I’m done with my Chinese soup, I lift my head and see my dinner partner wiping her mouth, her eyes telling me she’s equally satisfied with the food. Whew! The first portion of today’s mission is a success! All thanks to her making the right dinner choice for us! (No I don’t want to imagine again what would have happened if we chose a deluxe restaurant!)

“All good?”

“Yup! I’m full! Can’t take another bite!”

Although there’s nothing else on the table to bite on. All that’s left is the tableware.

“Pffft!!”

“W-what’s the matter?”

“H-H-H-Hahahahaha!!!!”

The girl I tried so hard to avoid this morning fails to resist a burst of laughter, leaving me completely dumbfounded.

“Huh?”

“Look at you! You’re using the wrong end of the chopsticks again! Hahahaha!!!”

“Oh.”

I was so hungry that I didn’t notice the ends of the chopsticks before eating! Sigh… so embarrassing!

“Don’t you feel odd when you’re eating? I just… can’t… I mean, how come?”

How can I explain, or find an excuse for, my clumsiness?

“Er…, well, I… I just didn’t notice at all. Sorry!”

“Nevermind. You know what? This reminds me of my young cousin. When he was a child, he wasn’t able to distinguish between left and right shoes. So his parents tried to stick labels of ‘left’ and ‘right’ on his sandals to help him out. Maybe you should bring your own chopsticks and put a label on them too!”

“You know what? That’s a cool idea. Just put a decoration at the holding end and I’ll be set! Good call, buddy.”

“Are you serious? I was just joking!”

“Yeah! I don’t want to be in the same situation again!”

Sometimes these simple tricks can save us a lot of time. For example, Hisao told me that during his time in his disabled high school, his curtains couldn’t cover the whole window. Shizune told him to simply put on a mask while sleeping, and it worked wonders for him.

“I can’t believe you’re actually serious about my dumb suggestion.”

“Why not? And bringing my own utensil is more hygienic, right? So, did the labels help your cousin?”

“Of course it didn’t help at all, because my cousin wasn’t able to distinguish between the two characters either!”

“So they put the Kanji character labels on his sandals?”

“Yeah, but they forgot about the fact that their child couldn’t read Kanji yet!”

“Hahaha. Well, I suppose the two Kanji characters do look pretty similar. To a child, of course.”

“True. At the end, they removed the label on the right sandal, and told their child that the one with label was the left one. It worked so much better.”

“Ah! That solved the problem. Oh, by the way, a fun fact about the Kanji characters ‘left’ and ‘right’.”

I take out a pen and write down the Kanji characters for left and right: “左” and “右”, on the piece of paper covering the trey.

“I was really surprised that you Japanese write the first two strokes of these two characters in the opposite order. In Chinese we write them in the same order.”

“Huh? Really?”

She grabs my pen and writes down the same characters above her trey.

“Oh yeah! For the character ‘left’, we write the horizontal stroke first, but for the character ‘right’, we write the diagonal stroke first!”

“When I first came to Japan, I was very confused why the Japanese would make such a difference. Then the teacher explained to me that for the ‘left’ character, it’s better to write the horizontal stroke first followed by the diagonal second stroke, because the third stroke being horizontal will fit the overall flow of writing. For the ‘right’ character, it’s better to write the diagonal stroke first, the horizontal stroke second, then the third stroke being vertical will again fit the writing flow. That was absolutely genius!”

“Ah! So THAT was the reason! I never gave it any thought either!”

“Yeah. Ever since I came to Japan, I’ve found so many interesting subtle differences between the Chinese and Japanese languages. I’ll share with you another day.”

“Sure! I hope I won’t get confused when I focus myself on learning Chinese later!”

The restaurant is starting to get busy, and I can see people waiting for empty seats.

“Yeah. By the way, I think it’s time for us to go.”

“Sure.”

My colleague grabs her handbag and is about to take the bill.

“No, no. I’ll treat.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. Don’t worry about it.”

It isn’t that much money anyway, but this is standard etiquette for an occasion like this. I’m not flunking this! My dinner partner looks satisfied.

“Thanks a lot!”

I pay the bill, this time making sure not to drop any coins or banknotes, and we’re good to go.

“So, where to go? Any preference?”

She takes a look at her watch: It’s now 7:15pm.

“Hmm… I have a train ride plus some walking distance until home, so I don’t think I can stay for too long. I need to start going back in around an hour.”

Ha! I’ve prepared for this!

“I can accompany you back home if you’re not feeling safe.”

My partner frowns.

“But then you’ll have to take the train ride back to school very late.”

Silly girl! Your safety is way more important than my own!

“I’ll be fine. I did some research. It isn’t too far away from your home to my school.”

“Are you sure? I’m worried about you.”

“Yeah. Don’t worry, I’m always with you.”

My partner is visibly moved. The second half of my mission is getting a head start!

“You’re actually accompanying me back home? You’re so nice! Thanks so much!”

“Sure. But you’re right. We shouldn’t stay here for too long. We can meet again next week, before classes start.”

She makes a gesture of suddenly having an idea.

“Oh yeah. About that. I haven’t been to Kasshoku yet. Do you think you can bring me there next week? I also want to see how Hisao’s university looks like.”

That’s unexpected.

“Uh… But… Don’t you mind us being seen in the public? I mean…”

The girl I’m escorting tonight gives me a wink with a smile.

“Nope.”

So forward. Yup. This is my girl alright.

“Uh…”

“You mind?”

“Well, I mean, I haven’t told my classmates about you yet, so…”

She shrugs nonchalantly.

“That’s fine. If you’re not ready, I’m not pushing.”

This is a great chance! I don’t think I should reject her. Alright then!

“You know what? There aren’t many students around during the break anyway. Okay then. You can come. I’ll bring you to the engineering department. And the medical department too.”

My colleague immediately lights up.

“That’s fantastic! And the science department too. Hisao’s JUSC Champion posters must be everywhere around!”

“I haven’t been there since the start of school! Yeah, we should go there. Oh, you’ll probably see Student Council posters featuring our good friend Shizune in her formal dress, if they’re not past the posting expiry date yet.”

“You’re right! They’re so famous in the school right now! Oh, by the way, what should we do about Hisao and Shizune? We dropped the topic when the food arrived. Should I send Shizune a message?”

“Oh yeah. Hold on, I’ve got an idea. If you come to Kasshoku with me, maybe you can meet Shizune there. She’s probably in the school, given how busy the Student Council is.”

“But won’t things become awkward if the two of us meet her like that?”

“I guess you’re right. Hmm… No worries. You can have lunch with her. I’ll try searching for Hisao.”

“So we’re not having lunch together?”

“Well, it depends. If they’re in good shape, the four of us can eat together. If things do go south on their end, as you speculate, we adapt accordingly. And we can always have dinner together.”

“Okay. Then I’ll text Shizune. Wish her a happy New Year, tell her I’m visiting Kasshoku next week, and ask if she can meet me there. This feels way more natural than just a ‘see you next week’.”

“And I’ll wish Hisao a happy New Year, say that we couldn’t have lunch today, and offer a hand if he needs help in his urgent task. Oh, I’ll tell him I got pranked by Mitsugu this morning, just to relieve some of his discomfort, if any.”

“Good idea. Let’s do it now.”

We find a bench to sit down on, and we both take out our phones. I navigate to the instant message page, and click on Hisao’s name.

{Hi there, Hisao. Wish you a happy New Year! I regret not being able to have lunch with you this afternoon. I was about to tell you that I got pranked by Mitsugu this morning! He hid himself behind the teacher’s desk in Room 204 and caught me by surprise! As a result, all my notes fell onto the floor along with me! What a great start to today’s classes! Anyway, hope to see you next week so we can catch up. I heard that you have some urgent tasks to take care of today. If you need any help, I’m always here. See you soon!}

I hit the send button and close my phone. Hisao, please be alright. Shizune too.

My partner finishes her text and puts her phone into her bag.

“So, where to go, buddy?”

“We probably only have time for one more event.”

“True. We only have 45 minutes left.”

We look at each other simultaneously and nod. There’s only one place to go.

“I want to play this song.”

“Which song?”

“Listen. It’s playing.”

Among the noisy crowd of mall visitors, I can hear the mall’s background music being played. I never noticed it! She has sharp ears! It’s a piano piece, the beat is like Waltz, and it’s probably in C major. I can recognize it because, as a guitar specialist, I’m familiar with chords.

“What song is it?”

“You don’t know? It’s a French song. Je Te Veux by Erik Satie.”

“Oh. Never heard of it.”

“Je Te Veux means ‘I want you’. Let’s go. I like this piece.”

She happily grabs my arm and briskly walks towards our next destination, dragging me along.

I guess she’s right after all. There’s no need to worry. Just treat today as any other day, and be myself.

Within seconds, we arrive at the music shop that we’ve visited the first day we met a few months ago. We played the song “Ballade Pour Adeline” together on that evening, and since then a bond has been established between us. This bond is going to bear fruit if things go well tonight. So far everything’s been fine.

“I’ll use this piano.”

She picks a black piano and starts playing without a moment of hesitation. After a very short intro, she plays the keys E3, G3, then has her left hand on the C keys. It’s indeed in C major. 3 beats per stanza. The style of this piece is quite interesting: In the majority of time, the first beat is the melody, while on the second and third beats the left hand is idle while the right hand acts as the chord accompany. So the relaxing melody goes like re-x-x- do-x-mi- la-x-x- so-x-x-, la-x-x so-x-mi- la-x-x. It looks pretty simple to her, as she joyfully dances through the song with ease while skimming glances at me occasionally.

She’s so skillful. If I’m able to hear her music every day, I’ll be thrilled and energized every morning before I go to work!

A few stanzas later the right hand notes become octaves, so the task becomes a bit harder. Not any issue for the expert here though.

When we came here for the first time, I played in front of her, then she pushed me aside to play the right hand part for me. I don’t think I can play the right hand part of this one, but I might be able to handle the left hand part, which is mostly one octave per stanza. I just need to remember the chords, which is my expertise.

As I start thinking about a collaboration, it looks like the song has temporarily changed key to G major, because the G and D7 chords appear, and the left hand now needs to bear the accompany. Okay, let’s remember the chords.

The music goes back to the first section of C major. As the piano expert continues waltzing through the keys (pun intended) in joy, I try my best to remember the chords of this section. This is indeed a relaxing song.

“Hey, do you want to play with me? I know you’ve been looking at my left hand for a while. Can you try taking over the left hand?”

This girl is a genius. She managed to notice me while playing with both hands.

Okay! A collaboration is on the way!

I’m nervous! I haven’t heard of the piece until today, and I’m going to play it in front of an expert. This could turn out very poorly, for example, if we bump hands into each other.

But how can I reject my cute partner’s kind offer?

“Okay I’ll try. I can’t remember all the notes, so I’ll just play the chords.”

“Good enough. I’ll take care of the rest.”

So, here we go again. My partner plays the short intro, then moves to her right to make space for me. Okay, the first notes are C octave. She plays E3, G3, then whispers “one, two, three” and I play the octave while she plays the melody. So, I alternate between C and G for the first few stanzas, then when the chord becomes G7, I switch to G and D octaves. After a while, the right hand becomes harder, and the left hand has some accompany notes to play; but I can’t remember them, so my partner takes care of those with her left hand. I try my best not to crash hands with her. A few stanzas later, the first part is done. Whew! Great job!

The second part is G major, so I switch the octaves accordingly. I remember the chords. So, D7 chord means D and A. I know that some of the stanzas actually don’t play the alternate octaves like that, but I can’t recall those notes, so I just stick to what I’ve been doing. Just keep things simple, and don’t do anything fancy. You’ve got this, Alvin. Don’t ruin this important occasion!

A few more octaves later, the second part is done. The third part is a repeat of the first, so again I just play the C and G octaves. I know it sounds boring, but I’m more than happy to set the stage for the expert and play the background for her.

And with a final C octave, the song is finished!

“Great job!”

Yes! It was a success!

My partner turns to me and exchanges high-fives with me with both hands. I certainly don’t mind this “bump” of hands!

“Actually there are a few more sections in this song, but I forgot about the melody, so I just let it go.”

“Fair enough. You played really well!”

“Lovely performance.”

“Huh?”

A plain girl’s voice from behind causes us to turn around.

Standing behind us is a short-haired girl; curiously wearing a boy’s shirt, with both of her sleeves tied into knots. She has apparently lost her arms.

“Excuse me, but you’re…”

“I’m Rin. Tezuka Rin. Rin Tezuka.”

“Hi there! My name is Alvin.”

“And I’m Iwanako.”

Her hair is a burnt auburn, almost orange, and cropped short. Long hair would probably be impossible with no arms. The boy’s shirt and the lack of arms make her look very thin, almost scrawny. She’s not particularly pretty except for her murky green eyes which flicker restlessly from below her short bangs.

“I won’t shake hands with you, but at least we know who we are now. That’s very nice.”

Her deadpan manner of talking makes it hard to determine whether she’s joking about shaking hands or not. But, first of all, I need to first determine why she’s talking to us.

“Uh… You’re welcome. But… I don’t think we’ve met before, have we?”

“No, we haven’t.”

Well… How should we continue this conversation without being impolite?

“But then why…”

“Why am I talking to you? Hmm… I can’t recall… Let me think…”

Needless to say, Iwa-chan and I are so confused that we can’t do anything except waiting for the stranger in front of us to search her memory.

“Oh, I remember now. It’s because of Hisao Nakai. I heard you two talk about him back in the mall. And Shizune too. So I follow you two here. Never expected to witness such a great performance.”

Oh yeah! THAT’s where the link is! Hisao and Shizune are both disabled, so they must have studied with this girl who has no arms.

“I see! You’re a friend of Hisao too?”

“Well, we’re not exactly friends, but I feel that our relationship is good enough for us to call each other by our first names.”

“Ah! So you know Hisao! And I assume Shizune too! Nice to meet you!”

“So, Alvin, what’s your problem?”

Uh…

Why is she suddenly so rude? I’m almost angry, but I try keeping myself calm in order not to ruin the remainder of my date with Iwa-chan.

“My problem?”

“From outside you look fine. Is your problem inside?”

“My problem… inside…?”

“I can guess. I am good at guessing. Better than most people.”

I mean, I know I’m clumsy and careless at times, but is it THAT obvious to her that she needs to point it out in front of my partner?

Iwa-chan and I look at each other, once again both completely dumbfounded, trying to figure out a way to respond. Rin, on the other hand, keeps scanning me from top to bottom, with an overtly contemplative look on her face.

“I don’t think it’s anything in your head, and something in your guts would be boringly ordinary, like the music being played right now… The problem must be in your pants!”

WHAT?

This messed-up Sherlock Holmes kind of statement and the sheer lack of tact it was delivered with catches me completely off guard! I think I might’ve reeled back even physically as Rin’s eyes widen in revelation and astonishment.

“So I was right! There’s something wrong with your tackle, isn’t there?”

“Pffft! Hahahahaha!!!”

Iwa-chan bursts out in laughter for the second time today as I hurry to reject.

“No! Nothing like that! I don’t have a problem down there!”

“Hahahahaha!!! She says you’ve got a problem in your pants! Hahahahaha!!!”

“No, Iwa-chan! NO!”

Contrary to Iwa-chan’s laughing fit, this Tezuka girl purses her lips together and glowers at me, looking very disappointed.

“Really? How boring. Trouble in the pants would have been much more scandalous!”

I almost want to say “sorry to let you down”, but then I suddenly realize that she’s probably talking about whether I have a disability like Hisao’s or hers.

“You misunderstood, Miss Tezuka. We’re friends of Hisao and Shizune in the university, so we don’t have a problem.”

She’s looking even more disappointed.

“Oh. I see. Just, I collect people and a person with, you know, that kind of problem would’ve been really great.”

“Collect people?”

“People with different problems.”

“Huh, so you just… like, go around asking people what’s wrong with them?”

“Pretty much, when I was back in high school. I don’t do it much afterwards, but since you’re friends with Hisao and Shizune, I figured that taking a shot at it doesn’t seem to be a bad idea.”

What an interesting person!

“Unfortunately Hisao is not with us. Usually he would be, since we’re now working in the same tutorial center, but today he has an urgent task to take care of. Or did you run into him today?”

“He’s working with you right now? Then it is indeed unfortunate that I cannot meet him in person today. In fact, I lost contact with all of my former classmates since I came to Tokyo.”

“Did you try calling them…”

I asked the most natural question in my mind, but then immediately regretted, due to the obvious inference from her appearance that she cannot use a phone.

“…Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Huh? Sorry?”

She doesn’t seem to get what I mean, but it’s now incredibly awkward for me to point out her disability outright. Eager to direct the conversation away from disabilities, I immediately switch the question into an invitation.

“Well, never mind. Anyway, if you want to meet Hisao, and maybe Shizune, we all work in the same tutorial center, in the building across the bridge, so we can bring them to you after work.”

Instead of immediately responding, this Rin girl simply stares at our general direction with a pair of soft eyes, her sight seemingly wandering into infinity as time goes by.

Maybe she’s thinking about my invitation. Maybe she’s pondering about my apology earlier. Whichever is the case, she seems to be the slow type of person, which is quite the opposite of me. In Hong Kong, the pace of everyone is so fast that even walking feels more like running to foreign visitors.

At long last, she responds with a very subtle, very gentle smile.

“Then you can.”

Uh, okay. I never see this kind of reply coming. What should I say? And, by the way, why is Iwa-chan not talking? It looks like she’s smiling; is she still trying to resist her “pant problem” laughing fit?

“Sure…”

I don’t know how to continue. If we ask her to meet us next week, we probably need to call each other on the phone. I don’t know if she has a phone, or if she can use one. But without a phone, how can we meet? Does she know our tutorial center? If we ask this disabled girl to wait for us outside the tutorial center, will her presence affect the students? A girl with no arms might scare students away! Then what would Mr. Nagase respond?

Furthermore, I don’t even know if either Hisao or Shizune wants to meet her in the first place. She just said she’s lost contact with her classmates. Will her sudden appearance become a problem to our two friends?

I shouldn’t have made this invitation! Oh no!

“I think meeting my old classmates is good for me. For my mental health, at least.”

Rather than asking for our contact, she unexpectedly talks about the benefits of meeting old classmates, which kind of relieves some of my pressure, but at the same time it makes the conversation even more awkward. I decide that my best choice is to keep things generic for the time being.

“You’re right.”

“Yes, I need to change. Not contacting my high school friends sucks. It is like a part of my life is missing. Like you are forced to make a drawing without red paint, and you cannot mix other colors into red because it is a primary color.”

This time Iwa-chan decides to chip in.

“Uh… Are you, by any chance, an artist?”

“I like drawing pictures, so I think this makes me an artist. But I suppose there must be something that separates an artist from just a random person who can draw a picture. Do I have this something that can separate myself from random people? I don’t know. And what if I am forced to draw a picture against my own will, then does this make me an artist? Hmm… I need to think about this tonight.”

Uh… Well, Hisao’s classmates are truly interesting. How can an artist draw pictures without hands? (I dare not ask her!) I guess she can do that with her feet. Now come to think of it, she probably needs to take care of herself with her feet anyway. So, yeah, a lot of mysteries that I’d rather not put my hands on.

Iwa-chan is struggling to make a response. On the other hand, I realize that this girl has already occupied, or wasted, a significant portion of my dating time with Iwa-chan, so I attempt to close out this dreadful conversation as soon as possible.

“Alright. Anyway, if you want to see us next Saturday, we’ll be at the west entrance of this mall. Hope to see you soon!”

Luckily for us, Tezuka gets the hint this time around and says farewell to us, then leaves the piano shop to continue debating whether she’s an artist or not.

“This girl surely is interesting, isn’t she, Alvin?”

As we say goodbye to this strange scarlet hair girl, I’m relieved that this awkward encounter is finally over, so we can enjoy the remainder of our date…

“Pfft! Hahahahaha!!! *Tries to whisper into my ears but can’t quite control her volume* What’s wrong with you? That makes this stranger think you’ve got a problem in your pants!! *Goes back to her laughing fit* Hahahahaha!!!”

…Or maybe not. What an end to our first date since becoming a couple!

“Iwa-chan! Stop laughing!”

“But… it’s… so… funny!! I… can’t… resist!!! Hahahahahaha!!!”

“Iwa-chan! This is NOT funny!”

“You know, Alvin, I study medical science. Maybe I can prescribe you some medicine to alleviate the issue! You know, THOSE medicine. Hahahahahaha!!!”

“Iwa-chan! You’re not getting away from this!”

My new girlfriend since the New Year, who thoroughly captured my heart with her determination to learn Chinese, makes a face and then runs off towards a random direction, with me in close pursuit.

“Come back, Iwa-chan!”

Iwa-chan, hopefully some time in the future, I’ll demonstrate to you convincingly that there’s not a single problem with me down there!

Chapter 64: Rinsanity!
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Tue Sep 13, 2022 4:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch63@18/8/22: Most unpredictable Fanfic Ever?]

Post by dewelar » Fri Sep 09, 2022 11:32 pm

ShizuneFan2019 wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 12:25 am
Chapter 65: Air Wind Ground Track
This could be Quite Interesting...
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 114
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch63@18/8/22: Most unpredictable Fanfic Ever?]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Tue Sep 13, 2022 4:01 am

Chapter 64: Rinsanity!

Striding at an almost running pace, I set off from home towards my intended destination when my eyes meet a familiar figure.

“Blue.”

It's really been some time! Despite us now living in the same city, we've never come across with each other. Which is not unusual, considering Tokyo’s population.

“Oh, I forgot you have a problem with your ears and mouth. Like a broken phone that cannot hear or talk, except that a phone cannot hear or talk by itself.”

Since we were never in the same class during Yamaku, we seldom communicated. The only few times I ever approached her were for Student Council matters.

Despite walking so fast, I'm actually not that in a hurry. Plus the fact that this is a rare opportunity, so I take out my notebook and a pen.

{Hey there, it's been some time. You can directly speak to me. I can decipher.}

Upon reading my words, she smiles gently. She’s in a better mood than the last time I saw her.

“You can decipher? Like, figure out the meaning of secret codes and treasure maps, like what a pirate does? Emi loves trying these, but she always gives up within five minutes. Maybe you can give her a lecture on it.”

Uh. This is one reason I avoided talking to her in Yamaku.

Now that she mentions Emi, I realize that I haven’t contacted her in quite a while. I thought about sending her a message, but I’ve been preoccupied with all the Student Council work that drains pretty much every bit of my non-studying, non-working time. Emi dreaming to become a pirate is no news to me, but I don’t think she will ever have the wisdom to figure out treasure maps, let alone secret codes.

{No, what I meant was I can understand what you say.}

The girl standing in front of me gives me a trademark shrug.

“That’s nice. I obviously cannot shake your hands, but hello.”

Wasting no more time, I head straight to the point.

{So, you just mentioned blue. Are you talking about my eyes?}

“No. Your color is blue. Prussian blue, to be exact.”

Prussian blue, the color of an iron salt, is a very dark blue color. It is often used in drawings and porcelains. The name comes from the country Prussia which later became today’s Germany, due to the color of their military uniforms.

{My color?}

“Yes. I can see the blue coming out from you. Like an aura. Hmm... Like the cold coming out of ice, except that you radiate color instead of cold. But as a human being you obviously radiate heat, so there's blue heat coming out of you. But that doesn't sound right either. So, just blue is fine.”

Am I lip-reading correctly? It doesn't make any sense at all! Well, I shouldn't be surprised; she never makes any sense.

{What's that supposed to mean?}

Instead of replying, she stares at me with a pair of empty eyes.

Standing in front of me is a girl I haven’t met for a long time. She hasn’t changed a bit since the last time I saw her: Scarlet hair, murky green eyes, sleeves tied into knots, and often applies metaphors in her speaking. She quit school without taking the Center Test in order to pursue her art career, and in the process she isolated herself so much that nobody around me managed to contact her except Emi. When we were still studying in Yamaku, whenever I had business with her, I always brought Misha along for translations. Now that I am able to lip-read, we’re able to converse much easier since we no longer require a translator.

Not that I’m really interested in her abstract metaphors, but as the former Student Council President, I assume the responsibility to at least maintain a certain degree of contact with my ex-classmates if possible, even after graduation.

“What does it suppose to mean? I guess it's supposed to mean what it's supposed to mean. Everything has its supposed meaning, doesn't it? Blue means blue. Maybe you're the color blue in essence, or you were another color before but became blue at some point in your life. Either way, you're looking Prussian blue right now. Hmm... Come to think of it, you weren't that blue when we met last time. Let me think... you were more like green to me.”

I know I'm engaging in a rather pointless conversation, but I’ve a bizarre feeling that talking to her might prove to be fruitful. It sounds ridiculous! But why?

{So I was green, and somehow I became blue?}

“Hmm... Yes. You were green. Like the green in a forest. Forest green. Not the green in a field full of lively grass; that would be too light, too bright. Yes, forest green. It was the perfect amount of green for you.”

Perfect amount of green, huh. That’s nice to hear. Or see, in my case.

{And now am I the perfect amount of blue?}

Another long stare ensues before she eventually responds with a shrug.

“Hmm... Not the amount of blue I like the most. Too blue. You should remove some of the blue.”

Why am I continuing this conversation?

{How should I remove my extra blue then?}

“Good question. I think you need to mix it with some grassy green. Like mixing grape juice with guava juice, except that you don't drink it afterwards.”

{Grassy green?}

“Correct. Like the green of the grass on top of a hill full of dandelions.”

Whenever I engage in a conversation, I always attempt to seize control of it. But today I allow this ex-schoolmate of mine to offer me guidance. Strange.

{So, do you mean I should behave more like when we last saw each other?}

“Good idea. Maybe. You can try, and then I'll be able to see.”

The only reason I am so vulnerable in this conversation is, of course, the events that took place recently.

{But I already forgot how I behaved at that time! It was more than a year ago!}

Her composure remains entirely flat. Cool, calm, and collected is the perfect phrase to describe her personality. At least to me she is.

“Do you have a time machine? Then you can go back. But what will happen if the blue you encounters the forest green you? And if the past me sees the past you, will it change how I see you today?”

...

For a moment we merely stand still in the middle of a street without further talking. She stays relatively motionless while I take my time to search for a reply. Obviously I'm not considering the time paradox issue she's brought out. Instead, I might have an idea what the “blue” she says truly means.

...

After what seems to be an hour, but much more like three minutes, I shrug nonchalantly, imitating her trademark gesture.

{Nah. I love being blue anyway.}

The scarlet hair girl shrugs as well.

“That's disappointing. I think you're much better off in forest green than in blue. Especially the most beautiful amount of green.”

The word “beautiful” here gives my heart a sour feeling of wist.

{How much better?}

After a deep and profound pause, she speaks.

“It's hard to describe in words. Like, the difference between Emi and the fourth place in a race.”

I know that Emi always won races, and Miura always came second, with a significant distance behind. The fourth place would be even further behind.

{Are you sure?}

“Hmm... Maybe the third? Or the fifth? I can't remember. I don't remember all of Emi's races, except that she always comes first. Like a race between a rabbit and seven turtles, except that the rabbit never rests.”

I haven't talked to anybody about... that incident. I handled it pretty swiftly, but I'm still well under its aftermath effects, even though I'm constantly trying to shrug it off, to little avail.

Guess what? Maybe talking to this innocent girl can give me a way out. Just as my sixth sense tells me, this conversation may become fruitful.

As long as I keep everything vague with abstract metaphors, I'll be fine.

{I'm interested. What color was I before I became forest green? Was it still Prussian blue? Or something like pink?}

I tried to write as casually as I can, but I’m in fact getting a little nervous.

The ex-classmate with no arms ponders for quite a long time while staring at the clear blue sky above us before responding. As a businesswoman, “time is money” is one of my go-to mottos. I would never allow this nonsense girl to waste my time like this. But today’s an exception.

“Hmm... Pink is always reserved for Emi. She always has the right amount of pink. I think violet could have been it, except with a bit more red and a bit darker. Scarlet. That's probably a closer color. But I can't remember that well. Like I can't remember what I ate yesterday.”

{Scarlet, huh? Are you sure it's not pink or anything?}

“Scarlet, maybe. But definitely not pink or blue. You were too blue to be pink, and too pink to be blue. Like my family. Too rich to be called poor, and too poor to be called rich, so we're kind of stuck in the middle, which bothers me so much because it is hard to find an appropriate word to describe it.”

Alright. Got it. Now, it’s time for some serious discussions.

{I see. Do you mind if I ask you one more question?}

Again she plunges into deep thought trying to answer my simple yes-no question.

“Do I mind? If I don't mind, then you'll ask me the question, and if I don't know the answer, it'll become a question for both of us. If I mind, then you'll be left with a question, and I'll need to ask myself the question of what question you were going to ask, which will also result in a question for both of us. In other words, it doesn’t really matter whether I mind or not.”

Whatever, here we go.

{Hey Rin, what do you think? Which color mixes better with grassy green? Is it Prussian blue, or pink?}

I write in such a forceful manner that manages to make Rin flinch just a little bit. She looks surprised at the sudden question I’m asking her, turning her eyes away from my piece of paper and once again plunges deep in thought.

Meanwhile, I unexpectedly find myself sweating hard, despite the temperature being close to zero degrees Celsius. And my heartbeat keeps rising.

Please, Rin, say bl-, no, say pi-, no. Oh no! I don’t even know which answer I’d prefer!

Why? Why am I asking this question? And why am I in this situation right now?

“Hisao Nakai.”

WHAT?

The sudden mention of the boy’s name catches me completely off guard! I flinched her with a question, and then she flinches me right back!

Really? Did she really manage to decipher my code? No way!

I never thought Rin could be this smart!

“Yes, the boy with a problem with his heart. I remembered. The Yamaku Festival. He helped me out with drawing the mural. He didn’t draw anything, but he mixed the colors for me. I wanted the green color when you wake up and you know that you saw the meaning of life in your dream but can’t remember it. It took him a long time to finally get the correct green color for me. Mixing colors is fun, but you need to be very precise if you want the exact color you need.”

…Or is she that smart?

“For the past few days, I have been thinking about whether I am an artist. If someone mixes the colors for my painting, does that make him or her an artist too?”

Uh… Okay. I guess… I can call myself safe… for now? Question mark?

“Hmm… I think I need another night to think it through…”

Is she completely ignoring my question?

{You haven’t answered my question.}

“Wait. I can only think about four things at a time.”

{Four things?}

“Right. I already have four questions in my mind. Am I an artist? What am I going to have lunch today? What picture am I drawing today? If someone mixes the colors for my painting, does that make him or her an artist too? You see, four things.”

To be honest, I’d say being able to think about four things at a time is an incredible skill. I can multitask four things at a time, but definitely not thinking about four philosophical questions at the same time.

{Um, can you drop one of your questions to answer mine?}

As expected, my request brings forth another long thought from her side before she replies with a smile.

“Okay. I am not going to think about my lunch then. I guess I can think about lunch when lunchtime comes, but if I do that, by the time I finally make my decision, lunchtime might be already over. Then I’ll have to settle for having lunch between lunchtime and dinner time. But there is no word for a meal you eat after lunch but before dinner. It will bother me so much. Maybe dropping the lunch question isn’t that great of an idea. Oh well, I can simply skip lunch. But then I will get really hungry, which will also bother me a lot.”

For whatever reason, I decide to play along.

{You don’t need to think about whether you’re an artist. You’re already an artist.}

“Hmm… I thought about that too. But what bothers me is that I will need to support my argument by presenting a proof. I need to prove that I have what it takes to become an artist. I wasn’t sure if I had this kind of proof. But now I think I have a proof. You were the Student Council President, right? If you say I’m an artist, then I am. I have an authority to prove me right now.”

I don’t think I’m authorized to prove that you’re an artist; you should seek Miss Miyagi on that matter. But I’ll once again play along.

{Good. I was the President. You are an artist. Your identity is authorized. Now, can you please answer my question?}

My unauthorized authorization seems to satisfy her, as she produces the best smile of the day so far.

“Great! Now that I have one spare question to think about, I can consider your question. What was it again? Oh, mixing grassy green with Prussian blue or pink?”



“Hm… If you mix grassy green with pink, it makes grey. It’s because green comes from yellow and blue. So if you mix green with pink, you are essentially mixing all three primary colors together, like you mix milk, coffee powder, and sugar together to make coffee for breakfast, except that you don’t drink colors afterwards. The result will be either brown or grey. Since grassy green and pink are both light colors, the mixture will probably be grey rather than brown.”

It’s funny to see that she makes so much more sense when talking about art.

“If you mix grassy green with Prussian blue, you get a color somewhere between blue and green. Like forest green. Hmm… It’s hard to choose between grey and forest green. Choosing between colors is like finding yourself in a library full of your favorite books and you can only borrow one because you only have enough time to read one, except that you don’t have to return it afterwards.”

Grey versus forest green, huh.

“But, since I said earlier that forest green is the right amount of green, I have to go with forest green in order not to contradict myself. Well, I suppose I can claim right now that grey is the right amount of grey, but this would be a strange statement. So, I guess forest green is better. But I reserve the right to change my opinion at a moment’s notice.”

Despite the obvious fact that she doesn’t understand what I truly meant, I feel kind of satisfied by her analysis.

No, I shouldn’t be satisfied! How on earth can I afford to be satisfied?

Nevertheless, her response has now triggered an internal fight between two distinct parts of my own self.

{Thanks a lot. I need some time to think about it. I’ll see you another day, okay?}

The scarlet girl shrugs.

“Sure. Being able to talk to my former classmates is nice. Now I can think about lunch, which is great.”

I briefly consider treating her lunch for helping me out with my question, but quickly dismiss the idea as I’d rather not have lunch with a girl who eats with her feet. No offense here, as I myself have a disability, but, yeah, I just don’t want to. I also already spent an extended amount of time conversing with her, and I might be forced into the state of “Rinsanity” if I’m exposed to further dose of abstract metaphor barrage. Not to mention that I have my own worries to handle.

I wave the artist goodbye and continue on my way towards my destination, while trying my best to calm down my internal struggle.

It all started on the day after the trip to Hong Kong. The trip itself was excellent (save for Hisao’s accident which, even though it did bond us closer, I’d rather have it not happened), but after the Ocean Park trip, I asked Misha to join our family gathering in my mansion, a tiny decision that ultimately brought forth heavy consequences we never anticipated.

Right after returning to Japan, I invited Misha to stay in my mansion for a few days before she sets off for America. Misha and I both prepared Christmas presents from Hong Kong to my Dad and Hideaki. Despite accepting the presents, Dad kept calling Misha a delinquent and a shame of tomorrow’s Japan for choosing to study in America. We’ve already been so habituated to his verbal assaults that we’re essentially regarding his words as nothing more than a joke. (I know I shouldn’t treat my Dad as a joke, but I can’t help it!) We then brought Hideaki to the shopping mall for some fun time together, buying ourselves new clothes for the upcoming party, before returning home to settle ourselves down.

…Meanwhile, I continue to walk straight towards my intended target…

My two cousins arrived afterwards. Compared to last year, I’m now on better terms with them after the Kasshoku discrimination incident. I’m still grateful to both Lilly and her father for the negotiation with the school principal (oh, and thanks Dad too!), and I still practice the truce Lilly and I signed at that time, which lasts until graduation. The five of us, my brother included, shared our experience on our respective holidays: The Hong Kong trip from our end, the Scotland trip Lilly and her parents took to meet Akira, and Hideaki’s photos he took in the nearby park. Between Misha’s translations and my lip-reading, we were pretty much in harmony with our used-to-be rival, as nobody would like to ruin the atmosphere of the party.

It turns out Dad had invited some other staff from his company to the party, some of which Misha and I met last year in the same town. The party officially started after an opening word from my Dad (as he’s the host), who was still carrying a katana even on this occasion. I wonder if any of his colleagues feel threatened working with him! Anyway. The first program of the party consisted of singing, drama performance, magic tricks, violin performance, and the like. Even though Lilly and I could not enjoy the entirety of the program due to our respective disabilities, we both had a great time nonetheless. After a lucky draw session in which disappointingly none of the five of us won anything, it was time for the big feast. Misha and I spent some time greeting my Dad’s friends while grabbing our food before heading back towards Hideaki and my cousins. So far, so good.

If only everything went so smoothly!

During the feast, somebody suggested drinking wine, even though between the five of us only Akira was eligible for drinking. I strongly opposed the idea, stating that it was against the rules, but the other girls paid no heed to my words. Misha, in particular, was excited about being able to drink again, since the last time she did was during a party held at Halloween, when she was allowed to drink since the age limit is lower in America. Realizing the futility of my resistance, I witnessed them violating the law while refusing to do so myself.

After a few glasses, Misha started to get drunk, so I escorted her back to the visitor’s room upstairs. The main guest room was already occupied by my cousins, so we had to settle for the second one, the room I once spent with Hisao alone. After falling onto the bed, she started speaking and signing some nonsense, which I mostly forgot. Eventually she started mumbling about her self-restraint issues, which soon became a disaster, and this one I’ll never forget:

[“Shicchan~~ I’m so~~ proud~~ of you~~!! You’re always~~ able~~ to control yourself~~!!”]

Staring at the chair in the room where I tied Hisao’s hands and approached him, I feel myself sweating over Misha’s comments.

[“Whether~~ it is~~ eating~~, drinking~~, time management~, everything!! You always stick~~ to the rules~!!! Or your~~ own rules~~!!!”]

Of course, Misha. This is my nature. This is my whole upbringing. Thanks, a big part, to my Dad.

[“You know~, Shicchan~~, in America~ we’re all~ so unrestricted~!!! Beer and wine everywhere~~!! Even drugs~!! Marijuana~!! It’s prohibited!! I didn’t~ take it though!”]

Well, I’m glad that I didn’t choose an American university!

[“They~ change~ boyfriends and girlfriends~~ like changing clothes~!!! I felt~~ so~ weird!! Big culture shock~~ for me!! Took me~~ a long time~~ to adjust~!!!”]

Since we’re sharing the room for tonight, I have no other choice but to endure her lengthy monologue while praying that she can fall asleep soon.

[“So~~~ When I come~~ back~ to see you~~, I feel~ so different~~!! You’re such~ a contrast~~ from all my~ friends~~, Dan, Daniela~, Fred, Nyugen~~!! Even Natalie~~!!”]

Well, I’m probably different from most of my schoolmates too.

[“Maybe~~ this is~~ why~~ I like~~ you~~! You’re so~~ special~!!!]

Okay, now it gets embarrassing. I don’t want to talk about that. Can you just maybe fall asleep?

[“And~~ this is probably~~ why~~ Hicchan~~ likes you too~!!!!”]

Hey! Stop!

Misha suddenly points a finger right at me.

[“You~~ stupid~~ girl~!!! Why???”]

[What are you talking about?]

[“I envy~~ you~ so~~ much!!! Hicchan~~ loves you~~ so~ much! But~ You!! Keep~~ rejecting~~ him!!”]

Besides the conversation getting increasingly sensitive, I’m also worried that she might eventually vomit onto the bed. I really need her to be asleep now!

[Let’s not talk about this right now, okay? You’re drunk!]

[“I’m~ not~ drunk… I wish~~ you’re~~ drunk~! If you’re~~ drunk~, maybe you~~ and~ Hicchan~ will be~ together…”]

This is bad.

Since last year, Misha has been playing match-maker for the two of us. While I do appreciate her help, sometimes I’d prefer her to not interfere, leaving us to deal with our own relationship.

[“I wish~~ I had~~ somebody who~~ treats me~ so~ well~~!! You~~ have one~, but you~ never~~ treasure him~!!”]

That’s a false accusation! True, I haven’t established a relationship with the boy just yet, but we’ve made an agreement to not do so until we officially become adults. And you know it too!

[Stop, please!]

As if things aren’t bad enough, this happens.

[“After~ all~, both~~ of us have~ had sex~~ with~ him, right~? Right~!”]

[WHAT?]

[“Why~~???? He had~ sex~ with both~ of us~~, yet~ he chose~~ you~~!!! I’m fine~~ with him~~ choosing~~ you actually~~, but you~ wasted him~!!! Wasted him!!! I wish~~ I had such~~ good luck~~ as you~!! I don’t!! You’re making~~ me feel~~ so~ bad!!!”]

I hastily ask her the obvious question.

[When did you have sex with him?]

[“First~~ time~ to have sex~~ with a boy~~, very weird~~!! Very~~ different~ from doing it~~ with~~ a girl~~!!”]

Two things I can immediately figure out. Number one: Since I only had sex with my ex-boyfriend once, and I never informed her, she must have known, or at least figured out, that I did it in this exact room. Number two: Since she can refer to her own experience on having sex with the boy, this means she has truly done it. She didn’t answer my question on when she did that, but if I have to guess…

[Why didn’t you tell me earlier?]

She’s now lying on the bed, and should fall asleep at any moment.

[“Hmm~~??? What did~ I just~ say~?? I said~ nothing, right~? Right~! I must~ not~ tell Shicchan~~ about my secret~!! My secret~~ with Hicchan~~!!! Wahahahaha!!!”]

And then she falls asleep. Well, too late. You already spoiled me the secret.

That was that.

I still freshly remember my conversation with Misha after Hisao managed to talk to her in the Shanghai. She had been behaving weird, and I suspected that Student Council matters might not be the full story behind: I saw Misha entering the boys’ dormitory the other day, and found them on the roof the next day. I elected to trust my two best friends that nothing bad happened, and everything will be alright. But their subsequent actions were getting me suspicious, their looks of guilt indirectly told me that something has gone terribly wrong.

I barged into Misha room and directly asked her what happened. She denied anything abnormal at first, but when I kept pushing, she suddenly started dropping tears. She revealed to me that she visited my boyfriend’s room to confess to him. She was “a little bit in love with” him, as she said. While my boyfriend was hesitating, she asked for a “comfort”, and then kissed him.

Upon seeing the word “kiss”, I was so furious with my best friend that I stormed out of her room without letting her finish her apologies. I was also angry with Hisao that despite being my boyfriend, he did nothing to stop Misha’s rash actions.

After I cooled down a little bit, I realized that their action was in fact partially my fault. I was such a jerk who pulled the two of them into my life, and then pushed them away, towards each other. I visited the boys’ dormitory, dragged my boyfriend out of his room, and apologized to him, declaring that I needed some time alone.

Surprisingly, the two jerks didn’t give up. First, they found help from Mutou who tracked me down in the Student Council room. Then, they talked to each other and reached a consensus. Finally, they sent me letters of apology, which I admit were both honest and moving. I eventually forgave them, but without punishing them later in terms of exam studies. Afterwards, the three of us sort of brushed the incident aside and continued our friendship as if nothing happened, with the one exception: I’m putting my boyfriend on probation. For more than one year, we lived in relative peace, helping each other out in critical events such as the exams and the university Student Council.

However, the newest revelation that they actually did more than just kissing on that evening adds a whole new level to their sins. Kissing was wrong enough, but sex was downright unforgivable! Whether or not they hid the truth from me intentionally, the act was a complete disregard of both morality and fidelity! They have completely betrayed my trust. There is not a world I will ever forgive these two jerks now!

So, the next morning after her drunk words, I kicked Misha out of the mansion, signed my farewell to my cousins, and left for Kasshoku to meet my ex-boyfriend. Unsurprisingly, he facepalmed upon knowing that I finally found out the truth. He admitted that they took advantage of my lack of knowledge on what happened that evening to try to salvage our friendship. At least he was frank and didn’t argue back. But the situation was beyond hopeless, so I swiftly declared a termination of friendship with him and went my own way towards the Student Council.

Eager to cut all the ties with my ex-boyfriend as soon as possible, I went to the tutorial center to hand Mr. Nagase my resignation letter on the next day. He was obviously surprised, and asked if something was wrong, to which I simply shrugged it off with personal reasons. I obviously needed to complete all the tasks I was assigned to before leaving the center for good, but I couldn’t finish everything by the evening, so I told Mr. Nagase that I’ll come back next Monday for a final visit. Which is today.

…And the tutorial center is exactly where I’m heading towards right now. It’s around 30 minutes walk from here. I could have taken a bus, but after the conversation with Rin, I’d rather walk, for one final trip, towards Tanpopo Education Center….

For the next few days, I pretty much locked myself in my room. Student Council was adjourned by Sakura for New Year break, much to my dismay; I suggested keeping the office in operation on a smaller scale, but I was decisively outvoted 7 to 1. My other acquaintance, Akemi, is also with her family. Unwilling to go back to Saitama to face my Dad and his katana, staying in my Tokyo home is the only alternative.

I admit that my decisions might be somewhat rash, but I simply cannot tolerate their sins. I’m an expert of ethics, and I have a high morality standard. No boyfriend of mine crosses this line.

…I head straight to the tutorial center. The streets are very empty, probably because most of the people are now either working or staying with their families. I shut down everything around me and continue to head straight forward…

However, even though I don’t regret my decisions, I still sorely miss my two former classmates. We’ve spent so much time together for the past year. We’ve had so many fond memories together. We together made huge steps towards our respective futures. To suddenly lose my two companions is a tough pill to swallow. Yes, I tend to compartmentalize life into distinct and unrelated sections, continuing undeterred towards my own set of goals without looking behind any setbacks. But this time the aftermath effect is too strong to neglect. The two gifts boy jerk gave me: The cat doll at Yamaku Festival, and the glass panda figurine study lamp in the Ocean Park trip. I didn’t dispose them, instead electing to store them in my drawer (but not on my desk). All the clothes I bought with pink jerk during both our Saitama visits. I folded them neatly and hid them under my bed. Maybe many years later, I’ll revisit these items and recall that the two of them once stepped into my life.

For now, though, they’re already past tense to me. Time to move on.

Or so I thought.

My talk with Rin tells me that maybe I can’t fully put everything behind after all.

I know, I know. They committed only one mistake. They did everything they could afterwards to salvage the situation, displaying a determination that is quite admirable. If I were them, in the same situation, I probably would have done the same. However, it is the principle of the thing we’re dealing with here. It is like a piece of white paper. If a drop of black ink falls onto it, the piece of paper is instantly contaminated. No matter how you fix it, the fact that it is not white anymore will never change. I’m not saying that I haven’t sinned before; in fact, I once realized that everyone makes mistakes, and to demand others to be flawless is unreasonable. But the nature of the sin does count. A pencil mark on a piece of paper can be removed by an eraser, but ink can’t. Some mistakes are simply outright unforgivable.

On the other hand, I admit I still like my ex-boyfriend. He’s done everything right since then. Keeping himself healthy with chosen meals and afternoon runs. Studying hard to enter university with scholarship. All the part-time jobs to relieve his family of financial difficulties. Staying with me during the discrimination incident. I almost can’t find any blemish from his side. How can I not like him!

I miss him so much. More than I thought.

Maybe Rin is correct. Grassy green mixes better with Prussian blue.

In retrospect, I’m not blaming him for hiding the truth from me until today. The decision to cut ties with him is in fact a late judgment of a crime he committed way long ago. Again, the passing of time doesn’t overturn your crimes.

All three of us are probably wishing a time machine, like what Rin mentioned.

Misha too, she helped me out a lot, especially on the boyfriend department, despite sometimes being annoying. We thought we were best friends forever.

Maybe I shouldn’t have over-reacted. I should’ve given them another chance.

Or should I?

This internal fight! Between two parts of myself! What should I do now?

…Why is the girl across the road waving at me? I don’t think we’ve met before…

…My eyes go black, and I feel intense pain. What just happened?

Chapter 65: Air Wind Ground Track
Last edited by ShizuneFan2019 on Mon Sep 26, 2022 2:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch63@18/8/22: Most unpredictable Fanfic Ever?]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Tue Sep 13, 2022 4:12 am

dewelar wrote:
Fri Sep 09, 2022 11:32 pm
ShizuneFan2019 wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 12:25 am
Chapter 65: Air Wind Ground Track
This could be Quite Interesting...
I'll go through it One More Time Round and make the reference when the chapter comes out.
60 Chapters Will Not Hold (me) Back!

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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch63@18/8/22: Most unpredictable Fanfic Ever?]

Post by dewelar » Tue Sep 13, 2022 1:02 pm

ShizuneFan2019 wrote:
Tue Sep 13, 2022 4:12 am
dewelar wrote:
Fri Sep 09, 2022 11:32 pm
ShizuneFan2019 wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 12:25 am
Chapter 65: Air Wind Ground Track
This could be Quite Interesting...
I'll go through it One More Time Round and make the reference when the chapter comes out.
60 Chapters Will Not Hold (me) Back!
Indeed.

This chapter was quite Rintense...or perhaps Rintensive?

Admittedly, while I've struggled somewhat with reading the early parts of this story -- I think I've read up through somewhere in the mid-20s chapter-wise -- I did enjoy your portrayal of Rin here. Being a card-carrying Rinfidel (if you couldn't tell from my signature), I know that it's difficult to pull off.

Obviously, while Talk Like an Emi Day is still a few days off, Talk Like a Rin Day is every day. Picture me shrugging if you like, and try not to get oranged along the way.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch63@18/8/22: Most unpredictable Fanfic Ever?]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Tue Sep 13, 2022 11:00 pm

dewelar wrote:
Tue Sep 13, 2022 1:02 pm
Indeed.

This chapter was quite Rintense...or perhaps Rintensive?

Admittedly, while I've struggled somewhat with reading the early parts of this story -- I think I've read up through somewhere in the mid-20s chapter-wise -- I did enjoy your portrayal of Rin here. Being a card-carrying Rinfidel (if you couldn't tell from my signature), I know that it's difficult to pull off.

Obviously, while Talk Like an Emi Day is still a few days off, Talk Like a Rin Day is every day. Picture me shrugging if you like, and try not to get oranged along the way.
I admit that the first 20 chapters of the story are not as polished, because it was my early work. I think my writing has dramatically improved starting from around Chapter 26. Even though there are ups and downs across the chapters, I'm quite satisfied with the quality of the recent 20 chapters, both story-wise, writing style, and overall integrity. I probably won't reach the levels of Sisterhood and the fanfic I'm going to reference (but yes I saw the signature), but I'm happy to have made such an improvement. The chapters I'm most proud of are 29, 30, 34, 37, 40, 41, 46, 52, 53, and 59. Shizune is not the most popular character, and to write an interesting long fiction on her bad end is quite a challenge.

I may consider re-writing the early parts, but I'll focus on finishing the story right now. And keeping the early parts (for now) also displays the progress I've made in this journey.

Rin is really tough to portrait, but I learned from The Long Road. Maybe I'll throw in a little bit of her in my remaining chapters. She'll appear again, but won't be the focus.

Emi is another character I've trouble writing about. This is one of the reasons I'm now reading through the fanfic I'm going to reference. This is going to be fun!

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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch64@13/9/22: Absolutely Rinsane!]

Post by dewelar » Sat Sep 17, 2022 8:53 pm

I'm still working my way through the story, and just finished Chapter 37. It made me wonder if Miki has ever heard of Pete Gray. Also, I strangely find myself hoping Hisao winds up with her instead of Shizune -- probably because she's my favorite character in this story to this point.

I did have some trouble trying to figure out who was saying what during the longer dialogue parts -- try to watch that when there are more than two people in a scene -- but otherwise I would agree that your writing has improved from the early chapters. Some of the dialogue still seems stilted in spots, and some of the characters sometimes speak too casually (Mutou is the worst, but Lilly gets it too -- oh, and when Akira calls her "Lils" it needs to be capitalized), but overall I'm looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

Regarding your portrayal of Emi: much as I think ProfAllister is a very talented writer, and an intelligent and thoughtful person in general, I find their portrayal of Emi to be atrocious :| . That said, her later scene when Hisao returns to Yamaku was a good deal better than her PoV chapter, for what it's worth.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know my thoughts.

Editing to add a couple more things:

First, I want to note that I think you've been using the word "propose" when you should be using "confess", unless (for example) Iwanako really asked Alvin to marry her already.

Second, there have been a couple of occasions where you've used a narrative device that I absolutely hate: the false cliffhanger. This was especially bad when you ended a chapter with one of these (when Shizune collided with Lilly), and for an extended series of paragraphs danced around with whom Shizune had collided, twisting yourself in knots to avoid telling the reader. This should never be done in with a first-person narrative, because all it does is piss off the reader. There have also been a couple of occasions where you had one character whisper something to another, and then acted as though the whisper was what hid the fact from the readers, like we're watching this on video instead of -- as the literary conceit of the first-person narration dictates -- being present within the narrator's mind and reading their thoughts. Resorting to trickery like this shows a lack of faith in your own storytelling ability, and serve no purpose but to frustrate your audience.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Posts: 114
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Re: Precious Friendships (Shizune BE, Sisterhood plot) [Ch64@13/9/22: Absolutely Rinsane!]

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Mon Sep 26, 2022 3:07 am

dewelar wrote:
Sat Sep 17, 2022 8:53 pm
I'm still working my way through the story, and just finished Chapter 37. It made me wonder if Miki has ever heard of Pete Gray. Also, I strangely find myself hoping Hisao winds up with her instead of Shizune -- probably because she's my favorite character in this story to this point.

I did have some trouble trying to figure out who was saying what during the longer dialogue parts -- try to watch that when there are more than two people in a scene -- but otherwise I would agree that your writing has improved from the early chapters. Some of the dialogue still seems stilted in spots, and some of the characters sometimes speak too casually (Mutou is the worst, but Lilly gets it too -- oh, and when Akira calls her "Lils" it needs to be capitalized), but overall I'm looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

Regarding your portrayal of Emi: much as I think ProfAllister is a very talented writer, and an intelligent and thoughtful person in general, I find their portrayal of Emi to be atrocious :| . That said, her later scene when Hisao returns to Yamaku was a good deal better than her PoV chapter, for what it's worth.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know my thoughts.

Editing to add a couple more things:

First, I want to note that I think you've been using the word "propose" when you should be using "confess", unless (for example) Iwanako really asked Alvin to marry her already.

Second, there have been a couple of occasions where you've used a narrative device that I absolutely hate: the false cliffhanger. This was especially bad when you ended a chapter with one of these (when Shizune collided with Lilly), and for an extended series of paragraphs danced around with whom Shizune had collided, twisting yourself in knots to avoid telling the reader. This should never be done in with a first-person narrative, because all it does is piss off the reader. There have also been a couple of occasions where you had one character whisper something to another, and then acted as though the whisper was what hid the fact from the readers, like we're watching this on video instead of -- as the literary conceit of the first-person narration dictates -- being present within the narrator's mind and reading their thoughts. Resorting to trickery like this shows a lack of faith in your own storytelling ability, and serve no purpose but to frustrate your audience.
Thanks for your kind advice! Below is my response.
- Yes I really enjoy writing about Miki. It took me a lot of time to find a positive way of development for her. But I don't want to focus on her too much, in favor of balancing the screen time with other characters. She'll return, I promise.
- Yes I have trouble with Mutou. Admitted. Sorry, I think I'm a better teacher than him. Not sure if he'll return though.
- About the long dialogues with 3+ people, originally I planned to do it on purpose, like a puzzle, giving out hints here and there, forcing readers to figure out the speaker. Yes, it wasn't that great of an idea. So, in newer chapters, I try to avoid them unless there's a clear way to figure it out (like using [...] for Shizune and ["..."] for Misha), or when who's speaking doesn't really matter.
- Bad dialogues: Point taken. When I read my previous chapters, I also find some of the problems, but I haven't done the modifications. As an apprentice without a proofreader, I don't have too much time to review every chapter 100 times, so, yeah, I'll try my best in the future.
- "Lils": I just checked. You're absolutely correct. All 22 occurrences of "Lils" in Sisterhood were capitalized. Will change accordingly.
- Emi: I'll try my best in Ch65. Yes, I do prefer writing her in 3rd person instead of PoV. But hey, I'll embrace the challenge.
- "confess": You're correct. I didn't know why I equated the two words in my mind. I've changed accordingly.
- Narrative: I think it stems back to a fundamental principle of my writing: I try my best to avoid exposing important details too soon. For example, I never disclose the PoV character in each chapter (except the title color code). And I do think this style of writing is related to my personal character. But I do see your point. I'll keep it in mind. Maybe I'll modify some of the paragraphs you've mentioned. But for now my priority is the next chapter.
- About how the story will go, I'll make it as unpredictable as possible! A reader said that by revealing the title, I will spoil some of the story. I think I've made it clear that it's not going to happen. It'll be wild!

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